Thursday, July 6, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Speaking in different voices

TWO years in office, the BJP-led coalition is still grappling with problems of governance.

The NDA is not homogenous despite having a common manifesto. The constituents contested as separate entities projecting their own agendas.

How able is the Vajpayee government while steering through the galloping pressures against reforms agenda such as financial sector restructuring and bringing labour laws in conformity with the demand of the era of globalisation and privatisation through disinvestment?

Mr Vajpayee failed to work out a political consensus. He hopes that the party which had authored the reforms, would extend its full support as and when reforms were pushed through. This did happen in the case of the insurance law, which enables foreign participation in an area, hitherto a state monopoly. Mr Vajpayee needs to rein in his ministers. Each minister has his/her voice on public sector disinvestment and closure of sick enterprises. Mr Ram Naik, Minister for Petroleum, has declared that there would be no disinvestment in the oil sector. Mr Manohar Joshi, the Minister for Heavy Industry, disapproves closure of enterprises which cannot be nursed back to health. Mr Sharad Yadav, Minister for Civil Aviation, has not fully backed the Cabinet decision on extending privatisation to the national airlines, particularly Air India. These postures of individual ministers generate doubts about the policy on disinvestment.

  Macro-economic management is also a cause for concern. Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister for Communication, in a populist move, gave free telephones to all telecom employees, which will cause an estimated loss of Rs 1200 crore per year. Mr Paswan was one of the key figures who prevailed upon the Gujral government to give a massive hike to the total emoluments of central government employees far above what the Fifth Pay Commission had recommended.

One can easily come to the conclusion that most of the constituents of the NDA do not view problems in a national interest and are out to advance their own narrow interests.

The Akali Dal, a constituent of the NDA, had also adopted populist moves like shagan of Rs 5100 to SC and BC when they marry their daughters, free electricity to all the section of farmers which resulted in a loss of Rs 500 crore per year. The BJP never objected to these populist acts.

Mr Chanderbabu Naidu, the Andhra Chief Minister, has indulged in “double speak” by criticising the Vajpayee Government when it raised the issue prices of foodgrains and cut fertiliser subsidy. On the other hand, he has increased foodgrain prices himself in his State.

The war in Sri Lanka has further exposed the inherent weaknesses in the coalition. Mr Karunanidhi has advocated partition of the island to satisfy Tamils in the North with little regard for its implication for the subcontinent. He has thereby undercut the prerogative of the Centre to formulate external policies and has ignored India’s commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

Mr Vajpayee must act like a strong Prime Minister without bothering about the tenure of his own “gaddi”. He has played his innings quite well. Now when the end is approaching, he must see to it that populist moves should be immediately withdrawn by all the constituents of the NDA. He should tell each constituent to behave in the national interest and not for individual interests. Bad governance will not lead anywhere.


Not bogus

I refer to an article written by Varinder Walia (June 18) entitled “Many Australian courses ‘bogus”. It appears to be based entirely on claims made by Mr S.J.S. Pall, Commissioner of Income Tax, Amritsar and Jammu and Kashmir. The statements made are incorrect.

The article states that only 5 per cent of Indian students get “genuine degrees” and “Most of them have been languishing (in) Australian jails for various reasons”. This is entirely false, and is extremely damaging. It would be of great concern to the parents of Indian students who have gone to Australia or who are considering Australia as a study destination and does great harm to Australia’s reputation.

Secondly, the article alleges that many advertisements made on behalf of educational institutions in Australia are bogus. Many Australian universities and vocational education colleges have appointed representatives or agents in India to undertake promotions, interview students and assist students in putting in an application for a student visa. Most of these representatives operate competently and honestly. However, some do not. The Australian Government cannot control the actions of Indian businesses which are operating in India. There are no special arrangements set in place by the Indian authorities to monitor such businesses, other than normal procedures in place to protect the rights of consumers. However, the Australian High Commission has worked to support the establishment of an independent association of agents known as the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI). While we cannot vouch for individual members, this Association does have a code of ethical practice and a schedule of maximum fees that can be charged to students by its members. Any known examples of misleading advertising by agents should be brought to the attention of me or the General Secretary of AAERI so that appropriate action can be taken.

You should also be aware that a student visa will not be issued to any student to enter Australia until evidence is provided that the student is enrolled in a course at an institution that is listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. It is not possible for a non-existent institution to recruit students from India or any other country.

Claims relating to the misbehaviour of Indian students in Australia would appear to be exaggerated. Student visas are issued only to genuine students and it is necessary for all visa applicants to convince the Visa Office of their motivations for applying to study in Australia. Most education institutions in Australia provide special support services to international students to help them cope with their new environment, but regrettably some individuals may find that they lack the self-discipline to apply themselves fully to their studies. These are in a minority. The overwhelming feedback from Indian students who have returned to India after completing their studies in Australia has been positive. A survey which we undertook in 1998 found that 93% of the respondents were in employment in India, and constant feedback from members of our alumni association is that they developed both professionally and personally as a result of their experiences in Australia.

Bernadette McDonald
Counsellor, Education and Training Australian High Commission
New Delhi


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |