Saturday, September 23, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Evaluating the doctorate thesis

THE present method of evaluating the doctorate thesis in Indian universities leaves much to be desired. At the first stage, the thesis has to be approved by the supervisor before the researcher can submit it to the university. Everything depends on the whim and arbitrary decision of an individual called the guide or supervisor. He can make or mar the career of a young scholar. Most of the research supervisors are feudal and undemocratic by temperament. In the science faculties, the situation is somewhat bearable but in the case of humanities, it is worse.

There is nothing like democratic relationship between a supervisor and a research scholar. The supervisors affect greatness in the same way as our bureaucrats are habitual to. They keep the research scholars waiting for half an hour before they condescend to speak to them. They throw cold water on their alacrity to meet their “great gurus”.

The supervisors try to impose their own vision and philosophy on the researchers. They bend and bow the young scholars to their whims and caprices. And if the aspiring doctors try to argue with them, they are severely punished for their impertinence of being argumentative.

  We have not been able to evolve an objective, indigenous and democratic method of conducting research work in our universities for the last 53 years. The university scholars motivate the researchers to overload their theses with references and quotations. There is no reasonable balance between what the researcher has got to say on his own and the numerous sources of his information. If a researcher claims to be original in India, he is ridiculed and discouraged until he is recognised abroad. I wonder if Amratya Sen would have been allowed to grow here in our country if he had decided to conduct research.

In some universities in north India, the bulk of the thesis is considered everything. Write above 200 pages and your thesis is over. In this way, the quality takes the back seat. In many cases, where the researchers are of independent mind and dare to differ with their supervisors, they are harassed endlessly. They have to kill their sense of dignity and worth if they wish to obtain their doctorate degrees.

Most of the Indian supervisors believe that the theoretical aspects of a thesis can be expounded only through bombastic words and stylistic fireworks. William Shakespeare advised the scholars centuries ago to use only “plain words” to reach the truth and give up “Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise/Three-piled hyperboles”. The supervisors think that the theses should be replete with convoluted arguments and explanations, which are beyond the ken of even graduates and post-graduates. This elitist attitude is mainly responsible for the deep apathy of the educated middle class in our country towards different aspects of our history, culture and tradition. The language of the theses is mostly esoteric, boring and unimaginative.

The Indian supervisors emphasise more upon following the international methodology of research and less on the relevance and the originality of the contents. As a result of this lopsided, defective and casual approach, the research scholars tend to make their theses voluminous collections of borrowed concepts and ideas. They project others’ views and arguments as their own with the help of simple connectives and conjunctions. In most of such theses, one hardly finds any philosophy.

The universities are the highest seats of learning and the voice of dissent ought to be accorded due respect but unfortunately these days our universities have become big sanctuaries of petty politics, casteism and parochialism.

The method of supervision and evaluation of doctorate theses ought to be overhauled. Instead of a single individual, a panel of subject experts may be constituted to monitor the work being done by a research scholar. This method will put an end to the tyranny of a single individual. The University Grants Commission (UGC) should send its seniormost professors to different universities in order to assess the quality of theses being produced there. I think termites do more justice to them than anybody else in university libraries. Most of the theses are beautifully bound volumes of plagiarised ideas. Those who submit them are called “doctors”. But I am of the view that only a few of them are able to say something original on their own and have some sort of philosophy in their doctorate theses.


Leaders’ escapades

Newspapers are full of reports of escapades of sex and corruption on the part of our political leaders. Recently there have been two major reports on activities of Sakshi Maharaj, MP, and Mr Subhash Sharma, the Mayor of Amritsar, with enough evidence.

However, both the so-called leaders have taken the usual plea that it is a deeprooted conspiracy to ruin their political image. Earlier a Punjab Minister had also taken the same plea when his son was involved in a despicable sex scandal.

But the people must tell these political leaders that no one believes their flimsy defence and that we all know that they commit indecent acts and on being caught hide behind this now stale argument of “conspiracy”.

Such leaders with so weak a moral fibre should never be forgiven by the people and should be given a drubbing in the next elections. Political parties which shelter them should also be given a lesson of a lifetime.

Corrupt leaders create a corrupt society and if India wants to progress the people must dump them into the dustbin of oblivion.


Apt comparison

I have read the middle “Pakistan after Musharraf” (Sept 6) by Mr V.N. Kakkar. The comparison of General Musharraf of Pakistan with Aflatoon Khan is marvellous. Since partition Pakistan has been ruled by all sort of Aflatoons. In real sense the Pakistani rulers have the legacy of such foolish people. Mr Kakkar belongs to Peshawar, and knows the nature of the rulers of that country.

Such pieces give information about the history of that part of the country which was once part of India.

Who does not remember the late Mr Prem Bhatia the Editor of The Tribune. Every week he wrote reminiscences of Lahore days and filled the hearts of the readers of the papers with interesting stories of men with whom he had served.

Palbhu (Hamirpur)


Senate nominations

There has been a plethora of news and comments in your esteemed paper on the composition of the Senate of Panjab University. It has been said that the root cause of the problems of the university is the registered graduate constituency. Is this correct assessment?

Other universities in the region do not have seats in the Senate for registered graduates. Are they better administered? Secondly, there is a large number of seats in the Senate that are filled by the Chancellor through nomination. Here, thus, is a mechanism in the hands of Chancellor to improve the general level of the debates in the Senate. In the past candidates who have lost in the elections have been brought to the Senate through the back door of nomination.

If the same individuals are to appear as election candidates and nominations, then what is the use of the nomination category? Till such time the constitution of the university is changed for the better, the Chancellor should exercise the nomination facility to offset the damage caused by overdemocratisation in the affairs of Panjab University.



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