Saturday, December 30, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Falling water-table

Every other day, some dignitary bemoans the falling water-table in Punjab and Haryana as this is posing a threat to over 14 lakh private tubewells which form the backbone of the green revolution. The governments concerned have not bothered to investigate the reasons for the phenomenon. Their inaction gives the impression that they consider this to be due to some natural factor. The only factor which could cause it, is the failure of rains, but at least, in the past 11 years, the rains have been more than normal.

The water-table can remain steady only if the principle of balancing the output and the input of ground water is followed. This task is rather ticklish because we have control only on the output and not the input. As the output cannot be reversed easily, it is necessary to estimate the input with the help of tested formulae. A constant watch also needs to be maintained to see that the balance between the two is not disturbed. The governments of Punjab and Haryana seem to have come to grief partly because they did not check the accuracy of the formulae used for estimating the input, and partly because they failed to set up an authority which could apply some mid-course correction, say after every fine year's working of the tubewells.


Whatever the reasons for this situation, prudence required that some remedial measures are taken as soon as the toleration limit is reached. It is true that the tubewells already installed could not be stopped but nothing prevented the governments from increasing the input by artificial means. The only raw material needed for this was some uncommitted water and both the states have plenty of it, which they are allowing to go waste via a network of drains.

A major portion of this could be injected directly into the strata desaturated by the falling of water table. The only hurdle was that this water was required to be desilted before it could be injected and the method for it was not known. This difficulty has been removed by the Punjab Agricultural University which has set up an experimental station on Raipur Link drain where water is being injected into the ground after being desilted with the help of some innovative vertical filters.

s. p. malhotra

Education mafia

This is in response to the report of Mr P.P.S. Gill, in The Tribune of Nov 16. The report throws light on the nefarious activities of the 'education mafia' which has struck deep roots in the 'field of education' where, according to Mr Gill, money, and not merit, matters.

Even casual student of the history of India's traditional system of education knows that the ultimate purpose of education in India, had been to make the educated-man altruistic and saintly. However, the present system of education, borrowed from our colonial-masters, has become, a 'system of successful business. Schools, colleges and universities have, with the passage of time, become 'business like information-mongering-shops', and have ceased to be the centres of real education and the seats of true learning.

It also needs to be underlined, that neither the schools, nor the colleges, nor the universities are autonomous and independent. Dr A.C. Joshi, Vice-Chancellor of the Panjab University, in 1956-57, made a four-year plan to give autonomy to all high and higher secondary schools in the state. But he failed to do so. And, when the university refused to carry the burden of the schools, these were tethered to the Punjab School Education Board as an external examining body. However, teaching and testing are inseparable processes.

Similarly, the UGC intended to grant 'autonomy' to all colleges in India. And for that purpose, the Commission created and funded the posts of Deans in all affiliating universities. I had the privilege to be the Dean of College development council, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. And, my job was to encourage all the 78 colleges, falling within the jurisdiction of GND University to accept autonomy and to become mini-universities. Not a single Principal (or Managing-Committee) came forward to accept 'autonomy'. Why?

Freedom (or autonomy) demands responsibility, insight, creativity, courage, ingenuity, self-help, etc. In fact, such human qualities are rare and can be nurtured only in a congenial atmosphere. Neither the British Government was interested, nor would today's rulers like to make the schools, colleges and universities free and autonomous. India's affiliating universities and centralised system of education have made us mentally crippled, hence, good slaves. The universities and the School Education Board are used as crutches by the principals and headmasters. In the university - and the board examinations, the heads are indifferent. Therefore, flying squads' are sent to check copying. The examinees are searched from head to foot and intimidated un-necessarily. Real education is a wealth that can never be stolen, begged, borrowed and bequeathed.

In Canada, all schools, colleges and universities are autonomous, in the sense that it is the head of the institution who signs the final certificates. And the admissions to the most prestigious courses, that is, medical and engineering classes, are made on the bases of assessments and evaluations made by one's class-teacher and countersigned by the head. Teaching, testing and learning go hand in hand. No importance is given to external examinations. Instead, the students are asked to write frank reports on the efficiency of their teachers.

To ensure control of the misleading effects of the 'education mafia', a four-pronged cultural revolution becomes imperative: (1) to restore faith in the teacher's integrity and devotion (2) to give perfect-autonomy to all the schools, colleges and universities (3) to perfectly decentralise the system of education up to the level of panchayats and block samitis and (4) to make the teachers' job a tenure service to be renewed after three or four years.

In Canada, the system of education is perfectly decentralised. And school trustees are democratically elected after every three years, alongwith the municipal elections. Yet, there is no 'education mafia', no private tuition and no external examinations. Even university teachers have tenure jobs. And, the academic-standards are high. Canadian universities do not send Ph.D theses for evaluation to India. And the reverse is, invariably, true. In fact, India's centralised system of education has become a wet blanket. Who will muster the courage to throw it away?

amar singh dhaliwal
Manitoba (Canada)


Why fear privatisation

Strikes by the employees of banks and other public sector undertakings on the issue of privatisation stem only from panic. Over the years, services by the public sector have so deteriorated that the Government is left with no alternative but privatisation.

Public sector employees should increase their efficiency and perform better than their counterparts in the private sector if their stand has any justification. People send their children to private schools and want to be treated at private hospitals because of the better services provided by these institutions.

The immunity provided to the public sector against inefficiency cannot work indefinitely in the changed economic order. We should see the writing on the wall. Sooner or later privatisation has to come if the services of the public sector remain as they are today. Sooner the better.

k. l. garg

Family pension

The Punjab Government has decided to revise the family pension of those who retired before January 1, 1996, and in whose case the family pension has not yet become operative. The pensioners are required to apply on the prescribed proforma to the Accountant General, Punjab, through the head of the office from where they had retired. The cases are to be submitted within six months of the date of issue of the notification. However, the pensioners feel that six months for submitting the cases is a very short period for this purpose and should be extended by another six months.

Yash Paul Ghai

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