The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, July 15, 2001

Running hospitals as business houses
Review by Uma Vasudeva

The man who said it all, and impeccably
Review by Rumina Sethi

Feminism is frail and fighting fit
Review by Nicci Gerrard

More about Sai Trinity
Review by M.L. Sharma

These women still live in medieval times
Review by Padam Ahlawat

Where Ambedkar scored heavily
Review by Rajiv Lochan

Tinkering with the school system
Review by S.P. Dhawan

How to save the aborigines
Review by Harbans Singh




Running hospitals as business houses
Review by Uma Vasudeva

Managing a Modern Hospital
edited by A. V. Srinivasan. Response Books, New Delhi. Pages 404. Rs 495.

HOSPITAL administration is one of the most important aspects of management because patient care is mostly neglected in medical services. The private sector has entered the health care sector in a big way, because it has tremendous earning potential. People are ready to pay according to the health care services provided by hospitals. The increasing demand for quality health care, a variety of means to support this and the entrepreneurial spirit have meant a boom to the health care industry.

Like in any industry, hospital executives also talk of marketing, promotion, retention of staff, payback period, quality improvement, total quality management (TQM) and so on. Hospitals, therefore, need qualified management experts who need not be doctors. Doctors should be allowed to carry out their professional work and the administration should be left to a professional.

There are very few hospital management schools in the country.

The trend is now changing and hospital administration as a specialisation is gaining ground. Because hospitals are dealing with complex human problems and any deficiency in service on the part of doctors or para medical staff is taken seriously by consumer agencies. The author has selected a wide range of themes which are of great interest to human beings. The topics covered by the author range from environmental issues to conventional management applied to a hospital. Every topic focuses on ensuring efficiency and order. The various contributors have stressed the relevance of the use of computers, and where possible have taken a futuristic outlook. All chapters are practice-oriented and many are supported by case studies.

The opening chapter, "Health Care in India; Profile and the Future" contains five parts, and the first is an analysis of official statistics on health care and an estimate of the number of hospital administrators that will be required in the country to support the growing number of hospitals. The second and third parts present different vistas of the health care sector in India. It closes with normative and prescriptive long-term projections and an estimate of the size of the market.

The author, Dr A V Srinivasan, traces what has been taking place in the Indian health care sector to prove its economic potential, the possibility of becoming an engine for growth, and offers some suggestions for proactive decisions.

Dr (Col) K B Subba Rao has given detailed information to aspirant entrepreneurs about the intricacies of creating a hospital in "Planning a Modern Hospital". He has used published standards to help aim at the ideal. Since many states do not impose stringent conditions to start and run a hospital, the condition of many of them is abysmally low. His paper shows the right way of doing it.

In a chapter on "Hospital Organisation Structure", Dr S F Chandra Shekhar has blended theoretical rationality with pragmatism. He traces various aspects of the structure which is applicable for any organisation and applies them to four types of hospitals, classified by the ownership: a large government-run hospital, a university teaching hospital, a trust hospital, and a corporate hospital. He discuses their rationality and indicates the design for the future. He concludes that there is no one right structure that is appropriate for all hospitals, but the circumstance in which an organisation finds itself leads to its structure.

In "Financial Management for Hospitals", Prof P. Jangaiah says that though many corporate and private hospitals technologically superior are inefficient in managing finance. A proper management of finance will not only give a larger surplus, but will also help in cost control, the gains of which can be passed on to the patients. He suggests how sources can be found for funding a hospital project, be it total creation or expansion; he also provides rationality for measuring the return and works out various ratios to keep business operations in check. Many of the principles are supported with data.

Explaining selective management principle, V. Venkat Reddy has collected almost all classificatory systems in one place in the chapter, "Hospital Materials Management". He has illustrated his paper, discussed when and how to use them, and where needed combined two two systems in a matrix form for decision-making. For the sake of clarity, he has provided a compare–and-contrast study between the materials managed in a hospital and the ones in the engineering place. Once the classificatory system is in operation and the policies are stated, a computer programme will help automation by working out inventory levels.

This is followed by two case studies relating to the same subject by Srinivasan, "Hospital Stores Organisation and Pharmacy" and "Selective systems of Material Management in a Hospital". Making use of data, he illustrates how pharmacy and hospital material stores are organised by structure and policy. Item names and calculation in the second case study illustrate all systems discussed by Venkat Reddy.

K.P. Kumar offers an interesting and novel approach to derive inventory policies for drugs in a hospital. He extends the classificatory systems presented earlier, uses combinational analysis to reduce the classes and puts them into decision boxes, where the policy and the person in the hierarchy are clearly illustrated. The "Basic System for Effective Drug Management" by Kumar is an example of support system for drug inventory management.

In the chapter on "Hospital Information System and Technology", S. Subba Rao speaks out of his personal experience as a professional who built systems for hospitals. He substantiates the need for HIS, with a list of reasons why it should be automated in a modern hospital. He indicates the uses which the aggregated data can be put to and goes on to assess the current state of affairs in the country. A suggested approach and strategy for implementation follow all relevant modules of HIS.

A medical record is a compilation of pertinent facts about a patient’s life and health history, including past and present illnesses and treatment given by doctors. It is the personal property of the patient and ensures continuity of treatment. The chapter, "Medical Records", by Ms Mamta Edwards, covers the purpose, uses and value of medical records. The author has indicated the responsibility for the construction,maintenance and administration of medical records and related legal issues. The formats in which the records are to be maintained, the types of data and the retention principle are also covered.

Operations research (OR) is a multi-disciplinary approach for problem solving and improving efficiency. It uses some of the proven mathematical models to a situation whether it is simple or complex. This has been used very widely used in industries and in Johns Hopkins Hospital as early as the fifties. Its application has become easier now with the availability of powerful computers and relevant software. Its utility is so high that it has the core subject in every management curriculum. Dr K. N. Gaur in the chapter "Operations Research in Hospitals" traces the history of this approach to provide rationality, makes a listing of the major techniques included under this head, and describes how to build a model "Hospital Waste Management", which is another important subject tackled by the author comprehensively.



The man who said it all, and impeccably
Review by Rumina Sethi

Isaiah Berlin: A Life. Illustrated
by Michael Ignatieff. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, New York. Pages 356. $30.

WHILE he was still working on Sir Isaiah Berlin’s biography, Michael Ignatieff wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement: "The curious feature of Isaiah Berlin’s reputation is that it appears to be posthumous. Something about his essays - their moral elevation and antique style — gives the impression of having been written by a sage long gathered to his rest. The fact that he is alive, vital and alert at the age of 88, makes him seem like one of those strange elderly gentlemen in a Borges fable, whose mortality has been mysteriously suspended to allow him to taste the rewards of the afterlife while still enjoying this one." When Sir Isaiah died in November, 1997, Ignatieff’s ominous obitural note, though a trifle hurried, turned out to be highly prophetic.

Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin

Another incident which also curiously foretold his death took place in the summer of 1996 when Christopher Ricks, while delivering the Annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture, referred to it as the Isaiah Berlin Memorial Lecture. The one to laugh the loudest was Sir Isaiah himself. As I read of his death the following year, I mourned the passing away of one who became known among the foremost historians of ideas of last century.

Michael Ignatieff has done much to rescue the riches of Sir Isaiah’s life and works. The task of collating this well-researched biography from long conversations with Sir Isaiah which lasted for a decade, sifting his voice on the tape recorder from the click of almonds in their tins and the "ziggurat of chocolate bars" which he compulsively nibbled, and separating "biographical" material from idle ramblings is the work of great craftsmanship.

As Ignatieff writes of Sir Isaiah: "One question from me would set him talking for an hour as he roved back and forward, telling and re-telling the old stories, sweeping across decades, past famous faces, pausing over obscure people for the simple pleasure of proving to himself that they had not been forgotten. The ambition was to enfold all his experience — literally every last letter and bus ticket, every remembered joke and remark — into a crisp, economical story which, once elaborated, polished and given its punch-line, could then be filed away in the labyrinthine archive of his mind, safe from the ruin of time."

Berlin’s writings range from Lenin’s war communism through which he lived as a child to his association with Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak which resulted in his attacks on totalitarian regimes, from writings on the resurgence of ethnic nationalisms after the cold war to the three key areas of his political thought: freedom, pluralism and liberalism.

Later, eclipsed by the French philosophers — Derrida, Foucault and Barthes — Berlin only resurfaced in the 1980s, and more predominantly, in the 1990s, painstakingly reinstated by Henry Hardy, who studied philosophy at Wolfson College under Berlin’s tutelage. In fact, the voluminous writings of Berlin which Hardy brought to the surface came as something of a surprise. To say that Berlin’s academic contributions gradually become unfashionable in the

1960s is true in the light of the fading significance of his brand of liberal principles that bred toleration and freedom of conscience. Nonetheless, it was impossible for his ideas on nationalism, especially Zionism, to remain buried for too long as seen in the recent surge of interest that has been generated in that area.

Isaiah Berlin was among the few liberal thinkers who could speak positively of nationalism as one of the most powerful movements in the world. Like Herder, he believed that people should be allowed to develop their own culture in their own way without, however, taking recourse to aggression. Universalism, he felt, was a great leveler which robbed nations of their specific content and diversity which alone could glorify individual cultures.

Although Berlin did not altogether deny a universal and standardised theory of historicism, he was at the same time protective of specific group identities and alternative models. Like the present day multiculturalists, he believed in maintaining a universal concept of identity, while promoting liberal pluralism through the recognition of the unique identity and authenticity of cultural groups and individuals.

Paradoxically he always believed that "all genuine questions must have one true answer" and that "the true answers, when found, must necessarily be compatible with one another and form a single whole." As Berlin reports to Ignatieff: "The answers must be known to someone: perhaps Adam in Paradise knew; perhaps we shall only reach them at the end of days; if men cannot know them, perhaps the angels know; and if not the angels, then God knows. These timeless truths must in principle be knowable." Though he questioned the grand narrative of culture and history, he upheld the view that it would proceed to the best of all possible worlds.

While Berlin had faith in the existence of ultimate values which he believed were knowable, they were not available in uncontested forms. He claimed that no good could be found in a perfect state; a system or norm could exist only imperfectly, in varied and conflictual tones, never for the picking in one individual or even in one society. Here, I am reminded of his favourite line from Kant: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made." In other words, no single, centripetal, or organising principle can be founded.

On the other hand, the possibilities of scattered, diffused, self-contradictory, incomplete and centrifugal experiences are endless. In a famous essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox", Berlin called the intellectuals who aspire for the former vision "hedgehogs" and those who oppose rigid classification "foxes". In his own inimitable manner, he put Dante, Plato, Hegel, Dostoevsky,

Nietzsche, Ibsen and Proust in the first category. Among his foxes were Shakespeare, Herodutus, Aristotle, Moliere, Goethe and Joyce. Ignatieff writes: "To use the distinction he made famous, the range of his work may make him seem like a fox, who knows many things; in reality, he was a hedgehog, who knew one big thing. One purpose of this book is to elaborate what this one big thing was".

The biography is interspersed with Berlin’s memorabilia and gossip. Although he lived in Oxford like a monk, he was thrilled to discover once in Washington that women found him extremely striking. Candid about sex and even more than candid about his friends, he says on reading the obituary of a former lover: "Wildly untruthful she was. Wildly. But desirable to the last degree." And then, shaking his head, "All I seem to do at my age is attend funerals."

Ignatieff’s finely crafted study, at once substantial and stylish, makes effective use of both ceremony and private space. Of his loud growl of a voice, which everyone talk about and mimics unsuccessfully, Ignatieff recounts several comments: Joseph Brodsky said it was like "courting the speed of light". "He seems to bubble and rattle like a samovar on the boil"; Virginia Woolf felt that he talked with the vivacity and assurance of a young Maynard

Keynes, his "strangulated Oxford upper-class diction, all tight lips and clipped vowel sounds, unconsciously borrowed from . . . his lifelong friend and rival, Maurice Bowra."

Hoping to discuss the possibility of Roosevelt’s chances of re-election, Churchill once invited Berlin over to Downing Street. His aides accidently sent for the other I. Berlin, the songwriter Irving Berlin. After a very hollow interchange on American politics, a visibly drooping Churchill remarked that Berlin certainly wrote better than he spoke! That could hardly ever be the situation with Sir Isaiah.

Ignatieff gives us an insider’s view of the extraordinary raconteur who was honoured in his lifetime as few intellectuals had been, receiving countless awards and prizes, including 23 honorary doctorates: "What people remember about his conversation is not what he said — he is no wit and no epigrams have attached themselves to his name — but the experience of having been drawn into the salon of his mind. This is why his conversation is never a performance. It is not his way of putting on a show; it is his way of being in company."

Sir Isaiah’s ambition was to enfold all his experience up to every last letter and bus-ticket, every remembered joke and remark, into a crisp, economical story which, once elaborated, polished and given its punch-line, could then be filed away in the labyrinthine archive of his mind, safe from the ruin of time.



Feminism is frail and fighting fit
Review by Nicci Gerrard

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage
by Elaine Showalter. Picador, London.

"AND they lived unhappily ever after," Rebecca West said, writing of the lives of feminists who preceded her. Unhappiness — family abandonment, internal conflicts, public opprobrium, painful relationships, anger, loneliness, despair — marks so many of the stories of the feminist women that Elaine Showalter collects together here that the resolute optimism of the author’s voice is sometimes surprising.

From Mary Wollstonecraft, who died in the summer of 1797, to Princess Diana, who also, in an over-felicitous juxtaposition, died in the summer of 1997, her characters refuse to go quietly into Showalter’s calming set of essays, which are intended to celebrate our feminist heritage, find a pattern and a way of understanding where we are today. They quarrel among themselves, often virulently. They insult the ones who have gone before them (as the much-missed literary critic Lorna Sage said, feminists frequently find themselves in opposition to their literal mothers and their symbolic ones; there are lots of ungrateful daughters in this book and lots of daughters who feel they’ve been abandoned).

Mary McCarthy calls Germaine Greer an "absurd Australian giantess"; Camille Paglia has perfected the dubious art of hurling deliriously malicious epithets at other women.

Showalter’s first book was "A Literature of Their Own". Published in 1977, it was a cornerstone of future women’s studies, impassioned and authoritative. She followed this with other energetic and timely studies, most recently the controversial "Hystories"(about mass hysteria). "Inventing Herself" is less academic, more overtly accessible. It has a simple magazine style and deals in stories rather than analysis. The geography is self-admittedly narrow (America, Britain and France); the canon necessarily arbitrary (Paglia in and Angela Carter out), white (Zora Neale Hurston has a walk-on part), thoroughly gripping and a bit bland, like a tour through feminism’s "hall of fame".

The heroines of her stories are "icons" (though she derides the way the word "icon" has become a tawdry sound-bite), from Wollstonecraft, through the likes of Margaret Fuller, Emily Perkins Gilman, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, Germaine Greer, ending with Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and Princess Diana. As Showalter moves forward into the sixties and beyond, she inserts herself into the story, becomes a bit player in the drama. It is hard to write about history while it is happening, and the more contemporary accounts are the least gripping, the most cautious and anxious not to offend. For a book about resonances, the way some lives ripple outwards, it is oddly unresonant.

Showalter is an impressive, level-headed and always enjoyable writer, but in "Inventing Herself" she seems to have been trapped by a thesis that does not entirely work. She looks for a pattern, but the pattern is forever splintering and breaking up. The maverick, often turbulent characters of her women break brilliantly through, disrupting easy meaning. What is more, the self-invention of the title implies a kind of freedom, whereas many leading feminists are trapped by their versions of women’s liberation, or are invented by others, forced into roles that they did not want or having meanings thrust on to them. This is especially true of her more recent icons, who use or are used by a salacious, infatuated media — the cartoonish, swashbuckling Paglia, riding high on insults and feuds, the haunted Diana, sanctified by death.

And if the self-invention is uncertain, the "celebration" of the subtitle is forever undercut by the lives of the women she has chosen. Many of them came from terrifyingly unhappy families; many of them had unsatisfactory love lives, or worse. A lot of them (Margaret Fuller, say, or Simone de Beauvoir,) could be self-abasing in their relationships. Most were lonely and embattled, often they were humiliated. As she is very good at showing, for a lot of them, joy and pleasure do not come into it. The women preach liberation while the men practise it.

Showalter is attractive as a writer because she leans towards inclusiveness and searches for the "we" of the women’s movement.

Courtesy: The Guardian, London



More about Sai Trinity
Review by M.L. Sharma

The Sai Trinity
by Satya Pal Ruhela
Tarang Paperbacks (Vikas Publishing House),
New Delhi. Pages 195+. Rs 110

THE Sai cult has been gaining momentum everyday despite many disparaging remarks about the sant in the media. This work is the revised and enlarged edition with a wealth of new information, by an authority who has several books to his credit.

The first Sai Baba, known as Shirdi Sai Baba revered as the holiest of the holies, to some even an avatar is responsible for uniting Hindus and Muslims and cementing their ties of mutual love and affection with his universal outlook, like that of Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur. He stayed for song (about 60 years) in a mosque known as Dwarkamai, where "aartis" and rituals were performed according to Hindu customs. This book brings to light many new facts and facets of the life of Shirdi Sai Baba and it has established the fact that Sai Baba was a Brahmin by birth. The Baba has also mentioned that he had served in the Army of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi.

The book gives a profile of both Shirdi Sai Baba and Satya Sai Baba and gives information about the would -de Sai Baba, known as Prema Sai, besides their miracles, their gems of thought, their impact on the minds of people, details about the ashrams, temples, medical institutions, seats of learning, curricula, free education, etc. Embellished with attractive photographs, the book written in a racy style, provides food for the souls of spiritually inclined people.

Written in a balanced manner, neither flattering nor critical, the book makes an unbiased and sober attempt on the Sai cult and avoid a controversial approach without being defensive. As many as 165 books and other publications have appeared on Shirdi Baba, and about 400 books on Sri Satya Sai Baba. Some of the "words of wisdom" of both Sai Babas are:

Everything belongs to us for use. Nothing is for us to possess.

No one comes to without Rinanubandh (some previous bond of give and take). So when any dog, cat, pig, fly or person approaches you, do not drive it or him away with the words "hat, hat", "jit jit".

Humility is not towards all. Severity is necessary in dealing with the wicked.

Nobody should take the labour of others gratis. The worker should be paid his dues promptly and liberally.

You must always adhere to the truth and fulfil all the promises you make. Have Shraddhah (faith) and sabouri (patience). Then I will be with you wherever you are.

Greed and Brahman are poles apart (Shirdi Baba).

Love is God, live in love, truth is God, live in truth, bliss is God. Be fearless. God is with you.

Man is the embodiment of bliss. In spite of this he seeks bliss outside world... The divine has feet everywhere. (Satya Sai).

About educational facilities, the book informs that education from the first standard to post-graduate level is free of cost in Sai institutions. The last chapter relating to Prema Sai, the future incarnation of Sai Baba is of great interest as it records Satya Sai Baba’s devotees having seen him in dreams in the figure resembling Jesus Christ. He will be born in the 21st century in a Brahmin family in Bhardwaj gotra in Mysore state.

The unique chapter in the book is "Bibliographical Guide on Satya Sai Baba", compiled by Brian Steel, Giving a bird’s eyeview of the whole Satya Sai Baba literature and devotees experiences. Chapters like "Divine life of Satya Sai Baba", and "Recent developments in the Sai kingdom" give a biographical account of the Baba, his work in the educational field and in the spiritual uplift of youth, besides free medical help and information about the future plans and new additions at Prasanthi Nilayam. The book will inspire readers provide ample food for their spiritual quest and guide those who are eager to train youth on the lines of Satya Sai institutions.

The ABC’s of Chakra Therapy

by Deedre Diemer. Motilal Banarsi Dass, Delhi. Pages 178+VII, Rs 125.

Deeder Diemer, an American intuitive counsellor, speaker and seminar leader, has dealt with the system of Chakras in a systematic manner. Her work is a trend-setter as she uses all therapies, visualisation, sound, colour, aromatherapy, reflexology, gems and yoga and explains their working in a lucid style. Caroline Shola Arewa another expert on chakra, in her book, "Way of the Chakras" defines Chakras as the wheel of vibrating light that bring inner wisdom and knowledge. The seven Chakras viz. root chakra, spleen chakra, solar plexus chakra, heart chakra, throat chakra, third eye and crown chakra are the major centres in a human body that awaken us to the "wealth of spiritual, psychological and physical power."

Spread over three sections, the book includes chapters on how to use different therapies, seven main energy centres, where energy blocked, exercising chakras. These seven major chakras relate to the physical organs of human body and need to be balanced and aligned with each other. In the chapter, "Getting to know your chakras", she has provided information, about all the seven chakras. About the fourth, heart chakra, she writes in a poetic way, "The heart chakra! what a beautiful, beautiful chakra! The heart chakra is the centre of the entire chakra system. It is the bridge between the lower three physical and emotional centres. This is where the best of the both "worlds" integrate facilitating the healing and transformation of yourself and others".

In the chapter Basic skills for clearing your energy field, she has given several meditations and techniques for clearing energy fields and for self-protection. In the chapter, "Chakra therapies", she provides valuable information and procedures to practise various therapies. The effects of gemstones and the way in which they influence the physical, mental and emotional lives of people for the well-being are explained. The chapter "excercising your chakras" has described all exercises with illustrations. The author has given 110 items in the form of a questionnaire designed to locate which chakra needed particular attention.

The book is more in the nature of a practical workbook which guides through several therapies like visualisation, reflexology, yoga and gemstones to lead readers on a journey of self-healing and transformation through the exploration of the energy field. The details about the efficacy of gemstones in the treatment of physical problems is the most useful part in the book, which distinguished it from other works.



These women still live in medieval times
Review by Padam Ahlawat

Local Environment and Lived Experience: The Mountain Women of Himachal Pradesh
by Brenda Cranney. Sage Publications. New Delhi. Pages 287. Rs. 495.

BRENDA CRANNEY, a Canadian research scholar, spent a year living with the hill women of Himachal Pradesh to find, how modern development had contributed to make the poor women’s life worse. She lived with the Kalavati’s family of Ichasser, a village 20 km from Shimla. From here she based her research on two adjoining villages, Ichasser and Dev Nagar.

Initially she felt disappointed and was on the verge of giving up research and going back to Canada. But then she began to live with this family and people began to accept her and open up to her and confide to her with personal problems. She soon became a member of the family and shared in the work of women, doing domestic chores, washing, cooking and even cutting grass and fodder, to carry it on her head and walk several kilometres.

This living experience gives her an insight into the long and arduous work that the hill women put in, work which a male-dominated society does not value in monetary terms. The women of the house are the first to get up, making tea, milking the cow or buffalow, bringing water for drinking, bathing and washing, preparing food, and sending the children to school. They then go out to graze the animals, cut fodder and grass and carry it for four or five km. They then prepare lunch and serve the family.

In the afternoon they again go out to bring grass and fodder for the animals and bring water, walking a long distance with the weight on their heads. At night meal has to be prepared and served and they clean the utensils after the meal. If there are guests, the male members treat them to alcohol and the women have to put up with more work carrying more water for washing.

The male member may be employed on a low-paid job in the town or even may be jobless. Though tilling the land is considered to be a male job, it is common to see women ploughing the field in the absence of male members or the male sleeping off the effects of alcohol. The women also carry out the jobs of sowing, weeding and reaping.

The capitalist form of development has made her lot even more difficult. Large scale cutting down of forests, for railway sleepers and wood for building or furniture in large towns has reduced the forest cover, forcing the women to walk further for collecting fuel wood, grass and fodder (leaves). The forests have been taken over by the government which is busy planting chil and eucalyptus trees under its social forestry programme.

The oak forests have given way to chil (pine) and eucalyptus, species that have commercial value but have been responsbile for degradation of soil and loss of water. These trees do not yield any fuel wood nor are their leaves can be used as fodder. Besides grass does not grow under these trees nor do their roots conserve water. The result is that the soil is dry and the water level as gone down, their leaves do not fertilise the soil. There has been total degradation of forest cover and its direct impact has been on the subsistence economy of the poor women. They have been deprived of water, in summer water is in acute shortage and they have to walk several kilometres to get supply. The forest no longer provides fodder, fuel wood or grass.

Oak leaves provided good fodder and fertilised the soil. The trees conserved water in the roots and allowed grass to grow beneath. The village women want the government to grow oak trees instead of chil and eucalyptus.

The result has been that the soil has become poor and the women are hard put to grow food for their subsistence. Hard work and poor diet has in turn impacted on the health and education of women.

The women, however, have learnt to resist patriarchal expectations and have gained control over their own lives and agency. Kalawati, after giving birth to a girl, opted for an tubectomy without even informing her husband. The women have realised the importance of a small family and education. Despite their best efforts their life is a struggle.

The writer gives voice to the poor women and her research is a result of participant observation.



Where Ambedkar scored heavily
Review by Rajiv Lochan

Understanding Ambedkar
edited by GS Bal, Ajanta Books, New Delhi, Pages 143, Rs 195.

ALL societies need heroes. An entity to whom they can look up to. Who can, — or at least that is what is presumed, — guide effectively in difficult situations. Who has been able to tackle difficult and supposedly unsolvable problems. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was one such hero. We all know very well, even though not all of us might have read anything about his life, how he tried to find a space for the dalits in our polity and society.

Baba Saheb Ambedkar
Baba Saheb Ambedkar

Babasaheb’s heroism lay in a variety of factors. He defied existing social norms and rose far above what normal society would have allowed even a normal person let alone one who was a dalit. He was able to use just that small niche among the liberal-minded public figures of his day to rise so far above the common man, not only the common man from his own community but also far above the average of society. He also was one of the few to stand up to the dictates of a powerful and charismatic contemporary personality like Mahatma Gandhi. In the process Babasaheb Ambedkar had to get into various face-offs, not all of which he won, but in the end he was able to carve out a very special place for himself and the dalits of India.

His greatest victory, however, lay in not getting coopted into the hoopla of Indian nationalism and Indian nation, maintaining a constructive distance from both and at the same time participating in mainstream politics in that right amount which would enable him to ensure a continued dalit voice in Indian polity. Little wonder that the wise men and women of the Constituent Assembly took Babasaheb as the farmer of India’s constitution. Did they do it voluntarily or in order to suppress his shrill notes of protest that could be expected in the future continues to remain one of the delicious mysteries of our times.

From the present point of view, however, the important thing to notice is that despite that signal honour and the offer of a cabinet berth soon after, Babasaheb still refused to be coopted and dilute his stance on the dalit cause. If anything, he extended his ideology to include the rest of society as well and was able to convert quite a large number of non-dalits to the Ambedkarite ideology as it came to be called in later days.

One of the most important successes of Babasaheb was that his very well articulated views on the discrimination being faced by the dalits and the essential social and political solution for the same forced the Government of India to start a variety of pro-active schemes for the betterment of the dalits, some of which were provided constitutional backing and legislative support. In the days immediately after independence the official support for dalits was more in form and less in substance, but at least the seeds of institutional change had been sown which could sprout and grow at some later date when conditions were more propitious. How such conditions came about, what they meant for our social thought has attracted a large number of scholars. One of the latest in this line are those who contributed essays to the book under review.

This book of essays has been compiled by Gian Singh Bal, a well-known thinker and social commentator. It contains essays on a difficult subject by a variety of scholars like Dharmendra Goyal, Dharmanand, Harish Puri, Surendra Ajnat, Jaya Gopal, Kunal Ghosh and SK Biswas. At best of times studying Babasaheb Ambedkar and commenting on his views, especially by non-dalits not committed to the Ambedkarite ideology, is a difficult proposition. At one extreme are commentators like Arun Shourie who revel in poking fun at established icons and on the other hand are contemporary political ideologues as represented in the various Bahujan parties, pursuing a strongly political agenda in the opposite direction, who are equally close minded in learning from the life and ideas of Babasaheb. It is quite commendable that the contributors to this volume have been able to steer clear of both the extremes and investigate newer aspects of Babasaheb’s ideas and personalities.

Dharmendra Goyal examines Babasaheb’s critique of the panchayats. Why he chooses to call it "the subaltern perspective", though, remains a mystery. Puri writes one of the most sapient commentaries on Ambedkar’s political ideas as they related to the Indian nation trying to create a new identity for itself. Dharmanand presents a unique vision of Ambedkar from a textual and, for want of a better phrase, brahmanic point of view. His perspective is all the more important since it once again highlights the important fact that many of the manuvadi texts can be as easily read to justify an anti-manuvadi position as their contrary!

Dharmanand’s text makes it clear that deep in Indian history while caste distinctions did exist, caste was not a reified entity. The reification of caste, we need to remember, was essentially a creation of colonial administration which sought to freeze Indian society away from its dynamism. But that is a fact of life known to most of us today: that the Brahmin-bania combine of today does not hesitate to kowtow, socially, politically and economically, to those dalits who have been able to make use of contemporary opportunities to rise to positions of economic, social and political power.

So much for the so-called stability of the caste system and the distance being maintained by the upper caste!!

The point of the dalit movement today therefore is to seek benefits for not just a handful but to ensure that all dalits do benefit. It is in this regard that Babasaheb with his emancipatory and revolutionary project stands tall in Indian history as a contemporary Indian hero and studying him in his various aspects, as has been done by our present essayists, becomes meaningful.



Tinkering with the school system
Review by S.P. Dhawan

Educational Reforms in India for the 21st Century
by J.C. Aggarwal. Shipra Publications Delhi. Pages 388 pages Rs 450

TEACHERS are justifiably eulogised as nation-builders for, education is rightly perceived as the most potent means of development human resources which alone can ensure the progress of a nation in material, intellectual and even moral and ethical spheres. It is also true that the educational system can help accomplish these objectives only if it is purged of its glaring deficiencies, contradictions and shortcomings. Thus the question of bringing about the much-needed educational reforms has to be viewed as a national priority.

No doubt, various governments in the post-independence era have established, in quick succession through 150, committees and commissions at the national level and scores more at the level to diagnose the ills affecting our system of education. Many of these have given valuable suggestions for revamping it. But results are still elusive as the action required has seldom been initiated or completed in earnest.

The book under review is a sincere effort to vigorously reiterate the need for giving up the half-hearted approach at implementation. Let us have an ounce of action of the right kind, instead of tonnes of reports and discussion papers, this is the message of J.C. Aggarwal in a spirit of righteous indignation.

Aggarwal, with his rich experience as a teacher in a post-graduate teachers training college and as an educational administrator in the Delhi Administration, is of the firm conviction that the issue of planning and implementing educational remedies should not be left in the hands of political authorities and bureaucrats the teachers not just Vice-Chancellors, etc. who actually teach at various levels, including the lowest one, must be actively involved in this vital exercise. To utilise the advice of proven educationists and teachers with grassroots experience and commitment to the profession must become the school of educational reforms. It is unfortunate that the recommendations of the Kothari Commission of three decades ago with regard to educational administration and planning continue to be disregarded by those who are in authority.

Even at the international level, there has been much talk concerning reforms. The UNESCO-appointed International Commission on Education (1993-96), chaired by Jacques Delors, strongly recommended encouragement for education of girls and women, allocating 25 per cent of development aid to education, introducing new information technologies, seeking he support of non-government organisations and local committees, declaring education as a basic human right and universal human value, and popularising the concept of learning throughout one’s life.

In much the same way, various commissions and committees have been highlighting the malaise in the system of education and pleading for correctives. The University Education Commission, set up under S. Radha Krishanan’s chairmanship in 1948, stressed the importance of strengthening the moral fibre so that we don’t produce "scientists without conscience, technicians without taste who find a void within themselves, a moral vacuum.......". Education has to be reoriented by developing "thought for the poor and the suffering, chivalrous regard and respect for women, faith in human brotherhood regardless of race or colour, nation or religion, love of peace and freedom, abhorrence of cruelty and ceaseless devotion to the claims of justice."

How noble, if all this could be translated into reality, the same emphasis on the training of character along with the improvement in the practical and vocational efficiency of students was laid by the Secondary Education Commission in 1952-53.

The report of the Kothari Commission released in 1966 spoke of "the educational revolutions" which could be achieved by relating education to the life, needs and aspirations of the people, improving the quality of instruction, vocationalising education at the secondary level improving professional education and introducing a common school system, making social and national service compulsory, developing modern Indian languages, making science education an integral part of school education and inculcating high values — social, moral and spiritual — at all stages of education.

Customer once again the diagnosis is in the right direction but the corrective action has been far from satisfactory. In 1968, the Government of India’s National Policy on Education sought the adoption of 10+2+3 pattern of education for the entire country. Thus followed the National Policy on Education (NPE) in 1986, which aimed at operation blackboard at the primary stage, rapid setting up of Navodaya Vidyalayas vocationalisation of education at the secondary level, the establishment of DIETs and the eligibility tests for the recruitment of college and university lecturers.

Theoretically speaking, all such suggestions are worth implementation from the pre-primary to the highest stages of formal and informal education. But in practice, much remains to be accomplished. Even the place of English as a language to be learnt as a medium of instruction continues to confuse our authorities. No consensus has been reached on the type of moral education because secularism is often wrongly interpreted. Another problem concerns the lack of interest in classroom studies on the part of the students who prefer for competitive and entrance examination by joining the coaching classes.

Aggarwal’s work, as a serious inquiry and analysis, is enlivened by his comparative study of the curriculum scenario in countries like America, England, Russia, Germany, China and Japan. Equally interesting are the various charts, diagrams and statistical tables highlighting the physical targets like the enrolement of boys and girls at various levels, the number of additional teaching posts required, the adult literacy, etc.

In short, Aggarwal’s work is really thought-provoking and calls for a deeper exploration of the issues raised by him.



How to save the aborigines
Review by Harbans Singh

Tribals, Development and Environment
by Gautam Vohra, Har-Anand, New Delhi. Pages 226. Rs 295.

THE book sponsored by the Development Research and Action Group (DRAG), a non-government organisation, documents the role of the NGOs in restoring the natural habitat of tribal people. Vast tracts of land continue to be inhabited by the indigenous people, who have faced the challenge of not only withstanding the onslaught of the forces of modern civilisation in the past without successfully providing credible answers to their own people in the changing scene. But never before has the threat of their being absorbed and overwhelmed been so real and alarming as today.

It is not as if the tribal people have never been threatened before, but earlier the civilised world did not feel the need to exploit their resources with the same intensity as today. This means in the past even after giving enough to the outside world, the tribal people had enough of nature with them to continue to live in peace and harmony. It is the modern way of life that refuses to be satisfied, and therefore the plunder of the nature and natural resources is both ruthless and relentless. It is this that threatens to damage the tribal way of life at some places, and which pushes them onto the path of violent confrontation at others.

The battle, obviously, is unequal, with little doubt about the identity of the loser. Therefore the necessity of NGOs working to augment the strength of the tribals so that not only they survive, but with their survival nature too, survives. The book is an account of experience from as different areas as Ladakh to Orissa, and Nagaland to Maharashtra.

Through a series of observations of the various NGOs and people working there the problem of those regions and possible solutions have been suggested. Soon one realises that the threat to the identity and habitat of the tribals in Chhattisgarh is different from what is faced by the tribals in Nagaland. Even though non-Nagas cannot own land and property in that state, outsiders interested in exploiting the regional wealth skirt the law through conniving locals, resulting in large scale logging and denuding of the forest. The ire of the underground movement in the region is also directed against these forces but is more intense against the central government which is perceived as the original sinner. It is here that an NGO can play a meaningful role, since it can encourage the local people and exert pressure on the officials to resist the subterfuge for exploiting the wealth.

Many connected with the North-East feel, the book tells us, that the conversion to Christianity is the root cause of the destruction of peace in the region. For centuries the tribals had evolved a faith and a religion based on their experience with nature. Once convinced of the efficacy of their faith, they had never felt the need to question it, therefore the transition from the religion of their ancestors to Christianity is more revolutionary than evolutionary, abrupt and total, causing a scar and a charm in their consciousness.

This causes ceaseless restlessness and despair. Now that the exclusive nature of the region is a thing of the past, the conversion is seen as a source of social tension and most of the social ills afflicting the youth.

Not a little blame has to be shared by the collapse of the traditional institutions in the wake of the development brought about by the governments. For example, panchayat raj strikes at the very concept of tribal life where the head is perceived to be just and the final authority for arbitration. The existence of parallel centres of powers only encourages members of society to defy both and strike their own path.

The exclusivity of Ladakh is by and large well protected by the difficult terrain and harsh climate. Therefore the region by and large retains its identity except for those places which are continually exposed to tourism. Interestingly, we are told, Ladakhis are one people who might study and work abroad, but who always like to come back to their place.

The biggest challenge before the NGOs, the book feels rightly, is in those areas which are close to the civilised world; where the development efforts in the form of dams, mining and industrialisation and exploitation of the forest wealth has made deep inroads into the tribal belts. Since these processes cannot be reversed, they should be able to give back more to the tribals without expecting them to change their lifestyle or habitat. This is the challenge. In these areas the NGOs have to ensure that the forest produce fetches the adivasis a remunerative price, that the forest wealth is replenished and exploitation stopped, and of course that the tribals are not asked to make sacrifices so that the civilised world profits more as a result of the high dams.

Such books are welcome, and more effort is needed since the number of tribals is not insignificant in this country, not the land under their care. Society cannot be at peace with itself if they are ignored for ever and pushed to the brink.