Saturday, August 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



How to restore faith in universities

Apropos of the article “What plagues Punjab’s varsities” by Amrik Singh and the letters in response to that, I have the following to say:

The rot that has set in, in our institutions of higher learning, the universities in particular, can’t be viewed in isolation. It is but a part of the whole: the general rot and the mess in almost all organs of the state, the rampant corruption, the distressingly poor governance by the politico-bureaucratic combine and utter lack of accountability at all levels of the governmental functioning. The universities couldn’t have remained insulated and immune from the all-pervasive winds of doom and disease, some islands of excellence notwithstanding.

If some vitality and life is indeed to be infused in some of our sick north Indian universities, I suggest that:

1. The selection and appointment of a VC with the requisite credentials may be made rigorous and foolproof without any political interference.

2. Enquiry commissions should be set up to probe irregularities and misuse of power by the past Vice-Chancellors, including charges which the faculty should be free to submit. If proved guilty, the culprits should be held personally responsible and made to pay for their acts of omission and commission.


3. Bureaucratic flab should be removed. “Downsizing”, in order to be meaningful, should begin from the very top. Can a fund-starved, small state like HP afford the luxury of three universities? The possibility of clubbing them into one with three independent campuses, each catering to its respective mandate with a single central coordinating agency in the form of a Vice-Chancellor’s office, should be seriously examined.

4. Only academics, and not the ill-equipped and often ignorant and arrogant state civil servants, be appointed as Registrars.

5. All promotions and selections carried out indiscriminately in the recent past should be immaculately reviewed.

6. Doctored data based on spurious research giving exaggerated production and productivity figures just to keep the masters happy and for self-preservation and promotion, including doctoral theses should be dealt with by exemplary and deterrent punishment. Research should be made need and location-specific. A mechanism to have a periodic external audit of research by an international agency with impeccable credentials should be put in place.

7. Decision-making be democratised to make it more participatory and transparent.

8. Simple, straightforward procedures with minimum of red-tape should replace archaic and convoluted ones to foster accountability, efficiency and team-spirit at all levels and to ensure complete functional autonomy to a teacher/research scientist. The act(s) and statutes should be completely overhauled and recast.

9. Promotions should be delinked from degrees and the “number of publications”, and made performance-based. The UGC’s tunnel vision of introducing Ph.D as an essential qualification to promote quality has done more harm than good. Many pseudo-academics strut about the campuses with fake degrees, or substandard research or plagiarised theses secure in the knowledge that fake or real, my degree is a sure licence for going up the ladder, unhindered. An investigation into research publications and doctorate theses will make startling revelations.

A tall order, no doubt. But very much achievable if a visionary, gutsy, no-non-sense Vice-Chancellor, or a well-meaning government wishes to deliver.


Administration : In his article on Punjabi’s bloated bureaucracy, Amar Chandel has displayed courage with his splendid suggestions on how to reduce the top-heavy army of IAS/IPS/PCS/PPS officers who have crowded the administrative culture of Punjab.

I still remember that during the early forties, the then Punjab had 29 districts and the state was managed by one Chief Secretary and an IG of Police, delivering a decent day-to-day management, bringing grace and glitter to their positions and status. Even after partition, the then Punjab had only three police ranges i.e. Jalandhar, Ferozepur and Ambala, each managed by a DIG.

Today even the Chief Minister some time is seen confused as to where to post whom. The then Kangra district comprising the present Kangra, Hamirpur, Kulu and Lahul-Spiti with a population of seven lakh was managed by one SP and one DC with a few DSPs and SDMs. The files in those days moved fast without favour or fear.

Today the IAS/IPS/PCS and PPS officers have become the strongest weapon for shielding some and slaughtering others. In fact, the entire system has become an over-crowded train of passengers (IAS/IPS and others) where there is no control to protect the people who have reservations to travel.


Cover-up exercise

This refers to the fraudulent allotments of petrol pumps gas agencies to BJP leaders/associates. Petroleum Minister Ram Naik has publicly claimed his innocence and refused to resign on the ground that all allotments were made by the petroleum dealership committees headed in all cases by retired judges.

In such circumstances, it is obvious that the cancellation of the allotments is not a “clean-up” exercise but a patently “cover-up exercise. Why should the government feel shy of exposing the retired judges, if they have been involved in the petrol pump scam?

A. K. SINHA IAS (retd), Panchkula


Amrita Pritam’s poem

I am a lover of Urdu poetry. I have read with interest Bhagwan Singh’s comments on Amrita Pritam’s poem “Aj aakhaan Waris Shah noon” and the remarks of some other persons on them (July 15 and 22).

Famous writer Saadat Hasan Manto, who wrote a couple of stories about the savage behaviour of unscrupulous people during the partition, said that he wept bitterly on reading this poem.

According to Sahir Ludhianvi, whom Amrita held in very high esteem, there was absolutely no poetic quality in the poem.

Once someone praised the poem before Dr Mohan Singh Diwana. He frowned upon him and said, “who says it is a poem? It is just an unmetrical doggerel written in an incorrect language.

However, I feel that if Amrita had written the poem strictly in a specific poetic measure and in grammatically correct and forceful language in view of its theme, it would have been worthy of being weighed against Sahir’s famous long poem “Parchhaiyaan.”


Farmers’ immigration

Under Canada’s new immigration regulations, farmers have been included in the self-employed business category immigration and placed on a better footing than other business category immigrants because of the following reasons:

(a) No funds have been fixed that a farmer must carry to Canada. The condition imposed on him is that he should be able to create his own employment by purchasing and managing a farm in Canada. He should be able to support himself and dependent members of his family.

(b) The visa granted to him is for permanent immigration and it is not provisional.

(c) He is not bound to give employment to any other immigrant/citizen of Canada as in the case of entrepreneur.

(d) He should have minimum of two years farming experience in the last five years.

(e) He is required to score 35 points on five parameters, namely, age, business experience, education, adaptability and language.

(f) As the entrepreneur immigrant is supposed to have three lakh Canadian dollars worth net assets, it is assumed that a farmer should also have that much net assets.

It is a great opportunity for Punjab farmers to avail this benefit as Canada is three times bigger than India and has got a population of hardly three crore. Instead of passing disinformation, well-wishers of the farmers should help them immigrate to Canada.


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