Thursday, November 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Declining research standards in universities

During the last few months, views of different experts (Amrik Singh, Hari Jaisingh) were expressed about the progressively declining academic standards and development of mediocrity in our universities. Specifically, the concerns expressed by PPS Gill (Oct 28) about the decline in research output in agriculture have a great socio-economic significance in Punjab. Since our country is passing through the transitional phase of knowledge-intensive highly competitive economy, we cannot afford such a decline. It is, therefore, suggested that the following proposals may be implemented (in fact, some of the reasons for the decline in research have been converted into suggestions) for making improvements:

1. Select a meritorious leadership in the universities/research projects, whose high personal academic research achievements may ensure motivation, involvement and commitment of the scientists and other supporting staff. Mediocre(s) at the top can kill creativity at all levels.

2. Lay greater emphasis on the creation of a congenial environment and scientific temper for carrying out creative, innovative and concept-based, demand-driven (based on socio-economic needs), problem solving, focussed and time-bound research.

3. Avoid feudalistic ways of doing and getting research conducted — institutionalise and develop strong “bottom-to-top/ top-to-bottom” participatory and multi-disciplinary approach for research-project development, prioritisation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, technology generation and dissemination.


4. Develop adequate facilities and infrastructure for precision experimentation, technology generation and its testing for reproducible results.

5. Ensure upgradation of scientific capabilities of the human resource involved in research on a continuing basis — the sky rocketing expectations cannot be met and ever-emerging problems cannot be solved through modest levels of competence, competitiveness and contribution.

6. Control mutual protectionism, improve work culture and accountability, and have an in-built performance-audit system. Ensure incentives for original research contributions and disincentives for continued below standard performance. Encourage publications in reputed journals.

7. Check repetitive research by taking advantage of libraries, “information and technology revolutions” and other frontier areas. You have to know enough to know that you do not know enough for conducting futuristic path-breaking research.

8. Provide adequate funds for research — today's investment on science would mean technology-generation for tomorrow. Public and private sector participation can greatly help in improving capital formation for the universities.

9. Improve upon the systems of purchase, allocation of funds, infrastructure development and its efficient use to help in consequent time-bound implementation and completion of research projects.

So we must get started without further loss of time and ensure that academic research output improves in our universities.



Nehru & Bhakra Dam

November 14 is celebrated as "Children’s Day." I celebrate this day differently. Jawaharlal Nehru poured the first concrete bucket for the construction of the Bhakra Dam on this day in 1955. Being an ex-worker at the dam, I bow my head before all those who sacrificed their lives during its construction. No one in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Delhi says a word about the dam, which is their lifeline



New Army chief

This refers to the report "Vij is new Army Chief" (Nov 1) which states: "He is the first Army officer hailing from Jammu, the home of the gallant Dogras." Jammu has produced hundreds of Army officers, including Lt Gens and Maj Gens. However, General Vij will be the first full General and the first COAS from Jammu.


Poor administration

Last year the second counselling of the PMT was held after a gap of eight months. It resulted in the valuable loss of six months of many students. Things are not better this year also.

Letters of grievances written to various departments are never acknowledged. A couple of years ago, newspaper clippings used to percolate to the Public Relations Department and the department concerned used to get shaken. Now the attitude of the administration is: let them go to court. The number of cases in courts against the government is on the increase every year. Why so? This needs to be checked and it does not require any finances.


Revenue leakage

The Chief Minister of Haryana has asked his officers to plug the leakage of revenue with a strong hand. This is not likely to make any impact in the case of revenue from canal waters as the assessment method is totally dependent upon the integrity of the patwari, who collects the basic data.

A farmer is always apprehensive of being overcharged. He guards against this by bribing the patwari on a regular basis who returns this favour by under-charging him and thus becomes instrumental in the leakage. This malpractice has become so much institutionalised that no eyebrows are raised over it in any quarter.



T.S. Eliot called the concluding two lines of Keat's “Ode on a Grecian Urn" a slur on an otherwise beautiful poem. The same can be said about the regular semi-nude “Spotlight” in the first corner of the front page of your otherwise spotless and neat newspaper. At least a sensitive reader finds it not only inopportune and out of place but indigestive also. I hope you will not reject my humble suggestion as something meant for the dustbin.


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