Wednesday, January 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Education and the art & craft of living

Of late education has become the focus of a national debate. Considering education a commodity, and in an effort to recast the whole system of education in a binary opposition of profit and loss, the people in positions of power are trying to “disinvest” the education system, and bring in private operators to “do” this job for them. Inviting private interests to manage industrial corporations which are making losses can’t be compared to educational institutions, colleges to be precise, which too, in the eyes of the matter of fact politicians and bureaucrats, are making losses to the state exchequer.

In keeping with the latest philosophy of self-financing institutions, the Punjab Government established Punjab Technical University at Jalandhar, which, from day one, is mired in unethical controversies. If a Vice-Chancellor bungles crores of rupees, and is facing serious charges of corruption, along with some others who were a party to the establishment of the university, and its “sell out” to private parties, one feels indignant at the very idea of having a university for such courses. Now, the university is in the hands of a mature person, but what has happened, and what might happen in the name of having self-financing institutions, sends shivers down the spine of right thinking people. It is, I think, the beginning of the end.


By laying the whole emphasis of education of technical and job-oriented courses, the government and even our short-sighted educational strategists have reduced this educational scenario to a profit and loss proposition. The market consciousness of the advisers and implementers of the education system has tainted roots which is spreading the cancer of a selfish state across the whole spectrum of society. The other day, I was reading through a full-page advertisement in newspapers by an educational foundation which offered 287 courses — but all aimed at making our young men and women jobworthy. It was intriguing there was not a single course which went beyond the body. Does man live by bread alone? Where is the other half of the truth? Man is half body, half soul and the latter half is the better half.

It is a pity we have turned our universities into examination centres. Even our school board has become the Punjab State Examination Board. Is education meant to dole out degrees which don’t enable people for any job and disable them from leading a socially meaningful life? Each course at the universities is claimed to ensure success. What are the parameters of that success? Does that success mean the failure of the system? Does our prosperity not mean the poverty of the system? Who will tell us to grow rich but without making society poor? The outgoing Akali regime left the treasury at the brink of bankruptcy but each minister, who has fallen in the Vigilance net, has crores to account for. Individual prosperity and national poverty: only Indians can draw a strange equation like this.

I want to remind my countrymen of Ruskin who believed that the real wealth of a nation were good men and women who added to the riches of society, not Ravi Sidhus who are a symbol of the mindless educational priorities we are pursuing. As of today, we have sorely failed to harmonise self and society, man and his environment, his body and soul. With the entire focus on physical education, we are now teaching the craft of living, not the art of living.

Dr J.S. ANAND, Bathinda


Amritsar’s lost glory

Recently there has been a spate of reports regarding the failure of the Amritsar authorities to cleanse this city. Enlightened citizens of Amritsar can organise themselves to clear the city of garbage and save the residents from the outbreak of diseases. Eminent citizens like Satya Pal Dang, Brij Bedi, Lakshmi Kanta Chawla and Kiran Bedi can take the lead. The SGPC can adopt some areas for their maintenance. All residents of Amritsar should rise to the occasion and bring back its lost glory.



SGPC & Jathedars

Apropos the news item SGPC to confront scholars on hukamnama (Dec 31), the Jathedars’ office has become subservient to the SGPC, and indirectly the SAD. The SAD is a political institution and so the SGPC is in its sole clutches. The SAD knows that only the Amritdhari Sikhs are its most reliable constituency. Therefore, it has always been weary of Sahajdhari Sikhs and goes easy on most of the hard and fast rules of the Amritdhari Khalsa, as on liquor, and the five Ks and has always propagated the questionable view that only the Amritdhari Sikhs are true Sikhs. To perpetuate its hold over the SGPC and hence the Sikh shrines, it has relentlessly pursued the demand to bring all gurdwaras the world over under its exclusive control and to debar Sahajdhari Sikhs from contesting or voting in SGPC elections.

Slowly but surely they have pursued the campaign of seizing exclusive control of the Sikh Panth and its institutions. To achieve this they have been pressing the Central Government to pass an All-India Gurdwara Act against strong opposition of the sangats of other states. They have already taken up exclusive rights to publish Guru Granth Sahib and had intimidated the private publishers who had wanted to continue their age-old vocation of publishing the sacred books of the Sikhs. They have banned non-Amritdhari Sikhs from reading or reciting the scripture, or singing Sikh hymns in public gatherings. They have put a stop on solemnising Sikh marriages outside gurdwaras. Using the Gurdwara Act, they have taken control of all popular gurdwaras established and maintained by private people to appropriate their substantial incomes. Now they are seeking to bring all gurdwaras under their exclusive control by imposing an edict that no gurdwara can be established without the permission of the SGPC.

All these politically-oriented designs meant to ensure the unchallenged control of the SAD over the Sikh Panth are being imposed through the contrived usage of the hukamnamas and the Jathedars of the Sikh Takhts. When the independently appointed Jathedars of the two Takhts outside Punjab and beyond the direct control of the SGPC, and hence the SAD, had refused to toe the line of the Akalis blindly, they stopped inviting them to “discuss” vital panthic issues, although they had established the fifth Takht so that their Jathedars could be manifested as the supreme Panj Piaras of the Panth. Now they complete the quorum by including the Head Granthis of Akal Takht and the Harmandar. All of them are appointed, and removed, at will by the SAD-controlled SGPC, and have necessarily to toe the line and interest of the SAD.

The Sikh scholars who had questioned the right of such paid Jathedars to issue hukamnamas cannot be faulted. Imposition of Islamic type dogma of blasphemy might help the SAD to intimidate dissent, but it is harming the interest of Sikhism enormously. The Sikh scholars who blindly toe the narrow-minded and self-serving non-sahaj-yogic fundamentalist order of the coterie ruling the SGPC and the Jathedars for personal convenience, self-interest and false popularity are doing great harm to their community and Sikhism. The comments of a “well-known” Sikh scholar of history, Dr J.S. Grewal, at the National History Conference the other day, that the Jathedar of Akal Takht was the only conscience-keeper of the community and could issue an edict as per the aspirations of the Panth, are very dismaying. He could have directly reposed this authority in the SAD President. Only a really sovereign Jathedar who is subservient to none else than Guru Granth Sahib, or the Waheguru, could alone have the right to issue a hukamnama for the Sikh Panth.


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