Saturday, April 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Court CM, be a VC

This refers to the news report “Appointment of only renowned persons as VC’s”. One of the reasons why wrong choices are made is that whenever a university wants a VC, it wants him in a hurry. As a teacher, I strongly feel that nowadays it is very difficult to become a college or university teacher because of the harsh UGC guidelines, but it is very easy to become a VC if one has the state Chief Minister as his godfather.

We have about 250 universities in the country, and most of them will need a VC every three years, and some even at shorter intervals. In other words, we need at least 100 VCs every year. And yet the academic community is nowhere known to have undertaken a study on the nature of the job and the sort of person who should hold it. The job description will not be the same for all universities, though the statutes are similar. The job has dimensions beyond what is laid down in the statutes.

Perhaps the willing surrender to anti-intellectual forces that is becoming a common experience on all campuses is creating a situation in which the same sort of man will do for all universities, for he would make no difference whatsoever. The situation is reflected in the sameness of the idioms in which the VCs lament their lot.

There had been so much inept mismanagement of educational institutions that we have tended to overemphasise the role of management. But institutions could be well managed and yet poorly led. The anarchic environment in which our higher education is functioning has made it impossible to distinguish between bad management and bad leadership. There were VCs who, in times of crises, behaved like the Gilbertian character “who led his regiment from behind; he found it less exciting.” Since the outcome was a rout anyway, did anyone bother to ascertain whether it was due to a failure of strategy or a failure of character?


We want a VC to be a leader, and not a sycophant of his political masters, or a paper shuffler or even a manager. Perhaps a first step towards escape from the pressures of trivia is to remove all papers from the desk of the man whose role is that of creative leadership. It would be wise to get away from the desk as often as possible and be seen as frequently as possible in the classroom, the library, the laboratory, the playground and the common room. Above all, to follow the dictum about Caesar’s wife: VCs should be proud men who depart while they are being pressed to stay.

UMESH KUMAR, Faridabad

Who will rein in USA?

After World War I, the League of Nations came into existence in order to stop wars & unnecessary loss of lives & destruction. But it proved to be very ineffective.

Powerful countries bypassed it and took decisions for their own convenience. The result was World War II. After that another body was formed — the United Nations Organisation (UNO) — giving the veto power to five super nations. As a result, we have been able to avoid a global war but to a great extent even the Security Council has failed to rein in the big powers.

And America has proved to be the most notorious nation. It acted ruthlessly first in Vietnam, then Afghanistan & now Iraq. Why can’t the other powers force America to shun such inhuman activities?

Both America & England have proved that “UNO or no UNO, we’ll do whatever we want & we care two hoots for the world opinion”. No world power is ready to come forward openly against George Bush & Tony Blair’s policies.

K.C. TANDON, Bathinda

Salary hike for ministers

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha, in a rare show of unanimity, has passed six Bills enhancing the salaries, allowances and loans of MLAs, ministers, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker by six times to “carry out their duties and responsibilities more effectively.” This act of generosity will cost the state more than Rs 8.50 crore annually.

The tragedy is that the income tax due from the ministers on salaries and allowances is also paid by the government.

The Punjab Government is playing ducks and drakes with public money. As much as Rs 47 lakh was spent on the furnishing of bungalows of ministers. More than Rs 33 lakh was paid on telephone bills of ministers. Moreover, the expenditure on the helicopter used by Capt Amarinder Singh has worked out to a whopping Rs 5.25 crore in the one-year period.

When we plead that the Yadvindra bridge (built in memory of the present Chief Minister’s father) in Zirakpur is in such a deplorable condition that it can collapse any time or for any other development work, there may be a severe resource crunch.

This is how The Economist, London, commented some years back on the ministerial conduct in India: “You can see him (the minister) any morning impaled on some of the sharpest pens in the world, preaching on austere morality which applies to everyone but himself. Next day, he harangues a half-empty hall, declaring that time has come to stop talking. We must get down brasstacks and gird our loins to examine the ways and means of etc...Again, he announces from a richly decorated platform that since there is an emergency, wasteful expenditure must stop!”

D.V. JOSHI, Bartana (Zirakpur)

Misinformed on Arab world

This refers to the article “Has India a meaningful role to play in the Arab world” by M.S.N. Menon (March 22). It is regrettable that the writer has ignored the principles of justice and fairness despite his knowledge of the facts which are in total contrast with the views expressed by him. The whole world is aware of the standing and importance of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its peace-loving policy towards all nations. But the writer, seemingly, did not bother to mention the facts, which made most of his observations far from the truth and credibility, specially his remark that the kingdom earns a huge money from Muslim pilgrims. In fact, it would not have been difficult for him to get to the truth on this particular matter if he had only asked some of the so many Muslims in the friendly Republic of India who travel every year to perform Haj or Umra: It was very much possible for him to get the correct answer as everybody knows that the kingdom does not collect any money from the pilgrims, rather it spends a lot on the comfort and welfare of the pilgrims during their stay in the holy land. The exchequer does not collect even a single riyal from any pilgrim. What the pilgrims spend during their presence in the kingdom is paid to the local service providers who ensure transport, lodging and food for them. All I wish is that the writer inquires about the facts before employing his pen to write on matters he does know very well. We are proud of our brotherly relations with the Muslims of India just as we are fortunate to have ever-growing relations with the friendly Republic of India.

SALEH MOHD. AL-GHAMDI, Ambassador, Saudi Arabia, New Delhi

Haryana buses safe

Apropos the letter “Haryana buses speed to kill” (April 1), the writer appears to be unaware of the factual position. According to the statistics compiled by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the average number of accidents per one lakh km in case of all the state transport undertakings in the country was 0.22 during the year 2001-2002 against 0.11 in case of Haryana Roadways. Therefore, Haryana Roadways is amongst the safest state transport undertakings in the country.

From 1993-94 onwards, the number of accidents per one lakh km in case of Haryana Roadways has gradually declined from 0.21 in 1993-94 to 0.11 in 2001-2002.

Haryana Roadways has initiated a number of steps to reduce accidents and increase passenger safety and comfort. It replaced about 1,700 old buses with newly designed buses during the last three years. The replacement age of buses has been reduced from eight years to seven years. The number of seats in Tata buses has been decreased from 52 to 47 and in Leyland buses from 54 to 50 so as to improve leg spacing, comfort and safety of passengers. The design of seats has also been improved and the body structure has been stengthened by incorporating the latest technology like galvanised tubulor structure and using stretch panels. These efforts have received tremendous response from the public as a result of which the profit before tax for the current year has increased to about Rs 120 crore as compared to Rs 26 crore in 1999-2000, showing an increase of 362 per cent.

The Transport Department is aware that some drivers indulge in speeding and need extra training. Strict action is being taken against defaulting drivers. The drivers are also being sent for refresher training regularly. Medical and eyesight check-ups of the drivers are got done regularly and they are given compulsory weekly rests. The drivers reporting early at their destination are penalised and denied an over time payment so as to discourage speeding of vehicles. Conductors have been instructed not to sit with drivers and gossip during a journey.

Haryana Roadways has decided to observe the year 2003-2004 as the Road Safety Year to highlight and concentrate on road safety aspects and bring down the rate of accidents. It may also be mentioned here that in a large number of accidents, the drivers of other vehicles are at fault.

RAJAN GUPTA, Transport Commissioner, Haryana , Chandigarh.

More on Ghalib

Apropos Bhagwan Singh’s letter “More on Ghalib” (April 1), he has mentioned some very interesting incidents from the poet’s life. I am a humble student of Urdu and wish that it were a printer’s devil. He has used the word “Ghulam” in the couplet by Mirza Ghalib, which to my knowledge is “Musahib”. Ghulam means a slave and Musahib means a companion.

In my very small personal library I have three “Divaans” (collections of poetry) of Ghalib by Josh Malsiani, Baqir and Malik Ram. I have yet three more compilation of Ghalib by Noor Nabi Abbasi, Noor-ul-Hasan Naqvi and Parkash Pandit. It is “musahib” and not “ghulam” in these three books. The word “ghulam” has not been used by any of them. The correct couplet is:

“Hua hai shah ka musahib phirey hai itraata

Varnah shaihr mein Ghalib kee aabroo kaya hai”.

Dr H.K. LALL, Chandigarh

Kashmiri Pandits

No words and tears can mitigate the misery of the common man. In this particular case the police is guilty of not fighting back. But no point in holding a few constables responsible. I suggest the families of our so-called national leaders should be requested to stay with the people who are exposed to militant attacks so that they understand the ground realities.


Exam irritants

The exam fever is on. Children’s high spirits are dampened by our faulty examination system. The attitude of invigilators at exam centres is very annoying. They start shouting 20 minutes before the closing time telling the examinees to tie up the answersheets. They frown if a child asks for a supplementary sheet 10-20 minutes before the closing time. They snatch away the sheets five minutes before the deadline. During the examination they keep talking while having tea and samosas frequently.

ABHA JOSHI, Manimajra

PSEB: no complaints

Apropos the letter “Hamare bus mein nahin hain” (March 28), there is no transformer on the Mall road which gives sparks. No complaint has been lodged in this regard at the PSEB’s Lawrence Road subdivision office. The complainant has perhaps misunderstood local TV cables as PSEB cables. There is no report of any rickshawpuller getting an electric shock due to the negligence of the PSEB.

JAGJIT SINGH, Executive Engineer (DS), Lawrence Road Subdivision, AmritsarTop

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