Saturday, April 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Hike in college fees: a hasty decision

The sharp and sudden increase in the college fees announced by the Punjab Government is a hasty and impulsive decision. The fact that the decision had been pending for a long time does not ipso facto prove that sufficient foresight and planning have gone into it. On the contrary, it is just another instance of the bureaucratic inapplication of mind and the alienation of the political leadership from the reality of the people’s lives.

Had the decision come as part of a programme of restructuring education in the state, it might have been understandable. But it was not preceded by a systematic study of the capacity of the people to pay fees, nor is it based on the employment-index linked valuation of higher education.

There are thousands of first-generation college students whose right to pursue the dream of a dignified and good life must be respected and supported. The government has clearly abandoned them as it has abandoned women students.

Obviously, the government is in league with the wolves of the market who, till recently, fed on our directionless and despairing youth in the name of information technology until the prey was completely finished. The enhanced cost of education will push many genuine students into the jaws of para-educators who are springing up everywhere like mushrooms. They will offer less expensive degrees with little or no education, but they will pay taxes and bribes and political funds. And they will enjoy the unconditional right to exploit the student, the parent and the teacher.


The market has never been a reliable dispenser of education. Its resources and energies can be harnessed but only to subserve a larger goal that must be decided by civil society through a responsive and responsible government. If the government with its enormous resourcefulness cannot find resources to support education of the economically disadvantaged and women, it has no moral authority to run the state which it must do in deference to the constitutional principles of governance.

It cannot, with a good conscience, leave its responsibility to restructure education to the market, foolishly hoping that the market will devise the right courses to ensure employability. Restructuring has to begin with a comprehensive database of the available as well as the required manpower in various spheres of the society and the economy. And this has to be supported by imaginative and earnest projections of the needs of the national and global economies. India cannot afford to be a manpower factory serving the needs of the neo-colonial masters, its fortunes rising or sinking at the whim and fancy of the alien masters. There are lessons in the IT experience that must not be ignored.

What this government must do forthwith is devise a financial support programme for all economically disadvantaged students. Secondly, it should set up an autonomous state education commission to steer education on course and avoid a shipwreck.

Dr RAJESH K. SHARMA, Hoshiarpur

Linguistic terrorism: really?

Apropos of Mr A.K. Sharma's letter “Linguistic terrorism” (April 3), the writer has used harsh words for the agitating Punjabi writers without even knowing the real motive behind their agitation.

The dictionary meaning of the word “Terrorist” is the “one who creates and spreads fear”. Will the writer take the pains to explain what kind of fear do the Punjabi writers want to create and why?

What the Punjab writers (whom you may call “the so-called Punjabi writers”) demand is the implementation in totality of the Punjab State Language Act, which provides for all official work to be done in Punjabi so that even a common Punjabi person does not face any problem if he or she at any time needs to correspond with officials.

The agitating writers are not opposed to the learning of any new language as the writer holds. They only want the Punjabi language be given a priority in the matter of teaching it to the primary students.


Cross-border terrorism

If the world community shows against Pakistan even one-tenth of the anger it has shown against the US, cross-border terrorism in J&K can stop.


Have a heart for animals

There has been constant change in the development of the devices for combating unbearable heat of the summer for humans. In the distant past, people used to beat the heat with hand fans and by sprinkling water on khas khas on the windows. Now is the age of refrigerators, coolers, fans, air-conditioners etc. The frequent power failures can be dealt with the help of generators and invertors. Health authorities also gear up to make the summer months comfortable and less hazardous.

But does anyone think about the draught animals toiling hard on the roads in the sizzling months of summer. In the coming days heat wave will be tightening its grips over several parts of the country especially Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. Mercury is likely to touch 48 degree Celsius at some places. The Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965, prohibits carrying loads by animals exceeding the prescribed limit. These rules also emphasise that in any area where the ambient temperature exceeds 37 degree Celsius during the period between 12 noon and 3 p.m., no person shall use or cause to be used any animal drawing any vehicle or carrying anu load. The use of any animal for more than nine hours in aggregate or more than five hours continuously without a break or rest is not permitted. The draught animals when no longer needed for drawing load can not be kept in harness. These rules are more followed in abeyance than observance.

In a rare gesture of sympathy for draught animals in distress in the yesteryears, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Amritsar dared to remain on the prowl for the rule-offenders. They could not alleviate the sufferings of draught animals reeling under scorching sun. They only earned the wrath of the cartsmen who staged a unlawful protest throwing to winds all the rules framed for preventing cruelty to draught animals. Callousness of cartsmen unconcerned public and ineffective SPCAs keep these rules unimplemented. These rules are being flouted with impunity.

The appalling conditions of these ill-fated animals do not credit to the image of SPCAs, police and district administration, who are responsible for the implementation of these rules. Let this summer be made comfortable for draught animals who can not grudge and grumble.



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