Saturday, August 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


SC verdict on capitation not in right spirit

THOUGH the Supreme Court’s ruling on capitation fee is well-meant, it cannot be welcomed without some reservations. True, education is linked to social good; a key factor in this regard is its affordability. But social good — which the state must safeguard — cannot be an argument for subsidisation of education by private players.

Over the years, privatisation of higher education has increased because the professional colleges offer services which the state can scarcely match. They also play a role in helping average to fairly bright students who find it hard to compete with their more gifted counterparts. Not everyone can face the gruelling pressures of a rigorous examination system. Demanding uniform performance from applicants of varying merit amounts to endorsing an intellectual apartheid in the education system.

Ordinary students also have the right to take up professional courses and the higher price they pay merely levels the field from which they would otherwise be excluded. Also, the competitive test is itself no guarantor of equity: students coming out on top are invariably those from wealthy backgrounds who have had access to better schools and tuition in their formative years.



The Supreme Court's observation that imparting education is “charitable in nature” is a utopian obiter dicta. If the state is withdrawing from higher education, it is itself opening up the field to market forces. Moreover, there is a distinction between social service and social responsibility. While private institutions must necessarily have a social conscience, they cannot be guided solely by altruism. It is the state's duty to protect the socio-economically weaker sections. In education, it can do this best by delivering the goods in primary education, so that children belonging to all social strata have equal access to literacy. Also, India has a vast middle class that has long benefited unduly from state subsidisation of higher education. Many of its members can afford the services of the private sector.

Managing educational institutions and providing quality services have costs involved. Not many private players would invest in higher education if they had to do charity while professionally equipping students rather than run an enterprise for mutual gain. It would, therefore, be sensible to allow private colleges to conduct their own entrance tests conforming to certain desirable standards of assessment. Capitation fees could also be regulated on a case by case basis. A blanket ban would mean blocking all avenues for less than exceptional students, thus sanctioning an academic elitism incompatible with democracy.


Games celebrities play

Just a thought about the games the celebrities play with us poor Indians. The Ferrari car is a gift to Sachin Tendulkar for an outstanding performance in cricket, or is it?

Of course, lot of dust was raised from some jealous quarters, perhaps not without a reason.

In this brouhaha, a major point has been lost sight of: Sachin is the Brand Ambassador for Fiat of Italy. One can conjecture that instead of paying him in cash, Fiat gave him the amount in kind. Sachin would have dished out at least 40 per cent of the amount as Income-Tax if he had received the cash. Fiat would have written off one Ferrari as business development expenses and not paid any taxes in their own country. It was a win-win situation for both of them.

On the one hand, while government taxes even the Dearness Allowance (Oxford Dictionary defines this as “An amount of money that can be earned or received free of tax”) of its pensioners, it is showing such munificence to persona in act of attempted tax evasion.


The Noor experience

While giving a dissenting view on the editorial “The Noor effect” (Aug 13) in her letter “Taking us for a ride” (Aug 20), Ms Madhu Singh has misinterpreted its essence. The editorial rightly pointed towards the tangible “effect” that some seemingly futile exercises, in regard to bringing the common people of both countries closer to each other, can accomplish. No wonder, these effects move even those who always try, for their own limited political interests, to take the commoners for a ride.

The amount of goodwill that the Noor experience earned among the thinking people of both countries could not have been achieved by any number of so-called high level meetings between India and Pakistan. More such humane gestures are required frequently from both sides of the border. More so to enlighten the blinded, by the subversive politically played patriotism, younger generations in particular who consider, being ignorant of their cultural moorings, themselves as unending enemies of each other.

Remember the fall of the Berlin Wall was not the outcome of political manoeuvre alone but because of the long cherished people’s will that turned into “a wave of democratisation”.

BALVINDER, Chandigarh

Wrong interpretation

Apropos of the report “Eye flu increases as monsoon retreats” (Aug 18), the reason behind one of the suggestions offered regarding wearing dark glasses has wrongly been interpreted. Wearing dark glasses has nothing to do with being a measure to avoid either spreading or contracting the viral infection. The fact is that due to the infection, eyes become hypersensitive to the intensity of light and it becomes, therefore, uncomfortable to be able to stand looking at things as such. One may wear dark glasses under such circumstances simply to avoid the discomfort felt due to this hypersensitivity.

Perhaps the most important precaution anyone can take under such conditions of epidemics is to avoid direct contact, especially shaking hands. The gesture of folding hands into a ‘namaste’ is the safest and simplest way to greet and still escape contracting the eye flu. This step cannot be emphasised enough.

The Tribune will be doing a yeoman's service to the community, if this simple fact is highlighted in the paper for at least a few days during the epidemic. Frequent washing of hands with simple soap and water is yet another step that can help to an appreciable extent in avoiding being brought down with the flu. Plus try and keep away from crowded public places as far as possible.

VIVEK KHANNA, Microbiology Dept., Panjab University, Chandigarh


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