Recognise teachers’ worth
to suit changing times
Fine-tuning defence security apparatus
Diversities — Delhi Letter
FORMER Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal has not been afraid of charting new waters in quest of his political ambitions. Having fought his first panchayat election in 1957, he was the Chief Minister of Haryana thrice and also a Union Minister. Born in Bhawalpur, now in Pakistan, his family was allotted land in Fatehabad on coming to India in 1947. First elected MLA from Adampur in 1968, he has won seven Assembly elections. He has been a member of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Determined and astute, the 74-year-leader has successfully guided political careers of his two sons in the state. He has had few peers in the art of cobbling a majority in adverse circumstances. Appointed Haryana Congress chief about a year back in the backdrop of unending factionalism in the party, he has been persuasive and assertive. He hopes to repeat the performance of the recent Lok Sabha elections where the party bagged nine of 10 seats in the state.
Q: How is the Congress preparing for the coming Lok Sabha elections?
A: The Congress has a long history, having given leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi. It has made the country progress. The fewnon-Congress governments could not deliver the goods. People feel that no other party except the Congress can take the country forward. That’s why they voted the party to power in the recent Lok Sabha elections. We were ahead in 71 of 90 Assembly segments in the state in the Lok Sabha polls. This number can only increase in the Assembly elections. We will win at least 75 seats and form the next government. We are drawing up names of candidates who can win the polls. These names will be recommended to the party’s central leadership for tickets. We are working on the party’s manifesto which will reflect our concern for the welfare of all sections including the farmers, traders, youth, women and weaker sections. Unlike the Om Prakash Chautala government, we will fulfill all our promises.
Q: What are the election issues?
A: Mr Chautala is trying to mislead the people. He is selling state property including industrial plots at low rates. I want to tell the people that they should not come under the influence of the Chautala government. If anybody purchases land at a less price or in a wrong way, we will cancel it after coming to power. Corruption is the biggest issue in the polls. New industry has not come to the state despite the Chief Minister’s visits abroad. The industry has migrated.
Q: What about the government’s figures about fresh investment?
A: These statistics are wrong.
Q: Why is your party fractious in the state?
A: There is no groupism in the party. Minor things do happen.
Q: Why are senior leaders are not seen together at most rallies?
A: Every man has its own self-interest. Any man thinks he can be the Chief Minister. ‘A’ thinks he can be CM, so does ‘B’. It is all due to personal ambition.
Q: As the PCC chief, why have you not been able to contain factionalism in the party?
A: Nobody can stop it completely. But factionalism is less now.
Q: What are your achievements as PCC chief?
A: I have given new life to the party.
Q: The Congress success in the Lok Sabha polls is being attributed to the INLD and BJP contesting the elections separately.
A: Whether they stay together or fight separately, it does not make a difference. They lost badly in the Lok Sabha elections.
Q: You had apparently assured your supporters about dislodging the INLD government within months of becoming the PCC chief.
A: We could have dislodged the government but we thought that the INLD government would gain sympathy if it was ousted. We have given it full chance. Mr Chautala can’t tell the people that he has not been allowed to perform.
Q: There have been demands by some leaders of Haryana for a new PCC chief.
A: Those who say so are talking in air without any basis. There are no grounds for my removal. There has to be some logic. However, I will obey the high command’s instructions.
Q: If the Congress returns to power in the elections, will you become Chief Minister?
A: The new Chief Minister, after the elections, will enjoy the confidence of the Central leadership and MLAs.
Q: Are you a contender for the Chief Minister’s post?
A: It is inappropriate for me to say so.
Q: Should the party project a chief ministerial candidate?
A: It is not necessary. It becomes visible during the process of distribution of tickets and during the elections.
Q: Will the party fight elections under your leadership?
A: If I stay as PCC chief, we will fight the polls under my leadership.
Q: Are you against party MPs contesting the Assembly polls?
A: It is for the central leadership to decide. I feel there is no need for the party MPs to contest polls.
Q: There are fears about your health. How is your health?
A: I am getting younger. Doctors who performed the by-pass surgery on me six months back will tell you that I have grown 20 years younger. It was a kind of overhauling.
Q: What about the charge that the party failed to function as an effective opposition to the Chautala government?
A: We are working hard. We gave a 123-page memorandum to the Governor about the misdeeds of the Chautala government. Public rallies have been held. We have raised issues in the Assembly but the sessions have been brief.
Q: With the Congress government in Punjab abrogating water accords with neighbouring states, how will the Haryana Congress face allegations about the delay in the construction of the SYL canal?
A: The Punjab government’s action is illegal. The matter is in the court and we are hoping for an early decision. We are not asking for a favour from Punjab. The SYL canal is our right. The Punjab government was wrong in abgrogating the water accords. Mr Chautala complicated the SYL issue due to his proximity with SAD leader Parkash Singh Badal. They have common interest in several projects.
Q: Will the Congress have alliances in the Assembly elections?
Recognise teachers’ worth
to suit changing times
What a society values is usually reflected in its system of rewards. For instance, if the American society values the services of a doctor, lawyer or even a taxi driver, its reward system pays for their services correspondingly. In India, however, even though great value is attached to teachers, learning and teaching, the government treats them shabbily.
Since time immemorial, the Indian society has held teachers in high esteem. They are construed as ‘nation builders’. Even in the contemporary phase, the society values teachers as career builders of their progeny. Everyone desires their wards to be chiseled by the most proficient teachers so that they may have a glorious future. They comprehend the value of an efficient and a prolific education system handled by conscientious teachers.
Everyone praises teachers for their role and duties. They appreciate the value of an impeccable and an inexorable education system because it helps in bringing dignity and honour to their families. They understand the value of research and scientific inquiry, which is the hallmark of development and dynamism of societies. They know that education refines and stabilises society.
But when it comes to rewarding teachers for their unflinching work, the society and the system turns apathetic. Nay, they are instead indignant and scornful to teachers and treat them nonchalantly and disdainfully. The reward to teachers for their work and activities looks simply ludicrous and not even remotely commensurate with the nature and dimension of their effort. Society seems to be deriding and ridiculing itself by paying the university teachers so shabbily even for very intricate and serious work undertaken by them, which eventually goes to determine the very quality and prowess of society itself.
Consider the hypocrisy, irrationality and frivolity of a society that to get its highest academic masters’ level degree evaluated, it settles to pay a measly Rs 6 per script to a teacher; to get a masters’ level student examined, it pays Rs 175 for setting a question bank; Rs 50 to a teacher for invigilating the examinees for three excruciating hours in an erect posture when his calf muscles begin to squirm with pain; Rs 300 to listen to an erudite discourse from a teacher (to prepare which he may have to slog for a fortnight or so) when his throat begins to wilt under the strain of one and a half hours of arduous speaking; and pays an even sum to get a doctoral thesis evaluated, and so on. If one checked on similar other university assignments with indignantly paltry rewards, one will not help laugh and bemused, and take pity on the lot of university teachers.
Not that the teacher, epitomising nobility and service, stubbornly insists on an uncanny monetary reward for his services, but what he/she wants is a reasonable and justly dignified pecuniary acknowledgement to his/her efforts. Nonetheless, it is for society to think and decide what stake it attaches to its stature and expectations by rating the teachers’ services in money terms. However, given the present reward structure, even a ‘Shaw’ and ‘Hardiyal’ would twirl agonisingly in their graves if they were to know such a shoddy reward system for university teachers’ duties.
Mercifully, a few years back some respectability was afforded to the university teachers’ salaries, though even that has been shorn over the years by the taxman’s incursions and soaring prices. Now even when the universities are inflating their kitty by charging exorbitant dues from students and parents, the remuneration structure for university teachers’ academic services has failed to budge. This is amazingly atrocious and unjust.
So what does the double-faced society think, that by niggardly economising on payments to university teachers and simultaneously incanting glib tongued praises for them, it can derive the best from them! As a matter of fact, garbage in can only turn garbage out. In a society, where baser materialistic values have come to take precedence and noble and moral values are fast eroding, where the glamour and lust of wealth and power has overshadowed philanthropic and altruistic ideals, how can they expect to draw iconic and above board gurus with such an incredibly unjust structure of rewards for the exalted efforts of university teachers?
An irrational reward structure for labourious and high quality academic activities in the universities not only shuts out the entry of devoted and committed teachers in academic and research systems, but also induces a sense of alienation, despondency and demoralisation among the existing teachers, manifesting in escapist tendencies. That is why the prospective flag bearers of society, dazzled by the lust for power and wealth — ill gotten or otherwise — shun teaching as a career, and thus the teaching community is becoming bereft of the ideal gurus of the yore.
This is corroborated by the evidence from engineering and other professional institutes which draw only the left out and run of the mill type of uncommitted pedagogues and researchers, who can at best turn out only second best doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals, because their credentials for instilling refinements and progressive values in the system are grimly suspect.
The debilitating shortage of competent and qualified teachers in universities and professional institutes is reflected in the fact that by next year India would require about 39,000 Ph.Ds to man various academic positions, but only about 13,000 would have earned their doctorates. Barely 350 scholars among about 3.5 lakh students who make it to engineering institutes go to earn their Ph.D in technology; and those who do, either prefer to join administrative services, or corporate management, or leave abroad for greener pastures. But, for sure, very few are inclined to enter universities or technical institutes in India because of the presently non-lucrative teaching profession.
To change it all and to attract best talent and faculty to universities, IITs, engineering institutes and other professional and training organisations so as to impart quality education to the country’s brightest students, teaching has to be turned into a competitively profitable avocation, keeping apace with the changing times and expectations.
THE firebrand daughter thrown out of the house on ‘Dhanteras Day’ may soon return home after her sojourn in the Himalayas. There are firm indications that Uma Bharti’s suspension from the BJP may soon be revoked paving the way for her rehabilitation in the party’s hierarchy. An irrepressible politician, donning saffron robes, Uma is a rare phenomenon in Indian politics. Only she has the gumption in the BJP to dare L.K. Advani, that too, at the party forum, in full glare of the television cameras, least bothering about the consequences.
Advani has been a father figure to her, her mentor in many ways. As a matter of fact, Uma is his protégé. But when scorned, sky is the limit for her wrath. She lost all her discretion when publicly rebuked by the father figure. In the BJP circles, she is described as a moody, restless soul, fickle-minded, erratic, fighter and so on. But Uma Bharti’s critics are scared of her. She has few friends in the BJP except Govindacharya, once the party’s ideologue, but she enjoys the full backing of the RSS.
Many images of Uma Bharti conjure up as one thinks of her — riding on the shoulders of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi when the Babri Masjid was being demolished and her oft- repeated quote Ek dhakka aur do is still remembered ; triumphant Uma leading her party to a landslide victory in Madhya Pradesh; her short tenure as Chief Minister; her resignation following summons from a Karnataka court; the controversy over her Tiranga yatra; and her meditation at the Kedar Nath shrine in the Himalayas. She is sour with Pramod Mahajan, BJP’s backroom boy, because he stopped her Tiranga yatra from entering Maharashtra. She is cut up with the former BJP President Venkaiah Naidu because he declared that Atal Behari Vajpayee would not address the last leg of the march. Uma Bharti hit the ceiling when a minor fry like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi chastised her for indiscipline.
Many tales of her year-long tenure at Vallabh Bhavan, the state secretariat at Bhopal, have been still doing the rounds. Often repeated is about her darling dog Goolu. When a group of reporters went to her official residence, she made them sit, offered them a cup of tea. Meanwhile, Goolu came sniffing around. Pat came the comment from her: “Welcome them. They are your mammu (maternal uncles)”. She is so fond of Goolu that the pet would barge in Cabinet meetings, sniffing and at times barking. Her eccentricities made life miserable for bureaucrats too. They heaved a sigh of relief when she relinquished office.
There are many little known facets of over two decades of Uma Bharti’s political career. Her pravachans (religious discourses) had become very popular in Madhya Pradesh and she was much sought after by political leaders. She impressed Arjun Singh when he was the state’s Chief Minister; he saw potential in her to hold audiences spellbound by her eloquence. He wanted her to join the Congress but, in the meanwhile, the state BJP leaders hijacked her and introduced her to the late Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia.
Like Uma, the Rajmata too was a highly religious person. It was at her behest that Uma joined the BJP. That was the year 1980 when Bharti was 24. Her first political test came in the 1984 Lok Sabha election when the BJP fielded her from Tikamgarh constituency. It was a disaster for her; she was way behind her Congress rival. Disappointed, she wanted to quit politics and resume her pravachans. She was, as the BJP leaders put it, “coaxed” not to bid farewell to politics and she ultimately agreed.
Come 1989, she was again fielded from Khajuraho, her home town. She was a roaring success. Since then, there is no looking back for Uma Bharti. She was re-elected in 1991, 1996 and 1998. In 1999, she shifted to Bhopal and again won. Uma Bharti has not lost an election, except the first one, and has valid reason to feel sour hit when backroom boys like Pramod Mahajan and others try to pull the rug from under her feet. She has reason to be sore when some partymen, through background briefings, try to run her down.
It is no secret that Uma was in love with Govindacharya and wanted to marry him. Govindacharya revealed his feelings to L.K. Advani and Bhau Rao Deoras of the RSS. Deoras reportedly advised her not to marry the ideologue for the sake of the masses and the country. Uma respected the advice of the RSS leader and made great personal sacrifice.
Govindacharya has always been standing by her whether in power or in wilderness. He was seen at her official residence in Bhopal. His car was parked outside her Vasant Kunj residence in New Delhi the day she was suspended from the BJP.
Fine-tuning defence security apparatus
INDIA is facing security problems from its neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. Besides keeping good friendly relations with them, it has to evolve a comprehensive strategy to maintain peace with them. At the same time, strategic alliances on defence and security issues with super powers are a must for India to usher in peace.
Defence management is made up of strategic vision, prioritisation of tasks and targets, planning and coordination, and operational readiness. A right mix of these ingredients alone will not help unless it is attuned to the country’s prevailing security environment and supported by an architecture suited to its needs.
The essential pre-requisite to a clear and correct delineation of the cardinal features of the security environment is sound knowledge of the current developments, advances in technology, methods of modern warfare and daunting demands of low intensity conflicts, proxy wars and terrorism.
The factors contributing to the disturbed nature of India’s contiguous regions of West and South-East Asia — the terror tactics of Islamic jehadi groups, Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the use of Nepal and Bangladesh by its intelligence agencies as havens for anti-India insurgent groups and the uncertainties on the tentative ceasefire in Sri Lanka — runs along expected lines. Pakistan has been depicted as being “prone to military adventurism” as it is yet to emerge from its ‘failed-state’ syndrome despite the US’ political, military and economic resuscitation. China is said to be a threat due to its military deployment on our borders on the same scale as before.
The spotty formulation of the security environment mostly on the beaten track leads to certain postulates. One, there can be no let up of the vigilance by defence forces along the entire land, air, and sea borders of the country. Two, there should be no hesitation to go in for acquiring the best in military hardware and associated technologies. Three, India should not make a fetish of keeping aloof from any quarter; it should be ready to carry out military exercises with possible allies. Four, in view of the police becoming less and less dependable and ineffective in safeguarding internal security and the civil administration increasingly failing to measure up to its responsibilities, the role of defence forces is changing from that of a standby to being the mainstay and helper of first resort. And finally, the country has to live with the burden of higher allocation for defence.
If India’s policy makers proactively work towards the resolution of outstanding issues on relations with Pakistan and China in a spirit of understanding and mutual cooperation, there can be considerable scaling down of defence budget outlays and significant use of resources for constructive purposes. Skewed policy apart, the so-called reforms and restructuring being carried out at the top are imitative of defence set-ups in the UK and the US whose evolution, work ethic and political imperatives are entirely different.
True, our defence forces can certainly do with a lot more inter- and intra- services coordination in respect of intelligence gathering and assessment, planning, procurement, management of strategic assets and technology application to avoid duplication of efforts and wastage of resources. However, coordination will become difficult if the reforms replace the existing structure with a more scrolling and cumbersome calling for more posts and manpower.
For instance, after restructuring, there will be a Chief of Defence Staff, a Chief of Integrated Staff to Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, a Defence Crisis Management, a Defence Intelligence Agency, a Defence Acquisition Council assisted by a Defence Procurement Board serviced by a Defence Acquisition Wing, a Defence Production Board, a Defence R&D Board, a Defence Technology Council, a Strategic Forces Command and a mechanism to manage strategic assets. How they would think, act and march in unison is debatable. The rationale of these decisions on threat perception and restructuring have not been referred to the relevant parliamentary Standing Committee for advice nor debated in Parliament.
Were they at least placed for specific approval before the President who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces? Why no law has been enacted to regulate its exercise of that authority? None of the extent commentaries by constitutional experts has made a critical analysis of the function and role of the Supreme Commander. In common with all his other powers, it is presumed that the President, even as the Supreme Commander, is bound to act on the Cabinet advice.
However, since the Constitution speaks of the nature and scope of the authority of the Supreme Commander, it stands to reason that the founding fathers viewed this authority of the President as very important, in his own right. Otherwise, all substance is knocked out of the requirement of the special legislation defining the responsibilities of the Supreme Commander who is neither Supreme nor a Commander.
Since damage to the moral and effectiveness of the defence forces can harm the safety of the nation, the framers of the Constitution perhaps thought that the President should be kept in picture in regard to the postings, promotions, transfers and punishments of officers of at least from the rank of Corps Commanders or their equivalent and above.
By the same logic, adoption, acquisition, purchase, and other transactions pertaining to means of warfare and weapon system and their merits and demerits should also be within the purview of the President. It is only through measures that it would be possible to instill confidence in the defence forces that their Supreme Commander is not a glorified cipher but has the real authority to redress wrongs through independent judgement and make the political executive accountable.
Diversities — Delhi Letter
The week took off with a warm reception hosted by Iran’s Ambassador to India, Siyavash Zerger Yaghoubi for Kerala Governor R.L. Bhatia. Bhatia, a well known political face of the Congress from Amritsar is also patron of the Indo-Iran Friendship Society. This is one reason why most guests that evening were either members of this forum or old friends of Bhatia.
The forum’s general secretary, K.L. Malhotra, who also heads the Indo-Arab Society, is a familiar face at the regular round of receptions, national days and press meets.
Getting back to this reception, there stood an endless round of little to the not-so-little speeches before an excellent meal was served. Interestingly, some speakers spoke in Persian. Though one couldn’t grasp the meaning, the gentleness of the words was indeed pleasant to the ear.
Some speakers also stressed on the close Indo-Persian ties because of the sea trade. As one of them put it, “After all both countries, India and Iran, are separated by just a stretch of water!”
It was one of those relaxed evenings where the hosts served you the best possible Iranian cuisine. Topping it with Persian poetry, as care was taken to invite Persian and Urdu scholars, couplets were rendered from one end of the sprawling dining table.
I was too engrossed in trying out Persian food and that evening ate to my heart’s content.
Women’s power If only short stories could get so well stretched, to reach out. On South Asian Women’s Day for Peace (Nov 30), Ajit Kaur’s Maami, Kartar Singh Duggal’s Pakistan hamara hai, Amrita Pritam’s Kori Haandi and Ena Verma’s Phirangan di nooh would stand To be staged here at Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, it is directed by M.K. Raina and has a solo performance by Neeta Mahindra. Needless to mention, it revolves around violence and how women manage to resist it, just don’t give up in spite of odds.
If only short stories could get so well stretched, to reach out. On South Asian Women’s Day for Peace (Nov 30), Ajit Kaur’s Maami, Kartar Singh Duggal’s Pakistan hamara hai, Amrita Pritam’s Kori Haandi and Ena Verma’s Phirangan di nooh would stand
To be staged here at Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, it is directed by M.K. Raina and has a solo performance by Neeta Mahindra. Needless to mention, it revolves around violence and how women manage to resist it, just don’t give up in spite of odds.
Youth rock bands for peace
Shabnam Hashmi’s NGO, Anhad, couldn’t have thought of a better way to reach out than this. On Nov 29, several youth rock bands of the city will perform at the National Stadium from 4 pm onwards. Each band would come up with a specially composed song along the strain of communal harmony and togetherness.
Rahul Bose will be the chief guest. Well known music givers like Ashwin, Rahul Ram, Dilip Ramachandran, Sharad Srivastava will be the judges to chose the best peace song.
Going through the names of some participating bands, one is taken aback by the very offbeat sounding ones — Brain Dead, Hell Bound Harmony, Nomads, Alter Ego, Illusions.
Gift for Wurfel
Though in one of my previous columns, I had written about the former German diplomat Alfred Wurfel’s book “India — My Karma” (Allied), this is to update you with this.
On Wurfel’s 93rd birthday on Nov 26, German Ambassador to India Heimo Richter and spouse Friorenza Richter hosted a dinner before formally releasing the book.
Shashi Kapoor as co-author
Shashi Kapoor has adopted a sober role. He has co-authored this book “The Prithviwallahs” with Deepa Gahlot which was released here.
Explemplified by its very title, the focus is on Prithvi Theatre, which was set up by Prithviraj Kapur in 1944. Another 92 plus personality stood out that evening — Veteran theatre personality Zohra Sehgal.
trained by the late Prithviraj Kapoor and continues to be in the centrestage.
God created man after His own image. —The Sikhism The wise man begins by steadying his fluttering and trembling thoughts which are so difficult to hold back. Only when he has restrained them completely, does he even begin to aim for salvation. —The Buddhism The Supreme Truth can be attained by way of knowledge. But this path is difficult and needs tremendous perseverance. The path of devotion is easier by contrast. —The
Bhagavadgita Do good wherever you can. Do not hesitate in helpingothers. The person who does good without looking for a return is at the highest stage of self-realization. He does not need any yoga. He does not need other form of prayer or renunciation. —The Mahabharata
The wise man begins by steadying his fluttering and trembling thoughts which are so difficult to hold back. Only when he has restrained them completely, does he even begin to aim for salvation.
The Supreme Truth can be attained by way of knowledge. But this path is difficult and needs tremendous perseverance. The path of devotion is easier by contrast.
Do good wherever you can. Do not hesitate in helpingothers. The person who does good without looking for a return is at the highest stage of self-realization. He does not need any yoga. He does not need other form of prayer or renunciation.