Jobs for the retrenched
A bit of positive news
New crisis in Iraq
Elected government not in sight despite polls
The Iraqi people, suffering from the daily dance of death and destruction, are likely to experience a different kind of shock. There is a plan to defer the formation of an elected government and constitute a National Security Council for administrative purposes.
The Buniyaad man
Making the most of an MBA
Wanted: more girls in maths and science
Jobs for the retrenched
Last Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling defending the state government’s power to abolish posts no longer needed and deny re-employment for employees becoming redundant is timely. The order, pronounced by the Bench consisting of Justice H.K. Sema and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, cannot be faulted. Undoubtedly, the government has the right to make alterations in the staffing pattern to add or cut down the number of posts. Whenever a government — at the Centre and in the states — seeks to abolish posts, the affected parties knock at the doors of the courts for justice to prevent retrenchment. In a democracy, bound by a Constitution and wedded to the principles of rule of law and welfare state, aggrieved citizens do have the legitimate right to seek justice against mala fide and arbitrary exercise of power by the government. But this right cannot be stretched far to deny the government its right to abolish posts on economic grounds. Apparently, the apex court kept this in mind while directing the lower courts that they cannot hereafter, by a writ of mandamus, direct the employer to re-employ retrenched employees as a matter of right.
The case in question pertains to the Rajasthan Government’s dismissal of 650 employees following the abolition of the Avas Vikas Sansthan, a housing unit. The government had framed a scheme to redeploy them in other local bodies. However, on appeal, a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court ordered pay protection, seniority and pension to them even though there was no such agreement between the government and the employees. When the government abolished the housing unit following mounting losses, how could the High Court order these benefits to the employees, the apex court asked.
It would be better if the Supreme Court ruling is applied to non-government sector also. The employer — whether government or private sector — cannot be forced to re-employ the staff if it has found it necessary to abolish certain posts. Ensuring continuous employment to those losing jobs and re-employment of surplus staff are no answers to the unemployment problem. It is not a question of giving jobs to the jobless. It is a question of the economic viability, funds, efficiency and productivity of the government or a non-government organisation.
A bit of positive news
There is a silver lining in the gloomy AIDS scenario in India. The latest issue of a British medical journal, The Lancet, has reported a one-third decline in new HIV cases in the southern states. A 10-member team of Lancet researchers surveyed 2.9 lakh women and 58,000 men suffering from sexually transmitted infections between 2000 and 2004 and came out with the finding that the disease spread has slowed down in South India, but the situation in the North is not as positive. The 35 per cent relative reduction in HIV-1 cases, if true, means the incidence of AIDS is still rising, but at a lower rate in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh which account for 75 per cent of the 5.1 million HIV-infected people in India.
This is an encouraging development, but nothing to go complacent since the pandemic is not under control yet. The social devastation caused by AIDS is yet to be fully understood, specially in the northern states. A Delhi University study has found that due to the fear of being isolated by the family, men tend to hide their HIV status, thus endangering the lives of their spouses. Still worse, women infected by their husbands are often themselves blamed for their deaths. The social stigma attached to an HIV victim makes his or her life miserable and is generally the result of ignorance. Children who lose their parents to AIDS are usually forced to abandon education midway and struggle for survival.
Although preventive steps and awareness programmes have yielded results, the need is to scale them up with greater vigour. Globally, a lot more resources are required to fund research on AIDS and rehabilitate the victims. According to an organisation called Save the Children, at least $6.4 billion is required for helping the affected children and families alone. In view of fund scarcity, coordinated efforts by research institutes, aided by technology, can avoid wastage of time and resources.
New crisis in Iraq
The Iraqi people, suffering from the daily dance of death and destruction, are likely to experience a different kind of shock. There is a plan to defer the formation of an elected government and constitute a National Security Council for administrative purposes. The alibi offered for this undemocratic course of action is that the members of the newly constituted parliament are unable to find a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. This means that for quite some time Iraq will continue to be run with the help of an ad hoc arrangement obviously having the blessings of the occupying forces — read the US.
This is not what the Iraqis expected when they exercised their right of franchise in the much-publicised elections, whose results were officially declared in December last year. The problem began with the dominant Shia group in parliament, the Iraqi National Accord, selecting interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafri for the Prime Minister’s post. This was according to the Iraqi constitution, which gives the power to the biggest group in the national legislature to nominate its candidate for being appointed as the head of the government. But he is not acceptable to the Sunnis, the Kurds and secular Shias because of his controversial role during the interim regime.
The Shia alliance cannot form the government unless it gets the support of the Kurds, which is not possible with Mr Jaafri as Prime Minister. Reports suggest that Mr Jaafri is not in the good books of Iran, though he has the backing of influential Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, known for his strong private army. It is believed that the leader of the Kurdish alliance, President Jalal Talabani, is close to Iran and hence his group’s refusal to support the candidature of Mr Jaafri. Under the circumstances, Mr Jaafri may have to withdraw from the scene so that a new and non-controversial candidate is found for running the government.
The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears.
One of the contentious issues that had threatened to derail the historic civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement signed by India and the United Sates on July 18, 2005, is the issue of the number of nuclear warheads that India needs for credible minimum deterrence. While the estimates put forward by Indian analysts range from one to two dozen “survivable” warheads at the lower end of the spectrum to over 400 warheads at the upper end, these are mainly based on gut judgments and not on dispassionate cold logic.
Nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of “warfighting”. Their sole purpose is to deter the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons. A nation’s nuclear force structure depends on its nuclear doctrine and deterrence philosophy. These are essentially based on its civilisational values, its national security strategy and its assessment of how much would be enough to deter its adversaries.
The number of nuclear warheads that a nation must stockpile depends on the availability and quality of weapons-grade fissile material, its mastery of nuclear weapons design technology, the accuracy and reliability of its delivery systems, the fiscal constraints that govern its defence budget, the present and future air and missile defence capability of its adversaries, and their ability to absorb retaliatory nuclear strikes.
If deterrence fails, in keeping with its nuclear doctrine, India will have to absorb a nuclear strike before retaliating against the adversary’s major cities and industrial centres. India’s targeting philosophy is based on a “counter value” (as against “counter force”) strategy of massive punitive retaliation to inflict unacceptable damage to the adversary’s major population and industrial centres.
Hence, India’s nuclear forces should be so structured that the warheads and their delivery systems are able to survive a first strike in sufficient numbers to be able to inflict the required amount of punishment on selected targets in a retaliatory strike.
The survivability of India’s nuclear arsenal can be ensured by redundancy in numbers, through wide dispersion of nuclear warheads and delivery systems over Peninsular India, by having rail- and road-mobile missiles in addition to air-delivered warheads and by investing in a limited number of difficult-to-detect nuclear powered submarines (SSBNs) armed with submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Only SSBNs provide true retaliatory capability.
A retaliatory strike capability to destroy eight to 10 major population and industrial centres would be adequate to meet the requirements of deterrence. For 10 counter-value targets to be destroyed in the adversary country, a total of 40 nuclear warheads, at the scale of four 20 to 40 Kiloton warheads per target, would be adequate to cause unacceptable damage in a retaliatory nuclear strike if the probable error (CEP) of the Agni IRBM delivery systems is taken to be 1,000 metres and a destruction assurance level of 0.7 (about 70 per cent) is considered acceptable.
If the efficiency or overall reliability of India’s nuclear delivery system is taken to be between 0.5 and 0.6 (50 to 60 per cent), a reasonable assumption for a modern nuclear force, then 75 warheads must actually be launched for about 40 to 45 warheads to explode successfully over their targets as some missiles may fail to take off, some may veer off course, some may be intercepted and some warheads may either fail to explode or may explode in a sub-optimal manner.
Hence, a minimum of 75 warheads and, of course, their delivery systems must survive the enemy’s first strike on Indian targets and be available for retaliation.
Despite the best possible concealment and dispersion measures approximately 50 per cent of the nuclear warheads and delivery systems may be destroyed in a first strike by the adversary. It would, therefore, be reasonable to plan a warhead stocking level of at least twice the number of warheads that are actually required to be launched, that is, 150 warheads.
The last aspect to be catered for is a prudent level of reserves for larger than anticipated damage to own nuclear forces in a first strike and for unforeseen eventualities. Escalation control and war termination strategies would also be dependent on the ability to launch counter-recovery strikes and some fresh strikes.
One-third the required number of warheads should be adequate as reserves. Hence, the total requirement works out to 200 nuclear warheads for a minimum deterrence doctrine with a no first use strategy if 10 major population and industrial centres are to be attacked in a retaliatory strike to achieve a 70 to 80 per cent assurance level of destruction.
The safeguard restrictions that India has voluntarily accepted under the July 18 agreement with the US and the number of nuclear reactors that it has decided to keep in the military list, will ensure that India will have adequate fissile material to manufacture 200 plus nuclear warheads.
Treaty obligations will not compromise India’s sovereign right to take all steps necessary to assemble a larger number of warheads if national security considerations so demand in future.
It is time to let this issue rest and move on to concentrating on the civilian aspects of enhancing the contribution of nuclear power to India’s energy basket.
The writer works with the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
The Buniyaad man
I am bad at remembering dates, but I think this incident took place in 1984. I was attending on a cousin of mine undergoing treatment for a defective heart valve in the PGI. The ward was filled with men and women twice or thrice her tender age of 18.
One night when I returned to hospital after spending the evening at home, they were all waiting anxiously for me. I was flummoxed why I was so much in demand. It was hilarious to learn that they were keen to talk to me only to find out what had happened in the latest episode of “Hum Log”.
Such was the power and sweep of the first soap opera that Doordarshan brought to India, which was a runaway hit everywhere. The man who penned this family drama for the small screen, Manohar Shyam Joshi, passed away on Thursday, but the trend he started has spread far and wide through satellite channels. He was too gentle a man to say so but I don’t think he would have been too happy to see the nation hooked on to inane and repetitive clashes between “saas” and “bahu” which dominate the soap operas of today. How one wishes the meaningful entertainment that he gave us had continued.
“Hum Log” was no flash in the pan. He was to scale even greater heights of popularity with his “Buniyaad”. This evoked pre-Partition nostalgia to such an extent that life in Pakistan used to come to a standstill when the serial was telecast.
Viewers once laid siege to the studios of Lahore television to persuade the authorities to postpone the telecast of an animation serial so that they could see the reunion of “Masterji” with his family in a refugee camp in New Delhi.
It is another matter that dealing with Doordarshan was never a pleasant experience for this litterateur who would lament that “Doordarshan never lets me become a producer and earn money in a big way”. He was also sad over censoring of parts of his serials.
He was not just a good story teller. His gentle humour spawned a genre of political satire which won critical acclaim. One still remembers the biting social comments in “Kakka Ji Kahin” and “Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne”.
From the small screen, the next step was the big screen, where too he left his mark with films like “Hey Ram”, “Papa Kehte Hain”, “Appu Raja” and “Bhrashtachar”.
TV and cinema brought him popularity but he was even taller as a journalist and novelist. How he could straddle both fields is a mystery. He served as the Editor of Saptahik Hindustan and Weekend Review for long. He still found time to write such accomplished novels as “Kuru Kuru Swaahaa” and novella “Hariya Hercules Ki Hairaani”, making him one of the first post-modernist authors.
Most writers are at the peak of their career by the time they are in their late forties. Surprisingly, Joshiji wrote his first novel at the age of 47. He once revealed that he could imagine and write an entire story in his mind when he was 20 years younger but never did so. Well, the delay only made his pen sharper and thinking acquire depth.
Making the most of an MBA
During the last few years there have been some negative reports in the media about a Master’s in Business Administration, with headlines like ‘MBA loses its cachet in the business world,’ and that MBAs have ‘lost their lustre.’ Reportedly, some companies have started hiring other professionals such as lawyers and trained them to do the same job at a lesser price.
“Business schools are springing up and expanding all over the world, which at some point will reduce the demand from non-US students,” says Prof Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). For that, and other reasons, “we have reached the point of saturation…. at some point the cachet or prestige of the ‘MBA brand’ will erode.”
In an earlier interview, he said “as in any industry, there will be a shakeout in which quality will become ever more important.”
The strongest critic of the MBA program is Prof. Henry Mintzberg, a professor at McGill University’s business school in Montreal. His recent book Managers – Not MBAs asserts that conventional MBA classrooms overemphasize the science of management while ignoring its art and denigrating its craft, leaving a distorted impression of its practice.
So, his advice is that business schools should get back to a more engaging style of management, to build stronger organizations, not bloated share prices. This calls for another approach to management education, whereby practicing managers learn from their own experience. ‘We need to build the art and the craft back into management education, and into management itself,’ he says.
In response to Mintzberg’s criticisms, Prof. Ashwin Joshi of Schulich School of Business, York University in Toronto, explains that an MBA does two things: “It imparts new knowledge and systematizes the current knowledge and that’s a 25 to 75 percent split, with 25 percent being new knowledge and 75 percent systematized stuff that students already know. We (business schools) provide labels to it, framework ways of thinking. We make the students more organized thinkers. Where does this thinking come from? From their life experiences. That’s why (for many business schools) work experience is so very critical.”
Till a few years back, an MBA used to be a passport to instant success in the corporate world. Because of the rapid rise in the number of business schools in North America and elsewhere, the quality of business education in general has suffered. Prof. Dilip Soman, Professor of Marketing at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, says “The MBA program has been a cash cow for the leading universities and business schools,” resulting “in low barriers to entry” to these schools. “The MBA world is still struggling to define itself along these challenges.” To him, Rotman is among a handful of top schools in North America that “have managed to carve out an MBA offering that is very distinct and meaningful.”
A large number of students in Canada and US that India Abroad interviewed for this supplement agreed that brand name ofbusiness school important. “As with any product or service, the graduates of the best business schools in North America, Canada and other countries included, will continue to find value in their education as the institutions themselves continue to strive to meet the changing needs of recruiters in a very dynamic global economy,” said Ajit M. Jain, a 2004 graduate of Stanford Business School.
Despite the concerns of Mintzberg and others, not many academics are worried about the mushrooming of business schools or the increasing number of graduates. A. Scott Carson, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid LaurierUniversity, said “the demand for MBAs over the past 30 years has been increasing.” Of course, he agrees that following 9/11, there was a 30 percent decline in applications to business schools in North America.
“Applications have started to increase now. Interestingly, predictions of the demise of the MBA have been going on for 30 years. But the degree continues to rise in popularity largely because the MBA does one thing particularly well: it helps students learn to adjust to change. Almost all MBA programs emphasize the complexity of business and regulatory requirements, and how rapidly they change.”
The MBA “isn’t for everyone,” he says rightly. “But those who take it gain some experience of the world – how businesspeople interact, how markets operate, product markets can be strategically approached, and so on. Also, the MBA can help to give a student who studied, say history of chemistry, a view of how those disciplines contribute to, or are impacted by, business.”
All said, the MBA is an individual call. It is just a matter of actually understanding what exactly is going to drive you forward. You could be a doctor, an engineer and lawyer and equally successful and that fact has to be fully ingrained in the minds of young students.
Paul Bates, Dean of DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University in Hamilton (Ontario) discussed how he’s seeing “more and more desire on the part of students to follow a particular discipline such as engineering or medicine but they are also finding the need for business training. They need the strengths of financial knowledge. They need to understand the very basic levels of financial analysis, accounting, etc. They also need to have a better understanding of human resources issues, leadership in particular.”
“The MBA is a bridge that enables students to gain a very broad perspective on business that is essential to take on the challenges facing today’s organizations,” said Tejas Mehta who this May will graduate his MBA program from Sloan School at MIT.
He’s an electrical engineering who has worked for IBM and other companies before opting to go for MBA: “Prior to my enrolment (in the MBA program) I had no formal training in finance, accounting, strategy, operations, organizational design and marketing. In order to achieve my longer term career goals, this training was necessary.”
“My Stanford MBA allowed me to learn about my personal leadership style and helped me hone and refine it,” said Shweta Siraj-Mehta, who also has a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and is now working as Program Officer in the Global Development Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, one of the five largest not-for-profit foundations. She too emphasized on “the caliber of the students and teachers, a key differentiator for prestigious MBA schools such as Stanford and Harvard that cannot be matched by night schools and others offering MBA courses.”
“Not everyone was from the same field,” Siraj-Mehta said about her classmates (class of 2004). “So, the breadth of knowledge and experience embodied by the students helped open my mind to new possibilities.”
There’s not much concern among a growing number of faculty and students that the value of an MBA has in any way diminished if you are from a good school, as these schools have recognized brand names. Such schools in North America “will never lose their lustre because these schools consciously work hard at re-evaluating what they are offering, and staying ahead by understanding the needs of the industry,” said Soman.
It is widely known that many people decide to do MBA because they think it will bring them the big bucks but the question is whether that should be the sole criteria. Business education should make sense as a logical step for someone in his or her career.
Mitzberg has repeatedly argued that business schools don’t turn a young man into a business leader within two years of MBA program. “No business program creates business leaders,” stated Scott Carson of Wilfrid Laurier.
“In university programs, what we do is to take people who have leadership potential and help them to develop. Somewhere along the way, regardless of their initial motivation, they will see value in the knowledge being acquired in their MBA, for its own sake.”
On the brighter side, ‘salaries and signing bonuses of fresh graduates took a double digit jump in 2005 to a record average of US$106,000 and signaled an end to the ‘perfect storm’ of sour news this decade that included the dot-com bust, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a subsequent recession,’ said Dave Wilson, President of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) that oversees the test for aspiring graduate students in business.
Corporate recruiters who had for sometime disappeared from business school campuses are back as ‘the MBA is back as the currency of intellectual capital.’ Also back on campuses are consulting firms and investment banks, the best-paying employers of freshly minted MBAs.
‘They are back and hiring aggressively,’ said Nuinzio Zacquarelli, London-based director of QS World MBA Tour that recruits students for 350 business schools in 56 countries worldwide. The average bonus paid to a 2005 MBA graduate by investment banks was $40,000, says Quacquarelli.
Robert Ludwig, also from GMAC, told India Abroad that “half of the MBA graduates, who responded to our 2005 Global MBA Graduate Survey had a job offer by mid-March. In 2004, 28 percent had a job offer by mid-March.” He said “this shows that the MBA market is coming back strong.”
Scott Carson, who for several years worked in the industry before joining the ranks of academics, knows first hand that “the business community regards the MBA as a valuable degree. Thirty years ago, the MBA was not common outside of North America. Now, it is a global community.” Vernon Jones, Dean of Haskayne School (University of Calgary) agrees that “the MBA is an excellent degree… If managers want to develop their expertise in the primary disciplines of business such as finance, operations, marketing, and human resource management and learn to integrate these, they should go for an MBA degree.
“If they want to specialize in international business and strategy or sustainable development or simply develop their strategic thinking and leadership skills, completing a top notch MBA program is a solid choice.”
An unscientific survey of faculty and students by this reporter shows that the ‘MBA is a degree for success.’ But that doesn’t mean that the MBA is the only degree that could help a young person to succeed. As one person said “engineering is also a robust degree.”
— By arrangement with India Abroad
Wanted: more girls in maths and science
On Saturday, hundreds of girls will flock to the California Institute of Technology to celebrate the joys of science. Targeted at fifth to eighth-graders, the Sally Ride Science Festival will encourage its pony-tailed audience to see science as a viable, vibrant career option.
What is so dispiriting is that such efforts are still needed.
When I was a physics student in the late 1970s, there was hope that women’s march into science and engineering was on an assured ascent. I and my fellow female students believed that in our lifetimes we would see equal numbers of boys and girls coming into our fields. That hope has not panned out.
According to the US National Science Foundation, women make up a quarter of America’s science and engineering workforce, a percentage that has changed little in the last decade. In some areas, such as computer science, women’s participation has declined from its peak in the 1980s. In the biological sciences, women hold one-third of PhD-level jobs. In physics, the figure is 14 percent; in engineering, 8 percent. At Caltech, just 39 of 287 professors are women.
Studies show that in the fourth grade, girls and boys like science and math in much the same proportions. Yet, by the eighth grade, twice as many boys remain interested.
Girls’ ambivalence toward science mirrors society’s ambivalence toward female scientists. Last year, Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard, suggested that perhaps women were less represented in the physical sciences because they were less likely to have the requisite mental skills.
The idea that women are less innately inclined to rational, and especially to quantitative, thinking goes back to the very dawn of the Western intellectual tradition. It originates in the 5th century B.C. with the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos, the man who envisaged what would eventually become the modern science of physics and who first associated numbers with the male mind.
Pythagorean thinking was profoundly dualistic, dividing all things — physical and mental — into male and female camps. Mathematics was placed firmly on the male side of the ledger because it was the male mind alone that was said to be capable of reaching toward the ultimate. The female, supposedly grounded in her material body, was “naturally’’ on the earthly side of the balance sheet and by her very nature innately unsuited to the sublime task of manipulating numbers.
A gendered view of mathematics was taken for granted by most Renaissance thinkers, and when the first scientific societies were founded, almost all excluded women. Not until 1945 was a woman admitted as a full member to the Royal Society. Its first secretary, Henry Oldenburg, spoke for many of his fellows when he summed up the society’s mission as “to raise a masculine philosophy’’ of nature.
The universities were founded to train the clergy, so women were also excluded there. But universities were the only places where mathematics was taught. Denied access to math education, women were unable to participate in the history of physics. In fact, until the 20th century there were virtually no female physicists. Even then doors remained closed: The physics department at Harvard did not give tenure to a woman until 1992.
Two thousand years after Pythagoras, we are on the verge of hearing the most symphonic of cosmic harmonies in a unified theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. But this magnificent quest has also left its imprint on our culture in an abiding tendency to still regard math and science as innately male. In such a climate, young girls of a scientific bent need all the support and encouragement they can get.
By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
From the pages of
Hindus and Hindustan
We have no hesitation in saying that the position taken up by Dr Kurtkoti in his presidential address to the present session of the Hindu Mahasabha and by Dr Radha Kumud Mukerjee in his presidential address to the Hindu Youth Conference about Hindustan being “primarily for the Hindus” and India being theoretically and legally a Hindu State” is not only unsound and indefensible in theory and dangerous in practice. It is unsound and indefensible because Hindustan is, and has now for centuries been, as much the home of Muslims, Christians and Parsis as of the Hindus. To describe the millions of non-Hindus who inhabit India to-day as mere guests, as Dr Kurtkoti once described them in a speech which was widely commented upon, is on the face of it absurd.
Truth is contained only in truly-cleaned vessel (i.e., the purified self). Few indeed are blessed with such a vessel of clean conduct. (i.e., the truthful
Utter the name of God with a pure heart
and tongue. Other things are as worldly embellishments, based on false considerations.