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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Qualification for MPs
A degree alone is no index of one’s capacity to serve people, says Virendra Kumar
I
N his article, “Voting for democracy”, Mr Ram Jethmalani, a noted jurist and Member of Rajya Sabha, has exhorted people to elect only educated and upright candidates to Parliament (Perspective, April 19, 2009). Among other attributes, he says that a candidate for Parliament “must have the highest educational and intellectual qualifications.” This prescription projects at least two critical issues for our consideration afresh.

Indian Science: Challenges ahead
by S.P. Singh
T
HERE are several issues which are posing great challenge before the country’s scientists. The first concerns the farm sector. With increasing population, there is a need for a second ‘Green Revolution’ which will, certainly, be based on biotechnology. By 2020, India will need 400 million tonnes of foodgrain with reduced availability of land (from 170 million hectares to 100 million hectares) and water.



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Polls now, tie-ups later
April
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OPED

Pitroda’s proposals
There has been little or no reaction from universities
by Vikram Chadha
T
HE refreshingly pragmatic proposals of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) headed by Sam Pitroda have jolted many a stereotype in the university system in the country. It has aptly recommended dismantling the vegetative conventional British-pattern college affiliation system of the Indian University education, since it has lost contemporary relevance.

Profile
Azharuddin’s new innings in politics
by Harihar Swarup
Perhaps never before so many star cricketers were in the fray as in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Topped by Mohammad Azharuddin, Madan Lal, Chetan Sharma, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chetan Chauhan are bright cricket stars of yesteryear and now trying their luck in the hurly-burly of politics. Indeed, politics is as uncertain as the unpredictable game of cricket. While cricket had united them, politics has divided them.

On Record
Heritage legislation on top of agenda: INTACH chief
by Akhila Singh
T
HE Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), an NGO, was founded in 1984 as an alternative body to conserve and list national heritage. S.K. Misra, its Chairman, has seen it grow from the infancy stage till today when it has 140 chapters and 5000 members across the country.







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A Tribune Special
Qualification for MPs
A degree alone is no index of one’s capacity to serve people, says Virendra Kumar

IN his article, “Voting for democracy”, Mr Ram Jethmalani, a noted jurist and Member of Rajya Sabha, has exhorted people to elect only educated and upright candidates to Parliament (Perspective, April 19, 2009). Among other attributes, he says that a candidate for Parliament “must have the highest educational and intellectual qualifications.” This prescription projects at least two critical issues for our consideration afresh.

First, whether there is essentially a correlation between the attainment of formal educational qualification and the spirit of serving society. This issue had cropped up at the very threshold of our Constitution in the form of a still simpler question: whether a candidate to the legislature or Parliament should have some minimum educational qualification.

The prompting for such a poser arose when President Rajendra Prasad regretted to say that the Constitution, which is acclaimed as the best in the world, would be interpreted by the best of minds, and yet those who would be legislating required no minimum formal educational qualification.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promptly responded by recalling that the fight for freedom was fought by the millions of poor and illiterates, and not the so-called formally educated bright minds who were on the side of the British!

Reflecting upon this revealing experience, Mr Kuldip Nayar, the veteran journalist, has opined in his article, “Politics without values” (Sunday Oped, April 17, 2009) that Pakistan’s National Assembly has not become better in tone and tenor because a member has to be at least a graduate.

The second is how the electors are going to vouchsafe and vote for the candidate who has the “highest educational and intellectual qualifications”?

Speaking functionally, the term “highest” is relative, and not absolute, in measure. Accordingly, the electors would be able to elect “the best” if the candidates standing for election unfold their antecedents, including the educational qualifications. Since there was complete void of law in this respect, a judicial direction was issued by the Delhi High Court in public interest litigation to the Election Commission requiring the election candidates to reveal their antecedents at least on five counts, including the one relating to educational qualifications, at the time of filing their nomination papers. Such a directive was vehemently resisted almost by all the political parties in unison.

The then NDA government, for instance, immediately filed an appeal before the Supreme Court for the reversal of the court’s directions. Likewise, the Indian National Congress, the main opposition in the Lok Sabha at that time, intervened in the appeal by contending inter alia that the High Court ought to have directed the writ petitioners to approach Parliament for appropriate amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, instead of directing the Election Commission directly to carry out the requisite changes through its own directions.

However, the Supreme Court in Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) disregarded all such pleas of the political parties and held that for maintaining the purity of elections, voters should be educated and well informed about the contesting candidate on all such counts as directed earlier. Parliament lost no time and immediately tried to stifle this judicial initiative by enacting a law that did not give effect to all the five directives.

Such a stifling was challenged before the three-bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice M.B. Shah, Justice P. Venkatarama Reddi and Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari in Peoples Union for Civil Liberties. In this case, the Bench has held that since the amending Act does not wholly cover the directives issued by the Supreme Court in Association for Democratic Reforms, particularly in relation to assets and liabilities of the candidate and also in regard to criminal cases in which a person is acquitted or discharged, the Supreme Court’s directions in that case will stay put, for their non-inclusion causes violation of the fundamental right guaranteed by article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

In relation to the disclosure of candidate’s educational qualification, however, the efficacy-approach of the hitherto issued directive has eventually turned out to be different.

There is a difference of opinion on this count. Justice Reddi, for instance, strongly feels that furnishing details about educational qualification is not an essential component of the Right to Information flowing from Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and, therefore, its non-disclosure does not necessarily infringe the freedom of expression. In support of this stand, a few cogent reasons are advanced.

One, consistently with the principle of adult suffrage, the Constitution has not prescribed any educational qualification for being member of the House of People or State Legislative Assembly.

Two, most candidates hitherto elected to Parliament or state legislatures are fairly educated, even if they are not graduates or post-graduates, and that “to say that well educated persons such as those having graduate and post-graduate qualifications will be able to serve the people better and conduct themselves in a better way inside and outside the House is nothing but overlooking the stark realities,” emphasises Justice Reddi.

Three, much depends on the character of the individual, the sense of devotion to duty and the sense of concern to the welfare of the people, and that these characteristics are not the monopoly of the so-called formally well-educated persons.

Four, it may be that certain candidates having exceptionally high qualifications in specialised field may prove useful to society, but in that eventuality it is natural to expect that such candidates would voluntarily come forward with an account of their own academic and other talents as a part of their election programme.

Five, at any rate, if two views are reasonably possible on the issue whether or not disclosure about one’s educational qualifications is necessarily an aspect of freedom of expression, then Parliament’s decision not to make provision for disclosure of information regarding educational qualifications of the candidates required to be upheld.

It is, perhaps, on this premise that the Election Commission’s directive insofar as it related to furnishing wrong information or suppressing material information has been held not be enforceable, and on this count, Justice Dharmadhikari concurs with Justice Reddi.

Such an approach in our view is sound both conceptually and constitutionally. For, it leaves enough room for all the instrumentalities of the state to operate and function without one organ of the state unduly impinging upon the constitutional jurisdiction of another.

Formal academic degrees may equip a person with crucial skills and values critically central to the maintenance of a social order. However, what is more important in our candidates contesting the elections is their character, devotion to duty, and concretised concern for the people’s welfare.

These are attributes which cannot be the monopoly only of those with highly decorated degrees. This has, in fact, prompted the Supreme Court not to include formal education as an essential component of the right to information flowing from the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

The writer is a former Professor and Chairman, Department of Laws, and UGC Emeritus Fellow, Panjab University, Chandigarh

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Indian Science: Challenges ahead
by S.P. Singh

THERE are several issues which are posing great challenge before the country’s scientists. The first concerns the farm sector. With increasing population, there is a need for a second ‘Green Revolution’ which will, certainly, be based on biotechnology. By 2020, India will need 400 million tonnes of foodgrain with reduced availability of land (from 170 million hectares to 100 million hectares) and water.

This requires development of seeds that would ensure good yield even under constraints of water. There is need for devising better methods for food processing and mechanisms for value addition. Soil upgradation, dryland agriculture and development of salinity resistant seeds will continue to remain focus areas of research.

As the balance between ground water withdrawal and recharge is not being maintained, the country is already facing shortage of water. The water availability in the country was 3450 cubic meter per person (cmpp) in 1951 which is now only 2000 cmpp. In case this availability goes down to 1000 cmpp, there will be severe water crisis.

Ground water is being exploited rapidly due to excessive and indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. There is excessive use of submersible pumps, particularly in Punjab and Haryana. Consequently, the ground water table is receding at an alarming rate. Coke and Pepsi plants extract up to 15 lakh litres of water per day of which 80 per cent is released as waste water containing toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and chromium.

Efficient cost effective techniques have to be developed for rainwater harvesting, water recycling, interlinking of rivers and for irrigating the crops with less water. Creating new perennial source of fresh water by sea water desalination is another area of focus. A few areas around Chennai are getting desalinated water due to cost-effective techniques developed recently.

An economic solution to higher energy generation, which has several scientific challenges covering many areas, has to be addressed by the scientific community. Although the oil prices have come down below $50 per barrel from the highest level of $147, import of oil continues to remain biggest drainage of foreign exchange. Increase of $1 per barrel costs Rs 2700 crores to the country.

While global consumption is increasing annually by 2 per cent, the corresponding figure for India is 6 per cent. The country is importing 70 per cent of its current requirement. However, due to rapid depletion of domestic oil sources, our import will increase to 85 per cent of the requirement in 2012.

The global scenario for greater oil availability is far from encouraging. Since 1980s, global consumption has outpaced annual discoveries. Oil production is expected to peak around 2030. Experts believe that Saudi Arabian oil fields are also getting past their prime.

As blending of gasoline with 10 per cent ethanol does not require any engine modification, scientists have to develop new techniques for increase in the production of ethanol without affecting the already precarious chain of food supply.

Experts believe that diversion of cereals for fermentation to produce more ethanol was partly responsible for the food shortage in 2007-08. Blending of diesel with 20 per cent oil of jatropha (biodiesel) provides an eco-friendly fuel with less emission of carbon gases.

Further research is needed for improving the productivity of jatropha plant seeds and more efficient technology for extraction and esterification of its oil. As jatropha plants do not require much water and care, plenty of land available across the country around railway tracks can be profitably utilised for their cultivation. With sustained efforts, it is possible to produce more fuel-efficient engines that can run with 100 per cent biodiesel.

Share of natural gas in total energy is about 20 per cent as against about 50 per cent for oil. However, it is a better source of energy than oil as it is environment-friendly, reserves are being discovered rapidly, prices are less volatile and the ratio of proven gas reserves to annual production is about 70.

In this context, the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline assumes special significance as the pipeline transport of gas is one-third cheaper than sending it as liquefied gas. Cost-effective technologies have to be developed for making suitable modifications in engines to replace oil with gas.

Another area of challenge in the energy sector is the poor record of power generation. India could hardly meet about half of its target in the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Plans. While China is adding 70,000 MW of electricity to its grid every year, India added only 21,000 MW in the last five years. In addition to the three main sources — thermal, hydel and nuclear energy — efforts are to be directed to develop non-conventional energy sources such as solar energy and wind energy.

The share of electricity from nuclear plants is only 3 per cent of the total production in India. In contrast, France generates 80 per cent to its electricity requirement and the US gets 20 per cent power from nuclear plants. To sustain the present growth, we must have a target of generating 50,000 MW of electricity from nuclear plants by 2020.

With the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal, this target can be easily achieved. Efforts are needed to produce sufficient number of trained nuclear scientists and technicians to work in nuclear plants to be established with foreign collaboration.

Finally, the pharma sector requires greater focus. With new patent laws and globalisation of trades, the emphasis is now on developing indigenous molecules. This requires huge investment and creative scientists. We should develop drugs for ‘neglected diseases’ (by the West) such as malaria and tuberculosis.

An equally important task before us is to obtain drugs from plants. They should also save our traditional knowledge from piracy. India has lost 15,000 patents of medicinal plants to the West.

The writer is Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry, Kurukshetra University. He is a former General Secretary (Outstation) of the Indian Science Congress Association (2004-2007)

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Pitroda’s proposals
There has been little or no reaction from universities
by Vikram Chadha

THE refreshingly pragmatic proposals of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) headed by Sam Pitroda have jolted many a stereotype in the university system in the country. It has aptly recommended dismantling the vegetative conventional British-pattern college affiliation system of the Indian University education, since it has lost contemporary relevance.

Significantly, the NKC has proposed to institute an undergraduate Board on the pattern of ICSE/CBSE to monitor and oversee the college development — academically and administratively including curriculum, examinations, degrees and finances — to “liberate universities from the tedium of a college overseer so that they can focus their time and energy on higher callings — research and post-graduate studies”.

The fact that the path-breaking proposals have not evoked reaction from the universities and the states suggests that many of them have tacitly and covertly concurred with the proposals since they too perceived the problem identically. There has been, perhaps, too much “concentration and politicisation” in the university system that neither the work of college development is being efficiently carried out nor the universities are being able to work diligently for achieving quality and excellence in instructions and research.

The present college affiliation system instead of reinforcing quality, excellence and specialisation, has promoted mediocrity and below par achievements. This is because the system is steeped in the policy of appeasement and pivots around the mediocre rather than the outstanding “to meet the needs of one and all”. This ends up with compromising quality and excellence.

In the whole exercise of monitoring the course syllabi, conducting examinations and appointing teachers in the colleges, the focus is on the mediocre and the average student, and these are moderated accordingly. This puts the bright students at a relative disadvantage.

If one looked incisively into the current practice of granting affiliations to colleges/institutes and courses, one would easily be able to decipher the futility and superficiality of the system. Generally, the university teachers are sent on ‘inspections’ to colleges lying within the domain of a university for deciding to grant affiliations to institutions or launching new courses. The ‘inspectors’ are neither trained, nor have a specialists’ perspective of the problems and issues involved in approving new courses in a particular college in a specific region.

The college authorities insist on the new course as perceived from the view point of the “hidden treasure” in terms of the prospective fees and revenue that it is likely to generate; the inspectors too impose conditions for approving the course much too tentatively and nonchalantly. The whole practice is too patchy and incongruous that many a time the approved course ends up in a fiasco leading to unpardonable frittering away of precious resources.

The NKC has also recommended that the universities ought to concentrate on “research and post-graduate studies”. Many universities, particularly the state regional universities, have a penchant for continuing with under-graduate courses of study. This writer feels that this is tantamount to abysmal underutilisation of the academic and pedagogic resources in the universities, besides misallocating limited university resources for general purpose courses, oblivious of the needs of the job markets and academic scholarship.

By insisting on the continuation of undergraduate courses in the university campuses, the teachers, perhaps, intend to remain relaxed with undergraduate teaching instead of slogging and grappling with more specialised and upcoming challenging research-based courses at higher levels of study in their respective disciplines.

It would be worthwhile to start more specialised courses at higher levels of study in the campuses as these are in greater demand with the changing profile of the job markets, and those trained in such areas of specialisation are readily absorbed in the job markets with respectable rewards.

It is amply evident from the performance of the graduate colleges that the undergraduate courses are being handled very deftly by these colleges; and they have the environment, faculty and resources consistent with the requirements of such undergraduate studies. This is substantiated by the fact that most of the times the undergraduate students from colleges have performed better than those from the university campuses at the time of entrance tests for admission to postgraduate courses in the campuses.

Moreover, the carefree and happy-go-lucky attitude of the students at their age in the undergraduate courses is not compatible with the responsibility and seriousness that is imposed by a more focused university ethos. This may sometimes become evident in the indiscipline and irresponsible behaviour among undergraduate students in the campuses.

That’s why one of the universities in this region did try to unwind some of the undergraduate courses in some disciplines based on this logic recently, but met with a stiff resistance from the groups of recalcitrant university teachers. Apparently, the latter were more inclined to bask in relaxed teaching at undergraduate levels.

Clearly, the NKC’s proposals are quite in sync with the changing times and the requirement of the economy and the job markets. The intent is to help universities spend more time and resources for ahieving higher quality and professionalism rather than rolling in mediocrity and presenting a duff image of the present system.

The writer is Professor of Economics, Punjab School of Economics, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar

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Profile
Azharuddin’s new innings in politics
by Harihar Swarup

Perhaps never before so many star cricketers were in the fray as in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Topped by Mohammad Azharuddin, Madan Lal, Chetan Sharma, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chetan Chauhan are bright cricket stars of yesteryear and now trying their luck in the hurly-burly of politics. Indeed, politics is as uncertain as the unpredictable game of cricket. While cricket had united them, politics has divided them.

The focus has shifted to Azhar, who has moved from Hyderabad to distant Moradabad, famous for manufacture of brass, aluminium, iron and glass products. He is aware that the brass industry is having a bad time owing to global recession, he says. His assurance to the people of Moradabad region is that, if elected, he would articulate their problems in Parliament.

Azharuddin (46) had joined the Congress in February this year amidst much fanfare. He was initially considered for Secunderabad, Tonk of Rajasthan and Meerut in UP. The Congress leadership finally settled for Moradabad where Muslims constitute 45 per cent of the population.

Azhar is often criticised for moving out of his native place for the sake of politics. His reply is: “If an Indian goes out of his native place, he is not an outsider. For me Hyderabad and Moradabad are equal”.

While Azhar has proved his mettle in cricket, he is yet to prove his credentials in politics. If he wins in Moradabad, his real test will begin in politics. Iin cricket, he established a glorious record — hitting three consecutive centuries in the first three tests. He turned out to be one of the most successful Indian captains.

As skipper, Azhar led India to victory in 14 tests, the highpoint being 3.0 whitewash of England at home in 1992-93. During his captaincy, India inflicted the maximum number of innings defeat on opponents, including two sets of three innings defeats in a row on Sri Lanka and then on England twice, followed by Zimbabwe.

In addition to being an able leader of men, Azhar also have many individual records. He is still the holder of the record of “fastest ODI century by an Indian”, his 62-ball century against New Zealand in 1988, and the first player in ODI history to play more than 300 ODIs until Sachin Tendulkar overtook him.

It was not smooth sailing at the fag end of his cricket career and the blot would continue to haunt him. He was accused of match-fixing. South African captain Hansie Cronie, in his confession for match-fixing, had indicated that Azhar was one to introduce bookies. The CBI conducted an investigation.

The CBI reportedly castigated him, saying “ it is clear that Azhar contributed substantially towards expanding the bookie-player nexus in Indian cricket”. The enquiry disclosed that he received large sums of money from the betting syndicates to fix matches. This led the BCCI to ban him from the cricket for life in 2000. However, the BCCI lifted the ban in 2006 and even honoured him along with other Indian captains.

Azhar’s personal life has been turbulent. His deserted his first wife, Naureen, after nine years of marriage and having two sons, Asad and Ayaz. He tied the knot when Naureen was only 16 at an arranged marriage ceremony. Azhar was greatly attracted towards former Miss India, Sangeeta Bijlani, also remembered for her TV commercials like Vicco Tumeric Ayurvedic cream. Sangeeta tried her luck in Bollywood, having acted in 16 films but did not have much luck in filmdom.

Though Azhar married Sangeeta, his soft corner for Naureen remains. He gave her five cars and a luxury house in Hyderabad’s posh Banjara Hills. Sangeeta now actively campaigns for Azhar in Moradabad constituency.

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On Record
Heritage legislation on top of agenda: INTACH chief
by Akhila Singh

S.K. MisraTHE Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), an NGO, was founded in 1984 as an alternative body to conserve and list national heritage. S.K. Misra, its Chairman, has seen it grow from the infancy stage till today when it has 140 chapters and 5000 members across the country.

Misra pioneered Haryana’s emergence as a major tourist destination as the Chairman of Haryana Tourism Promotion Board (1997-1999). He was conferred the Padma Bhushan recently for his contribution to civil service and tourism. INTACH celebrates the silver jubilee this year.

He speaks to The Sunday Tribune on what he calls “labour of love” that went into making INTACH one of the most transparent organisations in the country.

Excerpts:

Q: How did INTACH come about?

A: It was Indira Gandhi’s brainchild. The founder members got together to formulate an alternative NGO that could conserve the country’s heritage along with other governmental agencies. In 2004, when I took over as its chairman, we had to raise funds for it.

Later, after strengthening the structure of the organisation, we took up projects to conserve and restore heritage sites. Our work covers developing heritage tourism, providing assistance, organising heritage trails, documenting heritage, formulating heritage clubs in different parts and striking international collaborations. INTACH’s education division spreads awareness amongst students, bringing out newsletters and through curriculum.

Significantly, we have never had a question mark on the integrity of this organisation. Transparency is its hallmark.

Q: What is INTACH’s intervention at the policy level?

A: We play an advisory role assisting the Centre and the states. INTACH gives its inputs to the government while cultural policies are formulated. We are asked to revise school curriculum. Heritage legislation is on the top of our agenda.

Q: Can you please list some of the important projects that INTACH has taken up in North India?

A: We took up a number of projects in Punjab. The work is mainly concentrated at three places — Patiala, Amritsar and Kapurthala. We have organised several heritage festivals inviting some of the most renowned classical dancers and singers to perform. Also, heritage listings are being done at all the three places. Similarly, a lot of district level work is on in Haryana where we are restoring historical monuments. Our work is spread across all states.

Q: What is the role of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in conservation of heritage?

A: We have recently started working in the area. INTACH is holding workshops on IPR. There is a danger posed by other countries which are getting patents for things which are part of the Indian tradition, particularly in the north-eastern states. The textile industry is also under threat.

Q: What does intangible heritage comprise?

A: Traditional healing techniques, local crafts, dances, music, folklore, all these and other non-monumental heritage are catagorised under intangible heritage. We have started looking at the intangible heritage just five months back. Conservation of just monuments looked elitist. We want to broaden our base so that young volunteers from remote parts could join us and contribute in conserving their heritage.

Q: What kind of challenges does INTACH face?

A: Our biggest challenge is how to generate funds. Indian corporates would not support us like they do in the case of other such organisations. Also, the developers’ lobby comes in our way all the time. They want to mint money and have no concerns for the heritage. At times we have to file PILs in courts to get rid of some of the structures that come in the way of heritage sites. Like the Delhi Police Memorial that blocked the view to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. So, we had to ask the court to intervene.

Q: Are there any special projects that INTACH is taking up in view of the ensuing Commonwealth Games?

A: Besides the heritage trail that would connect most of the prominent historical sites in Delhi, several cultural events would be organised in different parts of the city. We have seen that Delhi, being a huge city, people can only get involved in the events taking place in their vicinity. INTACH has also spoken to the Delhi government about observing a heritage month, which would most likely be held in October. However, we have objections to the Commonwealth Village being built on the bed of the Yamuna.

Q: How does INTACH document the heritage sites in remote areas?

A: We have INTACH chapters in almost all parts of the country. Teams consisting of historians, photographers and architects visit sites and document them. We also strike international partnerships and are working towards organising regular conferences with South Asian countries.

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