Prakash Javadekar’s invitation!

prakash-javadekar_650x400_51449437224The hon’ble HRD minister Mr.Prakash Javadekar has asked people and experts and parents for suggestions as to how to reduce the burden on the 10th and the 12th standard exams which have become a scandal in India. In no other country the bureaucratic hold on the administration of education had reached such ridiculous proportions. Even the Prime Minister takes time off to exhort the students to take the exams in a right spirit.

It is a great pity that in India where the education sector has become one of the fastest growing commercial education sector where money plays such a debilitating role and where the poor suffer a lot and we see the RTE act is drawing a good deal of the poor and the deprived to seek entry into the well-run private schools. More so in urban centers the schools are mushrooming everyday, at every nook and corner with all sorts of fancy or bogus names, the government as the largest education provider is simply letting off things out of its purview.

Also as a comical side we see the ministers talking off hand every time, asking the CBSE to cut by half the syllabus or reduce the burden as if it is a simple task. Education malpractices have become another scam. In UP we saw large scale desertion of exams by the school students.

In some other states the question paper leaks is another of the headache. In the meantime, the deputy education minister has also entered into big time controversies.

We don’t know the qualifications of the hon’ble minister Mr.Satyapal Singh. He takes on Charles Darwin and even Issac Newton! And where are the yesteryear scientists who are all still with us?

They have to fall silent given their own self-respect and self-effacement in the context of these new comedies we are all enacting, be it science or history rewriting and what have you. May be the time and tide will change and a new sense of realism would come to Indian affairs and Indian search for some objectivity and balance in what we want to do with the power we have acquired  for the  first time.

We request the educators and others engaged in education reforms that we have to do something to reduce the education and exam burden on the youngsters. We need experts to come out with their own suggestions. As far as this Journal is concerned the founders of this Journal and a rural high school in a remote village and the founders had education at Santiniketan and Oxford and also after founding the rural school, we found the rural children found the formal exam at the end of the academic year hard and so we introduced what we call an “open book exam”! The children can consult the text books and write their answers. The questions were set in such a way that students have to exercise their own skills in framing the answers! Of course, there was opposition from both the teachers and the students!

But such an education reform has been attempted by many progressive schools in Europe, particularly in Switzerland. We also visited many such schools in Switzerland and many years later in 1971 in some of the French Lycees! The point is that we have to experiment and reform and change. There is no fixed way in a field like education.

May be one new version could be to introduce a continuous assessment system so that the boy or the girl’s whole year’s performance can be taken for final year pass! So that the children don’t feel obsessed with final exam preparations that have now become a scandal of unprecedented nature and scale!

Seriously, what is education?
It is Enlightenment!

imgYou can debate the subject however you want. However you debate the subject of education and the various strands that flow from it, the central question is that an education for any country has certain common features. American education, for instance, defines the way the American people and society conduct their affairs. So too other countries, both old and new.

However, historically the older nations, mostly in Western Europe and elsewhere, may be in India and China, two other older civilizations, we have an educational tradition, an educational history. In the context of the modern world, we take the Greek and Roman traditions seriously, for the two civilizations had come to define what we hold as marks of a civilized society.

Individual freedoms we hold dear, so too liberal democracy. Along with them, comes the constitutional form of governance, then comes the rest of the features, free judiciary, freedom of the media and also an objective bureaucracy and the many new institutions. Women’s rights and women’s increasing role in governance and everyday, the modern society and modern man is learning to lead a more decent life and decent life style. But what do we see today in India? Right now? There seems to be an emerging anarchy, violence and much intolerance and also an emphasis by the leaders on seeing democracy as a combat zone for the rulers and the Opposition parties.

The recent vandalism of the destruction and defacement of statues of leaders of all parties and ideologies is a sign that there is some underlying hatred for those who had captured power, even though through elections. There must be some other deeper primitive energy suppressed for long and in an open democracy there are opportunities for new forces to be unleashed. The purpose of education, schools and universities and then the society that benefits by such a well-spread education is to know things by rational means. But there was these pent-up forces that were lying low so far and these forces came out not in established channels, not from writings and speeches, through books and TV channels but by brutal forces of anarchy.

Though, it might be impolite to say right now when emotions are still raw and out in the field, the parties and their leaders, if you study them as calm research students, the leaders were using much uncivilized language, as if the elections were to destroy one party to establish the other, Congress mukth Bharat etc. What is this? You don’t even care to read your history. You try to rewrite history, not history as such but history textbooks in schools? Please read the 20th century history to draw lessons. You can get some ideology as foreign. For that matter, the very word, the very phrase is foreign. For Communism you have the fascism!

We also have role models, the foreign icons for each of the ideology. Caste, communalism and much of our superstition is still afresh in our own modern democracy. Please restrain the leaders and other spokespersons! We have to recall some of the olden days. We win political freedom through a long process. Now, it is time we have to recall our current realities and go slow. Adopt some wise retrospection and let us return to some rational behavior in our public life. Education and culture and much of our public discourse must adopt some restraint.

Can we create an MIT-like institution in our life-time?

Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi spoke, not long ago, at the Centenary celebrations of the Patna University, about creating a competition from among the top 20 universities for reaching the Centres of Excellence by allotting Rs.1, 000 crores to each one of them.

maxresdefaultThat was a brilliant or a wild idea, depending upon how one views such a proposal. No doubt it was a brilliant idea. After all, one has to take some such drastic and unconventional idea, given India’s moribund state of the higher education sector. India’s higher education is in a state of mess. It seems beyond redemption when you look at the sector critically.

Also, let us become a bit serious and develop some degree of gravitas to imagine that Indian higher education can be revamped by one individual, however powerful politically he or she is.
So, it is time to at least read what here we present.

The president of the MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one institution that has no parallel when it comes to be an innovative education cum research centre. Rafael Reif, the one-time immigrant from Venezuela who is now the president of the MIT says that President Donald Trump’s travel ban against the Muslim majority countries is wrong for drawing talents to the US and thus enhancing its competitive advantage in the area of knowledge creation.

Also, Trump’s recent tax proposal to tax the rich private endowments like the MIT for government tax money is also illogical, says the prestigious academic voice.
By the way what is MIT doing, you know?

MIT has become now the centre of a booming biotech economy; its graduates have started more than 30,000 companies! That generates 2 trillion dollar revenue annually. Last year the university completed a 750 million dollar deal with the federal government to purchase a 14-acre tract which will be transformed to support more start-ups.

MIT filed seven amicus briefs to oppose the travel ban. Travel from eight countries (Muslim?)  restricted including Venezuela. Also, the MIT had challenged another of the legislation to defer the  Childhood Arrivals, who are protected from deportation.
Reif believes that the new immigration policies would harm the health of the American economy.

But then, we Indians, must be knowing how the past relations between the US and China evolved.

There was a time when the Chinese overseas migration was the biggest event, the Chinese migrants in the USA was the biggest group and how relations between the two countries led to growth and also expulsion, also the outward migration of the US missionaries led to 400 million Chinese heathens  for conversion.
Much of the history of the US-China relations Indians are unlikely to be aware ad we are now only in the very thick of anxiety and insecurity about our own migration, the H-1 B Visa is our lifeline to survival in the new century.

So, we have to look at the past, the present and the future to imagine is there a way for the long-term growth of the Indian scientific talents to flourish in the current uncertainties and insecurities.

India must draw back its talents wherever it is feasible and needed to equip our higher education and scientific establishments.

Can Indian draw up a blueprint for action in raising the bar of our own higher education?

MIT attracts, why MIT alone, even other private institutions like Harvard and others the best talents from around the world.
We don’t have the funds.

But we could focus our attention  to encourage our own science and technology promotion funding. Some of our older universities and IITs must take the lead.

Let us make a start.

Is this all to the eradication of corruption?

Under the Modi government?
And only this much of expertise from the NIIT?

Bibek Debroy

Bibek Debroy

Yes, this is a very timely book no doubt. It gets a collection of articles written by almost by all members who work at the NITI, the body that replaced the old Planning Commission with a new name.

Most of the contributors are described as young professionals working at the NITI. There are about 16 chapters by the same number of authors. The book is edited by Bibek Debroy and his deputy Kishore Arun Desai. There is a long introduction by the duo and it reads not like a straight introduction but as a fairly talk, about Lord Rama, Ramayana and also Kutilya etc.

Yes, the book “On the Trail of the Black” sounds well but in fact after scanning through the pages, of course in a rapid way, we find the book very disappointing. Why? First it turns out to be an academic book and it is meant to distribute the government departments where only it might not find many the time or the energy, much more the very truth we might be looking for who are all the major actors, major players and the genuine ones who really search for truthful action and some achievements.

Yes, there are some enough data on the major areas of corrupt Food grains distribution, Coal scam, 2G spectrum Belekeri port Commonwealth games, total black funds involved Rs.6,58,645 crores.

Is this all there is to corruption in India?

Not at all. There is any number of corruptions, from the states to the Centre.

The authors had chosen the easy way out. They have taken up the post 2014 General elections and they have dedicated the book to the Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi and it is all in praise of the incumbent PM! Does this need much imagination to see that this less than adequate, a bit immature academics joining together and paying tribute to the PM and his steps so far to tackle corruption?

When the public is fed by a series of, almost unceasing raids by the three prominent agencies, Income Tax, CBI and the Ed and that too almost all against the Congress ministers and functionaries? What sort of administration of justice, the running of the Special Courts that too ended up in much hallow ends.

Why the sort of fiasco had happened to the 2-G Scam?
It is this the way we administer justice?

After nearly 8 years of trial and after, adjourning, reserving judgements for more than a year, the final judgement came as a dampner! How much of the time of the common man was wasted in this tardy affair?

Who has the patience to follow the very boring narration of old corruption stories? The old stories from 1963 onwards are brought into the naraation

The publisher, Kapish Mera, we met once in Delhi and when we discussed about the possibility of a new book we were narrated into a near impossible task. How then this government-sponsored book, it is what it is, is promoted? By simply forcing the copies on the government depts.

There is no merit in the book which doesn’t even take the names of some of the great fighters, the NGOs and other valiant individuals against the corruption menace? No, Aruna Roy, no Medha Patkar or other fighters like the lawyers and other activities like Prashanta Bhushan and his formidable father, Shanti Bhushan or Teeseta Setalvad and many others.
Where is the brigade, the Anna Hazare band?

Even such radical legislations like Lok Pal and Lok Ayukhta are mentioned only in passing, there is really no heart in the making of the book.

Please let us not cheat ourselves. We are a nation of cowardly people; we try to fall in line with whoever comes to power. So, long the going of good for those who get into this business, so much is only possible.

There are gaping holes in the choice of the individual corruption cases. Nor the politically sensitive cases. Under the present regime the conducting of the corruption cases, the almost non-stopping of the on-going raids, on more high profile Opposition figures, from Coal scam to 2-G scam to fodder scam, why even the way the courts announce the sentencing timings, on such cases smack of  vengeance and a sort of public spectacle!

Tit for tat will be the revenge, sooner or later. And what about the still much more insidious cases of corruption, the unaccounted political party funds?

The large number of MLAs, MPS involved in criminal cases and the special courts promised by the government.

These are too hot cases and the lowly level officials working in the NIIT and outside in some of the specialised agencies are honestly unequal to the task at hand!

Let us bring in truthful tackling of the black menace that is corruption!

Economic growth slows down?
No, not at all!
See, the World Bank’s projection for the next year!

The very next day after the Prime Minister met the economists, came the World Bank projection of 7.3% for 2018 and 7.5 % in the next two years.

modiYou see the economists these days have become more timid, academic and pro-government. The talents at the NITI Ayog seem limited.

It is the practical men, the politicians and the leaders who can take a broader view of things. It is the classes, in the Indian case, the caste groups, the privileged and the disadvantaged sections who can give policy makers a sense of robust reality and therefore some practical policy inputs.

One newspaper full page advertisement by a trade body put out even a crass claim of “How the Indian economy can grow at 10% per year for a decade”.

Is this not a certain madness, if not plain stupidity to trates the serious issue of economy growing or otherwise?

You see, we seem to be living through a particular way of politics and doing business and many other areas of national life.

First, economy is a tough field and its growth or slow-down depending upon various factors, politics included. Even the Prime Minister has not responded to the news about the economy slowing down. There are also various viewpoints as to why the economy slowed down. May be there are certain objective factors like the policies like Demonetisation or GST etc.

We need a more detailed analysis of policies we have adopted so far. The last three and half years are certainly a crucial period. Nor can we simply jump to the conclusion that the Indian economy under the UPA regime was all that good. The peoples’ perception certainly matters. There was large-scale corruption and the people were faced with many other issues like unemployment etc. The poverty ration, when compared to China, was still higher here.

And also, there is this reality that in the last three and half years there has been no doubt  the Indian economy has undergone a great deal of  structural  shifts, there is transformation of the economy, there is solid growth in several key sectors.

There are external factors too like the crude oil prices that impact the Indian economy significantly. The chief statistician says that advance estimates indicate there is higher growth ahead. From one quarter to another there can be significant variations. Anyway, these are too serious issues for the government to take stock of the economic performance of the various sectors. Each issue needs separate and in-depth discussion.

It is another matter how the politician opinion is being shaped by the ruling and the Opposition parties. You see ours is a democracy and unlike, say, China, we have so many parties and also the highly extreme political polarisation in the polity. The PM also has characterised that there has been a paradigm shift. This is a fairly correct statement, it seems.

The important point here is however that the economy is big, next only to USA and China and as such we have to be very moderate in expressing opinion unless we are committed to the Indian story.
Our political institutions are fairly stable and we have a particular way of conducting ourselves, the media has a role, a responsible role and how the public opinion and public perception is shaped by these institutions.

As for particular sectors, we as a media devoted to the agri sector, has to note that a 2.1 per cent growth is certainly disappointing but not totally unexpected. We are sure the PM-NITI Ayog meet would deliberate on the agri sector issues in a more realistic way.

You see, agriculture would from now onwards become more complex, given the many related sector developments, from faster urbanisation than before, the coming of more National Highways and other infrastructure, telecommunications and of course the spread of education and the entry of more educated and skilled workforce, the traditional land-owning families getting consolidated or in the reverse, the disintegration of such families and also the land ownership further getting reduced.
You see, we are not just routine media in agriculture; we are committed to the agri sector’s future consolidation and strengthening of the rural livelihood future.

As such, we like to see that the industrial development that is taking place side by side of the rural development forces. This means certain new insights into the India’s villages’ future. You have to have a policy that enables the forces that make rural living a viable economic possibility in ten years to come.
Our view is that you have to make agriculture as a viable profession. Either as a small-farmer holding or a commercially viable business activity.

A feature of agri policy making in independent India was the abolition of zamindari system and the enactment of the many land reforms legislation. We saw the extreme features in Kerala which in 1959 under the Communist regime of EMS Namboodiripad, made the traditional tenants (under the traditional zenmi system) overnight land owners!

In other states, like Tamil Nadu too we saw the various land reforms, ceiling limits, tenancy protection etc. that in effect saw the gradual decline of agriculture.

Now, in our opinion, we pay the price for such “restrictive” land laws that there is an all-round decline in the profitability and viability of farming.

So, in our view, the only way to rejuvenate the agri sector is to make agricultural holdings viable. Viable in the sense we encourage more investments in agriculture, make agriculture high-tech, make possible for introduction of many new innovations in agri production or agri services, agri trading etc.

Vadamalai Media is carrying out so many stories that make anyone, including the policy makers, wonder even otherwise, under the older system of restrictive agriculture, such and so many innovative farming is possible.

So, instead of labouring the obvious truth, let us make agriculture sector more liberalised. A sort of 1991 economic liberalisation!

Yes, there is a strong political aspect to this sort of agri liberalisation. Politics? Yes, economics is not just devoid of politics. There is  a whole new paradigm for agriculture reforms.
Agriculture trade,imports and exports and also there are many other aspects to agriculture production and of course distribution, the PDS, the consumer price and inflation that gets more media attention than the farmers’  woes.

So, you, the government ,has to deliberate, consult farmers leaders and other lobbies. We like to see that farming becomes a viable activity, more so to the new generation of youngsters from traditional farming families and also new generation of educated and also technically qualified persons who are entering into farming sector. Again, we like to refer the more serious readers to the pages of our journals and also our websites(

The last issue carried a few pages on the US agriculture. There too there is the usual drought in US agriculture and also water shortage etc!

So, after a certain period we in India too must realise that we have to treat farmers vs. consumers as vote banks!

The time will come and force us to look at agri sector as an attractive investment destination! These are some of the  thoughts to help agri policy makers.