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(www.agriculturalinformation.com).

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.

Yes, agriculture is a serious business and the government in the last three years has found that it is the agri sector, the rural  sector that is proving elusive in its grand strategy of winning over people in spite of the over-all strategy of winning elections in almost all the states.

Since the Modi government took power, the agri sector is growing, the GDP is growing only just at less than 2 per cent. This, as everyone knows, that this measly 2 per cent is just half of what the growth rate of agrisector  was under the 10 years of previous government. Currently, it is 2.1 per cent as per the latest Central Statistical Office. Food grains output in 2016-17 would be no more than the record 275 million tonnes.

One critical problem is the falling farm prices! So, farmers’ protests are mainly owing to falling farm prices. Farmers are also pushed into bigger debts.

These are older issues, of course. But how to deal with the farm crisis?

Budget making is one route to give some relief.

pradhan-mantri-fasal-bima-yojanaNow, we learn that the government is also deploying the intelligence agencies to monitor the rural unrest. The latest setback in a way to the government is the less than expected election victory in the Gujarat state, the home state of the Prime Minister. The rise in farm produce prices. For instance, the five-fold rise in onion prices where the nodal price has increased from Rs.561 per quintal to Rs.2,880 per quintal has raised alarm as rising onion prices could lead to strife in urban areas.

Volatility in prices could get the disgruntled groups, in the farming and also outside the sector among urban Naxals, says a report, also the Leftist groups, the one-leader parties like the Communists can also spell unfavourable publicity. The recent  bout of violence in Maharashtra over the Bhima-Koraeogon issue is suspected to be the handiwork of the left, Naxal elements, says an intelligence officer. Loan waivers, higher support prices and implementation of the Swaminathan committee report are some of the demands in Maharashtra.

Intelliege3nce agencies now feed the government with farmer’s troubles that are suspect to be a step to create unrest in the political field. Gujarat’s farmers were also agitating over the slump of prices of pulses. In M.P, the farmer’s violence led to police firing in Mandsaur. And add to these farmers unrest the involvement of political extremists, Left and the Naxalites, say the intelligence sources.

So, the current disenchantment among the farmers is not just for farmers issues also, the current unrest is mixed up with political elements that are otherwise have no handle to tackle the otherwise popular vote in all the states’ Assembly elections.
May be the set-back, though slight from the point of view of the BJP but very significant for the moral booster of the Congress, the coming next series of elections is going to see the farmers issue blown up and sought to portray the Indian agriculture issues are otherwise normal or routine.

No, it is not.

The PM on the eve of his travel to Davos gathering in Switzerland gave out his views to a news channel, Times Now and we say how he responded to a major question on the issue of India’s agriculture problems.

The Pm said that agriculture is an issue for the Centre alone but for the states as well.

The PM called his own scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana, gives a lease of life in distress.But this is only a weary PM’s weak response.Indian agriculture, the PM ,also agreed should not be linked with the elections. The PM is right.
Indian agriculture must be first and foremost seen as a basic Indian reality.

There  are issues of climate change, there is the recurring  drought.

If you take the South Indian peninsula  there is surely going to be a chance of recurrence of drought. The water flow in the Cauvery basin is going down over a long -term. There is no more any hope to look forward the old style periodic release of water  from Cauvery River for TN and the issue must be tackled at a high level and some realism must be built into the court cases, into the political summits etc.

So, what the PM said about agriculture crisis is ,it seems, unlikely to be solved in the near -term future.
We as an agri media has only this much to say.

Let the government  create a wider awareness of the need for appreciating the agriculture sector’s issues as an on-going over-all economic activity.

There is no point in engaging intelligence agencies to monitor the unrest in rural India.

Rural India is undergoing a structural change, so too the urbanisation process and the new urban centres where the organised pressure by the interest groups might further intensify the agitations from the organised urban groups, including the urban media that might not know the sort of underlying rural distress.

So, there will be more and more pressure for the government to adopt new approaches to rural unrest.

The budget allocations are only one step towards solving the agriculture distress.

May be we have to look at the outside world. From big countries to small countries we have to see and learn certain innovative things. Trade and exports is one way to give relief to farmers, exports ,by whatever strategies, must help raise prices for farmers.

Also, higher farm subsidies, call it by whatever name you choose.
In Thailand, we can see how the rice export subsidies have helped farmers.

Of course, the Western countries, the USA ad European Union are heavy agri subsidy-givers. In India, the agri marketing committees are seen as villains. We only plead that farmers must be given  further subsidies, loan waivers and also loan subsidies.

Linking rivers, inter-state river water disputes settlements are also some of the urgent steps.

Let us become more transparent about what we do in the  agri sectors.

Why not?
After all, the person is a State’s Chief Minister!

Mamata BanerjeeMamata Banerjee, affectionately and popularly called Didi, by any stretch of imagination, is a remarkable person. She is a woman leader of exceptional merit, a proven clean leader in a society  and politics that is unfortunately a  notoriously corrupt. We live at a time when we see so many new facts and allegations are coming out almost on a day to day basis. So, this is an opportunity for the society and for the polity to debate certain so far undebated issues!

See how the legislatures are functioning? How the august institutions of Parliament, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are demonstrating to the public  what they are capable of? How they are failing the people and yet how the  hon’ble MPs, and MLAs in the States are voting themselves for a steep salary hikes and thereby holding the great institutions to certain ridicule and mockery.

Who are all the causes of this decline in public life?
Also, the very many distortions?

How many of the great personages, the Cabinet ministers charged by the CBU and ED?

How many of the present members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha face criminal cases?

This is just the legislature.
The state of the judiciary?  The state of the media freedom? And the evolution of the polity?

Are we evolving towards a more open and liberal society?
Or, getting sucked into debates on the Hindutva vs the liberal order?

No, we seem to be becoming a backward looking, reactionary and even  a sort of feudal dynasty-dictated  polity? We are also becoming selfish, family and ethnic promoting lot.

Once you enter the political field, your life and actions, your coteries and circle of sycophants must be discarded. Has this happened in the political parties to day.

And yet, how many times you change parties and loyalties. What are your special qualifications to stick to office and posts?
And, pray, what are your political beliefs and ideologies? Simple power-grab! Nothing more and nothing less!

You, leaders, all imagine that people would remain fools for  all time to come? Indian would become transformed by the younger-age groups that enter the voter lists in the next few years. Non-performers, party hoppers, party defectors, those who accumulated black money and wealth, benami properties, faced corruption cases and even after spent time in jails, if you hope to come back and seek more plunder!

Indian democracy can’t tolerate  any further. These categories of looters much vacate political space at once.There are still more sensitive and awkward questions?

The very mindset of our  political leaders. You are all set to become a family dictated leaders, right?

How dare you ignore the people, you have simply neglected  the poor and the weak. You seek blessings from temples and mutts, you seek the God’s help for your family enterprises that are parties today!

So, in such a blatant anti-people politics of yours, all leaders, here is one leader, Mamata Banerjee who is the most non-corrupt and non-family promoting, dedicated, austere life style that is very rare indeed!

So, the leader deserves not one D.Litt, but many such degrees and public adulations.

In a state like TN, such degrees are dime a dozen! So, take heart, the so-called critics, that we should  search for corruption-free CMs and may be at one time in future, the PMs too. God forbid, there is at least one example of a clean face. A clean record for celebration. Long live, Didi! All the honour for you!