Old institutions should go! New collaborations must come in.
Elections over and we can sit easy on the farm front?

Agriculture is never a high priority in India given the sort of priority politicians and media give to this topic.

Neither the public are too much bothered about what is happening in agriculture inside India and also in other parts of the world. There are severe food crisis in at least some 10 countries around the world, do you know? In the war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and countries around the Congo and even Nigeria there are food shortages and also in Afghanistan.

The FAO and the World Food Programme, the two principal agencies have out reports and there is concern in some other countries too. Of course, there is much poverty and malnutrition and we have some of the most poignant pictures and people, the migrants on the Mexico US border and the people’s lives over a vast stretch of farms across the world are caught in perennial drought and a loss-making agricultural scenario.

There are also many on-going high profile trade disputes between China and the USA and the many promises and high sounding words of assurance and also the most vociferous counter voices from the powerful American farm lobbies. For each set of commodities, from soybean to pork, from cherries to apples to other fruits there are powerful lobbies and for all of them President Trump seems not a reassuring voice. Trump talks big built achieve little, grumbles the lobbyists who all talk in such silence and don’t want to be quoted!

Why this fear we don’t know. May be China’s farm lobby is too much and very unnerving to the US negotiators. Indian farm exports too come in for much criticism though Trump seems to be soft towards the country.

We are seeking tariff concessions to such commodities like Aluminium and steel. The irony is that while inside India we don’t talk much about agriculture, we are also one of the large agricultural economies where the writings, in the media and on the part of so called experts is one of trailing the ‘official’ statistics and also avoiding any critical remarks for fear of the government!

See the narration of the many reforms in the agri sector. We have a long list of reforms introduced by the Modi government. We can make a short list of them. One, the much talked out is the National Agricultural Market, eNam. This is of course a great step towards regulating the long-suffered price fluctuations in the markets spread all over the country with a great deal of regional variations and specific peculiarities.

May be, this reform would contribute to the real time sales, the deployment of technology to monitor the markets. The single electronic portal can do wonders if only we implement the proposals.

Let us hope so and welcome this revolutionary feature of the agri market reforms. So far, we learn that 585 mandis across 16 states and 2 Union Territories are registered on the portal. The total volume of trade this year up to February 28, 2019 was 2.2 lakh million tonnes with a value of Rs.604.72 crores. This move was to cover the whole country but as we learn that all mistakes haven’t been registered or have amended the APMC Acts to be able to join eNAM. It is also inaccessible to small and marginal farmers who make up 86 per cent of the India’s farming population. There is still not any mechanism to assess the working of the eNAM machinery.

Two, soil health Cards. So far there are a few criticisms about the very effective but the media, the mainstream media and the TV channels don’t care to do any assessment of the ground level realities. We have enough experience in a region like Vidharba where you have all the signs and ills of how the drought plays havoc with the average lives of the small farmers.

Also, we have to shed the urban media mindset that of quoting the incumbent bureaucrats sitting in the comforts of the Krishi Bhavan who are only too happy to give a rosy picture of things in Indian agriculture!

Three: The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Suinchayee Yojana. Only the budget is announced, Rs.50,000 for five years. How to assess such shaky schemes. We have only to wait! Four minimum supports price. Gramin Agricultural Market, GrAM.

Only the name is new. Otherwise we, as a media engaged in agriculture and village economy choose to remain sceptic and wait for results to speak. There are many serious issues that are high priority for the Indian farmers. In Vidharba for example, farmers have no alternative to cotton that becomes a killer crop often, the largest number of farmers’ suicides take place in the cotton crop region, prices are so fluctuating that continues for very long. Soyabeans too have become a risky crop.

So, the researchers, the agri scientists and also the agri universities like the Punjab Rao Agri University at Akola must come out with alternative cops for the drought region-specific needs.

There seems to be nothing coming out of the Indian agri universities, more new commercial – scale new agri colleges are springing up USA for self-financing money making ventures. This the government must ban! Why, even long-distance agri degree awarding colleges are also coming up.

These are all new malpractices to vitiate purposeful education and research. In fact, some sort of sandwich type of course with field work and theory must be a new initiative.

We must be seen with bureaucrats and ministers often talking to farmers lobbies and giving the farmers community a sense of belonging to the farmer’s societies.

Unfortunately, not much that is hopeful and productive seem to be happening in the agri sector.

We also have to wind up old institutions that are for instance there in good number in Hyderabad and also in other states. They must all be wound up. New institutions, new collaborations with agri universities in Israel and Netherlands could revolutionise farming practise in India.


What are the progresses and achievements?

The years 2014 to 2019 have been a radical time when the BJP party swept through the Indian political landscape as a tsunami and changed everything in the sense that for the first time since Independence an entirely new political party other than the Congress won elections and got an absolute majority.

The new government came with an entirely new set of promises. In education it tried to change for a new ideology. The Hindutva ideology wanted a new vision of India. Fair enough. But it was not in tune with the modern times. It called for rewriting of Indian history. What came out of its grand promise? Yes, after all it was a grand promise indeed. Even under the Congress regime, under the leadership of K.M.Munshi, under the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan auspices, a similar project was launched and we got a series of volumes that are rated even now, in my opinion, high in the scholarly circles.

Rewriting history is not a new thing or a negative thing either. Many countries have done that sort of job. We, the founders of this journal also tried to obtain some such books in the early 1960s, in the school founded with a novel name at that time (when the new-fangled International schools were unheard of) we at our own International School in a remote village in South India, obtained school text books published by the then UNESCO organisation that was faced with such problems in some of the new countries in the Middle East, having new borders and new ethnic people, borders and even in languages and geographies and more so in the then Palestinian-Israel disputes and (incidentally, when India was very much active in its Non-Aligned Movement under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and V.K.Krishna Menon period) and we were even then excited by such revolutionary new approaches in using text books).

Today, the very societies are changed and so too the very pursuit of education. So much better for such positive and radical changes and the aspirational generation too is looking for a different education pursuits and also the aspirations for a highly mobile society, when the new generation youngsters too see a bright future when they migrate or so they think and imagine a new globalisation world.

Anyway, now with the BJP is well positioned, this we write just as the election results are coming in and even otherwise, when we can sit back and take stock of the new changes in our education ideas and policies, what comes to our minds? As for the rewriting of history is concerned, nothing concrete has come to our attention so far. The challenge of rewriting history is one thing. The other thing is what really happened under the previous education ministers? We all know what was the sort of controversies were under the minister Smriti Irani. The less said the better, right?

Under her successor too, it is our view that nothing much had happened to take note of any major policy changes. The MoS Satyapal Singh made some hilarious observations about the Darwin theory of evolution! Also, another controversial move was to accord status of eminent institute for the Reliance Group sponsored Jio University! This too, may be along with other institutes didn’t take? Or, did these institutes take off ? We are not sure. Much more disgusting is the fact that the Reliance offer came with some eminent retired bureaucrats coming together to plead for the particular company. Of course, there is no point in taking a negative view of the other many initiatives like the framing of Education Policies.

You see any Tom, Dick and Harry can’t draw up such highly important and why even sensitive issues like drawing up educational and cultural policies. These jobs are the domain of the experts. We should at least know that when we realise our limitations only we might desist from such foolish steps. So, there has not yet been any fully comprehensive new education policy with the BJP government.

Let us hope the new government might take a very serious view of where we really failed. It is better to realise where we slipped and then only we can learn. Of course there have been some other good moves on the part of the HRD ministry. What stands out is the great quantitative expansion of the school numbers, the students population, the number of schools and also the new number of universities, Central Universities in particular.

Universities have suffered gravely. In place have come some of the most suspect replacements, the self-financing universities. This development, we are duty-bound to warn the new government would only drag the Indian university education to a further new low! Please, we plead, invite the best brains, from within the country or
from abroad to come and advise Indian higher education. There are such people.
We ourselves could suggest names to the government. What we need is really selfless goodness of the Indian people. Let us serve the opportunity without further loss of time. Promise of raising the budget allocation for education have not
succeeded. The reasons are complex. But we must attend to the aspiring generation urgently. Sincerely, with an open mind. Amen!

Mounting threat of money in education business!

Private sector enters with a vengeance. Who doesn’t know that the Indian education sector is undergoing a radical transformation, for good or bad? From the very start from LKG to primary and secondary education, why, even afterwards and perhaps with much more vengeance the entry into any collegiate education there is stiff competition all the way. The education sector is becoming highly commercial and the trend is to encourage and push it that way. No day passes, why no moment passes when you see ads everywhere, on the TV screens and on the pages of all news items, even full scale ads on admissions to some specialized courses like aeronautical engineering course. The ads say- don’t go for such courses to other countries, you can have it here itself. We saw from our own neighborhood in the village an ad such as this one! In fact, once a sleepy, a very poor and undeveloped village is now surrounded with three engineering colleges and one ayurvedic centre etc. and we get more workers for the farmers as the women now enjoy the choices of the 100 days work or assistants at the nearby ayurvedic treatment location!

We can’t of course share too much of the mysteries of self-financing colleges and there are any number of ways to get a degree certificate from a university stamp! So, the bad side of the story is that these days you have any number of degree holders! One person having a number of M.As and other degrees and certificates are earning multiple degrees. The other day we saw a full-page supplement of private engineering
college with their founder’s photos holding forth on the benefits of getting a degree from one of their colleges. It was found later it was a marketing feature! So, you are faced with the mounting threat of money. Education is fast becoming a flourishing business.

The government is still in the vast field of education the dominant player; the government schools are still imparting education to millions of children. The poor are no more denied of an education opportunity. Yet, the emerging threat is from the creative innovators in education and they have been milking the innocent or the weak to get insecure in the face of the billions of dollar funds and other players in specialized exam-based for which alone the older war horses in the private sector now concentrate.

Who can reform or reconstruct the education sector?

It looks that an unconcerned government if delays reforms of the fast deteriorating sector, very soon might completely give way to the private sector. More private universities might enter where there is a vast potential. Our concern is that at least the private sector takes over and makes India, namely, the Indian universities a destination for foreign students. Now, even China has emerged as a destination for foreign students. So instead, Indian students can save the costs and mental agony of not searching for high cost US, UK, Canadian Universities. Let them at least enter into the very quality Indian private sector universities for quality degrees. But even here we need the government to wake up to the market realities and try to draw up some wise policies and regulate the education sector. Without a regulatory framework you can’t ensure a reliable quality in education. There are so many problems multiplying for lack of action on the government front. So, don’t create a sense of insecurity and even panic (now there is a sort of mild panic given the middle class considerations for educating their kids and youngsters).

There is already a sort of panic in discussing the various EMIs etc. So, let us not make education sector a sick one, creating so many conflicts. The present status of the Universities is giving worry, considering the various low quality activities, from selecting the VCs to the various academic staff to other ills. We request the public to ponder over our concerns and let us create a process of dialogue and discussion.

One more distressing development is the very commercialization of education, the very pressure to get into fancy schools, be it pre-school, LKG to prestigious secondary school, IIT etc. the irrational pressure built on the children and parents. Parents too fall victim to this materialistic over-ambition. Please don’t put pressure on the kids to perform; the 5-10 year olds and even beyond. Please also tech them mother tongue, music and arts. The Central government, the HRD ministry must fix high-power educationist to frame a policy to reduce stress on children in this so-called competitive society.

The Golden Age of Greece!
Some contemporary parallels!

Near Parthenon

Near Parthenon

As I finished this column, a thought flashed through mind like a lightning! It was Tagore, Gandhi and even Pandit Nehru and such great Indian leaders, as far as we can see, didn’t travel through Greece and Rome or studied or quoted from these two great civilisations, right? India as an independent country has much to learn and draw lessons for its very many new policies, education, culture and else. Greece has no parallel in these areas to teach the world. But this generation has much to learn from the past histories and draw lessons for the current times.

Greece gave the world democracy, citizen’s freedoms and liberty, ideas of republic and rule of law, besides much else. One Pericles speech is enough for the entire world, even for today in the fields of education, philosophy, logic, sports etc. Also in art and culture we can find much enduring values and beauty. Here is a brief account, though there is much else to study and learn lessons for our times.

Greek history is very long and in each age it impacted the world in some deep ways. First, the geography! If you look at the atlas you will see Greece is located at the end of the European geography, at the bottom of the Southern Europe, just below Yugoslavia. In fact, there was time when visitors to Greece used to take journeys overland. This has now become out of tune with the modern airlines competing for new air routes.

We travelled to Greece by the Gulf airline- Qatar airways. It took four hours to land in Doha, the Qatar capital, the most prosperous oil kingdom in the Gulf today. And after a small wait we caught another airline of the same company, the Qatar Airlines and reached Athens in another four hours. It was such a joy to travel by the latest aircraft A 320 class of the same airline. Once landed in Athens we caught the taxi – Mercedes Benz, a gift from perhaps the German -a part of the foreign aid that had lifted the debt-ridden economy from collapse. Once we reached the city, the driver of the taxi pointed out at a distance and said:”See the famous Acropolis and the Parthenon blazing already in the evening daylight and that was soon to be further lighted by the artistic way in which the entire city of Athens in night keeps the world-famous heritage sites in such splendorous brightness.

Once you are in Athens the Acropolis, the one historic hill never is far from you. Where ever you turn, your eyes are likely to be caught by this historic monument. In fact, the next morning, we planned to stay in Athens for some 10 days and so we were planned to see each and every notable monument. Our hotel, Melia, was situated not far from the Acropolis site and so the next day we started to walk towards the hill. We didn’t realize that the road we walked was in fact the modern road that was laid on the ancient sites. So, at some places they have left the old sites covered with a glass roof and so we can see down our feet that old sites, the walls and other structures covered with glass roofs. Very soon we reached the hill site and the road was rising as we walked and soon we were left with no further path and so we sat on a stone bench.

I told my granddaughter to touch the soil telling her that she was now on the sacred ground of a great civilization where such venerable figures like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked. On the first day in fact, we didn’t realize that the spot where Socrates actually lived and walked was not very far from us! In fact, we were now sitting on the outer walls of the Roman Agora. Agora in Greek means the public place where the city people gathered to transact business and spend time and conduct their government. Next to the Roman Agora was the Ancient Agro where Socrates lived. This was the first market place and this space needs to be written in much more detail and devotion.

It was sacred soil for me and as such I was emotionally agitated greatly touched by the historic moment and the historic points. Now, Athens history! Let us leave details. Athens became a powerful country only in the BC after finally defeating the powerful Persian Empire in 480 BC. Athens was first a confederacy with its headquarters in the island of Delos, far from Athens. It was in 461 BC, the treasury was transferred to Athens and then under the rule of Pericles from 461 BC to 429 BC Athens emerged as the most powerful and also the most artistic city in the world. Though Athens had this gift, it was militarily defeated by Sparta.

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sparta and Athens are studies in contrast, the school of the Spartan people gave to the world the concept of public schools which Plato advocated and yet in Athens is not practiced. Most of the monuments on the Acropolis mountain date from the period of Pericles. Pericles is another notable figure from the ancient Greece, and he gave a great speech after the defeat of the Athenian people at the hands of Spartans in the famed or ill-fated Peloponnesian Wars that lasted from 431 BC to 404 BC. The history of the War was written in a style that is still read in all public schools. The book was written in Greek by Thucydides.

Athens was an independent kingdom and an empire. But in 338 BC it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon and his son, the famous Alexander the Great favoured Athens over other city states.
In 186 BC the Romans defeated the Macedonians and Athens became a province of Roman empire and the Roman rule of Greece lasted to an unbroken period of three centuries. But Romans became very much impacted by the Athenian culture and though Romans took away the sculptures to Rome the Roman aristocratic class sent their sons to Greece for learning Greek philosophy, law and sports etc. Hellas, the way the ancient Greeks were called became an intellectual, cultural and political students of Greek institutions.

Ancient Greece had many glories but not the modern day history. Roman empire lasted some 2,000 years. That was also a remarkable history. Rome learnt many things from Greece. Of course not their political ideas and ideals of democracy. But the Roman Republic is also an evolution of the Greek ideals of government. There were slaves in large number in Greece and Rome. Citizenship is another concept we learnt only from Greece and Rome. For any modern day visitor to Greece and Rome, the ancient agora and in Rome the Roman Forum are physical monuments that inspires us to stand and reflect and ponder over for a long time to how man had lived and evolved into a modern and civilized citizen of the world! It was the Roman emperor; Justinian who closed the philosophy in AD 529.Then was a period of decline. Every country of any consequence tried to occupy the Greek people and in this Britain was not alone!

Parthenon
The most famous monument is of course the incomparable Parthenon. They charge every adult an entry fee of 12 Euros. Its monuments and sanctuaries are built in a special marble stone, called Pentelic marble, quarried from a special mountain outside Athens some few miles away. The Pentelic marble stone of such huge proportions must have been quarried by some huge effort and how they transported in the BC? The Parthenon marble structure, so huge and so artistic, gleam white in the midday sun and gradually as the sun fades, the stones assume a honey hue while at night the lights are on and brilliantly illuminate the whole night!

As the travel guide writes “a glimpse of this magnificent sight can’t fail to exalt your spirit. Yes, it is so right; this goes and man-jointly created artistic achievement. It’s hard to believe that such a grand monument was created in such an ancient time and all through the 2500 years the monument glowed and also faced so many assaults by invaders and ignoramuses.

Pericles-OrationThere are other two equally beautiful structures, temples to five beautiful maidens, called Caryatids, the maidens holding their falling saris is so beautifully carved as if they were not carved in stones! They, the beautiful maidens seem to be so alive! So natural, so beautiful and so incomparable all through the years afterwards. What we see on the mountain today are not the originals. The originals are now displayed in the Acropolis museum. Also one on those was transported by Lord Irwin to the British museum. These marble maidens were created in 415 BC. Can we believe the dates? Yes, they are so ancient and yet so modern! The mountain part is planted by Olive trees and Greece is a country of vast Olive tree cultivation and olive oil extraction. Olive oil export is a great Greek export industry.

Much has been written about the unique artistic aspects of the Parthenon’s columns and the foundations. Convex and concave carving is said to make the Parthenon structure very unique in the history of art. Readers can read so many detailed writings and they must at least once in their lifetime to fulfill their own quest for knowledge and wisdom! Also, the names of the sculptors who carved these columns and the pediments, most of which have been now removed and displayed in a latest Acropolis Museum. This museum is worth roaming about and once you come out you are a different sort of a refined person, indeed!

There are modern cafeterias and also places to sit and look around the Acropolis hill and the walls that surround the old hill. It was a great day for us to have spent such a long and learning experience, a full day is worth spending in such surroundings.

By-election setbacks, allies rebellion and the banking and other scandals!

Yogi Adithyanath

Yogi Adithyanath

Indian politics is maturing. After a long time we saw the 2014 elections set a new evolution path. Once, the only party, the Congress-led government was the one and only way of political life. Yes, the regional parties like the Dravidian and other parties came along. But at the Centre the Congress seemed unshakable.

This trend was broken by the dare-devil like operation by the BJP; a new revamped BJP did wonders at the polls. We saw an absolute majority for the BJP and a humiliating defeat for the Congress.

Now, it is nearly four years of the present government is left and the last year seems to have become a bit shaky for the otherwise well-placed ruling regime.

The by-election setbacks inks a reminder that in a popular and large and diverse democracy like India, the first big one in history, the Indian people, with all their backwardness, have learnt and also taught some lessons for rulers.
Nothing in excess, said the Greek wise sage.

So too we in India seems to be following the hollowed wisdom.  The BJP in its unstoppable strategy or sheer bragging has carried things too far. The UP CM, Yogi Adithyanath carried his saffron agenda to ridiculous limits. The largest number of communal violence, data shows, is in the UP.

Will the statistics tell lies? No!

So, the UP CM had to pay a heavy price for his credibility.
At least from onwards other hotheads in the party and outside should take a leaf out of this humiliation when the PM seems to be also faced with newer uncertainties.

Also, the Opposition too has to learn some hard lessons. The Congress, the major historic party too seems can’t carry on in the old dynastic and family owned ways and manners.
The crowd surrounding Sonia around the AICC must give way to some real sense and sacrifice.

You can’t be a Congressman in Delhi all through your life and age. Some of the really doddering figures must retire to their home states.They must be available at the state level and do some public service.

See the case of one such leader, Veerappa Moily. He is caught with his own troubles, a seat for his son. So too many sons and daughters are knocking at the 10 Janpath doors!
Also, other oligarchs, high-earning lawyers and others, feudal lords or corporate names and others.

Please realise that a party like the Congress must be built on high principles, we must draw from the past heritage, a great deal of public spirit and commitment, selflessness, great democratic instinct must inform the Working Committee and  the AIVCC and also the most  condemnable blight, the Rajya Sabha nomination culture practiced by Sonia.

You can’t nominate every one! Please see you invite the really competent persons with a track record and award the Rajya Sabha nomination by invitation.

Also please retire on time!
How long one person or one family can own a political parties. May be small caste parties can do this. Not the All Indian Congress organisation.

There must be a well-defined political ideology. Every week, an evening debate or a lecture must be delivered by invited intellectuals or activists on ideological issues. Liberalisms or its variants, lessons from Europe and such issues must grip and inspire the workers.

As for Modi and his Hindutva, yes, we need debate. Opposition unit, the very present disarray would impose on the Opposition.
Finally, leadership. Leadership would shape up India.

Unless one is so incompetent, everyone can aspire. But only the best and the brightest can survive.

Politics is a serious businessman we say.

So, be optimists, countrymen! India will win the world! Win a place in the sun!