See, what is making news and capturing public attention

What purpose does JNU violence and so many agitations serve? It is a very tragic story not yet fully unveiled and the days and months to come would be severely lost and no public good is likely to be served if the antagonists and the protagonists are to settle their dues in this way.

If the senior political leaders, specially, the Communist party leaders, are to be taken seriously, then, the time has come for someone to tell these gentlemen that this sort of agitation politics at a premier university carrying the great of no less a leader than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who almost symbolizes all that is great and heroic in the country’s glorious heritage, history, the ideals, tolerance, truth and ahimsa etc. would be sadly lost if we, the present generation and the ones that are there to lead them, the senior politicians would be failing in our duties to the great causes for which our freedom struggle was waged with such uniqueness in all of the nations of the world.

This sort of intolerance including those we have seen in the current turmoil is not a worthy emulation. Two innocent ladies were thrown out for the simple reason they held flags opposing the CAA cause!

Now, university education? It is in doldrums, we all can see. The visiting eminent Indian intellectual and economist, the Nobel Laureate, Prof.Amartya Sen lamented at the Infosys Prize distribution ceremony in Bangalore the other day that the current scene in Indian universities is ‘appalling’. Sen had in mind the yet to be resolved violence in the JNU, New Delhi.

With the latest violence at the JNU at the top of the minds of Indians, Sen could have dwelt at some length and the country would have benefited with his superior academic wisdom. Sen observed that the current law, the CAA and its two more related legislations are controversial and widely considered even not constitutional and many hope the Supreme Court would find so. The academic scene in India is even otherwise too bad, really pathetic and in particular the universities are really in a very bad shape. Many eminent educators have been involved and yet the so-called new Education Draft hasn’t seen the light of the day. Education policy making in the BJP governments era has become a standing joke. How many ministers have come and gone and yet the very many drafts are under wraps, for no genuine reasons. Perhaps there is confusion at many levels and the sadder is the fact that the many very competent educationists and the intellectuals are choosing to remain silent for obvious reasons.

Even the new education (HRD) minister, it seems, hasn’t got grips with so many vested interests, besides other issues are bedeviling the critical sector. First, there is widespread corruption in university education and university administration, so many unseemly episodes happening, raids and arrest and even jailing of VCs is now day-to-day news headlines!

The state universities with the incumbent Governors as Chancellors of the State universities are now facing competition for resources and power, both social and political power with the thriving private universities. There are some 900 universities and more than 40,000 colleges with a student strength of 40,000 students.

The State governments nowadays are controlling the universities and given their penchant for favouratism the whole university system is politicized. Private universities have become a menace! You can imagine the quality, the qualifications of an average education minister and the havoc they are wreaking the system. The education ministers brag on public platforms about the gross enrolment ratios in higher education. While we were reading through the news page that reported Prof. Sen’s address; the very same page carried a half page paid advertisement that proclaimed the achievements of a private university that said it all, we thought. There are so many private universities in India at present and their population is bound to go up in leaps and bounds. In particular, the Southern States seem to be in a race.

In TN there is a proliferation of these pseudo institutions already causing havoc! Some of the founders of these shadow institutions have become enormously rich and powerful. They are some of the richest politicians in the State; some run many other related and unrelated businesses, including TV news channels and also got elected to Parliament and run many other dubious activities. Imagine for a moment what sort of academic merit such univerisities can carry when the founders are practicing politicians, nay, even when some of them are film producers of very cheap entertainers!

Lately, they have resorted to conducing high profile public shows of awarding honorable degrees of ‘doctors’, even to the incumbent Chief Ministers. The incumbent Governors of the State, being the Chancellors of the government -controlled universities, the Governors are mute figures only decorating the platforms and thus creating false public images of government and political authority to the functions. These Universities also surreptitiously conduct the Founders’ birthdays this way and outcome of all these dubious activities, in our opinion, is to further debase the genuine educational values a university is supposed to instill in the minds of the pupils, academic staff and on the general public.

It is also unfortunate, that every day we read in the media that some Vice-Chancellor or other is found jailed for misappropriation and some VC’s appointments are invalidated. Besides, university appointments are held invalid by the courts and many corruption cases involving the universities are creating a bad feeling. There are now ceremoniously many other university diversifications announced like distance education, a clear source of bogus degrees awarded with no sound academic scrutiny.

Now, as for real academic merit in the Indian universities, the real test is how far the Indian universities, both in the government and the private sector are attracting students from within India and also from outside. Even now, there is almost an exodus of sorts for Indian students to migrate to foreign lands, not to UK and USA alone, even to neighboring countries like Australia, Germany and even Ukraine(for cheap medical degrees).Yes, there are reports that there is now a reverse trend, the number of Indian students going to USA is even declining. For USA alone, the number is declining from 12.3 percent 2016-17 to 5.4 percent in 2018-19, second only to China. Detailed figures are available to show this declining trend. The point here is that the outside world is changing and yet within India we seem not to have given up this craze for foreign education and also true that the standards of higher education within India are really appalling.

So, what to do in the days and months ahead in the Indian education sector and that too in the higher education sector? No one is talking about education reform in a serious way.

Of course, the men and women who matter in education know of all these ills. They also know well the ways of reforms needed. Urgently, we need to combat the corrupt practices that had already crept into the university education system. Unless there is a determined effort on the part of the Central government to reform higher education with suitable inputs from international faculty the situation won’t change easily. Let us all introspect and speak out.

A country is without an education policy

Education is not just a day-to-day activity as it is with a large number of stake-holders today. Education in India has become a highly commercial activity. Take a newspaper or turn a TV screen, they scream with full-page ads that proclaim, if we can so put it, a new millennium on the horizon. What do you want to become tomorrow? All the promises are on display. Various tuition centers are called by many fancy names. There are well-dressed boys and girls swarming the gates of many newly opened academies with fancy names. All things promised under the sky! It is rather becoming a sickening experience. These screams and shouts!

This is gross display of total insentivity. We never thought that education would degenerate so much. Education is a very noble, very uplifting thought and experience. Even in today’s world, education and culture shape the character of not only an individual but also of a country. The very essence and distinction of people are all traced to the sort of education and schools. This is so from the time of Greeks, at the height of their glory in the 5th century BC onwards. Greeks in particular gave the world the unique definition of an ethos that you can find out in reading Plato, why, even in Socrates’ dialogues when the great sage questioned everyone he met on the streets of ancient Agora where he lived and walked every day.

Man becomes civilised when he interacts with his fellow human being and when questions are asked and answers are sought. Education has a long history. The Encyclopedia Britannica has almost hundred and odd pages on the subject of education. And education history too has a long process of how man throughout questioned and doubted and became skeptical and argued and pushed the boundaries of knowledge. That is how ethics, what is right and wrong were asked and also how philosophy and science were reached. From medieval times onwards to the Renaissance to the French Enlightenment and modern day world of science and technology, Industrial Revolution to the present day, the Information Technology and Internet we have reached the current world of great many mental breakthroughs. Modern man’s mind today is uncluttered and also cluttered in some areas.

Education today stands at the threshold of many new breakthroughs. It is quite a long time since the world faced two unmitigated world wars and destroyed many mental blocks. The Western countries, mainly the Western European societies have advanced much in many learning streams, mainly in humanities and sciences and also in shaping and governing societies. Thus politics as a humanities branch again emerges as a high priority field. India stands very much at a threshold.

In one respect, India is at a very high threshold, in the sense; we run the world’s largest democracy. This has become rather tried and tired old reiteration. What does it mean to be a great democracy with 1.3 billion people? It is a very complex and contradictory statement.
How sure are we, the common people, to live in a democracy? It is what makes our many current convictions and governance complicated. India after seventy years of independence seem to have not realized, neither fully nor partially what freedom and independence means for the average citizen.

Has anyone pronounced the very meaning of the concept of freedom and liberty? I need not presume I can do adequate justice here. Sir Isaiah Berlin, my professor of political and social science, taught at Oxford in the 1960s had expounded it at some length as positive and negative liberties. In the Indian context it should mean absence of fear and anxiety of the authority. In recent times, in many democratic countries, the democratic government also ensures some mental peace and happiness. This mental happiness can come only when a government acts with absolute neutrality and in short what is called in the BJP parlance, raj dharma!

The present day concern is that no articulation is available. No one is talking out! It is the task of educated and enlightened public opinion to enable a discourse on raj dharma. It is the critical task of education to enable education and culture and much of other learned men and women to ask for further enlightenment. So, education becomes rather very critical.
Education policy is making the most demanding task. This task is not for bureaucrats. It is for creative thinkers and public intellectuals. Unfortunately, Delhi is populated with full of bureaucrats, retired and serving, they won’t be forthcoming with new thinking and ideas! It is for the Prime Minister and his close associates to undertake this demanding task. The country can’t wait further to create a more liberal, secular and a more open society!

Commercialization and money-making?

It has been one full-term and the beginning of the second term! The education policy hasn’t been completed. We don’t want to sound shallow and by any means non-serious. Education is a tough field at any time. Education is as serious as you are and as comprehensive as your learning and perceptions. That is why education in the Encyclopedia Britannica (14th edition) covers nearly one hundred pages! Yes, education is as old as mankind. From Greek times to the present day. Anyway, right now, the BJP government has got a unique opportunity to refashion education policy as it thinks fit and start implementing at least some of its pet ideologies. As things stands, not much progress has been made in some of its critical segments – history, religion, politics, philosophy, sociology and related fields. It suits well to reshape Indian history in a new light.

We at the School Journal strongly believe that Indian history has to be revamped radically. Indian history has to be recast as to make Indians feels confident and not psychologically dependent as regards to how foreigners, invaders to others had come and inflicted some decisive battles, from the Mohammad Ghazni to Ahmad Shah Durrani and Babur to others. These series of big battles, in our view had created a national psychology of inferiority complex and the Indian mind even today is not fully a developed independent mind. We have to travel in Western Europe to see for ourselves how the average Western European citizen feels self-confident, self assured and he or she seem to us, Indians, so independent minded.

This naturally born independent mind is missing in India as I see it. I too learnt to cultivate myself, first at Santiniketan and later at Oxford, England. I can’t narrate my own evolution as a grown up as it is a long story. At Santiniketan, I learnt to appreciate Indian culture’s uniqueness, unique strengths, its old traditions, of course spiritualism which too is a great characteristic. From tradition come much of ancient Indian learning, its caste and religious traditions too. Buddha, in my understanding, is the first secular Indian thinker and sage and the early Hinduism too in its vast and comprehensive sense, with great deal of openness and tolerance has given sort of catholic broadness etc.

So at this age of globalization and much else in the secular world, I won’t go for an intolerant conception of a narrow and short-term based agenda-type Hindu creed. What such a narrow-focused Hindutva, propounded not even by scholars and thinkers but by a set of political persons, spokesmen and others who only help to stir up disharmony and discomfort.

We should not forget we live at a historic period of democracy and not look for divisive forces, be it religion or castes, but search for unity of mankind spread across the world, in almost all countries.

On my visits to European countries of past great many civilizations, Greece and Rome in particular, what impressed me were the solidity of the civilizations that are teaching us even today so many lessons. In Athens we saw of course, the Parthenon, the white marble structures where great thoughts sprouted. Down at the Acropolis grounds, at the Ancient Agora, the public ground which was a market place as well as a government secretariat, the earth on which Socrates walked, Plato and Aristotle, the many other spots where the extant structures even now stand, where they remind us how they conducted the democracy government.

You can’t but be exhilarated by the great foresight and a mentality to search for highest principles from which even now we struggle to find relevance for our own light. Athens is an education to the world! Athens is a school for the world. Liberty is a concept heard for the first time! The same voice we hear from the Roman Forum from Cicero. How to rule from Republican Senate?

Democracy is learnt through tough challenges. Oh, there is much to learn for modern man. Education is for man’s enlightenment. This should be the basic core of any education philosophy and policy. So, let us lay down the first principles of education and then proceed further. Indian education has been borrowing from outside all the time. The last were the British colonial masters! Now, at least after 70 odd years of freedom let us draw a system of education free from imitation. I am all for this mindset. Let we sit together and mull over what can really be done in education at all levels, also in such related fields like culture, sciences and other fields.

The eruption of large scale violence and aftermath of events!
Isn’t it time to call off the controversial legislations?

The violence in UP, the country’s largest State and the hub of the 200 million strong Muslim citizens must be sending all the signals for retreating on the path of the same policies?

By any reckoning democratic politics calls for consultations and building consensus and reconciliation. In the current situation it is the paramount duty of the incumbent government to reach out to the Opposition parties and get a dialogue going on to reach out an end to the arson and further confrontations. It is very unfortunate that no wise counsel is forthcoming from the larger public space still filled with many of the powerful sections .We expect men and leaders and wisemen like all the industry leader, like Rahul Bajaj, why even other, friends of the Prime Minister, like the ones, Mukesh Ambani, Adani, Mahindra Chairman, Anand Mahindra, even Ratan Tata, Kumaramangalam Birla must come out and appeal to the establishment for new initiatives as the great many lesser sections of entrepreneurs are suffering from the large scale shut down of Internet, now the critical instrument to help maintain the industry and enterprises.

What the people of Assam and North East have been experienced from the illegal or otherwise, the migrant populations have been moving out and thus getting the local populations suffer is known to all people in the rest of the country.

But what no one expected is the way the NRC and CAA have brought about, a shock and pain that these two major legislations implementations have caused. The widespread feeling that these two legislations have been aimed at discriminating the brother Muslim people is not yet disproved by the further action on the part of the government.

Let the government speak out, let the TV channels and other media outlets go out and education the public opinion. Instead the Prime Minister and the Home Minister are not forthcoming and explain before the public how they decide to bring the situation under control.

The deaths in UP and Mangaluru, the violence and the imposition of Sec.144, even in cities like Bangalore and also the disconnect caused by the Internet shut down further angered the people. This time in Jammu and Kashmir too the Internet block upset the people there. Jammu and Kashmir is now acknowledged globally as a dark spot on the Internet. Do we continue this tag on a state already on the boil?

Since August 4, after the protests against the CAA began, other States also experiencing shutdown, and the fate of connectivity is being decided by officers empowered by the Temporary suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and public Safety Rules, 2017 under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, or Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, surely a sign of our outdated laws and legal fictions. This is surely a disruption of an extreme measure.

A case in point is the spread of rumours. This is wrong and the information vacuum had had to be avoided. The social media is active at such situations and the officials must have avoided such things. The Prime Minister, writes an editorial in The Hindu who has fashioned himself as a digital first leader, issued a twitter appeal, issued a twitter appeal to people in Assam on the CAA, but they did not get it as they had no net. The NDA government should also be aware that the connectivity chokehold applied on J&K is proving lethal to entrepreneurship, crippling a new generation running startups and promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

A disrupted Internet is dealing a blow to digital financial transactions across several States, to e-governance initiatives, and economic productivity. It affects education and skill-building, as the Kerala High Court affirmed in an order holding access to the net a fundamental right that could not be denied arbitrarily. The court pointed out that the apprehension of a gadget being misused is not a legitimate ground for denial of
service.

The government should action specific complaints. Yet, since 2015 shut downs of Internet has been rising-134 in 2018 alone! The NDW seems unwilling to change course. In fact from statistics available so far, India has the dubious distinction of becoming the first country to shut down Internet connections!

These are some of the more disturbing trends in a country proclaiming to aim for a 5 trillion dollar economy. More than any other country, India is losing face, notes the editorial as a democracy abroad. The US Senate and other panel have wronged India on its human rights claims. That is wrong, reform and progress vitally need the net in this age of wide awakening all over the world.

Internet penetration is proving a new tool of progress even in the rural areas and the Internet use is spreading among the farmers and rural youth in a big way. Short term issues should not cloud our long-term goals and vision.

What are the short and medium-term implications?
A confrontationist polity? Agri economic slowdown?

Yes, the many critical sectors, agriculture, rural India and the generation of employment for the youth etc are all giving a sense of uncertainty. This is not good. We need to speedily cultivate a collective sense of solidarity, a sense of reconciliation and a new hope and optimism all around.

As we write the country is driven by widespread protests over two legislations passed by Parliament. One is the National Register of Citizens (NRC).The other is the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA). The story behind these two Acts needn’t detain us here.

As we write the TV screens are screaming with gory scenes of popular protests all over India, and mass violence in all the major cities. This sort of protests we have not seen for a very long time. May be this sort of popular unrest must have been there in the 1975 declaration of the Emergency by Indira Gandhi.

Any such widespread agitations often lead to fundamental changes in the polity as well. Even the Mandal Commission Report led to V.P.Singh’s short-lived regime. Many such agitations as the one in 1965 in TN over the Hindi imposition led to a complete change of political history with the advent of the Dravidian politics and an end to the progressive regime of the Kamaraj era.

As things stand these are only the beginning. What the future holds for India’s polity and economy? Both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have not yet come out with their reactions. The other functionaries of the government are not visible and not speaking out. As commentators have written there is fear and insecurity in the air. Except the top two leaders no other ministers seem to have any standing in the hierarchy of the power structure. Already, the last many years after the Modi government came into existence in 2014, there have been radical changes in the governance style. Many institutions like the police, judiciary and the media, why even in the working of the major institutions like the Cabinet and other ministries there have been changes, not all to the greater good of the public in the conduct of the persons and the power wielders.

Unfortunately, in all these years we were given lots of promises and hopes for so many changes. But at the end of these long years what we have been faced with is the unexpected economic slowdown, the worst in many years.

This economic slowdown, it seems, a very long one. Not many, the experts and bureaucrats, those in such organizations like the NITI AAYOG, are speaking out and shedding any light.
It is these key experts who must be forthcoming to give hope and light to the general public.

As a senior journalist has put it (The Hindu, 20.12.2019) the Prime Ministers stands tall over all his colleagues and no one in his Cabinet don’t seem dare to open his mouth!
Yes, it looks like that and is a sad state of affairs to see the country of such a large size is finding itself none other than the PM, has to take the initiative. How much destruction of public property we have to still endure before the explosive situation can be brought under control?

Apart from all other considerations it is a sad development that no one could foresee for what has happened so far and when will the situation can be brought to a positive solution.
Is this the right time to talk of specific problems of critical sectors like agriculture, rural India, youth and the corporate issues on which depend the growth of the economy?
No, it seems that the public are confused and wonder what will be the future shape of the polity.

In a recent book(The People Vs Democracy by Yascha mounk, a Harvard economist and political theorist has brought out some of the similar recent trends in some other countries, some democracies, some dictatorship of the new varieties like Turkey, Hungary and the reviewer names the Indian Prime Minister too, that these newly elected leaders and also
the newly found enthusiasm for ‘imposing’ popular polices in an undemocratic fashion, a sort of illiberal institutions and authoritarian style governance. Such of these countries and their leaders have also won some widespread praise from foreign government and leaders. As Mr.Modi has liberally earned all through his tireless travels and participation in international summits.

But suddenly hs is caught in unforeseen unfavorable reactions, as from the USA and neighbours like Bangladesh and may be very soon even from far-off countries too.
Already, countries from the European Union, the ones like Finland, Sweden and others who have spoken out on our stand on J&K, we might expect newer criticisms over what the Western nations see as Human Rights violations.

Given current subdued tone of domestic criticism, we shouldn’t be complacent to remain immune what possible fall-out our current predicament might take us to.The point here is that India is after all a mature democracy, for 73 years we have practiced democratic politics, our electoral practices have won universal praise. So too our international policies on many issues.

Our economic strength is fine. But the new challenges on trade issues, especially the agricultural trade policies we have to become more open-minded and we have to become a more dynamic agricultural economy and a participant in multi-lateral trade policies.
We have to co-operate and become worthy partner in more progressive agricultural trade participant.

For all these dreams and hopes fructify we need a more open debate on our basic issues. Religion and communalism, India has a vast territory to traverse and we need to collect more talents in the governing elite. A democracy calls for a new sense of shared values, even an ideological consensus. Consensus-building is the democratic ideal, at all times, let us know.