Introduce reforms with well-qualified to do it
Education’s many new challenges!  Education is a public cause!
Not a private profit!   This is the School Journal’s motto!

chairmanBut then there are many new challenges to education as a current ideal. There are practical issues and also theoretical and even philosophical issues. First the current issues. There are great many shortages in the education sector. There are no qualified teachers, you know in many areas like Maths and Science. In the UK they are looking for maths and science teachers. If you have the skills, you get the visas which are sought by Indians for all other jobs. So, there are education skills shortages you must know. Then there are shortages within India itself.

One top public school in India recently advertised for the headmaster’s job. The School advertised at huge costs in all Indian newspapers. Almost a whole year was wasted in the search for a qualified HM. But alas! Only two or three finally turned up! So, the Selection Board, very decoratively titled; panicked and then they wanted another search, after spending huge money on foreign recruiters!

Alas, there are not good graduates from any of the reputed colleges or elsewhere. One from such unheard places like Rohtak and some remote institutions are the ones that helped to send candidates. What is the message here? The message must be loud and clear!

India is not producing the required quantity of talents in a wide variety of fields! How can you become a first class nation with first class citizens. The corporate leaders gathered in Delhi and feted each other on the great strides they have made in economic growth. But do they think of the sectors outside their sphere of activity? We fear they don’t. So too others like politicians, social leaders or the cultural, religious and intellectual thinkers. There is a scarcity of talents in many critical areas, not to speak of education in particular.

Recently, there was this Kerala senior writer and intellectual in his own right, Paul Zacharia, the Malayalam writer and he spoke how the Indian media had destroyed the renaissance spirit in India.

May be this is an extreme view and in our view it is the moneyed class, it is the fund givers to the political parties and the new generation of politicians, selfish and unconcerned for the wider issues, it is this political and, if we can use such an expression, the capitalist class that are contributing to the rise of an authoritarian regime, authoritarian political culture, where the uneducated low caliber political worker calls the shots, the state machinery, the bureaucracy responds to the local police and  the local goondas that runs the state.

Corruption is an area we avoid. Why, now, education itself has become the very corruption breeding sector, where you needn’t study, learn and work at all. You have the money, you get the degree you want! From an LKG admission to a medical degree!

Unless we, the thinking sections wake up, there is every likelihood of Indian society turning to submit itself to an authoritarian regime. No democracy. Not even the semblance of anti-corruption measures taken by the Communist leader XI. Yes, education may be a public cause. But it is has become a business and an exploitation of the helpless society! So, please take education seriously!

How the Indian polity is evolving?
How the ground-realities are evaded?

cm-sir-greek4Yes, there is also a historical cycle to this phenomenon of holding on to power, from ancient Greece to modern day Indian democratic realities!

The Greece we visited recently as a family tour, we mean the journey to the ancient classical Greece of the 5th century BC when the Greek democratic ideal reached its peak under the ancient general and statesman Pericles had its ups and downs.

Of course we all admire the ancient Greek ideal of democracy but then it had its other side, rule by tyrants, rule by the oligarchs and also the rule by the 500, the rule by the 30, all the demos and also when the Greece country had its unparallel thinkers, artists, sportsmen and orators and educators called the sophists and many other brilliant citizens. How can we come out of Greece without recalling the mind soaring Parthenon acropolis temple, built in all white special marble and the names who created such a world wonder and also the sculptors, sportsmen who gave the world the Olympic Games etc.

It is altogether a very inspiring story when we walked on the very spoiled, the very path traversed by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
It is a different story right now, today when we see the decline of modern Greece and the one right now saved by three successive bailouts by the European Union!

Now, why this preliminary?

Simply because in India, we all seem to acknowledge and also feel certain pride in saying that India, after centuries of slavery under successive foreign occupiers, have become the world’s greatest democracy with 1.3 billion demos!

Yes, that is something about which every Indian must feel proud.
So, our emphasis on certain basic features and certain values of democracy. How fair, how reasonable and how ethical are our political institutions that make up our democracy?

Here, we like to share with our countrymen some serious reservations.
Yes, the fundamentals, like the Constitution, are strong and almost well-founded. But there are certain grave issues too.

There is an unsaid conspiracy of sorts among the elite in the country.
We seem to have a very poor opinion of ourselves when it comes to practise what we preach. There is a ruling party with certain ideologies, however imperefct. But we don’t seem to believe in a robust Opposition Party or parties.

See the plight of the Congress. It is now almost limping, so to say.
It is bogged down in dynasty. Rahul Gandhi is simply unfit, many say, why even the Congress insiders, the seniors say for themselves! We have interacted with some of the seniors. We can even name them or quote them. Yet, they seem to secretly entertain the fear they might lose their privileges like living in Delhi and getting the small crumbs of like other perks, both monetary and also some network connections.
Why the seniors must hang on with jobs in the party, very minor assignments like leading some delegations etc.

They occupy prime real estate in Delhi and they enjoy vulgar satisfaction of leading a political life!

And Rahul enters this murky world and also proves himself in the public eye what he is capable of. Young men and women must enter politics, fine. But there is some criticism that you must prove your talents for leading a large party like the Congress.

So, to stick to a dynasty and claim to nurture democracy seems gross error. As for other Opposition parties, here too there is some confusion. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM, is another contradiction.
What is his articulation of any alternative political path? How can you destroy Opposition unity and in Bihar you still cling on to the mandate that was given for a different combination. Corruption? OH, a very boring and dull topic.

The only contribution of Modi regime so far is to keep a studied silence on corruption. May be, the PM has his own sound reasons not to mention corruption as a high priority. The real losers are the poor!
So, the Indian democracy is seriously flawed and the times we live through are also very unpalatable.

The Election Commission, the Supreme Court wants to pursue the politicians who have accumulated assets in dubious manner to be investigated. Who doesn’t know that the EC is toothless and the political class doesn’t want to give powers to the EC, reform the EC to make it truly a watchdog of the clean political space.

Also, there is a great deal of arbitrariness in governance. Many of the sensitive institutions, from human rights to anti-corruption bodies that are not functional. Corporate power is another issue. If you are a Socialist in the old fashioned way, believe in controlling economic inequality in the economy and society, you would really be a critic of Capitalism. The BJP heavyweights don’t open their mouths in this area. Neither they seem be worried about ethics in governance, so corruption is spreading like wild fire!

So, democracy in India while taking roots there are also certain dangers. History has many facets. We don’t know how much history agitates the BJP think-tanks.

You can’t just live for a five year term politics only, right? You have to have a vision, to use a very tired phrase!

A nation, a people, an ideology must have a historic context. Let thinking sections, the elite, not the Delhi-based cynical retoured bureaucracy, the ones who don’t have any stake other than living there till the end can take such a view. Not the ones who have some serious idealism and commitment to great ideas!

Let Indians of the younger generation dream at least!

The life and death of Socrates!

The one voice that stood out all through the centuries! What makes Socrates’ life and death?
Some reflections on a recent trip to Greece and the historic sites!

cm sir greek3You see, that since my travels in Greece recently, I have come back and not yet recovered! I am dumbstruck!
Not recovered from my many questions about what I saw and what I comprehended from what I saw and to what I have read before. When I visited the most ancient site, namely, the Mycenae site, the 2,000-1,500 BC stone fort, the home of the legendary king, Agamemnon, where I saw the nearby new archeological museum where the original mud signs, the ancient scripts are displayed, I thought I need to study more about the ancient Greek history. As soon as this thought crossed my mind, we ordered some more books on the Amazon in our kindle.

That is one of such books, now I find they are all authoritative, one book, “The coming of the Greeks, Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean and the Near East by Robert Drews came into my hands. Now, I find that the Indo-European languages family claims the Greek language too. Also, I was surprised that the book quotes from the 1786 Sir William Jones’s claim that among the Indo-European languages come not just Greek but also Sanskrit and other Celtic and Germanic languages; they had so many similarities and that “they must have had a common linguistic ancestor (page 4).

So, one thought led to others and thus I am stuck still in my own rudimentary knowledge of things! We in India are very much conditioned by what the British gave us by way of the outside world colonialism. More so when we realised that, thanks to the Macaulay education too; we are conditioned by the narrow view of the world outside. In the Indian scheme of the world, never once we thought of the impact of the Greek and Roman civilizations on the rise of modern awakening. Not even the so-called Bengal Renaissance went beyond the British conception for Indian education. It was very narrow conception, isn’t it so?

So, our old, the first, educated classes, we can trace them from Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s time, anything beyond this Macaulay prescription. Before that time all we had had is what the Mughal rule gave us. When we come near our own times, even Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru didn’t go beyond the Hind Swaraj and the Discovery of India! Never once in the Indian education history and  tradition, the rise and coming of the Indo-European languages spread and then the rise of the classical Greek, later, the Roman contribution, the Latin language and cultures penetrated the Indian soil. So, my mind is still digesting what I saw in Greece today and what I read about the classical past there.

I had almost fallen silent. I am not able to find the energy to talk to people, friends and acquaintances, why even to people whom I consider to be serious and scholarly. Why this mental block, if we call so? For the unexplained reasons like the total uninterest, unconcerns for subjects like distant lands and distant histories. We have historians, some I know and some I respect for what they have done by way of their historical studies. But after such a visit like the one I had to Greece, even before some years to Rome, I don’t find many in India who are excited as I of course do, rather unjustifiably, I don’t know.

cm sir greek5Anyway, it looks I might take longer time than I envisaged before I can unravel my mind or the forces that work at cross purposes for coming out with a sense of coherence to my present state of mind. One thing that struck me as if it was lightening of sorts is the utter unbelievable sights and findings at the historic sites like the classical Greek’s 2,000 BC Mycenae in the Eastern Peloponnese territory of Greece.

First I must ask my readers to have looked at the atlas of the Greek island nation. It is very unusual. You hang your palm downwards to the earth and see how the fingers are spread out. Likewise, the Greek mainland from Balkan countries spreads out into the Mediterranean sea and there are some 2,000 islands that encircles the Greek mainland and the Asia Minor lies on the eastern side and the Egypt lies down below and Israel and Jerusalem starts and goes up as far as Italy in the West and in the east lies Rutkey who saw eastern parts were once part of the Greek colonies and it is long history we are talking about here!

From the legendary, why even mythological Trojan War and Troy city and the legends associated with Homer’s classics, the king Agamemnon to Helen and Pritam and other characters. This is a period from 2000 BC to 500 BC when the classical Greece emerges, when Socrates, Plato and Aristotle come to life.

Greek history is long and very complex and the characters we are interested and the world is fascinated by a multiple of great minds and achievements. Poets, philosophers, artists, great builders and great sculptors and a variety of others like the four great classical great dramatists and scientists and philosophers, so many philosophical schools that flourished and once Athens was the world’s great cultural center where the ancient world, the Romans to later generations flocked to know and learn from these philosophical schools.

And the greatest attraction of the modern day tourists is the incomparable historic buildings, the world’s many wonders like the Athens’s Acropolis that stands out in the midst of the modern Athens city. The series of other wonders, from the Delhi Oracle site and the Epidaurus Theater and the many other structure, each one unbeatable in their majesty and awestruck construction! Many are of course in ruins today and yet the remaining ones in themselves would shake us from our any preconceptions. The Greek man and woman, seen in their sculptures, in the refined dress and gestures give us a new conception of man and his character.

The new fields in which they contributed to man’s history needs over one’s entire life time to be told. I had been reading about Greece since my Oxford days. All these years what I read in printed books and pictures gave me of course great delight and fulfillment. Yet, after I actually went to Greece and spent time there and as I mixed with the people today and saw their past in the museums and galleries and travelled through the Greek countryside I was exhilarated by the actual personal interaction, talks and discussions and the total impact such human interaction that gave me.

But once I came back and took my collections of books back and when I scanned through the pages I get a very different sort of feeling. The once printed pages now came alive and awakened inside me a very different sort of feeling and my intellect was stirred. I ask, or, I feel like asking certain new questions. I don’t know whether I am qualified to ask such questions. But to whom else I can leave such questions. That was the dilemma. There are old books, Plato’s Republic and his other volumes from Symposium to other books that all deal with Socrates’s last days. When I now read them I feel like shedding tears. I walked on the very soil where the great soul, the very personality of Socrates walked and stood and questioned the youngsters he met there.

All these moments acted inside me and changed me to fall into a sort of delirium!

Why there was only one such person like Socrates in the world? Why we don’t see such men in later times? Why only one Plato? Not one more Aristotle? These were one line of thinking I had. Another line of my thought was: from where do the Greeks come here, to the Greek mainland? Also, when did the Greek language developed into such maturity, such classical purity?



Now, the rise of sciences and philosophies! Here too the Greeks inherited many ideas from the near East, namely, in what is called the Asia Minor. How Socrates lived and how he spent his days, how he served in the wars and also did his duty as a citizen etc. are all set out in the many dialogues written by Plato and to this days they have been studied and opinions crystalized and so too others of Socrates contemporaries whose ‘memories’ are all  with us.

In the course of life one reads Socrates and draws lessons for oneself. Socrates was the most famous man of his time in Athens, he didn’t want to assume any political leadership, and he only offered intellectual leadership. The Athens of his day was, like ours, a place with full of strife and controversies and so he was condemned to death for his “impiety”, he embraced death as inevitable outcome of principled political endeavor. Of course, we are ordinary souls, not what Socrates believed in the immortality of the soul. Even now, if we give a close reading of his last days, we feel like crying. So, moving and so sad his last moments.

For me at any rate, a pilgrimage to his beloved Athens and to the very spot in the ancient Agora where his steps are traced and preserved all through the last 2,500 years is a real pilgrimage and a salvation of sorts. We would cherish his earthly surroundings and Plato’s dialogues would continue to inspire future generations of mankind. (Based on somewhat hasty reading of “The Last Days of Socrates”(Penguin)).

No media support at the time of social media explosion!

climate-change-farmers_650x400_41449837838A recent Assochem report says a decline in print media reading and also a rise in the time for social media among the media focused society. This is so for the rather older generation and more so for the younger new generation readers.

Print media in India is still strong but the future looks gloomy. Only in the USA we see a fight between the major news outlets, between the New York Times and Washington Post and the President of the United States. Mr.Donald Trump is an unusual President, given his background, he is in one significant sense, a very open-minded leader who cares a damn for niceties and  as a result the US democracy thrives with its own openness ,say, in sharp contrast to the atmosphere that prevails in India, let us not forget, we are the world’s largest democracy. So, we can’t compare the US with China, not a democracy and so the parameters might vary.

The point we want to highlight here is that for a country with such a large segment of agriculture as the largest employer still and also with a large segment of the poor, it is a bit disappointment that the agri sector lacks a very recognisable media coverage given the importance for the same in informing and agitating for the due share of resources and much else that the agri sector signifies.

So, we want to remind  the readers that given the thrust of our economic growth, the role of the private sector and also the big corporate sector with its intimate linkages with the ruling establioshment,there is very little chance, we assume for any significant role to play for the media in the agri sector.

So, we realise the limitations of the readership attention to the happenings in the agri sector.

Just now, we have come back from a European tour, mostly spent in Greece, now the sickman of Europe, given the fact that three bailout plans by the European Community (EU) had given to Greece, otherwise, a development country, of course in the 27 nation bloc. We drove through miles and miles of the Greek countryside, we saw the vast countryside in rural Greece were covered by much developed agriculture ,many cash crops like wheat, barley, cotton, maize, grapes, orange and of course the mainland crop of olive groves and thus what we saw was a very developed agriculture Greek rural hinterland. So too the villages, all tiled highly modern country homes, most of them lying near any major monuments and of course Greece is known for its historic monuments, Delhi to Myceany, Corinth, Epidauraus and many other remote areas are dotted with modern type hotels and tourism, as we know is one of their major industries next to shipping and cruise industries. Greece has some 2,000 odd islands all tourist havens.

So, what impressions we gained by roaring the Greek countryside?
EU is very much a foreign exchange earner, next only to the USA as a trade partner to any outside country.

There is a Common Agriculture Policy for the EU and a heavy farm subsidy is in place there.

As I was also passing through Qatar, some time spent in Doha, the capital, where there is right now a sanction from fellow four nation Gulf states including Egypt and Qatar is importing food and other essential supplies.
So, watching these two countries and asking questions, my mind wandered in an open-ended manner.

Why not we draw up a new agriculture policy, innovative and creative, so that we can explore new routes to export Indian agri products and services.
Once we sit together and think through, I feel confident that we can explore new countries and new opportunities to export some of our persistently low-priced vegetables, tomatoes and onions, come to mind immediately, why not even grains, says wheat and rice and even pulses.

Once we start succeeding I don’t see, in principle, why we can’t raise our MSPs several times, outside our own domestic trader network and also outside our own bureaucracy-driven machinery.

I have the feeling and the confidence we, all the stakeholders, critically the farmers and farmers organisations, to come out with building new farm lobbies for several crops, lobbies as we see in the developed markets and they, the lobbies must do the rest of the job like effecting  the desired change and end results.

Farmers organisations are agitating for better support prices and even farmers’ reliefs.

But somehow I have the feeling that the government as it is constituted today, by the highly corrupt bureaucratic system and the political leadership establishment, with the corrupt dynastic political culture, there is no hope the Congress establishment would change. The Congress might even prolong with the family run party machine for the foreseeable future without even coming to power at all. See the Communist parties, they are there forever a century without ever hoping to capture to power. May be likewise, the Congress too might survive and not bother to come to power. There is so much funds and unaccounted money with the parties. The BJP might evolve in some unpredictable ways, might even become a one leader and one ideology party and government. See what is happening in Russia.

So as for Indian agriculture’s future, we have to think radically and in many innovative manners. Agriculture exports might give us some hope, if we try hard enough anew liberation too.

Nothing in excess! Man is the measure of things!
Three Greek ideals!

SocratesThese are the lessons the momentous, historic visit once again brought home to us. A lesson I sought to learn more than half a century and yet only what I missed by chance so many years ago, in 1959-61 when I was at Oxford, I was able to fulfill only now!

Thanks to many favorable circumstances this visit, this July, was fulfilled only this time!

What once I thought, it was possible for some few pounds; say ten or fifteen bucks, as they say; now it cost a fortune! But what a historic perspective in which this opportunity came about!

So, the readers have to bear with some, preliminary reflections on what is raging inside my mind and intellect to get some momentum to come to the actual first-hand experience of our Greek encounter!

It is no exaggeration to say this. We, Indians are not known for our historic sense at all.
We have not had any such great history. All we have a certain type of Orientalist fantasies only. Even the British colonisation played role to dim our historic views. The learned classes in India believed the colonizers’ perspectives only. But the British ruling class, from the 17th century onwards, more so in the 18th and 19th centuries sought to appropriate the legacies of Greek and Roman civilizations and it is long history of learning and loot. The much sought after treasures, the incomparable sculptures, the priceless marbles, like the Elgin marbles and other such treasures had been stolen blatantly and the European museums and art galleries are full of the looted antiquities.

Along with the loot came the much sought after Grand Tours, the British ruling class appropriated for themselves in terms of education, culture and exposure to the world of high culture and the art of ruling. So, our visit from India, to classical Greece and Rome can be seen and I like to see as a historic turn to a hopefully new awakening of sorts. I invite readers to see our experience and arguments in this wider perspective.

Yes, it was a dream of more than a half century! The dream of visiting Greece and seeing the historic sites, the soil on which Socrates (469-399 BC), the first great thinker of the classical world walked! Yes, we did tread on his divine feet! The ancient Agora, the original 2,500 era market and public place where the ancient Athenians used to congragate, for both day-to-day affairs and also as a government to sit in this house. That structure had gone.”Where is the prison?”When I asked this question I noticed headquarters! The very soil is intact even now! Just the other side lies the Roman Agora, which the Romans occupied Greece and ruled as one of Roman provinces. The old Agora was the place where the first flowering of the idea of democracy originated. The very structure, a raised round platform still stands where the council of thirty, the cabinet met and deliberated. Many of the surviving structures are, we are told, functioned as governing offices, judiciary, treasure and even prison, also the portion where Socrates drank the poison and willingly died.

Why did he die? Where is the very spot? We asked the woman guide?”Yes, sir, it is here!”She replied matter of factly. She also showed a name board:”Simon’s House. Simon was Socrates’ close friend. Socrates used another person and young lady of course well-educated suiting not far from the place. I beckoned her. She came forward and told us that she is a staff of the American School of Classical Studies, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation that is carrying out the archeological investigations. There were the clay cups that were lying in the spot where other prisoners too might have been killed by serving poison in similar cups. So, the learned archeologist explained to us how the science of archeology reaches conclusions by such reasoning. Athens has had a very long history. It faced many invasions from the Persians. Modern Greece too faced many occupasions. The last was Ottoman occupation. Only in the 19th century Greece became independent. Modern Greece is a poor copy of the classical Greece, of course!

We visited Greece for a family holdiay, five members and for ten days! So we now know each nook and corner of the Athens city! I consider our visit historic! For some very historic reasons. I have to put the question in some broad and long historic context. Also when I look at the timing of the happening, from what I see from the future evolution of the India we are going to create as a great democracy and a great nation. Let us look back and also at the vision for India. By way of values of governance, institutions the values of a mass democracy, various freedoms of the citizens, the direct democracy practiced by the ancient Athenians!

The great general and statesman, Pericles (495-429 BC) said at the funeral speech at the end of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) education for the world. Our government is not of the few but of the many. That speech must be taught in all our schools. Let us connect with the march of civilization. My mind wandered, far and wide as I lost in my reflections. Why? Modern India, the first seventy years of India’s freedom, brought Indians many freedoms. But in my opinion the most cherishable freedom of awakening, an awakening of the civilization values, the modern ways of thinking, the many strands of new knowledge, philosophy, science and much of the other sources of knowledge, months, astronomy and medicine, to mention just a few sources, were all  the contributions of Greece, right?

But then this awakening couldn’t come to India owing to, again in my opinion, to the sort of education that came to India much later to the British education, the contribution of Macaulay who decreed that Indians are good only for a clerical education. So, the original contributions of Greece and Rome remained confined only to the British youngsters. The cream of the ICS fraternity remained only with the British cadre. The so-called Bengal Renaissance with all its brilliance also remained in my view only confined to the British contributions. What we lost I like to get connected with the great civilization links.

Our education must incorporate the best of the Greek and the Roman contributions to mankind. Teach courage, moral strength and politics that are truly democratic and teach citizens all the practicalities of the Greek citizenship ideals. How the Greeks had that strength to raise the Parthenon (447BC) the acropolis, the giant pure white marbles? It is so staggering and so majestic. It rises on the acropolis hill and shines in such lighting overlooking the city of Athens down below!

Words fail to recreate the emotional outburst first-timers have to climb and struggle to stand up and raise our eyes! To fully describe is impossible. On a vast hill space of two and half hectare spread three temples stand for the past 2,500 years.

So, we have to initiate a big vision for India, Indian thought processes. The many names that we would narrate later and they are too many in all branches of knowledge and practical affairs, in Greek ideal, you as an individual are both a thinker and a practical man; Socrates had participated in a war! Classical Greece in all its full bloom arises before us. That is a priceless gift to mankind!