Indian democracy faces multiple challenges!
We can’t take for granted the current realities alone!
There can be unanticipated developments!

opposition-unity-2Politics is now all the passion and superficial concern of the dominant sections of society. Every one, I mean the citizen, who has made some progress in life, earned wealth and an ambition to further his or her prospects in life takes interest in politics. That seems to be the only way to gain further foothold in life, so to say.

So, we seem all sorts of people, Tom ,Dick and Harry, are eager to ‘enter’ politics. Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister, is a outspoken man  and he had called the Prime Minister as ‘a not educated person’. Of course, this is a rude and uncourteous remark for  whom we can call an educated person and others ‘uneducated’. The late Kamaraj was an ‘uneducated’ person or for that matter there are so many not so-well-educated but they had left great legacies. We can name many.

He had cited Dr.Manmohan Singh as a well-educated person. Yes, he is but that alone didn’t give him any glory. The series of scams in his tenure brought the Congress party to such a disgrace. Politics is not a simple subject. It is a serious subject. It had given the world much of its civilisation. The story is told many times. We ourselves had covered the topic many times in these columns. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are only few names. There are others from ancient Greece to Rome, to Italian Renaissance to the French and the European Enlightenment.

The point here is that in India we live at a time when there are very many issues that cry for debate and discussion and that is our concern here.
You see that Indian democracy is our prized legacy and that is facing challenges.

2019 Lok Sabha elections is becoming a priority with every other political party and the new-found unity of the Opposition parties in Bangalore the other day unlined the new temper of Indian politics.

What will be the debating point in 2019.Re-election of Mr.Narendra Modi for another term? Yes, it is! Displacing Mr.Modi by the Opposition parties? Yes, that is also the high priority for the Opposition parties?
The BJP has an ideology. But what about the Opposition parties?

There is no clear agenda that could bind the Opposition parties. The Congress has all the weaknesses of an exhausted party.
The old hands hang on in Delhi, most of them are high networth individuals, so to say, they are also professionls, lawyers and others, feudal and ne nouveau riche!

The party in many states is in shambles.
What is the vision or a core agenda?

For other parties, for Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandra Shekhar Rao, or even Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar or other regional parties? As far as we see we don’t hear then speaking out!

Here are some concerns and priorities.  Indian democracy is great with 1.25 billion people. It has worked unbroken since 1947, though in the Commonwealth countries it was not so.

Yet, today there is a sense of unease widely in the country. Why is this so, no one asks. It is because there are some tensions and pressures built in the system. Parliament is not functioning and we haven’t found out ways to deal with this situation.

Parties are becoming more casteists, communal, as even in Karnataka we have found lately. This process of castes and communalism consolidating is likely in the coming days.

Media is under stress, why even judiciary, why even the many other independent or autonomous bodies like the anti-corruption bodies, CBI, ED and even  the existing Lokayukthas are not functioning. Political opponents are targeted. Our leaders talk but not many or convinced. The many claims are not seem validated.
Now, it looks more sinister games, yes we can only call then games, not policies are on.

One such anxiety arises from the latest news item that the government is set to engage a private agency monitor online activities of individuals and social groups, why even organisations, newspapers, news channels, collect “digital media charter”. The aim is to give a ‘positive’ slant and “inculcate nationalistic feelings in the masses”. Brain washing?

This step seems to be very disturbing. What we like to highlight here is that we need a new charter of electoral reforms, reform of the Election Commission, punishing criminal elements in elections (this category of persons are growing faster!) funding of the political parties, undoing the electoral bonds schemes, why even the reforms and structure of the political parties is over-due, so that political corruption and the tendency for the parties to become more unaccountable to the public and thereby, the parties perpetuate themselves, as dynasties, why even as business empires(see the scale of corruption in TN, for instance, as  receivers of black money from the capitalists, from the capitalist class which is becoming more and more monopolistic and cause for exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable sections.

Today’s democracy is not transparent for various reasons but we have to restore and purify democracy in all its glories!

A robust social agenda that would take   the excesses of monopoly capitalism and at the same time combine the private capitalism as the engine of economic growth.

This seems to be the most critical agenda for the present generation.
It is a long story. From  the time of the previous generation of intellectuals, from Lord Keynes to Joseph Schumpeter to Fredrick von Hayek to other intellectuals like Karl Marx to Karl Popper to Isaiah Berlin.

You want do without capitalism but it has to be tamed to function under a robust democracy, that too a parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary and an independent media and other NGO watchdogs! Do any political party cares for such concerns?

There is no other alternative, please take note! This is our agenda for the 2019!

Farmers agitate and come out on the roads and show their anger and helplessness!
Of course, agriculture, as we say, is always a difficult sector.

droughtIt has become more and more so simply because we tend to take the disorganised, inequity-ridden sector for granted. The very many antiquated land laws, from agricultural landownership to tenancy legislation has g driven genuine farmers to courts and district collector weekly meetings and this had also led to accumulation of debts, genuine and otherwise.

Now, you can see how much we have all gone with the rising farmers’ suicides becoming no more news. TVs don’t show these uncomfortable scenes while we lap up the latest scandals and meaningless corporate shows, often each show is dependent upon the other, newspapers and TV companies have to survive and so they show their own other activities! Conclaves and what have you. The visual media is infected with other gamblings and games, cricket is what? Is it a sports or a medium for making money through advertisements.

The very society is becoming more and more selfish and self-cantered and so too politics! Democratic politics too seems to be deteriorating with one party taking revenge on the other! How much time is devoted to governance, the one word that hides so many other hidden meanings! So, we have here a situation that the much-advertise farmers’ crop insurance scheme seems to be declining in farmer’s enrolment.

Do readers need any statistics? We have but we don’t want to bore the readers who are already disinclined to read anything on agriculture, a very discoursing field.

Also, to see farmers from Haryana and Punjab coming to the highways to disgorge their unwanted vegetables and milk.  Of course, this sight is very disgusting and also very painful when we consider how much more nutrition the country’s children need when we pour the dear milk on the road this way.
But alas! No central minister or thinkers or other votaries of the Hindutva had spoken out on the farmers’ distress.

Why this state of mind?

The Union Agriculture Minister, of all the other ones, had come out with a shocker! He called the farmers protests a “Gimmick”! We don’t think there can’t be a more rude and uncharitable remark from the very minister who is supposed to be a guardian of this unfortunate lot of people.

You see agriculture is so basic to our life and it won’t go away. Agriculture would be there, tied to our very soul, our body and life id tied up with our life, economic and social, why with our very politics. And alas. It is sad to think that our Prime Minister has a style; he doesn’t utter a word on such occasions.

This mindset of our leaders, new and the not so new must change.  Please don’t show how much you’re an ignomorous, you who want political power but you don’t have the capacity to rise up to your chance!

Politics also won’t go away. Democracy is all about two and more parties. There can’t be any other way in politics.

Please nominate to the heavy portfolios the right people. People in the rural areas are much more shrewder that their counterparts in the urban areas.
Public perception and public opinion are the two critical elements in any politics, more so in democratic politics.

Every five years the people have the choice; this no one can take away.  So, in the coming next elections, in 2019, there are enough indications that the Opposition parties might unite one way or other. The issues are also getting clearer. Farm distress is going to be one crucial issue. Many promises remain on paper only. This harsh reality must hit all those who have stakes.

So, please take immediate steps to ease the farm distress. We have highlighted issues many time. It is for the wise and the prudent to act in appropriate ways.

Education reforms not so easy and that calls for deep thought!

BhagwatPranabFormer President Pranab Mukherjee was in Nagpur the other day. That raised many eyebrows. For the right and wrong reasons! The guest speaker said that India’s identity is about tolerance. Fine, perhaps we would have said, Indian polity too should be known for its great tolerance. Diversity is another Indian character, said the former head of state. We would have said rather diversity of thought, speech and writing is our defining character. And so it can go on. On the whole, contrary to the much fear and apprehension expressed at many fora, Pranab da surprised everyone by winning hearts at the RSS camp as well as in the Congress fraternity.

That is wisdom and experience and a bit of a tolerant outlook on the part of the senior Congress leader. Now, we see the education sector in India and decry the steep fall in standards and shall we say in the way the education ministry is going about in its endeavour to search for an identity for its own programmes. Education is a serious field. We should know that in ancient Greece, education was a very serious affair. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974 edition has a 100 page write up under the head, education! We would recommend our hon’ble ministers of education in the states and the Centre must glance through these pages.

Now, in the four years that elapsed, the Central Government didn’t do a thing for which we may like to recall and remember after this government completes its term. For the simple reason, we imagine, the government didn’t think it right to call for the experts, great thinkers and intellectuals or see what is happening in other progressive countries and societies.

Now, we read a small news item, so small that we might have missed that this government wanted to replace the many education regulators, UGC, AICTE and others with a single body. Please don’t do that! It might lead to more confusion. Why do we say this? You first show us the experts who can demonstrate some credibility. Niti Aayog has advised so, says the news item. Niti Aayog is not the competent body. You have to have an Education Commission and the names must be publicly known and winning credibility. Anyway, the proposed reform is postponed. Better it be so. Wait and invite opinions and views. There are eminent educationists in the country.

Consult them and also consult even some foreign experts, invite scholars from Oxford and Harvard and beyond. Let one or two Nobel Prize winners join and give India the best expertise in the areas of specialisation, more so in higher education.

In many states, 100 and odd farmers groups, on the roads!
What prevents purposive actions and decisions?

ModiThe Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken well and in an eloquent manner at Khekhda in Meerat on the occasion of inauguration of the 135 km Easter Peripheral Express way in Bagpat on the role of farmers in development. Yes, when the farmers’ lives rise, the country’s development rises! Yes, very inspiring indeed.

But then why his colleague at Krishi Bhavan does has spoken this way? Is this the way for a heavy-weight portfolio holder, the Agriculture Minister of the country to call farmers protests as a gimmick? This is to rub salt in the wounds of a section of the most high priority area of the country’s development agenda, agriculture and rural prosperity that is visibly in deep crisis. This is the time for the government that has completed four years and one year is left for the likely fierce battle for a new government in 2019. Surely, the PM is also faced with what we see as a dilemma as to how to go about reforming the moribund economic sector.

Yes, as a responsible agri media we too are concerned with a critical agenda of agricultural reform.

As we see the NITI AAYOG’s new radical proposals as how to reform the much-maligned restrictive tenancy legislations that were conceived in a different era of newly abolished landlordism days. Today the very rural economic and social and cultural scenario has changed.

Almost unnoticed there is a whole new revolution of aspirations and dreams among the new generation. India is now a young nation.

There is expectation at all levels. So too at the farm families’ levels too.
This has not been openly spoken about, namely, to recast the very restrictive and a negative tenancy laws that don’t serve any purpose whatever.
No land holder ,even the very marginal ones whose full time jobs may be in non-farm areas, including the daily labour where there is high wages be it the construction sector or any other jobs. Comparatively, there is every risk if one resorts to traditional farming.

So, no one wants to remain on the farms. Everyone likes to quite or migrate to cities. And yet, the politicians in the thick of winning the next elections have no time to think of radical changes. Every political party wants to repeat the past practices and give as many false promises as possible and thus, the same rising debts and litigations and what have you, the farming sector is caught in a web of corruption and corrupt practices at the ground level.

That is why Indian agriculture at the grass roots remains the most risk profession. So, we ask the government, the PM and the agri minister and all others concerned, please understand the distress in which the farming is caught up with.

chandraThat is one reason we also look forward to see more and more state governments  follow the lead given by the hon’ble Telangana  state CM,K.Chandrashekhar Rao in devising many radical changes, from cleaning the old style, conditions-ridden land records and giving boldly a new system of investments for the farmers and many of his innovative farm assistance systems.

Only if you had lived in AP or Telangana know well how the states are still steeped in the old style feudal system and how it is a Herculean task for the governments there to revive rural lives without some big modernising industrial ventures. Tamil Nadu with all its political disabilities, large scale corruption etc, has managed to lift the people out of poverty thanks to the great days of the late Kamaraj who brought some of the biggest industrial  ventures and  thereby created a momentum for the later governments to improve the lives of the poor  and the weaker sections.

So, Indian agriculture needs some unusual approaches. One would be the current achievements like accelerating the National High ways so that as the PM rightly said that way we might be able to tackle a whole host of issues like pollution in bigger cities and also integrating the rural hinter land and thus accelerating the agricultural markets and ensuring the chances of farmers getting higher prices for their produce.

Now, to the nitty-gritty of things. The Central government must intervene immediately to address the agitating farmers. The PM’s silence is misplaced. The agri minister has to apologise for his remarks.

Some immediate responses are called for. There are states like MP that has introduced to stabilise agri prices whenever it falls. A price stabilisation fund is needed to arrest the price falls. Other measures can be thought of. The government must think of such steps.

Immediate measures. Short-term measures. Medium and long-term measures.
In our opinion, liberalisation of the many laws that govern our agri/revenue/legal/justice systems. Special and innovative schemes as adopted in Telangana state for farmers.

Empathy for farmers must from the government!

Education in an uncertain world
Education for Enlightenment! Please understand one and all!

Yes, Indian education today is being driven by the sheer mindless market forces! Everyday, we are flooded with full-page newspaper ads claiming this or that targets of first rankers or other exams. But do you know the world outside? There is resistance for migration and asylum seekers in the West. Why, even inside, we see there are vacancies in the much-rated IITs!

MaucaulayA total of 18,138 candidates out of 1, 55,158, who appeared qualified the JEE Advanced this year. So, there are vacancies here at the IITs too! Abroad, USA, UK, why even in Europe there is resistance to migrants into their countries. Italy refused to take in a migrant ship carrying 600 migrants. So, the long waiting list of Green Card seekers in the USA and the long list of illegal migrant in the UK must send some signal in the Indian academic world. But alas! Indian educators, the education entrepreneurs live in blissful ignorance or unconcern! So, where does our generation of youngster, the original Macaulay children, is left with? No one has an answer or a clue. So, what is education for?

We say it is not for education to get you into another country. May be you would be left with only to live in this country. So, you, all, please realize, sooner or later, that education is not for jobs or migration. It is for your own Enlightenment! We have had some education histories and these were long time ago. We are not sure of what is being taught in the large number of teacher’s education colleges or among the university departments of education. Macaulay had chosen the English medium in 1834 and since then English language had come to dominate and the consequences are so serious today to drive much of education activities towards a mind-killing memorization and  driving the students, bright Indian youngsters towards a soul-killing  competitive exams, a series of competitive exams that had replaced any learning as such.

Today, the newspapers, almost everyday, round the year, we see carrying so vulgar a scenario with the first two pages, why even four pages ads on full-page basis proclaiming all sorts of nonsense as education courses.

In the 18th century England, there arose an industrial and social and class differentiation that Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy) called the new classes emerging: Philistine, Barbarians and the Populace. A similar situation is now emerging in the Indian educated classes. We can call them here by the very same epithets. Are we not creating a new class of Indian barbarians among the so-called educated? The whole lot of people who benefit by the various dubious education courses from universities offering open-university degrees whose worth you have to check for yourself.

Everyone is cheating himself or herself with those degrees. And alas! The universities running such rackets whose actual activities have come out in the open and no one cares to correct the aberrations in the name of open-university degree courses. The most corrupt practices, the universities give affiliation and collects hefty fees and the colleges; most of them very third rate, in turn collect hefty fees and sign the degrees on paper.

This is called Open University degrees! Some universities in the South, we know for sure in Tamil Nadu which have open, or permitted to be opened in some 500 centres from all over India! A remote small town university had in fact indulged and what this seems to be the pattern elsewhere and this racket had now been stopped we learn, but we are not sure; till a new Governor, the Constitutional head of a university, has come and had stopped this racket by showing some active interest in the University administration. But the arrest of three Vice-Chancellors for corruption of this nature had been reported! The point here is that we in India had been witness to some blatant negligence of education as a serious and dedicated area of public service.

Unfortunately, we have perpetuated the old-style Macaulay, clerical education that is the worthlessness of education as a way to life, jobs and various skills, not learnt in the proper sense. Today, under the Narendra Modi regime, we haven’t improved in our opinion, even one percent in education reform. In a recent ‘substantial’ interview the current holder of the portfolio, the hon’ble Prakash Javadekar (The Hindu, June 13) the minister says about many things. But most of the questions and answers seem to us as not substantial but superficial, surface questions like the expansion of unregulated engineering colleges, deemed universities and autonomous colleges.

The only news is that this BJP government had allocated 4% of the budget for education. Hardly this is news. May be he must have done some calculations how much money is collected by the new money-making class or the new class of Philistines and Barbarians and the Populace class, the unsuspected new class of education seekers. The new class of education seekers is of course helpless, so we can’t blame them, they might take this is the only way to escape from poverty and backwardness.

It is the new middle class that has come to corner much of the government jobs under various quotas and their only hope is to migrate at the first opportunity to the US shores or other countries where they are given an asylum. In UK alone there are reportedly some 3 lakh and odd illegal refugee Indians! All highly qualified. Is this the education we Indians feel proud to promote here? Is this the goal of education providers, in all these full-page advertisers?

In the teaching and coaching, tuition industry we have some of the biggest corporate names too! To that extent those corporate entities have to hang their heads in shame. Of course, we can see some bright lights in the form of Private Universities. We don’t know yet their real genuineness. We are sure that given the poor foundations on which these Universities have come to be established there can’t be any deeper foundations. They are in the state’s Higher Education Councils. One such is there on the Marina Beach in Chennai. You have to go into the premises to find out how ‘bogus’ the functioning of such bodies.

In conclusion, we would only say that we have to go back in history that our whole ideas of higher education have to start with Greece and Rome and come down to the later ages. Perhaps the European Enlightenment, the French Revolution, later-day developments to the establishment and fulfillment of the British Empire and the whole history of British education based on the Greek and Roman classics, the study of Greek and Latin languages and the Greek and Roman institutions of Athens and Rome, democracy, freedom and ethics and truth, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, down the ages we come to what we have to really call the Westernization of knowledge. This is a tough territory to go into. But we have to go into this tough territory and recast our idea of education, pursuit of truth and ethics in our public life.

We have to teach history, politics and Parliamentary history to give a rounded liberal education. There is no other alternative way in education. Please learn to digest the genuineness of this history. Someone has to bell the ‘cat’! Who can do it is a question that can’t be answered here!