Yes, in a significant way!
Yet the state governments would keep the issue for electoral politics!

Mr.Parshottam Rupala

Mr.Parshottam Rupala

The  Union minister for Water Resources Mr.Parshottam Rupala, was in Coimbatore the other day and he took the opportunity to reassure the farmers of Tamil Nadu to say that the Central government was not taking any partial stand with any of the Southern states, either Karnataka or Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery river waters issue.

There was no politics, he said!”That is good. Mr.Rupala also took the opportunity to inform that  the Modi government was their first in history, he said, that took the steps to benefit farmers, to assure that farmers incomes would be doubled and the government had set aside Rs.50,000 crores for 99 irrigation scheme that were pending for the last 25 years.

That was good news, we have to acknowledge and thank the minister. These sorts of information must be propagated more widely. We request the hon’ble minister to reach out to specialised media like the Vadamalai publications!

In high priority sectors like river waters, rural drinking water and electricity supplies, the concerned ministers must be more talking and more visible!
Cauvery river water dispute settled for good?
Yes, we have to say and move on!

The long-pending Cauvery river water dispute has been settled in a final manner by the sagacious judgement of the Supreme Court. The contending  states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have to settle for an amicable settlement by the decision of the apex court which acknowledged  the priorities of drinking water for the fast expanding Bangalore city and also at the same time the court recognising the potential of ground water capacity in the Tamil Nadu  river basin.

Yes, it was bit of wrenching for the Tamil people who for long years, under the historic past of the Southern  states of the old Mysore and the then Madras Presidency rule. In that historic context Mysore didn’t comprise the northern Karnataka, the so-called Karnataka-Hyderabad geography which also fell into the old Maratha  regions too.

The newly constituted Karnataka state therefore went on to claim its share for the new state which also meant more  claims of the  share of the  new state and also the state went on a spree of dam building that claimed more share of the natural resources.
For the Tamil Nadu that came into being in 1956, the geographical  area lost some claims on the water resources that came and also some amount that went to its own neighbouring states like Kerala and Puducherry.

In the new evolving shape of the new areas under the Southern states, Tamil Nadu too gained we have to say from the dams came along, namely the Aliyar-Parambikulam dams and reservoirs.
Now, one more positive development from the recent Supreme Court judgement is the declaration by the apex court that from onwards the inter-state rivers that pass through more than one state, the river water would be recognised as a national asset, the rivers would be owned by the  entire state, owned by the entire population of the country and not ,as it was so far, some sections some  regions, as for instance that Tanjore Cauvery basin claimed a traditional; high proportion of the water share or Mandya region in Karnataka that claimed more water in its dams for the sugarcane farmers.

The water lobbies that so far operated raised ugly situations, why even ugly scenes, as we saw the Tamil Nadu farmer s camping in Delhi at the Jantar Mantar area a central place in Delhi and  these lobbies went on creating more and more ugly scenes by conducting some unseemly agitations. Unfortunately such lobbies also didn’t get proper recognition from the Prime Minister’s Office(MO).

It is really unfortunate for people at large, in different parts of India did get a negative picture of the Central government was not sensitive enough to show sympathy and an emotional response to people in distress, especially in a subject like river waters for agricultural irrigation purposes.

The conduct of the Central government, more so the agriculture ministry conducted themselves in a very unfortunate manner. This we have to condemn as an act of insensitivity.

This is not the way for a democratic government to conduct itself in relation to a highly sensitive water crisis.
So too the issue of Drinking Water Missions of many types.

Here too we take this opportunity to stressing that rural drinking water is a subject, again of higher priority.
The Panchayat Development Ministry must be seen as high profile ministry and we must be hearing more on the actions and achievements and the targets covered in this, again, a sensitive ministry.

There are even in such advanced states like Tamil Nadu there are w villages where even after 70 years of freedom  there are villages as close as 25 kilometres from advanced cities(like Coimbatore) there are villages where there no sanitation facilities.

So too the electricity supplies in the villages.
It is not the Prime Minister alone who should be doing the talking and exortation. Ministers in such high priority sectors must be more visible and more audible!

How long we Indians would be under the British syndrome trap? Why don’t Indians learn to think independently?

Why do we always look for outside opinion? Are we not dependent upon outside opinion to even understand ourselves? Why still the surveillance, servility of mind? What do we mean by syndrome? We mean a combination of opinions or a collective mindset. When it comes to India and we Indians seem to be still under the British-dominated opinions that we hold as a nation and people.

Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury

Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury

We have to read our history; history in general in new light. Our education is highly imitative and superficial. Everything is commercialized and there is no sense of any originality. The 10th and the 12th school exams have become a big mental burden for the Indian youth.

In a recent autobiography, the recently-passed Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury, a long-time professor of history at Oxford for over twenty years has left behind his views of India and Indians and also the British-Indian mindset as he had observed for so long. For Indian readers of this generation, I like to add some more additional information that might give more relevance to what I come to say.

Prof. Chowdhury is also a contemporary of Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate who had written an introduction to the autobiography. Prof. Chowdhury was also very close to the famous author, Nirad Chaudhuri, the author of the famous autobiography, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian which came out in 1951 and instantly established itself as a classic. He was an unabashed admirer of the British and the British rule in India.

He wrote the English language, said some British critics when the book appeared, “better than Jawaharlal Nehru”!  That was enough to make the book more famous! The point here is that most Indians who went to Oxford, there are several, from the old to the new generation, we learn from Tapan’s book; he devotes one full chapter on how the British academics tried to teach, I would say “brain-wash” the Indian students (this includes Manmohan Singh too!) that the British rule, the British empire was on the whole was good for Indians!

When Manmohan Singh was given an honorary doctorate, the former Prime Minister said famously at the convocation that “all the best that is with Indians in governance etc. was owing to the British rule in India”! When he said this, many took offence! In fact, I too wrote an editorial condemning Dr.Singh.

Soon after, Prof. Irfan Habib, the eminent Indian historian too wrote a stringent criticism for Dr.Singh’s rather pathetic words! Now too, there is still the same sort of serveillance, servitude and inferiority complex in the Indian minds when it comes to paying homage to the former rulers! I am sorry to say here some unpleasant historic truths. Even Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were old-fashioned when they fought the British. In the end they capitulated to the British tricks and in the end we got freedom only after partitioning the country! It is a bitter truth we have to digest even now!

Even otherwise, we have remained an unthinking people ever since, right? Take our education, much of our interpretation of our own past, our culture and art and much else even in our capacity to think independent in matters like taking an independent stand on some leading intellectuals and intellectual opinions. James Mill, the father of the famed John Stuart Mill, wrote a multi volume history of India and this was prescribed for the British students who went to the Haileybury School which trained the British civilians who came to India as civil servants, the ICS!

Mill wrote it without visiting India and he wrote by reading and hearing about what he learnt from others. All the prejudices and ignorance is there in the book. No single Indian student, academics and others who later became famous for one reason or the other, mostly for serving the British, of course, ever mentioned Mill or others like Macaulay and many others. As a result, even till this day, we Indians never dared to challenge the British prejudices be it culture, art or learning. Do the British have anything like the Indian sculptures, the South Indian bronzes or temples or books like Bhagwad Gita or Upanishads? Did we dare to raise such topics in our discourse with the British, academics or administrators?

Coming to more serious issues, do we ever raise such issue like the long famines, disease, the hunger that caused millions of deaths and many agonies? So, in my humble opinion, this is my current view of the Indo-British encounter!

Our education, I mean our education vision and policy measures are patchy, to say the least. It is unfortunate that our current education ministers are still more pathetic. They have taken up funny subjects like Charles Darwin’s theory and also the physics of Isaac Newton! What a pity! What we Indians need is a new awakening. We have to learn to embrace the world currents in knowledge seeking; much sciences and social sciences and humanities so that the modern generation in India must be able to use and speak the modern jargon of sciences and technology.

Luckily, India has changed and is changing fast and so we should let the Indian people to derive all the benefits of modern day sciences, including the medical sciences. We have to combat the diseases that are still persisting among the people, more so among the poor and the vulnerable.

Let India become a modern nation. Let our educational thoughts too become current and let us become on par with other big nations. India can contribute to intellectual debates and we must be partners in these adventurous times.

It is time we take serious steps to revamp the government publicity and also try hard to evolv e a credible independent media, both in the public and the private sector. It is not an easy job that can be done by any minister or a bureaucrat. Please consult the experts and known professionals with high standing.This month, the Central government seems to be caught in multiple conflict of interest issues.

Nirav Modi

Nirav Modi

On the other hand the government’s move to transfer a large number of staff from the DD and AIR  to serve as publicity managers to various ministries.

Who is the minister in charge of the Information and Broadcasting ministry? None other than the already high visible Smriti Irani who was entrusted with this sensitive ministry last July.
We should all know how a government propaganda wing can do things wrong? Last October the DD missed reporting the upgrade of India in the ease of doing business, a highly top priority news item on the World Bank ranking of India.

Yes, it was  a serious lapse.   We have to cultivate a more committed public opinion!
The credibility of government publicity and propaganda apart!
There  are the  public perceptions and public opinion issues!

We seem to be living through an unusual phase in India’s  public life. There are more scams and  scandals  everyday these days. The people are not able to access more information and  reliable news.

Our media is not forthcoming to investigate and report news in an objective and bold manner. Fear of authority is restricting media freedoms. There must be more  institutional reforms, Prasar Bharati and  the other government agencies must be easily accessible to the public.

With the coming of the BJP government and the  entry of Prime Minister Nr.Narendra Modi in 2014,even those of us who belonged to the Indian National Congress and yet disenchanted with the way the Congress party under Sonia Gandhi deteriorated in some of the traditional  roles as a democratic party, a secular party and also as a traditionally equal and anti-exploitative economy, be it old style landlordism or even as a feudalistic and capitalistic economy, we welcomed the coming of Mr.Modi for the basic reason there was after a long period of dynastic rule by one family and that too  thrust the leadership role on an outsider, a bureaucrat and not a politician of some credibility. So too many other features of a collective political leadership, the Congress party fell into a coterie rule.

So, the coming of Mr.Modi with an absolute majority in Parliament  was a refreshing change, we all felt.Apart from what the BJP promised, Mr.Modi seemed to have to have proved that in India a fairly open election and transparent election process can work.

So, there was a great sense of resurgence in the country and in the expectations of the people.Now, after nearly  the term of the BJP government is nearly becoming complete, what is the public perception? What is the public opinion?

At this critical juncture comes the many disturbing developments. The latest scam is the Nirav Modi’s diamond business and the astounding revelation of Rs.11,000 crore swindling of PSU bank funds, from the Punjab National Bank.

Of course, this was a great shock to many, we are sure, to the great many friends of the government, not just from the political spectrum but also from the business class, the very many new entrepreneurs   who are all keen to see India emerges as a  successful third largest economy and why, even, India as a super power! Why not?

Mr.Narendra Modi also emerged as a sort of world-known Indian Prime Minister after a long time. This is the first time we see a confident Indian Prime Minister striding along international capitals  with a sure touch of a nation in search of its legitimate place in the comity of nations. As one China expert states, India can  score over China not by its cash pile or economic or military muscle, but by its cherished values of a democracy, secularism and a sense of equality of opportunities for its citizens, that is by deploying private capitalism, yes, and yet with a wider sense of capitalism with a compassionate face, right?

Mr.Modi(from now onwards we have to keep a distinction between Modi, the PM and the other Modi, Nirav Modi)as the PM was all that was shine and from now onwards whatever we may think individually, collectively the public mind would always tag the other Modi.

The financial scandal is such a high scale that the confident PM must be seen acting expeditiously.

After so many days of the scandal news circling and recircling around so many guess-work and no authentic  responses from the government, the predominant impression in the in the public mind is utter confusion and dismay of unprecedented  magnitude.
Why the top guns of the party and the government so utterly speechless.

Why no swift action on the part of the government?
Why not dissolved the Board of Management of the PNB? Why not   sacking of the MD? Or the resignation of the  same person?
What are the Independent Directors still doing, without any action. No resignation in shame or  remorse   for allowing this scandal happening?

All that we had  was a very weak and insensible  response from the defence  minister?

There is no point in being  so polite to the conduct of the government  which once made so many claims of maximum governance and minimum government etc.

So, we are becoming  conditioned for a sort of governance in the country, very much similar to what we were already accustomed, namely, following the UPA’s scam style. Once a scam detected you rush to find alibis?

Modi’s glory days are over? Or, falling from its early shine?
This is where public perceptions  come in. By the way, what is perceptions?  You see as a government you can spend a fortune on publicity and events management and Mr.Modi  is lucky on these fronts. He had had a run almost, so to say, in reaching out to the moon. He travelled tirelessly, both inside and out the country.

He had a full share to  convince people that he is a real alternative to the Congress regime. Why, even, he proclaimed that he  is  almost the new avatar, may be except, Mahatma Gandhi, to save India. Fine, fine, People simply accepted and believed Modi. But now, after this  Nirav Modi acts, there is really genuine anxiety, even within the government, we detect. That is the  public perception. Public perception goes beyond reason and even genuine truth and true situations. You can say and explain anything by publicity and reasoning. But the public is a wild beast. It has its own ways.

It is what the ordinary man or woman or any group at any level of the social ladder believe and talk about.
Luckily, we are already in the era of Social Media. The Indian media scene is already changed. With all efforts to control and regulate the media, with the powers of the Prasad Bharati and the government’s many other powers of control and regulation, also in the context of the private capitalism taking over vast chunks of TV broadcast medium, there are still shrill voices of dissent and rebellion and freedom of expression and rights to agitate and protest and carry out procession in the Indian democratic space.

India’s rank in the  corruption index is 81st,very poor indication of what a great democracy should be achieving.
Of course, the BJP is still unmoved and the government is in a dilemma as we can there is silence on the part of senior ministers and the wise men at the RSS or the Magadarshis are also speechless for they all feared Modi so long for all his oratorical skills and his various claims to user in a new dawn.
Already, there is disillusionment across the swathe of the country. In the South already there is disappointment that Modi government promised a lot but the PM is not turning to do something very decisive, be it the farmers distress or the improvement in the governance system, the various institutions of governance, be it the fighting of corruption, the PM didn’t care a bit for establishing Lok Pal or Lokayukta. Or, even ensuring the independence of the CBI or other anti-corruption agencies or individuals. Now, is it a casual coincidence or an irony of sorts or the very spirit of the moment the Government had informed the apex court that it would convene the Lok Pal committee to nominate the highest anti-corruption body?

Anyway, it is good news and let us looks forward for some credible action.  The way the judicial system is being bound by unnecessary delays in approving the names of judges is also a sign that the government has an agenda that is not fully explained  and the public is educated and enlightened.
Can we muzzle public option?

The corruption perception index is damning for Indian’s many claims, the world’s largest democracy, largest economy etc but we are ranked with Maldives and Philippines  with not only corruption but, alas, in press freedoms!

Why? Why no one TV news channel or even the mighty print media houses conduct some  conclave or  huddle?

There is a widespread perception that Indian media industry is very restricted. No media house is confident enough to debate such issues like corruption, press freedom and even such international reports like the Oxfam report on the rising inequality in India   are not debated in the media.

How can we shape public opinion and engage  the public in creating a positive outlook on the major issues of the day?
The public policy making space is shrinking. This has to be reversed.

Otherwise, there is a danger of policy paralysis  as we were confronted with on the eve of the 2014 general elections.
History can repeat itself and it can do so in this instance very soon.

There is palpable fear and anxiety on the part of the Indian media houses among which are some monopolies! Big business tie-ups with the media channels are a danger to media independence. This is an area where much research and analysis is needed and public opinion needs to be cultivated on enlightened lines.
It is  at least small mercy that as it is the media houses like Indian Today and lately, the Chennai-based The Hindu Group are conducting more open-ended conclaves.

Also, we have to commend that in India media freedom, however weak, is better as there are not extremist acts and also the core constituency of the middle level professional classes, executives, academics and even small businessmen all come to constitute a more committed public opinion on the basic issues of the day. We have to get a more wider section of people, better educated and better placed in society that take an active interest in the future of our democratic system.

Public opinion is again a sensitive issue.
You can’t ignore public opinion, can you?
Public opinion is built over various layers of the society and the classes.

Why, even the upper classes, why even the most powerful billionaire classes, the very top few whom are all known faces and also wield so much arbitrary power and are  around the PM. This is a class in themselves! Read the latest Oxfam report on the Indian billionaire class  is wielding enormous power, arbitrary at that.

Of course this should worry only the more thinking sections to understand further on what constitutes the “lopsided polices”, as the Oxfam puts it, that has led to the crony capitalism’s many distortions. This  type of Capitalism needs more in-depth study and analysis. In fact, the role of the new type of arbitrary power wielding economist system that goes by many names in other countries, as oligarchies or authoritarianism etc need more critical study by more competent thinkers.

This government can’t claim to be a friend of the poor and the vulnerable, the vulnerable castes and communities. Their combinations have their own perceptions and judgements.
The public opinion of the vulnerable weaker sections is surely might work against this government. Only a  serious analysis of the castes and their various combinations, the vote-banks of  other social groups, in some of the larger states like UP, Bihar and Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are going to be an untamed beast as we see it now.

So, there can be many surprises in the 2019 general elections with more youth voters lend to new dynamics as we had already seen in Gujarat and very likely in the other states.
So, in one word, Indian democracy is becoming more open and more  transparent to give any repetition we have been seeking for.

As a journal of education and by extension we include culture and the arts. This also extends our responsibility of the very spectrum of the India’s many languages that are now reportedly facing extinction. The recent reports from expert bodies also names some of the reportedly 40 odd tribal languages, from the Nilgiris hills; we have duty cast upon us to touch some of the government polices in the promotion of India’s classical languages.

The coming to power at the Centre of the BJP party and the hindutva government, the issues of promoting Hindi language too has heated up the debate over the use of Hindi in government administration and education medium in such areas like writing competitive exams. Mr. Prakash Javadekar, the Union HRD minister has observed on his recent visit to Mysore that the Central Institute of Indian Languages for 22 Indian languages would release a Bala Ramayana. May be the purpose is to promote national unity. It is welcome to do so.

balaramaOne more important goal, as we see, was to provide data of the words of Indian languages to major private companies like the Google and IBM for machine translation. This also the minister did. The CIIL would collaborate in providing the words. Over the last eight years the CIIL has collected 10 to 20 million Indian language words and these words are the new data for the machine translation.

Learning multiple languages
The latest developments show that people are learning multiple languages. The Tamil Nadu government pioneered in getting classical language status of Tamil and following which Kannada and also Malayalam and Telugu too got the status. The Kannada Studies Chair at the JNU is now trying to get students to learn Kannada free for want of students! May be in time there would be students, may be from foreign countries too, to learn Indian languages.

The Union minister said in Mysore that Israel, a country with only eight million people, teaches course in its national language. But what the minister failed to enlighten the audience is that in India there is the domination of English language. As the minister said that in India 9.5 lakh students wrote the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in English, while only 1.5 lakhs students wrote it in Hindi. Only a few students wrote in vernacular languages like Kannada and Marathi.

Mother Language Day
One more development of recent importance is the latest observation of the International Mother
Language Day celebrated in Bangalore by declaring the Bangalore Declaration of the Linguistic Rights.
This was on February 21; this is the day of Mother Language’s day.
The International Mother Language Day on February 21 this year will see release of Bengaluru Declaration of Linguistic Rights seeking to protect the rights of regional languages in India, which has lost 220 languages in the last 50 years.
For linguistic rights activists, Bengaluru came to the limelight when it asserted the Kannada identity during the protest against Hindi imposition. The city will now play host to a national conference on February 19 and 20, where representatives of 30 regional languages from different corners of the country will thrash out issues to prepare the declaration.
In 2010, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) increased the number of endangered regional languages in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 17 to 300. Activists say the numbers will only rise further if the language policy continues to marginalise regional languages.
There are 1,652 languages in the country but only 22 get official status. The Sitakant Mahapatra Commission recommended inclusion of 38 other languages in the Eighth Schedule in 2004 but till today no government has done anything to implement it,” he said. Priyank K S from Banavasi Balaga said the goal is to give people the right to decide which language they want. “If Metro comes up in Mangaluru, then people there should have the right to choose whether they want Tulu over Kannada,” he said.

Future of Indian Languages
The Indian languages and literature face a bleak future for the many initiatives taken in earlier years like the Sahitya Akademi Awards, Gnanpith Award and other awards for recognising outstanding creative writers in the Indian languages  who are now caught in regional politics like  the Dravidian and Hindi chauvinists’ – very narrow and very divisive politics. Thus, increasingly we see that after thirty years of the functioning of the Gnanpith Award, the really most classical language or languages like Tamil got only two awards! While some others like the Kannada had won more than seven or so times. Of course, you have to see genuine literary creative outputs purely on merit. But what is not exposed is also the fact that some states like Tamil Nadu had introduced more harmful practices like the gross interference of particular politicians who, in one instance, has repeatedly got himself repeated for many years! Sri Sitakant Mahapatra, himself a Gnanpith Award winner had confirmed this fact in a letter to the editor of this Journal.

Prakash Javadekar’s invitation!

prakash-javadekar_650x400_51449437224The hon’ble HRD minister Mr.Prakash Javadekar has asked people and experts and parents for suggestions as to how to reduce the burden on the 10th and the 12th standard exams which have become a scandal in India. In no other country the bureaucratic hold on the administration of education had reached such ridiculous proportions. Even the Prime Minister takes time off to exhort the students to take the exams in a right spirit.

It is a great pity that in India where the education sector has become one of the fastest growing commercial education sector where money plays such a debilitating role and where the poor suffer a lot and we see the RTE act is drawing a good deal of the poor and the deprived to seek entry into the well-run private schools. More so in urban centers the schools are mushrooming everyday, at every nook and corner with all sorts of fancy or bogus names, the government as the largest education provider is simply letting off things out of its purview.

Also as a comical side we see the ministers talking off hand every time, asking the CBSE to cut by half the syllabus or reduce the burden as if it is a simple task. Education malpractices have become another scam. In UP we saw large scale desertion of exams by the school students.

In some other states the question paper leaks is another of the headache. In the meantime, the deputy education minister has also entered into big time controversies.

We don’t know the qualifications of the hon’ble minister Mr.Satyapal Singh. He takes on Charles Darwin and even Issac Newton! And where are the yesteryear scientists who are all still with us?

They have to fall silent given their own self-respect and self-effacement in the context of these new comedies we are all enacting, be it science or history rewriting and what have you. May be the time and tide will change and a new sense of realism would come to Indian affairs and Indian search for some objectivity and balance in what we want to do with the power we have acquired  for the  first time.

We request the educators and others engaged in education reforms that we have to do something to reduce the education and exam burden on the youngsters. We need experts to come out with their own suggestions. As far as this Journal is concerned the founders of this Journal and a rural high school in a remote village and the founders had education at Santiniketan and Oxford and also after founding the rural school, we found the rural children found the formal exam at the end of the academic year hard and so we introduced what we call an “open book exam”! The children can consult the text books and write their answers. The questions were set in such a way that students have to exercise their own skills in framing the answers! Of course, there was opposition from both the teachers and the students!

But such an education reform has been attempted by many progressive schools in Europe, particularly in Switzerland. We also visited many such schools in Switzerland and many years later in 1971 in some of the French Lycees! The point is that we have to experiment and reform and change. There is no fixed way in a field like education.

May be one new version could be to introduce a continuous assessment system so that the boy or the girl’s whole year’s performance can be taken for final year pass! So that the children don’t feel obsessed with final exam preparations that have now become a scandal of unprecedented nature and scale!