RTIs net – Political Parties IN, Sports Bodies still OUT

When the entire country is struggling with corruptions, scams, bettings, and maoists, the Central Information Commission (CIC) passed a land-mark judgement today which brings all Political Parties under the ambit of Right To Information (RTI) Act.  Since this is a land mark judgement and has many implications in future, let us analyse the facts and figures of the entire episode.

Complainants:

The case was filed by  Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal (Shri S.C.Agrawal) and Shri Anil Bairwal separately a couple of years back. Since both the complaints are common with issues relating to the disclosure of the accounts and funding of Political Parties, CIC decided to  dispose both the complaints through a common order.

Respondents:

Six National political parties namely, Indian National Congress (INC)/ All India Congress Committee (AICC), Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), Communist Party of India(CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Major Arguments by Political Parties:

Most of  the Political Parties maintained the fact that they do not come under the purview of RTI Act. Further, they (AICC and BJP in particular) also maintained the fact they are not Public Authorities, and, therefore are not obliged to provide any information under RTI. NCP in particular argued that it is an NGO (Non-Govt. Organization) and does not have fund and staff to reveal the information under RTI Act. Contrary to the above, CPI provided certain information to RTI applications (agreed to the fact that CPI is a Public Authority under 2(h)(d)(ii) “non-government organizations”, whereas no other political parties chose to respond to the RTI applications /queries. However, during the course of the argument, BSP also maintained the fact that Political Parties are not Public Authorities.

Most of the Political Parties argued that, the limited finance in terms of free air-time in Radio and TV, lands/plots allocated either free-of-cost or on rent, free electoral rolls provided to political parties during election, tax-exemption under Section 13 of Income Tax Act, are usual democratic practices in many democracies and do not constitute them as Public Authorities.

Major Arguments by Complainants:

  1. The Political Parties have been given statutory status under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Under Section 29A (5) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the Political Parties are required to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established.

  2. The Political Parties are substantially financed by the ‘appropriate Government’ in multiple ways and are exempt from Income Tax.

  3. All the Political Parties have been claiming tax exemption under section 13A of the Income Tax Act, which amounts to indirect financing of the Political Parties in terms of Section 2(h)(d)(i) of the RTI Act. Further, since under section 80 GGB of the Income Tax Act, the contributions made by an individual or Company to a Political Party is deductible from the total income of the assesee. This provision is exclusively applicable to the Political Parties and is suggestive of indirect financing of the Political Parties by the State.

  4. State has been indirectly financing various Political Parties by way of free air  time on All India Radio. State is also spending huge amounts on the Political Parties in the matter of free air time on Doordarshan.

  5. Under Rules 11 and 12 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, two copies of the Electoral Rolls are supplied to the recognized Political Parties, free of cost. This is another instance of indirect financing of the Political Parties by the State.

  6. The Central Government and the State Governments have allotted huge plots of land/buildings/other accommodation in prime locations to all Political Parties all over the country either, free of cost, or on hugely concessional rates. This also amounts to indirect financing of the Political Parties.

  7. It was further argued that the Political Parties must be accountable in the light of Reforms of Electoral Laws (1999) – “[…] A political party which does not respect democratic principles in its internal working cannot be expected to respect those principles in the governance of the country. It cannot be dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside […]”. In addition “[…] Given that Political Parties influence the exercise of political power, transparency in their organization, functions and, more particularly, their means of funding is a democratic imperative, and, therefore, is in public interest […]”.

Bench:

Since the matter was complex a full bench comprising of Shri Satyananda Mishra, Chief Information Commissioner, Smt. Annapurna Dixit, Information Commissioner and Shri M.L. Sharma, Information Commissioner was constituted on 31st July, 2012.

Observations:

While pronouncing the judgement, the bench observed that-

  1. The Political Parties constitute one of the most important institutions in a constitutional democracy.

  2. The Political Parties have been given in our country such enormous powers and benefits, through both constitutional and statutory arrangements so that they can fulfill their just roles in representing their constituents.

  3. The Land & Development Office of the Ministry of Urban Development has allotted large tracts of land in Delhi to various Political Parties either free of cost or at concessional rates;  that the Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Urban Development, has allotted accommodation in Delhi to various Political Parties on rental basis at concessional rates; that Political Parties have been claiming and granted total tax exemption under section 13A of the Income Tax Act for all their income; that the State has been indirectly financing Political Parties by way of free air time on All India Radio and Doordarshan of India during the elections; that recognized Political Parties are issued copies of electoral rolls by the Election Commission, free of cost, at the time of elections.

  4. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines ‘public authority’ – “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-Government established or constituted, (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or made by the appropriate Government, and includes any – (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;”

  5. W.r.t. the above observations, it is to be noted that (a), (b), (c) and (d) are not directly applicable to Political Parties. […] However, it is pertinent to remember that the Political Parties have been brought into existence first as Political Parties and then as national level Political Parties by the Election Commission of India thereby entitling them to a host of benefits, the principal among them being the right to accept contribution from both individual citizens and private companies and also to get complete income tax exemption on all their incomes. The other important benefit that accrues to these Political Parties on account of their recognition by the Election Commission of India as national level Political Parties is the common symbol on which their candidates can contest elections. Thus, if not strictly within the letter of this particular provision (d), but at least, in spirit, these Political Parties can be said to have been constituted by their registration by the Election Commission of India, a fact akin to the establishment or constitution of a body or institution by an appropriate government.

  6. The bench further observed that the Political Parties are substantially financed by the Central Government and State Government in multiple ways; land is being provided at hugely concessional rates. The bench in its further considered opinion stated that, “amounts to indirect financing and when added to the income tax exemption enjoyed by these Political Parties, it would amount to substantial financing”.

  7. Since these Political Parties have not paid any income tax, the exact quantum of money that the Central Government has forgone in the process has not been worked out specifically. However, since the level of income of all these Political Parties would place them in the highest slab of income tax, at least 30% of their total income would have been collected as income tax but for the total exemption given to them by law. Thirty per cent of their income which these Political parties would have otherwise paid by way of income tax has been given up in their favour by the Central Government. No one can dispute that this is substantial financing, though indirectly.

  8. The bench has the opinion that “the Political Parties enjoy an almost unfettered exemption from payment of income tax, a benefit not enjoyed by any other charitable or non-profit non-governmental organisations”.

  9. The bench further noted that free air time given to Political Parties during election is actually money spent by the government for the political parties. Though the amounts may be small but they contribute to the kitty of Political Parties at the Government cost.

  10. Based on the above observations, the bench further emphasized that “[…] We have, therefore, no hesitation in concluding that INC/AICC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government and, therefore, they are held to be public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act […]”.

  11. The bench further maintained that “In view of the nature of public functions performed by Political Parties and the dicta of the High Court, we conclude that Political Parties in question are Public Authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act”.

Final Judgement:

After due deliberations and hearing to arguments and counter-arguments, the bench held that:

  1. “In view of the above discussion, we hold that INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPIO, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government under section 2(h)(ii) of the RTI Act. The criticality of the role being played by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in the ambit of section 2(h). The constitutional and legal provisions discussed herein above also point towards their character as public authorities […] and it is held that AICC/INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP are Public Authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act”.

  2. “The Presidents, General/Secretaries of these Political Parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in 06 weeks time. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in 04 weeks time. Besides, the Presidents/General Secretaries of the above mentioned Political Parties are also directed to comply with the provisions of section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act by way of making voluntary disclosures on the subjects mentioned in the said clause”.

After Effect

Now that the Political Parties are in, the question now arises whether or not the Sports Bodies such as Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI), Hockey Federation of India should also come under RTI. These bodies also enjoys benefit from the central and state governments directly and indirectly (income tax-exemption, free/lease (at a concessional rate) land, entertainment tax-exemption during major matches, use of stadiums at a nominal rate, etc.), and should also be accountable to the citizens of this country. Owing to the arguments, counter- arguments and observations, don’t you think our popular Sports Bodies should also come under RTI ?

Aamjunta – what do you think?

Better Late than Never

It was 4.25 pm, 19th December 2008. I alighted from a Kalyan bound local train at the Kanjurmarg station and went to the newspaper shop at the platform and bought a magazine. In the meanwhile the next train towards Kalyan came and stopped at the platform. As usual, I was contemplating of jumping on the track to cross the railway line (am just one among many aamjunta who think of taking a short-cut) after the train leaves in stead of taking the flyover. Was just waiting for this train to leave after which would have taken the short-cut. I was also a bit absent minded and was doing multiple things at a time as usual– calling someone over phone, fidgeting with my magazine and gazing at the waiting train at the platform.

A moment later I heard a huge shriek and a loud commotion. Before could realize anything or take note of the circumstance, saw a person’s lower half of the body including his legs getting pulled into the track by the huge, monstrous iron wheels of the running train! This extraordinary scene was going on just around twenty feet away from where I was standing. Without a seconds delay I ran with whatever force could gather and pulled out that person with all my might. Many people had gathered around to watch the scene by that time. Fortunately, he was saved but a bit injured. However, he was frightened beyond comprehension and so was I.

People came running to us and tried to console him. Some patted him on his back and some thanked his stars to have protected him. He was so shaken that was shivering from head to toe. I supported him physically to the nearest platform bench and took a bottle of water out of my bag. I never usually carry a water bottle; it was rare that day to have one with me. Interestingly, I had not even opened that bottle yet. The gentleman took the bottle gratefully, drank some water from it and washed his face.

He was probably in his early fifties, short in height and slight of build. He said that he lives in Thane and is a teacher in a school in Powai. He travels back home usually by the train which just left and which he was trying to board. Even though he was not in a hurry and the train was not that crowded, he tried to catch the running train, and that had already started and picked up speed. His calculation was wrong, lost control and balance and fell down to be almost pulled into the tracks. It was only a matter of few seconds between life and death….

That was an accident and unwittingly suicidal. He could have avoided that incident with a little more restraint. Anyway, sometimes this happens with many of us. Without realizing the consequences we take some wrong steps either to board running trains, buses or cross roads or drive fast and every time look for some short-cut. Everyone wants to go fast, reach fast and achieve fast – fast, fast, fast. But, fast should not mean that we are so fast that it becomes fatal. I was drawing my own lessons from the incident that I will never try to cross the tracks just to save a few minutes.

The gentleman after being a little stable thanked me profusely and said in Hindi koi jivan lene mein tulla hua hai aur koi bachane mein. Na mein usko pehchanta hoon na mein isko jaanta hoon” (“someone is bent upon taking lives and someone is dedicated to save lives. I do not know either of them”). His statement reminded me of the terror-attacks – some had come to kill us and some died in the wake to save us.

Anyway, that is called life and death, beyond our calculation and beyond any short-cuts.

Aamjunta take care of yourselves…Better late than never!

Indian Engineering Education – a Critical Look

After 10+2, Engineering stream is considered to be a lucrative choice for most of the Indians. This is mainly due to the prospect of software jobs in India. However, getting admission in the top institutions is a dream for many with a tough competition between coaching classes, students and parents. More than the students, sometimes the parents get more concerned and tensed. It will not be inappropriate to mention here that there are only a few institutes in India which can provide competitive and qualitative engineering studies. With the increase in population, the demand for such colleges has also increased in an alarming way.  One will not disagree to the fact that we need more number of colleges which have basic infrastructure and a strong faculty. This big concern for many became an opportunity for some to open private colleges. Though new colleges are supposed to cater to the demand of Engineering education in India, it became a distant reality in practice.

Private colleges are mushrooming in every part of India. This makes the admission process better and easy but sometimes complicated.  Though there are caps to the capitation fee (which is paid for the admission through management ) in the private colleges, there are open deals under and above the table. Some say, the capitation fees decided by the government is just the minimum fee; pay more and get an admission to a department of your choice, irrespective of your 10+2 percentages or score in the JEE tests. Taking admission through management quota is as usual a big loop-hole in the entire game. Many a times, colleges allow admissions hoping that a few will leave after a month or so, leading to another admission through management quota to fill the vacant seats. There are few cases in which the students are also involved in this kind of scam; they too get a pie from the capitation fee while leaving the college.

So far we have been discussing the admission process. Let us now move towards the advertisements/claims each and every college makes during admission process, campus interviews and JEE tests. Though their list contains many such points, let us look at some of the usual ones.

(i) Excellent facilities available

In a majority cases, the colleges do not have minimally-equipped laboratories and a central computer network. There are even colleges offering Electrical Engineering degree without permanent electricity supply and Computer Science department without a single computer therein. Yes, they do have laptops :), but only to see movies and play games.

(ii) Excellent faculty (from IITs/IISc and abroad) strength

More than 90% colleges do not have a PhD in the faculty and one would not be surprised to find only fresh BTechs as faculties taking higher semester classes. It does not stop here, most join as faculties when they do not find a job of their choice; a very few join with a passion for teaching. There are ample instances where one will find a list of visiting faculties only (no regular faculty !!). Another interesting point worth mentioning here is the list of faculties submitted to AICTE/UGC during academic audits. Many of the names submitted are fictitious, they do not even exist in this world. In some cases, names are shared between more than one department and even more than one college. Do not think that the officials (AICTE/UGC) do not have an idea about this. Yes, they do have this information and mostly it is bargained for some good amount of money or kind; some get very good posts in these colleges/universities as Chancellors, Pro-Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, Registrars, Pro-Vice Chancellors etc. after their retirement, and some even get honorary posts such as advisors, board members, directors etc. including honorary PhDs from these institutes.

(iii) Excellent R&D activities

Except a very few private colleges, others hardly do research work. However, many private colleges mention that they provide world class R&D facilities/activities on their campus. And about publications…  forget about students, even most of the faculties do not know how to write a paper. That is not their fault though; most of them have not gone through the rigorous process of paper writing and even have not attended a single conference of repute. In addition, their academic background also matters a lot. A majority of  them do not even do a post-graduation. What do we expect then? The faculties need to be taught first and then the students. Another interesting point is that of the quality of undergraduate/post-graduate thesis work. In many organizations these do not even qualify for submission/acceptance. However, most of them get excellent grades and the rest get good grades in their colleges. At least 60% students simply copy from Internet (some time entire report and some time in parts) and submit as their own thesis. There are instances even, students buy projects at a cost anything between Rs 8,000/- to Rs 20,000/- depending upon the complexity of project. It turns out to be a very good business for some people.

And surprisingly those thesis are accepted without being cross-checked. If someone does evaluation, then students argue unnecessarily (as they have paid capitation fees and hence are customers of the college/organization) and others criticize. Copy (ctrl + c) and Paste (ctrl + v) goes well with the faculties as well as the students in paper writing, thesis and in internal reports. On a positive note, yes… there are a very few good thesis and research work in some of these colleges. But that percentage is very low, most of the time it is even less that 10%.

(iv) 100% campus placement

This is a very tricky area, one has to go into the deeper root of the system to know the facts; many companies that come for placement  select and dump the selected employees after a 3/6 months training session. Reason – very low performance. But the truth in some (guess what is the percentage of this “some” !!!) cases is that these companies get a sizable amount of money from the parent college per student during selection. And they pay this salary from that money only. In fact, these students pay a considerable amount (sometimes even Rs 200k/-) for sitting in the campus interviews and colleges make a descent profit out of these. Both the colleges and the companies make win-win pacts with the students’ money and future at stake. Again, on a positive note, yes… there are some good and genuine placements happening in some private colleges; but mostly confined to software industry.

Having said all the above, let us now analyze the situation and attitude of students into such colleges. It will be incomplete and in-appropriate otherwise.

One would not be surprised to know that hardly any student comes to class/laboratories in their final semesters; be in 7th or 8th Semester. There are instances where students are allowed to pass (with good grades) even without attending a single lecture in any of the subjects in the semester. The reason is “Mass Bunk” – they have strong unity for it ; no one is allowed to attend the lecture. Those who get job (through campus placement or  other channel) sometimes do not attend; their reason – ‘how is this course going to help in our job ?’. Those who do not get job also do not attend lectures; their reason – ‘we are very busy in finding a job’. But if one verifies (either by going to their hostels/mess or by checkingir their day-to-day activities) irrespective of whether or not one gets a job, the attitude is not to attend lectures/labs; it is usually rather ‘enjoy — movies, treats, parties and datings’. Neither their parents  nor the authority in the college bother to know about these. Sometimes a few students come to class – out of courtesy, or by getting bored in hostels and home i.e. to time pass… not to study. These are just some of the general observations irrespective of the college type. It will not be 100% correct to blame only the students for this. Faculties, college management as well as the society at large are more or less responsible for this sorry state. Some faculties enjoy – no work and pay; some get frustrated… and find alternatives. A very few raise this issue with the management. Management usually keep their eyes closed… because in most of the cases, they do not have quality faculty or do not intend to hire better ones. For others, the organization is only a profit-making account.

With all the above developments in the education sector, especially in the Engineering stream where mostly we have below-standard academic ethics and rigor, how do we expect the country to grow in technology, research, infrastructure development and academics ? How can we compete at the global level ? Remember, software is not the only area where development is required for a country like India. It needs all round growth and development. Moreover, the craze of software jobs and mushrooming private engineering colleges have quite discouraged or stopped students from taking admissions into B.Sc., B.A. or B.Com. degrees. In many old colleges/Universities, seats are lying vacant for these courses. This is definitely an alarming issue to be dealt with. But how and who will initiate – you/ me/ Govt/or the Supreme Court ? We need educated, skilled and committed people in every field – be it in engineering or literature or medicine or  business or production.

Aamjunta – please think over it seriously and do share your thoughts/solutions (methods), if you have any. Do not hesitate to take some action if appropriate at your level. As a faculty or as a student or as a management trustee or as a government official or as a journalist – every one has to support for this cause and then only we can hope for the best, qualitatively and quantitatively. Keep it in mind that our job does not get over by sending our wards to these colleges or by opening new colleges or by taking a lecture or by recruiting young engineers for our companies. It is just the beginning; a beginning for a future – no one knows what exactly lies there but at least we can attempt for a better and firmer one. There is bubbling potentiality in our men and youth. But to build a strong and self-reliant India, we all need to seek genuine ways out and work with integrity.

Jai Hind!

Note: For the benefit/reference of interested readers, this article is a sequel to the following other articles published by aamjunta on the theme “Indian Education System“.

1. Qualitative Expansion of Indian Education System – Need for a Strong and Better India

2. From Single-Seater to Multi-Seater: Vision of Higher Education

3.A Roadmap for the Future of Research in IIT Bombay

Humanity at the Cost of Safety and Life?

In the hot summer if some one comes to your door step and asks for some drinking water, then what will you do?

You will give water and serve! Right!, “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, That is the usual manab dharm or to say humanity.

Hold on…

Let me narrate some of the incidents first, then you can answer for yourself.

Recently, a young couple, very well-dressed, were selling papad and some house-hold things in various parts of Bhubaneswar. They visited door to door, went to some one’s house at about 12.30 pm on a working day of an early summer. They went to some one’s house and pressed the calling bell. On hearing the bell, the lady of the house came to her door to check who is there and inquired from the couple what is the matter. Like many people, she also did not show any interest in buying those products. She was a newly married lady, well dressed with a nice saree and gold ornaments. She was about to close her door, the saleswoman requested her to give some drinking water. And as a matter of humanity or manab dharm, the house-owner lady called the sales-lady to her verandah and went home for water. She did not know what eventuality was following her. The sales couple followed her, bolted the front gate without anyone’s knowledge. They simply went to the kitchen and put the lady of the house on gun-point. It was too late for the lady of the house to understand what was happening. She could not do any thing; just gave them all her ornaments, cash and other valuables. In no time her house was looted by a couple who posed as marketing agents or sells person and that too exploit the hot summer. Bringing drinking water for them on a hot summer become a nightmare for her.

This is not one isolated incident, rather one of many such frauds, loots and cheating happening in various parts of our country. There are reports, that couples book train tickets (AC/Non-AC) and travel all along from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar or from Delhi to Puri or from Delhi to Patna or from Delhi to Howrah…; on long distance trains. They just gel with their co-passengers and make sure that no one doubts their behaviour at any point of time. They talk, eat, discuss and even share many things of their life, family and various other issues. They not only exchange their residence addresses (false address) they even share their bogus telephone numbers. They pose as responsible individuals and become friendly with their co-passengers in no time.  But friendship with them becomes a costly affair for many people in that carriage. They use some chemicals or medicines and make sure that their co-passengers get deep sleep on the 2nd night (long distance trains such as Konark Express, Purusottam Express, Howrah Mail etc., usually takes 36+ hours). This helps them to loot their new-friends. They simply vanish from the train after taking some valuables, bags and belongings of their co-passengers in  the night.  No one will have even any doubt, even if one sees them alighting from the train with bags and baggage. They ensure that they get down one or two station before their last stop and choose their prey with maximum care.

Sometime it is also observed that these couples aim very high, do not loot their prey on the train. Rather, they get down decently in their chosen stop. But afterwards, they start communicating with their new friends/co-passengers. These criminals invite them for vacation parties, and visit them frequently at their homes. In a month or two through them, they create a new bond with many other families. And on one fine day, they fool everyone by winning their trust, loot them as the 1st couple did on the hot summer or in  different innovative methods.

So…

Aamjunta, now tell me…  what is your answer,  give water or not?

After going through some recent reports on News Papers and TV, one will seriously think whether to give water or not. One should seriously think his/her safety first and then manab dharm or humanity…”Atithi Devo Bhava” . Many such incidents are happening in an alarming rate in the city. Unless, we the aamjunta keep an eye on such kind of couples and activities, we ourselves will be in problem. Who knows, who is their next pray. Be very careful aamjunta. Though it is right that “all our friends were strangers“, we need to be very careful wile dealing with strangers, be it in train or market. But, that does not mean that we will misbehave them or show our arrogance. Treat them with care, but at the same time keep an eye on their activities.

Note: I personally still believe that we should follow manab dharm, but with care. Belief should be with reason and facts, not blind. And I still want to practice “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, but with due care.

Satyameva Jayate

 

Truth – a Rare Commodity

Recently I shifted from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar. For me, shifting to Bhubaneswar was not only a shift involving cities; it was also a shift from my hostel life to a realistic family life, a paradigm shift in thinking and looking at the world. It is a shifting from an ideal place to a practical place. I did not know that the realities of the practical world were so scary. Anyway, thought of penning some of my experiences through this post.

The incidents I’ve been experiencing here at Bhubaneswar are unique and eye opening in many ways. Some of these experiences which I’m going through are the repetitions of my earlier experiences in Delhi and Chennai. Though, the experiences are very personal, but are common with many of us. I’m sure you must have experienced some thing or the other in your life or will be experiencing in future.

Internet Connection

Living without an Internet connection at home was the toughest part of my life. I decided to get an Internet connection to my place —  inquired with other friends those are having Internet connections at their home, here at Bhubaneswar. I was advised by most of them to take BSNL’s broadband connection. Without delay, I booked a BSNL’s unlimited Broadband connection. I paid the advance amount and submitted all the forms to the designated officer in time. I was told by the Officer that I should get the connection in a couple of days. But that did not happen.

When I inquired after a week, I was told by the officer in-charge that Internet connection will be provided to my place in a day’s time. I took his assurance seriously and called all my friends and relatives to share this piece of good news. But, his assurance did not materialize. After a day or two, when I met the same officer again, I was told that every thing is Ok now and I should get the connection by the end of the day. I was little thrilled this time, but that too was short-lived.

The end of the day is yet to come and I’m yet to get a connection after submitting the form and paying the Internet rent some twenty days before.

I complained again with the SDO, BSNL, I was again given the same false assurance. Interestingly, they themselves keep on telling me that “it will be connected today, tomorrow and so on”. False assurance is a part and parcel of their services. No one told me the truth and reason behind the delay.

House Rent

The difficulties in getting a house on rent in a small or big city have its own unique stories. Especially, getting a house on rent for a bachelor is a tough problem. The experience I am sharing with you is an addition to the list of those stories.

It was 7.20am, Friday, 24th July, 2009. I, my brother and my sister-in-law went to deposit advance for the new rented house for me, which my sister-in-law had booked on 23rd July evening. We were excited, thrilled and quite relaxed.  On our arrival, we were told that some one else had given the advance last night after my sister-in-law left and had already taken the house on rent. We felt really bad. Even, we had some unnecessary arguments and discussions in our house for the reason for the delay. Even though the house owner told us that we were late in coming to take possession of the house, I was not convinced fully. I had a doubt, as he was fumbling while talking to us.  In the evening, I was told by some one else that the house has still not been given on rent. The house owner lied to us in the morning.  He had become greedy and wanted more money for his house. Moreover, he wanted a Govt. Officer and a family man, not an employee of a private firm and a bachelor as his tenant. I could not understand his philosophy. If that was in his mind, he could have told us the truth, or else he could have given us some other appropriate reason. His lie (that we were late) unnecessarily sparked an argument and created an unpleasant scenario in our house. I do not understand one thing — “is  truth such a costly affair”?

The Travel Agent

Since I did not have the Internet connection, I could not book one on-line train ticket for my urgent travel. The booking counters were too far from my place. Therefore, I approached a Travel Agent to book a train ticket for me. I gave him the advance money and gave all the details to him. After taking the money and the details, he assured me for the ticket. He even went to the extent and asked me to meet him near the platform directly to collect the ticket and board the train. I was excited and made all my arrangements for the travel.

Got ready for the journey,  called the agent one hour before the train starts to know the status of the ticket.  He again assured me about the ticket. As per his suggestion, I reached the station 20 minutes before. I was waiting there for the ticket.  He again assured me about the ticket over phone. But, he never turned up. Moreover, he did not pick my calls afterward. The train left the platform as scheduled and I came back home with anger and frustration.  Two hours after the train had left, he called me and said —  “Sir, your ticket is now ready, and you can travel tomorrow. We did not get the ticket for today’s train, we are sorry for that, but we have booked your ticket for tomorrow’s train”.

Initially I did not believe him, but had no other option left. On my further inquiry he gave me the berth/coach number. This time, I thought he is telling the truth and re-planned the travel. Next day again I called him before I left for the train. He asked me to reach the coach and collect the ticket there from his person. I was waiting there with hope. But the person did not come. When I went near the coach to verify the details which he gave me last night, I could not believe my eyes. That berth was booked on someone else’ s name. In addition, he had sold the ticket to some other person instead of giving me that ticket. Fortunately, the person who bought the ticket was one of my acquaintances. On my casual enquiry, he told me that he got the ticket after paying some Rs. 400/- extra. I could not believe this, the trick, the unprofessionalism and the unethical practices. Immediately I called the agent and asked him not to book any more ticket for me and asked him to return my money. He was keeping on telling me, sorry sir, aap ka ticket kaal wali train me kar diya gaya (we have booked your ticket for tomorrow’s train), aap kaal jaiye, wo galti ho gaya…blah blah… and was not ready to accept his  deeds. What a shame! What kind of ethics  are we into?

I booked my ticket after standing in the queue for 3 hours and promised not to approach a travel agent hence forth.

Centre for Excellence and Excellent Facility

Some days back I visited a college after I saw an advertisement in a national daily. In fact, there were several advertisements by the same college in the local TV channels too. As per the advertisement, they were claiming that they have excellent facilities for research, they have best faculties and they have strong collaborations with many foreign universities. I was excited, when I came to know about all these things in the advertisement. I decided to visit them. But, I regretted when I reached there. Regretted, because, I had lost 6 hours and some Rs 400/- to visit that college. Interestingly, they did not have any facilities for research, neither they had buildings, nor they had infrastructures. They did not have a single trained faculty. What they were claiming on quality faculty was completely false. The names they were showing are all well established faculties in USA and have never been to that place. They have a dial-up connection for Internet and their library is even smaller than my private collection. They were just fooling  people through their advertisements. I got irritated in the beginning. On a casual interaction with the trustees, I pointed out the lacunae of their claims. I thought they will take my comments seriously. Unfortunately, they smiled at me, and said, “That was an advertisement, to attract students and their parents, the list of faculties you saw in the college web-site are for the AICTE and for our future students, not for you. We are not alone in this business. Almost all  are doing the same.”

What to say? Did not have any more words.

Is the 63rd Independence year still not enough to teach us to mature in terms of our work ethics, professionalism and culture? What development are we talking of without ethics at the grass-root level? Interestingly, in “India” aamjunta is also immune to these cheats and doesnot even react.There are many more such incidents, happens with me and with you aamjuta. Everyday we see these kinds of false assurances, unethical advertisements and promises.   Don’t take those seriously.  Stick to the truth and practice truth. Else, truth, which is becoming a rare commodity, will be extinct one day.

Aamjunta – Satyameva Jayate.

Right People at Wrong Places?

It was quarter to midnight. We had our dinner in Pizza Hut, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai.

I felt both yummy and greedy when Ketan floated the idea about trying some new flavours at Naturals Ice Cream Parlour. And so, both of us decided to go for it, even though we had quite a lot of work in the lab.

The parlour was just a 10 minutes walk. We had just crossed the Galeria building, when suddenly, a lady’s voice called Ketan’s name from somewhere behind:

Ketu… hai… Ketu….

When we turned our heads towards the direction of the sound, we could see a group of young guys and gals discussing with each other, and one of them, a short, lanky, girl with a big nose pin, dressed in a pair of shorts and tees came out…

Shy as he is by nature, Ketan could not understand how to react…. Moreover, my presence made him slightly uncomfortable. Before he could say anything, she had already started talking and had extended her hand for a warm handshake. I could guess, that Ketan wanted to avoid, and make that meeting a quick affair, but could not. Instead, gave his mobile number, and promised her a treat some other day 🙂 It took some 15 minutes for him to convince her that he was busy today and finally to say “good night” to her. We had to rush, as it was past midnight. Unfortunately, could not get ice cream as the shop was closed by that time.

By the time, I could observe that and Ketan was still in that mid-night (shock) meeting. I casually inquired…

What happens boss? What is the matter… ?

“Nothing, it is just paining”

“What? What is paining?”

“My palm is paining… Mala scratched my palm with her long nails… could not say any thing to her..” 😦 🙂

Oh! that is interesting” — I just made this comment with a smile…

I could see that Ketan was feeling bit restless, but I could not figure out whether his restlessness was because of his meeting this girl at a wrong time and wrong place? or because of the scratching and the pain 🙂

It did not take much time to figure out … “it was his meeting her at a wrong place, at a wrong time and in my presence”, which was the cause of his restlessness. Afterwards, he made several stories, and has been clarifying since … that “she is just a school mate of mine, had never spoken to her before, just a friend… blah blah…”; trying to convince me and lab mates… 🙂

This is not only the story of Ketan… In my last 7 years of campus life, I have witnessed at least some hundred different incidents.

Interestingly, most of them were at night, between 12.30 am to 4.30 am. I could remember meeting Boni with his “friend” at about 4.20 am on a rainy night (morning?) while going to the station to get the early morning local train to Khopoli. Both of them were standing, under a tree in the main road, completely drenched in the rain… I was in a hurry, just said “Hi” and went on my way. Poor Boni called me at least some 4 times on that day… with different reasons… just to know, what was my reaction…!!

Another such incident happened, while I was returning to my room from lab at about 2.30 am. I saw Nutan going towards lake side at that time of the night with her new friend. I was in half sleep, was about to rummage my cycle into them. I thought it was my mistake and was about to say sorry, but they just vanished in no time.

Next day, Nutan called a friend of mine and invited her for a dinner treat at Laxmi. Though my friend could not understand the reason of her sudden invitation, she could smell some thing fussy during the dinner. Nutan inquired many things about me from my friend, and finally asked, “did aamjunta say anything to you?” It was just a bouncer for my friend. Realizing that my friend does not know any thing about the last night’s incident, Nutan changed the topic in no time.

On a different note, I could remember when Suryapratap narrated the story of Nidhi and Mohan. Both of them were in their initial days of love, used to go for dinners, movies, malls; but when some of our friends saw them or spotted them, they used to behave as if they are just strangers…

Once during my graduation days, I was on a vacation with my family to Koraput (Odisha). While getting down from the bus at a hill station near Koraput, I saw Radha and Sid waiting there for a Bus. Before I could go closer and say a “hi” to them, they just vanished from the place, reason… they had bunked classes and had come to this place without any one’s knowledge. Embarrassing for me, because they did not acknowledge, and my parents were asking…“is there any thing wrong between you and Sid?” Why did he leave without saying a Hi to you? Embarrassing for Sid as well… for obvious reasons.. I had no other way out but to convince my parents, that he was not Sid, but some one else….

That happens 🙂

People behave interestingly when they meet some one at a wrong time and wrong place. Moreover, our cultural and societal restraints make us slightly conscious when we are in the initial days of “dating” — though I still do not understand the full-implications of the term. 🙂

Being discreet about relationships is common — me, you, the politicians, celebrities, and the aamjunta. The answering patterns are common… “we are just friends”, “it was a courtesy visit”, “we are family friends”, etc., etc. Celebrities use these tactics very coolly for the camera and paparazzi and so does the aamjunta. But, paparazzi exists in all societies and these statements are sometimes forgiveable because after all there is something called : “privacy” ! 🙂

Aamjunta, have you experienced any thing of this kind?

Disclaimer: All names used in this post are fictionalized. However, the incidents described are inspired from real-life stories.

Waste Mat Karo, Taste Karo…

It was 8th Aug, 1990, I joined Wst Hostel at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. Was stepping into a new life — a life other than my home. I had just completed my 10th at the time. In the initial days of my hostel life, I was unable to cope up mainly with the life style and hostel food. Food was (is) never bad, only that the preparation was not as per my taste, which was tuned to Mom’s kitchen. But, over the years, I’ve changed my food habit as well as my taste buds. Nothing great about that; this happens if you stay in hostel for more than 15 years 🙂 . Now, I love hostel food. However, that does not mean, I do not have cribs. Yes, some time I too have cribs, like, “that item is bad, this is more oily, no green veg, chapati is not properly baked, rice is half cooked,” etc., etc… Very common cribs among regular hostelites.

Enjoying and cribbing over food is natural, and we do that in home, hotel or hostel. But, there is a difference in cribbing over food and wasting food. We waste food everywhere — home/hotel/hostel. Even the best preparations in the best banquets are also sometimes wasted. But, in this article I have basically concentrated on the food wastage in hostels.

One can observe the amount of food that gets wasted per day in a hostel and can collect the data of this wastage, the results might be appalling. The amount of wastage in bigger hostels are really big and are easily noticeable. In small hostels too there are food wastage, but hardly any one cares to notice that properly. I am reproducing here some of our observations based on the statistics of Hostel-12/13 mess of IIT Bombay.

To know the exact amount of wastage and the pattern of wastage in our hostel (Hostel 12-13, IIT Bombay), the mess team started taking a stock of it. Every day, the mess team weighs the entire wasted food per meal (breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner separately) and reports the same in the mess notice board. Just to give an idea of the amount of food we waste in our mess, I inquired with the Mess Manager and requested him to give me a month’s detail. Thought of putting a week’s data here:

Date Breakfast Lunch Tiffen Dinner Total
01/04/09 16 Kg 50 Kg 10 Kg 45 Kg 121 Kg
02/04/09 15 Kg 45 Kg 14 Kg 52 Kg 126 Kg
03/04/09 20 Kg 55 Kg 12 Kg 50 Kg 127 Kg
04/04/09 18 Kg 48 Kg 10 Kg 55 Kg 131 Kg
05/04/09 21 Kg 45 Kg 20 Kg 60 Kg 146 Kg
06/04/09 17 Kg 50 Kg 10 Kg 45 Kg 122 Kg
07/04/09 20 Kg 48 Kg 09 Kg 55 Kg 132 Kg

With the average per day per meal of 800 mess members, the amount of food wastage one see in the above table is definitely a matter of huge concern. In an average day, the amount of food we waste in the hostel is around 130 Kg, which might be sufficient of another 400+ meals!! That means, every 4 person who eat in our mess waste food sufficient to feed one more person. Is not this statistics alarming? When people in this country die of hunger, a small mess like H-12/H-13 wastes food sufficient for 400 people daily. If you extrapolate this statistics to other hostels of IIT Bombay, then I wonder how much food we waste daily. There are roughly 5000 inmates and 14 hostels in IIT Bombay!

Many students justify the wastage, saying “the quality of food is not good”; “we are paying, so we will waste”; “why should the mess manager makes the profit alone?”, etc., etc… Are these excuses of educated people acceptable? On my part, I simply reject all these excuses. These are in-human!

One should remember that food wastage is not only a local issue, it is also a national issue. There should be an awareness campaign on this aspect. In fact, the mess team had started an awareness campaign in H-12/H-13 mess. They write articles in institute magazines and keep on putting various quotes/photos in the mess with “save food” campaign. Yes, the wastage has gone down after that, but not significantly. The statistics I’m showing here is based on data of the post-awareness campaign. Just imagine, the amount of wastage we had before!!😦

In my last post “Mumbai Blues“, I had narrated the incident of an old man looking for food in garbage/dust bins. In a country like India and in a continent like Asia which faces the biggest challenge of poverty, malnutrition and shortage of food, can we afford such a dangerous luxury of food wastage?

Aamjunta, what is your take on this? What do you say on my quote “Waste Mat Karo, Taste Karo”? Do share your views.

“Mumbai Blues”- Aamjunta’s Aankhon-dekhi

It was almost quarter to eleven on a regular working day…

I had a tough day at lab and hostel trying to juggle with balancing my time and thesis writing. Additionally, summer seems to take toll on one’s energy level. That evening I got so irritable, stressed and exhausted that was unable to utter a single word. The demand and supply chain of the thesis writing was not matching. Demand was very high resulting in high pressure on the quality, quantity and the pace of my output. Anyway, I decided to skip dinner, had some biscuits instead in lab itself. Suddenly, my exasperation with the process made me think seriously of taking a break and I decided to go to either lake side or some where else and to sit there for some time by myself. I decided that I will not seek company and so did not ask any one to come along with me. On normal occasions, I have friends whom can ask and who will not deny their company. But, today it was different — just wanted to be by myself. Wanted some private and quite moments for myself.

I left lab somewhere around 11.00pm with my bag, laptop and books. Headed for an unknown destination. I was near the SOM kiosk, when I saw an auto coming from hostel side. Waved my hand gesturing him to stop, fortunately he halted. I asked him…“Boss kahin chaloge?” kahan? – he asked.. hmmmm HN chaloge? (will you go to Hiranandani?). He agreed immediately and I comfortably slipped into it. I was so tired that did not even feel like getting down at HN Galleria. But, the auto reached HN in no time. I got down, paid him, walked to the ice-cream parlour had some ice-cream and then cool drinks.

After a while, I started feeling better and sat for some time near the galleria arch. My phone rang…friends and family were trying to reach me…. But, I decided not to disturb others with my stress stories. Switched that off and kept in my pocket. It was slightly breezy that evening and I sat observing people — precisely people of Mumbai in the dark night. Many couples were around too, sitting very close to each other and sharing their life and thoughts. Mumbai affords so little of private space that people have to find shelter in the market-places, malls and theatres to spare some time for their love stories. Most of these couples were in completely engrossed mode, and it did not not matter to them who was sitting there, who was staring at them or who was passing-by. I felt slightly out of place being without a (female 🙂 ) companion to share some intimate moments.

I left the place so as to allow the couples to enjoy their privacy, and searched for some other place to sit. It was almost 11.30 pm by that time. The chairs in front of Haiko mall were empty. Selected a corner seat, so that I do not disturb people and people do not disturb me. I sat for some time, looking here and there, luxury cars coming and going, the autos, the people around, the security guards and the “night-riders” like me. A unique aspect of Mumbai is that it suddenly bustles and jostles with the night moving into deeper darkness. The corner seat I had chosen for myself gave a nice view of many landmarks of HN: the Rodas hotel, the Haiko mall, the Pavilion restaurant and the main road. In the light of the street-lamps the roads of Mumbai glitter like the body of a slithering cobra.

There was no one sitting around me. I was alone. But all of a sudden, my attention got diverted when I saw an old man, ill-looking, in his late 60s or early 70s. He was almost on the verge of nudity as his torn dhoti and gamccha were in threads, hardly did help to cover his sickly body. He looked like a scare-crow who has been brought to life and left in the glitter and glitz of the mega city…. Trying desperately to hide his bare chest and body with his dirty old gamchha, the man was on his way to some unknown destination. He seemed to be only busy searching for something in the dust-bins placed near the roads and the malls. I was curious now and started to take an interest in this character who seemed straight out of some novel. The man came closer to where I was sitting, he had huge eyes placed on a completely dark skin. He stopped near the dust-bin that was placed close to my chair and started searching for some thing. I was curious… what must he be looking for and at this time? Many things came into my mind… starting from incidents of putting bombs in dustbins to searching for food…. I started observing him from a close angle as he hunted the dustbin as if on a treasure hunt. He was only picking up the cans (cool drink cans) and plastic bottles. Collected some 4/5 bottles, 2/3 cans, 1/2 poly bags… but was still searching for some thing else… became curious.. what is he looking for? and at that late night?

Before I could ask any thing, a lady in her late 30s came and asked him politely with a voice full of compassion, “baba kya dhund rahe ho”? The old man was surprised beyond words… for the words “baba”… he seemed to have never have come across these words! He looked frightened for a moment, but when he saw that the lady meant no harm, gathered a little courage and told her… “kuchh nahini”…. Then she asked, “aap ko kya chahiye?” He was quiet for a moment and replied, “nahin beti.. kuchh khana dhund raha hun… (looking for some food). I am taking these things (bags, bottles and cans) such that I can sell them get some money tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll get any food from here at this time of the night. But, can not sell these now…It’s late”. I was shocked to see that the man was not begging, he was just hunting for left-overs in the dustbin. The lady seem to stifle her tears and went back to her husband, got some 20/30 rupees…gave him that money and said.. kal ka bare me bad me sochna.. aab jao… kuchh khalo...(think about tomorrow, when it is tomorrow…go and eat something now)”. He took that money, smiled gratefully and left. And I… sat thinking… where is he going? I had only 30 rupees in my pocket, enough for going back to hostel in an auto, couldn’t even spare that with him. But, was extremely happy to observe that even there are people in the busy life of Mumbai who come and help a man like that on their own accord. What amazed me even more was that the man did not beg from any one…

I was lost in my own thoughts, when suddenly my attention got diverted by the parking sound of a huge Honda city in front of Rodas Hotel. A gorgeously decked-up lady in her early 30s got down from the car. She was accompanied by her little baby (hardly 1/2year old) and her husband. The husband was carrying the baby, was dressed in a neat three-piece suit. He was perhaps in mid-thirties, calm, composed with signs of prosperity. And she… I hardly traced any sign of clothes. She was also on the verge of nudity, her nano-skirt and figure hugging back-less top with low-cut neck lines, nine-inch sandals and dark luscious wine lipstick.… She looked like something which I have only seen in a few fashion magazines like FHM or Femina. The couple were heading for the Pavilion restaurant for some high profile party. I was wondering how come people dress like this? Are married ladies in Mumbai so liberal in front of their husbands? I thought may be I am getting old fashioned and orthodox. But, somehow could not help myself comparing this scantily-clad young lady with that semi-clad old man…. He was also barely dressed like her…. But the difference was painful, he could not afford, whereas she did not want…While the old man was frightened even of a dog crawling near him, this lady bursted on the security guard and scolded him as he did not open the door fully for her to enter….

Hmm, both the incidents took me away from my own state of troubled existence….I had enough of this world too…checked my wrist watch… it was almost 12.30 am and past midnight…. The scenes of HN had already overpowered me and cleansed my own tension of thesis writing. I started looking for an auto…to get back to my “home” for the last 7 years.

Aamjunta, do share your experiences if any…

From Single-Seater to Multi-Seater: Vision of Higher Education

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”

Joel Barker

In order to decide the future course of a huge country like India, “right” vision at every level is required. Without right vision, it is not only difficult, but also impossible to cater the need of the nation. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the fact that unless a nation (especially people who are in charge of planning or decisions making) has a vision or insight into the kind of decisions that can affect its long term goals and realizes the problems that can crop up with one mis-step, many generations can suffer in the long run.

In the recent past, the Government of India has increased the number of seats in all institutes of  higher education including IITs and IIMs to accommodate the new OBC quota. There have been debates and counter-debates on the issue of quota. It also  met protests ranging from the aamjunta’s court to the supreme court.  But, it was a political decision which had to be accepted. These kind of decisions are irrevocable in nature and need to be accepted as “facts” of our society. But, the idea of increasing  the number of seats to meet the quota and the inclusion of quota itself have serious repercussions. The massive inflow of students resulted because of which it became a practical issue and a challenge for all IITs in 2008-09 . IIT administrations buckled up and started increasing the number of seats. However, unfortunately no decision making bodies ever bothered to examine the repercussions of the increase in the number of  seats. The question of infrastructure, faculties, quality, availability, environment, etc., seemed to be not even taken into account. The seriousness and hurriedness that was shown in implementing the quotas in all IITs and IIMs was at least not seen in creating the right infrastructure to accommodate that quota.There were mere announcements as to such and such number of seats have been increased in IITs, IIMs etc., but no steps were taken to create and to provide the right ambience to sustain the quality while increasing the quantity of students.  Interestingly, quota came first, then the increase of seats to counter and then the question of infrastructure and quality; shows the depth of their vision. Committees were formed as a reactive measure, not as a proactive measureOne has to realize that vision is proactive, not reactive.

If increasing the number of seats along with quota is the vision, then some one has to suffer. Who suffers in the end? The students! Existing students in all the premier institutions are now being forced to share accommodations, change hostels, etc, etc. Even in the final year of your  BTech or MTech it is not certain whether you will get a single-seater or  a multi- seater room in your hostel. New students who might be joining in the coming semesters will even be in a worse position; (a) they will obviously have to compromise with the existing infrastructure of the new institutions and might be at the receiving end since preferences will be made mostly on seniority basis, and (b) they will have to cope up with the demands of academics while still groping for the basic minimum facilities. Neither parents nor students nor authorities realize this until they really experience that how frustrating this can be. Just an increase in the number of seats does not solve the problem of quota in higher education.

Forget the undergraduate programs, the PhDs are also sharing accommodation. Research is supposed to be the most crucial and sensitive activity, which if we take the given parameters, need at least the best facilities and infrastructures. Researchers are supposed to be at least entitled for a single accommodation if not all the benefits that a researcher in the west gets during his/her research tenure. But where is the space to accommodate the massive inflow? Starting from cycle stands to hostel council rooms, from guest rooms to corridor, everywhere constructions are on in full swing. THE REASON: there are no rooms for new students. Single rooms have now become double rooms and double rooms might be tripled or quadrupled. Even then, it is not going to accommodate the huge number of new comers. Some have to still suffer.

Fortunately or unfortunately, newly constructed hostels are coming up of late. But at what cost and at what speed? In IIT B for example, authorities have allowed many huge trees to be felled. Even those trees which were planted as part of “vanmahotsavs” and other such occasions are now completely chopped down. While the country’s Prime Minister and cabinet are making speeches and tours to huge environmental summits to protect the ever-deteriorating environmental conditions, in one of its most prestigious institutions there is a rampant felling of trees. IIT B boasted of some of the best ecology of the country and was no less than a shady gurukul, but thanks to the vision of our decision makers now we have a dry-dreary campus which is facing the tough blows of a hot summer. Moreover, for creating all new buildings most of the time roads are being dug, Internet/electricity/ telephone cables are cut, water pipes are broken

The fault is also of the aamjunta’s, because of our ignorance we do not even bother to ask about the environmental concerns that comes with reckless development. All that which matters to us is our greed for our children and ourselves to get an opportunity to “study” in IITs or IIMs or elsewhere. However, we do not have the foresight that may be our grandchildren or the next generations may never know that such an institution ever existed in India. Our governments and decision making bodies are amazingly good with “maximal use of available resources” without actually thinking of “optimizing” or generating new resources. Where is the vision to understand the capacity of a certain institution or establishment? If an intake has to be doubled up, then why is not there an equal allotment of new land and new space to accommodate the numbers? In addition to it, the red-tapism, contract procedures, tender rules, etc., etc., .. all these things create hurdles to build new hostels even in the existing land (forget about getting new lands). The pace of construction of these buildings are pathetically slow, usually takes 200% times more than the stipulated time.

However, it is not the students who only suffer. To meet the huge intake, the intake of faculties into IITs have also significantly steeped up. Similar problems are also faced by faculty for faculty quarters and offices. There are no quarters for new faculties and most of them are staying in 1 hall-kitchen type flats. Office rooms are also a big problem. IITs which are considered to be aggressively growing research organizations, cannot provide all faculties the minimum facility of a lab and a decent office. Younger faculties who join the institution cannot even expect to bring their spouse, as there is no certainty if they will get a quarter. If this practice and apathy continues how do the governments expect to attract new faculties required to teach/guide the huge population of places like IITs.

But, the problem of infrastructure and other fundamental facilities in higher education in India is neither new and nor is it limited only to institutions like IITs. Universities and especially state universities are in an equally sorry state. An earlier instance of my own experience with this huge intake without a vision comes to mind in this context. In 1995/1996, Govt of Odisha decided to go for a 30% women’s quota in all engineering colleges, since elections were around and the vote bank had to be appeased. I was in the 3rd year of my engineering. Fortunately, we were the last batch and did not suffer the unprecedented inflow into our college. We could manage to get single accommodation in our final years which was very important because of our semester exams, placement and other career decisions badly required at least some personal space for ourselves. There was a ladies hostel with 40-50 seater capacity. That was grossly inadequate to accommodate the massive 30% inflow of female students into our college (UCE, Burla). Nothing was done and no allied campus was set up. Finally, as is typical of our decision making authorities, it was decided that our single seater hostel which was meant only for final year students was to be converted into a ladies hostel. The reason; contract process had not even started to build a new ladies hostel while the government had already issued orders to allow immediate increase in the intake. But, then who suffered? Final year BTechs who succeeded our batch. Ironically, the vision of authorities was such amazingly regressive that the final year BTech boys were doubled and tripled up in the hostels while the first year BTech girls got completely single accommodation :(.

One tends to ask the question that do the authorities not think about all these aspects? If yes, then why is there an apathy and a delay? Who is accountable for this? Why should the common man, students especially suffer?; no infrastructure, no hostels, clumsy classroom, what else is required to prove the amount of respect that the governments, political parties and decision making bodies have for the thing called “education”? If no, then who is responsible for this gross lack of vision? Who is going to take care of the environment and people – planning commission, knowledge commission, MHRD, parliament, judiciary or the aamjunta?

As said before, my intention here was not to debate on the pros and cons of the quota system. Quota has become a brutal reality of this country. But through this article, I appeal specifically to those who are in power, who are coming to power and those who are aiming for power to kindly not to play politics with the educational aspects, which is the actual future of the country. Before implementing any decision, make sure that it is properly studied and its requirements are met. Implement with your eyes open and with a vision, not with closed eyes. The common man also needs to understand and be a part of the process of planning the future of the nation and the world.

Think 1000 times before taking such big decisions. And learn to take appropriate decisions. Action without a vision will not lead to anything productive.

Aamjunta, what is your vision?

Booms, Myths and Catastrophes of Software Jobs – A Bird’s Eye View From Berth No. 72

The title of this post is inspired by an interesting article of Prof. V. P. Sinha (IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, DAIICT Gandhinagar). And the post is dedicated to you “aamjunta“, the present, future and the past.

Please visit “The Gutsy Gibbon” for the post. Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger for hosting this article in his blog. Keep writing interesting articles and keep encouraging others.

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