Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thursday, January 19, 2006

PM's speech at the DSE Golden Jubilee function

These are some of the interesting parts from PM Manmohan Singh's speech at Delhi School of Economics.

The complete text of the speech can be accessed here.
" India is the world’s most exciting social laboratory for any social scientist to study.We are an ancient civilization but a young nation. A nation of immense possibilities. A nation brimming with a renewed sense of confidence."

"In the 1980s, and more decisively in the early 1990s, we took steps that enabled the quantum jump from what my friend Raj Krishna dubbed as the “Hindu rate of growth”. Once again intellectuals battles erupted. I recall the many criticisms made against the initiatives I had taken in 1991. There were some genuine worriers. There were others with blinkers on. Some concerns were warranted. Many others were ill-informed. We stayed the course. I reached out to many professional economists. I recall asking Jagdish and TN to prepare an independent study on what we had done and see if we were in the right direction. I also listened to my critics. But, in the end, I had the responsibility to take difficult, if momentous, decisions. I took them. The economy responded handsomely...However, given the magnitude of macro-economic imbalances we had to contend with, our options at least in the short run were rather limited."

"India has since the early 1990s been quoted around the world as a model case study on adjustment and stabilization. Barely 15 years ago an external payments crisis pulled the economy into a serious economic crisis. Today, we can say with pride that there is no external constraint on India’s economic growth. Prudent economic management, mixed with some well-advised risk taking, helped."

"Remain committed to excellence, but also remain committed to the Nation. Show the way forward so that we can walk that road."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

HSEE 2006:: IIT Madras growing to be a University!

This is a must read.

"The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) is one of the earliest departments established at IIT M. The Department is essentially multi-disciplinary in nature and has reputed faculty from diverse disciplines such as Economics, English, Philosophy, Sociology, History, German Studies. The Department has been offering doctoral programmes in humanities and social sciences and elective courses to the undergraduate and post-graduate programmes of the Institute.

From the academic year 2006-07, the Department will offer a unique and innovative five year integrated masters programme, leading to Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in three disciplines viz., Development Studies, Economics and English Studies.

With the launch of this programme, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, is poised to cross a milestone in fulfilling its role in higher education in liberal arts and social sciences in the country. This will open up newer avenues for highly motivated students to enter the portals of the Institute. "

For more details,click here.

In many a sense this could possibly result in a change in the mindset of students and parents in South India (AP, TN in particular) to look at career options other than the standard - Engineering and Medicine.

The need for a Harvard or an Oxford has always been there in India - this decision of IIT Madras to move into creating higher education in streams other than the "Technical" courses alone rubbing their commitment to excellence in these courses shall go a long way to serve the society.

Kudos to them!

IIT Madras - the next Nalanda - for a better balance in society - Amen.

And I complete my half-century! 50th post!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

1st Anniversary Posts I: No 'Coke' for Universities

January 8th, 2005 - an year ago, this Spectator started his Musings.In celebration of this event, he intends to publish a series of posts.The First One:

For some reason, some important issues miss the required attention. In many a sense, a good newspaper reminds the reader about these and a good writer points them to us.

I was reading this column by TJS George, which reminded me of the issue of University of Michigan suspending the sale of Coca Cola Company's items in the campus.

"The University of Michigan suspended sales of Coca-Cola products on its three campuses over allegations that the company permits human rights and environmental abuses abroad.

The student group accused Coke of draining local groundwater in India and conspiring with paramilitary groups in Colombia to harass and harm union members. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations.

In response to student concerns over Coca-Cola’s alleged abuses in India and Colombia, University of Michigan earlier had convened Dispute Review Board, an advisory body comprising of students, faculty and administrators to look into the issues in India and Colombia.

After deliberating for about 10 months, the board recommended in June 2005 that Coca-Cola be placed on probation. It also laid out a series of benchmarks the company would have to meet in order to show it was acting in good faith to solve the problems in India and Colombia, including agreeing to an independent, third party investigation.

The soft-drink giant is the target of numerous community-led campaigns in India, accusing the company of creating severe water shortages and pollution. One of Coca-Cola’s largest bottling plants in India remains shut down since March 2004 in Plachimada because local community refuses to allow it to operate, citing plant for creating water shortages and pollution in the area, leading to hardship for the community."

Now, obvious consideration is of course - Shouldn't Indian Institutes ban the Coca Cola product sale in their campuses, at least till their name gets cleared?
(including my own) - I support the motion.
Say 'No' to all Coke products including Kinley water bottles.

It feels good to see Academia taking decisive stand on issues which must receive attention. I wish IIITH also takes lead in doing so - especially in this case - involving SC rejected act related to Minority Reservations in private institutions.
More on this in the next post.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dharampalji's Speech

18/2/2006 : The following is the text of Dharampalji's talk in the campus - he has sent me the corrected version of the earlier approximate version.

It is important to study his thoughts for a different perspective of how the world could be. I strongly recommend every one of you to go ahead and study the speech.

The corrections made in the text of the speech provide greater clarity to the reader for understanding the point of view.

Text of the Speech

I I I T, Hyderabad, 5.01.2006


Perhaps you have heard that I have been interested in Indian political and social events since I was very young. I seem to remember that I visited the Annual Session of the Indian National Congress held in Lahore in December 1929. I was about eight then. About a year later, Sardar Bhagat Singh, the great Indian revolutionary and patriot, was also executed by the British in Lahore in early 1931. At that time I seem to remember that I joined my school friends in a procession to protest against the execution.

In my school during the 1930s we also talked of Indian independence from British rule. Our general understanding was that freedom from British rule would be a blessing for India. But some of us in Lahore, especially some of the teachers, felt that the British should not leave so soon as their leaving India may tempt the Afghans, etc., to attack India. During the 1930s and the 1940s till 1946, many of us were not too sure whether India was strong enough to rule itself and preserve its independence.

But by 1946, the British eventually decided to leave India, take the British army and officers back to Britain, and made agreements with the political and administrative leaders of western educated Indians that to begin with they would administer and rule India in the same manner as the British had done. According to the British what thus had been arranged was a transfer of the political, administrative and military power which they have had over India for over 150 years, to a group of select Indians, whom they trusted, on August 1947. They also did a similar transfer of power to Pakistan (including East Bengal) on Aug 14. 1947.

While this transfer was called independence it was made like a deed of transfer of second hand property from the British to the Indians, and as the Indian property held by the British had deteriorated and become relatively rigid and non- functional over the period of British rule, it could not, given the British arrangements, laws and rules, etc, be of much immediate use to the Indians.

As for as I recollect, practically no Indians felt any great joy at the fact that the British were leaving India. Part of the joy had been much reduced by the sad and cruel events of the partition of India, and the manner the transfer took place. It looked as if the British were transferring the keys of the colossal prison they had made of India to their Indian successor. The sense amongst most Indians that India was still a British made prison holds true even today.

If 15 Aug 1947 heralded the Independence of India - every locality, Mohulla, and community and individually had to be told so and informed that from then on they had the right and opportunity to reshape their societies and politics and the relations amongst them. But this was not done. For it was the conquering and occupying each and every area of India which the British did from about 1750-1820, rather than that they got India from the Mughal Shahzada, or from some other Indian ruler. It is possible that half the Indian population was destroyed in India by the British during their rule.

It is not that the British were mild to the people of Britain while they were cruel and blood-thristy towards the people they conquered and subdued in India and other places. From about the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 to about 1900 the British were nearly as cruel to the majority of the people of Britain as they were to conquered in India, etc. This would also be true of other Europeans, those who settled in the Americas from 1500 AD onwards, or who began to settle in Africa, S E.Asia, etc.

According to European political theory be it of Greek or Roman origin, or a product of the old Testament of the Bible, the conqueror of any area has limitless claims and rights on the area he conquers. He can protect, or preserve or destroy whom he wishes. And as long as the conquest lasts it is inherited by his successors. According to such a theory, any living beings, as such, including human beings, plants and animals and insects have no inherent rights bestowed to them by the primeval creation in the world.

The people of India since their ancient past subscribed to different ideas. Indians believed that every thing which gets created with life form has a sanction and validity of its own, and one form of life may be transformed, transmigrated, into another form of life after the demise of a specific body. In the Indian sense, the earth is inhabited not just by man but by the variety of life forms in the innumerable localities of the world. These forms ordinarily may vary in their expression and swabhavas from locality to locality.

While according to the views of the West, the movement of life is linear in nature and much of what happens is irreversible. The Indian Civilization does not subscribe to such ideas. The Indians sort of believe that they have lived in the vast Indian area from the beginning of time and there is a recurrence of events, like those of the Ramayana and the Mahbharata, time and again. The story of Kak-Bhusand narrated by Tulsidas in Ram Charit Manas is a superb illustration of such beliefs.

It seems that till about 1800 AD India was a well functioning society not only in the field of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, etc. but also in innumerable crafts and technologies. According to modern estimates around AD1750 India and China produced some 73% of the manufactured goods of the world. India was a highly literate and scholarly civilization, and it seems that even in the depressive days of the early 19th century most sections of the Indian community were fairly literate and informed. Indian medical systems-ayurveda and surgery were of ancient origin and well laid. Similarly was the situation with metallurgy, architectural sciences and technology, chemicals and dyes and various other technologies. India perhaps has been the ancient home of the cotton plant and textiles also.

While India perhaps had no major need to export its agricultural or Industrial products to countries outside India yet it had a major maritime trade from ancient times and had its own ships. Around 1405, Calicut was a major port of India and at that time some 300 Chineses ships with some 30,000 soldiers were halting there for a period of about five months. The Commander of the Chinese fleet was admiral Chen Ho, who is said to have sailed between China and East Africa for some 10-20 times between 1405 - 1430.

With such a background India did not require Britain and its laws, rules, etc., to make a new start of an independent polity in 1947. It perhaps would have been better if India had dissolved the British structured Indian state and created a new civilizational union of India on the basis of the affinity between Indian common inheritance, languages, literature, and shared ancient swabhava and institutions. In fact India forming itself as a new global unit along with East Asia, SE Asia and Central Asia would have made a welcome beginning for a relatively peaceful future for life on earth and still can do so if it so determines along with its neighbors .

Monday, January 02, 2006

Breaking a myth...

...yes, and a myth created possibly a few years ago right in front of my eyes, a myth that I propagated myself.

Yesterday, Dharampalji (the Gandhian Historian, almost an octogenarian, who I had the pleasure to meet at Gandhi Ashram, Sewagram) came here to IIIT for about 20-day stay.
I went to receive him at the Airport and as we were coming back to the campus, he started asking a number of questions.

One of the questions which I emphatically answered was this:
aapka Institute ka naam pehla Indian Institute thaa aur ab International Institute hain - kyaa hai is baat ka wajah? (Translates to: Why is it that your Institute's name which was earlier Indian Institute has changed to 'International Institute'?)
Okay, so I, told him the legendary story which some of my seniors' told me quite some time ago when I was in my first year.

The story is this: "When IIIT wanted to go for requesting the Deemed University status - the Govt. has said that unless SC/ST reservations are allowed for in your Institute - we can let you have the 'Indian' tag.

But our Institute elders who were staunchly against reservations decided - what if we were not Indian - we are International in our appeal and plan for a global reach - so let's name it 'International' and they stuck to the policy of 'NO reservations'

This was a story which had a great appeal to me as well. I am not sure of the Govt. norms but definitely having seen the way the Govt. of India has acted towards Reservations for SCs/STs and Minorities (?!) I had a special respect for the elders in our campus developed out of this.

Now Dharampalji asked this question about 'International' name to our Director right in front of me. And he also told the wonderful story that I told him.
Here's what I heard from the horse's mouth:
No, no,no... even if we had reservations for the SCs and STs we could not have the 'Indian' name for the Institute. When the Deemed University question arose, the Govt. of India questioned us how we named it 'Indian Institute' when it was not the Govt. of India but the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh which decided on establishing the Institute? And so they said you cannot be called 'Indian' any more. That was when we changed it to 'International' - (turning to me) - "actually there are a lots of things which spread rapidly through rumours which are not true"

I still strongly feel that the earlier reservation linking to the name change had a wonderful romantic appeal.

This time around the Myth was more romantic than the truth.