Issue Dated: December 25, 2000

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The Marketplace That is Education  

Child is the Father of Mammon (December 11) was a fine exposŽ of the rot that's pervaded our educational institutions. The exploitation of hapless parents by school authorities has been prevalent for long but now it's widespread and open. Parents should form a board and formulate stringent laws to bring errant schools to book. In pursuit of a sound education for their children, I've personally known parents give away their lifetime savings as donations. Teachers too are not spared as they receive a much lower salary than is shown in the books.       

Chitra Amarnath,
New Delhi  

Why blame the schools alone for accepting donations? What about parents who are willing to give any amount of money as long as it gets their children into a reputed school?  

Sudhanaya Mitra,

If parents take a principled stand and refuse to pay the money in the form of donations, these profit centres would automatically fall in line. They could then concentrate on what they're supposed to do: provide quality education to children.

Vishwanath Rao,
on e-mail

I had to pull neither strings nor my hair out. All my daughter exchanged with her principal were warm smiles. I was asked what my expectations from the school were and not the other way round. At a little over Rs 500 a month, my daughter attends one of Pune's finest schools. I consider myself incredibly lucky not to have been subjected to the trauma and tamasha of school admissions. 

Shabari Shetty,

In a country which has among the highest rates of illiteracy, schools making a business out of education is nothing short of criminal activity. They ought to be punished for it.

Rajarshi Ghosh,

In the shocking tales of extortionism by schools, Outlook mentions exact names of schools. However one such tale talks of a super-deluxe school that runs air-conditioned buses. Why has its name not been mentioned? How can you have an exposŽ which protects the identity of some schools? 

Akshat Aranya,
New Delhi

I've been the principal of a privately-managed, non-government-funded, cbse-affiliated school at Chennai for the last 30 years. No interviews or tests are needed for admission; the fee is Rs 12 per day payable once a month; transportation is Rs 4. For this, students get tuition, sports and arts coaching, lunch at school and health check-ups. Do keep schools like ours in mind before generalising everything with your sweeping pen.


Thank god Outlook took the initiative to expose the way reputed schools are harassing parents. Now it could do a story on how these schools are  doing the same with teachers.

Binty Mehta,
on e-mail

I studied at St Joseph's Convent, Madikeri, Coorg, in Karnataka. I don't know if my parents paid donation, but I do remember that the school had regular fun fares. Students had to make things at home or get them from outside and sell them at these. The proceeds would go to the school. What you're saying is true, but late.   

Girish Shenoy,
Michigan, US

Imagine a school which needs no donations or contacts for admission but has a draw of lots for eligible candidates for a fixed number of seats per class, and has geographical proximity as criterion, where the fee is fixed and includes tuition, transport and stationery, which has no exams till Class V, no homework that can't be done in less than half an hour, where teachers are trained on campus and where administrators are iim-a graduates. That's Eklavya School in Sanand, Ahmedabad, where my children are studying.

Rajeev Matta,

Private schools can ask for donations only because government-run schools have failed to live up to expectations. Provide other means of quality education and the problem of donation could sort itself out.   

Tanweer Ahmed,
on e-mail

Corruption-the malaise that plagues Indian governance-seems to have caught up with the 'not-for-profit' organisations as well. 'Accountability' seems to have become a bad word in the Indian vocabulary.

Jude D'Souza,

We have two children studying at the Notre Dame Academy, Patna. At no time during their admission or any time thereafter have we been asked for donations. We strongly feel that comparing this school with other money-making schools is unfair to this excellent institution.

Vineeta and Ravi Kapoor,

Ignorance is indeed bliss if one has to go bankrupt to impart knowledge to their wards.

Anita Ravi,

Vanity Fair

It is a matter of pity, not of any pride whatsoever, that our young girls want to emulate mindless beauty queens rather than a Malleshwari, a P.T. Usha or even an Arundhati Roy (Yaaaawn!!, December 11). How can such pageants alleviate the position of our women-folk? The only difference they make is in the surge of sales of cosmetic products. After all, it's not the effort of the participants so much as that of those backing them-designers, cosmetologists, et al-that gets rewarded.

Faezal Yunus,
New Delhi

Why is it that whenever India does something good, we start suspecting something amiss? The fact remains that these Indian girls are winning beauty pageants. Why can't we just feel good about it? 

Saravanan Natrayan,
Chicago, US

Despite the organisers calling them "beauty with a purpose" Priyanka Chopra's win goes to prove yet again that beauty and brains never go together!

Vipin Khare,
on e-mail

I was reminded me of the anecdote where a beautiful and famous theatre actress wrote a letter to George Bernard Shaw expressing a desire to have a child with him who she innocently presumed would have her beautiful face and the genius of Shaw. Imagine her consternation when Shaw wrote back asking her what if the child had his face and her intellect!

Charu C. Joshi,

Brains do not matter in beauty contests. India has been on a winning spree simply because some of our girls have been the best among the worst.

Nandini Dutta,
New Delhi

Who cares if we can't win medals at the Olympics; at least we win beauty contests every year!

on e-mail

Physician, Heal Thyself

Dr S.K. Thomas from New York laments (Letters, December 11)  India's preoccupation with cinema and cricket. Well a person who has left India to serve another society with the sole aim of earning dollars should really think twice before commenting on India or Indians.

Santosh Bhat,
on e-mail

Acting the Part

Mammooty's a great actor, who says he shares the traits of arrogance with Ambedkar (Masks of Narcissus, December 11). But does he also have to be like that to the public in real life?

Jacob Thomas,

By playing Ambedkar, Mammootty has risen above language and region. In an interview, director Jabbar Patel mentioned how professionally he handled the role. More than the national award, the appreciation of the Dalits in Nagpur in accepting him as their own Babasaheb must have been the greater compliment to the actor.

Reji Varghese,
on e-mail

Multiple Choice

Your piece on Kashmir (The Tenuous Line of Peace, December 11) begins with the cryptic one-liner: "A durable peace initiative must involve all players in Kashmir." The problem is that there are too many players (read militant groups), some rooting for peace, others vehemently wanting to traverse the jehadic route. I'm reminded of the travails of a former chairman of a public sector behemoth who lamented he had to deal with 14 different labour unions, with the result no one issue could ever be resolved. Unusual problems need unusual solutions. So it is with Kashmir.

K.R. Rangaswamy,
North Carolina, US

Given the reaction of Pakistan-based groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Vajpayee's ceasefire offer is unlikely to be taken in a positive spirit by the nation that sponsors them. Peace in the Valley would deprive Pakistan of the very reason to cry hoarse about Kashmir: human rights violations.

Shailendra Mathur,
on e-mail

Example to Emulate

If China can produce low-cost, quality goods by subsidising overheads, raw material and labour, why can't India remove taxes on steel, cement and construction and make itself the world's largest steel and cement producer (Chinese Dumpling, December 4)? If India can produce steel equal to Japan on a per capita basis, she can produce one billion tonnes of steel every year; the consumption of steel and cement in construction will make poverty and unemployment history.

Dr Alok Sharma,

It is a situation of our own making. We all know how receptive the Indian market is towards lower prices. We should find out the strategies Chinese manufacturers employ to produce quality goods at low prices and benchmark them for our own improvement.

Saurabh Singh,

PILing On

You're right when you say pils are being put to misuse (The Justices of Class, December 11.) However, I think you should have included the name of Justice M.F. Saldanha of the Karnataka High Court. He's considered a messiah of the poor and has even fined  people, including advocates, for wasting judicial time by frivolous petitions. Also, Justice Krishna Iyer's initials are V.R., not just V.

Dr U.S. Iyer,
on e-mail

Heap Praise, Not Abuse

Having lived abroad for so many years now, we've come to appreciate how great the Indian legacy was and why westerners are turning to it. Since people in India are aping the West and even re-importing our great practices of yoga and meditation because of their increasing acceptance here, what is the harm in Dr Joshi inducting it in schools (Joshi's Class of 2000, November 27)?

Dilip Mahanty,

It's a shame how the bjp has appropriated Hindutva for its political ends. Religion is a personal matter, it can't be imposed on anyone. No sane, progressive Indian citizen will ever welcome the way M.M. Joshi is going about changing curricula.

M. Zaffar Javed,

Strokes of Genius

Your illustrator Jayachandran is another R.K. Laxman in the making. His  Mirror Image in the December 4 issue caricaturing Vajpayee's unilateral ceasefire offer was excellent! 

K.C. Sagar,

Printer's Devils

The observations against icmr in the cover story The Devil's Laboratory (October 23) are largely based on a paper by S. Arunachalam in a 1997 issue of Current Science journal. The study looked at overall medical research in India and not specifically icmr's contributions or its research output. Your reference to the conduct of unethical trials by icmr refers to one of icmr's studies carried out in the '80s on uterine cervical dysplasia alleged to be unethical on certain accounts. It was reviewed by a committee under the chairmanship of Justice Wad which observed that 'all just ethical practices prevalent at the time of the study were practiced' by the investigators.

Ranbir Singh,
PRO, ICMR, New Delhi

Dam not the Issue

Let me compliment you on continuously publishing Arundhati's radical views (Power Politics, November 27). I think you're doing a great job of giving voice to an alternative view, one a lot of us share. Arundhati manages to break down esoteric economic concepts discussed only in high-brow lingo and concentrate on their human aspect.     

Leo John,
Columbia, US

Hysteria-even from the word processor of a Booker-winning writer-always leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Pursued beyond a certain point, it degenerates into propagandist kitsch. Roy rants and raves and reduces a complex problem into a parochial unidimensional question with only one right solution. Also disconcerting is her attempt to project and generalise the 'haves' as the oppressors of the 'have-nots'. Fighting for the poor may be a noble thing to do but fighting for the right to stay poor certainly ain't.

Debasish Patnaik,
on e-mail

Arundhati Roy was not the only one to "feel a hot stab of shame". I felt it too, at her conceit and hypocrisy. It's ironic that the beneficiary of the globalisation of publishing and readership should object to a few young persons finding employment at call centres in Gurgaon. She need feel no more humiliation on their account than they do on hers.

Supriya Guha,
Basel, Switzerland

A bit late perhaps, but better late than never. Arundhati Roy's essay was one of the best pieces of writing I have come across in a while.

Anjali Ramachandran,

Fifty-two million people dislocated by dams in this country? This sounds like the Indian government is out to wipe out the poor in this country. Maybe it's some kind of Nazi pogrom to wipe out the poor along with poverty.

John P. Matthew,
Navi Mumbai

Banish Prejudice

Vinod Mehta's Delhi Diary (December 11) was most refreshing, especially so because it succeeded in banishing politics. Can he at the same time also banish referring to "this lower middle-class Muslim boy (Azhar)..."

Mani Ayer,

Opportunity of a Lifetime

It was so predictable-all the Vajpayee-baiters and -haters baying for his blood. The man whom they hated but could do nothing to hurt had apparently made the Mistake of a Lifetime (December 18) and they could now move in for the kill. So how could the greatest Vajpayee-hater of 'em all, Vinod Mehta, be left behind. He whipped out his old trademark photograph and had this to say for Vajpayee in his  column: he "is not a great thinker; neither is he a bold innovator, nor is he a gambler, nor is he a statesman". Has anyone ever told you, Mr Mehta, that you're not a great writer, nor the most impartial one. You wear your prejudices on your sleeve, and despite being called to the bbc studios for interviews, you're a terrible speaker.

Anil Shukla,

One wonders if the liberal humanism and the expression of hurt innocence Vajpayee often wears is real. Whatever his real motives, he has done a singular disservice to the nation by espousing a sectarian cause. Not only is he leading a coalition but also the entire nation. The issue is not about  building a temple either but whether ruthless religious crusaders in the guise of liberals are anathema to us or not.

J.M. Manchanda,

Batmen For Never

Apropos Grime and Punishment (December 11), it was we cricket fans who shouted for an inquiry into match-fixing. It was us again who clamoured for punishments once they were proven guilty. Yet now that the bans have been announced, it's we who are feeling the saddest to see them go. We have lost two of our greatest one-day players of all time. We will never be able to see the big hitting of Jadeja or the wristy shots of Azhar again. It's a sad end to two such bright careers. 'Bye Azhar, 'bye Ajay. 'Bye forever.

Kaushik Tiwari,

As a former cricketer, I'd like to congratulate you for spearheading the campaign against match-fixing. Your crusade has finally resulted in the bcci taking action against some of the culprits. Hopefully the can is now open, and the worms will start rolling out.

Venkat Sundaram,
teri, New Delhi

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