The Marketplace That is
Child is the Father of Mammon
(December 11) was a fine expos 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 expos which protects the
identity of some schools?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Vineeta and Ravi Kapoor,
Ignorance is indeed bliss if
one has to go bankrupt to impart knowledge to their wards.
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.
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?
Despite the organisers
calling them "beauty with a purpose" Priyanka Chopra's
win goes to prove yet again that beauty and brains never go
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.
Who cares if we can't win
medals at the Olympics; at least we win beauty contests every
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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)?
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
John P. Matthew,
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
teri, New Delhi