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Posts Tagged ‘Higher education in India’

Indian education – Stirrings at the margin

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

“Over 2 million children in 2,200 private schools across the country use his ‘Smartclass’ every day; 4 lakh kids so far are registered with online tutorial site WiZiQ; 4 lakh teachers have been trained just this year in skills they would have learnt if they had done a basic BEd; 14,000 computer labs have been built in government schools …

As for whether the distance education model is flagging, Prakash points to how its share in his revenues (65 per cent at the moment) is rising — just 2,200 of the 75,000 private schools have his Smartclasses and just 14,000 of the 925,000 government schools are covered by his computer labs, an indication of how much more scope there is.

According to a CLSA brokerage report, Prakash says, Indians spend $25 billion (Rs 112,500 crore) a year on education till Class 12 and another $5.5 billion on tutoring — needless to say, he wants to be part of this great business where, to quote him, demand outstrips supply by a huge margin and the business is cash-flow negative.

Much is known about 15-year old Educomp and its success — Revenues are up from Rs 112 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 517 crore in 2008-09; Return on Investment (RoI) from 12.92 to 16.04 per cent in the same period; Return on Capital Employed (RoCE) from 28.5 to 27.8 per cent; Return on Net Worth (RoNW) from 24.1 to 35.6 per cent … today, with 400 people just developing education content, in ten Indian languages, Prakash says, he has the largest team doing such work in the world.” (via Lunch with BS: Shantanu Prakash).

After 60 years …

More than 60 years after the departure of the British, Indian media at least seems to adore ‘phoren’ educated politicians as the following news extract shows. Another journalist was effusive in praise when a DMK minister, Azhagiri took oath of office in ‘faultless’ English.

Indian-English language media today finds merit just because these Central ministers are ‘phoren’ returned. While, Indian Universities have become recruiting grounds and supply centres to the West for trained and qualified manpower, Indian media thinks that only ‘phoren’ educated and returned are good enough.

Team Manmohan crammed with A-listers

Manmohan Inc’s team would be any multinational corporation’s dream. Resume for resume, its key members are in a league of their own.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) council of ministers, led by the 78-year-old Cambridge-educated economist, has at least 14 ministers who have graduated from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and of course, Oxbridge. There are also Cabinet members who have degrees from US universities. (via Team Manmohan crammed with A-listers- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times).

English language media in India is still in its colonial haze – and to see such decadent, colonial ideas, 60 years after the British were thrown out, boggles my imagination. To approve of a politician, because he has English-language skills, or their ‘phoren’ education seems so important to these journalists, who seem to be wagging their ‘colonial’ tail with such approval – and vigor.

These journalists instead should have been worried that 60 years on, Indian Universities don’t seem to be meeting standards. And looking at the (seeming) failure of these Universities.

Higher education in India

This (mixed record) of Indian Universities can largely be laid at the doorsteps of the faulty educational policies that Indian Governments have been following. For one, why is the State increasing its role in education. For another, why is the Indian State supporting English language education with thousands of crores of subsidies – while Indian language education languishes.

80% of India’s population is excluded from higher education as Indian higher system is predominantly in English. Hence, this puts a premium on English – and discounts Indian languages in the educational sweepstakes. The negative effect this on Indian self esteem is not even a point of discussion here.

The principle of exclusion (a colonial idea) is a dominant marker of the entire Indian education system – rather than inclusion. British (and before that Islamic rulers’) colonial practices supported foreign languages on the backs of the Indian taxpayers’ contribution – and actively worked on destruction of local cultures.

For instance, in the erstwhile State Of Hyderabad (equal to about 10%-12% of modern India), ruled by the Nizam, a large non-British kingdom, 2000 year old local languages like Telugu and Marathi were considered uncouth and barbaric languages – compared to a 700 year old language like Urdu, which was supported by the State. Thus anyone without the knowledge of Urdu was excluded from the system. So it is now in India, with English.

This restricts 80% of India’s population from contribution and access to opportunity. Without looking at it from an ethical point, but purely as an economic question means we should look at the cost of this policy.

English In Higher Education Institutions

The problem is actually higher education. What is the future of Marathi medium students once they reach higher education institutions? The Indian state is penalizing the Indian tax payer by granting a monopoly to English in higher education.

Cost to the Indian economy

How does this hinder India? India loses every year about 200,000 highly educated people to the West. These 200,000 people have been educated at subsidized Indian Universities at a considerable cost to the poor Indian taxpayer. What return does the tax payer get from this? Negative returns.

What happens when English stops being an important language in the global sphere? What use will India’s investment in English be at that time? And this will happen sooner than we imagine – at a greater cost than we believe.

The Indian tax payer is creating a large body of English trained graduates, who are finally picked up by Western economies at zero cost. If these Indian graduates were trained in Indian languages, the West may find it difficult to absorb them at zero cost.

English education is now clearly a liability.

What is the cost of switching from English?

Assuming that a 100,000 essential books need to translated into local languages, at a cost of say Rs.100,000 per book, it still amounts to Rs.1000 crores. Is that a large sum of money for modern India. Hardly.

What is the loss to India? How much does this reduce India’s growth rate by? Hard numbers – but definitely big numbers.

So why is India persisting with this policy. Because all the high and mighty, finally want their children to ‘escape to the West’, with a good education from India – at the cost of India’s poor. This vested interest makes this policy go around.

And a lot of propaganda.

Backdoor privatization

The Vedanta industrial group is setting up a University in Orissa. From a campus at the new Lavassa township, Oxford is going to start offering courses. These and other represent the quiet backdoor ‘privatization’ of Indian higher education.

Hidden subsidies

Large tracts of lands are being acquired by the Government, and handed over for a pittance to the private sector. Soon, we will have competition between State Sector subsidized English education – and private sector subsidized education.

Who will help Indian languages get back on their feet

While Indian language Universities are struggling – for funding, respect, status, support, foreign Universities, using paper money, backed by the Bretton Woods fraud, will impose their ideas, culture, etc in India.

While the English speaking economic bloc is struggling, India is not focussing on the French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese Blocs which are large, excellent opportunities.

This can be a way out …

This actually is a good way out. There is a significant demand for English language education – at least currently. This demand can be met by the private sector. In the meantime, misdirected State subsidies can be gainfully used to help Indian language education get back on its feet.

In the not very long run, the state must get out of business of making up the minds of its citizens.

India starts investing in Indian languages?Quantcast

On the ground, classical language status has meant substantial funds and awards. The solution to such vexed claims and counterclaims may rest in the central government giving up its partisan patronage of Sanskrit and Hindi, and providing the wherewithal for all languages. What languages are classical or not is best left to the scholars. (via Is classical language status meaningless?- Et Debate-Opinion-The Economic Times).

It has taken India 60 years to start with some small investments in Indian languages.

The Indian education system excludes a vast majority of Indians from the higher education system – which is predominantly in English. This puts a premium on English – and discounts Indian languages in the educational sweepstakes. The disadvantaged students who have studied in Indian languages ensure that their children get the ‘advantage’ of English education.

The negative effect this on Indian self esteem is not even a point of discussion here.

End of the road … the bankrupt model

This Indian education model was, till about a 150 years ago, unique in the world. With the highest literacy ratio in the world, and completely privately funded, it set global and historic benchmarks. This model has been buried under a mound of silence – and once in a while you get a glimpse of this.

My first glimpse of this model was through the draft of Parag Tope’s forthcoming book – Operation Red Lotus.

I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. (Gandhiji, at Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, Oct 1931 – extracted from Indian Models Of Economy Business And Management By Kanagasabapathi; Page 60).

Gandhiji, in correspondence with Sir Philip Hartog, (chairman of the Auxiliary Committee on Education), laid out the the pre-colonial scenario, which has now been buttressed by research by Dharampal, a Gandhian, in his book, Beautiful Tree, Indian Education in the 18th century.

Sreelatha Menon, seemingly, depends on Tooley’s own PR handouts to write this up. In the entire post in Business Standard, she never makes a mention of Dharampal, whose work is the most authoritative today. Tooley, a (for sometime) IFC-World Bank employee, this research resulted, (funded by the Templeton Foundation) in a book – of course called, The Beautiful Tree.

Between a rock and a hard place

Dharampal’s pioneering work, in 1983, has, not surprisingly, been ignored by the Amartya Sens and The Jean Drezes of the world – all their avid followers in India. Kapil Sibal has been trying to further the colonial British efforts by laying out a red carpet for foreign universities – while tying up Indian institutions into-knots-into-knots-into-knots. The ‘modern’ theory about Indian education goes that all credit for Indian education should go either to the British Colonial Raj or the Christian Missionary Benevolence.

The health care (USA), social welfare (USA), employment benefits (UK), showcase countries (Japan), are running countries into the ground. India has, as yet, not gone down that path. Though, the Indian State has been trying – quite hard.

What Kapil Sibal does not know and hurts us

November 16, 2009 4 comments

Before the western model brought by the British or the Church, there were ezhuthu pallis, or writing schools, run by ezhuthu ashans, or writing masters. There were also schools run by wealthy individuals in their homes for their daughters.

In these tutorials, generations learnt to read and write using writing nails, palm leaves and sand, paying fees in kind. Outside Kerala, gurukuls functioned successfully for centuries. And these were always privately-funded. Is this model better than pumping in more public money into inefficient government schools?

That is the question that James Tooley, a British researcher and writer on education, asks in his recent book, The Beautiful Tree. He sees existence of private education in pre-British India as an argument in favour of low-cost private education that can cover every child. He finds virtue in the large number of private schools that are run in the slums he visited.

This goes against the thinking of development experts, including Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze. A study by the latter argues that the solution is to improve government schools rather than close them.

Madhav Chavan, the founder of NGO Pratham, which in its study found that the poor also preferred to send their children to private schools, sat close to Tooley at the launch of the book. But he made it clear he did not share the views of the author.

To say that private schools hold the key to universal education is to say the unspeakable. As unspeakable as saying that the king has no clothes. (via Sreelatha Menon: A new lesson).

The Beautiful Tree - by DharampalEnd of the road … the bankrupt model

The health care (USA), social welfare (USA), employment benefits (UK), showcase countries (Japan), are running countries into the ground. India has, as yet, not gone down that path. Though, the Indian State has been trying – quite hard.

My first glimpse of this model was through the draft of Parag Tope’s forthcoming book – Operation Red Lotus.

I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. (Gandhiji, at Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, Oct 1931 – extracted from Indian Models Of Economy Business And Management By Kanagasabapathi; Page 60).

Gandhiji, in correspondence with Sir Philip Hartog, (chairman of the Auxiliary Committee on Education), laid out the the pre-colonial scenario, which has now been buttressed by research by Dharampal, a Gandhian, in his book, Beautiful Tree, Indian Education in the 18th century.

Sreelatha Menon, seemingly, depends on Tooley’s own PR handouts to write this up. In the entire post in Business Standard, she never makes a mention of Dharampal, whose work is the most authoritative today. Tooley, a (for sometime) IFC-World Bank employee, this research resulted, (funded by the Templeton Foundation) in a book – of course called, The Beautiful Tree.

Between a rock and a hard place

Dharampal’s pioneering work, in 1983, has, not surprisingly, been ignored by the Amartya Sens and The Jean Drezes of the world – all their avid followers in India. Kapil Sibal has been trying to further the colonial British efforts by laying out a red carpet for foreign universities – while tying up Indian institutions into-knots-into-knots-into-knots. The ‘modern’ theory about Indian education goes that all credit for Indian education should go either to the British Colonial Raj or the Christian Missionary Benevolence.

This Indian education model was, till about a 150 years ago, unique in the world. With the highest literacy ratio in the world, and completely privately funded, it set global and historic benchmarks. This model has been buried under a mound of silence – and once in a while you get a glimpse of this.

Cong plans defend-Nehru movement

August 27, 2009 9 comments
Propaganda Wars

Propaganda Wars? (Picture courtesy - Linked from the outlookindia.com)

The sudden rise in the Congress decibel level was prompted by former RSS chief K S Sudarshan’s statement calling Jinnah secular. “Over the past 10 days the successors of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassins have been trying to distort history,” Tiwari said.

Ascribing the fullsome praise of Jinnah to the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to “secularise themselves by proxy”, he termed the Pakistan founder as a “British stooge” and claimed that nobody was more communal than him. “If somebody was responsible for Partition undoubtedly it was Jinnah,” he said.

Tiwari claimed that such approval of Jinnah could easily come from the BJP-RSS leadership because “they had no role in the freedom struggle”. He said these comments were a direct assault on the history of the freedom struggle. In the party’s estimate, Nehru was not just the chief architect of the modern Indian state but its ideological propagator as well. (via Cong plans defend-Nehru movement).

A ‘victorious’ Congress, ruling for most of the 60 years of post-colonial India, had three clear propaganda imperatives.

1 – TINA, There is no alternative

They needed to prove that it was only the Congress which could ‘take on’ and  ‘defeat’ the ‘glorious and the mighty’ British Empire on which the sun never set. The logic went, “what could India(ns) have done without the Congress”. This thinking went deeper and dirtier, when a certain Deb Kant Barooah, declared “India is Indira and Indira is India.”

Similarly, Congress decided to re-write history and take all credit for the departure of the British colonialists. Contributions of leaders like SC Bose was ignored or the importance of the February 1946 joint action by the Indian Armed Forces against the colonial forces, was minimized to the ‘Naval Ratings Mutiny.’ Leaders like VD Savarkar (the first to write a non-colonial history of the War of 1857), or Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (joined Jana Sangh-BJP from Congress) was dismissed as fascism.

Fact is, that Britain was bankrupt and could not hold onto India. Fact is, that for a 150 years – from 1797-1947, many rebellions, wars, individual hits were made against the colonial British Government. The myth of non-violent Indian freedom movement, served both colonial and Congress interests. It showed the British as ‘civilized’ colonialists – and the Congress as ‘enlightened’ leadership. Just like most Western literature caricatures African-American characters as hard-working, humble, docile, placid, obedient, gentle!

2 – If you don’t have an enemy, create one!

The Congress needed to create an enemy. A demon, who they could blame, use, abuse – and Pakistan fitted the bill perfectly. A failed state (!), a hotbed of terrorism – and to top it all, an Islamic State. What more could the West-Congress combine ask for?

Easily slipping into colonial legacy of ‘divide et impera’, the Congress went onto a disastrous foreign policy trail of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. A solid relationship with Pakistan would have,  arguably, saved Tibet from the Chinese maws – which Nehru’s foreign policy predicated.

3 – Craven desires

To gain Western approval, acceptance, favours, privileges et al.

Consider the English language policy of the post-colonial Congress Government. It has massively subsidized English education in India so that the children of the elite could ‘escape’ to the West. The demeaning ‘population control theory’, the English language education – all, a result of this need of the Congress Party.

The deliberate colonial distortion of Indian history continues unchecked and unhindered. You only have to read Congress Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s speech at Oxford, praising the Raj,  while receiving his honorary doctorate, or Chidambaram’s decision to end “abject poverty” in India that he seems to “have known for 5,000 years.”

When each of these elements are looked at in isolation, we can take benign view of these actions. When looked at collectively, it forms a clear pattern.

A rather ominous pattern.

‘We needed to make a demon of Jinnah… Let’s learn from our mistakes’

August 18, 2009 2 comments
Could Advani have made such a misstep ...!

Could Advani have made such a misstep ...!

How seriously has India misunderstood Jinnah?

I think we misunderstood because we needed to create a demon.

We needed a demon because in the 20th century, the most telling event in the entire subcontinent was the partition of the country.

Your book reveals how people like Gandhi, Rajagopalachari and Azad could understand the Jinnah or the Muslim fear of Congress majoritarianism but Nehru simply couldn’t understand. Was Nehru insensitive to this?

No, he wasn’t. Jawaharlal Nehru was a deeply sensitive man.

But why couldn’t he understand?

He was deeply influenced by Western and European socialist thought of those days. Nehru believed in a highly centralised polity. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity.

Because that would give Muslims the space?

That even Gandhi understood.

You conclude that if Congress could have accepted a decentralised federal India, then a united India, as you put it, “was clearly ours to attain”. Do you see Nehru at least as responsible for partition as Jinnah?

He says it himself. He recognised it and his correspondence, for example with the late Nawab Sahab of Bhopal, his official biographer and others. His letters to the late Nawab Sahab of Bhopal are very moving.

(via ‘We needed to make a demon of Jinnah… Let’s learn from our mistakes’).

A ‘victorious’ Congress, ruling for most of the 60 years of post-colonial India, had three clear propaganda imperatives.

The Masters Glee - Confusion of Indian Independence

The Masters Glee - Confusion of Indian Independence

1 – TINA, There is no alternative

They needed to prove that it was only the Congress which could ‘take on’ and  ‘defeat’ the ‘glorious and the mighty’ British Empire on which the sun never set. The logic went, “what could India(ns) have done without the Congress”. This thinking went deeper and dirtier, when a certain Deb Kant Barooah, declared “India is Indira and Indira is India.”

Similarly, Congress decided to re-write history and take all credit for the departure of the British colonialists. Contributions of leaders like SC Bose was ignored or the importance of the February 1946 joint action by the Indian Armed Forces against the colonial forces, was minimized to the ‘Naval Ratings Mutiny.’ Leaders like VD Savarkar (the first to write a non-colonial history of the War of 1857), or Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (the founder of the Jana Sangh-BJP) was dismissed as fascism.

Fact is, that Britain was bankrupt and could not hold onto India. Fact is, that for a 150 years – from 1797-1947, many rebellions, wars, individual hits were made against the colonial British Government. The myth of non-violent Indian freedom movement, served both colonial and Congress interests. It showed the British as ‘civilized’ colonialists – and the Congress as ‘enlightened’ leadership. Just like most Western literature caricatures African-American characters as hard-working, humble, docile, placid, obedient, gentle!

2 – If you don’t have an enemy, create one!

The Congress needed to create an enemy. A demon, who they could blame, use, abuse – and Pakistan fitted the bill perfectly. A failed state (!), a hotbed of terrorism – and to top it all, an Islamic State. What more could the West-Congress combine ask for?

Easily slipping into colonial legacy of ‘divide et impera’, the Congress went onto a disastrous foreign policy trail of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. A solid realtionship with Pakistan would have,  arguably, saved Tibet from the Chinese maws – which Nehru’s foreign policy predicated.

Basking in the glory of Western approval

Basking in the 'glory' of Western approval

3 – Craven desires

To gain Western approval, acceptance, favours, privileges et al.

Consider the English language policy of the post-colonial Congress Government. It has massively subsidized English education in India so that the children of the elite could ‘escape’ to the West. The demeaning ‘population control theory’, the English language education – all, a result of this need of the Congress Party.

The deliberate colonial distortion of Indian history continues unchecked and unhindered. You only have to read Congress Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s speech at Oxford, praising the Raj,  while receiving his honorary doctrate, or Chidambaram’s decision to end “abject poverty” in India that he seems to “have known for 5,000 years.”

Coming to the BJP

When Advani goes to Pakistan and praises Jinnah, it cannot be an accident, or a slip of the tongue. It had to be a deeply thought out, well considered move – one can say, after watching Advani for nearly 30 years now. The man does not go out and missteps so wrongly. The ‘Advani-Jinnah-comments-fracas’ was for media consumption – and BJP party workers. If Advani wanted to re-write history (about time too), that was one way!

And if there were any doubts, then Jaswant Singh’s book, seals the argument.

PS –

  1. Dutifully, within 48 hours, the BJP decided to ‘expel’ Jaswant Singh from the party, for his pro-Jinnah book on 19th August, 2009.
  2. Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, promptly banned the book, in Gujarat. I see good sales for Jaswant’s book – and rehabilitation of Jinnah in India, BJP willing.
  3. On 23rd August Arun Shourie, ‘tore’ into the BJP leadership on the subject of Jaswant’s Singh’s book. India Today reported that he said, “Jaswant Singh’s book is a scholarly work. It deserves to be read,”, criticising the party for pulling the Jinnah remark out of context of the entire book.
  4. One day later, on 24th August,  KS Sudarshan, the former head of RSS weighed in on Jaswant Singh’s side. It was reported that
  5. “Jinnah had many facets. If you read history then you will come to know that Jinnah was with Lok Manya Tilak and was totally dedicated to the nation. And when Gandhi started the Khilafat movement, with the idea that currently we are opposing the British and if Muslims join in then their support will help gain independence. But at that time Jinnah opposed it saying that if the Caliph in Turkey has been dethroned, what has India got to do with it. That time nobody listened to him, which saddened him. So he quit the Congress and left for England and only returned in 1927,” Sudarshan said.
  6. On August 26th, 2009, newspapers reported that in response to BJP’s Jinnah-offensive the “Cong threatens protests against attack on Nehru”. Additional reports, stated that the “Cong(ress) plans defend-Nehru movement”. Manish Tiwari, the Congress spokesman rationalized that, “approval of Jinnah could easily come from the BJP-RSS leadership because “they had no role in the freedom struggle”.
  7. On 30th August, 2009, a former general secretary and vice-president, Pyarelal Khandelwal, wrote a letter suggesting that
  8. “Jaswant Singh’s expulsion should be taken back and the matter should be discussed with him in a respectable manner to resolve the problem,” the letter states. “The case gives the impression that while acting against the senior leader some party leaders had a well-planned intent to corner him and they showed too much haste,” Khandelwal says in the letter. It would have been proper and in keeping with the party’s image if the controversial portions of the book had been seriously discussed before taking action, as was done “in the case of Arun Shourie where a lot of patience was exercised”. Khandelwal also suggests that had Jaswant Singh himself kept the party view in mind and sent in writing details of the book before its release or discussed the issue with the appropriate people in the party, this situation could have been avoided. “The discipline of the party could also have been kept intact,” Khandelwal said.
  9. On 5th September, that “though BJP has expelled Jaswant Singh from the party, its parent organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has invited his son Manvendra Singh to its national meeting in Mumbai.”

‘IT players failed us in financial inclusion drive’- says the RBI

August 17, 2009 1 comment

The rich target the poor ...

The rich target the poor ...

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has accused IT giants of being indifferent towards the cause of financial inclusion in India. “The scale of business in financial inclusion is so big that we need participation from big IT companies,” said KC Chakrabarty, deputy governor, RBI, speaking on the sidelines of a financial inclusion seminar organised by Skoch, a consultancy firm. He added lack of interest and involvement by big IT companies was making banks’ endeavour of financial inclusion unsuccessful.

According to Mr Chakrabarty, involvement of big IT companies was important to bring down the transaction cost. (via ‘IT players failed us in financial inclusion drive’ – The Economic Times).

How India missed out …

Due to our well-cultivated tunnel vision about English language (amongst many other things), India missed out on Japanese investments, technology and business. Indian loyalty to English language exceeds the loyalty of the British themselves to their language – and we refuse to see how this affects us.

Reforming Indian education

India urgently needs to put more languages in lingual-education basket – instead of putting all our eggs in the English language basket. We can’t do business with the French or Germans, Spanish or the Arabic speaking world. The Chinese and Japanese are out of bounds to us – as are the Swahili and the Bantu.

The Indian language basket also calls for diversification. India needs to learn more foreign languages. But with our bankruptcy of ideas on restructuring Indian education system or the vested interest banging begging bowls in front of the Indian tax payer!

The Indian software ‘success’

The great ‘software’ success story is actually two countries – US and UK who give between 70%-80% of Indian software business! This is coolie labour! We are missing out on the massive Japanese, French and the Spanish markets because we have not invested in those foreign languages. Same story in Europe also – major opportunities overlooked and ignored. And we have missed out on computing in Indian languages, because we have not invested there either. So, RBI’s peeve is right – but the solution is somewhere else.

Is it due to the apparent Indian decision to tie its future to the sinking ship of the Anglo Saxon Bloc?

Caught speaking Malayalam, Apollo nurses asked to resign

Menon said they arrived for the afternoon shift at 1.45 pm. “We greeted each other in the lift lobby in Malayalam and did not realise that the nursing superintendent was standing behind us,” Joseph said.”

Menon added, “We spent the entire day apologising but we were not allowed to enter the ward after that.”

The hospital’s nursing superintendent, Usha Banerjee, said employees were encouraged to speak only in English within the premises. “We cater to an international clientele,” Banerjee said. “In any case, speaking in native languages might jeopardise patient safety; we avoid talking in any language other than English while inside the hospital premises.” (via Caught speaking Malayalam, Apollo nurses asked to resign).

It gets worse … before getting worser?

The inside story on this one is worse. Apparently, whispers are that some of the supervisors at Apollo Hospitals do not speak Malayalam – and were peeved with the giggling and laughing nurses, chattering away in Malayalam. Imagined grouses and paranoid about being ‘insulted’ the supervisors came down heavily on this ‘misbehaviour’ by mandating that only Hindi and English will be used.

And then when the matter came to the NHRC and reached the media, they amended their orders – and under the dubious logic of ‘international’ patients, safety, et al, they tried smuggling in the rule that only English will be used.

The issues at stake

What is worth highlighting in this entire chain of events are the following: –

  1. Only Indian Express and The Telegraph (from Kolkatta) picked on this story, seemingly. No other mainstream media (MSM) ‘voice’ had anything to say on this story. Neither of the newspapers, did not quite know how to ‘deal’ with this ‘issue’.
  2. Some internet news aggregators were better with thaindian.com, with topnews.com and yahoo.co.in picking this story. Some internet forums discussed this – some in a half hearted manner.
  3. If India’s earlier ‘colonial’ masters had behaved in such a manner, it would raised the hackles of the entire country. But now, since the Brown Sahibs are doing it, it passes muster. How does colour make a difference, when an English speaking person, in a position of power, abuse their authority and insult people, using any other language? Does the fact that it is a Brown Sahib make the behaviour less objectionable?
  4. The ‘logic’ of English as an international language slides down the Indian throat – hook, line and sinker? Like it was pointed out,

It is often argued that India has developed and come up in the world so spectacularly because we have English. But then, how did the rest of the G-20 get there? Fifteen of those top countries have made it by functioning almost entirely in their own mother tongue and national language. For the remaining four — the US, UK, Canada and Australia — there was no choice, for English is again their mother tongue.

Clearly, India needs to take a stand – and do away with English. It will only benefit India.

Trailing the Buddha

July 15, 2009 1 comment

Photographer Benoy K Behl’s pursuit of documenting ancient Indian art and the spread of Buddhism across the world does not show any signs of slowing. He is travelling to Siberia and Afghanistan to shoot art in the monasteries there, and his project will culminate in shows in London and New York, finds Anand Sankar (via Trailing the buddha).

Indian academia abdicates

Western historians trace this art form to Islamic school

Western historians trace this art form to Islamic school

This short post in Business Standard is an eye opener. It is another case of the Dysfunctional Indian academia, which is the story of abdication by the Indian academia in correcting colonial history. Western historiography, based on a colonial agenda and racial superiority is not being challenged – at least not enough.

To the lengthening line of non-specialists, who are re-writing Indian history, like Amaresh Misra (War of 1857), Anant Darwatkar (on Sambhaji Maharaj), Parag Tope (on Tatiya Tope’s role in 1857), Savitri Sawhney (on the Ghadar Party’s contribution to Indian Freedom Movement), we can now add the name of Benoy K Behl. As this article points out,

Some of Behl’s observations on the Indic vision might ruffle feathers in the academia, amongst certain ideologues. While politely saying that he “stays away from political issues”, he points out: “At some places, they are less confused than us. For example in Bali, they know that the Ramayana sets a benchmark for ethical rule. It is literature, an epic of ideas.

As Ganga descends from the heavens, it starts teeming with Nagas (fertility symbol)

As Ganga descends from the heavens, it starts teeming with Nagas (fertility symbol)

Awesome Work

Capturing Indian history across more than 20 countries, Benoy K Behl has spent,

almost two decades now, … to document the spread of Buddhism; his work evident in over 30,000 unique photographs that he has taken all over the world.

He has found that

“At many of these places people may not have seen present-day Indians but they still hold Indian culture in great regard”.

Unlearning and learning

Western history in the thralldom of the Greek Miracle and a colonial agenda of minimizing and subverting Indian history, is a bad (though usual) starting point to understand Indian history. To Benoy K Behl,

“The paintings of Ajanta appeared to me as a world of compassion. An entire world is enshrined there. It had an immense effect on me. I found all the things one had believed in and wanted to believe in there. I was really taught by that art. It is a really good way to learn. Western literature did not come in the way of art and me”.

At Ajanta, Behl says he found that the popular view was that the paintings were a “flash in the pan”. And that there was no documentation of what happened before and after these. “Sheer volumes of art are waiting to be discovered and with them, a perspective will emerge. People haven’t bothered to go to these places.

Mahajanaka vaanprastha

Mahajanaka vaanprastha

Desert Bloc legacy

Benoy K Behl makes an interesting observation that India discovered religion in the last few centuries. Early India never had religion. Which is exactly what the 2ndlook blog has said for the last few years.

“In ancient times, there was nothing called Hindusism, Jainism or Buddhism. This is a European construct of a divided religion. The philosophy of religion was not limited by these divisions in India or in Asia even”.

If I may add – The Europeans are a part of The Desert Bloc – where religion was born and propagated.

Gajalakshmi in Varaha cave

Gajalakshmi in Varaha cave

What Benoy K Behl brings to the table

An independent and interesting perspective. A rare commodity in the best of times. For distressed Indian history, it is invaluable.

Citing an example, Behl says, one of the stories that needs to be documented in India is the contribution of Kumara Jiva, a big name in Chinese Buddhism. “He was the son of Kumara Yana, an Indian nobleman who married Princess Jiva of Kucha (in China). Jiva took her son to the Kashmir valley, where he studied for 19 years. He became the greatest translator for Buddhist scriptures in China, especially the Lotus Sutra.” The Chinese government has built a statue recognising this at the Kizil caves, on the northern Silk Route in the remote Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Behl suggests that India must also “build a statue of Kumara Jiva” in recognition of his origins.

The ancient culture of India is important in world history. European writing has perhaps undermined this.” To substantiate this he says that Ashoka is still revered everywhere from the Volga basin to Japan.

New view on India

More of Benoy K Behl

The National Geographic has put together some good photographs – and I am sure there are more where these came from.

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