Wednesday, 25 May 2011

An Open Letter to Mr. Jairam Ramesh

Mr. Jairam Ramesh,
I sincerely believe that when you have doubted the ‘class’ of IIT and IIM faculties, you never meant to reflect the same sentiment of your former cabinet colleague Dr. Shashi Tharoor of ‘Cattle Class’ fame. You wanted to say something which can bring back the focus on you, so you chose two best public funded institutes if the state. Naturally, media is again showing you and running after you. You have successfully reached your target. Congrats.
Now let me say something about your 'class' comment.
Being an IIT alumnus you must know that institutes like IITs & IIMs have been established for a definite purpose. Over the years both these centres of excellence have proved its worth and made a mark in world platform & still counting. Their fame is not only for the students, but for the teachers too.
More importantly, if an institute is capable of producing ‘world class students’ I think their faculty members have to have the capability of nurturing the future world figures. If these talents are not shown the perfect way of unfolding their petals, they won’t even earn a name in India, leave aside world! Bright & the brilliants come to the IIMs and the IITs. Through a very tough selection procedure they made it to these august institutions and (surprisingly enough) the faculty of these institutes only select them!! These future world class students actually know the standard of the faculty as well as the institutes, so they choose these places! Do you think Mr. Minister, a student who aspires to be a world leader would chose a ‘below standard’ faculty as his/her mentor? I think, you know that teaching the brightest and the best is one of the most challenging jobs for a faculty. ‘Inept’ teachers cannot produce world class students, isn’t it so? What’s your take Mr. Minister?
I am associated with Indian Institute of Management Calcutta as a Trainee Teaching Associate. For the professional purpose I have the opportunity to work very closely withy many faculty members of this institute, both seniors and juniors. In almost all the cases I found, they are engaged in research works of very innovative kind or developing a new model. I would rather say, it’s really difficult to find them in campus as they always get invitations to attend various programmes worldwide. Actually ’world’ waits for them to get a pie of their knowledge and experience! Do you really call these faculties ‘incompetent’ in the world platform, Mr. Minister? Unlike the ‘world class’ institutes, students of IITs engage in project works which has long term sustainability and effectiveness. If you don’t believe ne, please do a Google search, you will get the list.
As you know Mr. Minister, India is different from world in many aspects. India still carries the tag of having a substantial percentage of people who don’t get a full square meal regularly. Primary education system is limping. Little number of students comes for higher education and a tiny percentage to IIMs and IITs. Still, India is proud of scientific research, management development, grassroots innovation, student entrepreneurship and many more. So why do IIM faculties need to follow the world model for attaining the status of ‘world class’ performer? If they think of India and research takes that specific direction, where’s the problem? Why does India need the approval of the West to prove its Excellence? Would you kindly explain this, Mr. Minister?
At the end, I want to say that there is always scope for improvement. IITs and IIMs are undoubtedly the best of the institutions and they boast of their faculty and students. But at the same time, complacency must not kill the scope for future development and innovations. Everywhere, be it ‘India’ or ‘World’ there are some people who might not be’ that good’, but experience says, peer pressure transforms them for better. Who knows, one day ‘world’ might adjudge its ‘class’ comparing their performance with the IIMs and IITs? What’s your take on this Mr. Minister?
Anwesha Banerjee
TTA, IIM Calcutta
PS: Congress party seems to have a problem in ‘class’ structure. First it was ‘cattle classes, then ‘world class’. I think the party needs a ‘class’ of its own!!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Friday the 13th: The ‘Red’ letter day

The Great Fall.
The longest running Communist government in a state has had its end on Friday, the 13th. This might not be as suspense thriller as the Hollywood blockbuster is, but it’s no less than a roller coaster saga for the Left as well as Mamata Banerjee!!
This is very much a predictable result. Opinion Polls and Exit polls have already given almost the same numbers as what the TMC Alliance and Left have got. So, that it would be ‘Left’s poll for exit’ was assumed. Officially though, run up for this moment has begun 2 years back. First phase of ‘Paribartan’ was seen in Loksabha election of 2009. Civic body elections too didn’t give any scope to stimulate confidence in CPIM. For mishandling of Singur, Nandigram and to some extent Rizwanur Rahaman death case, the war cry for ‘Change’ had gradually acquired a strong support base. And the Tsunami called ‘Paribartan’ indeed has washed away the Left even from their traditional strongholds.
The mandate is clear. Bengal has not only voted against the Left but also for the TMC-Congress alliance. Had it been only negative votes, alliance couldn’t have got 2/3rd majority with almost all the standing ministers losing including the CM Budhhadeb Bhattacharya. Alliance was successful enough to convince people that why they should vote for them. Moreover CPIM has continuously lost contact with the grassroot level. Almost three and a half decades in power made them overconfident. By the time they started taking the ‘corrective’ measures, it was already very late. And the ‘Mamata’ factor... In my previous articles (‘Winds of Change’ & ‘Paint it Green’) I have already talked about her: from whimsical to mature, how she transformed herself. Why people have started to see her as the best alternative to Left. With ‘never-say-no’ mentality she actually brought Jasmine Revolution here.
It is learnt from the CSDS survey that richest and the poorest have voted for the agent of change i.e. Didi. Why is it so? Just rewind a bit. Many believe that Higher Education & Industry was destroyed by CPIM. No English education in the Primary Level too has angered the rich & the urban upper middle class. On the other hand, ‘CPIM is taking away land from the poor’ the clever campaign by TMC was enough to make their mind change. They had the ready reference of Nandigram-Singur-Lalgarh.
Many Left sympathizers left heartbroken, the Rightist supporters are falling short of words. Expectation from the new government is enormous. Now, they want to see the actual ‘Change’ as promised in the manifesto. It can be surely said that people won’t wait another 34 years to witness change.
Mamata, by dedicating this victory to ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’ has told that this is the ‘second independence of Bengal.’ Pranab Mukherjee has already promised her a special package for Bengal for economic reconstruction as WB in debt-trap. The other challenge would be how she resolves the on-going ‘Hill’ problems and ‘jangalmahal’ and Maoist insurgency. With the ‘temporary’ end of the Communist era in Bengal, this time industrialists might be surer to invest here. Didi has announced to bring reforms in law and order, education, health and in other sectors. But the first & foremost challenge is definitely to maintain peace everywhere. Rural Bengal has bled long in vendetta politics. This should stop at once. It must be ensured that no one is without shelter in fear of being killed by the political enemies. I hope here it won’t be the beginning of Tamil Nadu way of politics where government and opposition always target each other. I wish CPIM will play the role of a Constructive opposition and won’t protest all the policies of new government like last 34 years opposition did.
State-Centre relation in Bengal too would change now. Predictably, centre will shed off its hostility towards this state. UPA II government has got enough boosters in the just-concluded assembly elections. Other than Tamil Nadu, they have performed well. Though they have won in Kerala by a whisker.
As the biggest ally of the UPA II, Mamata has so long opposed new land acquisition bill, pension bill and some other important bills. As soon as mandate was for her, she told a television channel that she wants new land policy. It is learnt, the bill is due to pass in the next session of the Parliament. Now whether she takes the same stand in these bills, would be a continuing focus. As of now centre won’t go against much of her will, as, if her party withdraws support, UPA II will be in big trouble. In West Bengal TMC has got absolute majority, so they don’t need Congress at all to run the government. Loksabha election is another 3 years away, so Congress has time, so they might adopt ‘Go slow’ policy in these contentious issues.
What is the road ahead for CPIM? As some are saying, is this really the end of Communism in India? I think, no. CPIM has lost contact with people and real issues related to the poor. They have got 5 years of time to go back to the basics from where they had begun. In the grass root level there are corruptions, nepotism and ‘brigades of opportunist members’, this practice must be put to an end. In order to channelize energy and confidence among the party members, CPIM has to start afresh. The Left here has already realised that there were huge percentage of negative voting for them. They have lost 7% of their dedicated vote-bank, whereas TMC has gained 19%. People have the ultimate authority to reject and select, so they have to find out why the electorates don’t want them any more. Organisational capability is not everything.
I believe, the biggest problem for CPIM is the disjunction between the Politbureau and the general mass. Politbureau decision is not always in consistency with the ground realities. Some are merely theoretical. Now Prakash Karats must learn from V S Achuthanandans. Hats off to the octogenarian for his efforts, he has almost done it in Kerala. Many are saying in Kerala, LDF has achieved a moral victory.
However, ‘Change’ is constant in democratic politics. Everywhere in the world and in India there is change of guard in elections. Because West Bengal was an exception, the change has resulted in so much of discussions, celebration, and frenzy.
Getting elected consecutively for 7 terms is history from all aspects. Long term in power always has a negative angle. It gives a certain contentment on the part of the government that the incumbent doesn’t have any alternative and whatever they are doing is good for the people. Electorates are taken for granted.
I belong to that generation who hasn’t seen any other government other than the Left front in my state. I was born when they were already in their second term. So we also don’t know what Green Revolution can bring to us. We have heard the ‘reign of terror’ by Sidhhartha Sankar Ray government from ’72-’77, we have not seen that. So veterans fear the repeating of that dark history.
But I am optimistic, after all Bengal is getting her first woman Chief Minister!! My only scepticism lies in the fact that if Didi remains current version of herself, we will see ‘dictatorship’ of ‘Durga in a crumpled Sari’!! Hope floats, ‘Paribartan’ might be seen in didi too...!!