Category Archives: Politics

IIT Delhi to go the Kanpur way ?

Another IIT has followed the path initiated by IIT Kanpur. Now IIT Delhi has rejected the common test proposal that was rolled out by the Ministry of HRD, by stating that the Centre’s policy is an impeachment on the autonomy of IITs across the country.
“The main reasons are whatever resolution has been adopted by theIIT Delhi Senate on May 2, those resolutions have been rejected by the IIT Council in their meeting on May 12 and 28 May, which we felt is not correct and that is why IIT Delhi Senate rightly has rejected the Council’s proposal and IIT Delhi’s Senate feels that it is an impeachment on our autonomy,” said Prof. Mittal of the civil engineering dept was quoted as saying .
“So, it is a broader issue of the autonomy of our IIT system. And then we say what is the way forward, the way forward is that IIT will conduct its own exam, so we have decided that we will conduct our own exam,” he added.
It is worth noting that the decision of conducting a common entrance test for admission into the IITs ,NITs and IIITs has met with nation wide debate and is being seen as an attack on the autonomy of the IITs. This test is proposed to have a significant weightage of class 12th board marks.
IIT Kanpur had earlier this month rejected the proposed test branding it ‘academically and methodically unsound’.
The IIT faculty federation has argued that the ISEET for admission to the undergraduate programme to the IITs and other Centrally-funded institutes will deteriorate the autonomous status enjoyed by the IITs. With these concerns the IIT faculty federation had met the Prime Minister , Dr.Manmohan Singh on 15th june and expressed their various concerns regarding the proposal and the PM had assured that the autonomy of these institutes shall not be tampered with.

With IIT Delhi’s refusal to follow the new pattern, the shroud of uncertainty hovering around the test pattern in 2013 has darkened.This is definitely marring the interest of students who aspire these coveted institutes .The crisis needs to be resolved at the earliest for the best interests of students at mind.

Petrol prices cut by Rs. 2 a litre

After the sharp criticism over the steepest hike, petrol price was on Saturday cut by Rs 2.02 rpt 2.02 per litre, a partial rollback of the Rs 7.54 a litre increase effected more than a week ago.

The reduction, a result of fall in international oil prices, will mean that petrol in Delhi will cost Rs 71.16 per litre from Saturday midnight, as against Rs 73.18 at present.

The decision, flowing out of the fortnightly review by oil marketing companies, came as some relief for consumers battered by double-digit inflation and the May 24 hike which was the steepest ever that came on top of two increases in a year.

The May 23 hike had come under sharp attack from all political parties including allies like TMC and DMK and some ministers in the UPA and there was all-round demand for a rollback.

The Left and NDA had on Thursday organised a nationwide strike in protest against the hike.

Last week’s steep Rs 7.54 per litre hike was done considering an average gasoline price of USD 124.37 per barrel and a rupee-dollar exchange rate of Rs 53.17 in the first fortnight of May.

Gasoline price have since fallen to $115.77 per barrel in the second fortnight but rupee-dollar rate has worsened to Rs 54.96 to a US dollar during the period.

The fall meant that petrol rates be cut by Rs 1.68 per litre, excluding local sales tax or VAT. In Delhi, after including 20 per cent VAT, the reduction will be Rs 2.02 a litre.

Price may come down further in Delhi

The price of petrol which has come down to 71.16 per litre in Delhi could further decrease by 92 paise when a proposal by the Delhi government to cut VAT on increased component of the fuel comes into effect.

Petrol would cost Rs. 70.24 when the Delhi government implements its decision to forego VAT on the hiked price of the fuel.

Presenting the budget on May 28, 2012, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had announced slashing the VAT on the hiked price of petrol.

The budget will be taken up for passage on Monday and once proposal is cleared, the government would issue a notification effecting the cut in prices.

As per the earlier calculation, forgoing the VAT on increased price of petrol would have resulted a cut in petrol price by Rs. 1.26.

[This article was originally posted on The Hindu, NEW DELHI, June 2, 2012]

 

Ambedkar cartoon: Dalits have reason to be offended

By Nilanjana S Roy @ Sify News [This article was originally published on Sify News]

It is unreasonable to expect the Dalit community to not take offence at the cartoon of B R Ambedkar, drawn by the great cartoonist Shankar in 1949, withdrawn from NCERT textbooks by Indian members of Parliament earlier this month.

This is not because the cartoon is offensive, in its historical context. It depicts Ambedkar riding a snail, which represents the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution of which he was the Chair, with Jawaharlal Nehru wielding a whip behind him.

In his November 1949 speech to the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar made it clear that he was aware of the complaints — one member had called the Drafting Committee the “Drifting Committee”, for instance.

“It was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting public money,” Ambedkar said, before rebutting his critics.

It is hard to argue, as many have, that Shankar’s cartoon was a deliberate attempt to depict a Brahmin whipping a Dalit. The cartoonist lampooned Nehru, Jinnah and other national leaders with as much sharpness.

He was treating Ambedkar as an equal to his peers, equally worthy of satirical treatment. Some Dalit commentators have made the more accurate point, which is that what was not offensive in 1949 may be felt as offensive in 2012.

To argue that the Dalit community should place freedom of expression above its sense of offence ignores the ground reality of the Indian experience in the last two decades. In recent times, few communities, political or religious leaders and groups have placed a principle ahead of the prospect of gain. Brahmins stung by Habib Tanvir’s criticism of their caste successfully shut down performances of Ponga Pundit in Chhattisgarh.

The Shiv Sena, setting itself up as the guardian of Hindu sensibilities, has stalled all scholarship into the lives of revered icons such as Shivaji and Bal Thackerayji. And a handful of Muslim leaders found it easy to capitalise on vote bank politics in order to prevent Salman Rushdie from speaking at a literary festival, allowing fanatics who felt that even Rushdie’s image on a screen caused great offence to represent the entire community.

The Dalits, already underprivileged, should have their chance along with upper castes, politicians and religious leaders who put on their best performances in TV studios, to reap the benefits of claiming offence.

These are considerable benefits, in 2012: claim offence and you claim valuable space, while shutting down art galleries, textbooks, scholarship, criticism and reasoned argument.

In all of these debates over the limits of free speech and the need to be sensitive to the dangers of giving offence, we have lost more than just our free expression rights, important as that is. One loss is a relatively minor loss of perspective: all of the threatened violence over books, cartoons, textbooks, art and cinema has been organised by political parties.

Though we may choose not to acknowledge this, it makes that violence much more containable than the kind of spontaneous outrage over literature and art which, frankly, hasn’t happened in decades. (Unless you’re including the people who insist on asking paragraph-length questions at book launches in the ranks of the dangerously violent.)

The other loss is major. This is the loss of the idea that if you’re dealing with art and especially satire that has cut deep, adding context is better than deleting the offensive material.

The late M F Husain’s paintings of goddesses lose their ability to offend when you place them besides similarly naked ancient sculptures of the gods. Rohinton Mistry’s criticisms of Indira Gandhi or Thackeray should be read alongside, say, Shankar’s cartoons of the Emergency, or chronicles of the rise of the Sena in Maharashtra.

With the Ambedkar cartoon, why ask for erasure when you should ask, instead, for more? Why was a Dalit blamed for the delays in drafting the Constitution? Because he was the head of the Drafting Committee?

Or because there were more subtle caste politics at work? Broaden the discussion, and ask why Dalit academics weren’t part of the process of critical pedagogy, but don’t tear the cartoons out of all textbooks.

In that 1949 session, Ambedkar began by addressing the criticism that the Constitution had been drafted at snail’s pace. But a little later, he came to a point that concerned him greatly: “In India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship.”

He was echoing his colleague, T T Krishnamachari. In answer to a question about why the fundamental rights to liberty – including freedom of expression – were not stronger, Krishnamachari said: “If the Parliament of the future is not going to safeguard the liberty of the individual, I do not think that anything we put in this Constitution can possibly safeguard it.”

Perhaps once Parliament is done with protecting itself – and any group that screams offence – from any kind of criticism, past and present, it may have time to address Ambedkar’s fears.

Lokpal Bill referred to Rajya Sabha Select Committee

In yet another twist, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill was on Monday referred to the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha, further delaying the setting up of the anti-graft ombudsman which has been hanging fire for 42 years.

The Bill, on which debate had remained inconclusive in the Rajya Sabha during the last Winter Session, was referred to the Select Committee through a motion soon after Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy moved it for consideration and passage.

Interestingly, the motion for referring the bill to the Select Committee was moved initially by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal.

This was strongly objected to by BJP, Left parties and BSP, with their members arguing that only the minister concerned could move such a motion and accusing the ruling coalition of “using the shoulder” of “friendly opposition” party.

After high drama marked by arguments and counter-arguments over whether rules permitted any other member to move such a motion, the government yielded and the motion was moved by Mr. Narayanasamy which was immediately passed by voice vote.

He said the 15-member committee would have to submit its report by the first day of the last week of Monsoon Session.

While moving the bill, the Minister said differences on it had been narrowed down after consultations with various parties.

He said the government proposed to bring lower bureaucracy under the purview of Lokpal which will have investigating and prosecution wing. Besides, CVC will monitor investigations by the CBI referred to it by the Lokpal.

There will be provisions for attachment of properties and time-frame for investigations.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was witness to the high drama ahead of the Bill being referred to the Select Committee of the Upper House.

Questioning the sincerity of the government, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said, “I urge the Prime Minister and the Government to be upfront and forthright and say do we want a Lokpal or we don’t.”

He also questioned the Government’s intentions in bringing the Bill a day before the Session ends, even when it had enough time to consult the opposition. “We have given our views formally at the all-party meeting and even informally,” he said.

Saying “the credibility of Parliamentary institution now is at stake”, Mr. Jaitley said the whole nation was looking at them. “We want and the country wants that the government comes out clearly on this issue.”

The government also came under sharp attack from BSP, with Ms. Mayawati agreeing with the Leader of Opposition on the government’s intention and asked it to come out with a proper proposal for passing the Bill.

“This is your weakness and you are shirking your responsibility,” she said, despite expressing commitment for the Bill it was delaying it on one pretext or the other.

She said the Bill must be not passed in haste and be done only after proper discussion with all parties.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) also questioned the amendment motion to send the Bill to Select Committee coming from a Samajwadi Party member instead of the Minister in-charge.

Mr. Yechury, however, asked the Government to include corporates under the purview of Lokpal saying, “You are not putting a check on demand side of corruption and are not putting a check on the supply side of corruption.”

This article was originally published on http://www.thehindu.com