Capability Deficit in Leadership of HEIs

Being a Vice-Chancellor or Head of an Institution of Higher Education is not a bed of roses as lot of people and aspirants for such jobs may be thinking. These positions are extremely difficult, and not a lot of bright people want that kind of job. It is an unfortunate situation that the system we have set up in higher education seems to recruit for such positions from a pool of candidates that have neither been trained nor have they been given any incentives to develop the skills necessary for academic leadership. With the rise of alternative education options, crises in financial outlays and devaluation of formal college degrees, HEIs face challenging times in the decades to come and there is more need than ever before to hire the right leaders with the right experiences and the right skill sets.

Repeatedly, media has been flagging the issue about leadership-crisis in HEIs, for public attention, which has always been known to people in academics and the government. News18 had done a story (https://www.news18.com/news/india/unfit-dozens-in-the-vice-chancellor-pro-vice-chancellor-race-515870.html ) in 2012, “Unfit dozens in the Vice Chancellor, Pro Vice Chancellor race.” The Hindu had done a story titled – ‘Public inquiry’ by JNUTA finds V-C unfit for position – on JNU V-C Jagadesh Kumar in October 2017 (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/public-inquiry-by-jnuta-finds-v-c-unfit-for-position/article19935324.ece ). Times of India had also reported it prominently. It cannot be a mere accident that Prof. Jagadesh Kumar now heads the UGC. Times News Network, in 2019 had published a research finding that 75% of Vice Chancellors in the country were unfit for the job they held.

In academic institutions, faculty begin their careers in the role of entry-level assistant professors usually after their Ph.D. They are appointed based on their prior peer-reviewed publications and teaching skills but rarely because of their leadership and administrative skills. Few years later, the assistant professor applies for promotion presenting a docket of more than 100 pages of documentation consisting almost entirely of research publications, teaching evaluations, letters of recommendation, and grants and awards received. Particularly in top institutions, most of the weight is placed on research publications, then teaching, then service and once again, leadership and administrative experience are rarely given strong weight in promotion decisions. Without strong research publications, faculty cannot be promoted regardless of their teaching and leadership excellence. Sure, some faculty stay where they are as purely a research and teaching faculty member, but the upward career mobility is usually possible only after one has achieved a full Professor’s rank.

Faculty positions such as Professor of Psychology require people who love analysing data, investigating phenomena, and communicating results through writing or in the classroom. On the other hand, educational administrator positions like a Dean, Provost, or a Vice Chancellor require people who love problem solving, making difficult decisions, managing teams and projects, and evaluating and taking risks. Yet, it is very rare for a college or university to hire a principal or a Vice chancellor who has not been a lifelong academic.

Academics sometimes have a bit of an unfortunate reputation of being big picture thinkers, with their heads in the clouds (or ivory tower) and disconnected from the realities of everyday life. They start a research project, and then get excited by another new idea several days later, only to end up after several months with a dozen great ideas yet none close to being completed.

Faculty do not learn how to make decisions as an Assistant Professor, where their main concern is to complete the research project and get it published in some top journal that only a handful of other academics in their field will read. Research publications take months if not years to go through the peer review and editing process. Decisions in higher education leadership, especially in the face of crises such as a pandemic, need to be made within days if not hours. The work context is completely different as well, even though both the jobs are in academia.

One reason why leadership in HEIs has been losing its credibility is that so many academic leaders are not good at making long-run decisions for the health of their institutions. The most obvious example is where they fail protect the integrity of the curriculum in the face of faculty desires to teach whatever the faculty finds interesting. Higher education is quickly losing its value proposition, becoming out-of-date, inefficient, and losing credibility in the workplace, due to mindless tactical tinkering with the curriculum and the processes. We may have been so focused on hiring high-quality researchers and teachers, that we forgot they need to also be high-quality leaders and administrators.

So what is the solution?

First and foremost, early career faculty, regardless of their core field of study, must receive training on leadership, team development, risk management and related skills required for higher education administration.

Second, there is a need to change the tenure and promotion criteria for faculty to pursue such trainings. Unless one wants to remain a research or teaching professor for rest of one’s career, tenure and promotion should be granted only that faculty, who can also lead and administer.

Third and finally, academia should consider outside leaders and businessmen who have the necessary skill sets to lead large complex organizations. There are a whole community of people who got their PhD but decided against traditional research and teaching careers. They may be qualified and exceptional in academic leadership positions.

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See Behind the Curtain of QS World University Rankings 2022

I will begin on a lighter note because what follows is serious and may be tough, harsh and unsavoury for quite a few learned people.

There is a joke about a man asking his son about his result in the school, which is narrated nearly in all parts of the country. Rendered in local dilect with local nuances and cultural flavour, the outcome is always hilarious.  This joke goes something like this –

Man (to his son Ramu) – tell me, whether you passed this time or have failed the exams once again

Ramu (replying to his father) – I have stood fourth in the class

Man – very good Ramu, but did you pass

Ramu – Gopal (Head master’s son) has stood sixth in the class, I have done better than Gopal

Man – Poor Gopal, he remained behind you, but did he pass or not

Ramu – only Dheeru and Golu passed, they stood first and second. Don’t get angry with me, I am better than 36 in my class. Only 3 are better than me.

Man (in angry and abusive tone) – Idiot, you failed again

Clearly, the result was only 5% (2 out of 40) pass rate.

Let us now look at the QS World University Rankings 2022. India has celebrated that three of our institutions – IIT Bombay (shared rank 177), IIT Delhi (rank 185) and IISc Bangalore (shared rank 186) continue to remain in the top 200 ranked Universities of the World even in 2022. The Prime Minister (https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1402628065474203650) and the Education Minister (https://twitter.com/DrRPNishank/status/1402559433259962371) also congratulated these institutions, and rightly so, rankings do give us a sense of achievement. We need to be careful however, if our euphoria (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-emerging-a-vishvaguru-says-ramesh-pokhriyal-after-3-indian-institutes-figure-in-top-200-qs-world-university-rankings/articleshow/83373333.cms ) is like that of a Ramu or a Golu?

QS World University Rankings 2022 feature 1,300 universities from around the world. There are 35 Indian Universities in this list of 1300. (https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2022 )

Universities were evaluated according to a weighted average of the six metrics – Academic Reputation (40%), Employer Reputation (10%), Faculty/Student Ratio (20%), Citations per faculty (20%), International Faculty Ratio (5%), and International Student Ratio (5%).

The matrices are reported as measurements on an analogue interval scale (0-100) which are then aggregated into an overall score (weighted average). The overall score is therefore on an analogue interval scale (0-100).

The overall score was then ordered from high to low and discreet ranks awarded as 1, 2, 3, and 4 and so on. Universities tied at same overall score share the same rank and the next rank is then skipped to account for double cases at same rank. In such ranking, among the top 200 ranks, three institutions from India figured.

Let us try to see beneath the veil of these ranks.

  • MIT, which ranks first has an overall score of 100 (rounded up) composed of Academic Reputation (40% of 100), Employer Reputation (10% of 100), Faculty/Student Ratio (20% of 100), Citations per faculty (20% of 100), International Faculty Ratio (5% of 100), and International Student Ratio (5% of 91.4).
  • The overall scores are thus some kind of ratings for the Universities. Interestingly, as we go down the ranking list, the overall score drops very fast – Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh United States scores less than 75% but ranks at 53; Hanyang University, Seoul South Korea scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; Maastricht University, Maastricht Netherlands scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; and University of Missouri, Columbia United States scores less than 25% but ranks at 476.
  • Overall Scores for Universities ranked at 501 or lower are nor reported (they scored 24 or less out of 100)

Let us revert to performance by the institutions from India. There are 35 institutions from India in the list of 1300 ranked institutions, of which 3 are in top-200, 5 more are in the 201-500 group, another 14 are in the next 500 ranks while the remaining 13 are in the last 300 ranks. The top-3 institutions from India are rated and ranked as under:

  • IIT Bombay (Academic Reputation -51.3, Employer Reputation -79.6, Faculty/Student Ratio- 32.5, Citations per faculty -55.5, International Faculty Ratio – 1.5, International Student Ratio – 1.6; Overall score – 46.4; rank-177),
  • IIT Delhi (Academic Reputation -45.8, Employer Reputation -70.8, Faculty/Student Ratio- 30.9, Citations per faculty -70.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.7; Overall score – 45.9; rank 185)

and

  • IISc Bangalore (Academic Reputation -34.2, Employer Reputation -19.2, Faculty/Student Ratio- 48.8, Citations per faculty -100.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.8; Overall score – 45.7; rank 186)

The next 5 ranked institutions are:

  • IIT Madras (Overall score – 38.1, rank 255),
  • IIT Kanpur (Overall score – 36.4, rank 277),
  • IIT Kharagpur (Overall score – 36.3, rank 280),
  • IIT Guwahati (Overall score – 28.3, rank 395) and
  • IIT Roorkee (Overall score – 28.0, rank 400).

Here is what the rating data displays:

  • Only the public institutions of technology and science are able to find a place in the top-500 club. These are deemed to be universities but not a university in the real sense of the term. A university is multi-disciplinary, spanning across humanities, science, commerce and social sciences rather than being confined to a very narrow focus on technology.
  • There is no real Indian University in the top-500 ranks. South Africa has 4 real universities in the top-500 club.
  • As against 8 institutions from India in the top-500 club, Europe has 212 institutions, United States has 87 institutions while Rest of Asia has 117 institutions (includes 26 from mainland China, 16 from Japan).
  • These 8 institutions do not account for even 1% of the total university enrolment in India.
  • The best of best in India scores only 46% marks as compared to the best in the world score of 100%.
  • There are large variances in the scores for Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, Faculty/Student Ratio and Citations per faculty within the top 3 whose ranks are spread over only 9 ranks.
  • Employer reputation seems to exceed Academic Reputation for the high ranked institutions in India. IISc turns out to be an exception in reputation as well as in its Citation score.

Makeup is used as a beauty aid to help build up the self-esteem and confidence of an individual. Like NIRF Rankings (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350354434_NIRF%27s_India_Rankings_Are_Ludicrous) QS World University Rankings 2022 are a makeup for educational institutions. This makeup conceals the ugly pockmarks on the face of Universities in India. It is unfortunate that the Education Minister has utilized this makeup to beat the harsh lights and the glare of camera flashes which would expose the rot in education system.

By calling these rankings as a testimony for India’s “leap in the field of Education & Research and is emerging as a VISHVAGURU” Education Minister is only proving his lack of understanding and literateness. Surely, he remembers well – “Parde Mein Rehne Do Parda Na Uthao, Parda Jo Uth Gaya To Bhedh Khul Jayega, Allah Meri Tauba – Allah Meri Tauba” (परदे में रहने दो पर्दा न उठाओ, पर्दा जो उठ गया तो भेद खुल जायेगा, अल्लाह मेरी तौबा – अल्लाह मेरी तौबा) keep the curtain on, don’t lift the curtain, If the curtain is lifted, then the secret will be revealed, Allah is my repentance – Allah is my repentance.

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First published 12 June 2021

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Is Journalism Dead?

Journalism in India was once a profession, so we had heard. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the selling of pizza, a fast and convenient food item of suspicious nutritional value. Journalists and press no longer regard themselves as responsible advisers of the public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India as its first or foremost duty.

To anoint a hero, and worship him, has become the principal duty or mission of the journalists. Under this new configuration, news is replaced by sensation, reasoned opinion by unreasoning passion, and appeal to the minds of responsible people by appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible.

The script is written by drum-beaters to glorify their heroes. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become as blind as we see it today in India and may the rest of the world. There are some honourable exceptions, but they are too few and their voice is never heard.

Entrenched behind the plaudits of the Press, the spirit of domination exhibited by the politicians, has transgressed all limits. By their domination they have demoralised their followers and demoralised politics. By their domination they have made half their followers fools and the other half hypocrites. In establishing their supremacy they have taken the aid of “big business” and money magnates. For a long time now, in our country, money is taking the field as an organised power. The questions which, we, the people, are not willing to answer are:

WHO SHALL RULE – wealth or man?

WHICH SHALL LEAD – money or intellect?

WHO SHALL HOLD PUBLIC OFFICES – educated and patriotic free men or the feudal serfs of corporate Capital?

For the present, Indian politics, instead of being spiritualised, has become grossly commercialised, so much so that it has become a byword for corruption. Journalists and media have become willing accomplices. Politics and journalism have together constituted a kind of an intolerably insanitary sewage system.

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. Media used to be a carrier – a carrier of news, journalistic opinion, entertainment and advertising. Today, media has become synonymous with press and journalism. Coupled with social-media, print, television, internet and other in-pocket-media makes news which the journalists follow and report. Journalist and newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, the “Father of Journalism” (born as Jozsef Politzer in Hungary in 1847) must be turning in his grave in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Where has this so called pillar of democracy gone – wo haben wir erreicht – donde hemos llegado – où avons-nous attaint – यह कहां आ गये हम…….?

(first published 23 Aug 2020)

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Little Clear Notes on Indian Education

In India, education is a subject matter of regulation both by the Central government and the state governments. Education providers are both, public as well as private institutions. The predictable result is that richer and urban areas have better schools and that students in these schools have a better chance of going on to high education.

While right to education is a fundamental right and providing education the responsibility of the state, children from economically weaker backgrounds attend separate and entirely unequal state-government schools in the urban areas. In rural areas, where there are no private schools, the rural-rich send their children to the urban elite and private schools while the poor have to make do with schools without adequate physical and human teaching resources.

Access to primary and secondary education was and is unequal. The same inequality continues or rather increases for the post-secondary education.

As per a report of Ministry of HRD, Government of India titled ‘Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education 2013-14 to 2015-16’ Elementary Education accounted for 50.96% of the total expenditure on education in 2015-16, followed by Secondary Education, which was 30%. The share of University & Higher Education and Technical Education was 12.84% and 4.60% respectively.

State universities, for example, educate 65% of students but receive only 45% of the various higher education grants from the states. The perversity of this is seen in this statistic: at the elite schools, students pay only 35 paise of every rupee to fund their education while at the large state universities they pay 55 paise of every rupee. Not surprisingly, the graduation rate for the elite institutions is above 90% while it is below 50% for the other tiers.

Elite state institutions are almost as lavishly funded as the old-line institutions such as BITS. The defence of spending more on these institutions and students is merit, of which, there are two kinds. Both are manufactured.

It is not that these institutions do not turn out good education work. Rather, in the battle for funding, they up their rankings by inviting more and more students to apply for a limited number of spaces – which allows them to prove their elite status by showing the small percent of applicants they actually enrol.

Elite institutions also manufacture their status through their reliance on admissions testing scores or percent cut-offs. India is famous for IIT-JEE or CPMT or CAT. There are a number of studies which prove that such tests miserably fail in predicting how students will do during their first year in the institution.

Anyone and everyone interested in higher education in India may like to read – Odile Henry and Mathieu Ferry, « When Cracking the JEE is not Enough », South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 15 | 2017, Online since 22 March 2017, connection on 19 April 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/samaj/4291; DOI : 10.4000/samaj.4291; not because I endorse the views therein, but because there is a point of view.

That we as a nation have created a ‘brahminical’ class of institutions called the IITs and the tier-1’s whose priests seem to control every regulation, every accreditation, every ranking and every policy making body on education, is not a matter of pride but shame that even in the seventh year of its rule, the NDA government is unable to finalise an education policy for the country. On the other hand, the world of knowledge has moved many leaps over these seven years and in all likelihood, India may have an obsolete education policy right on the day it is adopted, if that day ever comes.

(First published 07 June 2020)

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Guidelines and Protocols for Prioritising COVID-19 Patients

Imagine that day when India has reached a situation where every ventilator and every ICU bed in the country is taken and only two beds are available in the army hospital in the ICU for admitting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. Unfortunately, only one ventilator is available. God forbid, at that moment, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Leader of Opposition catch COVID-19 and all three need an ICU bed and a ventilator. What would be the protocol for allocating these resources (2-beds and one ventilator) among the three claimants?

This completely fictional and hypothetical scenario has been presented above purely for communicating the point which is being made. No ill-will or malaise is intended towards anyone caricatured in this picture.

COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world. With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world nearing two million and deaths from the disease already having surpassed a hundred thousand, a growing number of national and local medical authorities have begun issuing guidelines and protocols that call for hospitals to prioritise younger patients over those who are older.

The positive news about the cases of recovery heading towards half a million mark is getting lost on people because of the fear of death causing cognitive dissonance among people who filter out all positive news and let the feeling of fatality seep in.

There is no denying the fact that no medical and health care system in any country has the capacity of handling the sudden spike in numbers of patients which the likes of Italy and Spain have seen.  The scarcity of healthcare resources in India can be directly attributed to decades of mismanaged public healthcare system. While India is working overtime to ramp up the capacity, the growth of the current epidemic makes it likely that a point of imbalance between the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the effective availability of intensive resources will be reached. Should it become impossible to provide all patients with intensive care services, it will be necessary to apply criteria for access to intensive treatment, which depends on the limited resources available.

COVID-19 does not discriminate among its victims in terms of their social or constitutional status. It did not spare even the British Prime Minister.

In Italy and Spain, the two countries most affected by COVID-19 in Europe, doctors in overwhelmed intensive care units have for weeks been making life or death decisions about who receives emergency treatment. The new protocols, however, amount to government directives that instruct medical personnel effectively to abandon elderly patients to their fate.

There are confidential protocols in Spain, now leaked, which effectively advises that elderly people afflicted by CONVID-19 should die at home. The document stated that dying at home was more humane as it avoids suffering: patients can die while surrounded by their families, something that is not possible in overcrowded hospitals. The protocol also advised medical personnel to avoid referring to the lack of hospital beds.

In Italy, a document prepared by a crisis management unit in the northern city of Turin also proposed that COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older or that in poor health should be denied access to intensive care if there are not enough hospital beds.

What is the best way to serve humanity? Aspects such as who has the greatest chance of surviving an admission to intensive care will come into play. It is up to the doctors to see who has the best chance of survival.

One must ask if the high rate of mortality among the elderly is a feature of COVID-19 or an outcome of discriminatory medical care provided to them. The large numbers of dead, especially among the elderly, appears to be the price that Indians would be paying just like the European countries.

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Has TRAI failed the Consumer?

An active competition and rivalry in business is, undoubtedly, conducive to the public welfare, but neither the regulators nor the customers should ignore the fact that competition may be carried to such an extent as to accomplish the financial ruin of those engaged therein and thus result in a derangement of the business, an inconvenience to the consumers, and in public harm.

A price cutter is usually a financially strong player, who makes up his losses of profits on cut-prices either by the number of his sales or by extra profits on other sales to the consumer under the decoy of the cut-price upon one or a few items. The regular player cannot meet such competition and is driven out of business. That which is, properly speaking, “competition” in business, is thereby strangled and the only competition which is promoted is that of the particular branded article against itself.

Fixing and maintaining of a fair price above cost is a commercial necessity; and any other course must end in bankruptcy. When that price is so unreasonably lowered as to drive others out of the business, with a view of stifling competition, not only is that wronged competitor individually injured, but the public is prejudiced by the stifling of competition. Thereafter the market leader begins to extract the costs of buying market share and snuffing out competition from the purchasing public by unreasonably raising the price.

It is a mere truism to say that Jio is responsible for bringing call costs way down in the mobile telecom market. 21-years after the launch of mobile telephone in India, entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited into the mobile telephony market as a late-entrant in 2016, and then racking-up a price-based competition has not been in overall interest of the consumer. The consumer received some price advantage through predatory pricing by Jio, but concurrently suffered falling service-quality around call-drops and service disruptions. Jio promised free unlimited calls and texts, as well as affordable data at the time of its launch in September 2016 and became India’s biggest telecom company with over 355 million subscribers at the end of September 2019.  Jio did not earn but bought market share.

On October 9, Reliance Jio announced that it would start charging users 6 paise per minute for outgoing calls to other operators. This is clearly against the operator’s promise of free unlimited calls and texts and Jio hadn’t said that the deal was subject to business dynamics.

One of the main objectives of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition. The strangling of competitors by price-cutting is not “competition” but TRAI doesn’t seem to know it.

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2019 – Crystal-Gazing: Opinion of the Electorate – भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय

CRYSTAL-GAZING:   Opinion of the Electorate just before the 2019 General Elections

[Because I don’t want to choose between the ‘devil’ and the ‘deep-sea’ and I quiver being left with NO CHOICES for the next government]

  • Were there any real differences between the UPA and the NDA governments?
  • One governed through mean self interest; the other governed by reckless adventurism
  • One was oblivious to the future and destroyed the present; the other was correcting the present but destroyed the future
  • One lived off the charisma of a dynasty; the other thrived on charisma of one man
  • One rewarded loyalty to the dynasty; the other rewarded loyalty to the man
  • One had muted its Prime Minister; the other had muted most of its Ministers
  • One had smart ministers of corrupt intents; the other had stupid ministers of confused intents
  • One had divided the country on religion and tried to appease the minority; the other further divided the religious majority on caste and tried to appease the so called lower castes
  • … … … … … … … … …

 

CRYSTAL-GAZING:   Opinion of the Electorate just after the 2019 General Elections

  • One was done in by its allies; the other was done in by its ‘Bhasmasurs’ and ‘Shakunis’
  • End of the Story
  • ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति:॥

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भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय – 2019 के आम चुनावों से तुरंत पहले

[क्योंकि मैं अंधे-गहरे ‘खाई’ और ‘कुएं’ के बीच चयन नहीं करना चाहता हूं और मुझे लगता है कि अगली सरकार चुनने में मेरे पास और कोई विकल्प नहीं होगा]

क्या यूपीए और एनडीए सरकारों के बीच कोई वास्तविक अंतर था?

  • पहले ने नीच स्वहित के माध्यम से शासन किया; दूसरे ने उतावले दुस्साहस के माध्यम से
  • पहले ने भविष्य की परवाह नही की और वर्तमान को नष्ट कर दिया; दूसरे ने वर्तमान को सही करने के फेर में भविष्य को ही नष्ट कर दिया
  • पहला वंशवाद के करिश्मे से चला; दूसरा सिर्फ एक आदमी के करिश्मे से
  • पहले ने वंश के लिए वफादारी को पुरस्कृत किया; दूसरे ने सिर्फ एक आदमी के लिए वफादारी को पुरस्कृत किया
  • पहले ने अपने प्रधान मंत्री को मूक कर रखा था; दूसरे ने अपने अधिकांश मंत्रियों को मूक कर रखा था
  • पहले के पास भ्रष्ट लक्ष्यों से लैस चतुर मंत्री थे; दूसरे के पास व्याकुल इरादों के जाहिल मंत्री थे
  • पहले ने देश को धर्म पर विभाजित कर धार्मिक अल्पसंख्यक को प्रसन्न करने की कोशिश की थी; दूसरे ने धार्मिक बहुसंख्यक को जाति पर विभाजित कर पिछड़ी जाति को खुश करने की कोशिश की थी
  • … … … … … … … …

 

भविष्य की झांकी: मतदाताओं की राय – 2019 के आम चुनावों के तुरंत बाद

  • पहले को उसके अपने अवसरवादी सहयोगी ले डूबे थे, दूसरा स्वयं के वरदान प्राप्तिकर्ता “भस्मासुरो” द्वारा खाक कर दिया गया था।
  • इति।

ॐ शान्ति: शान्ति: शान्ति:॥

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‘Bhakt’ and Indian Politics – भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

Until the 2014-15, the word “Bhakt” meant a ‘religious devotee’ because the origins of the so called “Bhakti movement” are to be found in the religious, devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and was later revolutionised in Sikhism. It travelled to Islam as Sufism. The Bhakti movement originated in the eighth-century Tamil south India, and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards. The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, such as Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), as well as a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.

The movement has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism, and provided an individual-focussed alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s caste of birth or gender. Postmodern scholars suggest that Bhakti movement was a revival, reworking and re-contextualisation of ancient Vedic traditions.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita mention Bhakti. The epilogue verses of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, uses the word Bhakti as follows:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

The Bhagavad Gita, introduces “bhakti marga” (the path of faith/devotion) as one of three ways to spiritual freedom and release, the other two being “karma marga” (the path of action/effort) and “jnana marga” (the path of knowledge). The word “Bhakt” also finds a mention in chapter 7 of Bhagavd Gita which postulates four types of devotes:-

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

  • Arta (the distressed) – people suffering pain at physical or at mental level.
  • Artharti (Devotees with certain wishes) – desirous of material wealth, kids, name and fame.
  • Jigyasu (Knowledge Seeker) – have faith in God and want to explore more about Him.
  • Jnani (Self Realised) – who have finally realized GOD and have true knowledge of Him.

To the best of my awareness and limitations of memory, the word “Bhakt” did not exist in Indian politics before 2014.  And subject to the same limitations, when BJP was on a roll in 2014 during its electioneering and victory; this term was used by Shri Digvijay Singh of the Congress. [I extend unconditional apologies to the true and real owner of this intellectual capital if the credit has wrongfully gone to someone else.] This term was used in a disparaging and a derogatory sense to humiliate some of the volunteers who were acting as impact-multipliers for social media campaign unleashed by the BJP IT Cell.

When Congress recorded its most humiliating of the performance at any election, rather than gracefully acknowledge the brilliance of work done by the BJP IT Cell, the ungraceful losers, extended the description “Bhakt” to any and every voice attacking the pseudo-secularism, or the hypocrisy of the national media or seen as lending even an insignificant support to Hinduism or the intents of the BJP government. Though signified as “Bhakts”, the signifying meaning is that such people are actually “Sinners” of every political party in general and the Congress in particular, save and except the BJP.

I support neither the BJP nor the Congress in taking pot-shots at each other in public utterances and political debates. I am no one to advise them which adjectives or abuses may not be used in their mutual descriptions and debates. I do resent the whole idea of disparaging a very noble, pious and a religious belief of “Bhakti” and “Bhakt” belonging to my religion. I celebrate “Bhakti” and for me the most auspicious “Bhakt” from my mythology have been “Bhakt-Hanuman”and “Bhakt-Prahalad” while from my rich cultural history, the undeniable “Bhakt-Mira.” If the illiterates are trying to impute any idea of Modi or BJP being the “God” of the “Bhakts”; this is not creative liberty; for in using such metaphor, the illiterates are running down my “Gods” and my “Bhakti”.

For the benefit of the illiterates, “Bhakti” is spiritual, a love and devotion to religious concepts or principles, that engages both emotion and intellection. The word Bhakti should not be understood as uncritical emotion, but as committed engagement. Bhakti movement in Hinduism refers to ideas and engagement that emerged in the medieval era on love and devotion to religious concepts built around one or more gods and goddesses. I find it disturbing that some of the illiterates are actually more Hindu and more nationalistic than I would ever be. While Hindus and Indians could fight the enemies outside, they have always lost to the enemies within. The irony has been that most of the “enemies within” have not been anti-Hindu or anti-India, but because of their unswerving devotion and blind faith in some forces, they have acted in deviant ways and ironically, such forces have turned out to be “anti-Hindu” and “anti-India.”

Time, the “pseudo-seculars” and the “Bhakt-bashers” appreciate that any “anti-Hindu” rhetoric can never be “pro-India” and any “pro-India” speechifying cannot be “anti-Hindu.”

 

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भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

2014-15 तक “भक्त” शब्द का अर्थ ‘धार्मिक भक्त’ था क्योंकि मध्यकालीन हिंदू धर्म में उभरी धार्मिक और  भक्ति की प्रवृत्ति में तथाकथित “भक्ति आंदोलन” की उत्पत्ति पायी जाती है, जो आगे चल सिख धर्म के रूप में उपजी और विकसित हुई। यही “भक्ति आंदोलन” सूफीवाद के रूप में इस्लाम में पहुंचा। भक्ति आंदोलन आठवीं शताब्दी के दक्षिण तमिल भारत में पैदा हुआ, और उत्तर की ओर फैल गया। यह 15 वीं शताब्दी के बाद से पूर्व और उत्तर भारत में फैल गया। भक्ति आंदोलन क्षेत्रीय रूप से विभिन्न देवताओं और देवियों, जैसे वैष्णववाद (विष्णु), शैववाद (शिव), शक्तिवाद (शक्ति देवी), साथ ही साथ द्वैतवाद से लेकर अद्वैत वेदांत के दार्शनिक पदों की एक विस्तृत श्रृंखला के रूप में विकसित हुए।

इस आंदोलन को परंपरागत रूप से हिंदू धर्म में एक प्रभावशाली सामाजिक सुधार के रूप में माना जाता है, और आध्यात्मिकता के लिए व्यक्ति-केंद्रित, जन्म जाति या लिंग से परे, वैकल्पिक मार्ग प्रदान करता है। आधुनिक विद्वानों का मानना है कि भक्ति आंदोलन ने प्राचीन वैदिक परंपराओं का पुनरुत्थान कर नए सिरे से पुन: संदर्भित किया था।

श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद, कठोपनिषद और श्रीमद्भागवतगीता में भक्ति का जिक्र है। श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद के उपसंहार छंद, भक्ति शब्द का प्रयोग निम्नानुसार करते हैं:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

भगवत गीता, आध्यात्मिक स्वतंत्रता और मोक्ष के तीन रास्तों में से एक के रूप में “भक्ति मार्ग” (विश्वास/भक्ति का मार्ग) पेश करती है, अन्य दो रास्ते “कर्म मार्ग” (क्रिया/प्रयास का मार्ग) और “ज्ञान मार्ग” (ज्ञान का मार्ग) हैं। भगवत गीता के अध्याय 7 में भी “भक्त” शब्द का उल्लेख मिलता है जो चार प्रकार के समर्पणों को प्रस्तुत करता है: –

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

“चार प्रकार के पुरुष मेरे लिए भक्ति सेवा प्रदान करना शुरू करते हैं- अर्त (परेशान), जिज्ञासु, भौतिक संपदा के साधक, और जिसने पहले से ही पूर्ण ज्ञान का ज्ञान प्राप्त कर लिया है।”

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me— the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

मेरी याददाश्त के अनुसार, 2014 से पहले भारतीय राजनीति में “भक्त” शब्द मौजूद नहीं था। जहां तक मुझे याद आता है, इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल कांग्रेस के श्री दिग्विजय सिंह ने 2014 में जब भाजपा चुनावी जीत की ओर बढ़ रही थी, तब किया था। इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल बीजेपी आईटी सेल के सोशल मीडिया अभियान के प्रभाव-गुणक के रूप में कार्य कर रहे स्वयंसेवकों को नीचा दिखाने, अपमानित करने, निरुत्साहित करने के उद्देश्य से अपमानजनक और हस्यास्पद अर्थ में किया गया था। [यदि मैने अनभिज्ञता में यह श्रेय श्री सिंह को दे दिया हो तो मैं इस बौद्धिक पूंजी के सच्चे और वास्तविक स्वामी से बिना शर्त माफी मांगता हूं]

जब कांग्रेस ने 2014 में किसी भी चुनाव में सबसे अपमानजनक प्रदर्शन का रिकॉर्ड स्थपित किया तो भाजपा आईटी सेल द्वारा किए गए काम की प्रतिभा को गहराई से स्वीकार करने के बजाय, गरिमाहीन हारने वालों ने,  “भक्त” का बिल्ला हर किसी ऐसी आवाज़ पर चस्पा कर दिया जो छद्म-धर्मनिरपेक्षता पर या राष्ट्रीय मीडिया की पाखंडता पर हमला करने वाली हो, या जो भूले-भटके ही कुछ ऐसा कह दे जिसे हिंदू धर्म या बीजेपी सरकार को समर्थन के रूप में पेश किया जा सके। यद्यपि “भक्त” एक सांकेतिक संज्ञा के रूप में प्रयुक्त शब्द था, परंतु, इस संकेत में “पापी” अर्थ का समावेश था, “भक्त” से तात्पर्य था भाजपा को छोड़कर, सभी राजनीतिक दलों के प्रति और विशेष रूप से कांग्रेस के प्रति पाप करने वाले।

सार्वजनिक कथन और राजनीतिक बहस में, एक-दूसरे को आड़े हाथों लेने में जैसी भाषा का उपयोग बीजेपी और कांग्रेस की ओर से हो रहा है, मैं उसका समर्थन नहीं करता। लेकिन मैं उन्हें कोई सलाह भी देने की कोशिश नहीं कर रहा हूं कि उनके पारस्परिक वर्णन और बहस में कौन से “विशेषण” या “दुर्व्यवहार” का उपयोग नहीं किया जा सकता है। पर हिन्दू होने के नाते, मैं अपने धर्म से संबंधित एक बहुत ही महान, पवित्र और धार्मिक धारणा “भक्ति” और “भक्त” के अपमानित करने के भाव में उपयोग से आहत हूं। मैं “भक्ति” को एक अनुष्ठान के रूप में मनाता हूं और मेरी पौराणिक कथाओं से सबसे शुभ और श्रद्धेय “भक्त”  “भक्त-हनुमान” और “भक्त-प्रहलाद” हैं, तथा  मेरे समृद्ध सांस्कृतिक इतिहास के दौरान निर्विवाद “भक्त-मीरा” हैं।

“मोदी” या “बीजेपी” पर हमलावर होते हुए, यदि कुछ अशिक्षित और अज्ञानी “भक्त” शब्द का उपयोग उनके अनुयायियों को बदनाम करने के लिए प्रयोग में ला रहे हैं तो यह रचनात्मक स्वतंत्रता नहीं है। इस तरह के रूपक का उपयोग करके यह जाहिल और हेकड़ दीवाने मेरे “देवताओं”, मेरी “भक्ति” और मेरी आस्था का दुष्प्रयोग कर रहे हैं।

शिक्षित जाहिलों के कुछ ज्ञान-लाभ के लिए – “भक्ति” आध्यात्मिक है, धार्मिक अवधारणाओं या सिद्धांतों के प्रति प्रेम है, इसमें भावना और बोध-प्रक्रिया दोनों शामिल हैं। भक्ति शब्द को अनैतिक भावना के रूप में नहीं, बल्कि प्रतिबद्धता और वचनबद्धता के रूप में समझा जाना चाहिए। हिंदू धर्म में भक्ति आंदोलन उन विचारों और वचनबद्धता को दर्शाता है जो मध्ययुगीन युग में एक या एक से अधिक देवताओं और देवियों के प्रेम और भक्ति की धार्मिक अवधारणाओं के निर्माण के लिए उभरे। कुछ शिक्षित वास्तव में अधिक हिंदू और अधिक राष्ट्रवादी हैं जितना मैं कभी भी हुआ, और यह सच मुझे अधिक परेशान करता है। जबकि हिंदू और भारतीय बाहरी दुश्मनों से सदैव लड़ सकते थे, वे हमेशा अपनों के विश्वासघात से हारे हैं। विडंबना यह है कि “आंतरिक-दुश्मनों में से अधिकांश” हिंदू विरोधी या भारत विरोधी नहीं हैं, लेकिन कुछ शक्तियों में उनकी अविश्वसनीय आसक्ति और अंधविश्वास के चलते उन्होंने विचलित तरीकों से काम किया है। और दुर्भाग्य यह है कि ऐसी ताकतें “हिंदू विरोधी” और “भारत विरोधी” निकली हैं।

समय आ चुका है जब इस बदलते माहौल में झूठी-धर्मनिरपेक्षता का मुखौटा पहनने वाले यह समझने लगे कि हिंदू-विपक्षी तेवर कभी भी भारतीय-हित में नहीं हो सकते हैं और कोई राष्ट्र-समर्थक व्याख्यान हिंदू-विरोधी नहीं हो सकता है।

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Delayed Education Policy* विलंबित शिक्षा नीति**

Today’s world is signified by the mutual union of two important trends: faster development of technology, and faster growth (and better reach) of information and knowledge equally. Linear Progress – go to college first; get a bachelor’s degree; then earn the first job where you can learn job-based skills; and then only go and become a productive employee- this arrangement is no longer sufficient. For the graduates to arrive at the very first job, equipped with special disciplinary or subject-matter skills, job related skills, and soft skills is increasing, since they are now expected to be up and running on the day of their arrival.

Many recent surveys show that 70-80 percent of students graduate without special job skills. Employers complain about the lack of preparation for even entry level jobs. About 70 percent of the employers say they are not able to find people with the skills needed for entry-level jobs. The traditional model of higher education, focusing on the development of educated citizens – even if not completely broken still, is not far from breaking.

Adjustment of the higher education system to the labour-employment market, nimble and flexible education programs, customised delivery of education according to the needs of the individual, creation of right personality traits and the ability to focus better, combining academic experience with lifelong learning, these are the top-priority action points which are apparent even without the so called extensive analysis by the ‘group of experts.’

Moving forward from the discipline focussed higher education to the inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary education was the development witnessed in the last century. In the 21st century, academic curriculum will need to focus on effectively integrating skill development with disciplinary knowledge.

Competent, enabled, efficient and effective higher education system needs equally competent, motivated, efficient, innovative, curious and committed teachers who are in a perpetual mode of learning. It is necessary to improve teachers’ qualifications and competence rather than diluting the established norms of entry to the vocation. A policy adventure of the recent kind wherein just to enable easy entry into higher education jobs, even the entry level marks for SC/ST candidates for admission into PhD programmes were scaled downwards is just dirty politics. Such kind of policy disposition will be suicidal for the future of the country.

We want to a send a manned-space-mission to the moon in 40-45 months but we cannot make a National Education Policy in 18-20 months – What an irony?

Or is it that being in politics needs no education and therefore good education is never a political priority, notwithstanding the fact that education space is always captured by the politicians.

* The Committee to design a new National Education policy was setup by the Ministry of HRD on 24.06.17. Extensions in its tenure have been granted on 27.12.2017, 06.04.2018, 20.06.2018, 28.08.2018 and 31.10.2018. It is so unfortunate that the policy makers never undertake any proactive policy making; and when they do get down to reactive policy making, by the time they make a draft policy, the world has already move so far ahead.

 

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विलंबित शिक्षा नीति

दो महत्वपूर्ण प्रवृत्तियों के आपसी मिलन से आज की दुनिया परिभाषित है: प्रौद्योगिकी का तेज़ विकास, और सूचना और ज्ञान के समान रूप से तेज़ विकास (और बेहतर पहुंच)। इस दुनिया में एक  सीधी रेखा में प्रगति – पहले कॉलेज जाओ;  फिर स्नातक उपाधि पाओ; फिर पहली नौकरी ढूंढो जहां नौकरी-आधारित कौशल सीखने को मिले; और तब जा कर एक उत्पादक कर्मचारी बनो,  यह व्यवस्था अब पर्याप्त नहीं है। स्नातक के लिए अपनी पहली नौकरी पर विषय विशेष में प्रतिभा, नौकरी से संबंधित कौशल, और मानवीय कौशल के साथ ही आने की मांग बढ़ रही है, क्युंकि नौकरी के पहले ही दिन से घोड़ॆ समान दौड़ने वाले कर्मचारी की आवश्यकता है, ना कि नौसिखिये की।

अनेक हालिया सर्वेक्षण में बताया गया है कि 70-80 प्रतिशत स्नातक विशिष्ट नौकरी कौशल के बिना ही स्नातक हो जाते हैं। यहां तक ​​कि प्रवेश स्तर की नौकरियों के लिए भी तैयारी की कमी की शिकायत नियोक्ता करते हैं। लगभग 70 प्रतिशत नियोक्ता कहते हैं कि वे प्रवेश स्तर की नौकरियों के लिए भी आवश्यक कौशल वाले लोगों को नहीं ढूंढ पा रहे हैं। शिक्षित नागरिक के विकास पर केंद्रित उच्च शिक्षा का पारंपरिक मॉडल – अगर पूरी तरह टूटा नहीं है तो भी टूट के कगार पर है।

उच्च शिक्षा तंत्र का श्रम-रोजगार बाजार से समायोजन, तेजी और लचीले शिक्षा कार्यक्रम, निजी आवश्यकता के अनुरूप शिक्षा दे पाना, व्यक्तित्व भाव उत्पन्न कर अकादमिक अनुभव से सम्मिलाप करना और आजीवन सीखने पर अधिक ध्यान देने के साथ बेहतर करने की आवश्यकता है।

पिछली शताब्दी में विषय से आगे बढ़ – अंतःविषय, बहु-विषय और विषय-अतिरेक शिक्षण के विकास को देखा गया। 21 वीं शताब्दी में, अकादमिक पाठ्यक्रम में कौशल विकास को प्रभावी ढंग से एकीकृत करने पर ध्यान केंद्रित करने की आवश्यकता होगी।

उच्च शिक्षा तंत्र को सक्षम बनाना है, तो शिक्षकों का सक्षम होना बहुत आवश्यक है। शिक्षकों की अहर्ताएं और माप-दण्डों को सुधारने की आवश्यकता है, न कि अनुसूचित जाति-जनजाति के शिक्षकों को अधिक अवसर देने कि चक्कर में जैसा हाल ही में मलिन और सरल किया गया। इस तरह की नीतिगत छिछोरपन देश के भविष्य के लिये आत्मघाती होगा।

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Gender Discrimination against Men– It’s Coming

Yale University and the University of Southern California are under investigation by the Department of Education for programmes and scholarships for women. An organization to get more women on the golf course—long a bastion of male power and a frequent locale for business deals—was sold and shut down after settling with a plaintiff for holding women-only events. The head of Chic CEO, an organization that hosted online resources for women starting their own businesses, downsized her company after settling a lawsuit alleging the group excluded men from networking events. And The Wing, an exclusive all-women co-working and social space, is under investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights for gender discrimination.

The most recent women’s empowerment organization to go public about getting hit with a gender-discrimination lawsuit is Ladies Get Paid a for-profit organization that holds networking events and classes on negotiating salaries and raises, managing money, and building confidence. After two men were denied entry to two women-only Ladies Get Paid events in August and September 2017 in San Diego and Los Angeles, respectively, they filed two lawsuits alleging discrimination.

Had Ladies Get Paid gone to court and lost, the group would’ve had to pay all associated legal fees. That bill could have run into the six figures—which likely would have sunk an organization with just two full-time employees. Ladies Get Paid has crowd-sourced the money to defray legal costs associated with the settlement, and they’ve raised over $100,000 from nearly 2,000 individual donors.

There is a strong distinction between businesses running gender-specific promotions as a way to drum up business (like a ladies’ night drink special in some Pubs in Gurgaon) and the women-focused business, networking, and empowerment events and programs, where there is a legitimate policy, rather than commercial, interest in excluding men.

The law doesn’t prohibit businesses from “drawing distinctions” among different people—as long as those distinctions are “reasonable” rather than arbitrary.

Women activists have called these men as bullies. In the future, feminist organizers targeted by men or men’s rights organizations will band together before settling. If future groups choose to fight back, there’s reason to believe they’ll find plenty of support, financial and otherwise. Such efforts would likely widen, rather than decrease, gender inequality.

[Based on: When Men Sue Women’s Empowerment Orgs for Gender Discrimination; By Rebecca Gale, July 03; https://slate.com/ Picture courtesy: Slate. Images by Ingram Publishing]

 

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