Chennai, Sept. 4: Jayalalithaa had sought to impart a personal and human touch to her administration. But the plan went horribly wrong when several petitioners queuing up near her office at Fort St. George to bring their woes to her tried to commit suicide.
The chief minister promptly ordered the setting up of a counselling cell at the secretariat to comfort their troubled souls and soothe their frayed nerves. But a move that perhaps had its origin in a desire to stop ugly scenes outside Tamil Nadu’s seat of power also opened the eyes of the academic establishment.
Picking up the cue, the 50-year-old Madras School of Social Work has launched an M.Sc course in Counselling and Guidance/Advance Organisational Behaviour, the first of its kind. The course, affiliated to Madras University, will start from September 16, said its director C.D. Jose.
Extolling Jayalalithaa’s decision, Jose said it showed the role “counselling and guidance” has in relieving and assisting persons “who are emotionally upset, stressed, confused and upset over life’s choices”. The MSSW programme will help students become “excellent counsellors”.
The relevance of counselling and guidance, along with organisational behaviour, “is paramount in these changing and chaotic times of communal violence, political upheavals and terrorism”.
At a time when youth are bereft of worthwhile “role models”, when close family ties have broken down, when self-indulgence and incursion on another’s freedom is so rampant, they need help to rise from “self-immolation to solidarity, and unity in diversity,” argued Jose.
He also emphasised the need to harmonise competition and cooperation in view of “emergence of women in the work field, the growing awareness of human rights and the increasing scope for economic independence”.
The announcement carried a sense of occasion coming as it was on the eve of Teachers’ Day — the late philosopher Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday. But the teacher and student communities have other worries on their minds, primarily apprehension over a recently-enacted law to convert government colleges in Tamil Nadu into constituents of their respective universities.
At Melur near Madurai, hundreds of women clashed with pol ice while protesting against the law. They were also backing the teachers’ fear that the move would cut funding and other service benefits to government colleges. The spark spread to Chennai, with students of Men’s Government College squatting on Anna Salai. The police unleashed a lathicharge to disperse them.
Jayalalithaa sought to assuage the ruffled feelings of the teaching community by announcing a transparent counselling system for inter-school transfers and encouraging teachers to be in the forefront of the knowledge enterprise through special training programmes.