Sir — It is no surprise that the West Bengal transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty, has turned down the Centre’s proposal to privatize the motor vehicles department (“Subhas no to Delhi plan”, April 5). After all, which person would want to have his wings clipped' Once the transport sector is transferred to private hands, Chakraborty will have to take the backseat and perhaps watch some of the killer vehicles that his department had allowed to ply being taken off the roads. The hundreds of smoke-belching vehicles will also be pulled up and some order will be restored in the traffic. All this would amount to pointing out, one after another, the mistakes made by Chakraborty’s ministry and the network of corruption and nepotism within the transport department. No Indian politician — particularly not a seasoned one like Chakraborty — would let that happen. In India, it always pays to keep a few people happy, so that they can handle the unhappiness of the rest.
R. Haldar, Calcutta
Sir — The concepts of academic excellence and a meaningful education are moving away from each other at an alarming pace (“Role model”, April 4). This is nowhere more evident than in Calcutta University’s proposal to introduce “model questions”. This is going to increase the sales of “notebooks” which would provide the “correct” answers to the model questions. Education today is relevant only if it helps a student bag a cushy job, and has a very limited role in imparting knowledge. Very few private institutions, schools, colleges or universities are being set up for filling the gaps in providing quality education.
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — It is a good thing that schools have realized the importance of “moral science lessons” for their students. But the question is, can moral science values actually be taught' (“Moral Lessons in class syllabi”, Mar 12)
I have worked as a social worker in many schools for around eight years and have noticed that students do not enjoy being taught moral values in class. They feel it is a waste of time.
A better approach to help them inculcate values would be through social work. Involving students to work with underprivileged people develops their understanding of crucial social issues. An added advantage is that it keeps them occupied constructively and they cannot be lured by harmful activities.
However, social work intervention must be carried out in a systematic manner in order for it to have any effect on the society or on the students. Initially, students must be made aware of social issues like child labour, harassment of women, and suchlike. Then a group should be chosen to work with and visit an organization dealing with one of the issues. The students should be encouraged to draw up an action plan and implement it. And finally, they should share their experience with the entire school. Among other things, this will help them feel good about themselves and their contribution to the society. Also, the students’ efforts should be adequately recognized by their institutions, for example by awarding them certificate at the end of the academic year.
Cheryl Francis, Calcutta
Sir — That morality is fast eroding in our times is evident from the obvious lack of respect with which young people treat their elders. A Westernized lifestyle coupled with too much freedom given to youngsters have led to a rise in juvenile delinquency. It is a welcome decision therefore that some schools have decided to introduce moral science lessons in their curricula.
Kumarish Chand, Burdwan
Sir — The largesse of the University Grants Commission in providing funds for community service is ridiculous, especially when it is hardly able to attract students to pursue higher studies in such areas as computer science, genetic engineering and other specialized streams for lack of infrastructural facilities (“Funds to pull students out of confines”, March 4). As a body solely responsible for funding higher education and better implementation of academic practices, the UGC needs to see why students of the scientific disciplines, after getting their degrees, find it difficult to get suitable jobs for want of specialized skills. Upgrading placement services and bridging the gap between the demand of the industry and the curriculum of the educational institutes is what the UGC should be concentrating on.
Subhajit Ghosh, Shillong
Tourist is king
Sir — The West Bengal tourism department’s announcement that the three main pilgrimage spots for Bengalis, Belur Math, Dakshineswar and Kalighat, will be connected by a ferry or boat service, will hopefully boost the sagging tourism industry here. The tourism ministry should also reconsider the prevailing policy of higher pricing for foreigners than for Indians, be it airfare, train fare or hotel rates. This discriminatory policy was understandable when there was a shortage of foreign exchange. Rather than higher rates, some concessions to foreigners now could bring in more business to the state.
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — It is not surprising that tourists get bhang legally from permitted outlets in Jaisalmer (“Bhang on tourists’ plate in Jaisalmer, Feb 26). Is there any prohibited thing that is not available in India' There is no uniform excise policy for all states, and the state governments impose duties and formulate policies that suit them best. Despite all the hue and cry over drug-peddling or bootlegging, no government has been able to prevent them for good. No matter what they say in public, no government can bear to give up the huge money that these illegal trades bring in. The truth is that the more the restriction, the more is the incidence of smuggling. The Union government should formulate a policy so that such items can be sold openly through licensed shops, if it is indeed serious about combating these evils.
Arta Mishra, Cuttack