It’s a jungle out there
Sir — Pervez Musharraf is keen to market his country as a “liberal” Islamic state. But his endeavours appear as serious as the Inter-Services Intelligence’s attempts to stop infiltration in Kashmir. One has only to look at the brutal judicial system in Pakistan to get the point (“Eye-for-eye law in Pak province”, Dec 13). While the rest of the world is debating the need for capital punishment, provincial courts in Pakistan prescribe “acid” — literally — treatment for offenders. Such incidents muddy the image of Pakistan before the international community, and earn few sympathies from human rights organizations. Instead of financing jihads to meet the aspirations of a community across the border, the Pakistani president should start tidying up his own house. The country’s economic recovery is totally dependent on American resuscitation. The reigning illiteracy, poverty and ethnic violence in Pakistan means the president has his job cut out.
Kamalnath Basu, Calcutta
Sir — The statement of the West Bengal school education minister, Kanti Biswas, that “our policy does not allow for interference in the internal matters of the 300-odd schools that do not take any financial help from us”, is misleading (“State scan on English schools”, Nov 22). A recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation and Others vs State of Karnataka and Others categorically states that state governments may make rules for regulating schools (even those set up linguistic and religious minorities, since the right of these communities to administer such institutions are not absolute) “to maintain educational standards and excellence”.
If one went through the websites of certain state governments, especially those of the South, one would see that several regulations in keeping with this judgment have been passed by them. This is not so in the case of the West Bengal government, which appears to have a nexus with the corrupt management of several minority-run institutions. This is also what a substantial number in the Christian community in the state believes. Unless the government makes conscious efforts to disprove this suspicion, doubts will remain.
Max Galstaun, Kalyani
Sir — As per the University Grants Commission’s criterion for setting up autonomous colleges to promote academic excellence, there are already 160 or more such colleges across the country. Tamil Nadu tops the list with 60 autonomous colleges, followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Even our immediate neighbour, Orissa, has set up several such colleges. But till date, West Bengal has none (“Govt between crores and colleges” Nov 29). Had the government responded to the UGC initiative, the state would have fetched some Rs 20 crore for its colleges. But the ministers seem intent to procrastinate while every year students from the state leave for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and others for higher education.
Yet unlike other states, West Bengal has two education ministers. It has 52,000 state-aided primary schools, although around seven lakh children in the state do not attend any school. It is shameful that in district schools, children of class V are unfamiliar with the alphabets. The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has acknowledged the government’s failure with its English language policy and primary education, but mere confession of failure is not enough guarantee of change. If the teachers of the thousands of primary schools in the state cannot discharge their minimum responsibility, then they should be replaced with more competent teachers.
Typically, there will be objections to any change, just as teachers are now raising objections to the new higher secondary syllabus even before it has been implemented. But the government ought to lay more stress on productivity and accountability in schools and colleges under its control and think of granting autonomy to those colleges who have been demanding it.
Tridib Roy, Calcutta
Sir — Sunando Sarkar’s “English divide runs deep in colleges” (Sept 8) shows how gloomy the picture is for students in the state. Leave alone mediocre students, even those who have done well in the joint entrance examination cannot speak English and shy away from asking questions to teachers. Some of these students can write good English, but become tongue-tied when they have to talk in English. Teaching English at the primary level, no matter how early a stage, will not solve any purpose unless students are taught how to speak the language. The government could introduce a “Speak in English” curriculum from class V onwards — although English should be taught from class I — making it compulsory for students and teachers to converse with each other in English.
Narayan Chandra Laha, Chinsurah
More saffron, less green
Sir —The assembly elections have shown that the Congress has no future under the incompetent leadership of Sonia Gandhi, who lacks the intelligence, political acumen and oratorial skills of even the second rung of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders (“BJP takes the centre”, Dec 5). The Congress has to bring some effective changes to its leadership if it wishes to stand up to the BJP threat. Sonia Gandhi should remain a figurehead and appoint a more effective working-president. More important, she must immediately declare that she is not an aspirant for the post of the prime minister. Other important aspects that should be considered immediately is the forming of coalitions with partners the Congress has hitherto been averse to; like Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi should also be brought in to actively participate in party activities and campaign vigorously during elections.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir —The media have taken a U-turn following the victory of the BJP. They had earlier tried their level-best to mobilize opinion in favour of the oldest political party in the country. Although this worked in Delhi, the strategy fell flat in Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. I hope in the future, the BJP will not be accused of bigotry.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — It is surprising to see Sheila Dikshit, a politician who was nowhere on the scene even a decade ago, emerge as Sonia Gandhi’s life-jacket. A Congress defeat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections will not only shame the Italian leader, but also re-emphasize that Indians are not interested any more in merely the Nehru-Gandhi name.
Alec Sloyger, Bangalore