An unfortunate Indian affair
Sir — Why should Yann Martel’s winning the Booker Prize be any consolation for Rohinton Mistry' Just because the two have an abstruse idea called “India” in common (“Mistry misses, India scores”, Oct 24)' Claiming anything and everything as “Indian”, just as Martel’s novel has been claimed in the last week, on the strength (or weakness) of some vague Indian connection, has become the latest fad. Does one hear of Indian writers being deified in the United States of America for portraying American life, as most Indo-Anglian novels these days do rather adeptly' When a Tony Blair or a Bill Clinton enjoys Indian curries and kebabs, it is splashed all over Indian newspapers. But would The Daily Telegraph go to town if Atal Bihari Vajpayee enjoys fish and chips in a London restaurant' At another level, however, this sentiment among Indians is understandable. With most of the country’s best intellects and brains moving towards the greener pastures of the West — Mistry himself is a Canadian national — one must try to claim for India whatever one can.
Samir Rawat, Bhopal
To make allowances
Sir — I was surprised to see The Telegraph misrepresenting facts in the report, “School mired in tuition fees hike row” (Oct 21, North Bengal edition). I would like to bring to your notice the glaring anomalies and mistaken facts in the story.
It may be noted that the decision of the state government to curtail the dearness allowance to the staff and the annual increase in expenditure forced the management to enhance the tuition fees. The schools in Calcutta affected by the reduction of government DA hiked the fees in the range of Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,500 per annum as was reported in your newspaper on August 5. We, keeping in mind the economy of the Dooars and the financial condition of parents at large, decided on a hike of only Rs 3,000 p.a. payable in five instalments. However, when a request was made by the Parents Forum during the meeting held with them on August 14, we agreed to reduce the financial burden on them by reducing the hike from Rs 3,000 p.a. to Rs 2,400 p.a. payable in seven instalments instead of five.
The sub-divisional officer at Jalpaiguri Sadar called us for a meeting on September 25 without spelling out a specific agenda for discussion; nor did he think it appropriate to ask us for our comments, a one-on-one meeting on complaints if he had any. The ad hoc parent forum is not on our agenda, as the school has an official and long-standing Parents Forum. We decided to attend the meeting as a sign of our respect to the SDO’s chair. However, no meeting took place as the SDO excused himself to attend an urgent call from the district magistrate. Therefore our giving an assurance to keep the hike in tuition fees in abeyance or for a meeting slated to be held on October 24, is a figment of the imagination. It could easily have been verified from the proceedings of the so-called meeting referred to in the news item. Further, even after the decision to enhance the tuition fees had already been taken, a request for reduction of hike from Rs 3,000 to Rs 2,400 p.a. was agreed upon and implemented. The payment of enhanced fees being already in progress, one is puzzled as to what prompted the SDO to issue a letter (September 26) asking for status quo on a subject which is not in his jurisdiction. In any case, status quo in this case would mean the payment of enhanced fees, which was already in progress as on September 26.
The staff of this school are agitated about the non-payment of their full salary for nine months as the school has received only partial payment of DA. This will ultimately affect the students. Instead of pursuing the issue of DA with the government, the SDO chose to write the letter, which we quite justifiably protested against.
As we are sending our annual statement of accounts, audited by a chartered accountant, to the appropriate government authority, the SDO has erred in calling for the details of expenditure of the school, strength of staff and so on for the meeting with others. We are not under any obligation to divulge the details to him.
Finally, there is absolutely no violation of the government instruction regarding hike in the tuition fees following the sharp reduction of DA. No instruction prohibiting a hike has been issued by the government while informing us about the reduction of DA with effect from March 1, 2002. The school’s decision to hike the fees as and when warranted is that of the management of the school alone and not that of the SDO.
P.K. Joseph, principal,
St James’ School, Binnaguri
Our correspondent replies:
The principal’s letter appears to be directed more at the sub-divisional officer of Jalpaiguri than at The Telegraph’s report on the “tuition fee hike” at St James’ School that appeared in its October 21 edition. As for his allegation that The Telegraph “misinterpreted facts”, let me state that the report was based on extensive interviews with the government officer, parents of the students, and the teachers who were aggrieved that their salaries were not increased despite the hike in tuition fees. The principal, approached first on September 6 and then on October 1, refused to say anything besides what he was quoted as saying in that report.
Sir — The Anglo-Indian schools have had it in their favour long enough, hiding behind the minority clause for their out-of-order activities. The rules and norms laid down for their workings by the governing powers are blatantly thumbed at, since they are minority institutions. Most of the managing committees should be declared null and void as they have no government representative, and representatives from teachers and parents are selected, not elected. Salaries ought to be paid to the staff following the pay-scales laid down by the government or by the Supreme Court rulings, but they never are. There are discrepancies in the service books as well in the income tax payments. Since admission for Anglo-Indians does not seem to be the priority for these Anglo-Indian schools, why should the government not have a right to monitor them (“Govt. grip on Christian schools”, June 29)' I write here as a teacher in a missionary school, an Anglo-Indian and a mother of a child who has not got admission into any of these schools.
Indira Smith, Calcutta
Sir — Attention needs to be drawn to the continuous hammering which the students, and subsequently their parents, of Anglo-Indian schools are suffering. It was the government which hit the first nail by slashing the teachers’ dearness allowance, which led to an increase in the tuition fees of the Anglo-Indian schools. The matter did not end there; it has been declared that the fees will increase by another 10 per cent in the next academic year. Now, the school authorities are also asking for money in the form of raffle sheets, fêtes and forcing the students to buy school accessories like bags, ties, socks, badges, exercise books and so on.
One such reputed school has recently asked its students to buy new ties for Rs 150 each, which were issued earlier to the students for Rs 30 each. The school authorities have also asked each student to fill a raffle sheet of 21 lines at Rs 30 per line. This amounts to Rs 630 per student. For a parent with three daughters in the school, the total amount payable on account of the raffle sheet comes to Rs 1,800. The school administration says without any hesitation that the sum is taken in the form of donation, but it is a compulsory donation. Some parents have been forced to withdraw their wards from the school.
The principal of the school, who had earlier protested against the cut in the DA of the teachers, has strangely kept mum on the issue of the raffle sheet. Understood, these problems are not new to parents with children in English-medium schools, but are more pronounced in Anglo-Indian schools. Are these schools setting the right examples to the society'
Milton Tongaonkar, Calcutta
Sir — Asim Dasgupta is cautious about his health, not about the fiscal health of West Bengal (“If only health were wealth”, Oct 23). Earning revenue for his state is hardly top priority for him, since he will prosper even if the state does not. Had Dasgupta taken as much care of Bengal’s economy as he does of his health, the state could have avoided the current crisis.
Sudarsan Nandi, Rangamati, Midnapore
Sir —The report about the daily evening walk taken by the state finance minister raises serious questions about the objective of reporting. First, why should anyone be interested in Asim Dasgupta’s daily routine' Second, if any other issue was intended to be highlighted, for instance the traffic diversions made for the minister’s walk, it could have been done without spending so many words on the minister’s lifestyle. But perhaps sensationalism is the order of the day.
Nirjhar Chakravarty, Calcutta