The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Joshi wields the cane

Calcutta, Jan. 16: Murli Manohar Joshi is an angry man, though his hair may have greyed.

He is not happy with the Indian institutes of technology (IITs) and the Indian institutes of management (IIMs). They have nice buildings but what do they do, the human resource development minister asks.

He doesn’t know what the two education ministers in Bengal are doing either.

“IITs have a sprawling campus, comfortable buildings and all the other facilities of the developed world. The government spends Rs 70 to 80 crore on them every year, but when we assessed the performance of the engineering institutes, Roorkee University was at the top,” Joshi said.

After this revelation, he “upgraded” the university in Uttaranchal, which has “no reserves, only old buildings and just a Rs 16-crore budget”, and gave it IIT status.

For the IIMs, he had this message: stop copying marketing models from the West, analyse the traditional Indian method of creating brands, inculcate value among students and don’t run after money.

“IIMs must undertake some research projects on Indian tradition and culture,” said the physicist-turned-politician. He had a few suggestions up his sleeve, like research on how India was managed before the British and the Muslims came, the strength of Brand India when it was referred to as sone ki chiriya and had an over 20 per cent share of global trade.

The minister is firm on slashing tuition fees at the IIMs, which the institutes are resisting. He said: “They are arguing that quality will suffer. But any rational person will reject the notion that high fees (from students) and high salaries (to teachers) will produce high-quality students.”

Based on a ministry-appointed committee report, the government has decided to slash the annual fees at the IIMs from around Rs 125,000 to Rs 6,000 and increase the teacher-student ratio to 1:10.

“The country needs more managers and education must be affordable. But these measures are seen as an attack on autonomy,” he said.

Ever a champion of what he considers Indian values where the spiritual apparently holds sway over the material, Joshi said: “The education system should be accountable to Indian needs…. You give them the lifestyle of US and then expect them to serve India. Not possible.”

Do these “Indian values” clash with the “feel-good” spirit his government is spreading' Dressed in his trademark dhoti-kurta and Tricolour angavastram, it did not appear Joshi was aware of a conflict.

Delivering the golden jubilee convocation address at the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Joshi was glad to learn that the country’s oldest centre of management education has a course on Indian values.

The minister, who also had an interactive session with the Merchants Chamber of Commerce, did not think too highly of the Bengal government’s report card on elementary education, though.

“We are doing our best, but the states also do have a role to play. Take the case of Bengal, where the situation is as bad as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The state has two education ministers, but I don’t know what they are doing,” he said.

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