MHRD Vs Knowledge Society
There was a news item in The Hindustan Times that the Knowledge Commission had on Saturday (Jan. 17, 2009) seriously objected to the manner in which the government has brought an Ordinance to open 17 central universities, giving the Union Minister and his Ministry immense powers to appoint Vice-chancellors and others, even before the Bill has come up in the Parliament for discussion.
It would appear as though the heavens will fall if these universities did not come up. Everyone knows why this tearing hurry and the manner in which the Minister has gone about performing his job. India was certainly not going to be doomed by any delay in making these Universities come up in the race to India becoming a Knowledge Society.
The way the Ordinance was enacted it appeared clearly the government was unsure of its return to power and wanted its favorites to be in positions of power before it demitted its office. One thing is also clear. The PM and his Minister of education are interpreting the relationship between Knowledge creators and Knowledge societies differently.
While the PM belongs genuinely to that group which understands how knowledge is converted into useful products and the ‘freedom’ the Knowledge creators need but the Minister and his cohorts believe that it is their privilege to channel the course of Knowledge movement.
The PM is a product of a university which had barred the entry of the so-called Iron Lady without batting an eye-lid or of weighing the consequences of their decision and the risks involved or bothering read the lame-duck discussions like that of Dongerkery about the question of university autonomy. Surely and certainly our dear old Minister would not welcome the possibility of his “freedom loving” PM being barred entry to any of MHRD’s Universities.
Personally I have nothing for or against the manner in which the MHRD or the Union Minister perceive the making of a Knowledge Society but it is rather ridiculous that first you set up a Commission to do a job and then ignore its basic recommendations.
Let us go back to reasons why such a Commission had to be set up. We are trying to compete with the highly creative societies. Look at the number of Nobel Laureates the American society produces and the number of original ideas we produce or compare the free institutions they have and see what we have to show in the name of intellectual freedom. These comparisons are only referral material and I AM SURE our Minister and his minions never read these facts or bother to know why our Vice-chancellors are treated like dirt and are not expected to rise above the level of the crouching present-day third rate intellectuals who get kicked about in their Ministries and in turn keep their sub-ordinates even more intellectually deprived.
Our universities only prepare future politicians and not intellectuals. We have no use for the creation of Knowledge. In fact, we need no Knowledge. Knowledge is dangerous. It would lead one day to the creation of a society, which would challenge the meaning of the wisdom we have thus far inherited. For instance we continue to make use of the Vedas but refuse to reason why we cannot create age-less Knowledge today. Left to ourselves we are happy with the millions of our youth going abroad for higher studies, and are even more happy when they succeed abroad and do not come back and demand freedom for work or study.
We are unwilling to give them institutions which are free from the glare of political eye. We are also unwilling to open a single institution where there is no political interference or where intellectual freedom is allowed full and fair play. For a moment look at the number of Indian Youth going out for higher studies. Even half of what they spend outside in foreign currency could help us build number of ‘free’ UNIVERSITIES that will give a fillip to the making of India reach the heights it had once attained during the Vedic age when ageless knowledge was created
Let me remind the Minister and his Ministry that it should once again have a look at the institutions it has already created and the way they function. I suppose both of them would be VERY proud to have institutions like the NCTE or the AICTE. If this is what they wish to replicate then they might as well forget about creating a Knowledge Society and institutions worthy of its concept and stature.
Remember we hesitate to allow foreign universities to open their campuses here but hardly mind if the Indian talent refuses to return to the motherland. We cherish mediocrity and multiply it for general consumption but would not allow a single institution to take our breath away by achieving heights never known before. Freedom and docility do not always go together. If India too has to do all those things for which the West is known then we too shall have to help our universities acquire individual personalities.
Instead of 17 let us have only 7 universities with facilities that a western university has. Let us at least couple of universities that run outside bureaucratic control. Let the universities appoint their own Vice-chancellors and be free to teach what they want to teach. For once India and its Knowledge Society want freedom for its universities to soar high and function as professional entities.
(The author is president of the All India Association of Teacher's Education. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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