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TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015

Another brick in the wall

Rohit Dhankar

TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015

Local politics in
foreign policy
hen it comes to foreign policy, India is one
whole, not the sum of its parts. Which is
why the governments plans to introduce
a Constitutional amendment in Parliament in order to operationalise the India-Bangladesh
land boundary agreement (LBA) for the three States of
West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura, but not for Assam, is an unwholesome precedent. Simply put, of all
the 162 enclaves and 5,044 acres of land in adverse
possession that have been carefully analysed and
agreed to for the land swap on both sides of the border,
the 268 acres that Assam is due to hand over will not be
included. The reasoning for this exclusion seems to be
political: ahead of the Assam Assembly elections this
year, the ruling BJP doesnt wish to be seen giving
away land to the neighbour, Bangladesh. Equally political is the reaction of the Opposition Congress party,
that rules the State of Assam, which now opposes the
government move simply because it doesnt want to
give it a political advantage ahead of elections. Both
have over the past decade allowed these short-sighted
calculations to turn an important bilateral agreement
into a game of political football. Even though former
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had, after several
delays, signed the protocol for the LBA in 2011, the UPA
government never made it enough of a priority to clear
it through both Houses of Parliament during its tenure.
Now, the NDA government, that had promised Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina that the bill would be tabled in
the winter session, plans to introduce it at the fag end of
the budget session, and that too in truncated form. Each
of these delays dont just put off an agreement to resolve
a crucial issue between India and Bangladesh, they chip
away at Indias credibility in the neighbourhood. Four
decades later, India seems no closer to completing an
agreement that had been all but signed and sealed, and
even ratified by Bangladesh in 1974. And it is no closer
to putting the roughly 51,000 people living in these
areas out of their uncertainty and misery.
What seems to be even more troubling is the Bangladesh governments claim, as spelt out in an interview by
the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to The Hindu in
Dhaka, that it was yet to be formally notified about the
revised plan for the bill. If the NDA government is
indeed serious about its neighbourhood policy, such a
lapse of communication is unhealthy, as its handling of
this issue will be a key indicator to all neighbours about
how India will attempt to resolve issues with them in
the next few years. The government and the Opposition
must put their political differences aside to build bipartisan support for the original agreement they have both
at various points acceded to. Bilateral accords are built
on the principle that the government of India speaks for
all States and all parties within the country.

few weeks ago, the media captured

the stark and shocking image of
people family members and
friends climbing and getting on
to the ledges of the high-rise Vidya Niketan
school in Mahnar village, 60 kilometres from
Patna, Bihar, to pass on answer chits to students appearing for their school exams on
March 18, 2015. Headlines such as Scaling
new heights to deliver cheat sheets and
scenes on TV made it clear that this could
never have happened without the connivance of teachers and examination personnel,
thus laying bare the deep flaws in the Indian
education system. The incident caused the
State Education Minister P.K. Shahi to admit that stopping malpractices in Board examinations was a huge task.
If we try to stop unfair means at a centre,
friends and family members of the examinees gang up to intimidate us, said a
schoolteacher. The incident at Mahar was
not an isolated one. Reports also came in of
people scaling compound walls of schools to
help examinees at centres in Sharsha and
Khagaria districts.
Just a few weeks after this, on April 15,
BBC News published a story titled, Jail for
cheating Atlanta teachers.
These two starkly different responses to
unfair means in exams, in India and the
United States, are startling. In spite of a
difference between teachers adopting unfair
means with regard to manipulating exam
results and school authorities, including
teachers, allowing students to use unfair
methods in exams using help from outsiders.
Who is to blame? Who should be held
responsible? In both these examples, one
has to acknowledge the great pressure of
competitive exams and the mark sheet-centric approach in academics as being a measure of human worth in trying to understand
why this happens. One also has to look closely at the relationship between education,
learning, exams and competition.

Authentic self and education

We often talk of education as being an
instrument of economic development of self
and society. Sometimes, we also allude to it
as being an instrument to help one prepare
for critical, democratic citizenship. But rarely do we talk of education being a process to
help a person form his authentic self. When I
talk about formation of the authentic self, I
do not mean the oft-talked about character
development and education in values. All
three aims of education economic, citizenship, and character/values though neces-

Education has been reduced to the level of

teaching for testing. The individual is completely
lost. All that is visible are aggregates of a tiny part
of the human capability, measured through tools
of suspicious reliability
sary, fall short of helping one form ones
authentic self. Moreover, they can be used to
work against it.
The three characteristics I would like to
count as being a part of the authentic self of
an individual are: autonomy, integrity and
harmony. Apart from ones intellectual capabilities, all three necessarily should manifest themselves as character traits of an
individual. Further, their necessary ingredients are a deep, emotional investment as
well as a dispassionate understanding.
Lets examine these three. Autonomy
means using ones own mind in making
choices whether they are personal or public.
This is possible only with a robust understanding of the world and ones situation in
it. It also demands a level of self-confidence
and self-respect without being conceited or
Integrity is more than just autonomy as it
involves a coherence in the results of ones
intellectual deliberations and taking them

seriously while putting them in action and

thus imparts an overall stability to ones
Harmony, metaphorically, may be termed
as a state of internal peace. More precisely, it
means an alignment between ones emotional states, intellectual understanding and actions. I will also bring in an absence of
fragmentation, which does not mean the
complete absence of internal tension. There
will always be a certain degree of tension as
one constantly faces new situations and in
utilising ones emotional and intellectual energies to bear upon them. But this tension
will always be confined to being within the
limits of ones strength of character. This
wholesome development of an individual
can be called the formation of an authentic
self. Education is the primary means of helping an individual form such a self. Perhaps, it
is also the highest goal of education. An alternative expression for an authentic self
can be: manasa, vachaa, karmana; with the




Case mountain to climb
The report, New database of High
Courts unearths a 57-year-old case
(May 4), is not astonishing but
inevitable given the way the
judiciary has been functioning all
this while with its British-style
legacy. Rather than wait for more
such news reports, there needs to be
concerted action to find a solution.
To begin with, the judiciary can be
asked to start working extra and on
holidays to clear the massive
backlog of cases.
Roshan Raja,
How can a 57-year-old case go
unnoticed? Why cant courts go in
activities? Innovative ways such as
having a second shift in courts and
more mobile courts can help get the
situation under control.
Delayed justice is no justice at all.
S. Ramamurthi,

Systems of medicine
There is a strong case for the
scientific validation of products of
traditional systems of medicine,
given that there is a proliferation of
pseudo-Ayurvedic and other
herbal medicines in the market
claiming to promote good health
and other benefits (Editorial, May
4). Helpless patients, who are
dissatisfied with allopathy, fall in
this trap and waste hoards of money

Examinations and testing

So far there is no method by which to
assess the development of an authentic self.
The only test is life itself! Examinations are a
severely limited means by which to assess
educational development, even if the assessment of an authentic self is left out. First,
they are limited to testing the present repertoire of knowledge of an individual; even this
has severe problems of validity and reliability. Knowledge is a fully connected whole
and it cannot be tested by seeking fragments
of information as is usually done in examinations. Going deeper into the interconnections of concepts and beliefs of an individual
is a time-consuming and subjective affair;
subjective for both examiner and examinee.
In order for it to be reliable, it demands
objectivity across a sample of examinees.
Therefore, validity and reliability vary in-

A persons capability to reproduce so-called important

information overwhelms everything else. Education, which is
supposed to help her develop an authentic-self, creates
disharmony within her soul.

Pile-ups at
High Courts
hat Indias courts are clogged with long-pending cases is well-known, but the texture of the
problem is something weve known little
about so far. A new database of court data lays
out some of the contours of the issue: over 40 lakh cases
are pending in Indias High Courts, and a tenth in
courts for which data are available have been pending
for over ten years. The oldest case languishing in the
few courts for which enough data are available is just a
decade younger than India itself. A quarter of the cases
for which information is available are pending at the
admission stage itself. An earlier Law Commission report found that the situation was far more dire in the
lower courts at the end of 2012, some one crore cases
were pending in Subordinate Judicial Services courts
and 20 lakh cases in Higher Judicial Services courts
across 12 High Court jurisdictions in the country. A
certain fatality has marked Indias efforts to deal with
pendency thus far. We are a big country, we are a
litigious people, we have chronic administrative undercapacity and a perennially under-resourced judiciary,
we are told. So enormous has the problem begun to
appear in the public mind that it has seemed impossible to fix. This is not necessarily true.
For one, the real extent of judicial pendency in India
is nearly impossible to estimate on account of an utter
lack of standardisation in data classification and management systems; virtually every State is a law unto
itself, collecting and classifying case data as it chooses,
making it impossible to compare with the neighbouring State. This is not a purely technical concern; it has
severely hamstrung Indias efforts to understand the
nature of not just judicial delay, but the judicial process
itself. There is no good reason for this state of affairs to
continue; the technology to resolve this is now easily
and cheaply available. In addition, there are simple
administrative fixes that have been suggested by reform-minded judges. As Chief Justice of the Madras
High Court, Justice A.P. Shah had instituted evening
courts to look after traffic and police challans, which
account for over a third of all cases pending in the lower
courts. Such cases need to be removed from the regular
court system altogether. Plea bargaining is another
judicial reform step that has not yet picked up in India.
Finally, the grossly inadequate judge strength must
increase; even if not the doubling of judge strength as
promised in the past by the Ministry of Law and Justice, a significant leap is unavoidable. For justice and
the rule of law to seem meaningful to the people, the
government must back its assurances with resources.

proviso that all three are governed by ones

own judgement.

versely with each other. Large-scale tests

such as the Programme for International
Student Assessment (PISA) and the Annual
Student Assessment Report (ASER) can ensure a satisfactory level of reliability and
validity only if the testing is limited to a very
small portion of student learning. This
makes them almost useless in understanding the development of an authentic self.
However, to be fair, in such tests, this is not
even the goal.
Competition, an endemic problem of everyday life, is aggravated through a system of
testing and examination. In the name of pursuing success, schools start encouraging
competition at the individual level right
from standard one. Measuring one child
against the other becomes the motivating
factor in learning; in the process, immeasurable damage is done to the childs self-image;
in most cases, a childs worth is reduced to a
piece of paper signed by the class teacher. In
schools, students become almost intellec-

tual slaves, competing with each other for a

greater share of the market. At another level,
as in States, large-scale, unreliable and invalid methods of testing are used. Education is
reduced to the level of teaching for testing.
At the national level, it becomes the tool of
one-upmanship and used in spurious predictions of future economic worth. In all
this, the individual is completely lost. All
that is visible are aggregates of a tiny part of
the human capability, measured through
tools of suspicious validity.
Education systems across the world are
used to judge the worth of individuals. They
issue certificates and mark-sheets and these
documents are taken by employers and institutions of further education as the measure of an individuals capabilities. Since
societies reward individuals on the basis of
their perceived capabilities (if we ignore
nepotism and money power), these certificates become the measure of the worth of
the individual. Thus a person ends up getting
characterised on the basis of minuscule part
of his/her self.
The disproportionate importance accorded to such certification pushes people students, parents and teachers to use all
means possible to get that good certificate.
Therefore, using unfair methods in an examination, for example, is often the easiest way
to get that ideal mark-sheet. This tilts the
balance of the learners personality; her development of reasoning, character and alignment of emotions are totally ignored. Her
capability to reproduce so-called important
information overwhelms everything else.
Education, which is supposed to help her
develop an authentic-self, creates disharmony within her soul.

Nonchalance versus righteous wrath

I come back to the incident and case I
referred to in the beginning in Bihar and
the U.S. The typical Indian attitude/reaction
if shown a picture of what happened in Bihar
would have been one largely of a nonchalance borne out of apathy. The 15-minute
flash of interest on social media around the
incident does not belie this claim.
On the other hand, the American reaction,
which resulted in jail terms of up to 20 years,
seems to express a righteous wrath. We, as
Indians, generally see ideas and actions in a
flux, as specks that are unimportant in a
gigantic cosmic flow. This often conceals
from us the true significance of events. In the
Bihar example, most of us seem to be unaffected by the possible harm it might cause
to our collective understanding and growth
of our children as individuals with potential.
In contrast to this are the Americans who
seem horrified by the prospect of the havoc
cheating by teachers may cause to the national system of education.
However, both seem to ignore the distortion brought to education and its very
purposes, and the root cause of it being testing for competition. Neither apathy nor righteous wrath can free education from the grip
of competition, testing, and instances of using unfair methods. This atmosphere and
character of education is what holds back a
childs growth, of autonomy, by limiting understanding to a tiny part of testable
knowledge, which is grossly inadequate to
understand ones situation in the world. It
tears apart the coherence of intellectual deliberations, values and actions. It completely
destroys the harmony between the intellectual, moral and emotional self; it makes action a random response to the contingency
of the moment.
The besieged state of education is what is
reducing the childs soul into a battlefield
that results in fragmented pieces of the self.
The childs aspirations, understanding, moral dispositions and emotions are constantly
at war with each other. We are reducing the
child into becoming fake copies of what we
aspire for rather than helping the child become a master of his or her own soul. One
wonders whether cases of student suicides
in India and the repeated instances of shooting sprees in American schools are a direct
result of this disharmony in the soul created
by present day education systems!
(Rohit Dhankar is professor and director,
academic development at Azim Premji
University, Bengaluru, and founder
member, Digantar, Jaipur.)

Letters emailed to letters@thehindu.co.in must carry the full postal address and the full name or the name with initials.

and time. Infertility is the favourite

target area. All this happens
because there is a complete lack of
credible and accurate information
about these medicines how they
work, their potency and side effects.
In setting this right, the Ministry of
AYUSH should take the lead.
Amritpal Singh,
The validation of drugs is a colossal
task which requires highly trained
infrastructure. AYUSH may have
been elevated to the level of a
ministry, with a large number of
laboratories across the country and
manpower trained both in
traditional and modern systems of
medicine, but I gather that poor
coordination and squabbles have
come in the way of output despite
taxpayers money being given to the
M. Saleemuddin,
Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh
It is painful that India has still to
confront the ugly reality of female
infanticide and the commerce and
market for products that promote
this social evil in an indirect way.
For any form of acche din or for
Make in India to flourish, such
regression must be tackled. The
broader idea should be to educate
and create an awareness among the
weaker sections of the society as
they are the ones who are more
vulnerable to falling prey to these

bizarre ideas. Also, the importance

of a girl child should permeate
The lashing out against the Indian
through all the sections of society.
Vidushi Uniyal, media, especially by Nepal-based
Dehradun Twitterati, is unwarranted and
uncalled for (Quake-hit vent their
Any ready-made formula of the ire on Indian media, May 4). It is
Ayurvedic system of medicine only because of active media
cannot be patented since such an coverage that the world has got to
invention in effect, traditional know of the scale of the disaster.
knowledge or duplication of known Nepal should appreciate the Indian
properties of traditionally known media for a very proactive role in
components has been made non- re-establishing the emotional links
patentable under Section 3(p) of the between
Patents Act, 1970. Substantial earthquake victims.
Th Luwangamba,
New Delhi
medicines which meet the
for That the visual media in India lacks
patentability in the Patents Act, sensitivity is well known, proved yet
1970, can be granted patents. again by its coverage of Nepals
Section 6(i) of the Biological trauma. What is disturbing in the
Diversity Act, 2002 requires an dog-eat-dog
applicant to obtain the prior competition is the way silly
National questions are being asked in the
Biodiversity Authority before name of interviewing the poor and
applying for a patent for any in stark contrast to the way the
invention based on biological Indian Army and other Indian
resources obtained from India. The NGOs are extending help to them in
Patents Act also requires an the hour of need. It is unfortunate
applicant to obtain the necessary that the Indian media always has
permission from the National TRP ratings in mind unlike the
Biodiversity Authority and submit Western media which have a human
the same to the office of the face to their coverage.
A.V. Narayanan,
Controller General of Patents
Designs and Trademarks before the
grant of patent. Hence, ayurvedic
medicines like Putra Jeevak Beej, The reason behind much of the
if patentable, can be put through anger is that the media has been
presenting Nepal as a province of
such a process.
K.M.K. Murthy, India. Also, to say that the Nepal
Kochi government has virtually thrown its

Media and Nepal relief

hands up, showing up its incapacity

to address the severity of the
problem (Editorial, May 4) is
insensitive. No government official
or minister in Nepal has issued such
statement, verbal or otherwise.
With such negativity, India cannot
win friends in its immediate
neighbourhood, much less in Nepal.
Laxman Pant,
New Delhi

Towel reservation
Thank you for taking us back to
those good old days. The news
clipping (From the Archives, The
Hindu, dated May 4, 1965), May 4,
made a few of us nostalgic about our
student days in the 1960s when we
used to hire our college attender or
a known porter to reserve a place
for all of us on a 18-hour journey on
the GT or Southern Express on our
way home from college or on our
way to college after a vacation. As
students we used to travel in groups
which helped us overcome the
ordeal of travelling in midsummer
and without reservation. Thinking
about it now we wonder how we
ever did it. Kerchief /rumal
reservation in buses too was also a
prevalent practice. As soon as we
spotted a bus, we used to make a
dash for it and drop kerchiefs or
small bags through the windows
and reserve our seats even before
the bus driver drove to the parking
R.R. Gandikota,
Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh