This is the season of loose tongues. With elections at hand, political parties are being competitively provocative in the guise of campaigning. If such viciousness did not impact, it would have been possible to dismiss the rhetoric as irrelevant, “complete nonsense”. Sadly, rather than the would-be voter having different policies and programmes from which to make a choice, he/she is reduced to using an invective-scale: trying to assess whether shehzada is more demeaning than maut ka saudagar… The umbrage the Congress has taken over Narendra Modi&’s description of Rahul Gandhi is somewhat surprising ~ not because it reflects the reality in a party that prides its dynastic traditions ~ since he has been called the “rising son” etc so frequently. And is that not a graduation from “Amul Baby”? It is difficult to determine whether it is positive or negative that insulting comments are seldom persisted with, the effort is to try and come up with something “new” to keep attracting attention. Yet in the process the polity gets so deeply divided that the animosity persists well after elections, emotions are at best suppressed ~ ready to erupt again. Politicians are mistaken if they think a congratulatory handshake after the declaration of an election result ensures that the charges and counter-charges are forgotten.
The collateral damage is more than “political”: institutions and practices suffer too. The trigger-happy loose cannon in the BJP got it all wrong when they made a fuss over an intelligence officer having “briefed” Rahul Gandhi, who holds no government office (even if his minions rate the vice-presidency of the party higher than the prime ministerial appointment). A number of former heads of intelligence agencies have admitted to interaction of a similar nature with MPs, the latter have requested being posted of the prevailing state of serious issues. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it must be encouraged so that MPs are enlightened ~ not every scrap of information is available on the floor of the House or through parliamentary papers. In fact a mechanism should be evolved, maybe under the aegis of the parliamentary secretariats, to facilitate officials of various departments feeling free when keeping lawmakers duly informed. This is not to exonerate Rahul. Technically he may not be bound by an oath of secrecy so his “shocking” revelation of what an intelligence man told him is no crime ~ it is a sin, a breach of trust, a compromise of confidence that he made political capital of the information furnished. It is not a personal affair; henceforth no upright officer will wish to interact with MPs. It vindicates Sharad Pawar&’s point that in administrative matters Mr Gandhi has yet to prove his mettle.
Gherao at Presidency
Monday&’s gherao of the Vice-Chancellor of Presidency University extends the loop of such aberrations in Kolkata&’s premier institutions ~ after similar incidents in Jadavpur and Calcutta universities. Sad to reflect, if students’ demands are met after a bout of arm-twisting, the portents are ominous. At Jadavpur University, the executive council ~ comprising Trinamul nominees in the main ~ has resolved to take a call on the previous VC&’s decision to suspend those involved in a recent case of ragging. Calcutta University intends to introduce a code of conduct, but is suitably circumspect not to ruffle feathers in the ruling party which has incurred the dubious distinction of presiding over almost endemic campus indiscipline. At Presidency, the authorities have almost instantly conceded the demand for restructuring the examination system. This would suggest that it wasn’t thought through when introduced. Admittedly, it reeks of shortcomings, of which VC Mrs Malabika Sarkar now appears to be aware. In the event, the authorities have unwittingly conveyed the impression that the students’ demand is sufficiently valid and ought to be addressed with urgent despatch. The issue will be referred to the next meeting of the executive council, and the changes that have been introduced are set to be dropped. The gherao ~ the third in a row in less than a month ~ has been relegated to the footnotes, and the agitprop has paid off. It is all very well to encourage the study of the liberal arts at the under-graduate level; but the students do have a point when they cavil that the inter-disciplinary approach is actually hindering, rather than helping, the advancement of learning. The net result has been a mishmash of disciplines ~ across streams ~ at the Pass level. It thus comes about that a humanities student is compelled to choose a science subject, and science students one from the Arts. Theoretically, the underpinning is to broaden one&’s knowledge and academic outlook, if with scant regard to one&’s proclivity for across-the-stream subjects. Actually, however, this has inconvenienced students no end, not least because of the multiplicity of tests on disciplines as varied as Philosophy and Physics. The under-graduate level ought to be spared such tinkering, even if directed by the overarching Mentor Group. Presidency College, it needs to be underlined, was never known for such experiments. Ms Sarkar&’s response to the gherao has been markedly student-friendly; she has made it implicit that she doesn’t quite concur with the hare-brained experiment. At best, it can lead to a superficial study of subjects; at worst an unnecessary embroidery on the academic schedule, one that has provoked the students to complain of harassment. That said, she would have reaped goodwill had she taken a call on the issue without advancing her assurance in the midst of a gherao.