Friday, March 30, 2007

India is a country of 1.2 billion people.This, on paper, looks like quite a disconcerting statistic. However, the fact that 60% of its population is between 18-30 is a fact which brings cheer. This means that by the year 2040 we will be way ahead of china if the productive age group i.e., 24-58 is taken into account. The usage of word "productive", however, may turn out to be a misnomer because, in reality, education remains a mirage for most indians. Taking cognizance of this fact, the finance minister of india, mr.p.chidambaram, has allocated 6% of the GDP for education in the budget for fiscal year 2007-08.

The National Knowledge Commission-headed by sam pitroda- is a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India. Its view about school educations is as follows : " It is imperative to provide education to children from all back grounds in order to prepare India for the 21st Century and to ensure that all sections of society can meaningfully participate in the development process." Mr.chidambaram took utmost care to live up to the view.Hence, his budget allocation for school education is as follows : " Increase in allocation for school education by 35% from Rs.17,133 crore to Rs.23,142 crore, of which Rs.10,671 crore for SSA, provision for strengthening of teachers training institutions to be increased from Rs.162 crore to Rs.450 crore with 200,000 more teachers to be appointed and 500,000 more class rooms to be constructed. Mid-day Meal Scheme to be provided Rs.7,324 crore; provision for secondary education to double from Rs.1,837 crore to Rs.3,794 crore. National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme to be introduced to arrest drop out ratio; each student to be given Rs.6,000 per year; 100,000 scholarships to be awarded every year; a corpus fund of Rs.750 crore to be created this year." This, hopefully, would help in stemming the rot of the dropout rate- the percentage of children reaching grade V falls down absymally to 79% of those enrolled at Grade I.

The knowledge commission stresses on the importance of vocational education. It says: " An important aspect of India's rapidly growing economy is a skilled and educated workforce, and a demographic advantage over aging Western societies. Technicians and other skilled workers and craftsmen form the backbone of manufacturing and infrastructure development. There is a growing demand for skilled workers but data suggests that this demand is not met by the existing system, since the skills imparted do not match employer needs. In order for the system to become more relevant in the changing context and to exploit this demographic advantage in the future, there is a need to create a model of imparting vocational education that is flexible, sustainable, inclusive and creative."

The finance minister has been wise enough to act upon this recommendation coupled with the fact that its the plumbers and fitters who work in the gulf that remit more to the indian exchequer rather than the indians at silicon valley. Thus, the following allocation for iti's(Industrial Training Institutes) : as many as 1396 Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) have been proposed to be upgraded into centres of excellence in specific trades and skills under Public-Private Partnership (PPP).The Finance Minister also proposed to grant an interest-free loan up to Rs 2.5 crore to each ITI for upgrading and revision of courses. He sought the cooperation of the state governments in upgrading at least 300 ITIs every year beginning 2007-08 under the PPP mode. He further stated that Rs. 750 crore have been kept aside for this purpose. This, however, serves as mere lip service because there need to be vocational training centres for handicrafts and other cottage industries which the finance minister has refused to address in his budget. So far so good. however,here are further more glitches in this pro aam aadmi scheme.

Allocating 6% of GDP is not the panacea for the social ill of illiteracy. The government has to ensure that the money reaches the poor and needy. Devolve is the key word in this context. All the mandarins and bureaucrats involved in this process must abstain from any kind of depradations. Speculations are rife that an additional 1% cess on the tax payers for education sector is to go into the swiss accounts(which is an almost inevitable thing in such machinations) of the politicians. Thus, its imperative that the government sets up a regulatory mechanism to overlook the spending of public money and if anyone is found erring, the punishment meted should be severe. Teachers need to be made more accountable. Intermittent presence in the class rooms would be serving no purpose. Last year, the finance mininster has rattled off on how thousands of one room schools are beign set up across the country. The reality is that many remain simple fragments of imagination on paper.

If this is the state of primary education then higher education too does not augur well for indian students. A handful of iim's and iit's are not sufficient enough to accomodate the huge talent pool of india. Thus, not surprisingly, every year about a lakh students visit the shores of USA to pursue their higher studies. If other countries are to be taken into account, the indian student population would be easily hovering at the million mark. Annually as much as $4 billion goes out of India to foreign universities. According to commerce ministry, a half of this amount would be enough to set up 1500 universities in the country by 2015. Why do the students need to go abroad to hone their skills ? Simple. Apart from flexicube and tally, the indian software sector has largely been relegated to providing "services". This is happening because of lack of incubation facilities. Whereas, in USA its incumbent on the university to have an incubation centre. With proper incubation facilities, we can surely innovate. Until then google forms part of our cyber jargon. There is a certain view that the east india company introduced english medium of education so that they can have cheap accountants. This, the writer thinks, is still existing. Just look at the progress sheet attached to this write up. Its of this writer's 10 yr old cousin who is studying in USA. The parameters in which a student is evaluated is so comprehensive compared to the indian students. Chiasmus and anacoluthia should hold as much sway with the students as ms paint and power point.

First time entrepreneurs are hardly encouraged in india. Bureaucratic hassles are a huge detterent. This certainly does not paint a rosy picture for a management student in india. A miniscule seats in medical education is already a much talked about but not worked upon issue. Dilapidated buildings, archaic lab facilities,lack of quality faculty,lack of academic counsellors,lack of flexible curriculum,too much of fixation on marks,didactic pedagogy prove to be the nemesis of the current crop of students. And no wonder, they are visiting foreign universitites from a country. Its high time that the HRD minister mr.arjun singh takes upon some preventive measures to curb the malaise.

Sources from where the excerpts have been taken:

Budget 2007-08

Tailpiece: The indian cricket team is more considerate of the students plight than the concerrned authorities. They realised that students are staying awake late night due to the current world up and that their performance is taking a beating(may be not as bad as it happened against bangladesh and sri lanka) at the board exams. Hence, they sacrificed the world cup for the future of the country. Hats off, dravid and co.

Recommendations of the fortnight:

Tokyo cancelled: What starts off as "kuch meetha ho jaye" is actually a "conspirators of pleasure" meets "3 women" with "the maltese falcon" eavesdropping and "pan's labyrinth" being a constant onlooker. Rana dasgupta's debut novel is a mess. But,hey, what a glorious mess it is. His flights of imagination makes the reader so earthbound.

Fucking amal: The writer's image of portrayal of lesbianism on screen has always been of dildos entering all holes available. Thankfully, lukas moodysson has crafted a daguerreotype. Watch this movie for the true angst of a teenager while in both a heterosexual and homosexual relationship. If that does not sustain your interest, watch it for the sake of Alexandra Dahlström. She is breathtaking in every sense.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Its time for samba,reggae and, yeah, cricket too.

The time has arrived when your testosterone levels are gonna be at an all time high but still the sexual life is gonna take a severe beating.This time that is more than just given because this thing is schdeuled at night time(IST).Its world cup guys. This is the time when movies dont get released politicians dont rule the headlines,attendance at offices get dwindled, students do the juggling act between their board exams and tv,every wicket becomes breaking news in those dime a dozen news channels,an india vs bermuda match would fetch more trp's than the live coverage of the marriage of ash and abhishek(which,incidentally,is on march 19th),acrimonious atmoshere is gonna prevail on the domestic front what with women who are surely going to miss kyunki saas.

Its that quadrennial event which is " a moveable feast" for all the soothsayers,tarot card readers and, ofcourse, all those obscure ranji trophy cricketers who hog the limelight for 45 days. A person like sunil valson- the guy who dint play a single match during the 1983 world cup- is almost deified and his emotions of being part of the winning team holds more sway than the hustings of the impending uttar pradesh elections among the billion viewers. If m.v.sridhar has tv9 to disclose his favourite for the world cup, i have the blog to rattle the mumbo jumbo about my "predictions" for the world cup.

The list below is in alphabetical order:

1) Australia:
It took less than two weeks for john buchanan to turn from jesus the savior to judas the betrayer. Courtesy: thrashing in the hands of england and new zealand. Even ferenc gyurcsany took three weeks. No smaller stage than world cup will suffice for him to redeem his lost glory. An injured lee, doubtful symondshis mind coupled with the inability of his bowlers- including the Pigeon- to defend leviathan scores will certainly be rankling in his mind. But, this australian side is too talented to discard them. Forget the predictions of viv richards and kevin pieterson who think the aussies are vulnerable. Remember what lou vincent had to say. "The aussies are a pack of dogs who pounce on you ferociously". Touche. After all, no one personifies the better side of bellicosity than the aussie side. And of course, george bush represents the other side.

Buoyed by the one day series win in australia and return of michael vaughan at the helm of affairs, english side looks complete. With collingwood holding the fort tightly in the middle, solidity from vaughan and the all round abilities of flintoff being hardly questioned in cricketing circles, england start off as wild card favourites. Who knows, the english side might just pull off a goran ivanisevic albeit the english side needs to serve (no pun intended) with the same intensity.

According to cricketing experts, "this is the best indian team to have ever appeared for a world cup". Is that so ? An iffy sehwag, rusty harbhajan, wayward pathan dont exactly paint a rosy picture. The indian team's cathexis with a nana patekar one liner in taxi no.9211 is far from over, which is, "sachin banne ka kaif nahi banne ka". With no raina and kaif in the squad, the onus is on yuvraj to spur up our fielding abilities. I am not discarding this indian side from holding aloft the world cup on april 28th at barbados. But the fact is that i will be very surprised if we can go all the way through.

4) New zealand:
They are called as the black caps. But am sure in the bookies lingo the new zealand side must have been rechristened as dark horses. A warm up loss to bangladesh would hardly dent their confidence( or should i say hubris) regained by the hatrick wins over their trans tasman rivals, that too by mammoth margins. This is the only team which always believed in the adage that "cricket is a team game". Stephen fleming is modern age martin crowe who surely must be having some aces up his sleeve. After all, opening the bowling with deepak patel and slogging from the blade of marrk greatbatch before the likes of jayasuriya have been dished out by the new zealand camp. You can surely expect the unexpected from this team.

I would not be as stupefied if congress wins the UP elections as i would be, should, pakistan make it to last four. A depleted bowling attack coupled with the lack of all round capabilities of abdul razzaq means that bob woolmer's experience of coaching three world cup teams(preceding pakistan) matters a zilch.

6)South africa:
It took six nominations for martin scorsese to win an academy award. By this same analogy, its high time the proteas laid their hands on world cup. Duckworth and lewis proved to be their nemesis during 1992, lara's rampage costed them in 96, donald's mindless skedaddling and boucher's inept ability in mathematics depleted them of the cup in 99 and 2003 editions. Hopefully, this world cup happens to be a befitting swansong for that old warhorse known as shaun pollock.

7)Sri lanka:
Apart from arjuna ranatunga, not many are willing to place their money on the sri lankan side. I concur with the rest of them. The average age of this side is in its early thirties which does not augur well for any cricketing side(those australians evolved from a different planet altogether, so lets not discuss about them). On the flipside, loads of experience might keep them stay afloat. I am not too optimistic of their chances though.

8) West indies:
Brian lara would like to be the captain who lead his team to be the first one in world cup history to win the world cup being the host nation. However, a decrepit side would hardly be heartening for lara's already sagging morale following the loss in india during the recent one day series. The batsmen would have to share the additional responsibility to cover up for the large chinks in west indian bowling armoury. The batsmen also are no better if the recent warm up match against india is to be taken as reference point.

Bangladesh, robert mugabe's "first world cup team", kenya, canada, netherlands, the gobtrotters, bermuda,scotland surely add up to the numbers. But expecting them to pull off the feat done by senegal during the 2002 football world cup would be purely wishful optimism. However, the minnows do need support and hopefully one or shocking upsets happen, for the betterment of the game.

My prediction:
I expect australia,south africa, india and new zealand to make up the last four. After that, as the cliche goes, "its anybody's game".
Happy viewing. Sadly its only viewing with mandira bedi providing the oomph, that is, when the game is not in progress. Expect the commentary to be banal without the likes of alan wilkins,harsha bhogle, ravi shastri.

This writer thinks that world cup is a misnomer when only a handful of countries participate. On the contrary, consider the football world cup where more than 200 countries participate. Except the winner every other team has to go through the rigmarole of playing the qualifiers. So this writer feels that when it comes to cricket, 'mini' world cup would suffice.

What robert altman is to overlapped dialogues, alejandro gonzalez inarittu is to taut screenplay. He is only three films old, but his death trilogy(amores perros,21 grams, babel) eulogises his amazing hyphenate abilities. What separates inarittu from other directors is the way he involves the viewer to set the jig saw puzzle until the denoument. He shows violence as pornography. You might get tired of it but in the very next moment you would want more of it. Here's hoping much more from this person who is an auteur in the true sense. No wonder then that sanjay gupta aspires to remake 21 grams.