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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  EDUCATIONAL  
     
 
Sexploiters
  By Balvinder Singh  
  A SHOCKING sex scandal rocked Punjabi University in 2002. After languishing in the courts for eight long years, the case finally got a decent burial.

A local court, at the behest of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, acquitted Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, the then Vice-Chancellor of the university, (currently the designate VC of Guru Nanak Dev World University being set up by the SGPC), of the charges of 'attempt to rape and outraging modesty' that Saru Rana, a student of the Department of Fine Arts, had levelled against him.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court reportedly found the 'charges to be false and frivolous'. While defending the accused, the court reportedly remarked that "it is difficult for the VC of 67 years (of age) to attempt to rape a student in his office at 4.30 pm, when the University was open and a number of officials were present in his office".

Whether a follow-up action against the girl for filing a 'false and frivolous' complaint would be initiated or not is yet to be known.

In this regard, one cannot ignore the following observation that the Supreme Court of India made recently.

"The Supreme Court has held that the sole testimony and evidence of a rape victim is sufficient for the conviction of the accused. Her evidence does not require any corroboration, including by a doctor," said a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and S H Kapadia.

The Bench added: "In the normal course, a victim of sexual assault does not like to disclose the offence even before her family members, much less before the public or the police. Indian women have a tendency to conceal such offences, because it involves her prestige, as well as the prestige of her family. Only in a few cases, the girl or the family members have the courage to go to the police station and lodge a case."

Though a seemingly far-fetched approach, it sure has substance worth pondering.

Take a closer look at the above cited case. While the local print media highlighted the VC's exoneration, it remained silent about the plight of the girl, who, because of the social stigma has reportedly not been able to marry till date, while her younger sister got married. Even the VC's conviction would not have made any difference to her badly damaged social status.

But one thing is for sure. The poor plight of the whistle blower and exonerations of big fish in high places would certainly embolden Rathores to continue their 'sexploitations' more fearlessly.

To think that our educational institutions are sacred cows and above such filth is foolhardy. Following are a few instances that give quite a glimpse of the dark side of our temples of learning.

Author Saadat Hassan Manto, in his acclaimed story 'Khol Do', while describing the gang rape of an ill-fated victim during the Partition, located the crime scene in a college classroom. The room was designated for Sanskrit lessons. The writer knew rather well about the common practice of allotting isolated small rooms for subjects like Sanskrit, Fine Arts and Music that attract lesser students.

Even decades after Manto wrote this story, most of the local sex-related scandals that one keeps hearing about come out of the closets of such subjects alone.

Long ago, when my journalist daughter was to join Panjab University, Chandigarh, I approached a teacher friend from this varsity for his guidance.

"Since your daughter has scored exceptionally well in her undergraduate course, she will have full freedom to join any course of her choice. Let her decide what department she intends to join. Don't ever force your own wearied ideas upon her," was his short and stern advice.

"However, if she ever shows interest in doing a PhD from any of the departments of this varsity, put your foot down. For, I know the inside out of all the 'Shikaaris' (hunters) in the garb of intellectuals," he warned.

What exactly was the basis of enacting such a rule is not known, but as per a Panjab University regulation that is being followed religiously no male Principal can be appointed in any of its affiliated 'all-girls' college, while there is no restriction on appointing male teachers.
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The writer is the former Principal of a government college in Chandigarh
 
   
Who wants uniformity?
  By Jose Kavi  
  DOES India need a new brand image to succeed in the global market?

Yes, says Paul Temporal, a senior academic in the University of Oxford. He recently wrote that India has to develop a strategy to present "a uniform national identity along side its internal diversity."

Temporal must have made this suggestion because of his sincere interest in seeing India on top of the new global market.

His goodwill is welcome, but what he does not realize is that any talk of uniformity rankles most Indians.

Such a talk resonates with the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (national volunteers' corps). The umbrella organization of Hindu radicals wants all Indians to adopt one religion, one language and one culture.

They could have had their way, given the fact that Hindus account for more than 80 per cent of the country's population. However, they were rejected consistently by Indian voters, as shown by recent general elections.

'India as a nation is a paradox'
The world's interest in India grew after it weathered a recession that flattened many economies.

Many now want to do business with India, but find it hard to understand its complexities. They would want India to be like China where apparent uniformity exists.

However, China has the advantage of a still dominant and authoritarian central government whose pattern of social and political control is consistent with that country's 2,500 years of imperial rule.

As well, the dominant tribe -- the Han Chinese -- has been the overwhelmingly dominant group for a millennium.

No so India. In its current form, it is a British creation of just over 60 years. It is a grouping of hundreds of kingdoms. India as a nation is a paradox, a modern Babel. It is divided into states based mainly on language.

Despite all this, India has not only survived, but also grown steadily when other nations created on uniform identities have broken down.

So, it would be hard for us to adopt uniformity for the sake of doing business. Our nation has reached where it is today precisely because of our diversities.

What we require is not uniformity but unity in diversity.

'It cares for its religious minorities'

Diversity is India's strength. Its president is a Hindu woman, vice president is a Muslim male, the prime minister is a turbaned Sikh and the defense minister is a Christian. Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians all hold important positions in the country.

This healthy blend of sharing of leadership would not have happened if India had opted for a uniform identity.

Hindus could have easily opted for a Hindu nation in 1947 when the British partitioned the Indian subcontinent along religious lines.

Our leaders deliberately chose secularism as the country's basic character. Indian secularism accepts, respects and nurtures all religions and diversities.

It cares for its religious minorities unlike China that seems to suppress its minorities. The Indian Constitution has special provisions to safeguard the interests of religious and linguistic minorities.

India has more Muslims than Pakistan and they have flourished here.

The other significant minority is Christianity that claims to have existed here from apostolic times.

A good example of unity in diversity is the Catholic Church. Its members are divided into three distinct ritual Churches -- Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.

The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy introduced by European missioners in the 15th century, while the two Oriental rites follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origins to Saint Thomas the Apostle.

However, their bishops take turns to lead their national conference. Hundreds of Syro-Malabar priests and nuns work in Latin-rite dioceses.

'Hindus have saved more Muslims than the police'

Catholics also differ from one region to the other. A tribal from Nagaland has few similarities with a dalit in Tamil Nadu.

However, Indian Christians all unite to help one another when a group faces problems as seen during the anti-Christian violence in Orissa last year.

It is true Indians kill each other in the name of religion, caste, region and various other reasons. But they are aberrations.

Hindus have saved more Muslims than the police did when Hindu radical groups killed Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Similarly, hundreds of Christians found shelter in Hindu homes when Hindu radicals targeted Christians in Orissa last year.

We also do not stick to our religion when others need help, as shown by a Catholic priest in Kerala who donated one of his kidneys to a Hindu daily wager last year.

Only those interested in breaking this fine mosaic would want uniformity in India, because that is the best way to undo India.
---
Jose Kavi has led UCA News operations in India since 1988
 
   
Education on screen
  By Satish Jha  
  FOR all the progress that some of us in the connected India seem to notice, there are close to a billion people who have yet to touch its threshold in any which way we may define it.

To begin with, they have little access to education, healthcare, clean water, roads, electricity, and transport. Just that they are usually not visible to us or we choose to look the other way.

Some of us take pity on them and choose the path of charity. That shows up in various non-profit organizations that try to do some good by appealing to the hearts of the donors. A large number of people have devoted their lives to such initiatives or turned it into a career.

The result still is that almost three times the India we inherited six decades ago is not ready to become a part of current human accomplishments.

Unless we start addressing these challenges differently from the way we faced them so far, it is unlikely that these billion Indians will get to become part of the human journey as we know in this lifetime.

But it is possible that we let every child born today not be deprived of all our accomplishments. It is possible that anyone who is in school today can have the aspirations the affluent billion folks on this planet live everyday.

It has to begin at the beginning. It has to begin with educating them in ways that make them productive members of our society.

In times of working on screen, it helps little to be able to manage on slate, and paper. The skills needed to simply be called literate require that we know how to use computers.

Computers have fast replaced most paper based knowledge. They have mostly replaced most productive work and creative activities in the world that is busy creating value.

An education that is not screen based, that does not use the affordable technologies that help children begin to explore their own talent, their potential and use it as a window to the world they are going to face helps little.

That divide began dawning on us a couple of decades ago. Digital divide became a recognized emerging deficiency a decade ago. We don't plan to fall behind. It is because some of us think ahead and get ahead, the rest of us fall behind.

The answer is not to chain those who are thinking ahead. The one choice we have is to understand how the human evolution is making it possible to treat every human being with dignity, removing drudgery, opening up a world of possibilities that they can achieve now.

In most of our calculations about progress we seem to not have been adequately mindful that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. And we are currently wasting a billion of them. That encouraged some of us to explore how we can affordably connect these folks to the world of possibilities that the privileged take for granted.

Professor Nicholas Negroponte, a founder of MIT Media Lab, chose a path that made some 3000 engineers explore and ask, how do we make education on screen possible for the most under privileged? A few years later they came up with the concept of 'One Laptop per Child' (OLPC).

A Laptop, because that is more personal. It can store power. It does not require a chair and table to sit on. It can be used like we wear our shoes, for learning does not happen only when we sit on a chair by a desk.

The laptop they developed can easily be seen as the third generation of computing. Personal Computing 3.0 or PC 3.0.

It marries pedagogy with technology. It makes learning affordable and fun for both children and teachers. It triggers creativity that we have not seen thus far.

What the government schools, or some organizations, aspire to achieve in 5 years, the OLPC approach makes it possible in months, giving a child the rest of the primary school life to acquire knowledge rather than just be busy acquiring necessary skills. And it does all that far cheaper than anything mankind has known for quality education.

For a lower cost than what the governments actually spend on primary education, using 'One Laptop per Child' approach helps a child become a child again in the quest of learning.

On the physical front, OLPC produces a laptop that is rugged like no other, is high tech beyond the reach of any other laptop there is in the market, connects its users even when there is no internet around and helps make learning become fun.

On the learning front, it comes with an ability to develop all the skills we need as a human being to navigate the world of knowledge, learning and creativity.

On connectedness, it allows its users to connect regardless of local infrastructure challenges.

It's a tablet PC, its an Amazon Kindle, it's an e-paper, it's a game console, it's a music editor, its an ipod, its an iphone, its almost anything we want our computers to be for a learning child. And all this for Rs 8 a day per child, or a dollar a week.

Can we afford as a nation not to spend Rs 8 per day on building our future? If we cannot invest $50 (or Rs. 2500) per year on our children's future, what future are we planning to create?

Most affluent societies spend a third of their per capita income on its children. In the US primary school education costs a bit more than $10,000 per annum.

If we claim our per capita income has jumped up to $1000, should we not invest at least $100 on educating our children?

I continue to hear that the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) proclaims on its website that there are no financial constraints to educating India. I also hear from some of our leaders' concern as to how to finance the need to learn on screen.

Something may be amiss. But to educate 25 million children to become capable citizens in step with the times we live in will cost us just an additional $2.5 billion a year if we fully finance it. Can we not afford it? That is less than what we spend on mid-day meal schemes. If we think like entrepreneurs isn't it eminently possible?

So, OLPC India hopes to persuade the leaders of India to just set aside that pocket money that the parents have done for as long as we can recall to build the future generation. 'One Laptop per Child' laptop costs less than what it takes to just power a desktop. By taking this approach, the nation gets a laptop free while meeting the environmental clarion call for zero cost. And it changes the world of a child and that of a nation.

All we need is a leader who can pause and pay attention to what is available to us today to change our future and not waste any more minds that make our nation. For, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. And for less than a ten rupee bill a day, we can change the world of a child and save the ten rupees as well by not powering up a desktop.

In other words, if we are ready to see it, we can change the world of our children for as little as zero rupees.

Are we ready?
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(sjha@vsnl.com /www.olpcindia.net)
 
   
Education up for sale
  By Balvinder Singh  
  IF 'babus' are allowed to interfere in the day-to-day issues of educational institutions, even the sincerest efforts of HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and his likes are bound to go waste.

"1,175 Punjab schools sans principal for a decade" read a January 6 headline in The Tribune, Chandigarh.

The article described how most local colleges in Chandigarh did not have Principals. Moreover, the number of teachers in almost all local schools (leaving aside the region) is dismally low, despite the fact that the Chandigarh Administration has no financial crunch. And the posts of counsellors, despite a sharp rise in students' suicides, are almost missing in all educational institutions, barring a few private ones.

Obviously, the educational roost is ruled by 'babus'.
Gone are the days when educational institutions rarely used to be headless and their heads were a well-respected lot.

Take, for example, the unfortunate Ruchika case. Here, babus decided if a school principal should allow a particular student to continue in school or not. It is a well-known fact that even a troublemaker is not expelled from an educational institution. He or she is made to withdraw, ensuring that the student's future is not ruined.

In such a situation, how can one blame a particular school/college for succumbing to pressure?

Interestingly, the same Home Secretary of Chandigarh who allegedly is behind the tirade against select private schools, for not so unknown reasons, has reportedly put a placard outside his office stating that he should not be bothered with 'sifarishi' requests; subtly admitting that such norms exist!

Can one hope of any improvement in our education system?
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The writer is a former Principle of Chandigarh Arts College
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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