Education reforms

Published : Aug 28, 2009 00:00 IST

THE article School question (July 31) effectively deals with the series of bombshells thrown by the Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal. Making the public examination optional in Standard X will not in itself be a solution to the ills that the Minister speaks of. It is true that the vast majority of the students who write the public examinations are traumatised. It is equally true that exam results end the dreams of many students. They carry not just the burden of their own dreams, besides the study load, but those of their parents too. The anxiety and apprehension that afflict parents are made use of by commercial schools, which thrive on exaggerated ratings and the glamour of results.

A recent study on the boarding schools that have mushroomed in recent times in Salem district in Tamil Nadu found that donations for entry into Standard XII are inversely proportional to the marks scored by students in Standard X and that students are grouped according to their marks so that the quality of preparation for the examinations is directly proportional to the marks. Real reforms should aim at making education pleasant, enlightening and accessible to all irrespective of social or economic backwardness.

S.V. Venugopalan ChennaiIndia & Pakistan

THE composite dialogue process should not be delayed as the hawks on both sides of the border want (Cover Story, August 14). The histrionics of fringe elements on both sides should be firmly dealt with. The two countries need to sort out their differences, which deepened after the Mumbai attacks, and work towards a viable and durable solution.

S. Murali Vellore, Tamil Nadu

IT would be wise for Pakistan to first successfully conclude the war against the Taliban. The existential threat posed by Al Qaeda and the Taliban must be solved by Pakistan. Although Kashmir remains a global hot spot, India and Pakistan can solve the matter amicably through talks. Let terrorism be annihilated once and for all.

Thomas Edmunds Chennai

DELINKING the issue of terrorism from resumption of the composite dialogue process severely undermines Indias independent foreign policy. After the Mumbai terror attacks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unequivocally stated that resumption of dialogue with Pakistan would commence only after it demolishes the terrorism infrastructure and stops sponsoring cross-border terrorism.

One fails to understand what compelled Manmohan Singh to take a different step while meeting with Prime Minister Gilani.

Bishal Das New DelhiUnique ID

NOTWITHSTANDING its being High-cost, high risk (August 14), the unique ID card project will be a useful centralised database of citizens and worthy of sacrifice in terms of cost and some privacy. The article describes the project with clarity and insight. Also, the major task of the Unique Identification Authority lies in balancing the advantages against the need for protection of privacy and civil liberties. In a project like this, it would be beneficial to involve the public at large to gain its acceptance and to get suggestions on the process of data collection.

K.U. Mada MumbaiUttar Pradesh

UTTAR Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshis comments can only add fuel to the bitterly divisive politics in the State (Battle for turf, August 14). Equanimity and tact are rare commodities in Indian politics. But considering the confidence people placed in it, the Congress party should not have stooped so low.

With the Bharatiya Janata Partys brand of politics being turned down and the Left coming undone, the time is ripe for the Congress to sow seeds of trust in the hearts of the people, who of late are becoming sceptical about our celebrated democracy.

Meenu B. Kollam, KeralaHooch tragedy

DURING the post-Godhra communal carnage, Chief Minister Narendra Modi totally ignored the fact that Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, was born in Gujarat (Liquor deaths, August 14). But when it comes to alcohol, he, like his predecessors, is interested in upholding Gandhian values. Prohibition benefits only the police, excise departments and bootleggers. It is an anachronism in the 21st century.

K.P. Rajan MumbaiThe Nilgiris

THE article A walk in the clouds (August 14) reveals the splendour of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is very strange to know that the Himalayan shrub Rhododendron nilagirica occurs in this region. I learned how the shola vegetation supports many perennial water streams in Tamil Nadu. The article also stresses the need to conserve versatile tropical rain forests.

E.N. Murthy Warangal, A.P.Begum Akhtar

BEGUM AKHTAR was an extraordinary singer of ghazals, but unfortunately her choice of a ghazal was not always good (Haunting ghazal, August 14). What often marred my enjoyment were the pauses or breaks she sometimes made within a line simply for the sake of the rhythm, unconcerned that it destroyed the syntactic relationship between the poets words.

It is little known that Begum Akhtar acted in a film produced and directed by the great Mehboob. It was called Roti (Bread) and was unusual because it was banned by the colonial government. It was released briefly a few years after Independence. It was a powerful film against the greed and exploitation inherent in capitalism. The story involved a plane full of gold crashing in a desert where a hoarder finds that his gold is of no use when it comes to slaking his thirst and hunger. It may not be among Mehboobs greatest films, but it is time newer generations got a chance to see it.

C. M. Naim Chicago, U.S.Gangubai Hangal

GANGUBAI HANGAL was the last of the titans and represented the quintessence of purity and nobility of Hindustani classical music (Beyond voice, August 14). She was known for her loyalty to Gharana-parampara and was a beacon of light for aspiring young artists.

Her performing life spanned about 70 uninterrupted years during which there was, I understand, no record of a single tantrum being thrown or a single line of publicity being peddled to the press for self-glorification.

J. Seshagiri MysoreILO report

THAT the domestic work done by girl children is not evaluated economically is a glaring injustice (Invisible work, July 31). The moot point is whether child labour can be eliminated merely through statutes. Poor parents send their children out to work to earn for the family. Sending the children to school reduces the familys chances of survival.

A solution has to be found by providing resources to give a stipend to children for their attendance in school. Unless the provision in the Budget for universal education takes this factor also into account, poor children will not be able to escape the scourge of illiteracy and child labour.

Kasim Sait ChennaiChina

YOUR article on the unrest in China (Sparks of separatism, July 31) was informative. In particular, the description of the geography of Xinjiang province was interesting. The article mentions that many Uighurs do not like Mandarin being used in educational institutions; this reminded me of the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s.

C.J. Nelson CoimbatorePrivate power

THE article Power of profit (July 31) presents a dismaying picture of the power situation in the national capital. Punjab, too, is following in Delhis footsteps and is planning to unbundle the Punjab State Electricity Board. Privatisation of loss-incurring public sector units does not have many critics. But forcing PSUs into losses and then privatising them is unacceptable, sordid folly.

Last month, thousands of people had to complain about their overcharged bills. We got a bill for a hefty Rs.17,000, which later went down to a meagre Rs.900 after we placed a complaint. This time there was a bill for Rs.8,000.

Kulpreet Kaur Mohali, PunjabKing of pop

MICHAEL JACKSON was the artist who introduced us to songs that were not only for listening but had an audio-visual effect as well (Death of a star, July 31). Many critics said that some of his later songs lacked lyrical quality, but his audience was not interested in such a critical analysis. We will remember him for Thriller, his way of presentation and, above all, for his moonwalk.

Sayan Chatterjee Nabagram, W.B.Honduras

THE fact that President Manuel Zelayas clear mandate was not enough to stop his ouster from office indicates the vulnerability of democracy (Countering a coup, July 31). As a prominent member of the Organisation of American States, the U.S. should have taken pre-emptive steps to persuade the coup-makers not to take any extreme step against the democratically elected President. Perhaps, in order to convince the world community and to protect its image as a pro-democratic state, it belatedly condemned the coup.

Janakiraman Ramalingam Madurai, Tamil NaduANNOUNCEMENT

Letters, whether by surface mail or e-mail, must carry the full postal address and the full name, or the name with initials.

RESPONSEPower situation in DelhiArun Kanachan CEO, BSES, New Delhi.

WITH reference to the article Power of profit (July 31), we would like to state the following:

The articles reference to 12 to 15 hours of power-cuts does not reflect the ground realities. One or two isolated incidents in an area spread over 1,000 sq km covering a base of 2.5 million consumers have been generalised by the media.

It is a matter of record that in June 2009, BSES discoms actually supplied 14 per cent more power then they did in June 2008 representing higher growth compared with other discoms of Delhi. This is not possible with 12- to 15-hour power-cuts.

It is true that our consumers had to face some hardships mainly because Uttaranchal could not return the power that BSES discoms had given to it in the winter of last year. This was due to the States own generation falling low owing to a drought-like situation and a few other plants of the NTPC witnessing forced outages.

Further, BSES discoms service area also experienced outages on account of the underperformance of Power Grid Corporation of India Limiteds Mandola Grid, because of which shedding was forced on the discoms by the State Load Dispatch Centre (SLDC) to give relief to the equipment so as to avoid a bigger catastrophe. Cancellation of open access by the Government of Rajasthan for the bilateral sale of power by their captive unit to BSES also added to its woes.

As regards human resources, BSES inherited the finest human resources in the sector from the erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board and has augmented them sufficiently in the last seven years.

It may be understood that electricity distribution is a regulated business where discoms are entitled to a certain percentage of return on their equity on meeting the rigorous performance standards set by the Regulatory Commission. Therefore, the allegations of profit motives are totally baseless.

The power purchase is a 100 per cent pass-through element to the consumers. Discoms have a fiduciary responsibility to their consumers and therefore use prudence in the matter of sale/purchase of power. In fact, sale of power in the time slots after meeting own requirement is to the benefit of consumers as it helps in containing the average power purchase cost to the consumers.

The quantity of power (reported 5.4 million units) sold by all discoms against a supply of over 2,300 MUs in June represents less than 0.25 per cent and should not be considered a parameter of efficient and vigilant discoms. It is to be understood that power cannot be stored and has to be consumed at the very moment it is produced. Even during the days of shortages, there are time slots of the day when the power is surplus as determined by the SLDC, and it is sold outside to optimise the power purchase cost for the benefit of consumers. Here again, BSES has sold much less power compared with other Delhi discoms.

The BSES discoms investments towards augmenting the infrastructure in Delhi belie the claim made in the report. However, it is to be understood that the money spent by discoms is ultimately borne by the consumers. We still do not see any reason why Delhi consumers should be denied access to any fund including the APDRP funds just because distribution companies have been privatised and which will reduce the cost of capital.

Information regarding all-round improvements including reliability and availability indices, reduction in breakdowns, no current complaints, transformer failure and other customer service parameters are in the public domain. The significant improvements made in the past six years do make privatisation an astounding success in Delhi.

There are certain observations made regarding Aggregate Revenue Requirement. This being a matter under judicial authorities, it is not proper for us to comment. Suffice it to say that successful appeals against successive tariff orders by all Delhi discoms tell an entirely different story.

Finally, the votaries of the anti-privatisation theory would do well to look into facts and figures. Prior to 2002, the Government of Delhi was giving an annual subsidy of approximately Rs.1,300 crore, besides undertaking Capex [capital expenditure] to augment the network. This subsidy bill was rising year after year, owing to an increase in consumption despite a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of over 14 per cent rise in the retail consumer tariff in the decade prior to privatisation.

Post-privatisation, the government has saved over Rs.3,000 crore in subsidies and Capex, which is now zero. The retail consumer tariff in the seven years of the post-privatisation period until March 31, 2009, has seen a rise of merely about 3 per cent CAGR despite a steep increase in the bulk power purchase cost, including that being paid to NTPC stations (being paid entirely by discoms) which at times have amounted to over 20 per cent increase in a year. All this with significant improvement in consumer services and standards of performance.

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