Agatha Sangma’s CAA dance

Editor,

” I rise here today to extend my support to this amendment bill” These were the words that our MP started when she stood up in the Winter Session of parliament in 2019 to pledge her consent to the CAA. It was followed by her generous praises to the Home Minister for his so-called extensive consultation prior to tabling the bill.119 Hrs to be precise as quoted by her !!.( I wonder who was keeping count )
It would take 119 years or more for the Home Minister to actually understand the Northeast Dear Agatha.
A clip of her speech is there on YouTube and the comments on it speak for themselves on the sentiments of the people on her action. The Meghalaya CM himself, post her statement looked clueless and didn’t have any answers. There were protests across the state, though no one was held accountable or even asked to explain and justify her stand to the people.
The CAA is a bill that needs to be thrashed out but to apply the logic that “I accept it but please do exempt the Northeast from its purview,” is hypocritical and selfish to the core. It’s like saying that racism is fine and justified as long as it does not apply to me. So please let’s not go on that path of pleading and begging that we should be exempted from it.
Her recent position now against the Bill is ironic and laughable. I wonder whether it’s the whiff of the upcoming election air that is blowing and hence the need to make another stand going by the recent repeal of the farm laws. It’s a tragedy that we have such representatives from the state who will bend and dance whenever the tune changes.
Though it’s a fact she had no choice in the equations of things when her party sold itself to the BJP, I would sincerely then request her to stop quoting that she represents the Northeast and that their sentiments and her voice is the voice of the people as that would be insulting and demeaning to all of us. Rather let her be honest and state that it’s her party’s agenda and decision of toeing the line of the BJP as and when dictated by the bosses.

Yours etc.,

Robert R Khongwir

Via email

A Mixed Model for Higher Education

Editor,

The article “Higher education in the state” (ST Nov 30, 2021) is a one-sided view. Among other biases, Dr Saji Varghese makes the sweeping statement that “higher education has now become a privileged commodity of the wealthy”. Actually, more than two-thirds of the universities in the country are in the government sector and private universities generally have much lower enrolments. So there is no stranglehold of the private sector in higher education. To use extreme words like ‘exorbitant’ and ‘extortionate’ is unfairly painting the entire sector with a black brush. It also betrays a narrow mindset and unfamiliarity with data and nuances.
Various governments at the centre and in the states have studied and accepted the role of the private sector in higher education since the mid-1990s when the standing committee on education in Parliament took up the matter. The Supreme Court in a milestone judgment (TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka, 2002) commended the needed role of private institutions saying, “The state with its limited resources and slow-moving machinery is unable to fully develop the genius of the Indian people”.
One may fondly imagine that it is the “needy but capable” students who obtain the free or highly subsidised education in government universities or in the top institutions such as the IITs or IIMs. In the same judgement, the Supreme Court quoted data showing that the so-called ‘free’ or ‘merit’ seats in professional colleges were not occupied by poor students but rather by those from affluent families, whose better schooling and expensive tuitions elbowed out the poor students from the rank lists. Very few poor, rural or SC/ST students are admitted through the general quota.
A UGC survey showed that 70% of university students are from the upper 20% income bracket. Very few poor students make it to university because of the substandard school system. Since indirect taxes come mainly from the poor, an eminent educationist, Malcolm Adeshiah, has observed that ‘university education is a conduit for transferring resources from the poor to the rich’. In his well-known book, The Earth is Flat, noted economist Thomas Friedman observed that the IITs were the best suppliers of engineers to the USA. Why should they have received a nearly free education in India? If government higher education in India is largely monopolised by the rich, why blame private universities. At least they are charging those who can afford it, instead of burdening the exchequer.
Most countries with well-developed higher education systems have a mixed model of institutions set up by government, religious organisations and the private sector. Depending on the stage of development, its political system, and the economic resources of its citizens, each country has to decide which balance is best. No doubt there are malpractices in some private institutions, such as taking fees under the table, but government institutions suffer from their own maladies of inefficiency, outdatedness and corruption.
It’s all very well to espouse an ideology, but workable models are based on data and realities.

Yours etc.,

Glenn C. Kharkongor,

Via email

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