Sunday, July 14, 2024

State leadership will determine quality of State University


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The establishment of Captain Williamson Sangma State University, Tura is a welcome step, yet it needs to tread cautiously and cannot be over-ambitious in the immediate future. Meghalaya with the dubious distinction of being a State with perennial financial crunch combined with misplaced priorities, has to be pragmatic since a university’s annual expenditure can range anywhere between fifty to a few hundred crores annually.
Understandably, there are deep concerns on maintainability and sustainability of the University under the State Government. It can start with few departments and should not think of affiliating colleges for at least 10 years. The Government should allow the University to settle down and shape up. Here the newly set up Education Commission of Meghalaya can play an important role in stabilizing it over the years. The options should be given to colleges who they want to affiliate with eventually. It will be very unfortunate to see colleges moving away from NEHU- a 51 years old first Central University of North-Eastern region, to a newly set up State university, which is yet to be tested. We don’t have to go too far. Let’s have a look at the model Assam has adopted and improvise upon it. Assam has 2 Central Universities and 19 State Universities. In this regard, the Meghalaya College Teachers’ Association (MCTA), the Principal’s Council and civil societies will also have to play a vital role.
The new University will require a Vice Chancellor with clear vision, compassion, dedication and knowledge with academic and professional leadership and one who does not possess the mentality of a primary school teacher. Of course, the same is expected from Vice Chancellors of every university. In the next 10 years or so, the new State University should stabilize itself for a steady growth by creating infrastructure, recruiting faculty and non-teaching staff, initiating courses and design curricula based on the needs and aspirations of the people of Meghalaya. The entire university should be digitalized so that all transaction can be done online-right from obtaining forms to payment of fees, obtaining mark sheets, certificates, etc. without the need to visit the campus which will be a great service to people living in far-flung areas, particularly those from the lower income groups. Once the university becomes well-established and tested, then it can think of affiliating colleges under it. As the saying goes-haste makes waste.
It is natural that there will be some competition between NEHU and Williamson Sangma State University but it should be complementing each other rather than competing against each other in the larger interests of the people of Meghalaya. Some examples include starting new courses that are relevant in current times with good job prospects which NEHU does not offer, or, create expertise required for the economic growth of Meghalaya through well-designed programs. In this regard, NEHU too has to pull up its socks. It has earned its brand name through rigorous and dedicated efforts of the former Vice Chancellors, faculty members, students and non-teaching staff since inception but the brand is fast degrading in the last 10-12 years. It has to behave more rationally while dealing with the affiliated colleges. NEHU has to act as a big brother and handhold and treat them as partners in pursuit of academic goals and excellence. It cannot afford to act as the boss of these colleges and force anything on them against their will. It cannot afford to forget that it doesn’t own them and as a university they are affiliated to, NEHU needs to provide the academic mentorship and quality control with mutual respect.
The recent debacle in CUET centres in NEHU is the only reason for exemption of the CUET in Meghalaya for admission to UG programs and this doesn’t speak well about an experienced university which has stood the test of time over several decades. Similarly, the hasty and haphazard implementation of NEP 2020 in the undergraduate level without assessing the ground reality and preparedness is another cause of concern among the general public and teaching fraternity alike. If NEHU doesn’t learn from its mistakes and if it keeps repeating errors one after another over a short period of time, then it bound to drive the colleges, students and the general public away from it. Everything is not lost yet and NEHU can regain its brand name provided there is a will for a recovery and the Vice Chancellor has to show the way through immediate corrective actions.
Yours etc.
Prof. Lakhon Kma

Modi’s second term

Apropos of the editorial, “Of exit polls,” (ST June 3, 2024), all 13 polling agencies in the country in their exit polls result 2024 have predicted on Saturday that the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would retain power at the Centre for a third straight term, with the BJP-led NDA expected to win with a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha polls 2024. Many exit polls also predicted the BJP improving its numbers from the 303 seats it won in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. If the exit polls prove correct on Tuesday June 4, 2024. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become the only Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to win three successive terms in the Lok Sabha. Then the next thing to watch is the “NDA’s 100 Days Programme” after the budget session which the Prime Minister has asked the bureaucracy to brace up when he returns as the Prime Minister for the third term.
On the economic side, I think the Prime Minister should not encourage freebies as it is bad economics, however cash grants to deserving categories like landless labour and tenants should be encouraged through Direct Benefit Transfer to help the poor and vulnerable people of our country. It will also be interesting to see whether the Constitution will be amended as the BJP led NDA will be having the numbers. Then there are areas which require structural reforms which includes education, employment, environment and police-judicial system which have not been attempted extensively as they are challenging. Programs like Mudra loans and housing initiatives may be scaled up.
Yours etc;
VK Lyngdoh,
Via email

A simple, respectful response

I am thankful to Wallambiang Rani for his letter, “Who wants to abolish the ST status?” ST (June 1, 2024) and to Hammarsing L Kharhmar for his article, “Khasi by Faith,” also dated June 1, 2024, in response to my article in The Shillong Times, “Religion and Khasi Tribal Identity,” (ST May 30, 2024), thereby giving me an opportunity to clarify further. The debate on Scheduled Tribe status -vs- religious conversion is an old issue which is still brewing all along not only in Meghalaya but in other parts of India as well. I suggest that Wallambiang Rani read N.K. Kehar’s letter, “Converts to Christianity no longer indigenous” (ST, may 16, 2024), James D’s letter, “Is Hindutva influencing ST status-vs-Christian conversion debate?” (ST, May 18, 2024), and Bhogtoram Mawroh’s article, “Is religion the basis of indigenous identity?” (ST, May 18, 2024). Hammarsing L Kharhmar’s reaction to my article is natural and expected. I would have reacted similarly if I were in his place. Nevertheless, I would like to let him know that I highly appreciate the role played by the Seng Khasi and Seiñ Raj in guiding the moral and spiritual life of the people because it is irrational to expect that all Khasis would convert to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or any other new religion.
Yours etc.,
Fabian Lyngdoh,
Via email


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