Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
In the present instance, media reported that some ‘elders’ from the village of the accused have stated that it is the woman who is to blame because she is working late night shifts. This follows arguments of many others who blame women and their way of dressing. The newspaper reports quoted above show that women, irrespective of age, time, dress or class are harassed, molested and sexually assaulted every day. What dress did the two-year old wear, or what was the night shift that the baby worked, which had provoked the banal animal instincts in the person who had raped and killed her? It is high time for the society to stop blaming the women and look at what’s wrong with it.
Social stereotypes of women have to change in the society. Women are labelled as fairer and weaker sex. Harassing, assaulting and molesting them are projected as a sign of machismo. If your boss reprimands you, it is ‘natural’ for you to express your anger and frustration on your wife. This is ‘natural’ because you are brought up in an atmosphere where you can speak with a raised voice on your mother but only in a hush-hush and obedient tone with your father. You, as a boy can go to school, play, read and go to the market, but your sister should first complete assisting household chores, along with her studies, if at all she is allowed this luxury of education. For her, work becomes play while playing is work for you. If girls come out breaking these stereotypes, it is considered ‘unnatural’ and an ‘aberration’. Of course, there are exceptions, but for a majority of women, this is the reality.
Women are expected not to own anything. Everything of the women is “thanks to the men” and so they can toy with women – right from deciding whether they should take birth, go to school, to their marriage and life. No wonder that Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was consistent in his opposition to the women's reservation bill in the parliament had stated during the recent Bihar elections, “women will vote only to those whom their men ask them to”. This attitude perceives women as bereft of any individuality, self-respect, consciousness and entirely dependent on men. It is this degrading attitude towards women that makes the society insensitive to the crimes committed upon them.
This degrading attitude is displayed even during the registration of crimes, their investigation and even during the trial. Women are dissuaded from reporting crime committed upon them. Those who dare to report are castigated and stigmatised. It is because of this reason that many of the crimes go unreported. Those reported are not pursued with vigour by the law enforcement authorities. Because of this laxity and sometimes even open collaboration with the accused, justice is denied. Recently the lone witness in a gang rape case committed by dragging a woman from a mall in Noida, Delhi in broad daylight has complained about the threats he is receiving. Incidentally, the witness happens to be the son of a police officer and his repeated requests for security and even the directions of the trial court were not implemented. The accused emboldened with this covert support of the authorities appears to be successful in preventing the witness deposing before the court, thus making the chances of their conviction slim.
Similar is the role of the media. It is true that sections of the media are playing a positive role in highlighting the atrocities committed upon women. But at times, we find the drive to sensationalise, desire to be 'first' to break the news, is affecting their sensibilities. Apart from these, generally the portrayal of women in media is dismaying. Recently a newspaper in its supplement had carried a news item stating that a Hindi film artist has participated in a promotional event without her under garments. Not satisfied with the reporting, to establish the fact they even carried a photograph, though it was pixellated. This report appeared in a 'national daily' that claims to be the topmost circulated English daily in the capital.
Another newspaper had carried regular daily features on the dress of the first ladies of the US and France when they visited the country along with their spouses. They roped in fashion designers to give their expert comments on the same. They even suggested an image make over for our president. What purposes do such news serve? Remember we are just talking about reporting and not about the so-called reality programmes shown on television by various channels.
What is needed is to bring in a sea change in the attitudes of the citizenry towards women. The concepts that they are weak, objects of desire and subjugation have to change. This cannot happen without economically empowering women. Along with it, a sustained campaign has to be launched to recognise the enormous work done by women – both paid and unpaid, inside and outside the houses. Respect to this work should follow its recognition. Gender sensitisation campaigns should be launched and the government administration and law enforcement authorities should be the first among all to attend such classes. Measures should be initiated to ensure that police immediately act upon the complaints, take speedy action and see that the culprits are punished. Laxity not only erodes the confidence of the victim but also emboldens the criminal. It should be remembered that a society that does not know how to respect women can never be called a modern society.
Courtesy: People’s Democracy
Sunday, December 5, 2010
IN a long interview published in Ganashakti daily on March 28 , former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu has spoken on various issues concerning development and opposition to it.
ON INDUSTRIALISATION DURING JYOTI BASU’S TENURE AS CHIEF MINISTER AND PROSPECTS:
Bengal could reach its present position overcoming a lot of obstacle. We must occupy the prime position in industrial development in the country soon. Despite our efforts, we have had to confront and overcome a series of obstacles. The obstacles principally comprised central policies including freight equalisation policy, license raj, and the discouragement shown to industrialists about investing in Bengal.
The central government would not invest directly in Bengal as an example of discrimination. Discrimination was also evident in the acts of the planning commission and of the all-India financial institutions. The central government would cooperate with but a few selected states. Discrimination was made against Bengal as against Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and the north-eastern region.
From its inception, the Bengal Left Front government gave priorities to land reforms, agricultural growth, decentralised rural democracy through the Panchayat system, seat reservation in the Panchayats for women, voting rights for those 18 years of age, improvement in agri-production, emphasising on cottage and small scale industries. We have underwritten the interests of the poor, the khet mazdoors, and the share-croppers. We have redistributed land among the landless.
Our Left Front government would never run from the Writers’ Buildings—we move forward taking along all workers, employees, officers, and above all, the mass of the people in all our endeavours. Decentralisation of administrative and financial powers has been done to ensure the involvement of every section of the people with the act of development. What became an obstacle was the policy of discrimination and deprivation of the union government.
We can cite examples of such obstacles. We had to wait for 11 years merely for the permission to set up the petro-chemicals complex at Haldia. In addition, when we approached prime minister Indira Gandhi for the electronics complex at Salt Lake, the response after a period of one year was that permission could not be given because it was near the Bangladesh border. We then went ahead on our own to allot 300 acres of land for the complex to be set up. Today more than 30 thousand young men and women work at that complex.
PRIORITY AREAS FOR INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT:
We had reckoned with the existing problems and had started work on setting up new industrial areas. Problems included that of power, and this was because all the agencies, including the planning commission and the central government itself had erred. The typical response of the then Congress-run union government to our request for improvement in power generation was that there would not be any further demand for power in Bengal. Then we came to office and set up the Bakreshwar plant and the Kolaghat plant. CESC set up plants at Budge budge and Titagurh. Slowly the power situation took a turn for the better. A better ambience for industrial investment was created. There was a problem of navigability in the Ganges River because of silting. We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the union government in this regard.
We set up several townships like at Rajarhat and Siliguri where land acquisition was never a problem. Kolkata has several flyovers with planning, participation by and loan from Japan but without conditionalities. The conditional World Bank loan we had refused. The ADB gave us loan without conditionalities.
Following the changes wrought in the union government’s policies, license system was scrapped and the freight equalisation policy partially withdrawn in the new economic policy of 1991. I would urge upon the entrepreneurs and industrialists to invest in Bengal. I would ask the workers to enhance production. The workers must struggle for their hard-earned rights. They must also look to the interest of the industry itself.
In the past, some industries had grown during the Congress regime when Dr B C Roy was the chief minister. We had not posed any opposition to the initiatives. Durgapur went into a depression but now a fresh wave of investment has appeared.
POST 1994 INDUSTRIAL POLICY SCENARIO:
The Left Front government declared its industrial policy in 1994. The issue was discussed in the Party and was approved at the 1995 Chandigarh Party Congress. The capitalists invest for profit. Industry is needed for development. We welcome foreign investment and technology in mutually beneficent and appropriate sectors. We welcome indigenous investment without forsaking or weakening state sector and joint sector. We have travelled across USA, England, and Japan explaining our stand. The investors there had shown interest.
There was a negative propaganda against Bengal. We have had to face questions at places like the London School of Economic, University of Berkeley, and Oxford. We had to iterate that there was good work culture in Bengal. Over the years, the misgivings have gone. I have also gone to Holland and Germany. Siemens could be brought back. In the past, Bengal had been at the top of the list of industrialised states. We must get back to that position. From the efforts put in by the present chief minister and his colleagues, this will be a possibility sooner rather than later.
PROBLEMS OF INDUSTRIALISATION AND THEIR RESOLUTION:
For long periods, we have had effective success in agriculture. We have secured complete self-dependency in food production. We are not out-of-our mind that we would destroy our agriculture and build industries. The principal is to set up industries where there is fallow land. If such land were not available in quantities, we would go in for single-crop, and later multi-crop land. The Tata motors were shown land parcels for the automobile factory elsewhere and they chose Singur. The industries minister has explained the terms and conditions involved. There has been provision made for compensation and rehabilitation. Other proposals for investment are in the pipeline: Jindal’s steel project at Salboni, Videocon in north Bengal. There are no problems regarding land in these projects. We want an even growth in the state. Big players in info-tech are coming: Wipro, IBM, Cognizent etc. We need land for industries and we must enhance the level of consciousness. We must tell them that industrialisation is needed to tackle the problem of unemployment. We had not anticipated the reaction of the people that would occur in this way. We should have taken steps earlier to increase the people’s consciousness. Some amount of perplexity has persisted. This state-of-affairs will surely pass.
OPPOSITION TO DEVELOPMENT AND TACKLING THE ISSUE:
The opposition is engaged in political sabotage to deter the developmental efforts. They are not able to fight politically. They have all banded together—the Trinamul Congress, the Maoists, the Naxalites, and the SUCI. The extreme right has joined hands with the extreme left. The role of the Congress is not at all good. The chief minister has repeatedly said that if the people of Nandigram do not want industries, there would be no industry set up there. Nevertheless, peace would not return even then and certain developments occur! We have to be more careful about land acquisition. Land maps have been created now and we have to move according to the maps. A huge amount of lies are uttered in campaign of disinformation against us about Nandigram, and such campaign had taken place in the past as well especially in 1967 and 1969, and after 1977. We must take to the streets and through campaign, profile the real picture before the people.
THE MISUNDERSTANDING AMONG LF PARTNERS:
There should not be a front within a front. We exhort upon the constituents not to forge such fronts. This will weaken the LF and give advantage to the opposition. The United Fronts of 1967 and 1969 broke up and yet, it was through campaign-movement that Left Front grew up later. The LF fought the 1977 elections and won. One or two members of the LF raise the issue that they are not able to know everything that goes on. If there is such lack of coordination, we have to acknowledge it and take corrective measures. The process of discussion must go on. There should be bi-partite discussions held as is being done now, and later the discussion carried onto the LF meetings. The people must realise that it is the government of the Left Front and not of the Party alone. The core committee must be made more active. However, all problems must be tackled at the level of the Left Front. Separate meetings would hardly be of any use.
LEFT FRONT AND LEFT FRONT GOVERNMENT:
The major principals of the LF government must be decided at the level of the Left Front. The LF must take decisions based on discussions. The LF government would then take the next steps based on the principal decisions taken at the LF. There would be a review later on regarding the steps taken. The implementation process must be further accelerated. The work of the various government departments must be reviewed. The ministers of our Party must review the work of the departments they run. Similarly, the ministers of the constituent parties running their respective departments must review their work. Review must be made of pending developmental projects like the Teesta project of the irrigation department and the road projects. Through such efforts, the successful implementation of the state LF government’s projects would be ensured.
TASK OF THE PARTY WORKERS NOW:
There had been some misunderstanding over the recent developments including that in Nandigram, among our LF constituents, and within the Party. We have held state committee meetings. We have taken a united decision to tackle the present situation. The opposition is indulging in lies and misleading the people. At the same time, they are murdering our Party workers, and ousting them from their places of residence. These are all works of sabotage. This had happened earlier in Keshpur in Midnapore. We had said then that they must return to their places of residence before the autumn festival.
At Nandigram, several thousands of people have been rendered homeless. Normalcy must be returned as soon as possible. We have learned from the Keshpur experience. We shall not allow anarchy to happen in the state. The big responsibility on our Party workers is to tackle the situation unitedly.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LF GOVERNMENT’S PROGRAMME IN THE DAYS AHEAD:
The LF government works within an ambience of limitation. The LF government is not in a position to set up Socialism. It will try to safeguard and advance the people’s interests within its limited capabilities, to the greatest extent possible. The power of the LF government lies in its pro-people outlook. Running such a government within the parliamentary system is an example, here in this country, and abroad. We have received a massive support from mass organisations of workers, peasants, students, youth, women, refugees, et al.
I retired from government on the eve of the formation of the sixth LF government. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee then deputy chief minister, assumed the responsibility of the chief minister. The government has worked with success. We had gone deep amongst the people in the run up to the last Assembly elections, and we had explained the pro-people policies of the Left Front government.
Source: “People’s Democracy” dated 01-04-2007
NATIONAL CONVENTION OF MINORITY RIGHTS ADMIT THAT WEST BENGAL IS AHEAD IN IMPLEMENTING EVEN SACCHAR COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Saturday, December 4, 2010
JAYATI GHOSH SAYS THAT WORLD LEADERS DONOT KNOW WHAT TO DO TO BALE OUT FROM THE PRESENT ECONOMIC CRISIS
Sunday, November 21, 2010
DEMOCRATIC ASSESSMENT MECHANISM NEEDED FOR IMPROVEMENT
The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010 was introduced in Lok Sabha on May 3. According to its statement of objects, assessment and accreditation in the higher education, through a transparent and informed external review process, are the effective means of quality assurance in higher education to provide a common frame of reference for students and others to obtain credible information on academic quality across institutions, thereby assisting student mobility across institutions, domestic as well as international. At present, accreditation is voluntary as a result of which less than one-fifth of the colleges and less than one-third of all universities have obtained accreditation. Mandatory accreditation in higher education would enable the higher education system in the country to become a part of the global quality assurance system.
BACKGROUND OF THE BILL
The UGC established the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in September 1994 at Bangalore. The theme paper on NAAC clearly stated, while analysing the systems prevailing in the USA, UK, Australia, France, etc, that “….. assessments for teaching are now taking place, initially on a 3-point scale: excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory. Assessors will visit and sit in during lectures and seminars.” It went on to say that after assessment and accreditation in the UK, “government funding per student has declined in real terms, so that universities have been forced to seek other sources of funding….” In France, the document said “They (the ministry) control the appointment and promotion of teaching and administrative staff….” Notably, the NAAC document was prepared “after taking into consideration the existing methods of quality assessment and quality control and accreditation of higher education in USA, UK, Canada, Australia …”
The theme paper said the assessment and accreditation of institutions would take place “without interfering with their autonomy and funding.” It was voluntary and the NAAC could assess only those institutions that apply for assessment and pay the prescribed fees.
In 1999, five years after its establishment, NAAC made it clear that it would “make the report available to UGC, government and other funding agencies,” promote a culture of “positive competition” among institutions, evaluate the institutions “for purpose of funding, developmental activities or introducing innovations” on the request of state governments, and that its reports would be useful to funding agencies in obtaining “dependable profiles of institutions, and possible patterns of assistance.” The UGC had already indicated that its plan-based developmental support to educational institutions would be related to the outcome of assessment and accreditation.
In December 1999, secretary of the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) had announced that universities and colleges have to get themselves mandatorily assessed and accredited by the NAAC. The deadline fixed for this purpose was December 31, 2000 for universities and December 31, 2003 for colleges. He stated that institutions getting rank 0 would be “disaffiliated and closed down” and those getting rank 2 or 1 would be under watch or special watch respectively. If they did not improve in due course of time, he added, they would face similar action. Institutions getting rank 5, 4 and 3 were to be rated outstanding, very good and good.
The whole concept was basically to reduce the state funding of institutions of higher education: first starve the institutions of funds and then star them with ranks! It could thus be easier for the government to close down some of the institutions on the basis of ranks. The institutions in towns, tehsils and villages catering to the needs of disadvantaged sections could be the worst victims. The teachers movement fought against the move and demanded self-assessment of higher education institutions for improvement, without linking it with funding.
Mandatory accreditation in higher education, according to the bill, would require a large number of competent and reliable accrediting agencies to be recognised, monitored and audited for academic competence through an independent but accountable institutional mechanism. Such a mechanism would find acceptability among peer group of international accreditation bodies, necessary for student and teacher mobility and institutional collaborations, within and across borders. Consequently, there is the need for an autonomous institutional structure with statutory backing to recognise and regulate competent professional agencies charged with the task of accreditation.
Registered agencies would accredit higher education institutions through transparent processes. The assessment would include physical infrastructure, human resources (including faculty), administration, course curricula, admission and assessment procedures, infrastructure and governance structures of the institutions.
Now the bill proposes to establish a regulatory authority to register, monitor and audit the functioning of accreditation agencies which would be invested with the responsibility of accrediting higher education institutions including universities, colleges, institutes, institutions of national importance and programmes conducted therein. Institutions imparting higher education beyond 12 years of schooling will be mandatorily accredited. Higher education institutions engaged mainly in agricultural education and research have been kept out of the proposed legislation’s purview.
Every higher education institution, existing before the commencement of this act, will have to apply for accreditation, within a period of three years from the date of its commencement. However, medical educational institutions will have a time of five years. Any person responsible for an institution who fails to do so, will be punishable with imprisonment up to two years or fine up to Rs 10 lakh or both.
The central government will establish “the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions”. The authority will consist of a chairperson and four other members, at least one of them a woman, to be appointed by the central government. The chairperson will be a vice chancellor (whether in office or retired) and other four members will be professors in the fields of medical education, science or technology, social sciences and legal matters. They should have at least 25 years of experience and should be of age not less than 55 years. They will hold office for a period of five years and cannot be reappointed, but cannot hold office after attaining the age of 70.
The authority will register and regulate accreditation agencies; lay down norms and policies for assessment of academic quality in higher education institutions; recommend improvement of quality; undertake audit on matters related to conflict of interest, disclosure of information, transparency, levy of fees; advise central and state governments, and collect and disseminate information on accreditation of higher education institutions.
The accreditation agencies have to be non-profit organisations registered as a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, a society or trust formed or controlled by the central or state government or any authority or board or institution established under any central or state act. They should be professionally competent and financially sound. This means that a central or state university can also float an accreditation agency.
Only registered accreditation agencies can undertake accreditation of higher education institutions. The bill lays down detailed eligibility criteria and the procedure of application for registration. The certificate of registration will be valid for a period of 10 years unless it is revoked in accordance with law. There are provisions for suspension or revocation of certificate of registration. In case the certification of an accreditation agency has been revoked, the authority will conduct an audit of all the higher education institutions accredited by it, within a period of one year before the date of such revocation. Any person, aggrieved by the accreditation decided by an accreditation agency, may apply to the authority for withdrawal of such accreditation or its modification.
According to the bill, if an accreditation agency fails to comply with its prescribed duties, obligations and code of ethics, such as application of uniform standards, etc, it will be liable to pay to the higher education institution such compensation as will be determined by the state educational tribunal.
Any accreditation agency that contravenes a provision of the act will be liable to a penalty which may extend to Rs 5 lakh. If a person, without reasonable cause, resists or obstructs any officer of the authority, he will be punishable with imprisonment up to three months or fine up to Rs 5 lakh or both. Whoever is running an accreditation agency without registration will be punishable with imprisonment up to five years or fine up to Rs 5 lakh or both.
EXEMPTION TO INSTITUTIONS
In the name of “advancement of knowledge” or “in the interests of the general public,” the central government has power to exempt any class or classes of higher education institutions from the operation of all or any of the provisions of this act. This gives arbitrary powers to the central government which can be misused. In any case, this power makes the bill redundant if an institution is favoured by those who are part of the central government. The latter has also the power to supersede the authority for a period up to six months.
The example of how the accreditation system works in the US is worth quoting. In recent months, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the nation's major regional accrediting organisations, has adopted more rigorous policies. Therefore, Argosy University and Bridgepoint Education are applying to be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which oversees institutions in California and Hawaii. Now these institutions are moving their headquarters under the jurisdiction of the new accreditor. However, the Education Department has charged the commission itself that it has given approval to American Inter-Continental University, despite a review that found the institution was awarding inflated credit hours to students for some courses. Now a regime like one existing in the US is being created here for accreditation by multiple recognised agencies.
The central government can exempt institutions from the provisions of the bill including mandatory accreditation. This bill will help the foreign educational institutions interested in coming to India to set up their shops and get exemptions. Though the bill does not say the funding will be linked to accreditation, several regulations may be made under it at a later stage. As said, the NAAC said five years after its establishment that funding is linked to accreditation.
It is necessary, as stated by the Yash Pal committee, to allow the universities to be autonomous spaces, diverse in their design and organisation, self-assessing and self-governing, and responsible for their own curriculum framework, instructions and evaluation of students. Therefore, the necessity is of a self-regulatory, democratic and transparent mechanism for assessment on well defined parameters. It should be for improvement of institutions rather than linked to their funding.
Under the new agenda of the government in the name of expanding higher education, there have thus come up a series of bills whose aim is to throw our higher education system into the hands of private players --- both local and foreign --- for the trade in and all-round privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. In order to protect our education from these predators, therefore, we have to force the government of India to desist from its moves. For that purpose, let all the stakeholders, viz. students, teachers, non-teaching employees and officers of schools, colleges and universities, youth, parents, people’s science movement, etc converge in Delhi on December 2, 2010, and make the rally called by the national forum in defence of education a grand success.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
LEFT FRONT IN WEST BENGAL STANDS BY THE FAMILIES OF MARTYERS WHO WERE MURDERED BY PERVERTED MAOIST BUTCHERS OF MEDHA PATKAR
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
THE vote of confidence conducted in the Karnataka assembly was farcical and a gross violation of democratic norms. The CPI(M) reiterates that a proper vote of confidence must be taken in the assembly in which all MLAs are allowed to participate and the vote recorded.
Without doing so, the Yeddyurappa government cannot be treated as having acquired a vote of confidence.