Different song, same tune PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 January 2006 00:00
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Though there are the obvious differences, as on history text books, between the NDA’s HRD minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, and the UPA’s Arjun Singh, there are too many unwelcome similarities too. While Mr Singh’s entry as minister did mean that the country’s premier business schools and technology institutes were no longer under pressure to cut their fees and increase their dependence on government subvention, the general sense of relief that accompanied Dr Joshi’s exit has proved short-lived. For one, the UPA has come up with a Bill to ensure reservation for students on the basis of caste and other factors in unaided education institutions. Result: even if the B-schools are to stop receiving government aid, they will still need to reserve some of their seats to meet the government’s agenda. And now, encroaching even further on the turf of the institution, the government has told IIM Bangalore that it cannot set up a new campus in Singapore. This, after the IIM board (which included representatives of the HRD ministry) approved the idea “in principle” more than a year ago. Whether it is Dr Joshi or Mr Singh, India’s educational administrators want to live in the past, and not grasp the opportunities of today.
The attempt to expand operations beyond the country’s shores has been spiked on the same grounds that agriculture and other exports used to be stopped in the past—unsatisfied local demand. So, if the price of coffee or sugar rose locally, exports would be stopped as Indian demand had to be met first! This meant Indian farm exporters could never establish themselves in the international market as reliable suppliers. Going overseas would have tested the mettle of India’s leading B-schools in an international environment, provided a new kind of experience and challenge for the teaching as well as managerial staff, improved India’s international reputation by show-casing its abilities, and developed bonds with future managers who would, logically, be expected to lead Asian businesses in the future.
If none of this is to be achieved so long as the IIMs have unmet demand at home, then they can never go beyond the Indian environment because any student who has to settle for a B-grade B-school will be evidence that the IIMs still have unmet demand in the country. If this argument were to be extended to its logical conclusion, India’s IT sector should not be allowed to export since there is such little IT usage within the country, and firms like Maruti Udyog should not be allowed to export cars since very few Indians drive four-wheelers. That a government headed by Manmohan Singh should descend to such stupidity is scarcely believable.
What is especially ironic is that, while the IIM move is being opposed on the grounds that taxpayers’ money should be used to develop more IIMs in India and not abroad, the move to set up shop in Singapore and other locations overseas would have helped the IIMs become financially self-sufficient. By not letting them explore options that would increase their access to funds, the government is forcing the IIMs to remain dependent upon it. Indeed, this is exactly what Dr Joshi’s move to cut fees would have done, so that they would be sure to toe the official line. Mr Singh may or may not have similar ideas, but his leadership of the human resource development ministry has seen such retrograde initiatives as playing the Muslim card, and replacing Dr Joshi’s Hindutva bias with his own pseudo-leftist leanings. Between the two, India’s educational scene is the loser.



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