This article in Hindu made me think.
1. I purchased Petrol at INR 67/- a liter approx $4/gallon, Diesel at $3.2/gallon while the rest of world is able to procure fuel at half my price
2. Oil distribution/marketing is not a monopoly. There are half a dozen companies some PSU, some indian private, one even multi-national giant and all of them are allowed to set their own independent prices. Yet the prices are the same in all fuel bunks?
I don’t know what convoluted logic applies, but we have created a miraculous scenario in which oil companies are perpetually bankrupt, government is unable to sustain fuel subsidy while the consumers end up paying twice as much?
One of my uncle had once quoted:
“School education is a very stabilizing powerful tool to mass breed the doctrines, beliefs and principals of the regime. However, there is no greater destructive force then college education for the lower echelons of the society. This is the reason why all dictators or quasi-democracies esp. around Gulf and Africa invest billions in primary education but will import college graduates at exorbitant sums.”
He had traveled to 40 odd countries and yet could not explain the simple logic how a country like India can skip primary education to invest in secondary education only and yet not have any revolution?
Poor are hardworking, they are very calculated (i.e. they plan their expenses and never waste money on frivolous trinkets), they are very versatile & adapt to the situations and they don’t mind even travelling far and wide to meet their goals. Yet for generations they are poor. Why? They were born poor and are now trapped into a vicious circle. If you belong to a country with predominantly poor/marginal citizens, a lot of them farmers on hand-to-mouth sustenance, what would you do to transform the country?
It’s not an overnight job, China formulated their Iron-Rice Bowl policy way back in 1949 and today they are reaping its rich dividends. There have been several theories around what Renaissance started in Italy, Why industrial Revolution started in England, Why in the early 20th Century America became the industrial powerhouse and why Japans overtook them. But I am yet to read about one single theory which says why China has become the manufacturing hub of the world. Because what China did was transformational and it changed the entire DNA of the country most economists don’t like to acknowledge this reality.
The viscous cycle that I was talking about was education & healthcare. Without proper education the masses don’t have the tools and knowledge to offer anything more than unskilled manual labor. But if the children work instead of going to school then they can never be truly educated. I am sure there are a couple of exceptions, but generally child laborers are destined to work their entire life as unskilled daily-wagers. China has 100% literacy while in India 1/3 of the people still cannot read or write. Furthermore we have created a pseudo-caste system revolving around English. So that anybody who is not convent educated and fluent in English will always feel inferior.
The second element of the viscous cycle is “Healthcare”. I have rarely met any poor family that is not able to save a considerable percentage of their daily income on a regular basis, while most middle class families would take lifestyle loan and show little or no financial planning. This fund enables them survive not only the rainy day but also improve their earning capacity through productive assets (vehicle, shop, land, cell-phone, etc.) So over a decade through diligence & discipline most families can escape poverty. However more often than not you would see is that a disease or injury would force the family to dip into their savings and borrow heavily to pay for the medical treatment. This unfortunate & unforeseen hardship sets the family back by 10-15 years and often leads to splitting of the family so that individuals could survive and escape the debt burden. Hence in absence of a strong affordable public healthcare program, no poor can even dream to be happy. In China I have seen expats & senior officials of rich companies often going to public hospitals. In India…. Anybody who can afford will find out reasons of not going to a public doctor (I was an exception, my daughter was born in a government hospital)
It’s been 67 years since India’s independence but are we free yet? Do we have the culture and environment around me which enables us reach our fullest potential? Is the system around us empowering us for “pursuit of happiness”? India is on the verge of the next General Election and these are the questions that are bugging me. A few slogans don’t amount to anything unless the systematic rot in the system is addressed.
Everybody has seen this famous picture highlighting that men spend millennium in learning to stand upright but over a few years it gave all up to end his lifetime crouched in front of a TV or Internet .
However recently I believe its not only our lifestyle that has changed, but also our communications.
Not so long ago, people used to spend years learning grammar, proper spelling, right use & context of the words. Schools used to teach students how to write an essay and letter. How to open, how to close and what to put in the body of the text. Following these Victorian era rules of language was a sign of good up-bringing, culture & social status of the individual. For a telegram, people paid for every character (and it was 100 times higher than what we pay for sms), yet telegrams were written in immaculate English.
Then came online chatting which destroyed the sentence composition. People forgot what has to be written in capital and what is a verb and even add punctuation.
SMS ruined the spelling. I wonder if the elite team that decoded Enigma (WW2 german encryption) can decipher today’s text messages. Workplace was not isolated. Emails because sketchy and often without any salutations or even ur name. Memos and documents gave way to ppt. Today the media is all about sensationalizing.. 30 second selling to grab the eye-balls.. it does not matter if your rest of the message even contradicts with ur title.
Infographics is the only socially acceptable form of education. I wonder how many of these infographics are any different from the cave painting…. one thing for sure most of them will not survive even a month …. and unlike Ajanta paintings, nobody will travel to see them…. but again why would they have to!
I wonder what will be the next step in the evolution of our lifestyle, language and culture?
When I was in high school, there was a popular myth: If you are good at mathematics, then you should pursue engineering, if you are good at Biology then you should become a doctor.
Are these 2 the only career streams worth taking? Do engineers perform complex transformation, calculus and numerous calculations every day on the job? Nor do doctors spend all day going through the microscope and fat books.
We Indians spend so much time, effort & money in getting the child educated, but very little in making them aware of the options available and understanding their aptitude.
When do you think a kid stops being a kid?
As per our IITs, IIMs and IISC NEVER!
I was looking at the Gate 2014 form which is required by IITs and IISC for M-Tech education. The second field in their application form was “Name of Guardian/Parent”.
The world (industry, higher education institutions & society) still continue to treat undergraduate degree holders as teenagers.
Even after 12+4 years of formal education & average batch experience of 3-4 years the faculty of my MBA school(including the Dean) would frequently address the batch as Baccho! (kids).
Is it the fault of the parents & teachers for treating the students as kids and making them live a sheltered life in a cocoon? Or is it the fault of the kids of being so immature & care-free? Or I am being a hyper-sensitive parent?
Warning: I usually don’t discuss my personal/professional life here but this is one exception so please bear with me.
After 4 months of staying abroad I return back to my campus. Here is a 8 minute long video which records some of the aspects of everyday life at IIM Lucknow.
IIM Lucknow is one of the hardest MBA schools to get into. There are over a 100 applicants for every student they admit. Even after the tough selection process the students are over the next 24 months grilled and prepared for anything the life throws at them. A student has to compulsorily live in the campus which is 12 km from the nearest city or civilized life and 21km from the city center. The campus is 185 acres large and has all the necessities which are conducive for a good academic life. There are security guards who record who enters and exits the campus and how much time they spend outside. The students who are married have to apply to get permission for bringing their spouses on the campus.
As per the student manual every student is supposed to study for a minimum of 100 hours for every course it takes. With 7 courses spread across 10 weeks this boils down to officially requirement of 70 hours a week of studies. However everyone who has been to the campus knows than in reality one has to work much harder. You could be asked to be in the classroom anytime between 8:30am to 2am even on Sundays. Sleeping over 5 hours a day is a luxury which only the brightest few can afford. The library is open 24X7 and it is not uncommon for students to work the whole night. In fact it is more likely that the students works all night, has breakfast rather than wake up and have his breakfast.
It is questionable whether this much rigor makes students better managers/entrepreneurs; however industry seems to appreciate the quality of teaching so I guess the system works. The school is a public school yet it costs about 1Million INR (14-15,000 euros) and 2 years of full time studies to finish ones education and pay for the food, lodging and boarding. This might look too steep but the school ensures that the students who cannot pay get either a loan or a generous scholarship. It takes pride in the fact that no student, no matter how poor ever had to discontinue the education because of financial reasons. The reason for charging this high fees and having a culture where the student rather than his/her parents pay for the fees is to increase the student’s dedication.
As the saying goes: “What does not kill you makes you stronger”
Yesterday GoI came up with a foolhardy 4000 CR (1 billion USD) scheme of subsidizing the interest on the study loans for all Indian students.
GoI has been recently collecting educational cess on all the taxes and financial transactions. This was a welcome move, because in a country where half a billion souls have never attended schools/colleges now the Human Resources Ministry has almost infinite funds to educate the masses. Or this is what I had thought.
All the tolls collected via cess went directly to the center. While Primary education was funded by state government and panchayat/local administration (Madhya Pradesh) So in reality, although a huge war-chest was build, the spending on education hardly increased over the past 3 years.
Another problem faced by the HRD ministry was that budget was to be presented in a few months. Traditionally, any department that does not spend the funds it had been sanctioned in the previous budget is penalized in three ways:
1)It has to answer why it had not been able to plan and execute efficiently
2)The funds are taken away from it
3)In the next year, the department will get lesser funds.
I have a feeling that this scheme is nothing more than a plot to squander away our taxes.
If government wants to do something for an “All Inclusive Growth”, then open a thousand primary schools, open vocational and technical schools. The higher education is already very subsidized (a engineering graduate’s first year salary would be more than adequate to cover for his entire educational expenses).
Also if you look at the fine print, it covers only the undergraduate/post graduate study loan taken from Nationalized Banks. Now if Government wants to help the poor but deserving students, then isn’t providing a scholarship/full tuition waiver a better way to help them. After all its general knowledge that students work harder and perform better when they get study grants, for these students need to display good academic achievements for continuance of the grants.
In short there is nothing new or significant in the scheme.