There’s one thing that necessarily needs to be said about lapsed Marxists: they never fail to disappoint. And so it goes, in the 20 May edition of the Indian Express where cricket historian and scholar Ramachandra Guha penned what seemed to be an anguished article titled Death by a thousand cuts about the Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani degrading the education system.
Stories of her arrogance and rudeness are legion. Her own senior officials have sought transfers to other ministries because they have found it impossible to work with her. Even more distressing has been her treatment of distinguished academicians such as the directors of the IITs. She has come across as bullying and overbearing, and as interfering in decisions that lie within their domains of expertise.
Irani’s lack of respect for intellectual excellence has also been manifest in some key appointments she has made. Early in her term, she appointed a certain Y. Sudershan Rao chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Rao’s name was unknown to the community of professional historians; not surprising since he has not published one peer-reviewed paper in his life. While his scholarly pedigree is obscure, Rao has been a longstanding fellow traveller of the RSS. Since taking office, he has assured us that the Vedas are “the best evidence” for reconstructing the past, and that the Mahabharata is the “anchor for the history of Bharat”.
These are serious charges by judge and jury, Mr. Guha, which can be listed thus:
- Senior officials seeking transfers to other ministries.
- Ill treatment of the director of the IIT.
- Appointment of Y. Sudershan Rao as chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research.
Now let’s examine these allegations:
1. If Mr. Guha checks the PIB releases of the Ministry Personnel he will discover that Senior Bureaucrats are moved around across Departments and Ministries almost every week and month, all authorized by a Cabinet Committee.
2.Regarding the IIT stalemate Mr. Guha seems to have ignored the question raised by the minister about why the UPA government was silent when the Delhi IIT had signed an agreement to open a campus in Mauritius using taxpayer money. Also the director concerned was part of a delegation of higher education officials travelling with the President to Moscow on 8 May.
3.Now Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, due to his association with the RSS is considered non-Kosher by the then Marxist-secular history establishment dominating the ICHR. But Mr. Guha is specifically offended by Rao’s assertion that Ramayana and Mahabharata are historical documents and not mythology. Regarding this assertion the following report will shed some light:
Prof. B. B. Lal, the former ASI Director General launched the first excavation at the Purana Quila site in 1954-55 in which he found structures ascribable to the Gupta, Kushana and Sunga periods.
“The trial excavation was alongside the passage leading down to water gate in the eastern fortification wall of Purana Quila. The trial trench revealed that below the northern black polished ware levels lay the remains of the painted grey ware culture. Between the south of the PuranaQuila and Humayun’s Tomb, there is an open area from where a number of painted grey ware were discovered. It was here that the oldest settlement began.”
Prof. Lal said the polished grey ware is the earliest common pottery connecting all the Mahabharat sites such as Hastinapur, Mathura, Kurukshetra and Kampilya.
“The evidence clearly establishes that the PuranaQuila and its southern neighbourhood represent Indraprastha of the Mahabharat times. In fact, right up to 1947, a village named Indrapat existed inside the PuranaQuila. This name was derived from ancient Indraprastha.”
Therefore, until concrete evidence is available, verified and documented, we can say that our epics are neither mere myths nor irrefutable historical proof. But the record of Marxist historians’ (lapsed in this case) special joy in vandalizing Indian heritage is voluminous, which explains Mr. Guha’s disdain for India’s ancient epics which have stood the test of time.
Further in the article Mr. Guha asserts:
Over the years, the quality of university education in India has been steadily undermined by political and bureaucratic interference. This has been especially marked in universities under the control of state governments. Forty years ago, Calcutta University, Bombay University, and Baroda’s M.S. University still had some excellent departments. This is no longer so. So long as the CPM was in power, all major academic appointments in West Bengal were in the hands of party bosses. The Shiv Sena played the same role in Mumbai, and the BJP in Gujarat. The universities were further damaged by parochial “sons of the soil” policies, whereby scholars from outside the state were discouraged from applying for jobs.
While state universities have visibly deteriorated, some Central universities have maintained reasonable academic standards. …. Both Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University have top quality scientists, as well as social scientists on their faculty.
I do agree to a certain extent with Mr. Guha’s assertion that many a times education and politics were unjustly mixed leading to stagnation of university education in India. It is equally rich that Mr. Guha omits the root cause for this stagnation: a deadly mix of caste politics, minority appeasement, and rampant Marxism. Nothing else explains how towering historians and scholars like Jadunath Sarkar and RC Majumdar were ignored by mainstream universities. Why did it take a non-Government institution like the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan—which depends on private charities and donations for survival—to produce the seminal volumes on India’s history and culture?
However, I am particularly surprised at Mr. Guha showering praises on the social scientists of JNU and DU. A while back Mr. Guha made this observation in an article he penned for Telegraph:
…in 1972, the government established an Indian Council of Historical Research instead. The education minister at the time, Nurul Hasan, was himself a historian. Those who promoted and ran the ICHR were, in personal terms, close to Professor Hasan. In ideological terms, they were Marxists or fellow-travellers. …. The ICHR, on the other hand, was from the beginning dominated by left-wing historians who favoured themselves and their friends in the distribution of funds for research, travel, and translation.
Mr. Guha, you need to clarify this: are these same ‘Marxists-fellow-travellers’ the ‘fine social scientists and historians’ of DU and JNU? If yes, then you must be aware how these ‘fine historians’ emphasized ideological distortion over carrying out authentic research.
For decades, our Leftist scholars presided over vital state institutions that churned out ideological academics—an oxymoron if there ever was one—who would conflate their ideology with even recorded, verifiable truths. But the Guhas of the world do not talk about that since it would put their cherished Nehruvian ideal in questionable light. There’s no better evidence for this than Arun Shourie’s Eminent Historians.
As far as new appointees of the ICHR being of the ‘saffron’ school of thought, how does Mr. Guha paint scholars like Purabi Roy, associated with CPI, and Sacchidananda Sahai, a close associate of Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev, who were appointed to the same body? Of course, Mr. Guha’s premise stems from this: I’m Left and you’re Wrong. Marxism is the natural state of being. Rest is saffronist aberrations.
Speaking of appointments, Mr. Guha seems to have forgotten the Nalanda fiasco during the UPA regime where that other eminent scholar Amartya Sen was involved. Allow me to refresh Mr. Guha’s memory:
1.The series of controversies began with the appointment of a ‘Vice Chancellor-designate’ of the new university even before the Parliamentary Act was notified for its establishment.
2.The candidate selected for the position, Gopa Sabharwal, was appointed through an order issued by a secretary in the MEA on the recommendation of the mentor group. Gopa Sabharwal was a reader in the department of sociology in the Lady Sri Ram College with limited knowledge about Nalanda. She did not meet the mandatory qualification set by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for the vice-chancellors of central and state universities—that is, to be distinguished academicians with a minimum of ten years of experience as a professor in a university system. Topping this peculiar irregularity was Gopa Sabharwal’s monthly salary of Rs 5 lakhs which was more than double the salary of the Delhi University vice-chancellor.
3.Ignoring the government’s recruitment rules that require public notice, Dr Sabharwal picked up her friend Dr Anjana Sharma, an associate professor in Delhi University, as the Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) on deputation with a gross monthly salary of Rs 3.30 lakhs, which is more than the salary of a Vice-Chancellor of any national university.
( For more information click here.)
On the issue of appointments being made by senior bureaucrats within the HRD Ministry, I would like to share some highlights from this recent report:
BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had written a letter to the President of India in which he had raised serious questions on the appointments to the positions of Vice Chancellor at various Central universities of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Orissa, HN Bahuguna University in Uttarakhand and the Hari Singh Gour University in Sagar. The letter from MM Joshi to the President written on the May 8, 2014 reveals how the UPA regime was playing with the process of appointments in its last few days. As per an Indian Express report, Joshi alleged ‘manipulation’ by the ministry in the process of appointing new vice-chancellors to 12 new Central universities and demanded that the selection process be scrapped and left to the next government. Raju, a Tamil Nadu cadre 1985 batch IAS officer, was until June 6 handling issues related to Central universities. His bureau was currently busy with the appointment process for new V-Cs to 12 Central universities and the controversial four-year undergraduate programme of the University of Delhi. He came on Central deputation in March 2009 and completed his term in March, 2014. Raju was given an extended tenure of one year ahead of elections in March. The Joint Secretary in-charge Raju was appointed during the last days of the UPA Government even as the Election Commission imposed model code of conduct was in place. Following Joshi’s complaint, Raju was removed by the HRD Ministry in June, 2014…….
…As per a report published by NitiCentral, a damning letter was written on May 13, 2014 (days before the results of the Lok Sabha elections) on the manner of the appointment of the Vice Chancellor to Dr Hari Singh Gaur University in Sagar. The letter written by Prof Yoginder Alagh to the then Secretary of Higher Education in the HRD Ministry raised serious concerns on the name of Dr NS Gajbhiye being recommended in the shortlist. Gajbhiye, senior professor of IIT-Kanpur, was appointed as vice-chancellor of Dr Hari Singh Gour Central University, Sagar just a couple of days before announcement of Lok Sabha poll results. Gajbhiye was later arrested by CBI in connection with seven different cases registered against him. It is to be noted that all this happened when the ministry was dysfunctional and headless because the then Minister Pallam Raju had tendered his resignation over bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. But, the ministry went ahead with appointments to various universities allegedly at the behest of certain bureaucrats. All these reveals the story of controversial circumstances under which Vice Chancellor appointments were being made by senior bureaucrats within the HRD Ministry in the last few days of the UPA regime.
So you see Mr.Guha, the cuts were already made but it turns out the body still has some blood left in it. Now let us see if Smriti Irani had taken any healing measures since taking over with the help of these reports:
1.The revised estimate for Higher Education in the 2014-15 Budget was Rs 23,700 crore. However, Budget 2015-16 saw an increase of 13.3% above the revised estimate with an allocation of Rs 26,855 crore. This sector also sees a shift in allocations strategy, and a delinking of schemes under state subject.
2.Number of children out of school has come down from 1.36 crores to sixty lakhs.
3.The ruling government gave a formal approval to build fifty four new Kendriya Vidyalayas in January 2015.
4.The Rs 900-crore scheme titled Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya Mission for Teachers Training was launched on 25 December 2014 for those aspiring to pursue a career in teaching and has been adequately funded in the current budget.
5.The ministry, under Smriti Irani, has identified that 80 per cent of schools in seven states are without toilets. The ministry then launched a drive to build toilets in all schools:
A total of 14 corporates such as Tata Consulting Services, Mahindra Group and Rotary International have come forward and pledged to construct 3,195 new toilets. The rest are supported by 71 PSUs (86,781 new toilets), and by the state governments under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan schemes.
Indeed you’re right, when you title your piece as Death by a thousand cuts, but it’s actually death by a billion cuts over six decades both by believing and lapsed Marxist academics who have used the nation’s resources and taxpayer money to promote their own ideology. Ms. Smriti Irani is merely taking steps at healing those wounds. And the more you write such alarmist pieces, the better for Indians. Since you’re such a fan of Shivarama Karanth and know Kannada, I shall take your leave with a profound verse from Purandara Dasa:
Handi iddare keri hyange shuddhiyo haange||