Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘NEET is the need of the hour, but states should be given time to implement it’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

NEET debate

Thank you for the lengthy discussion of how centralisation undermines education, which is largely a state subject, and how this is applicable to NEET (“The NEET fiasco makes it clear that states must be at the core of framing India’s education policy”). Two more points can be added to this.

Medical education seems to be primarily viewed through the faulty prism of career prospects. In reality, only one in a thousand can gain entry into this coveted profession. But every citizen has an interest in medical education from the perspective of ensuring suitable manpower for the delivery of preventive and curative health care. And healthcare delivery is necessarily a state subject.

National policies can help, as they did with regard to polio eradication. But for several other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, or with regard to assurance of maternal and childhood nutrition and provision of sanitation and secure water supply, it is only the state that implemented the required multi-pronged healthcare delivery programme.

If so, the state should have a say in orienting admission policies of medical colleges towards its endeavors towards these goals. A national examination could establish a qualifying or minimum entry level for this demanding and socially important profession. There may also be a case for such an examination partially determining the final ranking for admission, may be even up to 50%. But other criteria devised by the state, according to its social and educational policies, should have at least 50% weightage. That would be true federalism in this contested field of great national importance.

It may also be noted that inspite of all the privatisation of medical education, the state is and will continue to be a major provider of quality and affordable medical education. If so, should not the one who pays for the piper have a say in the choice of the tune?

In the field of education, it is a fact that any centralised and streamlined system can, at best, follow the trodden path and sustain an established pattern. It cannot give rise to path breaking innovation necessary for advancement of educational policies and practices. That calls for experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking. That can come only from autonomous educational institutions dedicated to social welfare and to the furtherance of knowledge and skills and oriented to experimentation.

While there are not many such institutions in the field of medical education in India, this is a sector we need to promote. So any private institution that has a track record in this respect and at the same time offers education at a cost no higher than in the state colleges should be allowed autonomy, including the freedom to devise their own selection procedures at least to the extent of 50% weightage in the ranking for admissions, as advocated above for states. This will advance the few such institutions that we have and hopefully attract new entrants into this nationally important role.

There was widespread resentment of the money-making practices of the burgeoning commercial sector in medical education. This could have been addressed by methods less disruptive than NEET. In the event, as you have pointed out, NEET has done little to reduce the huge cost of private medical education. – P Zachariah

***

I teach dental studies at a private dental college. I cannot express how low the standards of the students coming to study has fallen. A medical degree has become a gateway to marriage, a stamp of status without any regard for duty, responsibility, future prospects and the like. NEET is the need of the hour. I agree that time should be given to students as well as institutes to effectively implement this system. I regret the death of the brilliant student from Tamil Nadu, S Anitha, who committed suicide because of her low NEET score, but we as a nation have to overcome hurdles and aim for quality. There already is a centralised exam for engineering and MBA. Shouldn’t there be some standard for choosing who will be responsible for the health and wellness of humanity? – Sonia Jindal

Burdened banks

I agree with Raghuram Rajan’s apprehensions on the merging of public sector banks (“Raghuram Rajan questions the government’s move to merge public sector banks”). A mistake is pardonable, but not several mistakes made in the name of undertaking reform. Is it reform for the reform’s sake? What is the rationale?

Why not use the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code for banks? Whip them up, improve valuation of banks and then merge, disinvest privatise or whatever else is appropriate. Mergers are just another excuse for banks not do anything and keep struggling with non-performing assets. – Sandeep Revankar

Privatising healthcare

Thank for bringing out the details. Neither Amitabh Kant nor Alok Kumar have ever worked in the health sector at the state or Union level (“Privatising district hospitals: Health ministry, states, experts had little say in Niti Aayog plan”). So what gives Kant the authority to ride rough shod with these ideas, on the advise of the World Bank, which is far from infallible? – Sujatha Kanuru

In cold blood

The protest should be against the state government for the law and order situation in Karnataka (“In photos: Journalists, activists hold protests across India against Gauri Lankesh’s murder”). Let the state agencies find out the real culprit and motive behind the murder. – Alok Bagaria

Poisoned water

Thank you for publishing such a comprehensive report on the water contamination problem in Bihar (“Cancer has exploded in Bihar as lakhs of people drink water poisoned with arsenic”). It is an eye-opener for residents of the state as well as authorities. This is a major public health issue.

I belong to Swain in Bihar but live in Delhi. Water contamination seems to be a problem everywhere, but in Bihar, most don’t even seem to know that drinking contaminated and unhygienic water is causing serious health problems. They realise this only if it results in a disease. Awareness is low and sensitisation is essential.
Public health matters should be one of the top priorities for any government. I hope more news will be published from Bihar related to public interest and health. – Navin Shriwastawa

Religion and ethics

I read this article with bemused interest (“Does being religious or spiritual make you more ethical at work?”). The author presents both aspects here – religious and non-religious – but it is far from being scientifically written. The article conveniently ignores much of the research done in animal behaviour which shows that morality is not unique to humans alone, let aside the effects of an invented construct – religion.

Moreover, asserting that one requires religions to be ethical and have moral values is itself quite scary. If an individual requires the construct of a god who is constantly demonising them and threatening them with hell to be ethical, anyone should be wary of that person. And this brings the point of Daniel Dennett, that the idea that people need religion to be moral and ethical is an extremely harmful one but is also the most popular myth. The author in this article and others should remind themselves that religion gets its morality from us humans, as we innately understand what’s good and bad for a functioning society. And to quote Christopher Hitchens: “Socrates called his daemon, it was an inner voice that stopped him when he was trying to take advantage of someone...Why don’t we just assume that we do have some internal compass?” – Shabbeer Hassan

Under threat

It is very painful to learn of waterbirds being hunted
(“In Tamil Nadu, 47 of 53 waterbird species are hunted to feed a growing illegal demand for wild meat”). The department that is supposed to take criminal action on hunters is sleeping. What a shame! – Vasudevan R

Colonial nugget

It’s not okay to imply that the Dutch were the bad guys here and the British were somehow better (“Slaver’s Bay: The little-known history of Dutch slave trade in a small town in Tamil Nadu”). The British encouraged and supported slave trade under the guise of indentured labor. The trade did not go away, it merely shifted to the French port of Pondicherry. Between 1854 to 1920, more than 50,000 indentured workers left India from Pondicherry.

It should be noted that this avenue of slave trade, or “procurement of indentured labour” the French and English showed a rare spirit of co-operation. Anglo-French conventions of 1860 and 1861 granted the French the right to recruit Indians outside Pondicherry as well.

The Governors of Pondicherry coordinated and profited from this trade and the French coffers filled up with the spoils of what was known as the “coolie trade”. This trade attracted many ships to Pondicherry. This port’s turnover doubled in just five years (1850-1855).

Further, Governor Elihu Yale was an all-round terrible guy who should in no way be credited with stopping any kind of slavery. That’s just laughable. – Maya G

Education concerns

I agree with the views of the writer, Poonam Batra (“RTE amendment giving teachers more time to get qualified is poorly thought out and contrary to law”). Also worth mentioning is the dire need for quality training, especially at high school levels. All our schools should match global standards, not just an elite few. We need to inculcate high moral and ethical values. We need to keep in mind, with passionate zeal, Tagore’s poem Where The Mind ls Without Fear and strive for our countrymen to thrive.

The appalling teacher-student ratio is hurting all reforms that are introduced and watering down efforts at improvement of education standards. We need adequate funding in education. Apolitical support will help to remove all hindrances in the field. – Thelma Lobo

***

This is totally unfair to teachers. A Class 12 graduate can do Diploma in Elementary Education but a graduate and post graduate cannot. They can do a B.Ed, for which they need more time. I hope the Human Resources Development Ministry looks into this. – Riyaz Ahmed

One for the team

This is an interesting analysis on Virat Kohli’s international batting performance (“Numbers don’t lie: For all his bravado, is Virat Kohli really a big match player?”). While there is no doubt that he is the best of his times, this has also come against ordinary bowling. Compare this to Sachin, Lara, Ponting, Dravid and the like, who scored against all time greats like Muralitharan, Warne, McGrath, Alan Donald, Wasim Akram, Walsh, Ambrose, Brett Lee, Shoab Akhtar and others. It would be interesting to see the performance of batsmen if the bowlers were allowed an unlimited quota of overs in limited-overs cricket format. – Ravi Damodaran

Mission Kashmir

I have great regard for Wajahat Habibullah, the son of our first NDA Commandant who is himself a respected bureaucrat (“Wajahat Habibullah: My life’s mission to win over Kashmiris for India is irretrievably lost”). He wants to know what steps have been taken to win over Kashmiri youth consumed with hatred for India.

The demand for azadi unrealistic and who better than Habibullah, who knows the ramifications of such a partition, to understand it. He has gone around all over South Kashmir but has not once stated what would truly please the Valley Muslims.

The demand for a separate Muslim state has been there since 1930s and the Hindu Maharaja then is to be blamed for his vacillation as well as some political personalities, for their over-confidence. But secession doesn’t seem possible. And who brought the Valley to such a pass? None other than the politicians, adept at double-speak, and their deceitful conduct. Kashmirs should find a solution within the framework of the Constitution of India. – Sanjay Kulkarni

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