Archive for July, 2012

Look beyond the Olympics

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 July 31st, 2012 Aabhas Sharma

The country might not come to a standstill – like it does when a crucial cricket match is being played – when an Olympian is participating in any event. But if any athlete does win a medal, the euphoria is perhaps on the same level as it is with a cricket match. When Gagan Narang won the bronze medal in 10m rifle shooting at London Olympics, users on social media went overboard with tweets and Facebook updates. Would they have done the same if he had won the world championships or broken a world record – which in the past he has done – in shooting? Perhaps not. We would read it in the newspaper the next day and think “all this is good but will he win a medal at the Olympics?”

That’s where the Olympics are different from any other sporting event in the world. For athletes it is the pinnacle, their Everest, their final frontier. They might win world championships – like Mary Kom has five of them – and win medals at other international events, it’s never the same as winning a medal at the Olympics. We might be harsh in judging the athletes just on the basis of their performance at the Olympics as after all winning a world championship in any sport is indeed a big deal. The level of competition is always the same, in some cases it might be even tougher than that at the Olympics. Then why don’t we give as much importance to a world championship in shooting or boxing?

A friend of mine argued me at length about how the Olympics are perhaps “marketed” far better than any of these events. To be fair it is true, most of the times majority of the people aren’t aware of other international events in sports like wrestling or badminton or boxing. But when it’s Olympics there is this great hype – rightly so in my opinion – that we all are taken by it and want our athletes to win.

I believe it is time that we start paying more attention to the achievements of our athletes in other international events. Once every four years it is nice to support them, watch them or cheer them on at the Olympics. But their dedication to the sport and their achievements need to be lauded every time they do well at the international level. Don’t give them monetary rewards like we do when they win an Olympic medal but it would be nice to at least recognize it on a bigger scale – in the terms of watching the event and supporting them. The Olympics just because of its great history and romance are the Holy Grail for the athletes. For the sake of our athletes, let’s look beyond the Olympics and as spectators not make it our Holy Grail.

Censor censorship

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 July 28th, 2012 Veenu Sandhu

The government has done it yet again. It has found another target for censorship. This time it’s a particular video work which was being shown at an exhibition in the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing.

Titled “I Love My India,” the video by Mumbai-based artist Tejal Shah is about the 2002 Gujarat carnage. It is nine years old and has already been shown several times at exhibitions in India, London, Oslo, Rome and Lyon. But now suddenly the ministry of external affairs has asked the Beijing gallery to censor the art show. Once again, this knee-jerk reaction of the government to what clearly violates the Right to Freedom of Expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1) (A) of the Constitution, has caused a lot of disappointment and dismay. The art world, including Ram Rahman, Dayanita Singh, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta and Devika Daulet Singh, has already written an open letter of protested.

We pride ourselves for upholding the freedom of speech and expression, yet we have a sorry history of censorship. We all know that one of the darkest examples of it was in 1975. But the history of censorship dates back much earlier. One of the earliest examples of it was a film called Karma. A pre-Independence movie released in 1933, this had a rather long and passionate kissing scene between Devika Rani and her screen lover and real-life husband Himanshu Rai. Devika Rani incidentally was the first recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. And what a brouhaha that liplock caused. National debates broke out on the content of cinema and for decades after the release of Karma, the kiss disappeared from the screen.

In the 80 years since, we have only moved backwards. Days before Tejal Shah’s video controversy erupted, Google reported that Internet censorship from India was up by 49 per cent in the second half of last year. Goggle had logged 255 instances of India asking for censorship of online content. In all, the Internet giant had received 1,000 such demands from governments around the world. So, India made for 25.5 per cent of these demands! In its transparency report, Goggle said India had sought the blockage of 133 YouTube videos, 10 of which were made on national security considerations (which we could perhaps grant as justified) 77 on defamation (rather arbitrary), 26 web searches and 49 blogs.

Some time back, while debating the attack on freedom of speech on the web in India, Arun Jaitley had said: “The days of censorship, the days of withholding back information are all over. I always believe that if the Internet had been in existence, the internal Emergency of 1975 would have been a big fiasco… Therefore, these institutions which have come up by virtue of technology have a great role to play.” This said, he also pointed to the dangers – of hate speeches, objectionable content and information that could create religious hatred or trigger violence appearing on sites. This, he said, could be objected to. Fair enough. But the most critical part of his speech was this: “The difficulty will arise … if the kind of information which is sought to be objected to and removed is too wide, and then becomes a threat to free speech.”

This is precisely what is happening. Not just in the case of the Internet, but also in films, as well as the art and literary world. Take the example Rockstar in which director Imtiaz Ali had to blur the ‘Free Tibet’ banner which was in the background of one of the songs. He had to do this on the orders of the Censor Board of Film Certificate. The scene appeared in theatres with the ugly blurred patch in the background. People who perhaps wouldn’t even have notice the flag otherwise noticed the blur. They talked about it and the banner which the government so wanted to underplay.

So where do we draw the line? “Free Tibet” protests are a reality. They exist, whatever be our political equations with China. Should no Indian artist or filmmaker dare to portray them in any form in our films because it will disturb our relationship with China? China is not known to be the shining example of a country that respects freedom of speech or expression. And it makes no pretence of being one. But we are. Or at least we would like to believe we are. Which is why, we cannot afford to have two sets of rules. And we cannot waiver every time we are confronted with a situation where external influences, from within and outside the country, are expecting us to push for censorship. Films, art and books have always mirrored social, political and economic issues and realities. And they will always do it. There will always be something which will rock the boat.

As Indians, we have a much bigger responsibility of upholding the spirit of freedom. We know what freedom means, we’ve earned it the hard way. Which is why we cannot put a limit on how free freedom of speech and expression can be.

India’s cruelest joke: The Naxal war

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 July 24th, 2012 Devjyot Ghoshal

“All war is deception,” said Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general and philosopher, around 500 BC. Nothing could more accurately describe the Naxal conflict burning through India’s hinterland today.

It has been some time since I travelled to south Chhattisgarh, the heart of the ultra-Left revolution. There, I toured cities, towns and remote villages. I met key actors: the tribals caught in the crossfire, the chief minister, bureaucrats, the police brass, activists and many a journalist. All, except the rebels themselves.

The single, most-important takeaway was simply this: the Indian government and its agencies on the ground are fighting a nearly invisible enemy. Even though they clearly knows who exactly they should actually be fighting.

This is by no measure a ground-breaking discovery. For well over a decade now, the Indian state has recognised this complexity in its fight against the Naxals. It has admitted the sheer difficulty in distinguishing between an innocent tribal villager and an armed, motivated insurgent.

The problem is, despite years of fighting this bloody fight, the Indian government can do no better today. The storm that has erupted over the killing of 19 persons in Dantewada at the end of June is evidence of this. It has shown once again, with deadly consequences, that the security establishment is operating within a haze; and that once again, it is the people who have had to pay the price for this incompetence.

Across south Chhattisgarh, much of the security forces remain holed up in roadside camps surrounded by rings of barbed wire and sentry posts. These are men and women of exceptional courage, no doubt, but they are as good as aliens on a hostile planet. Those that freely operate outside, the erstwhile Special Police Officers, have built a reputation that few agree with. The highly-trained special forces contingents are few and far between.

The tribal villagers, caught between a government that promises to spend on them (but not without harassment) and a Naxal leadership that promises to keep the government out, often side with the latter. The government’s reach here is precarious, therefore its promises unreliable.

That’s not to say that the Naxal movement has delivered either. Those that have gained access say it is all the same, sometimes even a little worse. But, years of governmental apathy and heavy-handedness must have some manifestation. Also, those who have sided with the government have gained little; they live like virtual prisoners in well-protected camps, away from their forests and often their families, too.

Effectively, therefore, the Indian state, having spent crores of rupees and thousands of lives, has only a semblance of an intelligence network. For the security forces, finding an insurgent is not like looking for a needle in a haystack. Rather, it’s like looking for a specific needle in a sack of sharp needles.

So, all this talk about standard operating procedures (under the direction of the home ministry), procuring mine-proof vehicles, augmenting troop numbers and creating cutting-edge counter-terrorism schools is as good as useless. Unless, of course, collateral damage is the objective.

Instead, the government needs to reach the people. It must listen to them carefully and deliver development. It cannot anymore ignore years of misrule and not correct what it has done wrong. It shouldn’t try and push in big business before bringing in the most basic of services.

But most importantly, it must stop building a security machinery that doesn’t even know its precise target. It has to build trust through governance, to be then able to create a system that delivers reliable intelligence. It needs to gain control over information. After all, there can be no deception without information.

Otherwise, hundreds will continue to die as the Naxals quietly smirk under the shadow of the government’s ineptitude.

What’s The Number, Finally

Monday, July 23rd, 2012 July 23rd, 2012 Praveen Bose

The Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) 2012 that Karnataka held a while ago was trumpeted as a grand success by the government. While the jury is still out on how much of the promised investments of the Rs 9 trillion or so will actually flow in, the debate is not settled yet on how much of investments have come in from the amount promised during GIM 2010.

The number initially announced by the government in the case of the amount of investments proposed was Rs 3.92 lakh crores. What actually came in can vary depending on who the ministers speak to. If it’s a trade magazine, the ones that are never seen on the news stands but are seen prominently during trade shows and such other events, the amount of investments the government says has come in is 16 per cent which could go upto 32 per cent, ones its all realised!

But, in case they speak to a newspaper or news magazine, the number automatically gets watered down. It has fallen to just 6 per cent!

Hail the government policies, say a few businessmen who have been facing the brunt of the government paralysis. When people talk of policy paralysis at the Centre, and if you couple it with a policy paralysis at the state level one gets the picture.

Who’s responsible? Blame it on the cosmos … the sun and moon and stars… and all the celestial bodies. It’s the advise of the astrologers that often make the leaders in the state act as they do.

Wonder if the numbers being “revealed” to the journalists are actually the ones that the astrologers have advised the ministers to announce.

To a legend, from a reluctant fan

Friday, July 20th, 2012 July 20th, 2012 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

I had never been a fan of Rajesh Khanna - in spite of having grown up in a household where Bollywood of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s rules even today. It often irked me that every third song I would listen to, would bring to my mind:

a) the average joe in a guru shirt tilting his head to the side and winking flirtatiously while serenading his lady love with the most elaborate lyrics and sweet melody that was pure romance,

b) the distraught and forlorn man looking somewhere into the horizon as he sang sad and philosophical songs about life. (He probably has had most songs about zindagi/jeevan picturised on him).

His was not a rags-to-riches story. He was not an active political figure (then). He was not very good looking, not well-built, not even remotely “attractive”. His acting skills were not exceptional. What, then made him so popular?

Even today I find people who favour him, scratching their heads in total bewilderment, wondering as to what was so special about the 16 consecutive solo hits which he delivered between 1969 and 1972. They were all regular Bollywood dramas.

He, however, ushered in a new brand of melodrama for the male protagonist of Bollywood cinema. It was no longer unfashionable or sacrilegious for the “hero” to cry, be forsaken by the woman of his dreams, or even die at the end of the movie. The vulnerability he brought forth on screen, coupled with his amourous looks for his lady love made every woman want to protect him and take care of him.

Catapulted into the hearts of men and women alike by the songs he immortalised on celluloid - I believe it was the songs that made him who he was - Rajesh Khanna became the screen icon of romance in his days of glory. Written, composed and sung by Anand Bakshi, R D Burman and Kishore Kumar, every song is a gem. Paired opposite every leading lady India knew back then, from Asha Parekh, Mumtaz, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee to Tina Munim and Shabana Azmi, he set hearts aflutter whenever he made an uninhibited declaration of his love for these women.

I had honestly not cared much even for the Havells TV commercial that he had last appeared in about three months ago - except I felt somewhat bad that someone of his stature was back on screen after eons and what he faced was ridicule for the tone of the advertisement and the way he looked like “a bag of bones.” Fame sure is a fickle friend, and adulation only attaches itself as an attractive accesory when one is on his way up the popularity scale. The generation that hadn’t seen the spectacle of the Rajesh Khanna brand of magic will never know better.

But when on a dark, rainy afternoon at work, I heard of Rajesh Khanna’s demise, I was partly stunned into a melancholic passivity for a good five minutes. So much for a Bollywood star I thought a movie-lover like me didn’t care two hoots about. If the news of his passing away had such an effect on me, I can only begin to imagine how it must have affected each of those women who had written letters to him with their blood, married his photograph, slept with a picture of his under their pillow, stood outside his bungalow for a glimpse of their prince charming, screamed themselves hoarse whenever he made an appearance, tried to commit suicide when he married Dimple Kapadia or kissed his white Impala while wearing red lipstick.

Such mass hysteria was unseen and unheard of in India till then.

No wonder he was India’s first superstar… he deserved nothing less.

Traffic diversion

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 July 17th, 2012 Rrishi Raote

BRT Delhi (Wikimedia Commons: IncMan CC BY 2.0)Delhi’s traffic is a topic of national interest. Delhi is, after all, one of the very few cities in India, and certainly the largest, that comes without a big predominantly rural state attached. This city is a state, and can order its priorities by its own needs. It has the resources to do what it wants. (Let us pretend for a moment that 20 million people or more can have a single list of wants.)

So it is no surprise that Delhi leads the country in urban change. CNG-powered public transport, stricter emissions regulations, better buses, wider roads and new parking lots, cartoonishly big investments in a metro, expensive sports facilities, heritage-conscious cleanups of Connaught Place and other parts, endless exurbs full of empty flats, malls, malls, malls — all these landmarks of contemporary Indian urbanism either began or attained scale or visibility here.

What Delhi wants, therefore, is worth watching. Right now, Delhi appears to want to get rid of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor. This is a 5 km stretch of major road between central and south Delhi that has been divided up between different classes of traffic: two lanes for buses, four for cars and motorbikes, two for cycles. There are more cars and bikes than buses, though more people travel by bus and bicycle than by private vehicle. By people numbers, then, the new road division is not unfair. As far as traffic flow goes, BRT is more or less disastrous. Unless they have no choice, private motorists do their best to avoid the BRT corridor.

The Delhi government was planning to extend BRT to other major arteries. But a recent study by the Central Road Research Institute says the BRT is inefficient at moving traffic, and wasteful of time and fuel. Meanwhile a court has ordered traffic authorities to open all lanes to traffic pending a final decision on the BRT corridor. It could well happen that BRT is struck down. People in cars will be happy. People in buses and on cycles don’t matter. Lefties will moan in the op-eds, but they don’t matter either — in fact, the city pages of the same papers will probably mark BRT’s demise with more positive coverage.

Oh well. A couple of important points to note. (1) BRT was so halfheartedly executed, and so limited in scope (just 5 km on one route over half a dozen years) that it was never going to achieve much. And (2) it would never have worked in Delhi anyway, because we Delhiites are terrible at putting our fellow citizens, or indeed a civic ideal, first.

For example: right from the start Delhi’s lawbreaking bikers took over the BRT corridor’s cycle lanes, and cars (especially government cars) bullied their way into the bus lanes. Pedestrians crossed wherever they wished to; it didn’t help that they had to cross the car lanes to get to the bus stops. At first the traffic police tried to fight all these (totally predictable) misuses with massive deployment. Naturally they could not keep it up.

Delhi’s citizenry is, of course, unusually useless at rubbing along together. Despite all the money and effort that the city government is expending on creating supposedly public and class-blind facilities, among which BRT, the new buses and the Metro are three big ones, the effect in this city will be to entrench rather than erode differences. What’s more, if other Indian cities wish to emulate Delhi by investing in similar systems — and they’re doing it already, from Jaipur to Chennai and lots of places in between — they should expect a similar result: a social Delhi-isation.

Invest in roads, there will be more cars. More cars means more atomised travel, more class separation. To balance the car, invest in buses and Metro (the Centre will pay part of the cost anyway). Bus and Metro will cannibalise pre-existing/ad hoc cheap public transport, and overall fares will rise. As fares rise, the pressure on long-distance low-income commuters will increase. Besides, not all low-income commuters are made welcome on “world class” systems like BRT and Metro — just watch the behaviour of security staff at the Metro entry checkpoints for proof of this, and compare bus and Metro commuters over the same routes.

More options is not a bad thing, but in Delhi, and in non-equal Indian society in general, more options allows the classes to segregate themselves by income and appearance. Since those options include a disproportionate dedication to the car and Metro user, who is disproportionately middle- or upper-middle-class, the result is not more social encounters between the classes but less.

The lesson? Government can spend on the best, most up-to-date mass transport facilities, but when there is no equality in thought or deed, and even the battles over public space are fought by unequal forces — well, then, the consequences are obvious even if unintended: more of the same.
(Image of Delhi BRT system: IncMan CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Interpretation of a dream never had

Friday, July 13th, 2012 July 13th, 2012 Reetesh Anand

Dreams are “…disguised fulfilments of repressed wishes”, wrote Sigmund Freud in his famous book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’.

He also wrote that there were two components of dreams — manifest content and latent content. The former was made up of the actual images, thoughts and content contained within a dream, while the latter was a representation of the hidden psychological meaning.

But, that’s theory, albeit intriguing.

Freud did not shy away from conceding in his book that dreams, if interpreted correctly, could speak volumes about a person’s psychological station in life, but it’s certainly not easy to interpret. However, each one of us, has, at some point in life, tried his or her hands at interpreting dreams. Some even keep doing so in multiple ways — practically, literally or figuratively.

I may be one of those trying to make some sense of dreams in whichever way possible. Call it curiosity, or love for hit-and-trial methods, or sheer handiwork of an idle mind forcefully kept busy, I keep trying, even as I know I am only pretending to read a script as good as ancient Greek to me.

I surely am miles away from what could be called any creditable interpretation, but there is something very peculiar about the outcome so far.

Earlier, I would dream, wake up, do my math with my eyes still sunk deep in slumber and think I know what the manifest or latent — or whatever — content of my dream was. When I would be fully awake, I would try to recall my dream, and its interpretation, and try to draw some sense out of those. I would invariably find my interpretation rather laughable and without any semblance with whatever could even remotely be called reflection of my personality or psychological station.

On one of those days when my mind was perfectly idle but I wanted to keep it forcefully busy, I thought I’d try interpreting the dreams I never had and see if those made more sense than those I had had.

Funny thought! True, but I wanted to give it a try. There was no harm in attempting something weird, for many historic finds had been serendipitous delivery of weird conceptions, I thought. Why not? I might end up being the propounder of a brand new theory — one much more complicated and weirder than Freud’s interpretation of dreams.

That evening, only to initiate a pointless debate and have fun at someone else’s expense, I asked a friend what her dream was. She thought for a while and said she wanted to turn an entrepreneur and start her own chain of restaurants.

I uttered just one word, “interesting”, smiled a philosopher’s smile, and slipped into a measured quiet, making sure she threw the same question back at me. And, she did. I had my answer ready. I said I wanted to be a little one, three or four years old, hopping around at my parents’ house with my girlfriend, whom I would be meeting for the first time some two decades later.

By now most of my friends know that I seldom make sense — never when I am in a mood to behave like a thinker. So, I thought she would be expecting something silly. But, no, she fell for the bait; perhaps my philosopher’s smile worked.

She argued what I wanted was no dream but, possibly, a desire to go back in time and relive things in a different way, because dreams were meant to be what we wanted in our future and not in the past.

I asked why wasn’t it a dream? My explanation was that a dream and an ambition might not necessarily mean the same thing. An ambition might well be placed somewhere ahead of the time we were thinking and speaking in, but dreams were boundless — they might move in a linear or zigzag way, back or forth in time, being just the manifestation of our unfulfilled subconscious desire.

She visibly wasn’t convinced and, being a thinking woman, began her own interpretations of my “dream”. From rubbishing it as a non-dream, now her stance had shifted to decoding why my “dream” was to go back in time and alter things a little.

She concluded, my childhood, as a little boy of three or four, might have been a period in my life I reckoned the best. And, my girlfriend might be that special person in my life with whom I wanted to share my best phase.

“Bingo!” I said to myself, not because her interpretation was bang on target. It might or might not have been correct. But I was glad that a thread of my freshly woven imagination had got her thinking.

This was an interpretation — quite wholesome — of a dream I never had. And, you can’t call it twisting facts to prove my point… After all, it wasn’t I who was doing the interpretation!

Media mumpsimus? Really, Mr Khurshid?

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 July 12th, 2012 Vishwas

Union law minister Salman Khurshid is an articulate and intelligent politician whose command over language is praiseworthy. But on Tuesday morning, he turned into an English teacher for media professionals at a press conference called by him to clarify his comments on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. In a newspaper interview that appeared in The Indian Express the same day, Khurshid had claimed that the Congress ‘is directionless and the country has seen only cameos of Rahul Gandhi’s thoughts and ideas’.

While clarifying, he started lecturing journalists on the nuances of the English language, chided them for their linguistic recklessness, and openly stated that journalists need to change their ways and stop sticking to their mumpsimus — persistence in erroneous use of language out of habit.

Referring to his interview, Khurshid had said: “I was asked some questions and whatever I said was wrongly interpreted. If you [media] are unable to interpret statements properly, then many other issues will be discussed only within the party. Please ask the journalist what I said and what he wrote. You misinterpret and put question marks in order to run your television channels and newspapers.”

But the most interesting part was he did not deny anything that was published in the interview. And he did not do that simply because there was no misinterpretation. At the press conference, he was just trying to douse the fire caused by the his most inflammable words in the entire interview. Being a deskie for the past nine years, I know that a perspicacious and discerning news desk seldom fails to pick out the most apt quote for the headline. And that’s what happened in this case.

It is true that Indian media is often accused of being reckless in its selection of words, which, critics say, is aimed more at sensationalising news rather than disseminating information. And that may be true to an extent. For our media, which still writes headlines that read “charred to death” (death is inevitable when a body is charred), the accusations somewhat sound justified. But this is not the trend…not at least in the news report Salman Khurshid was referring to.

The problem is that Salman Khurshid does not know that the legalese and high-sounding words that the savant in him uses in his speeches and calibrated statements cannot be used by newspapers or TV channels. Media has its own ways and it sometimes goes for over-simplication of a complex term, but that does not mean that it can always be accused of frivolity, or mumpsimus. If Mr Khurshid is paying so much attention to “purity of language”, I hope he won’t mind being reminded of what George Carlin, an American satirist and author, said about language: “By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.”

An underachiever and an overrated economist

Monday, July 9th, 2012 July 9th, 2012 Tarun Chaturvedi

It has been a little over three years (2009) when India had voted clearly in favour of Manmohan Singh as the prime minister of the country. It is quite amazing that in this span of three years the PM has managed to earn so much of disrepute not only nationally but now also internationally. The forthcoming issue of Time magazine (Asia edition) has a cover story declaring the PM an “underachiever”. And this sums up the entire mood of the nation. In 2009 it was expected that the UPA coalition would be far more stable than the previous one and this would enable the PM to lead the nation into a more stable economic environment.

Unfortunately, the last three years have been the worst the country has ever seen. With a highly acclaimed and successful economist (1991 era) as the PM, it is ironical that the Indian economy has been the worst performer in the region. What has Mamohan Singh the economist been doing, is a question a large number of people are trying to answer.

Manmohan Singh has not only failed as an economist but has also as a politician even after more than two decades of active politics. His political naivete is evident from his inept handling of not only the coalition partners but also his own partymen (Pranab, Chidambaram, Kalmadi etc).

With the departure of Pranab, some of the comments made by the PM regarding the state of the economy and the actions taken by the finance ministry are laughable to say the least.  The comments clearly point towards the discomfort which the PMO had with Pranab as the FM. What disturbs the most is the fact that nation is being led by a PM who could not do the right things because his ministers thought otherwise. The PM played the role of a consultant who only advises, does not execute and takes no responsibility for the failure.  Is this the kind of PM the nation wants?

If the PM doesn’t change his role and learn to act decisively, the nation is at a high risk of losing the status of an economic growth engine for the global economy. A number of reforms are stuck for different reasons and the PM appears or be doing nothing to push them through. Time is running out and if he continues to find alibis for his failures on all fronts the nation is sure to be doomed. From being a puppet prime minister (2004) to a decisive leader (2009 elections) to a total failure (2001–2012) the PM has seen it all. “Perform or perish” is the only way forward and the PM should learn it fast.

Is DU being reasonable?

Saturday, July 7th, 2012 July 7th, 2012 M Saraswathy

It is that time of the year that Class XII passouts eagerly wait for — the Delhi University cut-off lists for admission to its colleges. Every year, it is quite a sight outside the DU campus with eager students and parents waiting for the cut-off list to be put-up.  This year, though there was no 100% cut-off shocker, a 99.25% cut-off was equally shocking. With several bright students being turned away due to the high percentage requirements, one needs to ask whether DU is being reasonable in its cut-off requirements.

Delhi University is the most sought after by students who wish to pursue a career other than engineering or medicine. The array of reputed colleges including St Stephens, Hansraj College, Hindu College, Miranda House, Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) and Lady Shri Ram College have been a dream destination for most aspirants. Added to this is the fact that DU colleges make it to the top 10 best colleges list of ‘leading business magazines’, which makes it fashionable to say that “I am getting into the Number 1/2/3 college in India”.

The trend began in early 2000s when more and more magazines started publishing the best colleges list. The number of applicants in the colleges increased leading to an automatic increase in cut-offs to ensure quality students apply. Every year, the cut-offs started increasing–beginning from 91% to 93% to 97%. Last year, SRCC had put a 100% cut-off for non-commerce students. Media reports also showed how one student qualified for it, though further details on the same were not available.

This year, the situation is equally worse. With more colleges joining the 95%-plus cut-off category, admissions to DU is only getting tougher. The cut-off criteria where a student scoring 94.95% is not eligible, but one with a 95% is eligible seems a ridiculous proposition. What about the students from certain state government boards, where it is considered impossible to score above 85%? Are they not worthy enough of DU?

Industry experts say that if the colleges really want to ensure that the quality of students is upto the mark, why not have an entrance examination. They could have a 75% eligibility for the entrance exam and then screen candidates. Though it will be a tedious process given the number of candidates who apply for DU, the process would atleast give a fair chance to more number of students. “They could maybe have an online exam, with tough questions to sieve out the best candidates,” say a Delhi based education industry expert.

For now, till the new reforms are introduced, getting admission into the top DU institutes seems like a Herculean task. The second and third lists also do not offer any respite for the students since the cut-offs ranging between 93-96%. The only option is to keep waiting for further lists till the process is competed on July 10.

DU’s message seems to be very clear-If you are among the top students (Top here means only those students scoring 95% and above), you are welcome to “try your luck” at our admissions. Others: Don’t even bother to apply!