DD Kosambi's writings on the Gita have been translated into Hindi and published by the Bharat Jan Vigyan Samithi.
Half the children of India go hungry: Harsh Mander
PANJIM, FEB 11
Once Mandar had asked a Dalit woman in MP what their major problem was, she said, ‘how to teach our children to sleep on an empty stomach.’ It not only reflected the pathetic state of affairs of this country, it also shows that these communities have virtually no hope that their plight would ever change. It is indeed shocking that there are people in this country who look for undigested seeds of grain in cow dung so that they could give some relief to pangs of hunger.
Harsh Mandar who resigned from IAS in 2002 after the Gujarat riots, who has headed district governments in tribal areas, delivered a sobering lecture on Thursday at DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas, being held in Kala Academy Panjim, on abysmal plight of a large mass of the people of the country who do not even get a square meal. Mandar pointed out that half the children of this country go hungry.
We have all heard of Gujarat riots and mostly the horror stories of brutal massacres. Mandar, narrated a tale of an ordinary Brahmin family that protected and fed over a 100 Muslim for ten days and held off the mob with the help of other villager. The head of the family, a devout Brahmin when asked by Mandar why he did this, he replied that he could not bear that his villagers should be treated this way even if they were Muslims. When asked if they were not afraid, his wife replied “if you do the right thing how can you fear.”
For Mandar thirty years ago we believed that we could create a just and kinder world today we have lost that conviction. For him three major demolitions have transformed our world radically: the fall of the Berlin wall which signaled end of communist experiment and hope of a just and humane world which according to him are not even desirable goals today. Second, the demolition of Babari Masjid which was cheered by leaders who were to later lead the nation and with it according to Mandar, was pulled down the solemn promise that we had made to ourselves and each other in the constitution. Third demolition was fall of World Trade Centre, 911 that lead to globalization of war on terror set into motion increasing militarization of the world, legitimised hatred and sharpened differences.
What are we doing with our poor? According to Madar we are trying hard to pretend that do not exist we are increasingly removing them from our conscience and consciousness. In 1960 popular cinema made movies about a farmer struggling to protect is land or about the homeless. People who made such cinema have disappeared.
According to Mandar our middle classes have become increasingly indifferent to injustice, hunger and suffering and uncritically accept the stories of hate, while referring to targeting of the Muslims in the country. According to him the poor are much less influenced by prejudice.
Mandar said that one of the goals of education was to create equality of opportunity but this has not happened and education has only reinforced inequality. Rational and liberal thought was supposed to make us better human beings, but, according to Mandar, those in our elite technical institution show greater prejudice. And to make matters worse we talk about ‘merit’ when we want to keep out the underprivileged.
Mandar feels that above all there is enormous need to restore compassion into our public life and into our governance. For Mandar communalism is a real threat and he praised Goa as a place where diversity co-exists in harmony, but cautioned that communal organisations were systematically injecting hatred into our communities and Goa is in grave danger of losing its communal harmony. He referred to vigilante groups in Karnataka that make sure that there in no mingling of Hindus and Muslims and use violent means to prevent it.
According to Mandar, “Battle against communalism is battle of hearts and minds.”
Mandar wants every temple, church and gurudwara to become a place where the homeless can find shelter and the hungry, food. He praised the Sikh tradition of langar – community kitchen where the lowly and the lofty sat side by side to share a free meal. According to him this practice is now changing as the poor people are being increasingly denied entry.
In Mandars experience, homeless children who were picked up from the railway station managed to reform fast and showed remarkable intelligence and motivation that often in two years they picked up which other student learned in ten years, and in some cases even topped the class as they valued education.
In the end it is the poor who help the poor - as Mandar noticed in the peak of winter at Jama Masjid in Delhi where nearly ten thousand take shelter, entrepreneurs hire out quilts, but he was surprised to see that each and everyone had a quilt and he found that all the homeless had pooled in money to ensure that everyone had something to cover with in the biting cold. Among the poor and the deprived he sees the hope of new India.
Compassion makes women better leaders: Bedi
PANJIM, FEB 10
Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer, recipient of several awards, known for bringing innovative ideas into administration and most importantly, known for courage and compassion was given a very warm welcome by the audience crammed into Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium with some sharing seats and other standing in the aisles and some forced to witness the programme on the screen outside at Kala Academy Panjim on Wednesday. Theme of this lecture the third of DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas organised by Directorate of Art and Culture was: ‘Leadership – Does Gender Matter’.
Dr Kiran Bedi was introduced by Dr Pramod Salgoankar, ex Chairperson of State Commission for Women in presence of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and Chief Secretary Sanjay Shrivastava. Mrs Bedi said that she was pleasantly surprised at the presence of the CM and remarked – “It is good to see a politician at the festival of ideas as normally politicians run away from ideas”.
She was also nick named ‘Crane Bedi’ as she had the gumption of towing away late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car for which she, in her own words, was banished to Goa in 1984.
According to her when she was invited for DD Kosambi lecture she dug into her archives and her ‘hard disk’ to revive the old memories and first part of her talk was on her experience as SP Traffic, a post that did not exist prior to her arrival in the State.
Mrs Bedi narrated how with only 20 policemen she would in full strength raid Mapusa, Panjim and Margao on different days giving the impression that the traffic police had a very large contingent. For CHOGM (Common Wealth Heads of Government Meet) held in the State in 1984, she enlisted the help of the students and trained them to control bye-lane traffic as she felt that except for the elite the people of the State were completely left out of this event. She felt heartened that several VIPs stopped to talk to the students.
According tot Mrs Bedi, Zuari bridge which was constructed for CHOGM was not used even months after it’s completion as Indira Gandhi who was supposed to inaugurate the bridge cancelled her visit several times. One day in frustration while she watched cars lined up for the ferry, she decided to remove the barricades leading to the bridge and shouted to those present at the ferry point to follow her. Thus Zuari bridge was inaugurated by this courageous police officer who said that perhaps that is why it is still called Zuari bridge otherwise it might have been called Gandhi bridge.
In another instance she was summoned to apologise to a minister as his car was not allowed to go right up to the entrance for St Xavier’s exposition. In her own words she said, “I am sorry sir I will not apologise”. For Kiran Bedi what mattered was what was in right front of her at that moment and tomorrow did not matter.
Even during her stint in Tihar Jail in Delhi, which was again punishment posting for her, she managed to in her words to “turn the jail into a temple”. She accomplished this with as system of feedback and ‘walking her work’ which according to her are very essential for success. A small wooden box in which prisoners could write complaints and needs and her promise that only she could read what was written as she was the only one with a key to it; not only did she win the trust of the prisoners she also came to know what was going on in the prison.
Eventually her reforms were made a part of the Prisons Act.
For her, leadership is aptly defined by Oliver Goldsmith’s quote: “You can preach a better sermon with your life than your lips”. Leading by example and ‘walking your work’ are essential to leadership. She urged the politicians present also to walk their work and be more accessible to people.
Kiran also had parents who undoubtedly supported and as she said that her parents used to tell her: “No one can prevent you from being exceptional”.
For Kiran Bedi leadership demands integrity and physical mental and spiritual strength in unison; these qualities must work together.
Do women make better leaders? Kiran feels that women have edge over men because of their different biology, fact that they undergo immense pain to bear children, nurture them, connect the family and keep harmony, hence they have ‘emotional quotient’ and extra quality of compassion that is lacking in men. However, she did clarify that this emotional quotient is not exclusive to women and men could cultivate it too; according to her, precisely for this reason Mahatma Gandhi is her idol as he had this emotional quotient, a reason why he was much loved by the people. She also said that she was glad that he was a man and not a woman as he is an example for other men to emulate.
According to Kiran globalization has made women stronger, added to their qualities of capacity to bear pain and nurturing as they now have economic power, higher education and mobility, which was the preserve of the men.
While answering the question of reservation for women in assembly, she felt that this would be a positive move as not only will it correct the imbalance but will also bring the missing ‘emotional quotient’ into our governance.
The audience asked extremely passionate questions that ranged from sexual harassment, lack of trust in the police force, and disillusionment with the politics.
Kiran Bedi profusely praised the Director of Art and Culture for this idea of organising this Festival of Ideas and hoped that this would set and example for other States of the country.
The programme ended with presentation of memento by ex-chief minister of the State, Shashikala Kakodkar.
Should we be surprised that one of most courageous, innovative and compassionate police officer that India produced is a woman?
Livelihood central to education: VC
PANJIM, FEB 9
Prof Krishna Kumar, Director of NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training), for unspecified reason was unable to catch his morning flight from Delhi forcing the organisers of 3rd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas, being held at Kala Academy, Panjim, to improvise, yet retaining the theme of today’s planned lecture on education.
Indeed if education is about setting examples, Prof Krishna Kumar had set a bad example of reneging on the commitment and not having the basic courtesy of issuing apology for his absence to the audience that had gathered to listen to his lecture in Dinanath Mangeshkar auditorium on Tuesday.
Maria Aurora Couto, a writer and educationist based in Aldona took the initiative of obtaining a paper on education by Fr Rudolf Heredia, based in Mumbia, and used it as a basis for draw out the ideas and opinions of a panel comprising of herself, Girish Karnad, Fr Romuald D’Souza, Founder of Goa Institute of Management and Vice Chancellor of Goa University, Dilip Deobagkar.
Maria Aurora Couto read Fr Heredia’s academic paper on education which placed individual at the centre of the process of education and liberation as a meaningful goal of the process of education. Heredia’s paper referred to various models of education like of John Dewey’s, considered as father of educational philosophy and Mahatma Gandhi who laid emphasis on learning through experience. According to Heredia, our education system has failed to fulfill democratic aspiration and emphasis has shifted to create skilled and productive forces, at the cost of needs of the individual. While Heredia reaches for what is ideal and utopian, he does not dwell on what is possible but he certainly advocates a clean break from the past – a paradigm shift that breaks the old orthodoxy.
Commenting on Heredia’s Paper Fr Romuald said that opportunities are more important than ideas and educational system should enable individuals to achieve something through productive work and not necessarily employable people. He also laid stress on ability to compete, thereby advocating a more practical approach.
Prof Dilip Deobagkar pointed this out that Heredia’s paper defined the problem but did not offer any solutions and was critical of his use of concepts such as ‘liberation’ as the goal of education which may have little meaning for a person who is not sure of his next meal. Vice chancellor was more practical in his approach and urged that we need to draw on our strengths in this era of globalization which we cannot escape from. He pointed out that in the recent economic meltdown India has emerged stronger and there is every reason for us to spread globally what we are strong in.
VC also cautioned that what we are witnessing in today’s world is explosion of information but not knowledge which is different from information. He also felt that for education we need not talk about the world but pay closer attention to what surrounds us. For Prof Deobagkar, issue of livelihood will always be central to the education system and education system should find right balance between personal need and larger national economic goals.
He was also of the opinion that ‘values’ cannot be taught in schools but imbibed in day to day life.
Girish Karnad said that he was horrified that how incompetent a person Director of NCERT is as he could not even catch a flight. According to Karnad it is nothing other than arrogance and it smacked of “if you have power you can run roughshod over others”. Karnad offered historical perspective that the system of education established by the British was geared to creating clerks for their trade in India; otherwise traditionally it was the preserve of the Brahmins.
Karnad pointed out that in the first five-year plans little attention was paid to education and agriculture instead emphasis was laid of industrial development. It has lead to a dismal situation that even after over sixty years post independence, nearly half the country is still illiterate.
Second problem that afflicts our educational system is that because of the caste system our higher education has become field of social justice and not of information or knowledge, pointing to the system of reservations which paradoxically is making inequities more entrenched.
Then he came to the heart of the problem of poor infrastructure and lack of teachers in rural areas, narrating a personal experience while making a film on child marriages in Madhya Pradesh. He felt that the primary education has been given very low priority while we see proliferation of engineering and medical colleges.
After panel’s comments on Heredia’s paper and their own opinions on education audience asked various questions including the inevitable question of right medium of instruction – mother tongue Vs English – to which VC replied that perhaps it is wise to have initial instructions in the mother tongue. The other questions were on uniformity of syllabus, constraints faced by teachers while teaching over sixty students in a single class. Someone in the audience also pointed out that there was little community initiative to be seen in the field of education.
The panel concluded the discussion pointing out that learning never really ends and we should shift our emphasis from teaching to learning.
PANAJI (08 Feb 2010) : British colonisers created a vast gulf between Indian cities and villages thereby alienating the traditional artistes of India. But hopefully, modern technology in the form of computers will erase the disparities and create an equality of communication between the two.
This is the fond hope of Jnanpith award winner Girish Karnad who delivered his talk on "Colonialism and Culture" on the inaugural day of the 3rd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas at the Kala Academy, Panaji, on Monday. Organized by the directorate of art and culture, the festival was inaugurated by chief minister Digambar Kamat.
Karnad is an internationally acclaimed playwright, poet, actor and director, besides being a winner of both the Padma Shri and the Padma Bushan. In his talk embellished with anecdotes, figures and wit, Karnad dealt with how British colonialism shaped Indian culture. He said this could be put in two categories. One was where Indians had its art forms but the British were not interested in these and therefore left them untouched. The second was where they were slightly interested and tried to teach Indians something.
But it is the arts that the British left untouched that are flourishing today. "Our music and dance are greater today then ever before. We are fortunate to be living in an era when Indian music and dance are so full of energy and vitality," said.
Karnad said the British damaged India's arts which they interfered with. Our sculpture was already damaged by the Muslim rulers. But Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker neglected Indian architecture in the building of Delhi, Le Corbusier dealt the final blow to it in Chandigarh, Karnad said.
But there is also a third category of art forms that we got from the West. They brought in a lot of technologies in the form of the printing press due to which, many Indian vernaculars came to life. There was also photography and the recording of music. "When sound came to films, Indian films began to sing," Karnad said.
Then Karnad voiced the apprehensions but proclaimed hope. He said that though India is free today, a new colonialization has taken over in the new shape of globalization. "We are told that our strength is our knowledge of English. The poor also send their children to English medium schools but there is a fear that English may take over. When satellite and cable television came to India, there was the same fear. But nothing happened. You may need English for your job. But for crying, weeping and laughing, you still need your mother tongue. Our language is alive today," Karnad said.
Despite being unsure of what to expect, Karnad hoped that computers would create equalities between urban sophisticates and rural traditional artistes. "That is a change D D Kosambi would approve of," Karnad said.
Speaking earlier, chief minister Kamat said the D D Kosambi festival of ideas was started with the objective of inviting eminent personalities in India to deliver talks. The hope was that they would serve as role models and ignite young minds, Kamat said.
Kosambi Festival of Ideas
Panaji: Actor and playwright Girish Karnad will be one of the speakers at the third D.D. Kosambi Festival of Ideas 2010 to be held here from February 8.
Besides Mr. Karnad, the five-day festival will have educationist and National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Director Krishna Kumar, the former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, human rights activist Harsh Mander, and columnist Guru Gurucharan Das as speakers.
Mr. Karnad will deliver a lecture on “Colonialism and Culture”.