Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Recent Op-eds in The Hindu

'The Way Forward':

The Hindu editorial (2nd September) titled 'The Way Forward' has little new to offer. It makes only one suggestion namely, asking the government to open the Srinagar-Islamabad highway but recognizes that the problem with doing that lies with not India but Pakistan which means that there is not much the Delhi government can do about it anyway. Apart from that, it exhorts the EC to conduct early elections - again, hardly a brainwave. Neither of these is going to resolve the Kashmir issue by themselves; at best, they can facilitate a settlement to a limited extent, nothing more. On the key issue of Kashmir's political future and India's role in resolving it, what does the paper have to say? Sadly, not a thing.

Sainath on Hurricane Politics in the US:

The Hindu has exhibited a very keen interest in the upcoming Presidential election in the US. No prizes for guessing who it is rooting for. But it was quite surprising to see P.Sainath, the rural affairs editor, write upon the American political scene and how Hurricane Gustav will impact it! Sainath clearly follows American domestic politics and events very closely - that is evident from the number of occasions in which he quotes from the Wall Street Journal (his comments usually dripping with sarcasm). But to my knowledge, this is the first time he has actually written a full op-ed on the subject - for a change, the tenor is not envious like it usually is.

'Building Model Campus Communities':

Sujatha Byravan's article titled 'Building model campus communities' was strange to say the least. The article for the most part talks about how universities and engineering institutes in particular can become more ecofriendly, how they can reduce their carbon footprint, save energy and generally become more efficient. That begs the question: what actually is the contribution of these institutions towards global warming? Compared to the figures she quotes for industry and agriculture, miniscule I presume. Her real point is amplified in para 7 when she talks about the advantages that such institutions have to foster innovation:

Campuses have the capacity to build successful climate innovation systems: all the organisations and individuals involved in generating, diffusing, adapting and using new knowledge; the interactive learning that must occur when organisations engage in generation, diffusion, adaptation and new use of knowledge, (that is, new products and processes); and the institutions — rules, habits and conventions — that govern how these interactions and processes occur. Engineering school campuses, with their unique education, talent and skills, separate enclaves, and relatively independent management, are ideally placed to develop into fertile breeding grounds for climate innovation and serve as models for the rest of the community. IITs and other engineering colleges also have access to government and private funds to provide investments required for a metamorphosis of this kind.

When I started reading this article, this is the part I expected her to really focus on. How can our institutions help conduct research on climate change? Why are engineering colleges better placed than say, liberal arts colleges or specialized national institutes to conduct such research? How much investment would it take to upgrade existing engineering colleges to take up such an effort? Does it require a change in the curriculum? Does it require refashioning our model for higher education? What can the government do in terms of policy and financing to facilitate it? Sadly, none of these questions were answered (perhaps I was mistaken to have expected it in the first place but then, addressing these questions would have rendered its objective more meaningful.)

The author's idea instead seems to be that our students, exposed to environment friendly measures in college, would carry forward the same model to whereever else they go after graduation. But if the idea is to inculcate in them such a lesson of life, school is probably a better place to start than college. That is where their worldview is initially formed and where students learn the values they are expected to uphold and live by for the rest of their lives.

'Cooperation with Discord':

Today's article by Sreeram Chaulia was interesting to say the least. The Hindu published criticism of its own correspondent Vladimir Radyuchin in that article. Criticism of Russia and China has generally been disallowed on its pages in the past, so it is worthwhile to note that the paper has made something of a modest beginning here. Of course,a detailed answer to the question of why China refused to back Russia upon the Georgian question at the SCO summit meeting would have been interesting but the author does not provide any.

A final point: the recent criticism of the Indo-US nuclear agreement on the pages of the People's Daily which has received wide coverage in other media appears to have been ignored by The Hindu.

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