Education

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Fresh MBA Hirability – A Practical Industry/College Solution

Published November 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

An article in The Hindustan Times today caught my eye –  Fewer than half of new MBA graduates getjobs as economy sputters, trend at 5-year low. The articles open with a hard punch to your gut : “Job offers for fresh management graduates in India are at a five-year low, official data show, a trend experts blame on a sluggish economy as well as a mismatch between the years-old curriculum and industry expectations…. In 2016-17, just 47% of Master of Business Administration (MBA)graduates got placed on the campus, a dip of 4% over the previous year, marking a five-year low. At 12%, the drop was far sharper for postgraduate diploma holders.
Image Source : from HT Article linked above


I said this on my blog nearly 4 years ago – there is a dire need to revisit the MBA Curriculum; but it isn’t the only aspect of this problem. I say this with authority, as I have seen both sides – having been a Visiting Faculty, as well as a current Industry Veteran. There is an issue with the MBA Course, but correcting it requires a will; it requires a combination of fresh talent in MBA Colleges – Industry Veterans who should team up with Academicians for solving this complex problem. At the same time, Industry needs to invest in training – which it doesnt; it needs to re-visit the entire Performance Management System, which is hopelessly obsolete, number oriented and simply fails to capture the modern reality of business; it also needs to set up realistic expectations from new recruits. Let us consider these two problems one-by-one in detail
THE MBA COURSE
The view that all in wrong in the MBA Course is inaccurate – for any number of reasons. First of all, the MBA Course is an introduction to Business & Management, and establishes the fundamentals in business – without which we are lost. In my experience – all the courses I have been associated with, do it admirably, at least in letter. The difficulty is the absence of proper teaching aids – and I don’t mean AV equipment. Frankly, they are enablers; we require content. And content is the real issue – there is a need to revisit the content of the books, and make them more relevant.
The content is woefully inadequate in terms of Indian Examples. As a Management Book Reviewer and avid reader of Management Research Books,

  • ü I have observed many-a-time that I am yet to read too many Indian Institutes & teachers coming out with real  case studies on the Indian Market and Brands, as also Management Thought. We aren’t creating intellectual property – which is the real issue. Simply making cosmetic changes to the course will not suffice.  
  • ü Add to this the Language and Affordability barrier – content and books are damned costly, and in English, which is a major barrier
  • ü You need to make the content richer in terms of relevance to Indian Markets, which will enable deeper learning and also provide a deeper connect with students as they can easily relate.
  • ü The course as such is just fine; there is little that is missing. It needs to be made more contemporary in these terms.
The MBA Course is supposed to give basics of Business, Marketing, Finance, etc to prospective employees for the corporate sector; this is what it does. 



  • ü What it doesn’t do is – give a connect with the realities of the Indian Market. That is why we need Indian Original Content, not copied Western thought.
  • ü In addition to this, there is a need for students to do more realistic projects on all subjects; the course is far too theoretical, and gives the students zero idea of the domestic realities. The marking system needs to incorporate genuine brain-work on realistic projects, not just exams. 


  • The way to do this is simple –
  • ü deeper Industry College interaction; and
  • ü lateral hires at Professor level for MBA College teaching options
  • ü Given the lesser stress, it will be easy to attract talent for the universities;
  • ü this will require a re-visit of the qualification norms, and the development of precise judgement criterion to ensure the lateral hires fit in, have knowledge of their domain, and can contribute positively.
  • ü The pitfalls of hiring only basis visible achievement is inaccurate, as designation is no guarantor of true ability and knowledge, which needs to be kept in mind.



CORPORATE INDIA

In the paragraph above, I stress deeper Industry-College interaction; this cannot happen unless Industry understands that it is a part of the problem. I stated in the opening that both the colleges and the companies are responsible for the glut; let me add a third factor here – the students. The industry grouse that the MBA expects too much and knows too little is grounded in reality, that much is sadly true. But with deeper interaction – this can be attended to, as the reality sinks into students. Before blaming the students, we need to accept that we are making no effort to educate them as well.
The key question is, how will this interaction happen? This can only happen in the Human Resources Function, and some other staff functions; for reasons I attend to later on in the article. 
  • ü One possible way is regular interaction of HR / Staff function managers with a selected bunch of colleges – in terms of lectures by managers – properly curated by the College in terms of content;
  • ü Co-hosting real-time tiny projects in real scenarios, which same to be designed to be of very short {daily projects}, short {week-fortnight} projects.
  • ü An example of a daily project could be market survey of all retail counters in a street – which will take only 2 hours; or checking documentation in back-office etc. This can be suitable added on by a thorough training intervention – which should be regular, not sporadic.
  • ü Even a child requires help to walk; and a fresh MBA is a Child in the Big Bad World of Corporates.
The other aspect that needs attending to – the toning down of expectation from new hires. That will not happen unless you re-design the entire PMS – which leaves no scope for learning, or real training. I understand we are in a hypercompetitive market; and that bottom and top lines need to be achieved; but chasing numbers mindlessly, without heed to basics is fraught with even higher risks – as many in my parent sector, Telecom, found much out to their chagrin. There needs to be a balance between pure numbers, and business basics – and at all levels. You need to judge strategic ability at all levels – and this is even more vital in a hypercompetitive market, where the cost of a strategic misjudgement and improper strategic implementation are the precise same – Business Closure.
The list of companies that have paid the price for the above is incalculable; we need to do both – hit our numbers while also ensuring long-term stability of the business as a running enterprise. This we have clearly failed to do in many cases. And once you shift focus to the nitty gritty of business – the nuts n bolts, the basics – the need for a strong fundamental and theoretical basis will emerge ever more strongly. You don’t need an MBA to just hit numbers, to be brutally frank; but you need a good thinking and  trained MBA to be able to judge the medium and long-term impact of your short-term tactics even at field level, and  modulate your responses in the field accordingly.

  • CONCLUSION – INDUSTRY
  • ü Industry expects immediate numbers;
  • ü industry expects top performance without any time for learning; 
  • ü industry expects a softened person, whose edges have been rubbed off.
  • ü All three require training and experience.
  • ü You need people – so why not associate with idenitified universities – in Tier B and C towns and colleges as well and step in in a win-win situation?
  • ü Second, as a line manager myself – I too feel at risk when I used to go for a fresher; the risk to me personally, or my team targets, as well as the complete absence of a support mechanism or space in operation deny me the space to create my own strategies. {That is one reason why I feel this initiative has to be owned by the staff functions}
  • ü This, in a nutshell, is the gist of the problem on the company side, which is complex mutli-layered problem with no easy solutions…
CONCLUSION – COLLEGES

  • ü On the education side – they also need to do the same as above; they need to open up and admit lateral hires, as well as be more open to partnerpships with companies.
  • ü Create Intellectual Property of your own… invest in Research, papers, books creation on the Indian Market, and make them publicly available. Don’t treat them as classified secrets!
  • ü Revise the course to make it more contemporary
  • ü Increase the practical work importance, content and relevance so that students are in touch with reality!

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Snehwan – Placing Community Above Self

Published October 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

The location was not a place where you expect to learn a life lesson – it was the SILC Center in Pune, at the Learning & Development Rendezvous, an event of the L&D Global Pune Chapter, on the 8thof October; on the menu was an eclectic mix of a Power Negotiation Panel Discussion and a Leadership Masterclass; these are not things that lead to such esoteric things as Life Lessons – nonetheless, the surprise item floored me, and touched my heart… The Meeting With the founder of Snehvan


A SOFTWARE ENGINEER ON A DIFFERENT PATH
What do you do when you are a software engineer? Especially if you are from village? You go to the rarified environs of a Software company, and earn money and create a better material future for yourself and your family; even going abroad in a few cases, perhaps leaving India for good in some cases. These are stories you have read ad-nauseum in the news; you have read of the CEOs of American companies who left India, plastered all over the media, almost daily. Well, above them all, ahead of all us, stands tall and proud one man I met, or rather, I had the fortune of meeting – Mr Ashok Deshmane, who happens to be the founder of Snehvan


INTRODUCING SNEHWAN…
On a routine visit to his village, he saw something that changed his life… in his own words as reported in Sakal Times, “I visited the village for celebrating Diwali. The drought situation was at its peak, and many peope didn’t have any reason for celebration. I visited the places of farmers who commit suicide. Children of farmers had to leave their education due to extreme poverty. Some people were leaving villages and going to big cities in search of livelihood. In that process the children had to quit their education”
Now this is something some of us do note – But do nothing about it. The difference is that Mr Deshmane, and his friend Anil Kothe, decided to do something about it. Not meaningless words – and not just the sporadic donation; they decided to start a project called Snehvan. Again, going back to his reported words, “We decided to bring home the children from the families of farmers as well as labourers who were forced to migrate and children forced to leave education. Kothe has provided a 5-room house without rent for the project


Their website – I strongly suggest you visit and spend some time on it, and introspect – also forcefully makes this point; Scorching heat, lack of rain, drought is eating up the land and the result, giver of food, health and nutrition are giving up their lives. Hope against hope has given way to dire desperation. These are our farmers and their families, who have been plunged into a darkness and lack the basic needs of life. Nobody extends any respite for the poor families who are fighting a losing battle against the whim of nature. But what about their kids? Do they really deserve to be a part of this tragedy? Aren’t we able to give them a hand of care, love, safety, education and everything they deserve?     
Snehwan not just an initiation but a hand of स्नेह, Love and care for these destitute children. Its an oath which is taken to give a new ray of hope to those kids who belong from poor family or lost their parents in this drought. These kids are at a risk of being exposed to many threats and dangers like child labour, child trafficking, sexual abuse, extreme poverty, physical & mental abuse and homelessness. Its an initiative for those children who are not getting the light of learning due to growing turbulence in the surrounding environment. Snehwan endeavours to bring into the consciousness of the children their hidden potential and seeks deeper level of social transformation in them.
He himself experienced the hardships as a child, faced due to the poor economic conditions of family. He knows how it feels to live with the fear of losing his family, not having food for a day and selling off books for just few meals. He started working night shifts at his company so that he can dedicate his day time to work for the drought affected kids. He rescued 20 kids and given them shelter in Pune, but he realised just rescuing them is not enough. They deserve a better- life of dignity, a home filled with care and love, along with health, nutrition, education and vocational training facilities to fulfil their dreams.
PLACING COMMUNITY ABOVE SELF – LESSON FOR US ALL
There are some people in this world still present, who place community above self; Mr Ashok Deshmane, who is one such, actually quit his job and has dedicated his entire life to taking care of the education of the children of farmers who have been hit by tragedy; he is supported wholeheartedly in this life project by his wife and his parents, and his friend. I had the great fortune of spending some time with Mr Deshmane, and intend to visit his place, where he now takes care of 25 children. This software engineer, who could have had the material world at his feet – decided to do something about an issue  rather than watch from afar.
CURRENT DREAM
His current dream is to take this project even further… if you, the reader,  are interested, you can donate – links are present on the site {Disclaimer – I am not connected in any way to Snehwan, neither have they asked me to advertise, this is done just on the basis of the deep impression this man’s sacrifice has left on me. I have done what due diligence is feasible for me as of now, and am giving the results of my due diligence below, in the Bibliography}
IN CONCLUSION
In conclusion – I can only say here is a man who is actually contributing to the society in a practical way, sacrificing his time – or should I say, gifting them his and his family’s time, and is actually enjoying himself. In the process, he is also gifting back to society, and in a small way, is helping to make it a better place – especially the farmering segment, which – as my previous and ongoing series on profitability in agriculture reveals, needs all the help it can get. Finally, Mr Media, we read regularly of the people who have left India – how about treating us to such real stories of people in India who are helping to make India a much better place? Don’t they deserve much higher Media presence?  

 BIBLIOGRAPHY AND EXTERNAL LINKS:

Comprehensive Vs Bottom Up : A Tale Of Two Economic Ideologies

Published March 6, 2016 by vishalvkale

This is a conversation I had online with a college senior, and a person working extensively in a consultative position with SME companies at a senior level, with a pedigreed work experience at senior management levels. This conversation is between two people of completely varied economic ideologies, and I hope will provide a glimpse of an alternative path of development. This is a slightly different approach I am adopting, and hope that people can connect, as in my opinion it gives an interesting insight into diverse viewpoints; I know I learned a lot from this conversation, and hope others can also glean a lot…
The conversation links onward from my previous article wherein I had compared and analysed the Middle Class, wherein I had stated : “The cities may not like it, but there is nothing they can do about it. They are outnumbered 5.5 – 1 in Rural Urban Split, or perhaps nearer aproximately {from memory, could be off target} 9-to-1 in terms of income..” Excerpts from the conversation are given below : interested people can look up the full conversation on our open LinkedIn group Th!nking Indian :

THE CONVERSATION

Mr Amitabh D Sinha {Expert Service Culture, Business Strategy} : Vishal, as I had said right at the start, some much needed direction and I stand by that, but I also feel there isn’t enough substance for the euphoria.  I am also especially annoyed by your comment that the ‘the cities may not like it, but there is nothing they can do about it’. Let us understand we are talking about a single country, there isn’t and should not be a competition between urban and rural India – for god’s sake we have split this country into enough segments and sub-segments already, let’s not add another us Vs. them dimension needlessly.
Given the way this country needs massive urbanization if it is to survive and grow, I also think sentiments of comparison between the rural drive, MII and Digital India are irresponsible – none of them singly, can do what they can do collectively.
Me : This nation does not neet massive urbanisation; not yet anyway – and not for the next decade at least. It needs decent facilities in the villages, make them liveable it needs good primary schools, secondary schools in villages and talukas with good colleges in the Tehsils. It needs good road connectivity. It needs Primary Health Centers in each village, it needs functioning anganwaadis in each vilage, it needs seamless dependable connectivity with tehsil and districty headquarters at each village level. That is the first priority.
The cities, by comparison, have way more than enough, and are in paradise by comparison. Those smart cities, those bullet trains can wait for another ten years, maybe 15. We dont need them, we dont want them – and to be exceedingly blunt, we dont deserve them either. Agreed on MSME; that has to be the second pillar of the nation’s growth : as well as home grown organisations, purely Indian of whatever size as the third pillar. But, in order that benefits get to the innermost regions of India – the first pillar simply has to be agriculture.
This is good news for the cities as well; as industry after industry reaches saturation point in the cities, the new business can only come from the hinterlands and the villages. For that, they have to grow. If they do – the cities benefit in auto mode, as they produce the products that will be purchased by the increasing disposable income.
As regards allocation of resources, a 25% increase in layout to Agriculture is nothing to sneeze at; this is after accounting for the 15K Cr reallocation. This is a hefty incease, in addition to the increase in MNREGS, which gives clear signals for the direction the Governmnt is taking. They have no choice – either they cater to wherever the voters are, or they get tossed out in 2019. The writing is on the wall for them, sad to state.
I am not a socialist, neither am I advocating redistribution of wealth. I am just saying count the blessings we have rather than crying for what could have been. We – most of us – have the blessing of a splendid education {because our parents could AFFORD to send us there}. We should enjoy what we have – sure; that is our right as we have {most of us at any rate} worked hard for it.
But that is where I draw the line; while enjoying our success, let us not forget that not 5 feet away from our enjoyment is a destitute for whom our momentary pleasure is one month’s food. Keep a thought somewhere in our hearts for them.
Mr ADS : You’re not listening. No one is arguing for the trickle down effect theory – the less said about it the better. You’re right, we have finite resources. That’s where the rub is, NOT in how we distribute them, but how we plan to raise more. I am sick and tired of this ‘limited resource’ excuse, simply because I see NO effort to raise income, except through routes that are conventional, low yield and burdened.
You say, let’s face facts, Indian Urban & Rural are competing, my response is then we are doomed, because it’ll be a cold day in hell when either one alone will be able to drive this country’s progress – growth of one at the cost of the other is something we’ve seesawed at interminably, both in theory & policy and look where we are.
We need new thinking hats. We’re coming off almost 5 continuous years of crippled policy making (3 from UPA & 2 from NDA), we need to start solutioning, not merely ideating. I know there are elections ahead, but let’s ensure we have a nation first
We don’t need massive urbanization yet, not for another decade”. False. We need massive urbanization to start NOW, but not by increasing the urban slums around our 200 odd urban centres. We DO NOT need the Mumbai’s and Delhi’s to become bigger, we need to create smaller self-sustaining, contributing, urban and semi-urban centres. Let’s face it Vishal, if agriculture is ever to become a monetarily worthwhile occupation for the farmer, we NEED to solve the land parcel issue. The current population and possible productivity dynamic is unsupportable. It’s great to talk of doubling farmer income in 4 years, how about increasing farming income? I know you will understand what i mean by that.
That cannot be done unless rural youth migrates to NEW urban concentrations where they are NOT designated as unskilled labour, but as people whose skills are built and used to create wealth for them as well as the nation. That will take manufacturing – there is no other wealth creator is there?
Me : That solution you suggest is certainly doable; but not just yet. We only differ in the time scale. You say now, I say 5-10 years. The rural youth to qualify for jobs in the manufacturing sector will need to be educated, that isnt happening. As I look at later in my budget analysis tonight, that is the one sector that remains a cause of deep concern, one where I can see no action happening anywhere. We will first have to invest in education at village and taluka level – note my points made above, before we embark on the path you and others are suggesting.
As regards size of land holding – certainly I understand. At 1.39 Ha average land size and upwards of 76% Small and Marginal Farmers, with 90% {I think} holding less than 2Ha, that is a concern – true. Yet, strangely, these small and micro farms are more productive than larger holdings.
Agriculture requires Seeds, Water, Land Quality, Water Quality, Credit, Market Access, Post Harvest Technology, on a priority…
Mr ADS : There comes a time Vishal to ignore percentages and go after hard numbers. So when you tell me a guy who earns less than 40,000 per annum as usable income is going to have it doubled in 4 years, my mind tracks that against expected consumer price rises @ 10-12% p.a. and the fact that his minimal need for some level of security is more than 1,00,000 today, I am less than ecstatic.
Similarly when you say, a 25% hike in rural outlay is nothing to sneeze at, all I can say is, percentages are for reports. Let’s talk hard numbers in terms of what sells for how much and therefore how far will the money go. My simple submission is that if looks as if it will not go as far as we need to, we can’t throw up our hands in despair and whine ‘but this is all we have’, nor can we sneak a piece from one plate and drop it on another and pat ourselves on the back for a good job well done. We have to find ways to earn more. & We have to find them NOW
Me : Sure size of holding is a concern – but not a priority. Right now priority is education and the issues I list above. The NSDC, {http://www.skilldevelopment.gov.in/aboutus.html} which is a landmark initiative, will take time to make its impact. We have no choce other than to wait in the interim
In order that farmer and farming income increase, you have to tackle irrigation first – the most visible and immediate impact {to the tune of upto 100-300% depending on other factors} is by irrigation. But that leads to other issues, thus you also have to simultaneously tackle water and land quality, seeds, pests, credit and market issues as well. Most of these are now being looked at, which is what makes me euphoric.
I think the solutions are being implemented in the now – except education, which is a deep and lasting worry flashpoint. With inreasing incomes in Rural Sector, deepening connectivity, dismantling of APMC {or rather, changes to APMC}, Credit on the board – the income should rise in the next few years, and that is welcome.
But without education, there is only so far we can go…
Mr ADS : Why must government wait to do everything itself? Push for a larger manufacturing base and let small industry take care of vocational education that creates jobs for the rural youth as well as paths for aspiration. It is industry that needs the skilled resources, free up some breathing space for industry, stimulate growth factors and industry will create jobs because that will become a bottleneck they can solve.
Please remember that SME in India has grown despite a hostile, inhospitable terrain wherein they have at best been ignored and usually exploited worse than slaves. That SME has still grown is a testament to solution finding ability – partnering them makes sense, pushing them into corners and creating a paradigm where they have no incentive for growth is not only ridiculous, but downright suicidal.
Agriculture requires Seeds, Water, Land Quality, Water Quality, Credit, Market Access, Post Harvest Technology, on a priority… Agreed on every single point. What agriculture DOES NOT need is bottlenecks created by governments trying to do everything by themselves. The government needs to become aggregator rather than sole executor and facilitator rather than regulator. Market access, PHT, Seed quality and Irrigation are definitely areas where the government can invite and leverage non-government players both for knowhow and financial capability.
Credit is the bugbear I agree, yet credit policy is virtually ignored in budget after succeeding budget, citing Basle and various other reasons. Why is Indian bank lending still operating on principles and practices that may have been contemporary 35 years ago, but certainly never any time since?
You said this budget was ideation, unfortunately you’re right, 3 chances gone, 2 to go, we’re still awaiting a gameplan….
Me : Amitji, your take on taxation is fully warranted and accurate; lower taxes make sense for everyone. But is that currently doable? With the taxation returns being around 3 Million, large – majority, in fact – are currently not paying direct taxes. Therein lies the rub. We first need to broaded the tax net, and bring in all people in it. Then we can look at further rationalisation.
As it is, the current situation is far better than what it used to be, that I am sure you will agree with. One of the biggest challenges our country faces is the spectre of black money, and the attendant challenges this poses. With the direct tax net being so narrowly defined, how is any other course feasible? Arent we all to blame – as per turn our eyes the other way on this issue?
On the aspect of the MSME, I would be the last person to argue with you; having had practical work experience in small companies, and a wide-spectrum exposure to the MSME in one particular industry in North and West India. MSME is a segment that needs support. I am always reminded of an outstanding I had with an SME that had its production lines shut due to lack of credit and the attendant inability to pay for raw material from Vendors like me.
Honestly, I did not spot anything too exciting on the MSME front, although I could be wrong as I focussed more on rural sector. I will go through the precise recommendations as I write my Budget review on that segment.  That said, MSME segment also needs to look at its own self in a mirror and reform itself from within if they are to attract talent and retain them. One of the biggest challenges for them is the inability to attract and enthuse mainstream people from organised industry and use their organisational skills and talent…
The Government has rolled out credit targets for the priority sector, and that is a ray of hope, but I do not recall much else in that realm. I could be wrong, but that is what I currently recall.

CONCLUSION :

I have edited large parts of the conversation, which is rather long; the full conversation can be found on the featured post of Th!nking Indian. I would especially love it if people can focus on the highlighted and bold points raised by Mr ADS, which are indeed thought provoking. He consistently has been at centre point, and arguing for increased focus on several parameters where focus is required : SMEs, Raising internal resources, no need for raising rural – urban divide issue; the comments also highlight two diametrically opposite ideologies : Rural and Bottom up from my side versus Comprehensive from Mr ADS… Is the comprehensive doable? Further conversation with him should give a better idea… stay connected

EDUCATION, POLITICS – AND PATRIOTISM

Published February 28, 2016 by vishalvkale

PREAMBLE AND PERSONAL THOUGHTS

Recents events have brought students and universities {well, one particular university at least} to the forefront of the public discourse and media attention, alongwith all its sad and regrettable consequents; this has given rise to yet another impassioned debate in Social Media, Media as well as normal homes  – with both the Pro BJP and the anti BJP lobbies again rising to the occasion, as it were. FB posts, Whatsapp updates in support of the BJP, or questioning it are the order of the day once again, after a short breather…
Next, the Government : I am a middle roader. I criticize where criticism is warranted, praise where praise is due. I have begun to note a clear polarisation of camps into pro and anti BJP, and that makes me highly uncomfortable; both camps claiming the other is wrong, and both sides being demonstrably and completely wrong in at least some of their contentions. Having been questioned by close friends and family on this, I intend to keep my peace. The way forward cannot be arguments with the people you love. Some of my readers have stated I am dodging the issue…
What you call dodging is in reality steering clear of issues where no clear evidence is available for me to take a defined position; that is why I have avoided the specific issue of Mr Kanhaiyya, and have transposed it into the larger College issue. I do not have access to information that enables me to take a stand, and taking a position based on opinionated Media peices is not me. Neither is such a position fair, nor is it desirable.

THE EPISODE

On what evidence are we saying Kanhaiyya is guilty? Conversely, on what evidence are we saying he is innocent? I have seen nothing that confirms either way. If he is guilty, frankly, as a proud Indian, I stand solidly with the pro-BJP camp on this. No one  can be allowed to shout anti-India slogans, and that is my stated position on this : note the the clear and big “if”
Conversely, if he is innocent, {as well as the others}, then he should be exonerated. Then the public will be justified in asking the Government for answers on the episode – not before. I can raise many questions – droves of them – on either side of the coin, none of which has satisfactory answers. Thus, if I am to state an opinion basis available data that I have run across, it would be erroneous.  If he is innocent, far more good would be done by first approaching in a calm manner, laying the complete facts before the public…
It would be really tragic if he turns out to be innocent; that I readily grant. Then, the questions will be asked. The question is how can I as an individual help in such a scenario, given I dont know him, or anything about him? Answer : keeping my peace, hoping in and trusting the Judiciary, and God. Time will tell. It would be a capital mistake to fan emotions by taking any stance in the absence of direction and information. That way lies a path none of us want to take…

 

THE LARGER QUESTION OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

 

HISTORY : LETS US MOVE ON

I draw your attention to Mrs Irani’s speech, specifically the third part on youtube. Watch it carefully – not for her intonations, and skills – but for the facts she states. She raises several interesting – deeply interesting – points. I would rather you read it than listen; I prefer reading speeches minus the emotion that distorts understanding. Try and answer those points: Mahishasur, Dalit, Aryan, Aurangzeb, Shivaji and others; all making reference to History. That is one. Then look at the books she shows used in our classrooms, or were used at any rate. That is two.
Moving on – there are two sides : or rather three. History,  Common Sense, and Politics. Regarding History and its related matters, it would be best for me, as well as others, to maintain silence, at least on matters with modern relevance, as these have many parameters than need negotiation, and is thus beyond the scope or recommendation of a blog without a proper detailed study. {Look at my history articles to get an idea of what a study entails; and such dicey matters require far more solid research before any attempt at penning an opinion can be made}

PATRIOTISM AND EDUCATION

Much has been said about nationalism and patriotism; you regard Universities as places of Patriotism? The people who run away from India, change citizenship come from our universities, dont they? What are we doing wrong in our education system? Are we creating Indians, or are we creating people who place self above nation,  who run away, people for whom professional achievement is above national purpose?
The ones who choose self above nation, are ALL highly educated. How many IITians have joined the Army, pray tell? {Just an example}. So yes, the ones who run away DO come from Universities, and . the damage from these has never been calculated; if it were done, I for one would not be surprised if the number beats hollow any benefits accrued, and then some. But let us leave this line of thought here, lest we digress from the topic at hand.
Sure, the Universities produce patriots as well; I could name them at length, for years and years, the list is so long. But few of these are patriots because of what they learnt in college. Statement of simple fact. Do we teach nationalism, patriotism, tales of sacrifice and courage in our Colleges, outside of History Graduation? We dont. QED.
Why do you attend college? To study, get an education – or to indulge in sloganeering? I too have been to college, and never did anything of the sort. Why are politics allowed within the colleges is not the point; what the hell are students doing is the point. I dont buy the nonsense of student activism; students are meant to study, play and get skilled for the nation – not indulge in politics, in my humble opinion
It is for this reason I have a total lack of connect with any students who indulge in this nonsense on any side of the debate. Sorry. Our parents dont send us to college, sacrificing sweat, blood and toil for us to scream slogans against real or imagined injustices. Not done. Period; Try doing politics in your offices, and see how long you survive! Open Challenge!
Was there over-reaction? Maybe. Were they guilty? No idea; on balance – unlikely, but am no expert. Did they deserve the public thrashing? Obviously, no. That does NOT absolve them in my mind in soiling the halloed place of learning we should rightly be calling a Gurukul, a place where we should be on our knees in front of The Goddess Saraswati {for Sanaatanis} … and giving our thanks for giving us this opportunity that was not given to more than 70% other Indians!
My views may not be shared by you; fine by me. But to me a place of learning isnt a bloody political battlefield, but a place next only to a Temple, a place of dedication and worship no less than a Temple. As a matter of fact, to quote my friend and senior Amitabh Sinha, Vishal, if you’re a Sanatani – as you claim you are – you know that a temple is anywhere where the Sanatani performs his karm pooja. So when you say the University is ‘next only to a temple’ I’m afraid you make a mistake. A University IS a temple for it is here where the teacher and the taught both offer their karm pooja. Is this the way to behave in a temple? Othermay have their views, but this doesn’t fit in mine. Go ahead, Call me an idealist…
{For the record : Me and Amit Sir have our differences of opinion, and the above quote is part of a much longer argument or discussion, with all its varied mutual disagreements}
We scream blue murder just on the question of flying the beloved Tricolor above our universities! The thankless people who go away, after feasting on scarce tax-payers money, scarce seats : where are they from? The UNIVERSITIES. What value and moral education is imparted? Lessons on patriotism, and the sacrifices people have done so that these students can study? This isnt taught – and that is fine. So, by corollary, how can politics be acceptable? First introduce value education, nation concepts as a part of the curricula, and THEN think of politics.
Sure politics has a place in every feature in life; but not active politics. Therein lies the difference. At best, places of learning can be places where opinions are formed, to be expressed later in more mature fora; but wasting the time of your Guru, your teachers, the nation, your parents is not done. Can you hold such enclaves in the workplace? Why not? Then how is something not allowed in the office be allowed in the Temple of Education? We cant have double standards!
Would the Army allow such sloganeering? Why not? Would Infosys? Brittannia? Nestle? Hero? Parle? TCS? TISCO? Tata Steel? Godrej? Bajaj? Reliance Group? Cello?  What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. As it isnt allowed, obviously there is some very practical reason for it: call it what you will. What are we doing in places of education indulging in something that 95+% of the time will have zero positive career impetus, and will in fact, as has proven to be the case, become a major career hindrance?

I can only indulge in a fervent and innocent hope that this incident is a one-off, does not represent the trend in our colleges and Universities, that 95%+ of our educational institutions are actually free from political interference in a major way at least insofar as performance of the core function of imparting knowledge to students is concerned… it may be an idealist hope, sound far-fetched… but then, optimists and realists have never changed the world…

Participative Growth – The Need For A 3-Pronged Approach

Published February 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

It has been stated that Industry level growth is the key, the answer to India’s many woes, that industrialisation and its attendant advantages will ensure growth eventually percolates to all levels of society. The caveat in that line of thought is “Eventually” : just how long is eventually supposed to mean? How many lives and generations will have to suffer the pangs of poverty till that eventuality transpires? And, what do we do in the interim?
These people are equal to us, the privileged class – the ones with education and great {or good or even average} well paying jobs. They are our equals in every single way; they have the same rights as us, they have the same dreams and desires as us. The luck of birth, and the chance of education that has been provided us has ensured we live well, by the grace of God. Granted that some among the poorer classes do manage to break the shackles and grow out of poverty; but does that mean we forget the rest of them?
There is a tendency, a rather unfortunate tendency, among the educated classes to equate GDP growth and Industrialisation with the concept of solutions to poverty. That is unfortunate; granted that it is one of the factors that lead to resolution – but this path does not take the full picture into consideration. That Industrialisation is needed is a given; again, a correct observation. I dont differentiate between manufacturing or service here – the creation of options that can be filled by educated people is a needed reality, one which is not upto to speed in the current economy. But who will benefit from this Industrialisation?
The educated people – that is who. The ones with a professional college degree will get the best jobs; the ones with some basic college degree will land jobs and careers that ensures a stable decent life for them and their families; the high-schoolers will get the next level of vacancies; the rest will make do with poorly paid menial jobs and temporary jobs. Some will take advantage of become entrepreneurs, unlocking further jobs and careers for people – but entrepreneurship also generally requires education and a defined skill-set, although service sector entrepreneurship is a different ball-game altogether.
The problem is that the current generation of the poorest segments just cannot afford education for their children; so the question of them benefiting immensely {beyond labour jobs, often poorly paid} does not arise. It only increases the gap; this does not mean we dont industrialise; this does create jobs – even though they are poorly paid ones at the bottom of the pyramid. The key is get out of this vicious circle of poverty. That can only happen throughthe enabler of education, nothing else.
Industrialisation in such an atmosphere does create jobs at all skill levels, but the better jobs that can ensure a proper life are reserved for the educated, as these require certain skills. So how do the poorest and the poor break the barrier? It is manifestly infeasible. There have been jobs created – Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Professionals, even Clerical Jobs, Service jobs – a whole new paradigm of change has happened with economic growth. That is beyond debate.  Poverty has also reduced; people have gotten better off, No one can argue with that; the evidence is there for all to see. But we cannot rest on our laurels; not when you see the remaining poor all around you.
Menial jobs for the uneducated and low clerical jobs for the less educated {upto 5-10 years schooling} have been created; these just dont pay enough to ensure a full education to the children often enough. The pace of creation of jobs has also not kept up with the demand, So how to get out of this? Change is happening; but the pace of change is slow; almost too slow. That is the main point of concern for us as a people. We need to increase the pace of change, the pace of growth – as well as ensure that it percolates to the most hapless people in our midst. Like us, they are equal citizens, and we should do far more to ensure they grow.
How do you ensure that jobs lead to development at all levels, without education? How do you ensure that education without jobs will lead to happiness? Both are recipes for trouble; that said, it is true that the latter – education without jobs – can be more harmful as it has the potential to unleash frustration among the educated unemployed. But does that mean we forget the benefits education brings, and place education on a back burner, and not on centre-stage, as the cynosure of all our efforts to modernise our nation and our economy?
What is needed is a balanced approach  – one that caters to Industrialisation, as well as a full scale war-like approach towards education. While the former is happening, the latter is not yet in the public imagination, or Government policy, judging from media space as well as action on Start-ups, Economy, FDI, GDP, Industrialisation etc. Even this two-pronged approach has its disadvantage – it leaves out all of the Agricultural sector from its ambit, where the farmers and the labourers just aren’t earning enough to ensure anything other than a basic life.
And the Rural community, where the farmers and the landless labourers are concentrated, form the bulk of India. We, the Urban Indians, are the exceptions; they are representative – as they are in a majority. High time that we Urban Indians faced upto that hard reality!
And that is yet another reason why Agriculture and its problems need to be defined properly, and solved at the earliest; that can unlock earning potential faster than any other avenue or venture available to us as a people. That will also tend to reverse the trendline we saw in my previous article – with rising imports increasingly becoming a reality

We need to enable the government to allocate more attention to the development of Agriculture than it currently does; that can only happen if the voice of the people reaches the government in a democratic fashion, in Media articles, through people’s letters, small {tiny} forums like this blog and its readers and so on and so forth. Urban India needs to realise and understand that improving Agriculture will lead to improvement of the Urban scenario as well, that it is far more important to elevate our villages than it is to build Urban Infrastructure, given the paucity of resources we have! What these initiatives can be forms the next part of this series on participative growth…

Rural India : How Can We Ensure Participative Growth?

Published February 7, 2016 by vishalvkale

Continuing the series of thoughts on farming, let us  look at some real examples of human tragedy – not suicide, but examples of poverty in farming and rural India to put things in perspective, and look at the scale of the problems facing us as a nation. We in Urban India wax eloquent on industry, technology developments; the question is how to give amelioration in the rural tracts of the country? How can we ensure participative growth? I am not looking at the economic argument of trickle down versus inclusive growth; I am looking at the human side of things – which, in my opinion, is the only way to look at things.

That is a question that requires an understanding of the scale and nature of the problem confronting us. In a previous article, I had listed the problems facing agriculture; and had also analysed profitability from farming Wheat and Paddy for a period of seven years. Those articles list a series of research reports that provide hard data on the abysmal status of the farming community as a general statement;  specifically the Small and Marginal Farmers {and the landless}

To quote from that article : “Now take a look at the absolute numbers of profit that are coming out. It is ranging from a loss of 1400 Rs per crop, to a profit of 9700 approximately per crop. What can a family do in that meagre amount? “ That is one aspect of the problem; the second aspect is the number of Small and Marginal Farmers in India, with holdings of less than 2Ha {avg holding size is 1.41Ha approximately, from memory} – these number more than 70% of total farm holdings, which are in the region of 116 Million, and might even be 80%+ of holdings. We are looking at a huge number:  90 Million Families. Add to that landless agricultural labour, and the reality stares at you in its stark and naked truth : We are talking of 100s of Millions of people.

You might state – with some degree of accuracy – that industrial development will create opportunities and jobs, that slow change will trickle down to all levels. There are two major objections to this from a human perspective. The first challenge is how will uneducated people, people with limited skills outside farming take true advantage of industrial growth? And are the opportunity creations in the rural areas – or are they in the cities? Are we capable of dealing with increasing inward migration and pressure on the cities, or are we creating urban slums? Will the displaced labour get an improved life?

Second level of the problem in this approach is, trickle down takes place over a period of time; that it is effective in eradicating poverty over time is not in debate, under the proper set of conditions. What happens to the people in the meantime? That is why a large level of intervention and help is required by these people from the State as well as the Haves of society. This is so that they can live a decent life, and enable to them to provide health and education to their children. These are the “proper set of circumstances” I am referring to – are we, as a people, truly and really focussing on education and on health?

How can people move from Farming to jobs without a decent education and a functioning and delivering health scenario? Without access to affordable health services of a standard, and access to affordable schooling of a proper education standard that helps in developing the demographic dividend we are so fond of extolling? Thus, if you have focus on Urban India, on Infrastructure {which also benefits rural India}, without an adequate focus on education and health – where is the guarantee that development will percolate faster than what is the current rate?

Given the vagaries of farming in India as a profession and its attendant challenges {my post}, it is a requirement that a helping hand be extended to the farming community for us as a people; Urban Indians would do well to understand that rural India and farmers in particular are facing a series of challenges that have led to serious problems and losses for them as a community, especially in the immediately preceding few years, as covered in my previous article.

The challenge is misunderstood to be one of creating jobs and opportunities – it is also one of creating the right conditions that will enable the rural community to actively partake in developmental opportunities cutting across income lines. That means education & a decent livelihood for their current status that can enable them to attend school. With the terrifyingly low income levels that we have seen, how can a father ensure a decent education and health to his children  and his family?

Are we, as a nation, giving adequate attention to education and to health? Ask that question of yourselves…

To understand,  read this hard hitting article with live examples of the reality of Rural India : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/bundelkhand-this-year-nothing-has-been-sown/

AKASH, 12
Akash says he stayed back because he did not want to miss school. “I don’t want to be a labourer. I want to get a government job,” he smiles. But for the Class VI student, life has changed. His grandfather is 65, and the 12-year-old must sweep the floor, prepare the hearth in the kitchen with cowdung cakes, and often make chapatis before he leaves for school at 8 am. “I know how to knead atta,” he says. “Today there were no vegetables, so we made chutney.” Chaudhary Sundar Singh Inter-College where he studies is about 10 km away, and he cycles there. When he returns at 4 pm, the chapatis from the morning serve as meal. “This year nothing has been sown, increasing the migration to other states,” says pradhan Raju Dixit, adding that many in Mahoba have also disowned their cattle…

JAVITRI, 18
Just before Diwali last year, trucks queued up outside Chichara village on NH 86, just like the past few years. Among the villagers who left on it for brick kilns of Rajasthan were parents of 18-year-old Javitri. Last year the crops on their one-bigha land were damaged by rains, and this time, the fields were not sown because of lack of water. Village pradhan Narendra says nearly 30 per cent of the residents of Chichara, that has a population of about 3,500, have left in search of work. Villagers say earlier only the poor migrated, now even landowning communities do. “Even Thakurs and Brahmins have left,” says Dinesh Dwivedi.  Javitri, who dropped out of school in 2014 after Class XI as her family couldn’t afford her studies, lives alone in the family’s two-room home now. Her aunt and uncle live next door…
DHALCHAND PATEL, 46
Dhalchand Patel’s father Chaturbhuj had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh using his Kisan credit card four years ago. The Patels own 10 acres in Ghutai village of Mahoba. Chaturbhuj died in summer last year, leaving behind a family of six and the unpaid loan. On December 21, Dhalchand, 46, was found dead on a railway track nearby. His family members say he had got a notice to attend a Lok Adalat in connection with the loan. “The night before his death, he spoke to me about the loan. He was worried,” says Pratap Singh, Dhalchand’s uncle and the village pradhan

RAM BABU UPADHYAY, 40
In Kalipahadi village near Mahoba town, Ram Babu Upadhyay, 40, had been struggling to irrigate his eight bigha land, on which he had sown wheat. On January 21, while discussing his problem, Upadhyay fainted, and died before reaching hospital. “The wheat crop is our only hope,” says his widow Pinki, holding their two-year-old son Manav. Most of the tubewells have dried up here, with handpumps only providing enough water for drinking. Most of the seven rivers in Mahoba are also dry. The biggest irrigation project, Arjun Sahayak Pariyojana, inaugurated in 2009, is still not complete. The budget was recently doubled to around Rs 1,600 crore. The Rs 7,266-crore Bundelkhand Package, also announced in 2009, kept aside Rs 3,506 crore for the UP districts. It has proved ineffectual in this round of droughts

RAMESHWAR PRASAD RAJPUT , 59
Wearing a torn shirt and trousers, Rajput says his condition has only worsened since. “Both my sons work as labourers. I work as a security guard in Surat. My daughter-in-law’s two deliveries cost me Rs 80,000, and I had to pawn my four bighas..

Each case a testament of the status of Rural India, although these cases are from Bundelkhand, They, each of them, give an indication of the apathy in our society, of societal ills, of lack of access to education, and of distress. The cases tell of societal pressure, of failure of crops, of migration, of deep distress… how can these people or their wards partake in development that we are so fond of extolling? That is why, these people need a helping hand, and that is why Governments regardless of party lines give that helping hand. They need it, they need our help…


Not everything in life can be a simple profit-and-loss statement. Some things are beyond that, the call of humanity. Rather than question the aid given to them without suggesting alternative solutions, let us introspect as to how can we turn around the situation? How can we ensure participative growth? It is easy to state that curtail this and that; rather than do that,  the question should be, is and remains : how can we ensure skills, education, a decent life to our fellow citizens? 

The Absence Of A National Dialogue

Published January 19, 2016 by vishalvkale

The Absence Of A National Dialogue
The title will surprise many, but that is precisely my contention; that we lack a national dialogue; a consistent, strong and clear discussion on the matters that really matter to us as a people. We are very quick to discuss on Social Media issues relating to Religion, BJP Government, AAP {particularly denouncing it}, Rahul Gandhi / Congress, Arvind Kejriwal, Indians Abroad… but are almost totally silent on any number of issues that are far more relevant, important and critical to us


AGRICULTURE

You will not find many posts, mentions on agrarian distress, drought conditions in several districts, condition of Small and Marginal Farmers, lack of farm profitability, abysmally low farm-gate prices, lack of facilities in the agrarian belts, the problems faced by the farming community etc. And yet, even the smallest step taken for the emancipation of the above problems gets highlighted excessively.

That the positives are highlighted is welcome – but this happens without an attendant and equally vocal attention to the problems being faced by farmers. Therein lies the problem; you cannot have a complete picture of the ground reality without a full picture. What we see is an abundance of noise and adulation on steps taken for farmers – but almost zero attention to the reality of the farming scene in India…



THE ECONOMY

Similar is the case with the Economy; let me take just one small example to make my point. The structure of the Indian Economy is skewed heavily towards the Small and Medium Enterprise; as previously pointed out on my blog, the contribution of the unorganised sector to the Indian Economy is in excess of 40%, in the range of 45% – 60% {Refer the review of the book India, Uninc by Prof Vaidyanathan for full details}

And yet, a glance at the Pink Papers, Media, Social Media would completely belie the above in its totality. Rare is the article that goes deep into this aspect of our economy, which employs more people, contributes more to the GDP as well as to savings, and is the engine of India’s growth as well as consumption and savings juggernaut. Anything to do with Corporate Business gets immediate attention; is analysed threadbare – but not on this most vital of sectors of our Economy.

Its needs, wants, bottlenecks and requirements never reach the educated classes, So much so – it took me, an MBA with a regular reading of News and Books well over 14 years work experience to get introduced to the scale & scope of the Unorganised Sector and its contribution – and even that took a book that I spotted in a mall {mentioned above}



EDUCATION & HEALTH

This stands as the most neglected sector of all, with near-zero attention; in my opinion – even more neglected than Agriculture. The fact is that we spend very little {as a % of GDP allocation in Budget} on Education & Health gets a mention – but few people question this. Conversely, politicization of education – by any party – gets headline news for weeks – but the lack of attention to both these factors nationally hardly merits a few erudite articles and analyses in some select serious media outlets!

We rarely stop to think how can we improve the lot of the people among the not-so-lucky; how can they partake in the improved opportunities that growth brings without good health and education! Is it due to the blind spot we have – being educated, living in Urban Agglomerations, with good jobs {mostly} – leading us to forget that there are others who don’t have the advantages we have had due to our lucky parentage, which is strictly speaking an accident of birth?


THE CONCLUSION

Each of the points above ideally needs a dedicated article unto itself to do it justice; furthermore, there are other relevant issues that can be included in the list that get ignored. The list above is neither representative, nor is it exhaustive. Sadly, basis what we have seen and read till date on Media and Social Media both – you have to hunt for updates and information relating to these vital aspects of our nation.

How is Religion, Pro- or Anti-BJP, Pro- or anti-AAP etc going to influence the direction of policies in any way? Regardless of how much social media noise is generated, regardless of how much attention and coverage these generate, how is it going to help in any practical and definable way? In fact, in some cases it stokes arguments and verbal duels as can be seen in comments on facebook updates {as an example}

If we can focus so much attention on these frankly irrelevant and unimportant matters, post updates on them in Social Media, attempt to influence your readers, friends etc, or inform them – then why cant we also show due interest to real matters, matters of far greater relevance? We can update a deluge of updates praising one Government or the other, and yet maintain complete silence on real matters – Education, Agrarian Distress, Rural-Urban Gap, Health, Indian Armed Forces, Economy?

Similarly in the Media, one can read threadbare and in painstaking detail {or watch to be fair} news relating to so-called “current events”, in minute-by-minute breaking news and updates – but almost nothing by relative comparison on these real issues. How difficult could it be, just increasing space and/or time for analytical articles and snippets on these real issues, factors that will determine the pace of our growth?

What is happening is that as a result, there is a complete of a national dialogue around the real issues that matter to us as a people, as a nation. The lack of awareness of the people at large {basis personal experience of my own self} leads to a total silence on these matters, compared to a deluge of information on the other matters, which are relatively minor – and some might even be called debatable as being “matters” of relevance.

If the belief in the people is that by sharing updates on Religion and related matters, Historical wrongs, Pro- or anti- Government, Personality-specificity etc – one can influence public opinion, then the same holds true for the real issues. And if you don’t believe in the power of Media, then why share on your social pages, and why write or create on your Media?

And, if this medium does hold power – both Media as well as Social Media – then what does our silence on the real issues say about us as a people? Why are we sharing and reading avidly on Religion, Political Parties – but ignoring the really important issues, issues that are vitally important to the nation? What does this behaviour say about us?