Doctorates for all: Mammootty, Shilpa, Akshay … Sunday, Jan 4 2009 



It is becoming easier to get a doctorate from a University in India these days. Anyone can aspire for a doctorate these days as the standards are falling.

Now that doctorates are essential for promotions in colleges, doctorates are being awarded by the universities at unprecedented rates. If you look at the theses, not many merits a second look. It is no surprise that the contribution of our universities to knowledge is insignificant. India would have progressed faster if our universities were free from politics and devoted themselves to pursuit of knowledge.

However, the trend is in the opposite direction. Appointments to the universities have become political. People have also started getting doctorates on political grounds. The trend had started possibly in Tamil Nadu with M. G. Ramachandran being showered upon with honorary doctorates by universities. The Madras University has so far awarded about 400 honorary doctorates to various personalities including Sonia Gandhi.

Foreign universities are also not much behind in awarding honorary doctorates to politicians and film stars. The awardees include Karnataka Minister B S Yeddyurappa (Saginaw Valley State University of Michigan) and actors Akshay Kumar (University of Windsor, Canada) and Shilpa Shetty (Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom). So, one should not find fault with the University of Kerala granting a doctorate to actor and chairman of the pro-left Malayalam Communications Mammootty, before they gave anything like that to Aravindan or Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

The question is whether these doctorates bring any honour to the recipients. It definitely brings disrepute to the universities. When a university bestow a honorary degree, it should bring honour to itself.

Tailpiece: Higher ups in the army has reportedly decided to give the title of Lieutenant Colonel in the territorial army to actor Mohanlal for acting roles of army officer in two films. By that reckoning, how many actors would have to be given honorary IAS and IPS? When even officials conferred with IAS and IPS suffer a lower status, what would be the fate of honorary IAS and IPS officers? Hypothetical questions? Who knows when the private staff of the Ministers would be granted such titles? The next turn then will be that of actors.

Terrorist threat against Sonia Gandhi and quality of education. Sunday, Nov 2 2008 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi

The police recently arrested an engineering student from Kochi (Kerala) for sending an email message to President of India  threatening Congress president Sonia Gandhi and bomb blasts in Kochi and Delhi.

The accused was a B. Tech. student of Cochin University of Science and Technology, and the incident points to poor quality of education in our universities not to speak of colleges.

The boy had sent the email not with the intention of killing anybody but to take revenge on a girl who had rejected his love.

He did not know that his email could easily be traced to him. Though he is a B. Tech student, he seems not to have even preliminary knowledge of how the Internet works- the system of protocols and things like header information and logs. If he had known that, he would not have taken the risk of sending an email in such a silly manner. It is also clear that he does not know anything about proxy servers and the like which makes tracing of messages difficult. (In this case, use of proxy servers would have only delayed the investigation. As the threat is against a VIP, even those running proxy servers abroad would disclose the logs. )

mailThe student had used an email id he had created with personal information about his girl friend. He thought that the police would go after the girl when they find out the name and account details.  Apparently, he did not have a good appreciation of timestamps appearing on the emails. (The headers have information about the path taken by the message from server to server with time stamp). Otherwise, he would have known the police would check where the girl was at the time of sending the message. (And probably where he was; even if they had not traced him using the Internet protocol address of the sending machine).

All these point to the fact that the students are not learning even basics of Internet technology in their classes. Even if they do, it is only theory that they fail to connect to their applications. It is high time that we revamped our education system. Not only engineering students, but other students too should have basic knowledge about the working of the Internet. This would save them from committing foolish crimes. (Unless the courts are lenient, the student could attract a sentence of up to ten years in prison.) More than that, it could help to save them from identity thieves, scamsters behind the Nigerian email scam and other scams, spoofing and much more. And the police would not have to go after inconsequential threats.

Indian Minister Arjun Singh’s plight Monday, May 12 2008 

Minister of Human Resources Development of India Arjun SinghIndian Minister for Human Resources Development Arjun Singh should be sympathised for his plight. When he suggested that Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi should be the Prime Minister, the All India Congress Committee termed him as sycophant. So, he decided to have some constructive criticism of the party to change his image. He commented that party affairs were in disarray for want of consultations at higher levels of the party. This unleashed a bigger barrage though he may probably have been telling the truth.

The party leadership chose the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Vayalar Ravi from Kerala to respond to Mr. Singh’s comments. It was the ‘right choice’ as Mr. Ravi is distant in every sense from Arjun Singh. He has no debts to repay to the former Chief Minister from Madhya Pradesh.

So, Mr. Ravi pounced on him harshly saying that Mr. Singh was trying to blackmail the party and that his statements were colourful lies. Mr. Singh has once again to express his loyalties to the Gandhi family and declare that the chapter is closed.

Well, what is behind all this noise? Many in Janapath circle feel that Mr. Singh is actually angling for the top post. They see a plot behind the energy that Mr. Singh had been displaying in recent weeks. What Mr. Singh failed to remember is this. In Congress, it does not matter whether you are a sycophant, sincere or loyal to the party, what matters is whether the Gandhi family considers you loyal. Mr. Singh is failing to pass this test, of late.

Tailpiece: Is Mr. Singh fit to be the Prime Minister of a country with a lot of people living below the poverty line? Remember that he was not sympathetic to Bhopal tragedy victims in his comments.

The Rahul Gandhi stamp Monday, Apr 7 2008 

Newly inducted Ministers of Indian Cabinet on Arpil 6, 2008Another reshuffle takes place in Indian Cabinet with induction of two young Minister’s of State. Kerala’s Valayar Ravi got additional portfolio of Parliamentary Affairs, increasing his political stock.

Initial channel reports were that it was a joint operation by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Their signatures of both were visible, they said.

Understandable, though appointment of Cabinet colleagues is the prerogative of the Prime Minister (long back). But this morning, the media are saying that the reshuffle has the “stamp” of Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent of Sonia Gandhi.

The media are not quite clear on how or in what way. Is it because there are two ‘sonrises’ in the Cabinet with the induction of the sons of veteran Congress leader Jitendra Prasada and late Madhavarao Scindia into the Cabinet? Both Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada are young men with Doon School and Merill Lynch background. Are we to see the ‘stamp’ in the background of the new inductees? Or can Rahul Gandhi have his stamp in the Cabinet by merely getting two of his chums into the Cabinet? No questions please, you have to believe the media.

Mr. Singh should not be knowing whether to laugh or cry. The Cabinet still needs his signature. But the stamp is that of Rahul Gandhi when it comes to the reshuffle!

Youth Congress talent search Sunday, Apr 6 2008 

The hand symbol of Indian National Congress

The Youth Congress president was on a mission to Kerala: talent search. The youth wing of the national party is practically inactive in several States. Hence was the need for the national leaders to visit the States in search of identifying suitable leaders for the State units.

In the olden days, youth congress leaders used to be elected from the lower levels and many an eminent leaders had come up that way. This is no more the order of the day. The Youth Congress president and other office bearers being the nominees of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, they cannot think of elections. So, they decided to take a leaf from those organising scholarship examinations for students, and from the corporates who hold interviews to recruit employees.

However, as soon as the interview team landed in Trivandrum, some youth congressmen themselves asked what was the qualification of the Youth Congress president, who got his position by nomination, to be the interviewer not to speak of the others. At least someone like Mani Sankar Iyer should have been included in the interview board.

The Senior Congress leaders in the State too were not happy with the proceedings of the Youth Congress president. They were going lose the chances of influencing the nominations if the Youth Congress president selects people on merit. Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy just avoided a critical comment by stating that the Youth Congress was an independent organisation capable of deciding its course!