Globalisation and Indian universities (2008)

The Tribune, Chandigarh,4 March 2008

Rajesh Kochhar

GLOBALISATION has accentuated the divide between ‘Lower India’ and ‘Upper India’, with all benefits of liberalised economy falling in the lap of the latter. Now, employment patterns have changed drastically. Almost all lucrative jobs with hefty pay packages are being offered by those companies that serve Western economies.

Today, young men and women are not opting for science-related government jobs because of low salaries. No matter what the government pays the global market will pay more. The children of ‘Upper India’ may not opt for a career in science because the material comforts they have enjoyed so far, the social aspirations they have built for themselves, the consumptive lifestyle they aspire for-all disqualify them for a nation-building career.

A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) functionary has recently said that many serving scientists are leaving the organisation to go abroad or take up jobs in the private sector. This has created a serious human resource crunch. As a result, many vital projects are suffering. The question is: who will then join the DRDO or other government organisations? Maybe only those who still think a government job will be a big step up the social ladder.

Unfortunately, globalisation has given India a pretext for abdicating its responsibility in the vital education sector. Funds-starved state universities have become coaching centres for ‘Multiplex India’. The recent example is Panjab University, Chandigarh, which announced that it would soon start an integrated BE/MBA course to meet the requirements of the global market and to rake in some desperately needed cash.

During the 1960s and 1970s, it was customary for the cinema hall management in Chandigarh to allot a number of tickets for the shows of a new release to their lower staff, so that they could sell them in black and make some money. A similar phenomenon prevailed in sate universities which sold part of their NRI quota in the domestic market. Though the practice has since been discontinued on court orders, the universities’ quest for cash continues.

Paradoxically, while the youth at large are complaining that they are not getting jobs, employers have a grouse that they are not getting suitable candidates. Obviously, our education system is at fault. The world economy today is far more dependent on science and technology than ever before. However, the cost of manpower training has gone up. As a result, technical education has largely become bookish.

Automobile and pharmaceutical are the two sectors in the country that require well-trained manpower in large numbers. Even in the software-driven services sector, there is need to train people at various levels. In the absence of proper training at the low and middle levels, many candidates, attracted by good salaries, are seeking employment beneath their intellect and training. This underemployment does not seem to have raised the concerns it should have.

There is need to bring in more intellectual people into the educational fold, for which funds should be raised and utilised keeping in mind national interests. University should create a corpus of Rs 500 crore or more and invest in government securities. Only the interest earned thereon should be expended. There would be need to work out a detailed plan in consultation with financial experts. To raise the funds, NRIs, religious institutions, industrialists and renowned artists of the region can be approached.

Universities should be sufficiently well endowed, so that these can think of the next generation rather than the next fiscal year. 

 

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