HUMAN INTEREST: Gates pops caste question – Billionaire do-gooder stuns Bihar officials – India, unbiased and secular ?!!

HUMAN INTEREST: Gates pops caste question – Billionaire do-gooder stuns Bihar officials – India, unbiased and secular ?!!

Bill Gates takes a boat ride - peacefully hot ?!! (Photo by Deepak Kumar)


Gularia (Bihar), May 12: If some are still wondering why the census cannot blank out caste, their answer came bobbing in a country boat today.

Bill Gates, who usually crosses continents on his $45-million private jet, took the boat that shuddered in the swift waters of the Kosi to reach a remote Bihar village that had hardly ever seen a district official.

One of his first questions was if caste divisions in the country’s backward hinterland were coming in the way of healthcare.

“What about caste? Is it not possible that people from influential castes might be confining (polio) immunisation and vaccines among children and mothers of their own caste groups?” the Microsoft founder asked the officials accompanying him to Gularia, where the rat-eating Musahars were waiting for the master of the “mouse”.

As the stunned officials racked their brains for an answer, principal secretary, health, C.K. Mishra saved the situation. “It is not a factor,” the IAS officer said. “The immunisation and vaccination drives are carried out for all.”

While the query came at a time the Centre is thinking of including caste in the census for the first time in 80 years, the prompt reply may have masked a grimmer picture — if not because of caste then because of the Kosi river.

Officials had failed to carry out immunisation in villages that had been flooded by the Kosi in 2008-09, and health agencies had detected as many as 38 cases of P-1 bacteria — the deadliest among polio bacteria.

The philanthropist, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has adopted impoverished Gularia in Khagaria district, got off a helicopter in a maize field and boarded the boat, accompanied by the district magistrate, Unicef and WHO officials, and volunteers.

Gates landed near the river before taking the boat to the village, which is virtually cut off from the rest of the world and has no proper drinking water facilities, electricity, roads and schools.

More than 80 per cent of the people here are illiterate, though the village has a temple to Saraswati. The goddess of learning is Gularia’s most prominent deity.

The temple, however, escaped Gates’s attention.

The foundation, which focuses on health and learning, had chosen the village based on feedback from the organisation’s India CEO Ashok Alexander, principal health secretary Mishra and Unicef.

Officials said the Foundation would study “on-the-spot observations of Bill Gates” and engage more NGOs to speed up healthcare for mothers and children in the village before taking up other backward villages across the country.

So what brought Gates here in this 43-degree heat?

“The beauty of the land and the serenity of the rivers,” he told The Telegraph. “It is a wonderful feeling. I feel very good. You can notice it.”

Gates reached the village around 9.30 in the morning and stayed over three hours. He had sand on his shirt and trousers but he visited nearly every one of the 200 huts in the village of 700, most of them Musahars.

“Gates sahib ne hamare gaon ko god liya hai, iska matlab hai ki is gaon ke garib ab amir ho jaingein or yahan road, pool aur school banjayega (Gates has adopted our village. It means the poor villagers will become rich and the village will have a road, bridge and a school,” said Ghurni Devi, 45, a mother of five, as her husband Shibu Sada stood beside her.

Gates mingled with the villagers and talked to them as the officials and the volunteers accompanying him briefed the 54-year-old philanthropist how they had been carrying out the immunisation drive, travelling on bikes.

It prompted the caste query.

Debate on govt broom aimed at media school – and ‘political journalism’  unbiased ?!!

Any lessons learnt from 'My Name is Khan' ?!!


New Delhi, May 12:
 A media school that counts among its alumni actor Shah Rukh Khan and television journalist Barkha Dutt may soon lose about 50 per cent of its faculty following the human resource development ministry’s intervention after an inquiry concluded their appointments were illegal.

The HRD ministry plans to ask the President to terminate the appointments of nine faculty members at Jamia Millia Islamia’s Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, The Telegraph has learnt.

The ministry is understood to have concluded against allowing these faculty members to continue after an inquiry panel found that they were appointed in violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) norms. The President is visitor to Jamia — and to all other central higher educational institutions — and can terminate appointments.

But the move is also likely to reopen a broader debate on whether rigid UGC norms are the best barometer of quality of teachers in subjects like mass media, drama, acting, dance or other fine arts.

The 27-year-old mass communication research centre (MCRC) at Jamia has emerged as a premier institution training students in film and video production. It is a member of the Cannes-based Centre International de Liaison des Ecoles de Cinéma et de Téévision (CILECT), a body of the world’s leading film and television schools.

The MCRC has faced a faculty crunch in the past, too, and at present has a teacher strength of 17. In May 2009, Jamia set up an inquiry under retired Delhi High Court judge S.K. Aggarwal to probe allegations that several teachers were appointed at the MCRC despite not meeting the minimum UGC eligibility criteria.

In its final report earlier this year, the panel had concluded that nine teachers had indeed been appointed in violation of UGC requirements.

But veterans associated with the MCRC and specifically to the controversial appointments dubbed the government’s move against these teachers “a potential killer blow” to the institution.

They said it was “ridiculous” to judge the eligibility of teachers of the fine arts or mass media based solely on their academic qualifications in these fields.

UGC regulations currently require that only those holding a PhD in their subject or those who have qualified in the National Eligibility Test or its state equivalent examinations can be hired as teachers by Indian universities.

At the time these appointments were made, the UGC also allowed M.Phil holders who had applied for their PhD to be hired. Exemptions from these rules could — at that time — be granted by the UGC in subjects in which it did not conduct the NET. The courses taught at the MCRC fell under this category. The UGC concluded that the candidates the MCRC picked were not qualified for teaching posts.

But critics say that UGC norms useful as a measure of merit for aspiring teachers in other streams of education are not justified for fields like design, drama, film-making, music or mass media.

Unlike other traditional streams, many of India’s best actors, film-makers, musicians, dancers, designers and journalists — across media —do not hold academic qualifications the UGC requires for them to teach.


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