Dear Friends

I have been underwhelmed by Modi’s choices in the last two months. I fully understand that no one can legitimately expect any visible change in two months and that he would need a lot, lot more time to clean up the messes of the previous regime. But, I do not expect him to create new messes of his own, and I am assessing that he has created a serious one in an area that is very dear to me.
If you had read my CRI article, you know that I believe that Modi had done education a disservice by entrusting it to a minister who is not equipped for the same and has limited regard for the subject as demonstrated by her perjury on her educational qualification itself. I am hard pressed to believe that any one who has even limited regard for the subject can lie under oath about her own qualifications (which no one forgets either).

Now, either her inexperience or her limited regard for this core area is showing in her decisions. IISc had a prestigious FYUP operational since 2011. There was no report of student or faculty resentment. One fine morning, UGC (read HRD as UGC was fine so far and follows the diktats of the regime of the day) orders that it be scrapped. Growing up in a left regime, I have seen how higher education in Kolkata, which used to be a premier center of learning once upon a time, was decimated through such abject political interference from the left.

I have also seen how academic freedom and lack of (or at worst limited) political interference has ensured that higher education in US is where it is. Thus, I am appalled by the fact that GoI is following the left on this core issue and in the process may well ensure that few academic institutes that India can be genuinely proud of bite the dust. To be fair, even the despicable Sonia regime did not actively undermine higher education in India, just didnt care about it.

As an academic it does rankle me that I supported & campaigned for a PM who goes on to violate core academic ethos at the start of his regime (aware of the fact that BJP’s win wouldnt have changed if I didnt campaign). I am quite clear in my mind that the buck for such decisions stops with the PM – he sought and received mandate in his name and HRD minister is his appointee.

Like many of you, I did not support Modi Sarkar for furthering any political ambition (which I have none) or for a quid pro quo, but from a conviction that he would usher in a new India. The undermining of areas  so dear to me, through thoughtless appointments and unadulterated indulgence of abominable decisions, makes me seriously doubt if my assessment was founded on an error – that of overestimation. Given my core academic values, not sure if I would not have chosen NOTA, if I were to vote knowing what  I do now (Cong & AAP just do not seem as options to me thus far). Notwithstanding my fluctuation of support/trust for/in Modi or BJP, my commitment to core nationalistic issues is unlikely to change.

I decided to share my thoughts with you as I would want you to share your confidences related to politics with full knowledge of where I stand, more so, because I have always had high regard for all of you and valued the intellectual interactions we have had.

Regards
Prof Saswati Sarkar

(Reproduced from a private email conversation with author’s permission)
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Saswati Sarkar

Saswati Sarkar

Professor of Electrical Engg at Univ. of Pennsylvania. She has strong political persuasions. Views expressed here are entirely in personal capacity.