There are several interesting news stories from back home today, some of them good, some of them bad and depressing.
The good news comes from my home town Lucknow. Lucknow University (LU) has long been a den of criminals of all kind of hues. There are student leaders there who are always in the jail. Due to the strong backing of the political parties, administration is hardly able to do anything. LU has gone down steadily in the quality of education. Now the current VC of LU has decided to take the bull by the horns. He has closed the university sine die and has suspended around 135 students with criminal records. This despite the hoopla in the assembly against him. No wonder a majority of the suspended students belong to SP, the ruling party and that head of SP, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav was the most vocal critic of the VC, Dr. R P Singh. Anyone who knows the situation in LU would have to admire the courage required to do such a thing. You can read about it here, here and here .
Specially amusing is the old rant of politicians this time coming out from Mr. Yadav bemoaning the death of democracy. I have two comments. One is that politicians have become a self appointed guardian of democracy in the country. Anything against their wishes happens and it goes against democracy. Second is I fail to understand why University has to be a model of democracy? I agree that being socially aware is good for students and that many of the future leaders emerge from the student politics but essentially universities or any other institutions can only be a sandbox democracy, a demonstration system. And these setups will have to play second fiddle to the primary function of an education institute and that is providing education. They can play a important role in the education but should never be allowed to overtake it. This theme has come up in IITK also in the past and I have said it there also. The assumption that the institute should follow the democratic principles in its dealings with students has to be a qualified one. So just saying that AIIMS director has become a dictator or LU's VC has become a dictator is not enough. A dictator may very well be what the place needs right now !
Also I can see the recent AIIMS fiasco coming into play somewhere in the background. If we set aside the reservation issue for time being, the fight there was essentially between a academician and a politician, both had their own agenda and either may be right and wrong, I am not gunning for anybody here. But the the way it unfolded, it demonstrated that it is possible to take on politicians and stick to your stand even if the politician happens to be a cabinet minister at the center and in fact a very well connected one. The message coming out was very clear, if you have a problem with political interference, go ahead and fight it and you have a reasonable chance of success. I sincerely hope that this message becomes even strong after LU incident and more heads of our beleaguered university system stand up to face the politics. What is needed is ample media coverage because the dangers in this process are very real and they would need all the cover they can get !
Good Luck Dr. Singh ! Even if you go down fighting, you have shown that fighting is still an option !