Archive for January 6th, 2015

Book review/recommend – Eminent Historians: Their Techniques, Their Line, Their Fraud is

January 6, 2015

There is a lot of unrest in India regarding historical icons and even our understanding if history. On one side is the current government which is trying to revisit and glorify India’s past. On the other hand are historians who ridicule the govt and say history should be kept away from mythology.

The aam aadmi is confused and not sure how to make sense of these debates. Those who have read history books in school might side with the historians and others with the government.

In this regard, Arun Shourie’s book on India’s eminent historians is a must read. Ever since I finished the book it is troubling me given how doctored our understanding of history has been. Shourie questions the entire discipline of Indian history and its historian which have carefully added/deleted a lot of things from our history books to color our views.

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IITs are an illustrative example of the dumbing down of Indian universities..

January 6, 2015

Nice piece by Asit Biswas of NUS.  He reflects on how opening so many IITs (should have added IIM to list as well) has just led to decline in quality:

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Bangalore University students run from pillar to post for stipend..

January 6, 2015

Much of the news around our higher education system is around fancy salaries drawn by our elite students from elite colleges. But this is just a fraction of the total students in the country. The rest struggle to get even basics going, salary is not even part of their equation.

ToI reports how PhD students from Bangalore Univ struggle for things as basic as getting stipends on time:

Karan P (name changed), a PhD scholar hailing from a poor agrarian family in Hoskote, has been running from pillar to post in Bangalore University (BU) for the past 15 months, to get his stipend.

He is not alone in this misery. Around 30 PhD scholars, doing research in various subjects, have been crying for the monthly stipend, funded by the University Grant Commission (UGC). “My father passed away a couple of years ago. I can’t take money from my family to pursue PhD. Now, I am totally demotivated,” said Karan, who cleared NET and registered himself for PhD in a language with the dream of becoming a professor.

Karan, a junior research fellow, is supposed to get Rs 20,800 as stipend per month. Alleging apathy from BU officials, a group of PhD student said, “If we ask university authorities about stipend, they say ‘if you want stipend, then go to the UGC office in Delhi’.”

Worse is the case of Muthu Raj (name changed), another PhD student doing research in arts, as he has not received stipend for the past two years. He said, “If they don’t give us stipend, how can we do field work and purchase research materials?”

About 1,400 students are pursuing PhD in BU. Fed up with the wait, some students have even filed an RTI application seeking details on this issue. They are awaiting reply from the university.

They said that after students register themselves for PhD, the university has to give them a copy of the UGC’s approval letter. However, BU has not given this to a section of students.

Another PhD scholar said they have submitted several memorandums to the university requesting payment of stipend, but in vain. “When we approached a senior university official, he said, ‘If you don’t want to pursue PhD, quit and go’,” a student said, wondering how to continue his research without stipend.

What does one say to such an attitude?

Quality of education both at primary and higher levels is a serious cause of concern. Developing good faculty across the country should be of prime importance.

Differentiate between Make in India and Made in India

January 6, 2015

Ajai Shukla has a nice piece on the topic.

He says Made in India is around developing an indigenous industry whereas Make in India is just assembly shop:

In the manner of government and entities dependent upon it, everyone in defence production from the ministries of defence and commerce, the defence industrial estate and even the military has jumped on to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bandwagon of “Make in India”. Defence Minister proclaimed recently that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government had already cleared Rs 75,000 crore worth of acquisitions, of which Rs 65,000 crore is in the “Buy and Make (Indian)” category of the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP). He appeared to suggest that these systems – which include submarines (Rs 50,000 crore, or $8 billion), artillery guns (Rs 15,750 crore, or $2.5 billion) and anti-tank missiles (Rs 3,200 crore, or $500 million) – would be indigenous products.

The truth is less encouraging. While nobody has explicitly clarified what exactly “Make in India” would be, it is being interpreted as the licensed manufacture of foreign defence equipment, which the DPP covers under the categories of “Buy and Make” and “Buy and Make (Indian)”. This is very different from a “Made in India” product, which is encapsulated in the “Make” category of the DPP, involving the ground-up development of indigenous defence platforms. It is crucial for policymakers, strategists, economists and the public to explicitly recognise this difference. In “Make in India”, a foreign arms manufacturer is paid for transfer of technology and the licence to assemble a platform – say, a submarine, tank or aircraft – in India. The vendor supplies manufacturing technology and the jigs and tooling needed for assembling components, sub-systems and systems into a full-fledged combat platform. While hard bargaining sometimes obtains the technology to build some of those systems and sub-systems in India, vendors would seldom part with the technology to manufacture complex and high-tech systems, which they developed at enormous cost. A high proportion of the platform, therefore, continues to be supplied from abroad.

How “Make in India” plays out is evident from the Sukhoi-30MKI assembly line in Nashik, whereLtd (HAL) builds the air force’s front-line fighter. While negotiating the contract for 180 Su-30MKIs in the year 2000 (which later went up to 272 fighters) India – the world’s largest operator of this aircraft – employed all the leverage it had to extract technology from Russia. Even so, just 51 per cent of the fighter (by cost) is made in India. Russia insisted that all raw material – including 5,800 titanium blocks and forgings, aluminium and steel plates, etc – be sourced from that country. Similarly, HAL builds the fighter’s giant AL-31FP engines in Koraput, Odisha, but is bound by the contract to import 47 per cent of the engine (by cost), including high-tech composites and special alloys – crucial secrets that Russia will not part with.

Not that make in India is not useful:

This is not to say that “Make in India” serves no purpose. First, it creates jobs, a key government goal. Second, building even low-tech defence equipment creates high-quality manufacturing capability, which goes into creating the broad-based manufacturing ecosystem that is essential for “Made in India” projects. Weapon system designers and integrators can then focus on high-level design, assured that components – from the lowest level of nuts, bolts, washers and fuze boxes to higher levels of pumps, actuators and sensors – are available without needing to import or establish manufacturing units to supply them.

That is why the statement on Monday by secretary (defence production), G Mohan Kumar, that at least eight to 10 “Make” projects would be kicked off every year holds the promises of galvanising the defence industry. While purchasing foreign defence equipment recklessly all these years, only a handful of “Make” projects have been conceived so far and none has been shepherded to fruition. The defence ministry needs to focus keenly on “Made in India” projects without being distracted by “Make in India” slogans.

Hmmm..

Just one thing though. In these global value chain times, is there anything like “Made in x? country? Much of it has become like an assembly line with products shipped from one place to another in search of lower assembly costs..


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