Sad state of Sanskrit scholarship in India

Swarajya magazine has an extract from Chamu Krishna Shastry’s book sāvadhānāḥ syāma on state of Sanskrit scholarship.

It is not just sad but pathetic too:

Recently, a Sanskrit university conducted its annual examination, with a staggering 1,95,000 candidates! This was a 25% increase over the previous year’s number. However, do not be hoodwinked into believing that Sanskrit is on the rise. The same university has an affiliated college, which operates from a room that can seat five. But five thousand students study in that college! There is not the slightest exaggeration here— I write with full evidence at hand. When officials inspected various examination centers, of eighteen randomly chosen candidates, eleven were not able to name their university!

They had never set foot in the university before and had arrived for the examination through the machinations of touts and fake degree rackets. I have heard that this is how it works— Rs. 2000 for the answer key, which the candidate can copy onto his answer booklet. If Rs. 5000 is paid; the candidate is freed of the effort of filling the booklet himself. And Rs. 10,000 can hire a Sanskrit scholar to write the exam for you. Thus, the “market” sells many services. The day there is a clamp down on this racket, 60% of Sanskrit pāṭhaśālās will have to close. It deeply pains Sanskrit teachers to see that even if textbooks are laid open, and the answer is pointed out, students still look dumbfounded. But when teachers stop teaching and spend the year performing pūjas and ceremonies to supplement their income, what more can they expect?

Do not think that this is only the fate of a few obscure institutions. Hear this tale of a doctoral student from the Sanskrit department of a prestigious university. Upon submitting his thesis, he expressed his need for Rs. 10,000 to arrange for his defence. When asked why, he said that it was to pay for the airfare and accommodation of the two external examiners (a professor and the vice-chancellor of a university)! Of course, the examiners would also be reimbursed separately by the University. These are not stray occurrences— they are more rule than the exception.

Once, speaking to a former student of Sanskrit, I enquired “What do you do do for a living?” “I write theses,” came the reply. Seeing me perplexed, he explained that he produces theses for Ph.D. candidates! Though the prices vary diversely, he charges between Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10000 per thesis, depending on the size and complexity of the subject. When money and ethics clash, it is most often money that wins. People shed all scruples for money. When institutions (both formal and informal) put their energies into lining their pockets through unscrupulous methods, is there any surprise that quality takes a hit?

But then who cares? We have such high obsession for all these economic crises which keep going and coming. And not a word on this persistent decline of Sanskrit and regional languages. We actually deal in extremes. We are either jingoistic about all this and create huge noise around local languages. Or we just let it die without thinking of creating any scholarship on the matter. Leave scholarship, we are talking about basics here..

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