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Capricious decision

A tidal wave of shock and surprise in the enviably sylvan first-world style campus of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in the university town of Manipal (Karnataka), has been followed by rising indignation over the arbitrary decision of the Delhi-based Medical Council of India (MCI) to derecognise its showpiece Kasturba Manipal colleges in Manipal and Mangalore (est.1953), which boast an aggregate enrollment of 3,000 students from 40 countries around the world.

The dispute between MCI and MAHE has its origins in an argument over the quota of foreign (mainly non-resident Indian) students MAHE is entitled to admit annually into its medical colleges. Way back in 2001, MCI had complained to the Union health ministry that MAHE had "exceeded" its foreign students quota of 15 percent of total intake. The academy’s management successfully argued that a higher intake of foreign students would cross-subsidise domestic students in terms of lower tuition fees, since the former pay substantially higher fees.

There the matter rested for three years until the MCI 2004 website which lists all medical colleges it recognises, deleted the names of KMC Manipal and Mangalore from its list. This surprise omission has had serious repercussions abroad with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) USA, deferring the application of a MAHE medical graduate to practice medicine in the US. Following strong protests from MAHE and NRI students, ECFMG has agreed to include the two KMC colleges on its approved list if the Union ministry of health confirms they haven’t been derecognised by the government of India. But typically the health ministry has been dragging its feet on this vital issue.

The MCI’s capricious decision to derecognise the KMC institutions which were recently voted among the country’s best medical colleges by the latest India Today (May 17, 2004) survey is indicative of the rot that has permeated the council where tales of factional in­fighting and corruption are legion. "One would have thought the fact that MAHE’s medical colleges attract a growing number of students from around the world would be a matter of pride rather than a sin. Besides why should MCI be bothered about the NRI quota of MAHE? That’s a matter of government policy," says an anguished KMC lecturer.

Why indeed?

Feature film fallout

The management of St. Joseph’s Girls Higher Secondary School, Madurai (enrollment: 3,016), has filed a suit for injunction and damages in the Madras high court against Shankar, producer of the Tamil language movie Kaadhal (Love) and its director Balaji Sakthivel, for producing a feature film which it alleges has tarnished the school’s reputation. Kaadhal narrates the ‘true’ story of a school girl who develops an intimate relationship with a roadside mechanic and eventually elopes with him.

In its plaint, the school has prayed for an injunction against screening of the film and Rs.20 lakh in damages against the respondents. Justice R. Balasubramanian admitted the suit on Feb 15, and ordered notice, returnable in a week, to the producer and director of the film.

According to the petitioner, there are six scenes in the film in which the school’s name is prominently displayed; the heroine is often dressed in the school’s uniform and the school bus shown in an excursion scene bears the banner of the school. The petition says the film conveys the impression that the school’s administration is slack and encourages indiscipline. It shows the heroine and another student, clad in school uniform, cavorting with the mechanic hero on the outskirts of Madurai. The petitioner says that since the film was released, the school has received numerous telephone calls from parents, shocked by the film’s portrayal of the school, with some of them threatening to withdraw their wards.

The director Shaktivel has denied the allegations, saying that Kaadhal has not been filmed on the school’s premises and that the film does not project the St. Joseph’s girls in a bad light.

Meanwhile in the conservative temple town of Madurai, interest in the court’s verdict is building up to fever pitch. And notwithstanding their protestations in court, the respondents aren’t really complaining.

Heir to a tradition

Ever wonder why despite all export revenue being wholly exempt from corporate income tax, Indian industry has not been able to chalk up more than 0.7 percent of world trade? Myriad hand-wringing excuses ranging from persistent licence-permit raj, poor port conditions, high interest rates etc are routinely advanced by India’s vastly overrated captains of industry.

However of late, informed industry monitors have begun to zero in on an all-too-obvious but hitherto ignored X factor — the boorishness, poor life skills and sheer bad manners of corporate India. In the archives of the pink papers and business magazines as also within India’s top B-schools, evidence of huge multi-billion dollar deals being blown by rude, blundering, feudal mindset corporate high-fliers, is piling up. However for fear of loss of advertising revenue and patronage, damning evidence of incompetence and bad manners in corporate India is in deep cold storage.

Ironically the most ill-mannered managers of corporate India are clustered within FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies which should be closest to the customer. In the daily struggle to keep this unique publication which inter alia is endeavouring to educate Indian industry about the critical linkage between universal provision of quality education and business prosperity, we have written thousands of business letters to FMCG companies, and left as many telcom messages for them during the past five years. Yet with a few exceptions (Godrej, Hindustan Lever) our records don’t show a single reply, even of regretful rejection. Unwittingly, boorish managers in India’s booming FMCG companies are routinely negating the impact of thousands of crores they spend on feel-good, warm-image television commercials.

Surprisingly the worst of a thoroughly bad lot are decision-makers within high-profile FMCG multinationals — ITC, Britannia, Cadbury, Coca Cola and Pepsi India. Notwithstanding the scandalous shortcomings of their children’s products (worms infestation, pesticides etc), MNC managers are the most ungracious. For instance following in the clumsy footsteps of her predecessors, Vinita Bali the much-acclaimed new chief executive of biscuits major Britannia Industries who boasts board level experience with Cadbury and Coca Cola abroad, has failed and neglected to reply to even one of the half dozen letters and phone calls from this children’s champion magazine.

Quite obviously an heir to an established tradition.

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