On the road

Has anyone noticed the plight of pedestrians in Delhi? The treatment meted out to them, both by the civic authorities and the operators of vehicular traffic, is utterly shameful. One feels very sorry for them as roads are broadened, footpaths disappear, road dividers get higher and the traffic protocol becomes ever more contemptuous of the people on legs.

At certain locations, they have to undertake incredible feats of agility and speed to cross the road, climbing on to the fencing along the dividers and then jumping down almost in front of the flowing traffic to get to the other side. The dash they have to make would do a 100m runner proud! Do they practise, one wonders. Do they say a silent prayer as they embark upon such extremely risky endeavours day in and day out?

No one seems to bother about this group of commuters -- it's almost as if Delhi roads are not meant for them. They are just so many irritants around and have to fend for themselves.

As is usual in India, it will probably take a series of fatal accidents before their presence is acknowledged and something is done about their plight. Till then, I wish them safe crossings, hoping that they keep fit and remember to say their prayers.

Arnab Basak,
H-1525, First Floor,C. R. Park,New Delhi - 110 019.
NET Vs Ph.D.

According to news reports, the University Grants Commission, at the initiative of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, has decided to relax the requirement of clearing the National Eligibility Test (NET), conducted by UGC for appointment as lecturer for teaching under-graduate and post-graduate programmes in colleges and university departments, for those possessing an M.Phil. or Ph.D. degree, respectively. This decision seems to have been taken at the behest of certain persons who could not qualify the NET and want to become lecturers on the strength of an M.Phil./Ph.D. degree, which they find easier to acquire than to pass the NET. It is a retrograde step that will have undesirable consequences not only on the standards of recruitment and selection in colleges and universities but also on the quality of M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees and the standards of post-graduate programmes like M.A., M.Sc, and M.Com.

The NET scheme has been serving a useful purpose by ensuring uniformity of standards for screening the aspirants for lecturer's job in colleges and universities and for awarding Junior Research Fellowships to pursue M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes. Moreover, appearing at the NET examination provides an incentive to the candidate to excel and learn over and above what he or she has learnt in the classroom, up to the post-graduation level. Furthermore, obtaining a Ph.D. degree usually takes three to five years, after completing an M.Phil. which usually takes two years. In most of the universities, M.Phil. is an essential qualification for admission to a Ph.D. programme. Thus obtaining a Ph.D degree takes no less than five years after obtaining a Master's. Considering the two chances availed of in the final year of M.A., a candidate can avail of at last 12 chances before he can obtain a Ph.D. degree. If a person cannot qualify at NET even in 12 attempts, one wonders how he can be suitable for a lecturer's job.

There are large variations in the standards of M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in various universities and their departments. Many M.Phil. dissertations and Ph.D. theses are sub-standard. The variation in the standards of M.Phil./Ph.D. work, however, does not mean that the degree is irrelevant. The Ph.D. degree should continue to be an additional/preferential qualification for appointment to lecturer's and higher posts.

UGC's decision to grant exemption from NET is totally unjustified and ill-conceived. It will seriously erode the credibility and reputation of UGC and the HRD Ministry as the Central authorities entrusted with promoting the quality of higher education in the country.

Prof. D.P.S. Verma,
(Former Professor, Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi),
QU-285 B, Chitrakoot,
New Delhi - 110 034

A puzzle

I am originally from Tamil Nadu and living in Delhi since 1980. I belong to the Scheduled Caste community. Since I live in Delhi, I don't have a ration card in my home town in Tamil Nadu. When I asked for a community certificate for my son, the Tehsildar's office in my home town told me that possession of a ration card in my name is mandatory to get a community certificate. They advised me to seek the certificate from the Delhi Government.

When I went to the Deputy Commissioner's office at Kapashera in South-West district of Delhi, they told me that only those who have migrated to Delhi before 1950 are eligible to be issued a community certificate. So, finally, I am not able to get a community certificate either from my home town in Tamil Nadu or from Delhi where I have been living all along for more than 25 years.

Could any of your readers tell me how a case like mine is decided? Who will issue the community certificate for me if both the governments come up with some reason or the other to deny the certificate to us?

Could the authorities concerned in the National Capital Territory of Delhi also clarify the matter?

R. Balasubmramanian,
324, R. K. Puram,
Sector 9,
New Delhi - 110 022.

Withdraw it

The Income-Tax Department would be well advised to withdraw at once the proposed new four-page IT return form 2F. If the rulers of the day try to peep into the personal lives of their subjects to such an extent, there may be a political backlash like the one triggered by the infamous family planning operations during the Emergency of 1975-77.

The new form will impinge most heavily on ordinary assessees whose tax compliance is excellent -- the salaried lot, the senior citizens, the women and others living on fixed endowments. The entire exercise of piling up millions of petty personal data-sheets in a public office may turn out to be not only counter-productive but also downright dangerous. The Government's attention may be distracted from the bigger assessees leading to an adverse impact on direct tax revenues as also on the quality and number of returns. All this may give rise to greater manipulation, corruption, theft and blackmailing, resulting in a further weakening of society's moral fabric.

Prof. Om Prakash,
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Rajasthan,
1/245, SFS, Mansarovar,
Jaipur - 302 020.

Bird's-eye view

The colourful "Bird's-eye view" photograph on Page 2 (June 10) depicts part of a banyan tree, not a fig tree as the caption describes it.

K. Sher Singh,
Hanuman Villas,
Jaipur - 302 021.

All in the family

The leaves and fruits seen in the "Bird's-eye view" photograph on Page 2 (June 10) are of a bargad or banyan (Ficus bengalensis), our national tree, and not a gular (Ficus glomereta).

Gular and fig (Ficus carica) are two different species of trees; not same, as the caption suggests. However, all three species belong to the same family: Moraceae and genera Ficus.

U. S. Rathore,
13/156, Arjun Vihar,
Delhi Cantonment - 110 010.
(Letters for this column may be sent by e-mail to wsins@thehindu.co.in. They must carry the full postal address of the writer and should be marked "Reader's Mail".)