A compelling autobiography

Interesting reads in Kannada

Nenapina Alegalu by Prof. J.R. Lakshman Rao Navakarnataka, Rs. 125For the carping critics an autobiography is no more than an "anecdotage in dotage". There are those for whom autobiographies make good reading when authored by those whose names appear in newspapers or beamed on the television.Proving them wrong is Prof. J. R. Lakshmana Rao in his 224-page work, which the reader never feels like putting down. The 85-year old who now lives in Mysore, was well known to a generation of students of science in Karnataka as a brilliant professor of chemistry. His autobiography is much more than the recollections of the life and times of a teacher, but a capital work on the history of the University of Mysore and the evils that came to bedevil higher education in the erstwhile State of Mysore from the Second World War years onwards. Prof. Lakshman Rao himself was a victim of a prejudiced and bumbling University administration. The University, which had appointed some callow youth directly as professors in the post-Independence years, had reverted him back to the post of lecturer after he had served as an assistant professor for seven years! The reader is left wondering as to why he did not approach the High Court exercising his right under Article 226 of the Constitution.Prof. Rao is forthright when he writes about the virulent casteism that overtook higher education in Mysore State from 1940 onwards. It had then taken the form of anti-Brahminism. He has written about issues which historians and educationists have feigned to ignore.The reader's respect for two now forgotten academics of the State is enhanced by going through Prof. Lakshman Rao's writings. They are two well known chemists of the country of the last century, Prof. B. Sanjiva Rao and Prof. B.L. Manjunath, both of whom became principals of the Central College. The later rose to be the vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore (1950-53). The other academic who comes in for high praise is Prof. B.S. Madhava Rao , the mathematician who became Principal of the Central College in the early 1950s.Prof. Lakshman Rao's interests are not confined only to the academia. The eminent personalities he has written about include the ace parliamentarian Jagalur Mohamed Imam, the minister in princely Mysore, who became a standard bearer of the anti-congress movement in Karnataka, litterateurs V. Sitaramaiah, K.V. Puttappa, Shivaram Karanth, A.N. Murthy Rao and Ha.Ma. Nayak, academics like R.L. Narasimhaiah and Veena maestro V. Doreswamy Iyengar. Prof. Lakshman Rao who hails from Jagalur in Davangere District speaks of his leftist leanings but is candid when he refers to his disdain for the high brow Royists (followers of M.N. Roy). He is one of the founders of the Karnataka State Council of Science and Technology and is well known for the propagation of science and the scientific temperament through his writings in Kannada.A. JAYARAM Grameena Abhivruddhi Mattu Vikendrikarana-Rajakiya Vaifalyada Sankatahana by Dr. T.R. Chandrashekar Hampi University, Rs. 40Decentralisation and the emergence of local institutions, the three-tier Panchayat Raj system, are hailed as great successes of Indian democracy and significant markers of the commitment of Indian ruling elite to the cause of democracy. After the passage of 73rd and 74th amendments to Indian constitution, it has become the constitutional obligation for all the governments to constitute three- tier local institutions, whether they like it or not. The lofty ideals behind these amendments were the devolution of power and the empowerment of the hitherto marginalised sections. But this is the age of contradictions. The legislation for the decentralisation of power is passed at a time when the Indian sovereignty and the legislative power of the parliament itself are being eroded by global forces. Human rights commissions are being commissioned at a time when all such violations are getting legitimised through draconian laws. Hence what remains of such legislations is a mere skeleton without soul. Dr.T. R. Chandrashekar's Grameena Abhivruddhi Mattu Vikendrikarana-Rajakiya Vaifalyada Sankatahana published by the Prasaranga of the Hampi University, is one such daring endeavour. And it rightly captures the spirit in the title that translates into "the saga of political failure". The book assumes the form of a fact-finding report about the performance of local institutions in 60 villages in the backward districts of Bellary and Koppal. This the author says was deliberate because he believed that traditional methodologies of research were inadequate. The author does not take the beaten route of comparing the performance of study subjects with that of written goals. The study group is aware of the limitations and hence it is inclined more towards corroborating facts with regard to the failures and placing them by established theories of failures with which they concur. Dr. Ambedkar's understanding of the Indian village as the negation of the spirit of republic is the point of departure of the book. The team studies the performance of the Panchayat and if it has been successful in altering caste, class, and gender inequalities and bring in actual empowerment of the marginalised people. Their empirical data corroborate with the facts which is brilliantly summarised by Jean Bremen as: "During the last few decades, the devolution of power from centre to lower political and administrative echelons has not only consolidated, but also legitimised the hegemony of dominant castes in the countryside with the result that dominated lower castes have little, if any, opportunity to articulate their claims to a better life." One can only hope that more and more universities take up such people-centric and truth seeking researches.SHIVA SUNDAR