Concern over lopsided development in country

HONOUR: Governor Surjit Singh Barnala conferring the Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on space scientist N. Vedachalam at the 43rd annual convocation of Madurai Kamaraj University in the city on Tuesday. Ved Prakash (right), Vice-Chairman, University Grants Commission, and R. Karpaga Kumaravel, Vice-Chancellor, are seen.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: K. Ganesan

Special Correspondent

Call to instil ‘pro-poor’ attitude among students

MADURAI: Ved Prakash, Vice-Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC), on Tuesday, expressed concern over “lopsided development” taking place in the country at the cost of poor people living in rural areas.

“With a great pain I will say we are uprooting the lives of rural people in the name of Special Economic Zones. We are giving peanuts to the poor people and finishing them off,” he said.

Addressing the 43rd annual convocation of Madurai Kamaraj University, he observed that the vision got blurred if one saw the development in cities such as New Delhi or Chennai and compared it with the situation in villages.

Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor, presided over the convocation.

“In the rural places, women wait for hours in queues to fetch kerosene from ration shops while in cities it is a complete contrast with buildings, infrastructure and people loaded with money. Is this called development?” Prof. Prakash asked.

Stating that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream of eradicating poverty was still not met, he said that development in rural areas was yet to gain momentum despite “pumping money through various agencies.”

He urged the universities and higher education institutions to instil ‘pro-poor’ attitude among students and asked them to hold debates on issues of rural poverty and poor farmers.

“Our educational institutions are not connected to the community. I appeal to the youngsters not to forget their background even though they move up the ladder in life,” he said.

Another concern expressed by Prof. Prakash was the neglect of social sciences in educational institutions and the fancy for Information Technology (IT) courses.

“Since IT courses give instant results, more importance had been given to that field in the last few years. We should not undermine the importance of social sciences such as geography and history and even the languages.”

Enrolment ratio

The Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education in the country was abysmally low, he said and called for urgent attention to this issue. “As against the 11.4 crore youngsters in India, only 1.2 million students had been enrolled for higher education. It is lower than the global average,” he said.

At the school level, the dropout rate was very high. Six out of every 10 children in India leave school without completing Class X. Between I to V classes, the school dropout rate was 33 per cent.

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on N. Vedachalam, space scientist, Indian Space Research Organisation, Thiruvananthapuram, who had worked for indigenous development of mechanisms.

R. Karpaga Kumaravel, Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the gathering.

I. Singaram, Registrar, and S. Shanmugiah, Controller of Examinations, among others, were present.