Stop middle class free lunches

Thank you for your well-argued cover story ‘Medical students protest compulsory rural service’ (EW January). There is indeed a strong case for medical students to do one year of rural service since most of them pay absurdly low tuition fees. It’s unbelievable that in AIIMS, India’s premier medical college, tuition fees are as low as Rs.250 per year, and that most AIIMS alumni leave the country for plum jobs in the US and UK.

It’s shameful that the poor Indian taxpayer who has paid for it, hardly receives any benefit from their medical education. By law, every medical student who has received subsidised education must serve at least one year in a rural healthcare centre. They must be forced to pay their debt to society.

It’s also not a bad idea to introduce something similar for IIM graduates, who also receive subsidised education. At the end of every academic year, the media goes to town over the seven digit salaries IIM alumni are offered by blue-chip private companies. But none of them report that these bright stars have paid only half of their actual tuition fees.

To ensure that the state and citizens (who subsidise higher education) benefit from their expertise, all IIM graduates must serve at least two years in public sector enterprises, preferably with public utilities. It’s time middle class Indian students stopped availing free lunches from the public.

S. Doraiswamy

Radical but right

I read with great interest the cover story ‘Medical students protest compulsory rural service’ (EW January). The feature tellingly highlights the poor healthcare infrastructure available in our country, particularly rural India, and also comprehensively evaluates the medical education system.

The plain truth is that subsidies seldom reach intended beneficiaries. This is the case in medical education too, with middle class students who can afford coaching schools grabbing seats in private and government medical colleges. So why should the taxpayer subsidise a rich student’s education?

Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss’ proposal that all medical students serve one year in rural India may seem radical, but is absolutely required to ensure that the poor have access to quality healthcare. The statistics cited in your cover story from UNDP’s Human Development Report 2007-2008 on the availability of health and medical services in India is an eye-opener. While the stock market is bursting through the roof and the economy growing at the speed of light, the healthcare needs of India’s poor are being ignored.

We need to pay immediate attention to our healthcare system if we want to sustain economic growth. We need to support Ramadoss’ proposal because it’s a step in the right direction. Sometimes quick-fix solutions work best.

Pankaj Malhotra

Stimulating campus research

The Teacher-to-Teacher column by Gary S. Betney (EW January) is absolutely right in lamenting the absence of research and development culture in Indian academia. Professors believe that their job is to teach and not research, hence they are unable to inspire and motivate their students to do likewise. In the US and UK, faculty is engaged in constant research and development, and publish research papers periodically even as they take classes.

I think the only way we can promote quality research is by linking promotions and perks to research papers submitted by faculty.

Nisha Daniel

Define minimum qualifications

Your special report ‘Clearing the mess in teacher education’ was bang on target (EW January). The unvarnished truth is that the quality of teachers determines quality of learning outcomes in classrooms. Untrained and under-qualified teachers who are mere secondary school graduates are unlikely to inspire confidence in parents or students. The government must clearly define the minimum qualifications of primary and secondary school teachers. No relaxations should be allowed.

Moreover I strongly believe that the HRD ministry must set up a task force to revamp the curriculum of India’s B.Ed colleges. All government and private teacher training colleges must compulsorily update their curriculums every year, and more time should be given for practice teaching in schools. Every four or five years, all in-service government and private school teachers must go through an appraisal process to ensure that they are on-the-ball with new teaching methods.

Shanthi Nambiar

Television violence fallout

Incidents of violence among children are on the rise, sometimes with fatal consequences like the shoot-outs at Gurgaon and Satna schools. This is a direct result of diminishing moral values due to the influence of western culture on the Indian middle class. Western lifestyles have entered Indian homes via television. The plain fact is that too much violence is portrayed in TV news and entertainment programmes. Further, the new generation of youngsters is too impatient and cannot wait for success.

The high-life serials depicted on television corrupt the minds of young people and induce them to indulge in violence. From early childhood, tiny tots witness murders and violence on the small screen over petty matters with no regrets or sorrow. Little wonder it comes out later in life. That’s why Indian society is becoming increasingly violence prone.

Mahesh Kumar on e-mail