16 September 2010

Government versus Pratap Bhanu Mehta

In what must count as an extremely egregious personal attack on an intellectual, the HRD ministry has written a piece throwing mud at Pratap Bhanu Mehta - one of India's leading intellectuals. PB Mehta wrote a critical piece 'no HR in HRD' in the Indian Express about an education bill which met with some resistance in a parliamentary committee and then in the Parliament. While Mehta's piece is strongly worded, it never veers from the intellectual. In response to the piece is an article by a fairly senior babu (additional secretary) of the HRD ministry A little knowledge is dangerous.

The piece could not be worse in terms of a personal attack on Mehta. Witness the following entirely avoidable phrases starting from the title:

"...bias and preconceived notions...

...half-baked opinion based on inadequately researched facts...

...carelessly deficient...

These facts have, of course, escaped Mehta’s analysis.

I do not know if Mehta knows what the establishment process is in the setting up and scrutiny of deemed universities.

He may have an opinion which may suffer from lack of information or understanding.

...if he cares to look at the bill once again.

Mehta is also in deficit of facts...

...but then Mehta may not have had the time to follow the debate."

The piece has such obvious jewels like the following sentence:

"Mehta writes that a bill for setting up educational tribunals did not pass Parliament; a definitive statement indeed, but entirely untrue. The bill was carried in the Lok Sabha and its discussion deferred to the winter session in the Rajya Sabha."


I also took a look at the Parliamentary Committee report in the context of Mr. Sunil Kumar's statement in the article "Mehta says, “the standing committee was right to object to it” (the bill). The committee did not object to the bill." It is very clear the committee seriously objected to the bill. See the following excerpts from the Parliamentary Committee:

"The Committee can only conclude that consultation process on the proposed Bill has been far from satisfactory and the whole exercise seems to be a hurried affair whereby important stakeholders have been either ignored or their consent presumed in case of nil response.

the Committee finds that the Clause 12(2) violates the judgment of the Supreme Court (p. 16)

The Committee expresses its reservations about the representation of as many as three Secretaries/ex-Secretaries to Government of India/equivalent rank in the National Tribunal. The Committee believes that this may lead to bureaucratization of the tribunal.

The Committee is not convinced by the justification given by the Department. It believes that the composition of the Selection Committee should be a balanced one (p 18)"

These look like objections surely, not 'additonal suggestions'.

All in all, merit aside (I haven't followed the Bill and its debates in parliament till today), this kind of bullying by a babu using unnecessary filth reflects badly on the entire government. I hope, the second piece (yes, there is a second piece) is not published. If no one in the government is willing to restrain him; Mr. Shekhar Gupta - could you please provide alterate sources of unintended humour?

Hat tip: Law and other things.

PS: No luck on the second piece - it has been foisted on humanity already - see Don't doubt the HR in HRD.

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