M D Nalapat
Under its energetic Vice-Chancellor, Seyed Hasnain, the venerable University of Hyderabad has sought to improve both its image as well as its performance. As a part of the process of modernization that he has initiated, the Vice-Chancellor decided to award honorary doctorates to mathematical wizard David Mumford and World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand. In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development seeks to control every operation of a university except perhaps staff visits to the canteen, hence its permission was sought for the award of the honour. Strangely, some within the gargantuan HRD Ministry bureaucracy objected to the award of a doctorate to “that foreigner Anand”, forgetting both that Anand was an Indian citizen and that the other awardee was British. In the arrogant style copied from earlier colonial masters of India, the ministry demanded that Anand “prove that he was Indian”, a step that enraged the chess grandmaster’s many fans in India. Finally, a media outcry led to the HRD Minister himself apologizing for the error. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is a well-meaning and capable son of the Punjab who is seeking to unshackle Indian education from a ministry that retards rather than promotes human resource development, but instead finding that the reverse is taking place, with more and more controls getting established.
Although the HRD ministry has, in the way usual with the Indian bureaucracy, been secretive about just who was the (hitherto faceless) official who sought to question the nationality of “Vishy”, hopefully this information will soon become public knowledge, once Right to Information queries get filed and processed. However, it is unlikely that the culprit will be punished, or even rebuked, for seeking to humiliate an Indian icon. While power is plentiful in the Indian system of governance, accountability is almost totally absent. For example, none of the many officials who slept for four years over the corruption now exposed in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games has been subject to disciplinary action. Only a handful connected with the Games themselves have been forcibly sent on leave or retired, mainly to ensure that the public stain does not reach higher than them. A country that has 200 million people going to bed hungry each night is estimated to have spent $6 billion on a sporting extravaganza that seems likely to get drenched in unseasonal monsoon showers. Certainly, several well-connected people must have gained immense benefit from such a waste of taxpayer rupees.