Monday, December 24, 2012

Destination Chennai: Part One - Marina Beach, St George Fort, T-Nagar and more

Boat at the beach

Chennai - aka Madras - is the capital of Southern Indian state - Tamil Nadu. Located on Coromandel Coast, facing the eternal friend ‘Bay of Bengal’ in the east, this metropolis is a major commercial, cultural, economic and educational centre in South India. Home to Tamil movie industry, this industrial hub is also tagged as the 'Detroit of India', because of the presence of major car manufactures in the city.


Great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar spend years here, so as the Christian apostle St. Thomas. Eihu Yale - benefactor of ‘the Collegiate School of Connecticut’ (now famous Yale University) - was one of the Governors of Madras under Company rule.

Bay of Bengal
On the eventful day of August 22, 1639 (aka Madras Day) British East India Company, under Francis Day, bought tree mile stretch of land in this part of Coromandel cost. In the very next year, they started building the now famous St. George fort in the land. However, Madras was not an easy task even for the mighty British. French under the command of General La Bourdonnai, then Governor of Mauritius, captured the fort in 1746. It took three years for the British to regain the control that also through the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749.

French again siege Madras in 1759; ten years later Mysore under Hyder Ali also Siege the city during the climax of first Anglo-Mysore war which resulted in the Treaty of Madras. In the later decades, British conquered most of present day Tamilnadu, parts of Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and northern Kerala establishing Madras Presidency with Madras as capital.

Madras also holds the distinction of the only Indian city attacked by ‘Central powers’ during WWI. On 22 September 1914, German light cruiser ‘HMS Emden’ shelled an Oil depot in Madras and also caused disruption to shipping. Parts of shells then fell in to the Madras are on display at St. George Fort Museum.

Home to Theosophical Society movement, this city also hosted seven Indian National Congress (INC) sessions (1887, 1894, 1898, 1903, 1908, 1914 and 1927) in first 50 years of the party.

Bangalore to Chennai

Bay of Bengal
After considering various options for travel, I finally settled for the comfort of Indian Railway's (IR) sleeper class. As usual, in that Friday evening, walking was faster than our bus’s Volvo engine. After three and quarter hours, going through a slow motion journey, cursing the traffic in every other minute, I finally reached Yeshwantpur railway station.

From one end of the station you can see the rays from electronic display forming the line - 'World Trade Centre - Brigade Gateway'.

From the platform over bridge, lengthy Chennai express was like a blue snake. Another 30 minutes to go to start the journey. As nothing else to do, I started walking through the platform. On left side, a group of college students, along with one of their teachers were enjoying their dinner with Macdonald's products.

I walked further, there was a book stall selling Swami Vivekananda books. One old man, probably in late sixties was curiously reading. By seeing me, he raised his heads, looked for some 10 seconds and then went back to his book. Everywhere people were either sitting in groups, or taking a small nap in the hard surface of granite benches.

Finally its 10.45 in the night, time to start my first ever journey to Chennai. I quickly settled to my seat and fell in to the dream – Chennai, Marina, Fort St. George, Egmore museum...

Flag over St George 
At Chennai in the morning

Ting, ting, and ting...I slowly woke up and turned off the alarm. It’s five, train was about to reach Chennai central railway station (MAS). What surprised me was – we are running 10 minutes ahead of the schedule. Even in my last trip to Hubli, train reached before time. Looks like Indian Railway finally learned the lessons. After moving through the crowd, I finally reached a hotel.

My first plan was to reach Marina before sunrise.

Just like Mumbai, Chennai also have a sub-urban railway system connecting various points in the city. As told by a friend, I decided to go to Park Town - opposite to central - and buy a ticket to Beach Junction. However, reaching Park town was not so easy for a first timer. Note that, in Chennai reservation counters are located in the ground floor of a building close to it.

Sub-Urban Railway (Chennai Mass Rapid Transit System)

For Beach junction tickets, I had to cross the road and reach the other side. Here stands the local station called Park Town. Beach town is the last station for trains going from Park Town in that direction. Train came exactly at 6 am and I got in. Boggy looked like an old home, built using the scraps available from Indian Railway. It was almost empty, and nobody cared about locking the door while train is in motion. Anyway, after spending some minutes in that empty boggy I finally reached Beach junction.

Here I met one railway official, who advised me to go Velachery for seeing the shores. After confirming the same with another police officer, I bought a ticket to Velachery - seven rupees. This train was good – felt like I suddenly came out of ancient Stone Age to modern era. We retraced all the way back to Park Station and continued our journey.

Bad smell were coming from near-by open drains, this accompanied me for most of the remaining train journey. Slums were located close to the tracks; water in black colour was flowing close to them. I don't know whose idea it was, to design open drainage so close to the slums and railway lines. I crossed Chepauk, sea is very close to tracks in this area; thought of even getting down there for a moment. Slowly but steadily tracks were taking a right turn, this effectively means - moving away from shores. Sun already came out of eastern sea and moving fast towards western seas in his chariot – missed the sunrise.

Railway guard informed me that, sea is close at Triplicane. I didn't understand this name; even touch screens placed at railway stations didn’t mention this place. However, when I told the same name at counter, he gave me a ticket to Chepauk.

Person watering the plants under noon sun
By the way an interesting thing happened in my journey to Velacherry. A well dressed young lady in her late twenties approached me and asked something. As I was looking outside, didn't fully understand what she was asking. Somehow I assumed that she is a ticket checker. I searched for the ticket, and showed it to her. She stood still for a moment and then asked - 'give something to this sister'!!! I heard the laughing sound from behind, but didn't turn back!!!

Finally Chepauk came; I got down from the train and walked towards the beach.

Marina Beach

Beach starts from Fort St. George in the north to Besant Nagar in the south. With a length of 13 km, this beach is considered as the longest urban beach in the country. Filled with plastic covers, bottles, paper pieces etc this beach is not known for neatness.

In one side, a group of fishermen were trying to push their boat - small but beautifully painted one with a Honda engine at one end - to sea. After trying for some 5-6 times, against the powerful currents coming towards the shores, they accepted defeat. I started walking the direction of Madras port. On the way, two friends were trying to master somersaulting in air; in another place a group of friends were enjoying the waves. Some hundred meters ahead, one guy was pushing his wife towards water. The problem was husband didn’t share his wife’s fear in moving more towards the sea. It’s almost 9am, time to say good bye to the beach.

Triumph of Labour statue
I tuned left and walked towards beach road. Here, on the road side, stands 'Triumph of Labour statue' - a group of workers trying to push a stone. After a brief conversation with the Policeman, I walked towards St. George Fort - the house of executive. Roads were wide and clean, on one side there were many memorials. After crossing the bride and walking for some more time, I reached in front of Victory War Memorial.

Victory War memorial

This memorial was constructed in the memory of British Indian soldiers who fought and died in various campaigns of World War I and WWII. Located in the middle of the road, this circular structure with a lengthy post in the middle is kept neat and clean. For a moment the never ending discussion of building a war memorial for Post Independence Indian Army came to my mind. Indeed, many of our war memorials - Including the famous India Gate at New Delhi - are built by British in memory of soldiers fought under Union Jack. When will we finally resolve in building a national memorial for soldiers fought under tricolour?

Opposite to ‘Victory War Memorial’ stands the Gate of ‘Port of Chennai’. I continued my journey towards the fort, around 100m ahead, in the background of blue sky, tricolour was flying high in the flag post - at the same position, once occupied by Union Jack.

For going inside the secretariat, one has to sign and give details at the gate. Next step is strict physical security check. Finishing all formalities, I reached Fort Museum.  Museum entry fee for Indian citizens is 5 INR, inside the museum photography is not allowed.

A Junction in Chennai
St George Fort and Museum

This fort was constructed by British in the later part of 17th century. Currently this complex (which includes a museum and a church as well) houses executive wing of Government of Tamilnadu. Impressive statue of Lord Cornwallis, carved by Thomas Banks in 1800 AD depicting the scene of surrender of two sons of Tipu, will welcome you.

1. Ground Floor

Arms gallery is located on ground floor. In this section you can see Rifles, Motors, Cannons, Cannon shots, fragments of shell fired in to Madras city during WW1, medals issues by British India, Regimental uniforms and other symbols, model of Kiser-e-hind gold medal etc.

Porcelain gallery stands on the other side. Porcelain items used by Company officers - which also bear the insignia - are displayed here. On one end you can see the structure of Fort at the time of British India. One interesting item in this part of museum is – giant lock and keys of Fort. Model of a letter, describing the Firman granted to Mr. Day, giving privileges in Madrasapatanam was hanging on the wall.

2. First Floor

Using staircase, close to the giant marble statue of Lord Cornwallis, I reached first floor. After having some water from the cooler, I went to the room on left side. Here you can see the pictures of interesting places from different countries - German and French forts, Ethiopia, Finland, Georgia, Gambia, Gabon etc.

Victory Memorial
Next room contains the portraits of many British officers and Navabs. On the left side first photo was that of Sir Arthur Havelock, as museum in charge Karthik explained to me, wherever you go Havelock's eyes will follow you. Opposite to the door stands the majestic photo of Queen Victoria, painted by George Heytler. Next to next stands Edward VII painted by Luke Filder. This room also contains the full portraits of George V, Queen Mary, coronation of Nawab Gulam Muhammed Ghaur by Elphinstine in 1642 AD, Nawab's photos by Thomas Day, Painting of Major Stinger Lawrence with Nawab Walajah etc and a couple of marble statues as well.

Third room on this floor describes the introduction and history of coinage and various acts related to currency in India. Here you can see some old but interesting coins.

St Mary's Church

After exiting form the museum, thinking about Company era, I started walking towards St Mary's church. This church, opened for service in 1680 AD, is the oldest Masonry building inside the fort complex. Interestingly this church has a bomb proof vaulted roof. After removing sandals, I went inside. Chairs were very old; at one corner one lady was cleaning and rubbing the water off from candle stand and other items. Opposite to me, on the third column two old lady's were reading bible. A young couple and another guy were standing in a corner taking photos. Walls were decorated with tablets.

One beautiful tablet, close to me, was erected there in the memory of 63rd Palamcottach Light Infantry, 73rd Carnatic Infantry and 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry.

After spending another 20 minutes there, I came out. A police woman was standing outside, after checking with her on how to reach T-Nagar, I left the church premises. It’s almost one in the afternoon. After having lunch from secretariat, I went outside to get a bus to T-Nagar. It took some time for the T-Nagar bus to come. Crossing many crowded areas and flyovers bus reached T-Nagar.


“T-Nagar”. Well, I got up from the seat and started moving towards the front door. From that crowded bus I came to one of the most crowded areas in Chennai.

Victory War Memorial and Chennai Port
Constructed in between 1923-25 Theagaraya Nagar, aka T-Nagar, is one of the popular shopping areas in Chennai. This town is named after the leader of ‘Justice Party’ - Sir P. Theagaraya Chetty.

Here you don’t have to waste your energy for walking. Just stand at one place, overwhelming crowd will take you along with them. Packed with jewellery shops, utensils, apparel stores etc, this place is also filled with street vendors and their inventory. Here service roads are out of bound for vehicles. I spend close to one hour here, watching the sea of human beings moving here and there, girls bargaining with street vendors for new dresses, street vendors taking a nap for having late lunch – turn back, open lunch packet brought from home, have it as fast as possible, again turn back to resume the business.

After walking here and there for some more time, I finally reached T-Nagar bus stand. From here, got another bus heading towards Express Avenue.

Express Avenue

Express Avenue
Located in Royapettah, this mall is considered as one of the biggest in South India. After taking a brief sleep in the bus, I reached Royapettah in the afternoon. Plenty of people were there, most of mall’s automatic escalators were always occupied by people. If you want to spend sometime, then this is definitely a nice place.


PS: Day pass for MTC bus is 50 Rs (this pass is valid in all MTC busses).

NOTE: Visit again for reading the second part of this journey.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Google and Freebies - Is the company reaching a full circle?

Finally, Google is also completing a full circle. According to a recent press release from the company, Google stopped offering Google Apps - its web based product suite - free of charge to groups of 10 or fewer users.

Relevant sections from their press release
"... For Businesses, instead of two versions, there will be one. Companies of all sizes will sign up for our premium version...Pricing is still $50 per user, per year..."
"...change has no impact on our existing customers, including those using the free version... will be available as a free service for schools and universities... we’ll continue to offer Google Apps for Government for $50 per user, per year..."

This may be a part of latest evolutions in web. Freebies may be limited in the future. Just like news papers are erecting pay walls, companies may also start assembling the same. Individuals may get free options for a longer time, but wind of change may hit these doors as well. Be prepared for the same...



1. Google.

Recommendations of Sam Pitroda Commission, decisions of Telecom Commission and the patient in death bed - BSNL

BSNL - Connecting India

I am not sure, how many of you have pleasant memories about BSNL. At present, this telecom behemoth is struggling for profits more importantly for its own survival. From the position of an essential company, economic liberalisation made it just like any other company - in other words ‘dispensable’.  Opening the market in early 90s, rewrote the destinies of two business segments in India - Telecom and Insurance. (Of course there were many other areas which enjoyed the fruits of liberalisation).

Both in Insurance and Telecom, we had a couple of government companies which were considered as ‘too big to fail’. LIC in Insurance and BSNL/VSNL/MTNL trio in telecom. LIC successfully withstood the competition (of course the tag 'An Indian Government Undertaking' helped her a lot). In the telecom sector, VSNL went to private hands; MTNL is struggling with its operations in metros. I am not going to those details, as these issues were already covered in many earlier articles.

Current development in this sphere is related to the implementation of Sam Pitroda committee's recommendations on BSNL. This Committee was set up earlier, to review the functioning of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

Important recommendations of Sam Pitroda committee

1. Focus on selection of the best professionals from the market at market rates.
2. Appoint an eminent person from the private sector as the Chairman.
3. Separate the post of the Managing Director/ CEO (from CMD).
4. Change the Board composition to seven directors {one internal (MD/CEO), one non-executive chairman, two government nominee and three external directors}.
5. Provide three year contracts with specific targets for all key management team members.
6. Establish four independent business units for Fixed access, Mobility, Enterprise and New businesses.
7. Complete ITS (Indian Telecom Service) absorption process.
8. Induct significant young talent in Technology, IT, marketing, sales, etc.
9. Retire or transfer around 100K employees through processes like VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme).
10. Change procurement processes and procedures substantially using tools such as e-Procurement, vendor rating, rate running contracts, schedules, etc.
11. Disinvest 30% through Indian strategic investor and at Initial Public Offering (IPO) to return 10% to the government and use 20% for employee VRS, expansion and operation.
12. Provide 30 million new high speed broadband connections in the next three years.
13. Unbundle local loop for public and private companies.
14. Proactively offer sharing of active and passive infrastructure to other operators.
15. Enhance rural communication facilities by connecting 250,000 panchayats.
16. Create a separate subsidiary company for tower related infrastructure.
17. Create a separate subsidiary to hold land bank and other real estate assets.
18. Establish a BSNL venture fund to invest and/ or acquire small appropriate technology companies.

My conclusions about committee's recommendations

1. Take a look at the first two recommendations. It’s based on the concept that, BSNL doesn't have good professionals to lead it. I agree that, good CEOs can change the fate of a company. But the problems in BSNL are not only about the leadership only, hence a cosmetic solution like absorbing best minds from the industry won’t solve it. What is the use, if you have Jack Welsh as CEO but both his hands are tied? It’s not only about the person but also about the freedom ha may have. If this basic framework is not there, then it doesn't matter if you take 10 people from the market or 1000 people from the market.

2. Third and forth recommendations looks more like doing a cosmetic surgery for skin cancer.

3. Fourth point is important, until and unless there is time dependant contract for improving the performance most things won't change. Gave three years to them - but with enough powers.

4. Sixth, sixteenth and seventeenth recommendations are also important. It will help BSNL to concentrate on where it is making the profit, and fix the issues in remaining verticals.

5. Seventh, eighth and ninth points are related to the handling of human resources. It is important to have best people in sales and after sales services. Currently, you have to struggle for each and every service from the company - no matter whether it is applying for a new connection, or relocating an existing connection. What is the use of best economical (call/ broadband) plans if it’s not supported?

6. Tenth recommendation is vital for the company. Cost of equipments should not be the sole criteria for selection - there should be something called quality as well. Company needs to improve its selection rules. Currently, if BSNL select one vendor then the other one will go to court; someone else will accuse the management of bribery. Just take a look at Airtel - if they want to create some infrastructure, they will make sure that the best is in place.

7. Eleventh recommendation dealing with divesting will help BSNL; after all, it will force them to concern about market's reaction. They will no longer be able to post the loss and keep quiet, answerable to shareholders and subject to critical evaluations from market will definitely improve them.

8. Twelfth and fifteenth recommendations are related to improving infrastructure and providing quality service economically in the rural areas. Considering the benefits company is getting from government, we can safely assume that, they are in such a position to execute these projects. BSNL got 3G spectrum much before than any other company.

9. Company can decide on Thirteenth recommendation based in its own commercial views.

10. Offering the infrastructure, e.g. towers and land, for other operators will help BSNL to generate revenue without much additional investment. Creating a separate company for its mobile towers can be a starting step in this direction.

11. Eighteenth is an important suggestion. If BSNL want to achieve any significant breakthroughs in technology then this will help them. Otherwise they may have to satisfy with buying/ renting foreign technology and equipments forever.

Decisions of 'Telecom Commission' on the recommendations

a. Taking 30-50 professional from market at market rates changing Board Constitution or separating Chairman and MD posts may not be feasible in only one Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) as it may trigger protest from BSNL and demand for similar treatment by other PSUs.
b. This is not the opportune time for listing & disinvestment of BSNL, as company is on downward performance path & disinvestment may not realize true value of the company.  In absence of listing, option of giving stocks as incentive, to key management is not available for the present.
c. VRS across the board may not be required; BSNL could examine option of VRS for select categories, examining financial burden and cost/benefit of the company.
d. On adopting Managed capacity or managed services model - Internal Committee view that the Board of BSNL may take a view is endorsed.
e. Unbundling of the local loop is a commercial decision, which shall be decided by BSNL Board after critically examining the issue.
f. All other issues are operational and commercial issues of BNSL for which the Board is competent to take decisions.
g. The Commission also observed that some of the above issues including items (ii), (iii) and (v) could be revisited if the need arose in the context of any major policy decisions involving restructuring and repositioning of BSNL.

My Take on the decisions of 'Telecom Commission'

a. Well, they agreed with my observation, but provided a pathetic reason for the same. Commission has to understand that, BSNL is the terminally ill patient not NTPC, OIL or other PSUs.

b. Well I agree with this point; but government don’t have to sell 50% even 5% will work. Let BSNL fear about market's reaction after they post the profits.

c. I agree that VRS will create an enormous financial burden on company’s balance sheet. But instead of Telecom Commission taking a decision on their own it will be better to consider the view of international consultants.

d. BSNL Board spend a long number of years before Sam Pitroda recommendations came in to existence - I didn’t hear anything from them about restructuring. If we are not forcing the board to do something then restructuring may remain as non-starter.

e. Agreeing with the view of commission.

f and g. If we leave everything to the discretion of board then many recommendations may never see the light of the day. Sometimes ministry won't agree, if ministry agrees then board may not agree, if both agree then union may not agree etc.


BSNL is neither monopoly nor indispensable. What more, now a day’s its decisions has a little weightage on market. The faster BSNL absorbs this hard reality the better. If they are still unable to digest, then take look at the financial conditions of her big brother – Air India.



1. Government of India

Photo Courtesy: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Indian sports - it’s the time for cleaning

Indian Olympic Association
Sports is not an area where we can claim much global triumphs, except in a couple of events like Cricket, Chess etc. 1.2bn+ people are still starving for medals in international events like Olympics, FIFA World cup, Athletic meets etc.

Number of medals we got in Olympics’ may be an indication of where we are standing in international sports. India started participating in this sporting extravaganza right from the second games - Paris - in 1900; 27 years before the so called 'Indian Olympic Association' came into existence. In Paris, we won two silver medals - Norman Gilbert Pritchard (British descent) become the first person to win an Olympic medal representing India (first for an Asian nation as well). Over 112 years we got just 28 medals.

Games Medals
1900 - Paris Norman Pritchard (Athletics - 2 Silver)
1928 - Amsterdam National team - Hockey (Gold)
1932 - LosAngeles National team - Hockey (Gold)
1936 - Berlin National team - Hockey (Gold)
1948 - London National team - Hockey (Gold)
1952 - Helsinki National team - Hockey (Gold),
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav  (Wrestling - Bronze)
1956 - Melbourne National team - Hockey (Gold)
1960 - Rome National team - Hockey (Gold)
1964 - Tokyo National team - Hockey (Gold)
1968 - Mexico National team - Hockey (Bronze)
1972 - Munich National team - Hockey (Bronze)
1980 - Moscow National team - Hockey (Gold)
1996 - Atlanta Leander Paes - Tennis (Bronze)
2000 - Sydney Karnam Malleswari - Weightlifting (Bronze)
2004 - Athens Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore - Shooting (Silver)
2008 - Beijing Abhinav Bindra - Shooting (Gold), Vijender Singh - Boxing (Bronze),
Sushil Kumar  - Wrestling (Bronze)
2012 - London Gagan Narang - Shooting (Bronze), Vijay Kumar - Shooting (Silver),
Saina Nehwal - Badminton (Bronze), Mary Kom  - Boxing (Bronze), Yogeshwar Dutt - Wrestling (Bronze), Sushil Kumar - Wrestling (Silver)

It is ironic that, Indian hockey team, which once dominated the world of Hockey, is not even sure of an Asian medal in these days.

However, fall from grace didn't improve the attitude of both national and state Hockey Federations. This problem is not limited to Hockey; almost all other sporting federations came down to such a level that nothing less than critical surgeries will help.

Banning ‘Indian Olympic Association (IOA)’ and suspending Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF)

Adding to the humiliation, "At a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on Tuesday, the IOC banned the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and said a vote to elect its secretary-general on Wednesday would be "null and void"" It didn't stop there, "Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) has been suspended by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for "possible manipulation" of its elections". 

If we wait for some more time, they will suspend some other association as well!!! After all how many of them are really interested in working for the improvement of sports in India?

The irony is, in both cases reason for suspension was elections. Why, India, which conducts world biggest election exercise once in every five years, was unable to conduct proper elections to these small sporting bodies? Why we have people coming right form the jail heading these organizations? Why we have people who may never played any sports other than political horse-trading are heading these organizations?

The problem is not that, politicians are heading these governing bodies, but its the detachment of these numerous associations, federations with sports!!!


Government should bring in sweeping changes in the governance of these bodies. It’s time for the wind of change to open the closed doors. In India, government is the primary source of income for these sporting bodies - except probably for cricket. In other words, money is coming from public exchequer – which again paid by you and me.

So government has every right and obligation to install proper bodies to govern and improve sports in India. No matter whether IOC cry foul or not, no matter whether they ban some other federations or not; government should take this ban from IOC as an excuse to act decisively and throw out all unwanted elements from sport councils.



1. Athletes hope IOC ban could bring change - Reuters
2. International Olympic Association (IOA)
3. Indian boxing federation suspended in wake of IOC ban - Irish Indepenent

Thursday, December 6, 2012

‘Direct Cash Transfer scheme and some entangled questions

While judging about government's cash transfer scheme, many queries are coming to my mind,

1. Will people use the money transferred to their account, by government, for purchasing food? Or will they divert it to some other needs?
2. What about the consequence of inflation on subsidy amounts?
3. Will our banking system be able to deal with the weight?
4. In many commercial (both government and public) banks minimum balance, required to maintain a savings bank account, is very high; will the banks happily alter the rules and serve rural poor with a smile?
5. Will rural poor be able to get better service from banks?
6. Once Cash transfer scheme become operational, subsidies for PDS supplies may go. Won't it swell the cost of food in general market?

For most of these questions I often reach an answer which kills my passion in otherwise supposed to be effective Aadhar based cash transfer scheme.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Legson Kayira and his inspiring long walk

Legson Kayira

"I learned I was not, as most Africans believed, the victim of my circumstances but the master of them." - Legson Kayira

We have hundred of stories about, how people with firm determination changed not only the course of their life but the course of an age as well. Each story is unique in its own aspects, no matter whether it is Lincoln’s determination or Edison's persistence.

Legson Kayira, born in a remote African country - Malawi – would have been slip in to the unknown pages of history, if he decided to live a normal life. But, he didn’t submit himself to the fate, his firm determination to find a new life and sustained struggle for the same elevated him to the next level. Here is the story of Kayira from his autobiography – ‘I Will Try’.

Barefoot to America

--- This story originally published in University of Kent, UK republished here with permission.

"My mother did not know where America was. I said to her, "Mother, I want to go to America to go to college. Will you give me your permission?" "Very well," she said. "You may go. When will you leave?" I did not want to give her time to discover how far away America was, for fear that she would change her mind. "Tomorrow," I said. "1 will prepare some maize for you to eat along the way," she said. Next day I left my home in Nyasaland, East Africa. I had only the clothes I wore, a khaki shirt and shorts. I carried the two treasures I owned: a Bible and a copy of Pilgrim's Progress. I carried, too, the maize my mother had given me, wrapped in banana leaves

My goal was a continent and an ocean away, but I did not doubt that I would reach it. I had no idea how old I was. Such things mean little in a land where time is always the same. I suppose I was 16 or 18. My father died when I was very young. From missionaries I learned I was not the victim of circumstances but the master of them. I learned that I had an obligation to use whatever talents I had to make life better for others. And to do that I would need education. I learned about America. I read the life of Abraham Lincoln and grew to love this man who suffered so much to help the enslaved in his country. I read, too, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, himself born in slavery in America, and who had risen in dignity and honour to become a benefactor of his people and his country. I gradually realized that in America I could receive the training and opportunities to prepare myself to emulate these men in my own land, to be, like them, a leader, perhaps even the president of my country.

My intention was to make my way to Cairo, where I hoped to get passage on a ship to America. Cairo was over 3,000 miles away, a distance I could not comprehend, and I foolishly thought I could walk it in four or five days. But in four or five days I was about 25 miles from home, my food was gone, I had no money, and I did not know what to do, except that I must keep going. I developed a pattern of travel that became my life for more than a year. Villages were usually five or six miles apart, on forest paths. I would arrive at one in the afternoon and ask if I could work to earn food, water and a place to sleep. When this was possible, 1 would spend the night there, then move on to the next village in the morning. I was actually defenceless against the forest animals I dreaded, but although I heard them at night none of them approached me. Malaria mosquitoes, however, were constant companions, and I often was sick.

By the end of a year 1 had walked 1,000 miles and had arrived in Uganda, where a family took me in and I found a job making bricks. I remained there six months and sent most of my earnings to my mother. In Kampala, I unexpectedly came upon a directory of American colleges. Opening it at random, I saw the name of Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon, Washington. I had heard that American colleges sometimes give scholarships to deserving young people, so I wrote and applied for one. I realized that I might be refused but was not discouraged; I would write to one school after another in the directory until I found one that would help me.

Three weeks later I was granted a scholarship and assured that the school would help me find a job. Overjoyed, I went to the United States authorities, only to be told that this was not enough. I would need a passport and the round-trip fare in order to obtain a visa. I wrote to my government for a passport but it was refused because I could not tell them when I was born. I then wrote to the missionaries who had taught me in my childhood, and through their efforts was granted a passport. But I still could not get the visa because I did not have the fare. Still determined, I resumed my journey. So strong was my faith that I used my last money to buy my first pair of shoes; I knew I could not walk into college in my bare feet. I carried the shoes to save them.

Across Uganda and into the Sudan I walked. The villages were farther apart and the people were less friendly. Sometimes I had to walk 20 or 30 miles in a day to find a place to sleep or to work to earn some food. At last I reached Khartoum, where I learned that there was a United States consulate. Once again I heard about the US entrance requirements, but this time the Consul was interested enough to write to the college about my plight. Back came a cable. The students, hearing about me and my problems, had raised the fare of $1,700 through benefit parties. I was thrilled and deeply grateful, - overjoyed that I had judged Americans correctly for their friendship and brotherhood. News that I had walked for over two years and 2,500 miles circulated in Khartoum.

After many, many months, carrying my two books and wearing my first suit, I arrived at Skagit Valley College. In my speech of gratitude to the student body I disclosed my desire to become prime minister or president of my country, and I noticed some smiles. I wondered if I had said something naive. I do not think so. When God has put an impossible dream in your heart, He means to help you fulfil it. I believed this to be true when as an African bush boy, I felt compelled to become an American college graduate. And my dream of becoming president of my country can also become true."



1.       University of Kent, UK.

Photo Courtesy: Amazon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Implementing Direct cash transfer in India - State is fighting back against corruption

Solving the puzzle called corruption

“If Central government releases one rupee for poor, only 10 paisa reaches them.”

These are not the words of any excited activist from the street, but that of former premier Rajiv Gandhi (Congress Plenary Session- Bombay).

Government disbursal system is so leaky that, a great deal of flesh will be removed from the chicken before it reaches its target. For accepting the application, moving the file, getting the signatures, at the time of disbursal... doors which will unlock after showing notes with Gandhi's face!!!

However, rising literacy and increasing awareness intensified the resistance against these practices. But people are still vulnerable, after all line of hope still passes through old veins only.

In such circumstances, direct transfer of subsides to bank accounts of beneficiaries by central and state governments will be a blessing for ordinary man. This progression will definitely eliminate the roles of middle men and ghost recipients from the system. As an added advantage a substantial section of rural poor will come under country’s formal banking system; this will also facilitate them to save their wealth in a systematic way.

At a time, when government subsidies are running above three lakh crore rupees, gains of direct cash transfers not only make the process straightforward, but also augment the efficiency of auditing and restrain the corruption at low levels.

Prime Minister's remarks on Direct Transfers

Let’s take a glance at Prime Minister's speech at initial meeting of National Committee on Direct Transfers,

"“We have just concluded a very useful round of discussions about a very important initiative that the government has taken.

The government today spends huge funds on schemes and programmes for the benefit of the common man and the under-privileged sections of society. These schemes have the potential to bring about improvements in the lives of a large number of our people provided they are targeted correctly and implemented effectively. The funds that are provisioned for direct benefits like pensions, scholarships and health-care benefits must reach the intended beneficiaries without delays and leakages. Apart from these direct benefits, the government also provides an amount of over 3 lakh crore Rupees in subsidies which too must reach the right people.

Direct Cash Transfers, which are now becoming possible through the innovative use of technology and the spread of modern banking across the country, open the doors for eliminating waste, cutting down leakages and targeting beneficiaries better. We have a chance to ensure that every Rupee spent by the government is spent truly well and goes to those who truly deserve it.

I am happy at the widespread support that I have heard across the table for Direct Cash Transfers. I have also listened carefully about the challenges that lie in our way in moving to a system of Direct Cash Transfers. In the coming days we will need to make every possible effort to address these challenges.

The twin pillars for the success of the system of Direct Cash Transfers that we have envisioned are the Aaadhaar Platform and Financial Inclusion. If either of these pillars is weak, it would endanger the success of the initiative. I would expect the Finance Ministry and the Unique Identification Authority to work in close coordination to achieve a collective goal.

To move closer towards the goal of financial inclusion, the banking system perhaps needs to integrate the post office network, especially in the rural parts of the country. It also needs to ensure that the front end infrastructure is in place all over the country, both through the existing modes of banking and through newer innovative ones, so that people have no trouble in opening bank accounts and withdrawing and depositing cash. Ideally, the common man should be able to open a simple bank account on demand if they have an Aadhaar number. This would have many other benefits too, beyond cash transfers. For banks, the increase in the number of account holders would be an investment in their own growth. The Unique Identification Authority must ensure that the coverage of Aadhaar is adequate as per the rollout plan and no one is left out. An Aadhaar number should be available on demand if beneficiaries are getting left out.

I would urge the individual ministries to work in right earnest for implementation of the Direct Cash Transfers initiative. They will need to digitize their databases, most of which are with the States, and seed them with Aadhaar numbers. You will be provided help by both the Unique Identification Authority and the IT Ministry. But, you will in turn need to assist the States.

This is a program in which the implementation capacity of our government will be tested. We must ensure at all times that there is no duplication of effort, and technology is used to the fullest for efficiency gains.

The timelines we have set for ourselves are ambitious. Fifty one districts are to rollout from January next year and 18 States from April. And the rest of the country later in 2013. I have no doubt we can succeed in achieving these goals provided we work sincerely and collectively.

I wish you all success in your efforts to put in place a system of Direct Cash Transfers.”"

State Can still fight back

Direct cash transfer may diminish the ineptitude of system and curb corruption, but it will not solve the challenge by itself. Direct Cash transfers will come in to effect, once the person submit the application for loans or subsidies and officials sanction the same – nevertheless an old process. In the same way system can’t itself settle on who is eligible and who is not.

Corruption has the ability to evolve itself and adapt to the changing circumstances. Ghost recipients may still be able to sneak in, middle men may re-appear in another form... Government, its auditors, communities need to keep a relentless vigil against it.



1. Government of India

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hindustan Copper - One arm is selling and another arm is buying?

Finally government resumed the process of selling family silver to fill the big hole called fiscal deficit. Aim is to generate 30,000 crores through the sale of government shares in PSUs. Last year government aimed 40,000 crores, but managed to get only 14,000 crores. This year also story may not be different.

Hindustan Copper Ltd

Around 800 crores came to treasury from recently concluded sale of HCL shares. At first look, this seems to be a success – after all shares were fully subscribed. But the million dollar question here is, who bought the shares? Whether its FIIs, foreign investors, domestic investors or government companies itself?

According to reports, foreign and domestic investors were not so enthusiastic about it, even after offering a discount of 41% over Thursday’s market price (auction was on Friday).

Kodak securities reports that,
“As per media reports, Life Insurance Corporation, State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank saved the day for the HCL today. During the first three hours, bids worth Rs 31 crore only came from investors and it was only in last 30 minutes that the issue got fully subscribed”.
If it’s true, then on Friday stock markets gave a serious blow to government’s dream of generating 30,000 crores this year through disinvestment.

Most probably what happened here is, in the last minutes Life Insurance Corp, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank etc invested their own money to save the share sales. This is bad practice, if government's real aim is to generate money from market then it should come from market not from other government owned companies. LIC is one of the rare government owned company which successfully competed with private ones and hold their ground.

In emergency situations, government can use LIC to save the process. But it may not be appropriate to use it every time. Previously, during the auction of ONGC shares also, it was LIC who saved the government.  In short, one arm of government is selling and another arm is buying!!! How can we say that, such types of disinvestments are a success?


The question here is, whether investors are totally disinterested in putting their money on stocks? The answer may be no, it’s tough time, but investors are still active- e.g. Blue Dart Express's (offered a discount of 16%) shares were oversubscribed.

Before going further with the auctions of NMDC and Oil India Ltd (OIL) in December, government needs to sit back and think about valuation and other aspects.

Selling the shares of government owned companies is not a proper way to cover fiscal deficit. It’s not that, government should not sell PSUs at all, it should; but, money coming from there should be used for investments, not for filling holes. What we are currently doing is cooking the seeds for day to day food requirements...!!!



1. Economic Times
2. Kodak Securities
3. Business Standard

Collaborating with private sector on cyber security

Cyber warfare is one of the new frontiers in modern warfare. In future wars, governments (as well as other groups) will employ their cyber potential to cripple their enemy's defences and infrastructure. Recent incidents across the globe shows that, governments can start a cyber war without going through a formal declaration of war. In such a situation it is important for India to invest in securing her cyber systems, networks and other infrastructure.

A recent Joint Working Group (JWG) report indicates that, GOI is walking in the right direction to secure our cyber space.  JWG report on engagement with Private Sector for strengthening Cyber Security Architecture put forward some important suggestions.

1. Setting up of a permanent Joint Working Group under the aegis of National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) with representatives from government as well as private sector.
2. Setting up of the Joint Committee of International Cooperation of Advocacy (JCICA).
3. The private sector will set up information Sharing & Analysis Sector (ISACs) in various sectors and cooperate with the sectoral Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) at the operational level.
4. The Joint Working Group has identified four pilot projects for collaboration which include:
   (I) Setting up of Pilot Testing Lab.
   (II) Conducting a test audit of a specified sector.
   (III) Studying vulnerabilities in a sample critical information infrastructure.
   (IV) Establishment of the multi – disciplinary Centre of Excellence

In these days, when we are frequently hearing about breaches in various government systems by foreign elements, a tie up between government and private sector - harnessing the potential of private companies acquired in this area over time - may prove good in securing nation's cyber infrastructure.



1. Government of India.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The damned discovery – Arrival of cheap shale gas in North America

US Natural Gas prices 2007-2012
You may be wondering, why I put the word ‘damned’ in the title. Well, the conclusion will explain that.

Shale gas boom in Northern America

Strategists, energy experts, news papers etc are celebrating shale gas boom in US. With the arrival of new oil & gas king – US – OPEC’s ability for giving another oil shock may reduce, even a temporary instability in Middle-East or a crisis in Venezuela may not take crude oil prices over the head. However, Asian countries will remain vulnerable to the events in Middle-East.

According to Energy Department in Washington, in the first six months of this year US met 83% of its energy needs. This year alone, US crude import has fallen by 11%. Forecasts states that, US will overtake Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2020; and North America will become net exporter by 2030. However, Saudi Arabia may reclaim its position as the top oil producer by 2030.

Not only US oil and shale gas boom, but energy discoveries in Canada, offshore production in Gulf of Mexico and re-entry of old oil mogul Iraq to the game will certainly increase the availability of oil and gas in international markets.


Europe is yet to enter the shale era. As far as energy is concerned, continent is living under triple fear.  They fear to introduce hydraulic fracturing techniques, for extracting gas trapped in shale layers; secondly, they fear about constructing more reactors and using nuclear energy – especially after Fukushima crisis; thirdly, they fear about gas and oil supplies from Russia and climate change.

The way out for them, may be investing in evergreen energy producer – Coal. I used the word evergreen here because, whenever people start thinking that age of coal is over, she used to fight back successfully and conquer the throne. Europeans can also increase the drilling in Arctic, but it requires heavy investments and not all European countries have arctic shores.

US may replace her dirty coal fired plants with cheap and clean gas fired plants for generating electricity. Such an event will force US coal to search for new markets; probably across the Atlantic – to Europe. Already struggling under the twin weight of high dependency on Russian energy imports and self imposed nuclear ban Europe may embrace cheap coal.


However, these events may not turn out good for India because of various reasons.

1. Even after struggling for a good number of years, GOI is yet to come up with a good, non-controversial piece of paper called – Price Sharing Contract. Ever shifting policy, priorities and other problems were visible in court cases with Reliance industries over KG basin.
2. The construction spree of Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP), powered by coal – which we need to import from Indonesia, Australia etc – will keep the cost of electricity generation high.
3. Rising consumerism and number of fossil fuel powered vehicles will make the problem worse.
4. Even though gas prices are going down in US, we may not experience any such relaxation as gas prices are linked to oil prices; moreover governments are going for long term contracts instead of short term ones. So, if oil price remains high, gas prices will also remain high.
5. GOI is yet to form a comprehensive shale gas policy for India, it may come in 2013 or 14. Considering GOI’s problems in NELP (New exploration licensing policy) even after nine rounds, shale gas policy may take long time to consolidate. This will effectively make Indian shale gas exploration unattractive for international energy giants.

On the positive side, oil price may stabilize and go down. In future we may have more LNG terminals to receive cheap gas from Northern America, Russian Far East and Middle East – especially Qatar.


You may be wondering why I put the word dammed in the title. I am very much happy to see revolutionary changes in oil and gas extraction technologies in US, cheap oil and gas production and millions of new jobs created in US. However, this will reduce the incentives for US energy giants, automakers and the government to invest in alternate energy production techniques; especially the ones which can run cars and trucks.

I thought that, US dependency on Middle-Eastern oil and European dependency on Russian oil and gas will force them to speed up the research of alternate energy sources for utilities and vehicles. With the availability of cheap gas in US; coal, oil and gas (Russia in cooperation with EU energy companies is building pipelines to Southern Europe) will remove (or reduce) the strong urge for investing heavily in new energy frontiers. This will force India, China etc to depend on oil import for foreseeable future.

I sincerely hope that, GOI will find some time, in between building UMPPs, to take up commercially producible alternate energy - not only wind or solar plants spread over large areas but the one which can run small cars to big trucks. I can only hope that, there will be some breakthrough in this area. Till that time we may have to build more LNG terminals and try all we can do to delink gas prices from that of oil.

GOI needs to take this as a do or die fight; otherwise we may find ourselves totally helpless in front of rising oil and gas bills.



1. US Energy Information Administration
2. Bloomberg
3. International Energy Agency

Photo Courtesy: Energy Information Administration, US Government

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

‘Minute on Indian Educatione’ by T.B Macaulay

Macaulay was one of the prominent bureaucrats of British Raj, whose actions (along with Lord Bentinck) significantly altered the course of a country. Macaulay was ‘Secretary to the board of control’ (1832-33), under then premier ‘Lord Grey’ during the passage of ‘Government of India Act-1833’ (aka Saint Helena Act-1833). Later, Macaulay became the first Law minister in Governor General's council and came to India in 1834. From 1834-38 he was the member of Supreme Council of India.

One of the most famous piece of paper Macaulay produced in India was, his 'Minute on Indian Educatione' of February 1835 (basis for English Education Act of 1835). This act brought in to action, decisions by then Governor General of India - William Bentinck - to reallocate the funds ‘Company’ has to spend on education and literature, as required by British parliament. According to Charter Act - 1813, East India Company has to spend 100,000 rupees per year for the promotion of literature, knowledge of sciences etc.

After this act came into force, Company switched their support for education from the traditional one in Sanskrit and Arabic to western curriculum with English as the medium. Language of Administration and higher courts were also changed from Persian to English.

Changes under Lord Auckland

Later Lord Auckland, who succeeded Bentinck, reversed some of the policies (Lord Auckland's minute on 24 November 1839, suggested funding for Oriental colleges as well). Company also resumed the support for publication of Sanskrit and Arabic works, through a grant to Asiatic Society.

Indian Penal Code and more

Apart from contributing to ‘English Education Act of 1935’, thus became the architect of English Education in India, Macaulay also contributed to Indian Penal Code (1860), Indian Criminal Procedure Code (1872), nationalization of English East India Company etc... It is interesting to note that, Indian Penal Code(IPC) is still in use- in one way or other - in several former British colonies including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Zimbabwe etc.

It is true that, many of his statements are totally unacceptable to Indians. At the same time we can't ignore his contributions for the development of English education in India.

'Minute on Indian Educatione'

Please note that, even though I am publishing this minute, I can’t agree on most of the arguments put forwarded by Macaulay for selecting English as the medium of education.

There is no doubt that, English is a beautiful language with an excellent collection of literature. But, I can’t buy his arguments like – Oriental languages don’t have good literature, incomprehensible to convey the language of modern science, not good enough for trade etc. These were proved incorrect later in theory as well as in practice.

At the same time, we have to remember that this story unfolded in 1830s, long before the remains of Indus Valley Civilisation was discovered in 1920s; three years before James Prinsep deciphered Ashokan edicts; 41 years before Alexander Cunningham wrote ‘The Stupa of Bharhut’; 26 years before Alexander Cunningham founded ‘Archaeological Survey of India’; 69 years before R. Shamasastry discovered Chanakya’s Arthashastra. Practically at a time, even we knew a little about our own history.

Full text of Macaulay’s 'Minute on Indian Educatione' of 2nd February 1835
         “As it seems to be the opinion of some of the gentlemen who compose the Committee of Public Instruction that the course which they have hitherto pursued was strictly prescribed by the British Parliament in 1813 and as, if that opinion be correct, a legislative act will be necessary to warrant a change, I have thought it right to refrain from taking any part in the preparation of the adverse statements which before us, and to reserve what I had to say on the subject till it should come before me as a Member of the Council of India. 
        It does not appear to me that the Act of Parliament can by any art of contraction be made to bear the meaning which has been assigned to it. It contains nothing about the particular languages or sciences which are to be studied. A sum is set apart "for the revival and promotion of literature, and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories." It is argued, or rather taken for granted, that by literature the Parliament can have meant only Arabic and Sanscrit literature; that they never would have given the honourable appellation of "a learned native" to a native who was familiar with the poetry of Milton, the metaphysics of Locke, and the physics of Newton; but that they meant to designate by that name only such persons as might have studied in the sacred books of the Hindoos all the uses of cusa-grass, and all the mysteries of absorption into the Deity. This does not appear to be a very satisfactory interpretation. To take a parallel case: Suppose that the Pacha of Egypt, a country once superior in knowledge to the nations of Europe, but now sunk far below them, were to appropriate a sum for the purpose "of reviving and promoting literature, and encouraging learned natives of Egypt," would any body infer that he meant the youth of his Pachalik to give years to the study of hieroglyphics, to search into all the doctrines disguised under the fable of Osiris, and to ascertain with all possible accuracy the ritual with which cats and onions were anciently adored? Would he be justly charged with inconsistency if, instead of employing his young subjects in deciphering obelisks, he were to order them to be instructed in the English and French languages, and in all the sciences to which those languages are the chief keys? 
         The words on which the supporters of the old system rely do not bear them out, and other words follow which seem to be quite decisive on the other side. This lakh of rupees is set apart not only for "reviving literature in India," the phrase on which their whole interpretation is founded, but also "for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories"-- words which are alone sufficient to authorize all the changes for which I contend. 
         If the Council agree in my construction no legislative act will be necessary. If they differ from me, I will propose a short act rescinding that I clause of the Charter of 1813 from which the difficulty arises. 
        The argument which I have been considering affects only the form of proceeding. But the admirers of the oriental system of education have used another argument, which, if we admit it to be valid, is decisive against all change. They conceive that the public faith is pledged to the present system, and that to alter the appropriation of any of the funds which have hitherto been spent in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanscrit would be downright spoliation. It is not easy to understand by what process of reasoning they can have arrived at this conclusion. The grants which are made from the public purse for the encouragement of literature differ in no respect from the grants which are made from the same purse for other objects of real or supposed utility. We found a sanitarium on a spot which we suppose to be healthy. Do we thereby pledge ourselves to keep a sanitarium there if the result should not answer our expectations? We commence the erection of a pier. Is it a violation of the public faith to stop the works, if we afterwards see reason to believe that the building will be useless? The rights of property are undoubtedly sacred. But nothing endangers those rights so much as the practice, now unhappily too common, of attributing them to things to which they do not belong. Those who would impart to abuses the sanctity of property are in truth imparting to the institution of property the unpopularity and the fragility of abuses. If the Government has given to any person a formal assurance-- nay, if the Government has excited in any person's mind a reasonable expectation-- that he shall receive a certain income as a teacher or a learner of Sanscrit or Arabic, I would respect that person's pecuniary interests. I would rather err on the side of liberality to individuals than suffer the public faith to be called in question. But to talk of a Government pledging itself to teach certain languages and certain sciences, though those languages may become useless, though those sciences may be exploded, seems to me quite unmeaning. There is not a single word in any public instrument from which it can be inferred that the Indian Government ever intended to give any pledge on this subject, or ever considered the destination of these funds as unalterably fixed. But, had it been otherwise, I should have denied the competence of our predecessors to bind us by any pledge on such a subject. Suppose that a Government had in the last century enacted in the most solemn manner that all its subjects should, to the end of time, be inoculated for the small-pox, would that Government be bound to persist in the practice after Jenner's discovery? These promises of which nobody claims the performance, and from which nobody can grant a release, these vested rights which vest in nobody, this property without proprietors, this robbery which makes nobody poorer, may be comprehended by persons of higher faculties than mine. I consider this plea merely as a set form of words, regularly used both in England and in India, in defence of every abuse for which no other plea can be set up. 
        I hold this lakh of rupees to be quite at the disposal of the Governor-General in Council for the purpose of promoting learning in India in any way which may be thought most advisable. I hold his Lordship to be quite as free to direct that it shall no longer be employed in encouraging Arabic and Sanscrit, as he is to direct that the reward for killing tigers in Mysore shall be diminished, or that no more public money shall be expended on the chaunting at the cathedral. 
        We now come to the gist of the matter. We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it? 
        All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them.  It seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be affected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them. 
        What then shall that language be? One-half of the committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be-- which language is the best worth knowing? 
         I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education. 
         It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same. 
        How then stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us, --with models of every species of eloquence, --with historical composition, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equaled-- with just and lively representations of human life and human nature, --with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, trade, --with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said that the literature now extant in that language is of greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of Government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australia, --communities which are every year becoming more important and more closely connected with our Indian empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects. 
        The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own, whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, wherever they differ from those of Europe differ for the worse, and whether, when we can patronize sound philosophy and true history, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography made of seas of treacle and seas of butter. 
        We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are, in modern times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society, of prejudices overthrown, of knowledge diffused, of taste purified, of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous. 
        The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto noted, had they neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus, had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island, had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon and romances in Norman French, --would England ever have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments-- in history for example-- I am certain that it is much less so. 
         Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the last hundred and twenty years, a nation which had previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilized communities. I speak of Russia. There is now in that country a large educated class abounding with persons fit to serve the State in the highest functions, and in nowise inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There is reason to hope that this vast empire which, in the time of our grandfathers, was probably behind the Punjab, may in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old women's stories which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question, whether the world was or not created on the 13th of September; not by calling him "a learned native" when he had mastered all these points of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar. 
        And what are the arguments against that course which seems to be alike recommended by theory and by experience? It is said that we ought to secure the co-operation of the native public, and that we can do this only by teaching Sanscrit and Arabic. 
         I can by no means admit that, when a nation of high intellectual attainments undertakes to superintend the education of a nation comparatively ignorant, the learners are absolutely to prescribe the course which is to be taken by the teachers. It is not necessary however to say anything on this subject. For it is proved by unanswerable evidence, that we are not at present securing the co-operation of the natives. It would be bad enough to consult their intellectual taste at the expense of their intellectual health. But we are consulting neither. We are withholding from them the learning which is palatable to them. We are forcing on them the mock learning which they nauseate. 
        This is proved by the fact that we are forced to pay our Arabic and Sanscrit students while those who learn English are willing to pay us. All the declamations in the world about the love and reverence of the natives for their sacred dialects will never, in the mind of any impartial person, outweigh this undisputed fact, that we cannot find in all our vast empire a single student who will let us teach him those dialects, unless we will pay him. 
        I have now before me the accounts of the Mudrassa for one month, the month of December, 1833. The Arabic students appear to have been seventy-seven in number. All receive stipends from the public. The whole amount paid to them is above 500 rupees a month. On the other side of the account stands the following item: 
        Deduct amount realized from the out-students of English for the months of May, June, and July last-- 103 rupees. 
        I have been told that it is merely from want of local experience that I am surprised at these phenomena, and that it is not the fashion for students in India to study at their own charges. This only confirms me in my opinions. Nothing is more certain than that it never can in any part of the world be necessary to pay men for doing what they think pleasant or profitable. India is no exception to this rule. The people of India do not require to be paid for eating rice when they are hungry, or for wearing woollen cloth in the cold season. To come nearer to the case before us: --The children who learn their letters and a little elementary arithmetic from the village schoolmaster are not paid by him. He is paid for teaching them. Why then is it necessary to pay people to learn Sanscrit and Arabic? Evidently because it is universally felt that the Sanscrit and Arabic are languages the knowledge of which does not compensate for the trouble of acquiring them. On all such subjects the state of the market is the detective test.# 
         Other evidence is not wanting, if other evidence were required. A petition was presented last year to the committee by several ex-students of the Sanscrit College. The petitioners stated that they had studied in the college ten or twelve years, that they had made themselves acquainted with Hindoo literature and science, that they had received certificates of proficiency. And what is the fruit of all this? "Notwithstanding such testimonials," they say, "we have but little prospect of bettering our condition without the kind assistance of your honourable committee, the indifference with which we are generally looked upon by our countrymen leaving no hope of encouragement and assistance from them." They therefore beg that they may be recommended to the Governor-General for places under the Government-- not places of high dignity or emolument, but such as may just enable them to exist. "We want means," they say, "for a decent living, and for our progressive improvement, which, however, we cannot obtain without the assistance of Government, by whom we have been educated and maintained from childhood." They conclude by representing very pathetically that they are sure that it was never the intention of Government, after behaving so liberally to them during their education, to abandon them to destitution and neglect. 
        I have been used to see petitions to Government for compensation. All those petitions, even the most unreasonable of them, proceeded on the supposition that some loss had been sustained, that some wrong had been inflicted. These are surely the first petitioners who ever demanded compensation for having been educated gratis, for having been supported by the public during twelve years, and then sent forth into the world well furnished with literature and science. They represent their education as an injury which gives them a claim on the Government for redress, as an injury for which the stipends paid to them during the infliction were a very inadequate compensation. And I doubt not that they are in the right. They have wasted the best years of life in learning what procures for them neither bread nor respect. Surely we might with advantage have saved the cost of making these persons useless and miserable. Surely, men may be brought up to be burdens to the public and objects of contempt to their neighbours at a somewhat smaller charge to the State. But such is our policy. We do not even stand neuter in the contest between truth and falsehood. We are not content to leave the natives to the influence of their own hereditary prejudices. To the natural difficulties which obstruct the progress of sound science in the East, we add great difficulties of our own making. Bounties and premiums, such as ought not to be given even for the propagation of truth, we lavish on false texts and false philosophy. 
        By acting thus we create the very evil which we fear. We are making that opposition which we do not find. What we spend on the Arabic and Sanscrit Colleges is not merely a dead loss to the cause of truth. It is bounty-money paid to raise up champions of error. It goes to form a nest not merely of helpless placehunters but of bigots prompted alike by passion and by interest to raise a cry against every useful scheme of education. If there should be any opposition among the natives to the change which I recommend, that opposition will be the effect of our own system. It will be headed by persons supported by our stipends and trained in our colleges. The longer we persevere in our present course, the more formidable will that opposition be. It will be every year reinforced by recruits whom we are paying. From the native society, left to itself, we have no difficulties to apprehend. All the murmuring will come from that oriental interest which we have, by artificial means, called into being and nursed into strength. 
There is yet another fact which is alone sufficient to prove that the feeling of the native public, when left to itself, is not such as the supporters of the old system represent it to be. The committee have thought fit to lay out above a lakh of rupees in printing Arabic and Sanscrit books. Those books find no purchasers. It is very rarely that a single copy is disposed of. Twenty-three thousand volumes, most of them folios and quartos, fill the libraries or rather the lumber-rooms of this body. The committee contrive to get rid of some portion of their vast stock of oriental literature by giving books away. But they cannot give so fast as they print. About twenty thousand rupees a year are spent in adding fresh masses of waste paper to a hoard which, one should think, is already sufficiently ample. During the last three years about sixty thousand rupees have been expended in this manner. The sale of Arabic and Sanscrit books during those three years has not yielded quite one thousand rupees. In the meantime, the School Book Society is selling seven or eight thousand English volumes every year, and not only pays the expenses of printing but realizes a profit of twenty per cent. on its outlay.
      The fact that the Hindoo law is to be learned chiefly from Sanscrit books, and the Mahometan law from Arabic books, has been much insisted on, but seems not to bear at all on the question. We are commanded by Parliament to ascertain and digest the laws of India. The assistance of a Law Commission has been given to us for that purpose. As soon as the Code is promulgated the Shasters and the Hedaya will be useless to a moonsiff or a Sudder Ameen. I hope and trust that, before the boys who are now entering at the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College have completed their studies, this great work will be finished. It would be manifestly absurd to educate the rising generation with a view to a state of things which we mean to alter before they reach manhood. 
       But there is yet another argument which seems even more untenable. It is said that the Sanscrit and the Arabic are the languages in which the sacred books of a hundred millions of people are written, and that they are on that account entitled to peculiar encouragement. Assuredly it is the duty of the British Government in India to be not only tolerant but neutral on all religious questions. But to encourage the study of a literature, admitted to be of small intrinsic value, only because that literature inculcated the most serious errors on the most important subjects, is a course hardly reconcilable with reason, with morality, or even with that very neutrality which ought, as we all agree, to be sacredly preserved. It is confined that a language is barren of useful knowledge. We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion. We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of converting the natives to Christianity. And while we act thus, can we reasonably or decently bribe men, out of the revenues of the State, to waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after touching an ass or what texts of the Vedas they are to repeat to expiate the crime of killing a goat? 
        It is taken for granted by the advocates of oriental learning that no native of this country can possibly attain more than a mere smattering of English. They do not attempt to prove this. But they perpetually insinuate it. They designate the education which their opponents recommend as a mere spelling-book education. They assume it as undeniable that the question is between a profound knowledge of Hindoo and Arabian literature and science on the one side, and superficial knowledge of the rudiments of English on the other. This is not merely an assumption, but an assumption contrary to all reason and experience. We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge which it contains sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions with fluency and precision in the English language. I have heard the very question on which I am now writing discussed by native gentlemen with a liberality and an intelligence which would do credit to any member of the Committee of Public Instruction. Indeed it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos. Nobody, I suppose, will contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanscrit College, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate not unhappily the compositions of the best Greek authors. Less than half the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton. 
        To sum up what I have said. I think it clear that we are not fettered by the Act of Parliament of 1813, that we are not fettered by any pledge expressed or implied, that we are free to employ our funds as we choose, that we ought to employ them in teaching what is best worth knowing, that English is better worth knowing than Sanscrit or Arabic, that the natives are desirous to be taught English, and are not desirous to be taught Sanscrit or Arabic, that neither as the languages of law nor as the languages of religion have the Sanscrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our encouragement, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars, and that to this end our efforts ought to be directed. 
        In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  --a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population. 
       I would strictly respect all existing interests. I would deal even generously with all individuals who have had fair reason to expect a pecuniary provision. But I would strike at the root of the bad system which has hitherto been fostered by us. I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books. I would abolish the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College at Calcutta. Benares is the great seat of Brahminical learning; Delhi of Arabic learning. If we retain the Sanscrit College at Bonares and the Mahometan College at Delhi we do enough and much more than enough in my opinion, for the Eastern languages. If the Benares and Delhi Colleges should be retained, I would at least recommend that no stipends shall be given to any students who may hereafter repair thither, but that the people shall be left to make their own choice between the rival systems of education without being bribed by us to learn what they have no desire to know. The funds which would thus be placed at our disposal would enable us to give larger encouragement to the Hindoo College at Calcutta, and establish in the principal cities throughout the Presidencies of Fort William and Agra schools in which the English language might be well and thoroughly taught. 
        If the decision of His Lordship in Council should be such as I anticipate, I shall enter on the performance of my duties with the greatest zeal and alacrity. If, on the other hand, it be the opinion of the Government that the present system ought to remain unchanged, I beg that I may be permitted to retire from the chair of the Committee. I feel that I could not be of the smallest use there. I feel also that I should be lending my countenance to what I firmly believe to be a mere delusion. I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of a Board of Public Instruction. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank-- for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology-- for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives. Entertaining these opinions, I am naturally desirous to decline all share in the responsibility of a body which, unless it alters its whole mode of proceedings, I must consider, not merely as useless, but as positively noxious. 
     2nd February 1835.
     I give my entire concurrence to the sentiments expressed in this Minute.
     W.C BENTINCK. “


1. Columbia University
2. Missoury Southern State University
3. Wikipedia