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September 16, 2001 - September 16, 2001

Moods of jubilation, introspection at MSU Sunday, September 16, 2001

VADODARA: Jubilation and introspection were the twin moods that pervaded Maharaja Sayajirao University campus here on Saturday. A day after the student's union elections, students who won the elections danced with joy, but for those who lost it was time for introspection.

The NSUI camp which was unable to make leaders out of the candidates they fielded - Jignesh Patel and Amit Gotikar - conceded that they were defeated, but the large margin by which this happened left them in a pensive mood.

The winners, ABVP candidate Bharat Dangar (vice-president) and Independent candidate Mehul Lakhani (general secretary) who was supported by the ABVP - both won by a large margin of votes in almost all faculties they were leading.

"This is not surprising at all," says ABVP national vice-president Shirish Kulkarni who said that the ABVP is the strength behind the victory.

"We have always guided our students. Helped them in improving leadership qualities. Leadership is no more about throwing stones in classrooms, disrupting university functioning and using abusive language," he said.

According to him the various student-oriented activities such as the book bank project (to help needy students), free coaching classes and English improvement classes which they have been organising has helped immensely in creating a following for the ABVP.

"The most important aspect is that the ABVP is not merely a students organisation. It is one which also has teachers who guide students," he said.

University officials say that while the ABVP conducts specific students activities, its counterpart the National Students Union of India (NSUI) is a students' union supported by the Youth Congress.

It is more of a political organisation than a students organisation. This could be the reason why they have not been able to field candidates who have leadership qualities.

However, MSU Syndicate member Cassim Unia said the victory of an ABVP candidate does not indicate that students favour their ideology or thoughts.

"Students elections are not won on ideologies of a party. Elections here are similar to the ones in the United States. The charisma and personality of the candidate is important. Candidates who can give speeches and are presentable, impress students... and they win."

"Most students on the campus would not really know what ABVP or NSUI are or what they represent. Bharat Dangar was able to make his mark on the students when he campaigned due to these reasons," says Unia.

According to him, NSUI should train its candidates in public relations skills and personality development. These are important skills. Students who dress well and speak well will obviously be preferred over others, he said.

MSUSU vice-president Bharat Dangar said he was expected to win and was happy for the overwhelming support he received from students. "I am grateful to them, and am committed to take up all students issues with the administration," he said.

According to him, the payments seats issue would be a priority. Other issues such as demand for a photocopying machine in all faculties, PCO booths, a subsidised students store, a cyber cafe were also some of the facilities which he wanted to bring to the students.

"Other miscellaneous issues such as a specific academic calendar, with specific examination dates, date of results, lack of space in girls' hostel as well as other issues affecting the university students are on my mind," he said.

Meanwhile a pensive Prakash Verma, ex-GS of MSUSU said their defeat has led them to introspect. "We are upset about the defeat and plan to hold a meeting later in the evening,' he said. Jignesh Patel was visibly moved by the defeat late on Friday night after the results were declared.

Despite their defeat, many candidates too were seen thanking the students on Saturday for their support. A skirmish was reported at the PTB hostel in Nizampura where a candidate who had lost engaged in some violence.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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'Integrate culture into development process' Sunday, September 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Once upon a time, the story goes, an urban developer happened to visit a rustic settlement and spotted two youths lazing under a tree in the morning. The technocrat tried to reason with them and goad them into getting employed.

But, the insolent youths shot back: "By earning money, you would ultimately do what we are already doing - living in comfort."

That is what the chairman of the National Book Trust of India, Dr Sitakant Mahapatra, says is a fall-out of planning and executing development activities without considering its cultural impact.

Mahapatra, considered a major voice in modern Indian poetry, has a Bharatiya Gyanpith Award and Sahitya Academy Award to his credit, apart from a host of other laurels he has won. Besides poetry, he has also authored 50 publications on literature, social anthropology and the arts.

Mahapatra was in the city on Saturday to talk on 'Governance of Development' as part of the Institute Lecture Series 2001-2002 of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

Mahapatra asserted that development which focuses on technical and capital aspects only, is often found to be wayward, and thus needs to be more people-centric. This, he said, could be achieved by designing development projects incorporating a fusion of culture and lifestyle of the beneficiaries in the project-design.

"Much like the environmental impact studies carried out before any development project is implemented, the cultural impact of a project should also be delved into," said Mahapatra who has also served as an officer in the Indian Administrative Services for 34 years.

"There is no need to shed the prevalent goals of good services and maximising profits with better technology and planning, but cultural identity of any locality should be ingrained into a project, be it in the field of agriculture, health or academics," he said, adding that this subject has been taken up internationally by the UN and UNESCO.

The benefits of integrating culture into the development process, and thereby ensuring public participation on a larger scale, is already being discussed at international fora.

Mahapatra asserted: "Instead of building long metalled roads and huge canals - only to find that a section of the countrymen are starving or are unable to tap the irrigation facilities due to project deficiencies - culture should be made the focal point of any development project, thus bringing it closer to the beneficiaries. With involvement of the project-users' ideas, needs and culture while planning, the elusive holistic approach to development will be achieved along with employment generation, all leading to people being happy."

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Sunday school, thanks to teachers Sunday, September 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Students' worst fears have come true. Sticking to their word, the teachers who ended their 15-day strike on Thursday will hold classes on Sundays beginning from today.

"The teachers have decided to teach on the coming eight Sundays, two public holidays and three days of Diwali vacation to cover up the education days that were lost in the strike. Almost 90 per cent of the schools will remain open on this Sunday. The remaining will follow from next week onwards", confirmed spokesman of the Gujarat Rajya Shaikshanik Sankalan Samiti Ashok Shah.

It may be noted here that the teachers had declared during the strike that they will cover all the lost days by teaching on holidays. A decision that had met with stiff criticism from the students. "Why should we come to schools on Sundays just because the teachers were on strike? Why should we pay for their deeds?", a student from St Xavier's, Mirzapur had written in a mail to TNN.

But now when the teachers have decided to hold special classes, the students confess they have no option but to leave for school on a Sunday morning. "I don't want to go but then I will miss what will be taught. I have no choice but to go", said a student of Gyan Jyot Higher Secondary School.

Meanwhile, the samiti members have criticised the reported notification by the government asking the teachers to submit their four days' salary in cash to get their salary cheque for the 28 days of August that they worked before embarking on the strike.

"Just because we have unconditionally withdrawn the strike, the government should not take us for granted. The teachers are not going to run away after taking the salary cheques. The government should make a concession that after getting the cheques, the management will send them the due amount. If this does not happen, the government can cut the same from September salary", Shah said.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Education :: SSC, HSC exams to become tougher Sunday, September 16, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Secondary Education Board (GSEB) students of academic year 2000-01 were lucky. How else does one explain the record breaking 70.62 per cent HSC science stream results and an equally impressive 60.91 per cent SSC results' success rate, despite all the academic hurdles posed by the killer quake?

Next year, however, luck may run out for all those students who are counting on options offered in main questions as lifelines. Leaving difficult chapters, which used to get eliminated in options earlier in board papers, may also not be a very smart move.

The new model question papers for HSC (science stream) and SSC exams framed by GSEB is set to sieve the winners from the also-rans.

No short-cuts allowed here, the only winning mantra is to read the textbooks from cover to cover. And please, don't expect any question paper to be "very easy". The tough ratio is pre-set at easy-35 per cent, medium-50 per cent and tough-15 per cent.

"The present exam paper style does not facilitate an easy distinction between the bright and the average student. The present paper style gives an option to answer two questions out of four. So, the student who knows all four questions will also get full marks, the one who knows three will also be no exception and the one who knows only two will also get cent per cent marks. So where do you make a distinction?", asks board chairman P V Trivedi.

No wonder then, the first thing to be cut to size in the model papers is options. "There are no options for 1-2 mark questions. Only lengthy questions carrying weightage of 4-5 marks will have options. Here too, the options will be limited.

For instance, if earlier it was 'answer six out of eight questions', the new exam paper will require students to answer six out of just seven questions", informed board secretary G K Patel.

Stress is also laid on giving weightage to each chapter as per the content to ensure that only those who have taken the pains to read textbooks from cover to cover score better. "In coaching classes and even in schools, there is this trend to advocate students to leave 25 to 40 per cent of the course, as it gets eliminated in options.

"You concentrate on reading the rest better and you will pass" is the reasoning offered. We have made a conscious effort to reverse this trend by directing to give weightage to each chapter", confided a senior teacher who has been part of the core-group entrusted with the remodelling of question papers job.

Curiously, here while the model question papers are yet to reach the schools, academicians already seem divided over their applications in board exams to be conducted in 2002.

"It will be better if the paper style is put to use from 2003. Half of the year has already passed and introducing a new paper style will unnecessarily intimidate the students", according to principal of Ankur High School Bharat Thakkar.

"The students should not be worried about the new paper style. Thanks to the delay first by earthquake and recently by the striking teachers, the students have not even given their first tests. If the schools take the lead and emulate the paper style both in the first tests and the prelims, I don't think the students will face any problems in the final board exams", according to principal of Diwan Ballubhai School D M Patel.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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Engineering intensive research on genes Sunday, September 16, 2001

They discussed the mystery of the origin of life, of its building blocks, of mankind's future. On Long Island off New York, during summer retreats at the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in the late 1970s, a young, starry-eyed student of genetic engineering joined long discussions with some of the greats in the field - James Watson and Francis Crick of Watson and Crick fame, Gerry Fink, Fred Sherman.

And, he came back to India a wiser man, to silently begin work on the future of bio-technology in the country. For Professor B.B. Chattoo, co-ordinator of MS University's microbiology programme, "the adda of world's leading molecular biologists every summer at the laboratory run by James Watson", was his window to the new and exciting world of genetics that was developing very fast.

"Those were very fascinating times as far as genetics was concerned. Some of the initial discoveries were made in the early 1970s and cloning of genes was done in 1976", says Chattoo, then studying at the University of Rochester's Medical School.

Now, immersed in research and preparing young scholars in the field of genetics and readying to take up his new assignment as the vice-chancellor of a new technology university being set up in Jammu, this man from the picturesque Kashmir has not forgotten his childhood.

He recalls listening to the birds chirp, the rustle of wind in the trees, the folk songs and the folklore. "There was a celebration of life", says Chattoo. And, perhaps, his closeness to nature planted in him the seed of his quest to know life.

"With guns booming, I wonder whether children there can still hear the birds chirp," rues Chattoo, who was born in Kashmir and did his early schooling there.

"It was the decade of the 1960s and we grew up hearing fascinating stories of scientific discoveries. Kashmir was a nice place to grow up, it had a unique fusion of Sufi thought and Shaivism. We had both Persian and Sanskrit books at home as I read Urdu and Sanskrit. Every time I went to a temple, I visited a mosque too. Many places in Kashmir have temples and mosques side by side and people with mixed names. Life was free of complications. It was a different world. It's a lost world now', says Chattoo.

He also remembers fondly his college days at the Delhi University. "It was the early 1970s and those were the times when young people spoke of changing the world, believed in ideologies so remote from today's world", he recalls.

He remembers his days at the "elite" Maurice Gwyer Hall of residence on the Delhi University campus. "It gave me an opportunity to interact with students of other disciplines. Students from psychology, philosophy, literature and from the Delhi School of Economics stayed with me and we stayed up till late in the night, discussing esoteric themes. It was an enriching experience that had an influence on my life", he adds.

After his PhD in "Genetics of mould fungus", came his stint at the University of Rochester following which he returned to India to be one of the founders of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Hyderabad.

Rochester Medical School was also where Chattoo found a new love _ western classical music. He immersed himself in Beethoven, Hayden, Mozart at the Eastman School of Music that Kodak had established on the campus.

His next stop, Basel, Switzerland, in 1982 allowed his love for music to flourish. "It was a vibrant city, with concerts being held regularly. From there to Vadodara was a smooth transition. I used to enjoy the night-long musical concerts held at the Laxmi Vilas Palace", said Chattoo.

Chattoo, a "naturalised Gujarati" by his own admission, came to M S University five years ago to set up its bio-technology programme. Today, his department is working in two major fields of bio-technology - genomics and proteonics.

"We are working to find genes that are resistant to diseases and producing, through genetic intervention, resistant plants too. We have taken rice as a model as in the Indian context, agriculture is an important area where technological intervention can be useful. We are also expressing specific proteins, which are of therapeutic interest. Our association with the world's reputed institutes like the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, University of California, San Diego, Rice Research Institute of the Philippines has set a high benchmark for our students" says Chattoo.

He will soon join the new Sri Mata Vaishnodevi University, 40 km from Jammu, as its vice-chancellor. "But, my karmabhumi will remain Vadodara as M S University has given me special permission to join my new post. I hope the new university helps the strife-torn region", he adds.

He hopes that the country goes ahead fast in this knowledge-intensive field for he feels "the world will not wait for us". He also hopes that he can again hear the birds chirp in the Valley.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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