Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Education for Earning Vrs Education for Service


Education for Earning Vrs Education for Service

“Reform Orissa from Within”. “ Reform our country, our society, from within the system.”

Those are the words of Dr Kiran Bedi and she needs no introduction ! These words would have sounded hollow and hackneyed to me, had they come from any of the many mouths we know who utter such preachings, but do a precious little in their own lives!

Well, before I proceed, I need to give a brief introduction to the context.

Today will always remain a golden day for me.

Well, not because today happens to be the Utkal Divas ( the foundation day of the independent state of Orissa, my homeland), although that is good enough a reason to feel jovial about;

neither for the reason that today happens to be The All Fools’ Day ( although, by implication that makes the day dedicated to the kind of me – the ‘fools’ – the more you know, the more you come to realise how little you actually know !!).

It is because today I got to hear Dr Kiran Bedi in person !! Saw an ad in a newspaper this morning that she would be delivering a talk at KIIT University here on the topic “ Role of Women in the present scenario” and all are invited. My joy knew no bounds. It is a topic title that I find one of the most hackneyed, boring and useless topics. At times, it actually angers me – would anybody ever think of a topic, say, the role of men in the present scenario ? Anyway, the point of attraction was Dr Kiran Bedi , and not the topic. So, I rushed through my chores and actually arrived at the venue by 11.30 am. ( I said, actually, because, on some occasions earlier, I had felt like attending certain events like this – celebrities delivering talks or participating in symposiums, but finally did not – may be because those speakers never really drew me so strongly !! )

I have always held Dr Kiran Bedi in very high esteem ( and so do the people at large ) for the unwavering courage she has actually demonstrated by always walking her talk as an IPS officer ( the first lady IPS officer of India joined in 1972) PLUS the way she has made a difference through whichever assignment she has handled during her service career – be it reforms in Tihar jail, or traffic in New Delhi, or … or… . her contributions as a member on the Advisory Board to UN on peace etc… She has received a number of awards n public acclaims – Raman Magsaysay Award and many more. All along, it has been a war on injustice and she made her point once more, when she resigned from service when she thought she had been meted out injustice in her professional career. But what is significant to note is that even after resigning from service, she is engaged in doing a host of social service activities AND SHE CONTINUES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE !!!

KIIT is one of the reputed technical institutes in the private sector in Orissa which has shot up to fame and ranking in the top slot among such institutes within a very short period – thanks to the visionary leadership of its founder, supported by an able team, of course.

Dr Bedi was invited by them for this talk and interaction.

Different as always, the moment she took to the mike, she declared that she is not in the habit of preparing a speech, and she always tries to ‘know’ and ‘feel’ her audience first and then decides what to speak and share. Here too, she said, she would share what she felt when she was getting to know about the institute during the last 2 hours of visit through the campus. Very candidly and without offense, she virtually dissmissed the topic ( the role of women in the present scenario), observing that once the women are educated, as they are today, they belong to the group of “educated” and share the same responsibilities towards the society and governance as the men. I was so glad – she did not disappoint me. Over the next one hour, she kept the audience spell-bound with her very forthright points, lively posture, humour and style of connecting to the audience !

In quintessence, the point she made is : Education must instill the values – especially courage, that would prompt the educated to serve and make a difference to the social fabric, to the people’s lives , to the nation. Let me narrate a bit of what and how she said it ( I can not quote her exactly within quote-unquote, because I was just a listener; so have tried to express what she said mostly in her words , added by mine to keep the essence in tact. )

Orissa is so rich in natural resources. But why is it lagging so behind in terms of economic progress for the people ? What is coming in between ?? Corruption and poor governance ! It is true for all other states in India . Corruption comes in the way of our progress, everyone knows that. But who is doing the corruption ? The literates or Illiterates ? The poor villagers or the rich urbanites ? The Educated or the Uneducated ? Who are at the helm of affairs everywhere – the educated or the uneducated ? At the end of the day, it is the educated who are responsible for corruption – for all the failings. So long as the bureaucracy is pliant, the corrupt politicians get their way. It is we, the educated, who get educated to earn only, not to serve and that is the chief culprit. We can make a difference, if we commit to service as the motto behind joining civil service or bureaucracy or all other white collar jobs. So long as that does not happen, reputed institutes will only go on adding to the bulk of educated corrupt and getting ranked at a high slot among the reputed institutes will have no real worth or meaning. Although she complimented the institute on its being ranked among the top-notch institutes of the country, she observed without any pretension that the parameters for ranking the reputed institutes should include one more parameter and that is : student-tracking , i.e. .what are the students who passed out of this institute doing currently and how exactly they have made a difference or served the humankind ?

She advised ( dared ! ) the Institute founder to act on this aspect by taking extra classes to build a special cadre of students who would like to go into services/bureaucracy with a motive to serve , not just to earn for themselves at any cost. Imbibe the values in the students that education is supposed to instill before they go out into careers. She was candid enough to say, if in 5 years from now, KIIT ians do not make any difference to Orissa and her people, there is no point in adding more number to the corrupt educated !! She said in a classic stroke of humour : “ Please call me again after 5 years ! ”

So, that’s it ! My day was certainly made. There was no time for answering audience queries. However, the only question that could come within the available time was regarding what to do as a voter when all the nominees fielded for election are corrupt or not worth getting voted. She explained that as a voter, each has ‘a right to no vote’ as per the Representation of People’s Act “. In such a situation ( which, indeed , is a situation now a days) , a voter should ask the Presiding Officer of the Vote booth to give her/him the specific form meant to record “no vote” with disclosure of your identity, of course. That will make public how many voters have totally rejected the entire lot of candidates fielded by various political parties and strong messages can be passed on..

[I am sure, that would be a grand revelation and the statistics can be of multiple use to awaken the people at large / political parties, or may even lead to further constitutional amendments, facilitating better candidates to choose from.]

All the while, I could not miss her politeness while taking courtesies extended or praises showered on her. A standing ovation, she deserved and she got !

Thank you Dr Bedi. After listening to you, I felt it my bounded duty to do whatever I can to spread this message, in which I, too, personally believe. Since I have a blog , I thought I should at least blog about it, so that your words of courage get spread and impact at least a few souls.


Deba said...

First of all, thanks for such a nice post that, hopefully, impact a few souls at least. Whatever Dr Bedi has said is a true picture of our present society. The educated masses are not fulfilling the real purpose of their education. They have only accepted one characteristic of education, i.e. to earn for survival. However, they do not want to inculcate in themselves the other aspects of education like kindness, generosity, sympathy, honesty, service to mankind, putting efforts for uplifting the society, etc. It is a good thing that literacy rate is increasing day by day in India and more and more people are being educated in our society. However, simultaneously, corruption rate is increasing amidst high percentage of educated masses which is the main hindrance to the development of society. Service motivation is lacking mostly in the educated class.

It is my loud thinking that the contribution of an uneducated honest to the society is much better than an educated corrupt in qualitative and quantitative terms.

snigdha said...

Thx Deba for joining. She really made the most pertinent point - and it made all the sense coming from her as we all know she was not just 'talking' - she was talking about something that she herself has already done so courageously. She said, she had seen injustice as a girl and she joined the Police service to see that justice is delivered and the uniform gave her the legitimate power to do so at various points of her career.
Education is for imbibing right values and building character, and if that is not happening, it is a shame to our education system and the so-called top rated institutes all around the country.

Sambit said...

Education essentially improves your ability to earn / serve. In fact it has the potential to improve the quality of your work. But it is for you to pick up your work. No problem if you earn more and have a better life. But no harm if you also enhance quality of your environment and sorrounding as it will also add to your quality of life. Can any one have a good life in a corrupt, violent,intolerant and fear prone environment even when he earns plenty ? So when you serve through your educated abilities you also enrich yourlife and earn for yourself. However you may not be able to serve when you only try to earn in terms of money. Dr Bedi is one of the few fellows in contmporary india who follows her own convictions courageously and dares to pave an untrodden path.

snigdha said...

I can not agree more on that, Sambit. thx .
I hope, this election sees some 'rejections'/no votes !

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the article. It is incidental and hence sponteneous. Above all, the article has a reaple effect and will certainly spread the message to a large number of people. As rightly put by you, since these words come from the lady who talks the walk it has immense credibility and tremendous back home utility. Thank you for making it available to those who couldnot remain present in person.

snigdha said...

Hey.. thx boss. I guess , there was a little bit of Spoonerism there - you meant to say "the lady who walks the talk" but typed "talks the walk" . Request other readers to 'read' it correctly.
Yes, I truly hope, many people, especially youngsters, know about this .

Anonymous said...

We need more of Dr. Bedi between us to make the change. And ofcourse more people like you to pass it on to the rest of the world who were unable to attend.

A Friend

snigdha said...

Thx Friend and pl do spread it onward !

Anonymous said...


Here is a news in paper which underscores the importance and relevance of what Dr. Bedi said. The news that appeared in Hindu (05/04/09). It says, A Special Team of CID police have arrested a Doctor who allegedly castrated a minor boy from Tamil Nadu. The Doctor is reported to be a Gold Medalist. What a painful irony. Really, each one needs to imbibe what Dr Bedi said.

snigdha said...

What a sordid affair ! while it is definitely not to suggest that all educated are self-serving,corrupt and perverse, the ugly truth comes up again and again that most educated are and that near 100% of the corrupt and the immoral turn out to be those who have had the best of formal education ! So, high time for the educational institutions and the society to do whatever it takes to instill the right values !

Anonymous said...

I think the right values are instilled from home by our parents/grand parents/aunts & uncles while we are growing up...the institutions come later. But then people change when money comes in ample amount....they keep getting greedier as they go....tend to forget the vows(doctors) they
had taken to help the people.

The friend.

snigdha said...

Hi, friend - it is very true that the basic values are imbibed from parents and other elders in the family. But,the teachers, the institutions, peer and other outside forces intervene too soon in the grooming of a child in today's age , than it used to do earlier , and in far, far greater intensity than it used to be earlier. Further, all these influences do not come in a straight line, one after another - once a child grows up a bit and starts receiving and interpreting outside stimuli and environ, influences from all sources act upon one another and the way all these finally impact the mental growth and value system of a person is extremely complicated to predict - so parental role model has started losing its weight in the context of today's world. Institutions have started assuming a very important role, I believe - they can not shierk their bit !! We should not allow that.

Anonymous said...


Values need to be imbibed by parents and teacher or for that matter the members of the society. Unfortunately, today parents seek alibi on the ground they do not have time and the teachers say it is not their role in the changed context, especially when they are not respected as they were in the earlier days. In the process, the place of values in ones life gets sidetracked. Above all, in today's India the focus has shifted from "TYAGA" to "Bhoga" and resultantly entire society is paying a price of it. The real solution is each one should introspect, reaffirm his faith in values, work in that direction continuously and on going basis without thinking what others are contributing. Let one differentiate. Then the day is not far.

snigdha said...

Yeah, Muley Sa'ab, everyone is trying to pass on the buck. Very correctly observed by you, one should keep on introspecting, reaffirming faith in one's values and make own contributions irrespective of what others are doing or not doing. The alibi game should not be played by anyone - neither the parents, not the teachers, nor the institutions, nor the society.

Rajeswari said...

I cannot beleive i missed all these fabulous posts!!!:( Anyways,i got to read them at least now.I got the greatest shock in my life when i entered medical school-when i found that my seniors and batchmates are the kind of people i'd dread to walk past even on a public road!!!There are few few exceptions,sadly.Apart from not fulfilling the purpose of their education,i know they have the potential to harm the society .They think the whole world was created for their pleasure,and women especially are of no good but as their sex-objects.Innumerable times we girls have come crying -out of the college bus,the canteen and even the auditorium where they displayed their real faces on stage loudly proclaiming what they think about women.One skit/drama was the comparison of women and robots.I do not want to defile my computer writing about the horrendous ways in which they compared us with robots!These may be incidents within the campus,but those years in the campus are the ones that mould all aspects of a doctor- and i dont see how people can change overnight ,after they get their degree.Its simply not possible.

I think i have drifted away from the topic,but these are somethings i wanted to share with you all.None should take a doctor as and "angel" for granted.Exercise the same cautions as you would in interacting with a stranger on the road.So much to say about how education is remodelling the society...

snigdha said...

Hi Rajeswari, thanks a lot. It was really strange,I could not figure out earlier that my site status has got stuck at one point at many other sites. Only when I was checking out on your posts, it occurred to me - I checked back on some more sites and found the same.

Yes, what u have faced personally has also been shared in private by many others. That's really sad. It is a far bigger issue of perverse attitude. The saddest part is , next to God, we trust doctors with our lives !

snigdha said...

This is a comment by Anonymous friend, which had got published under another article. I share this for the benefit of all others, as it is relevent in the context of this post , too.

An Inspirational story … Mr. Madhavan would not be a farmer.....if he would have not fought the odds and dared. Thought you would like the article and here it goes.


An engineer from IIT, now a farmer
This is an inspiring story.It helps you dare to think beyond the usual.It shows how single minded dedication and focused work can help one beget the dreams.One who helps himself,the devinity reaches out to help them.Read on.
Off-beat is in. The oft beaten track, not so.
One of the most interesting themes at this year's Pan-IIT event was the session on rural transformation. IITians who have chosen an offbeat career hogged the limelight at the event. In this series, we feature some of the IITians who preferred to be different, rather than get into a corporate rat race.
The star at the event was R Madhavan, an alumnus of IIT-Madras. This is Madhavan's success story as a farmer

Passion for agriculture

I had a passion for agriculture even when I was young. I don't know how my love for agriculture started. I only know that I have always been a nature lover.
I used to have a garden even when I was a teenager. So, from a home garden, a kitchen garden, I gradually became a farmer! My mother used to be very happy with the vegetables I grew.

Image: R Madhavan.

Studying at IIT-Madras

My family was against my ambition of becoming an agriculturist. So, I had to find a livelihood for myself.
I wrote IIT-JEE and got selected to study at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. I enjoyed studying mechanical engineering.
My intention was to transform what I study into what I love; mechanisation of farming. I felt the drudgery in farming is much more than in any other industry, and no one had looked into it.
Working for ONGC after IIT
I started my career at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). My father refused to give me any money to start farming. So I asked the officials to let me work at the offshore sites, on the rigs.
The advantage was that I could work on rigs for 14 days and then take 14 days off. I chose to work on the rigs for nine years, uninterrupted.

Image: The Electonics Centre at IIT-Madras.

My first farm land

Madhavan's farm.

After 4 years, I saved enough money to buy six acres of land. I bought land at Chengelpet near Chennai.
I chose that land because the plot had access to road and water. Back in 1989, a man in a pair of trousers aroused curiosity among the farming community. That was not the image of a farmer!
Tough beginning as a farmer
I became a full fledged farmer in 1993. It was tough in the beginning. Nobody taught me how to farm. There was no guidance from the gram sevaks or the University of Agriculture.
I ran from pillar to post but couldn't find a single scientist who could help me. I burnt my fingers. My first crop was paddy and I produced 2 tonnes from the six acres of land, it was pathetic.
When I lost all my money, my father said I was stupid. I told him, it didn't matter as I was learning. It was trial and error for me for three years. Until 1997, I was only experimenting by mingling various systems.

Going to Israel to learn

In 1996, I visited Israel because I had heard that they are the best in water technology. Take the case of corn: they harvest 7 tonnes per acre whereas we produce less than a tonne.
They harvest up to 200 tonnes of tomatoes, whereas here it is 6 tonnes, in similar area of land. I stayed in one of the kibbutz, which is a co-operative farm for 15 days.
I understood what we do is quite primitive. It was an eye opener for me. They treat each plant as an industry. A plant producing one kilo of capsicum is an industry that has 1 kilo output.
I learnt from them that we abuse water. Drip irrigation is not only for saving water but it enhances your plant productivity. We commonly practice flood irrigation where they just pump water. As per the 2005 statistics, instead of 1 litre, we use 750 litres of water.

Image: R Madhavan.

Dr Lakshmanan, my guru

I met Dr Lakshmanan, a California-based NRI, who has been farming for the last 35 years on 50-60,000 acres of land.
He taught me farming over the last one decade. Whatever little I have learnt, it is thanks to him.
I knew a farm would give me much better returns in terms of money as well as happiness. Working for money and working for happiness are different. I work and get happiness. What more do you need?
No guidance in India
I said at one platform that we have to change the curriculum of the agricultural universities. What they teach the students is not how to farm, but how to draw loans from a bank!
What they learn cannot be transformed to reality or to the villages. The problem in the villages is not mentioned in the university. There is a wide gap and it is getting worse.

Making profits

After burning my fingers for four years, from 1997 onwards, I started making profits.
Even though it took me four years, I did not lose hope. I knew this was my path ven though I didn't have any guidance from anyone.
In those days, communication was slow. Today, I can get guidance from Dr Lakshmanan on Skype or Google Talk, or through e-mail.
I send him the picture of my problem and ask his guidance. In those days, it took time to communicate. There was no Internet or connectivity.
That was why it took me four years to learn farming. Today, I would not have taken more than six months or even less to learn the trick!

The farming cycle

I started crop rotation after 1997. In August, I start with paddy and it is harvested in December.
I plant vegetables in December itself and get the crops in February. After that, it is oil seeds like sesame and groundnut, which are drought-resistant, till May.
During May, I go on trips to learn more about the craft. I come back in June-July and start preparations on the land to get ready for August. In 1999, I bought another four acres. My target is a net income of Rs 100,000 per annum per acre. I have achieved up to Rs 50,000.

Selling the products

I sell my produce on my own. I have a jeep and bring what I produce to my house and sell from there. People know that I sell at home. I don't go through any middle man.
I take paddy to the mill, hull it and sell it on my own. In the future, I have plans to have a mill too. These days, people tell me in advance that they need rice from me. I have no problem selling my produce.

Engineering helps in farming

More than any other education, engineering helps in farming because toiling in the soil is only 20 per cent of the work. About 80 per cent of farming needs engineering skills.
Science is a must for any farming. I have developed a number of simple, farmer-friendly tools for farming areas like seeding, weeding, etc. as we don't have any tools for small farmers.
If I have 200 acres of land, I can go for food processing, etc. My next project is to lease land from the small farmers for agriculture. The village will prosper with food processing industries coming there. My yield will also be more with more land.

Abdul Kalam visits the farm

Dr Abdul Kalam visited my farm when he was the President, after hearing about what I was doing. He spent around two hours on my farm.
During his visit, he said: "We need not one, but one million Madhavans!"
If I am able to inspire or create even one entrepreneur, I will be very happy, because that is what Dr Kalam wished me to do.

Experimental farming

Every acre of my land has ten cents of experimental farming. I have done this for the last 15 years.
This is a part of my research and development. Some of it may fail, but even if I succeed at one thing, that is enough for me.

Entrepreneurship in the village

I feel that the number of people engaged only in farming should come down. Instead of ten people, there should only be two people. I am not saying the eight should go jobless.
What we should do is, create employment in the villages based on other agro activities like value addition, processing, etc.
We can go for mechanisation in large areas so that the cost per acre goes down. In India, the cost per every meal is very high. So, my next concern is, how do you make it cheap.
In America, the unskilled working for one hour can earn three meals a day. Here, in the rural areas, even if they work for one day, they can't get one meal a day. How do you bring down the cost? By producing more food. So, my intention is to make more food.

Food insecurity in India

The United Nations says 65 per cent of the world population suffers from food deficiency, and India ranks first in the list.
About 49 per cent of our children are undernourished. This means our future generation will be affected.
If we are not going to give attention to this area, we are in for real trouble. Food insecurity is more threatening than an atom bomb!
by Anonymous
April 13, 2009 1:19 AM