Sunday, June 10, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 24: Distressing developments

When my cousin and Stephanian, Arun Matthan, forwarded me an email which had been forwarded to him by former vicar at the college, Dan O'Conner, I was greatly distressed by the contents.

I do not know the author of the original email, one D. Dodd. (I am not reproducing this email here as I feel I do not have full knowledge of the accuracy of the contents.)

Also Dan O'Conner was after my time at college and hence have only had a fleeting contact with him, online.

As you will recall there was a flurry of COMMENTS when I had written to wish the new Officiating Vice-Principal Rev. Valson Thambu the best in his new position. I disclaimed all knowledge of what had been happening in our sacred institution. The comment posted by Padma ended that rather sour phase in the life of my online editorialship of the Kooler Talk Blog.

On receiving this forwarded email, rather than rush to do a piece about what was happening in Delhi, I forwarded the same to four senior alumni. One is a leading Christian and minority activist in India, John Dayal, for whom I have a great deal of regard. John has stood up for the rights of all minorities in India against the rabid fundamentalists that want to destroy the fabric of secular India. I also sent the email to our Member of the Rajya Sabha, Rahul Bajaj, who was in college between 1955 and 1957. Rahul has managed his industrial empire with great wisdom and I wanted to see his reaction to this sad development.

I had also sent the email to two former Stephanians, one a retired senior Government Officer and a slightly younger Government Officer who is now a well-known journalist.

I have not yet received a reply from the latter two.

John's reply was a wonderful view of a person deeply concerned with our alma mater. I publish his reply with his express permission.

Dear Jacob

All this makes for sad reading.

As an old friend used to say, everyone is speaking the truth, but no one is speaking the whole truth.

1. No one in Delhi can really accuse Bishop Karam Masih of absolute Christian integrity, that is the truth.

2. He dearly loves his only son, and that too is the truth.

3. Only god knows how those in charge accepted him as a member of the governing body.

4. Branded colleges, such as ours, run the perpetual risk of someone or the other trying to encash the brand equity for his or her own good. At the end of every admission session, disgruntled Christian and non-Christian parents come to me by the dozen, claiming that someone they know got in by making a fat donation or cash transfer to someone or the other. I always tell them to make a similar payment, come to me, identify the person they have paid money to, and I will ensure that the man is sacked, however high a position he has, the child is admitted and guarantees given that he will not be victimised in the three years he or she will be in college.

I must tell you not one parent has bothered to do so. Says something.

5. Regarding merit versus reservations, this is an old debate in India and has no conclusive or universally acceptable argument in favour or against it. Reserving 40 per cent seats for Christians is a legal requirement and in no way dilutes merit. Brilliant boys and girls from the North east and the South will now find a place which was denied to them earlier despite their marks. Dalits too have their brilliant layer. The open seats get trimmed, and that may mean a more honest competition amongst the children of the elite who cannot or do not want a an undergraduate degree from some third rate college in Australia, the UK or the USA.

Let us give it a try, and let us divorce all this from Valson and Karam.

The corrupt will always find a way to make money, if not in admissions, that in purchase of kitchen rations, or the whitewashing of college corridors

It will be good idea for sane alumni to constitute themselves into a watchdog body. We need a good alumni.

By the way, not one non-Christian alumni came to the defence of the Christian community at the height of the persecution or the BJP propaganda that Christian institutions are there as instruments of forcible and fraudulent conversion.

Speaks of some sort of a lack of moral strength and integrity in some of our brothers.

In great sadness

John Dayal

PS: You could paste it on the Blog Kooler Talk if you think appropriate

Rahul was away in St. Petersburg when he received my email. He sent me a very thoughtful reply. However, he had not been in the loop as far as what has been happening in the college. But he made some important observations:

....As you are aware, there are a large number of Stephanians in Delhi, both in business and the government. Though I do not know what is happening, it would appear that the Alumni are not doing anything about whatever may be happening with respect to the management of St. Stephens.

....One also has to get in touch with Delhi University and, perhaps, the Ministry of HRD. To do this all, however, there have to be at least a few Alumni who can spend some time on this matter.

I presume there are at least a few Alumni involved in the Alumni Association who are aware of what is going on. If so, I am not sure why they are not doing anything about it. It is naturally important to ensure that the contents of the note are by and large accurate.

Also, it may not be enough for a few individuals to ask questions as suggested in the note under the RTI Act., etc. This needs to be done in a structured manner by the Alumni Association which can, if necessary, even collect some funds for this purpose to the extent one may need to engage a legal counsel if litigation becomes necessary.

It is my honest opinion that senior and respected members of our Alumni located in Delhi do have a role to play in ensuring that the Institution we all love and cherish in our hearts is not the private playground of anyone who enjoys power or tries to usurp it to change the vision of its great traditions.

The latest news, which reached my INBOX yesterday, that more seats would be reserved for the Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes could be interpreted in many ways. I quote a positive report which appeared a couple of days ago in the online run by National Network of Education India St. Stephens to make room for SC/ST Quota: June 08, 2007

New Delhi: St. Stephens College of Delhi University (DU) is planning to offer 20% of its total seats to the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) students from the forthcoming academic session.

According to the proposal, 40% of the 440-odd seats in 11 courses will be reserved for Christian students, 40% for general category students and the rest i.e. 20% seats for SC and ST students......

What surprises me is that during my days in college there was never that high a ratio of Christians in any course - my class of over 20 students had just 2 Christians (10%), which must have been the approximate percentage of Christians in residence! Of the staff teaching sciences to us we had just 3 Christians in the over 20 staff that were involved with my education. As far as the gyps and serving workers in the college, I think we had no more that a couple of Christians.

But, the feeling that was always prevalent in the college was a Christian philosophy - "Love your neighbour as much as you love yourself" with the second important rider to this that "your neighbour" is anyone who comes within your sphere of existence!

I do hope the local alumni will get involved to driving our college administration within the bounds of the values that all of us imbibed during our period in this hallowed institution.

I am not asking for a series of COMMENTS on this post. This is not a blog meant to have a serious discussion through that instrument. Do feel free to email me your views so that we can avoid washing dirty linen, especially when much of it will be unsubstantiated dirt, in public.

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