Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 11, September 16-30, 2017

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NEET A wake-up call for the State

By The Editor

The vexed issue of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate medical and dental degree courses just refuses to go away, as we write. At the heart of the issue is the state of Tamil Nadu’s unpreparedness to cope with such a blanket examination set for the entire country. The political parties of Tamil Nadu are protesting and the State Government has seen its attempts at approaching the Courts on the matter sternly rebuffed. The Centre, with its present attitude of fishing in the troubled waters of the State, has been playing a double game, now seemingly supporting the State and then backing off when action is needed. In all this chaos, a student’s life has been lost. And that was an avoidable tragedy.

The final year of school is a stressful period for most children, what with the pressure to perform being intense. The marks of the public exam are interpreted to be life-changing and at that vulnerable age students tend to take extreme steps in the light of a failure. This is well known to the State Government, which for a few years has been taking steps to counsel students. In such a scenario, how is it that the girl who had impleaded herself in the case that the State Government had filed against NEET was not paid special attention? Surely this was a high profile piece of litigation and merited some close watching? The death has now become a political tool, with every party freely using the girl’s photograph and claiming that it will see that justice is done. This open attempt at seeking publicity from a gross tragedy is lamentable.

Do the political parties have any chance of ensuring that our State will get favoured treatment? This is highly unlikely. The only way out is for the Government to ensure that its Education Department gets cracking on setting up counselling and coaching centres where students can get familiar with the NEET process and its methods of examination. Time and money would be spent usefully if this was done.

It is also high time the State woke up to the reality that its education standards are way below par. We had earlier commented on NEET in our May 16th issue and expressed our view that the fault for this present impasse lies solely with successive State Governments that have consistently aimed at lowering educational standards. This made them popular, for it ensured that most students got extraordinarily high marks. The entrance tests to medical and engineering colleges also being under the control of the State meant the system there was an extension of what was happening at school level. Everyone was happy – the parents, the children, the politicians, the teachers and the bureaucrats. It was one big happy closed world where no external benchmarks existed.

Unfortunately for everyone, Tamil Nadu is part of a larger country. The engineering discipline was impacted first when slowly but steadily parents began to opt for colleges outside the State and gave the go-by to the mushrooming private colleges here, all ostensibly governed by Anna University. The result is that most of these institutions are facing empty seats and several have applied for closure. The medical colleges are now threatened by NEET and the consequence is likely to be similar.

At a time when the world is linked and standards are no longer national, forget local, it is laughable that Tamil Nadu thinks it can continue to fix its own levels of competence. Is this the State that once showed the world that when it came to scholarship, leave alone manufacturing and IT, it was second to none globally? Sadly that would appear to be the case when it comes to education. It is high time the State woke up to raising its educational standards.

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Making ‘stars’ of poochies is PoochiVenkat. Here she’s a Ladybird Beetle.

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Riding the Metro, finding it costly

by A Special Correspondent

In Chennai, the Metro project is in progress. The city’s landscape is changing. The first of the proposed four corridors of 16 km from Alandur to Central Station having been completed and made operational, there is expectation of tangible and visible beneficial effects from the First Phase itself, as it is a forerunner of the full project.

The stations are beautifully laid out with clear directions. The service was available every 20 minutes at 11.15 am on a Monday. The frequency is 10 minutes during the rush hour from 8.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and it was 20 minutes during non-peak hours, although the latter is advertised as 15 minutes. Frequency of 15 or 20 minutes during non-peak periods is not material so long as they are predictable and punctual so that people can plan their movement to be able to arrive just in time to catch the train.

Before the check-in barricade is the automatic touch-screen ticketing machine to buy tickets for casual travel from any point to any other point on the line. Soon, we are told, it would be possible to buy the charge card from the machine and periodically re-charge it also by the machine. Till then, it can be bought in the booth situated at the entrance barricade. The booth staff are helpful and proactive. Smart card for travel to and from work-point, as nominated by the customer, is sold with six-month validity and at 20 per cent discount for 60 trips. This covers a month’s need to go to work and get back. Parking areas are available for cars and motor cycles. The charges are Rs. 10 and Rs. 5 per three hours respectively. For a working day, it amounts to Rs. 30 and Rs. 15 respectively – working out to Rs. 780 and Rs. 390 per 26-working day month. No pamphlets containing details of fare charts and time schedule were available,

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Cleaning lakes – his passion

by N.S. Parthasarathy

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Arun Krishnamurthy.

Environmental conservation has been a much-discussed subject of vast scope and has naturally meant many things to many people. To Arun Krishnamurthy, it is cleaning lakes. He has not only chosen this specific aspect of environmental conservation, but has engaged in direct action on this aspect over the last ten years with dedication and tenacity.

Krishnamurthy, in his early thirties, graduated in microbiology, but had dreamed from his boyhood of saving lakes and ponds in his neighbourhood in the outskirts of Chennai where he was brought up. In his time, boys of his age entertained more exciting aspirations and interests, but Arun was obsessed with the state of unclean lakes and ponds in his neighbourhood. He started – over-ambitiously as it may have seemed then – the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI), an NGO, in 2007 to mobilise support for conserving environment.

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Bharat Matha in Kapali Temple

by Nivedita Louis

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The sculpture of Bharat Matha in the Kapali Temple.

Have you taken a close look at some of the sculptures at the Kapali Temple?

Here is one that may surprise you, a beautiful sculpture of Bharat matha.

It is seen in the dhwajarohana mandapam of this temple.

On a Mylapore temple walk with Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, we came across this wonderful sculpture. It is an exact replica of a wall poster printed by Nagpur City Press – the Bharat Matha with a crown on her flowing hair, clad in a saree, resting her left hand on a seated, decorated elephant, her right hand holding a trishul, tied to which is the tricolour flag.