Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympic Dream Run

Is it the problem with the shoes? No, we had made it even without shoes in the London Olympics in 1958. Then is it an issue with our physique? No, if not for that, we would never have competed in major league tournaments of tennis, hockey and wrestling which requires great physical strength and control. Then is it the problem with poor funding? According to Sports Ministry estimates, India has spent Rs 55.22 Crore for the 46 medal prospects in 2012 London Olympics which means Rs 1.2 Crore per person. Not bad compared to Rs 105 Crores spend by Great Britain (GB) taking into account the Gold Medals the Country expects from 28 of its majors. Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee President, John Coates informed that the Rs 168 Crores spend by Australia is not enough for their sportpersons to compete in the Olympics!! So what are we lacking? Is it the will power, don’t ever say that. In a country where 42 percent of the children are malnourished (Global Hunger Index 2012), around 50 percent in poverty with less than 30 percent getting a chance ever to see the Olympics through Television; it requires a strong will power even to exist in India.
Going by the huge population and its gold conversion, we are the biggest sporting disaster as per the Weighted Ranking system of at all Olympics, with 0.1 weight medal points per million standing at 48th position overall. If you do not take into account the 11 medals ( 8 gold medals) in field hockey, the record is further depressing. We have individual brilliance like Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Deepika Kumari etc to bring hope. If we claim that our economy is poor and is not in a position to support sports, sports enthusiasts and analysts would prove us wrong. See table below.

Total Medals (blue) and Gold medals by GDP and Population (Source: www.stubborn

As per New York Times 2008 Report “Much of the problem with developing Olympic champions here seems to be rooted in the very same things that make India a perpetual also-ran to China in economic development: poor infrastructure, entrenched political corruption and infighting, and chaos and disorganization. Money earmarked for Olympic training is often mysteriously sidelined, facilities for training are in poor shape and equipment goes missing.”
If you go by this definition of issues, then we can blame the government and the governance system and those individuals who relatively make sportsmen run for their money! If China could turn the tables, from a sole swimmer in the Helsinki Games, 1952 to 100 medals in the Beijing Olympics as host and best country; where does India stand? One can argue to the near autocratic system in China giving them rigorous training for their Success, but we can’t afford to mention democratic countries like US or Britain who have been the top performing countries in Olympic history.
The problem, however, more or less lies in the cultural context in which sports originated in India; with an average Indian psyche viewing it as a mere entertainment than a profession which demands full attention of both body and mind. The concept of livelihood associated with sports has been disenchanted for the majority of Indian’s owing to the larger ignorance of sports and absence of sporting culture. Indian’s tend to idolize individuals. Sachin is the perfect example of a culture which believes that individuals stars can do anything which gods can only expected to do. This idolatory gives these stars a non-human status with people expecting them to do miracles. “We expect our team to surprise everyone in the Olympics”, is the usual comments which comes from an average sports enthusiast of Indian teams chances of winning in the Olympics; just like winning a lottery competition.

Solving the debate
What is required is a concerted effort from all stakeholders to ‘make the change’ than expect someone to change it. While corruption, disorganization and chaos is an administrative affair which the government has a huge role to play, accepting sports and people willing to work for sports as professionals will work in favour of the change mentioned above.
Governance: At the governance level, the role of Sports Minister needs to be revisited and should be confined to a monitoring role than a noisy neighbor who pokes into all issues. The Sports Federations has to be structurally disbanded as they act more as agents of corruption ruled by people totally unrelated to sports. The Sport Authorities need to be given autonomy in matters related to its functioning with less possible interference from other quarters. While we can blame BCCI for profiteering, but we should learn from BCCI for the way in which they conduct events, recruit talents and work systematically; which can be considered to be tremendous within the Indian state of affairs. We should have similar autonomous bodies for Football, Shooting, Archery and other events also, without belittling any specific sporting event. Corruption can be curtailed through other effective means, than not giving them freedom to act and work.
Funding: Private participation and funding needs to be encouraged, giving them due benefit and credit, essential to get them interested. This exists in all countries and which all major sports merchandise companies like Nike and Puma eye for. The government shall support individuals who are not able to afford getting foreign coaches and participating in international events, but shall not dictate who should be the foreign coach and which all events the concerned individual should participate.
Sports Infrastructure: Infrastructure building should be long term and not confined to a sporting event such as commonwealth or national games. Scope of floating Infrastructure bonds and scope of PPP on specific projects shall be explored. While attempts like Lottery for sports floated by Kerala government is a welcome step, it requires appropriate marketing and funding strategy. Special Taxes and Cess can be levied to raise money specifically for sports instead of taking from the common pool. Loan prioritization shall be given for sports academies and for sportsmen/women for various loans; which will give a boost to their confidence and assist them in long term planning. Salaries require to be stipulated in accordance to the credentials of individuals or the team involved. Appropriate scholarships and other benefits shall be given on continuous manner without delay.
“Impossible is nothing”, same stands true for all the steps to be taken, which is difficult and strenuous but definitely worthy. A strong will coupled with a positive attitude will help improve the state of affairs. It’s a matter of support and belief that drives every sportsmen who cherishes each moment of his career, to hear the national anthem at the Olympics or. As the Olympics motto says ‘faster, higher and stronger’, the spirit of each Indian Sportsmen shall strive to reach that level. With the right attitude and mindset, we can bring in glory and create history.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Give away priz(c)es of Higher education in Kerala

By D.Dhanuraj

Kerala's recent history dealing with higher education (?) courses and colleges is not so praiseworthy. Everyone looks at the development with suspicion and no one wants to discuss and collectively learn from the experiences.  While we have a history of revolutionizing school education which has helped us to attain 100 percent literacy, it seems that we lost track with the developments in higher education field.

Everyone in Kerala was forced to believe for a quite long time that it is the responsibility of the Government to run education institutions of excellence.  This was happening while private aided schools were serving the majority of population for many decades. At last, the Government took a decision to open up higher education to private players.

Here, I am not going into the merits of the stated policies of the then Government on this regard. I want to explore the remedial measures to fix the problems that the higher education sector in Kerala faces today. 

I am of the opinion that the Education sector should be given the Industry status.

One of the core issues that had plagued Kerala's higher education these days is that it has failed in achieving the desired results in terms of quality and content. If we look at the kind of institutional management mechanisms that many of these colleges have, it is obvious that its high time for improvement. To many of these managements its more of a highly rewarding investment than 'knowledge disseminating centers of excellence'. Majority of the managements do not have any clue about the standards and values of the education system and the quality to be imparted. As a service provider, I don't expect everyone investing in a market to have the necessary knowledge and necessary skill sets to guide and win the game. That is the difference between an investor and entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, in Kerala, no one (among the College Managements) meets any of these two criteria as the definition and attributes attached to the legal framework do not permit one to enjoy these roles. S/He is neither an entrepreneur nor an investor.

Almost all of the colleges are formed as a non-profit trust and that does not command bringing more investments or expertise to the operations.

If the owner of the college is purely an investor, he will make sure that in the best market conditions, he has to reap the profit. In education sector, ultimately it is the results of the outgoing batches that matters a lot. In addition, how many are placed in reputed companies or what is the rating given by these reputed companies to the students and the college management also counts. I don't think any one can bribe Infosys or TCS to give them higher rating in terms of the quality and skill sets of the students they recruit. Since the legal framework does not allow the investor to do that, he usurps the role of the entrepreneur also in mean time. An entrepreneur is a market savvy knowledgeable person trying to trade off the risks with the futuristic market forces. Under the current conditions in Kerala its very difficult for finding such a person. Since he is not knowledgeable and he is there only to make money, he can only aspire but cannot succeed in the process of imparting higher education. So what is the end result?

Less quality of education and widespread allegations of connivance between the political leadership and the so called 'social agents' in the education sector. The state itself traded off the quality and values of the higher education as it has the larger say being the custodian of approvals and sanctions to start an educational institution. Universities and syndicates are again vitiated by the over representation of political war games. So who is there to regulate and evaluate the schemes of things in these institutions? How will we ensure that the decisions are unbiased and meritorious.

I do find five possible solutions;

1. Appoint a regulator like SEBI in higher education and de-link the process of the giving sanctions and  permission from the political leadership.

2. Conduct single entrance examination for the respective streams rather than allowing the different managements to conduct their own entrance examinations

3.  Publish the results and campus placements of  each college with all details in the public domain and add in the brochures of the entrance examinations.

4. Promote agencies to rank and rate these educational institutions. These agencies can be rated by the regulator based on the techniques and tools used for the ranking exercises. 

5. More importantly, give the industry status to the colleges so that there is no more clashes between the characters of investor, promoter and entrepreneur.