Kapil Sibal has been in the news lately for the slugfest between the IITs and the HRD Ministry over the entrance exams for engineering colleges. In a free-wheeling interview with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on her chat show Kahiye Janab, Sibal shares his views on the IIT controversy, the cartoon fiasco, internet censorship and telecom policies.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: It seems that your government is going through policy-paralysis. Why have you been making numerous announcements and decisions these days?
Sibal: If we don’t take enough decisions or make announcements, then you call it policy paralysis, and if we make announcements, then you say that we make too many decisions. This is wrong. If government will not take decisions, then what will it do…?
Swati: You are handling the Telecom and HRD ministries….How do you justify that students will have to give three exams for admission to IITs now onwards?
Sibal: I don’t justify it. Even today my aim is to conduct ‘one nation, one test’. I offered this proposal to the IIT council. We discussed it with IIT officials. If you ask students what you don’t know instead of what you know, it will give rise to coaching and there won’t be one test. There are approximately 100 entrance tests across the country. And it becomes very difficult for parents and students to fill all the forms. There should be one test and burden should decrease on students.
Swati: The accusation that Kapil Sibal is diluting the brand IIT in haste…What do you have to say on it?
Sibal: Neither I nor the government has taken this decision. It is decided by the IIT council. This issue was raised in February 2010. There have been many deliberations on it for the last two and half years. So, we had to come up with a final decision. I have never interfered with the academic anatomy or the authority until now. As far as IIT’s brand value is concerned, we have nothing to do with it. We are concerned with lessening the burden on students.
Swati: You have been heading this ministry for quite a long time. So, please tell us who all have vested interests in it. Because after so much of lobbying and controversies, it finally emerges that some universities, private institutions or schools are being run by politicians.
Sibal: In private sector, those who have nothing to do with education and are just interested in earning money are running coaching centers have vested interest in it. Private coaching centers are just money yielding machines. If you look at the results of class XII, you fill find that mostly, girls outshine boys. But, parents of the girls don’t want to send them to pursue education in IITs because of lack of money. But they send boys to IITs. This is an injustice.
Swati: In India, the engineers are coming from ‘teaching shops’ after spending crores, but they are low in quality of research. If we compare from US’ TIMES education supplement, then, India does not even stand in Top 100.
Sibal: The reason behind this assessment depends on a number of foreign students and foreign teachers.
Swati: Are you satisfied with the quality of education in our country?
Sibal: No, I am not at all satisfied. That’s why, for the last three years, my efforts have been to focus on quality education in MTech, PhD and other post graduate programmes. Right now, the focus is only on BTech programmes. That’s why students have to go to abroad for higher studies. We have to change the present education system. This would be possible only if all the stake holders become unified on doing something for the country but sadly, due to vested interests, they don’t want to go ahead with it.
Swati: What do you think have been your achievements as the HRD minister?
Sibal: Firstly, Right to Education is one of the key successes. 25% of poor students got admissions in private institutes, which is a very huge accomplishment. Secondly, we annulled Class X board exams. And you can see the positive outcome, both parents and students are happy. We also want tension for preparation of exams to get over. In fact, I am planning in next five-six years students should be allowed to take their text books to class rooms during exams. We want to test critical thinking of the students rather than mere learning up of the text.
Swati: Being a poet, you were in favour of internet censorship and cartoons removal from text books. You were also tagged as ‘net nanny’ by many people. You also summoned Google and Facebook to monitor the content?
Sibal: I was offered IT ministry in November 2010. I have never interfered in the functioning of any IT company so far. As far as internet censorship is concerned, I let the officials of Google and Facebook decide what content was harmful and inappropriate for public consumption. Like in the US, child pornography is banned; similarly in India, there are some laws which should be followed.
Swati: On cartoons elimination….
Sibal: These controversial cartoons were published when Arjun Singh was the minister of education. The cartoons in question were opposed to some communities. In Parliament, Leader of the House ordered to eliminate and probe those cartoons. Then, I am no one to say that cartoons should not be removed.
Swati: Talking of policy-paralysis, your party’s allies want to make the prime minister, the next president of the country?
Sibal: There is no policy-paralysis in the government. I don`t know, could any other government take decisions which our government has taken so far? If compared, India’s growth is much better than other countries.
Swati: In the telecom department, operators are upset with uncertainty and they are in distress. What is the confusion after all? What’s in store for mobile consumers in future?
Sibal: When I was handed over this ministry, it was a very uneven regime. Some operators licenses were about to expire in two years, in 2014, 2016 and in 2022. So, it’s very difficult to keep all the operators happy. We are going to solve this problem in the next 30 days. In the last one and half years, we have announced three policies. First is the telecom policy, which is the road map for next twenty years and that has got the nod of the cabinet. ‘One nation and free roaming’ will be in place before 2014. Second is ‘All India licensing’ and third is ‘spectrum sharing’. Next on my plan is to formulate the new IT policy and new Postal policy.
Swati: Is the government coming to power in the next term?
Sibal: (Laughs) Surely, it will come back to power in 2014.
Adaptation: Preeti Panwar