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Mall Road

Bus Addey, Maal Rode, Camp, Madal Toun, Ajadpur, Shalimaar...

So what do we tell Manoj Rawal?

Update: Frantic efforts by old-Stephanians and the larger world of non-Stephanians to help manoj could not materialise as St. Stephen's College declared he will not be turned back. Why am I having a traumatic bout of sympathy for The Slimes of India?!

source: Times of India ePaper

Having appeared for an interview, a physically challenged student, Manoj Rawal, travelled all the way from his Karnal village just to find out if St. Stephen's College had granted him admission in the Mathmateics (Hons) course. They had, along with the hostel, reports today's Times of India.

The only problem was that the annual fees of the college is Rs. 43,000 (ToI says 45, but they are wrong) . Manoj has five brothers and sisters, and his father is a farmer.

Not knowing where to go, Manoj decided to request the college principal to give him a concession. ''I spoke to the principal and he referred me to the administrative staff of the college. They just told me that the 15% concession — given to handicapped students — was all I would be given,'' he says.

A 15% concession would not amount to much for Manoj who comes from a family of six, all supported by his farmer father. ''My sister has to be married off and the maximum my family can afford is Rs 5,000. So now it's either her marriage, or my admission here,'' he says.

His options are now to seek admission in some small college in Karnal or Panipat where it will be cheaper.

''But getting into St Stephen's College meant a lot to me, coming from a government school in village Kohand,'' he says.

St Stephen's College principal Anil Wilson could not be contacted for comment.

[Link unavailable, report by Shreya Roy, The Times of India, 26 June 2005, Page 4, Delhi edition]

I hope you remember the hoopla about Murli Manohar Joshi wanting to reduce the fees of the Indian Institutes of Management. It seemed the entire nation (actually, only the media, the industry and free market polemicists) were up in arms against MM Joshi: how dare that obscurantist professor-turned-politician meddle in the affairs of an institution that produces free marketeers with machine-like vitality?

Conspiracy theories were hatched that this was a larger attempt by the Minister for Human Resource Development to dilute the autonomy of the IIM's and 'saffronise' them. Given the ways of the man, these conspiracy theories could well have been true; they never materialised, however, because the saffronite got replaced by the detoxificant.

Minister Joshi's argument in wanting to reduce the IIM fees was that the fees should not be more than one-third of India's per capita income. A high fees running into several lakh rupees would effectively keep out a number of students. But the media would not listen; especially activist in spreading panic about such 'saffronisation' was the pro-market paper, The Indian Express. A letter writer in Tehelka said that the media had been presenting only one side of the story, ignoring middle class Indians like him who were happy with the move. Not surprisingly, data suggests that the 'average' IIM parent earns over three times the national per capita income.

Two possible positions on the issue:

1) If you don't have the money to pay what a college charges, you don't have the right to be in that college. You can't get a product or service for less than the market price just because you are poor. You get what you earn: there is no such thing as a free lunch. The welfare statist that I am, such an idea appears a bit insensitive to me. What is Manoj's fault that his father is a poor farmer who has to support six children? Isn't it enough that Manoj has worked hard despite his disability to get into an elite college with a minor relaxation in the merit criteria? And despite the fact that he was in a government school - you know the quality of education in India's state-run schools.

2) You can get an education loan. Just that your father has to pay interest on it while you are studying, and you pay it back when you earn. However, if the loan is in lakhs, the interest is also going to be high enough to rule it out for many Indian families. Besides, Manoj's day to day expenditure in a city like Delhi is likely to be much higher than in his native village in Haryana. Also, there is no guarantee (unlike in the IIM's) that a Maths (hons) course will get a disabled student from a rural background a job decent enough to pay back the loan. Lastly, the loan situation becomes complicated if he wants to do a master's as well.

Your comments are welcome, especially if you claim to have membership of the elite "libertarian cartel" of Indian bloggers.

As for Manoj, I'm sure the appearance of this article has already got him sponsorship. As it happens, I am a student of St. Stephen's College, and can tell you that Manoj's case is not isolated. Some years ago a brilliant student from Bihar took admission in the BA Sanskrit (honours) course, paid the first bill but didn't have to money to pay the second. He requested for it to be waived; sorry sir, said the college, please withdraw your admission. Which is exactly what he had to do, and is now in Hindu College across the street, where the fees is half of hat it is in Stephen's. So when they say St Stephen's is elitist, this is probably what they mean.

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-- Blogger Gaurav, 6/26/2005 08:28:00 PM

Being one of the supposedly elite cartel, let me make a few points.

Yes, it is heart wrenching that a hard working handicapped student is denied an education in Stephen's because his father can't afford it.

Let me offer you my maximalist position first, which is the one you have termed insensitive. There are no free lunches. It is not his fundamental right to get an education in Stephen's, so the state does not owe him anything.

Now, considering you are a welfare statist, let me offer you my minimalist position which is based on the premise that a state owes its most underprivileged and unfortunate citizens something. i.e A portion of taxpayer's money should be spent on these citizens.

Considering that crores and crores of people in India can't get potable water, sleep hungry, live in horrible conditions, and die from dreadful diseases every year, funding Manoj's education in St. Stephen's Delhi, or subsidising Gaurav Sabnis' MBA degree in IIM Lucknow should come way way lower in the priority list.

Yes, Manoj deserves good educations. And there will be private players, industrialists etc who will help him out. Every year, many students benefit from grants and donations given by corporate houses. Charity, especially in cases where the needs are not fundamental like food, water, clothing, should be voluntary.

The taxpayer should not foot Manoj's fees.    

-- Blogger Sunil, 6/26/2005 09:49:00 PM

Shivam....this is a thought provoking post. But I think private universities can charge fees of their choice, since they are in the business of education. However, public universities (i.e. govt run ones) should charge less (as they do). The same system prevails in the states, where top notch state universities, like UC Berkeley, or the U of Washington, or Michigan etc charge a third of that charged by Yale or Stanford.

Additionally......a well developed system of scholarships based only on merit and need must be created. All major universities (here) have scholarships, especially for highly meritorious students from needy backgrounds. A system needs to be created where in a meritorious student makes it to a college of choice without having to worry about funding.

That, really, is a key missing step. Most Indian universities lack scholarships of any sorts. Subsidizing or removing fees might only make it difficult for an institution to run. Providing quality education also involves obtaining good equipment, and more importantly, faculty. And we cannot have good faculty, and not pay them also. So....the cycle is difficult.    

-- Blogger Sunil, 6/26/2005 10:05:00 PM

Also...just to add.....the funds for scholarships etc, and infact running the university itself will come when universities in India are free to obtain grants, create endowed chairs etc from any philanthropic source they find. This concept of academic philanthropy is largely missing (or is at best nascent) in the Indian educational context, which also remains mired in administration.....
so...really, this simple issue has too many deep layers (atleast in my head)    

-- Anonymous Ravikiran, 6/26/2005 11:31:00 PM

I am a member of the cartel. I am also one of those who could not have got through IIML without taking a loan.

Firstly, let me assure you that most banks will not collect interest (or principal for that matter) from Manoj or his dad till the period of education gets over.
I have sent you an excel sheet giving my calculations of how much EMI Manoj will have to pay after his education. When I prepared the sheet, I did not know which course he had been selected for, (i.e. number of years) So I put in different scenarios. The worst case is a BA + MA i.e. 5 years. Even in that case, Manoj will not have to pay more than Rs. 5,352 p.m. for 5 years. If he just does a BA, his EMI turns out to be Rs. 2,962 p.m. for 5 years. I am sure he should be able to afford that much once he gets a job.

Secondly, it is extremely silly to use this case to argue for an across-the-board reduction in fees to all MBA students. As you have correctly pointed out most people who join MBA courses come from upper middle class families. Frankly, I find it shocking that you use Manoj's plight (or my plight, for that matter, because I was in the same boat) to argue that their fees should be subsidised. If anything, there is a need for carefully directed scholarships towards pooor students.

For more on that topic see my post here.

Also note that that post anticipates one possible counterargument from you. The reason why most people who do an MBA come from privileged backgrounds is not because of the fees. It is because of the opportunity cost of studying for 2 years as against working and earning money. If you keep the IIM fees low, it will not enable poor students to get in, because fees is not what is stopping them in the first place. It is the rich who will get subsidised. Your argument, I am sorry to say, is extremely fallacious.    

-- Blogger amit varma, 6/26/2005 11:40:00 PM

The question to ask here, Shivam, is this: Why is it that Manoj's father cannot afford those fees?

Think about it.    

-- Anonymous Harini Calamur, 6/26/2005 11:43:00 PM

Scholarships yes.
Assisted places yes.
Grants maybe.
St.Stephens' like all other institutions needs to look at these options to ensure that the fees don't become a barrier to entry.
Sophia's - the college i lecture at - already has an assited places scheme. And it is an elitist college. There isn't a dichotamy here.

But, why would i- as a tax payer - want to subsidize someone going to the IIM or any other institute of higher education? Which is what we will be doing if we start reducing fees.
i would rather see that money go towards primary education for all.
I feel for the person featured in your blog. I really do. But, given the attitude of Stephen's towards him, he probably would pick up a better education in an institution that had a conscience.    

-- Blogger Vulturo, 6/27/2005 11:08:00 AM


I'm in complete agreement with Gaurav and Ravi.

I also think that there is nothing wrong with argument 1

i.e. If you don't have the money to pay what a college charges, you don't have the right to be in that college. You can't get a product or service for less than the market price just because you are poor. You get what you earn: there is no such thing as a free lunch.

However, the welfare statist that you are - I can understand your feelings - But I am intrigued all the same, and your arguments look fallacious to me.

I don't see the logic. Today there's Manoj, tomorrow you may have thousand other Manojes. This particular Manoj wants St. Stephens. The future Manojes may want something costlier.

The average tax-payer rarely has an IIM opportunity, or some other prestigious institute opportunity. And in quite a few of the cases money is the issue. But the average tax payer learns to live with it - finds some suitable insititute he can afford, gets a job - and gets on with his life. All this is real, these are the practicalities of life.

This is no fantasy world Shivam, The Manoj (current version) has had a tough life. But so have I, and countless others. And I'm sure you will come up with examples of future Manojes with even tragic life histories.

Do these guys deserve education - yes. Do these guys deserve education at St. Stephens or IIMs - not necessarily. Its up to them to find the funding/sponsors.

That said, the government funding these guys education with *MY BLOODY TAX MONEY* is not acceptable. There are no free lunches.



-- Blogger Vulturo, 6/27/2005 12:04:00 PM

Lest, I seem too insensitive - let me balance this with the situation I was faced with. I generally don't go about telling this, but I guess its relevant:

I was forever the geeky kid, in love with Computers and all things technology. I did quite well in my SSC, and took up Science at Junior College. I forever dreamt of being an Engineer, especially one in Computer Science

But the truth was my family was very heavily in debt, and we had our own fair share of problems which was compounded by my Father's untimely death. My Family's financials were in such a bad shape, and running the house was a problem. My mom was forced to take up a job which didn't pay her very greatly. Rather than demanding that my mom pay for my education, I decided to forego studies and tookup working with a (then) fledgling recruitment company. As soon as I started earning enough, I made my mom give up the job - she was really not in great health herself. I was education-less for a year, but common-sense prevailed and I realised that I at least needed to be a Graduate.

I ended up taking a BA course in Psychology which did not require any attendance at college whatsoever, and kept working throughout the year only showing up at college for examinations, and certain select lectures. I never really liked Psychology, I still don't. The geek in me is very much alive, and my dream job would still be that of a QA Expert in a software company or an Information Security analyst. But here I am, at age 23 - a recruiter with 6 years of experience. I seriously don't think I can quit my job right now and get into computers - It would take me a helluva time to reach a level where an organization would willingly employ me as an Information Security guy or a QA guy. The aptitude is very much there, but the education will take time in coming. And my family needs to eat all that while.

At any point of time, did I feel that I was "wronged" ? - well "wronged by fate", yes. Frustrated at times, yes. But I never believed that I deserved to have my education funded by the Government (read the Taxpayer's money). Or a private body for that matter. I was just one among the millions in India who couldn't exactly fulfill their dreams the way they wanted. I learnt to live with it, and I guess everyone ought to. Once again, this is no fantasy land. This is life. I try to be the best at what I do (Recruitment) and I guess everyone needs to do that with their lives, rather than crib and start expecting manna from heaven (or from the tax payer's money)

This is offtopic, I would also remark, that this one and all your previous arguments are on the basis of emotion - eg. the dalits need reservations because they go through bad times, and their families have so much *hopes on them*, there is so much expected of them. They are in such a bad state "THEY SIMPLY DESRVED TO BE HELPED" - and that too by taking away positions which would otherwise be given to someone on the basis of merit. The doctor doctor dalit doctor, was also an 'emotional', and so was the "great indian middle class" argument.

Sadly, all of us - myself, a few other individualists and the cartel members, of course would like to see arguments on the basis of logic, rather than emotion. Simply by highlighting people's plight you can't give them what they do not necessarily have a right to. Once again, there are no free lunches.    

-- Blogger MJ, 6/27/2005 12:30:00 PM

There's been too much globalization within India happening already. Everybody from everywhere is moving to the metrolpolitan cities. What this is preventing is, the pace of development in other parts of the country. Like China, we should have checks for inter-state migration.

No need to give this guy anything extra for admission. Education in Haryana is not all that bad. If he's got good marks, he can easily get in the top university in his state.    

-- Anonymous RR, 6/28/2005 01:15:00 PM

Slightly OT: I take serious objection to Indian Express being described as 'pro-market'. It has some fairly hair-raising commie characters on its payroll. The authors of its op-ed leaders would constitute a regulation Red parade, and its editor routinely gives good press to some favoured Marxists, though as a matter of political strategy. At best, Indian Express represents crony capitalism, and at worst, it stands for Congress capitalism. Right now, the paper is busy projecting the government's harking back to quasi-socialist policy as liberal, reformist economics, despite the fact that privatization has ground to a screeching halt, and the state's grip on areas it should be exiting is actually tightening. In my view, true capitalism goes hand in glove with transparency, fairplay and an unexceptionable value system from all the stake-holders, but more so from the market regulator and policy-maker, which is the government. Former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie's refusal to buckle under the pressure of corporate lobbies and market manipulators -- to the extent that he made enemies within his own party -- is a good example of a truly pro-market policy.

Coming to the topic at hand, my view falls somewhere between Gaurav Sabnis' minimalist and maximalist positions. Yes, helping Manoj Rawal ought to be way lower down in government's list of priorities. But I think the state should incentivize educators and financial institutions to help the disadvantaged, through, for example, tax waivers for banks that extend education loans to those below a certain level of income.

A question to the members of the 'cartel': why are you not arguing that the government should get out of the business of running ivy league, higher education institutions that churn out high wage earners? If the govt sells IITs, IIMs and other such institutions to the highest bidder, the whole argument on what their fees should be would become superfluous.    

-- Blogger www.gypsynan.blogspot.com, 6/29/2005 10:39:00 PM


I am with Shivam here. I have been living and working abroad for many years now. And one of the many fresh perspectives I have gathered is this : India is doing phenomenally well in the knowledge sector simply because it is more competitive. In the US the college admission system is fairly subjective. In most non western countries a good education is a result of money + connections. I always proudly tell people that Indian admission system (never mind the education received) is one of the toughest and fairest in the world (unless you are an upper caste person who hates Mr. Mandal). You get the marks and you get in. Especially because higher education is heavily subsidised.

This is a whole other topic/can of worms, but my biased view is that thirld world countries with a good primary education system are known for producing international quality domestic help - viz. Phillipinos and Sri Lankans. and no disrespect meant here, hats off to women who support families back home while working as nannies to westerners and sheikhs.

Indian tech industry and its presence in research labs in the west would not exist were it not for the fact that a large number of Indians including those posting here have enjoyed free higher education. If they did not need it then their parents (if they come from non business families did). "Sure" I say, "many kids can't go to school, but those who can are a third of thecountry, that is 300 million + and they have an almost equal playing field when getting into the top institutes in the country, unlike the US where Ivy league colleges are essentially dominated by products of expensive private schools that 90% of the country can not afford". And because we have the brightest people regardless of table manners going to the top institutes, we are beating the world. In Canada even med student has to go through an interview process, where selectors say they prefer a good communicator over someone with good grades.

That being the case it is in our country's best interest to retain the smartest scholars in the best institutes. I respect (ed) Stephens or IIT because it attracts the smartest not because it attracts the richest. Would you want a doctor who went to subsidised AIIMS or one who went to private med school somewhere? And why? because AIIMS gets the best regardless of the ability to pay, ne c'est pas?

Higher fees American style would put most places out of reach of those who can send their children comfortably to IIT as of now. And the net brain pool the tech industry has would shrink.

As Thomas Friedman wrote the Indian masses don't hate liberalisation they want to earn a slice of the pie. And I belive the meritocracy of India is responsible for whatever little success we have had. A meritocracy can not survive if the meritocrats want to perpetuate an aristocratic system. I say it is in our nation's best interest to ensure anyone who has the brains to get into a top school goes there.We need to do whatever is necessary, legislate that colleges reduce fees for poor students, give tax breaks on donations to this cause. Whatever.

And no I DO NOT support the BJP or Joshi who only wanted control to subvert institutes that are today free to produce libertarians and entrpreneurs who can compete with the best in the world.    

-- Anonymous Anonymous, 6/30/2005 01:18:00 PM

Hi guys,

First off...I'm not a frequent blogger...fact is I'm as infrequent as they come....between patients and self...there's little else to do but survive.
On the topic of this poor chap...can't some of us pitch in and help with this? INR 43,000 is pretty standard for a lot of us Metropolitans...right? Between 10 of us....it won't even be noticed!!!??!    

-- Blogger Gaurav, 7/01/2005 11:58:00 AM

RR, I am sure I speak for all members of the cartel when i say that we believe the government should get out of running ALL businesses, be it oil, steel, railways or higher education.    

-- Blogger Eswaran B, 7/02/2005 07:11:00 AM

Mustardfoot (& Shivam),

I completely agree with the opinion of the 'elite libertarian cartel' here. I will just point out a couple of things to refute your points.

You seem to argue that India's success in the tech sector has been due to the government subsidy given to the engineering schools. Wrong. Government subsidises only the elite schools, IITs, RECs and few state universities. The graduates of these schools have been immensely successful, and that first brought attention to the technical capability of Indians. But the schools that supply the bulk of the IT manpower are not these Tier 1 schools. They are mostly the self-financed engineering colleges that first started in South India. The fees in these colleges were not subsidised by the government - fees for some (meritorious) students were subsidised to some extent by the others. The government subsidies in higher education had started the ball rolling, but what fed the real boom were the unsubsidised colleges.

Secondly, even if subsidising IITs are justifiable, subsidising IIMs do not make any sense. MBA is a post-graudate study, poor students who wish to study an MBA can work for a couple of years and then save money to pay the fees. I know I did (though not for MBA).

Thirdly, availability of educational loans will serve the same purpose as a subsidy now serves. A big problem there is the difficulty in availing such loans - income statements of parents are usually required. This is something the alumni of such institutions can help with. A sum of money can be deposited with the bank to act as surety for the loan - and the interest payment for the student will be greatly reduced because of the interest accruing in the deposit.

And finally, India's success in IT do NOT mean anything for most of the Indians. It has succeeded anyway, and the government should not subsidise the industry any more as the industry can take care of itself.    

-- Blogger shaun, 7/03/2005 02:47:00 PM

Gaurav Sabnis wrote: Considering that crores and crores of people in India can't get potable water, sleep hungry, live in horrible conditions, and die from dreadful diseases every year, funding Manoj's education in St. Stephen's Delhi,...

This way the state should spend money only on these core problems and on nothing else. Which will lead the the absurd situation of people getting food and water but no education. Supposing the government decides to fund only primary education, you will have a national of poor people who went only to primary school! A welfare state needs to have a balanced approach.    

-- Anonymous Anand, 7/03/2005 10:45:00 PM

Unlike the cartel members, I do think the government has a role to play in many things. And I would add education till the 12th to Gaurav's priority list. (The school education should be in such a way that one is comfortable with one or two job oriented skills by the time one passes out.) A motivated and competitive student from a poor background will be able to climb up the ladder with this base.

In any case I do not support government subsidising higher education in private institutions or govt institutions like the IIMs. Incidentally, I do not think St. Stephens will provide a much better math education than another college in Delhi for some one to pay such a high fee.    

-- Anonymous Anonymous, 7/03/2005 11:13:00 PM

Anand wrote: I do not think St. Stephens will provide a much better math education than another college in Delhi for some one to pay such a high fee.

I disagree here. The maths faculty in Stephen's is particularly known as the best maths faculty for an undergrad course and secondly, the stephen's tag increases employment prospects.    

-- Anonymous Anand, 7/04/2005 10:41:00 AM

My point was that vis-a-vis the fee it's not worth it especially for some one who finds it tough to afford it. Yes, Stephens math faculty has some excellent teachers, and some of them are true humanitarians too, and will be willing to help students from nearby colleges as well, as far as math questions are concerned.

You may be right about the employment opportunities, but I don't think a B.Sc. in maths guarantees a job, and therefore paying huge tuition is a risky investment.    

-- Blogger Michael Higgins, 7/06/2005 08:22:00 PM

Hi Shivam
Interesting case.
Ravikiran's point I think needs to be reiterated: a good student can pay his own way with a student loan. He gave his own example to show that it was very possible.

Perhaps Manoj is ignorant of the student loan process (shame on St. Stephens if they did not advise him). If he doesn't back his own ability and believe that he can easily pay off the loan, why should anyone else subsidize his education?

If an education does not pay for itself, it is clearly not an investment. It may be fun, but it is not in the interest of society to subsidize fun.

In any case, I do wish Manoj well.    

-- Blogger Prathamesh, 7/10/2005 08:39:00 PM

"If an education does not pay for itself, it is clearly not an investment.It may be fun,but it is not in the intrest of society to subsidize fun."
One of the outcomes of capitalistic mode of economy is that everything that is not run of the mill soap selling is considered 'fun'.The libertarians here i guess would rather advise manoj to undergo accent training or a dq test(dumbness quotient) and take up a call centre or a software job so that he can slog his ass off for their fat cheques.
Maths(hons) course is not economically profitable course.what is manoj or someone else in a similar position wants to get into research which is not exactly highly paying and involves years of pg,doctoral studies.
The issue out here is not just abt manoj.it is abt accesible quality undergraduate education for needy.Stephens is among the only 10 decent liberal arts colleges in india.There is something really wrong with a system if it makes good liberal arts undergraduate education privilige of a wealthy few.    

-- Blogger history_lover, 7/26/2005 03:49:00 PM

As a beneficiary of subsidized fees I agree with you Shivam.
Thanks to it I was able to get a decent technical education and move up the ladder.
Frankly those who disagree remind me of those bad old days when only the aristocrats and the wealthy people were allowed to vote and rule because they were the ones who paid taxes.
By erecting entry barriers they would like the elite to remain a closed circle and difficult for others to move up.    

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