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Friday, September 17, 2010

Clash of aspirations: The plight of MODERN GURUKULAS

The changing notions of modern Gurukulas

By: Arjun.R.Shankar

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. ~John Muir

It’s quite wonderful and spectacular to see students of different ages and caliber sitting in groups, meeting and greeting each other and having a fair Tete`-a-tete for pretty long hours, chatting, gossiping, debating endlessly and discussing innumerable things under the sun for fun and knowledge sake. The issues keep changing. The trees of the college campus facilitate such long Tete`-a-tete providing them the best ambience, virtually illuminating their self and disposition. Immense positive energy is radiated by these natural green machines. This is how a perfect college campus should be (at least in your dreams). Even many of us hear such nostalgic references and comments from our parents who still cherish their college life.

But with the passage of time irreversible changes have crept into our society and human wants have drastically changed. Now many of the college campuses in the country are losing their green cover that was nurtured by the nature over the years. Many of them are being ruthlessly axed down for renovation, increasing infrastructural avenues thereby creating the so called ‘classic modern outlook’ covering all aesthetic dimensions. All these are quite worthy reasons for the college authorities to move on with their beautification drive. Though, occasionally there are some genuine reasons. But very often the new existing romantic charming notion overshadows the genuineness.

Rather than trivializing or sensationalizing the whole gamut of issues, let’s draw a larger picture. In the present scenario where sustainability is hitting all the high notes and chords, just ask our conscience “is creating four lane road systems with grid patterns, gleaming and busy outlets, incandescent light’s, wide pedestrian bays the priorities? Are these the necessary ingredients for the so called classic modern outlook of the college that they aim for?

Destroying the green cover of the campuses, thereby deliberately obliterating the ecosystem and sanctuary for different species of birds and animals has deep rooted negative impacts and repercussions. Deforestation itself as an activity cannot be justified outside or inside the campus. At present forest are considered among the most endangered thing on the earth.

An educational institution with considerably good amount of green cover often creates a conducive atmosphere for better academic pursuits. The biggest testimony is the ancient Gurukula System where you go to the guru’s place and learn in an environmentally friendly mode in a sustained manner fully under the blanket of nature. You sit around the tree, along the lakes, stream etc. to master things for which the nature and trees are the witness. Students very often could maintain cordial relations with them without deliberate transgressions.

Good amount of green cover really stimulates your greycells. Even the sight of them can please you and transform your whole doldrums and dispositions. The psychological impact is beyond explanations. The presence of such natural green machines can induce thinking and increase the concentration of the pupils.

Much of the felling of the trees within the campus can be attributed to the college authorities. Cutting down of trees are highly reprehensible, illegal, immoral and against all canons of moral ethics. It seems that the saviour’s have turned out to be the destroyers.

Different reputed college across the county has invited legal actions and condemnation for their activities.

In one of the reputed college of the country, As many as 30 big trees of Ashok, peepal and goolar were axed and no action has been taken against the defaulters. The trees have been cut down to earn the profit by selling the wood," said the officials after enquiry. Instead of taking strict action, the district forest officer (DFO) simply issued a show-cause notice against the principal and the management for cutting down more than two dozen trees. "This is a serious matter. Initially, a notice has been sent seeking an explanation from them, but after the investigation, if their fault is proved, a FIR would be lodged under the Act 4/10 and 3/28. Under this Act, the defaulters may be get imprisonment of 2 years and a fine of Rs 5,000. An FIR is not lodged because the departmental FIR is equivalent to the case registering with the police,"

Issue of the same magnitude took place way back in 2002 at FERGUSSON College for illegally felling 18 well-grown trees in its prestigious botanical garden. The college authorities had sought no permission from the Pune Municipal Corporation’s garden department for cutting the trees.

Also, The Madras High Court Bench has restrained the management of the Saraswathi Narayanan College from felling trees where 5000 bats and numerous birds were nesting. Timber worth Rs.10 lakh had been felled without permission of the forest department. These are only some of the colleges that have faced such penal actions. There are many big Colleges that are liable for action but still shielded due to their political clout.

Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram( 2-3yrs back was full of tress)

Present Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram( much of the green cover has vanished)

Not only Mar Ivanios college but many colleges in the country over the years has lost a large part of its green cover due to many genuine and false reasons which are often mysterious.

The biggest irony here is regarding their green clubs, nature clubs functioning and their popular mandate. Almost all these clubs actively operate in these colleges and the members of the college management pompously chalk out policies, but the true reflection is that these people seldom practice the things they speak of.

Trees are massively axed down very often for hosting events of international and national reputation in the campuses in the name of beautification drive and security reasons. How does the age old trees becoming a threat to the security? The best example is the University of Kaariyavattom. Thiruvananthapuram which felled numerous trees for the ‘National Science congress’ which it proudly hosted with zeal. The funniest part is that, officials cut down the trees in the campus and spoke endlessly about the climate change and deforestation inside the seminar hall virtually leaving the audience spellbound.

What a ‘scientific Paradox’? For the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Metro project alone accounted for 4,340 trees either being felled or transplanted while over 8,000 trees had to be felled for about 30 flyover projects. Rs 38 crores potted plants removed due to security hazard, part of the beautification drive.

Is this what we call ‘sustainable development’ or ‘Drive to classic modernity’?

Many colleges do this for better scores, rankings and accreditations. In spite of the built-in regulatory mechanisms that ensure satisfactory levels of quality in the functioning of higher education institutions, there have been criticisms that the country has permitted the mushrooming of institutions of higher education with fancy programme and substandard facilities and consequent dilution of standards.

NAAC----NATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND ACCREDITATION COUNCIL has 7 parameters for assessment like Curricular Aspects, Teaching-Learning and Evaluation, Research, Consultancy and Extension, Infrastructure and Learning Resources etc.

The NAAC should also include the aspect of forest cover/ green cover depending upon the age of the college etc. with various other pre-requisites and suitable criteria’s.

“Today's students are more outspoken, they are better aware of their rights and responsibilities'' so the green clubs by the students should be strengthened to condemn and stop such illegal activities.

Some of the reputed colleges of India successfully initiated missions like ‘chakli nu ghar’ (house for sparrow) programme to conserve the house sparrow and its habitats.

Another initiative was to save and nurture ‘vad’ (banyan) trees under its initiative vadi-e-vad (A banyan tree in every farm orchard (vadi). The initiative aims to revive the indigenous trees in which create a natural habitat for birds that generally nest at a height. These trees are also worshipped by people and so they already have an attachment with them. We will only be connecting the environment aspect and its importance in changing climate with the religious aspect,’ the colleges should definitely take cue from them and initiate such innovative missions in their colleges.

The clubs working should be effectively monitored and it should create awareness about conserving trees and ill effects of deforestation through various methods.

Over the past 100 years, the temperature of the earth had gone up by 0.63 degrees Celsius. If environment destruction continued at the current rate, the temperature would soon rise by 6.34 degrees Celsius. But many species on earth, including man, would not be able to survive if the temperature rose by even 3 degrees Celsius.

Development is definitely inevitable and indispensable, but that doesn’t mean that we should compromise with the nature and degrade it. The expected sustainability level and stipulated environmental balance should be always kept in mind. And create a mental frame to think what the priorities are and in what amount should be the sacrifices made to keep up the balance.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” ~Martin Luther


  1. Magnificently put together bro .. It is high time they realize .. Well done .. :)


  3. @ jithu..thnx da...let them realise..earlier the best.. or else after some years we r gona reap the benfits of human miscalculations.....

    @ hasna....
    thnx4 d support.....
    we'l try2 maintain this enthusiasm level.....

  4. Love for the Green. I thought you were proud of those tarred lanes before your college.(Last time, you were speaking very high of them)
    But, we love forests, don't we for some obvious reasons??( A sports meet in IIT-M forests)
    Anyways the world is going to end soon. Live the life to the fullest.

  5. @ bagaboys: sports meet at IIT-Madras was worth.....forests rock.....
    im always proud of my colg..but not wid their actions....
    we shud think which is d most desirable development.......

  6. Whether or not the world ends soon, Its our duty to make sure we sustain the nature for as long as is possible. Haven't we done enough damage?

    Great Article, Arjun. :-) As Jithin said, very well put together. :)

  7. Good write-up on trees... Would like to come out and plant more trees everywhere... We need more Chipko movements....Charity begins at home... We should see to it that we do not buy much of wooden furniture, use paper carefully, think for the papers we hav, how many trees will be cut. Have u heard of Rishi Valley school, chittoor?? Itz an ideal example of Gurukul in the midst of nature...

  8. 2 deepaji: thnx mam....
    i jus now read abt d school...its wonderful....

    cutting trees is definitely going2 b a big problem.... people have to realise its potential damage n its impacts....

  9. dear arjun,
    happy to c that u r still active in blogosphere. this is a good one, this article. and since u've mentioned about the NAAC, v all know how their evaluation visits work ( students made to heap praise on the institution without an iota of shame)!! so forget abt adding new parameters to NAAC accreditation!

    i've posted an article on 'Maoism n State', as promised earlier. hope u would take a look- http://ramlipin.blogspot.com/

  10. @lipin: thnx n i wil b readng ur article....
    n we know what actually happens with NAAC.....
    still der shud be something from the proper direction and through proper channel...
    there should be stringent legislations and speedy executions apart from garnering and imparting awareness and ethical conciousness....
    some steps beyond these....