Today 18 Nov is commemorated as Rezangla day by India in memory of one of the most stirring battles ever fought. Last man last bullet is spoken of often but happens ever so rarely. Indian history has Saragarhi and Rezangla. While the former fought in 1897 for the British Indian Army is perhaps more well known because the Brits recognised and spread word about it, the latter was fought more recently in 1962 against the Chinese, for Independent India, but, alas remains largely unknown outside military circles. Almost the entire lot of people at the post viz. 114 soldiers (of the 123), of the Charlie company of 13th battalion of the Kumaon regiment, died defending Rezangla hill about 20 km SE of Chushul, Ladakh at a height of 16500 feet and repulsed the Chinese attack in this sector. In the dark and depressing overall scenario of the 1962 war (notwithstanding supreme acts of bravery by individuals and units displayed at many place like that by its sister battalion the 6 Kumaon at Walong in the North East or by Jaswant Singh of 4th Garhwal Rifles at Nuranang, in Tawang, whose anniversary was yesterday. 17 nov) Rezangla was the bright spot that showed the Chinese (and the World) that India was not the pushover they had imagined. Details of the battle can be easily googled. Suffice to just give some details. 123 Indian soldiers without artillery support, with most antiquated weapons against almost 5000 Chinese with artillery support and modern weapons. Almost all the Indian soldiers, 114 of them died, (6 were captured as POWs of whom one died in captivity and barely 3 survived) versus about 1300 Chinese who died. When their bodies were found later in Jan of 1963, many were clutching the triggers of their guns. They had died fighting until the last bullet. Many had even resorted to fighting with bare hands after they could not use weapons or ran out of ammunition. A Rajput company commander Maj Shaitan Singh Bhatti from Jodhpur leading123 Ahirs (Yadavs) from the plains of Haryana laid down their lives in the cold and barren mountains of the Karakoram range in Ladakh. What caused this exemplary display of bravery and fortitude in most treacherous weather where breathing itself was difficult. Let us leave it to the management schools and other analysts to make sense of this. Let us simply today celebrate the strategic message they sent out. On nov 21, barely 3 days later the war came to a halt. Surely the Chinese would have imbibed the lessons if Rezangla. If they came in again they would do so at their own peril. The USMC war memorial inscribed after the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 uncommon courage was their common virtue' to describe their marines. Perhaps the same can be said of the Rezangla braves. We have however been more deferential to the idea of sevice and duty and inscribed in their memorial these lines of Thomas Macaulay "How can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods." Maj Shaitan Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest award for bravery. The battalion also got 4 Vir Chakras and several Sena Medals for gallantry. However, save some pockets of Haryana the story of Rezangla remains untold and the heroes unsung. To get some sense of the poignancy and tragedy, the desolation and desperation and yet through it all human heroism and dignity, pse go to you tube and watch one of the most moving songs ever written and picturised on this war 'Kar Chale Hum Fida..' in, arguably, India's best war movie 'Haqeeqat'. With lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, set to tune by Madan Mohan and sung by Mohammed Rafi, it is guaranteed to move you to tears. Either way, before the night fades away and brings us the dawn of another day, before we go back to our worldy woes of money and mice, let us today spare a thought for the Rezangla warriors whose unsurpassed courage will go down as one of the best and greatest examples of 'last man, last bullet.

10 data points that should shame our Higher Ed policy makers:

1. The total spend in US by Indian students is about 40000 crores. The total education budget in India is Rs. 30000 crores.
2. In 2017, The total engineering students passing out is about 1.5 million against a campus placement of 350,000. In 2008, it was 350,000 students passing out and all getting placed. On the other hand, we just produce 65000 doctors each year for servicing a population of 130 crores.
3. Higher education spend in the last decade has been Rs 1.76 lakh crore against a total tax cess collection for of Rs 86,538 crore. The governments invested just about Rs 15,500 crore (beyond the cess collected) in expanding capacities. That is just Rs 1,500 crore each year to serve the increased student aspirations.
4. GATE exam is based on everything you learnt at B.Tech. With pass percentage qualifying marks being about 25%, only 16% of the 1.5 million who appear Pass the exam. That is a tribute to rote learning.
5. If you leave your paper blank in the CAT exam, you are likely to get 55 percentile. And if the 1.7 lac people who appear for CAT, about 95000 will get a score less than this.
6. In the last 30 years, innovations in creating institutions of higher learning have been zilch. IIMs, IITs, AIIMS, NITs are the legacy of Nehru. NLU and IISER were the last of the innovations.
7. The new policy to determine Universities of eminence and give them freedom from regulations to break into world rankings of best universities is an oxymoron. It means that regulations by our own regulators are counter productive to creating good quality institutions.
8. Higher education is almost in private hands. In 2014, we had 777 universities 443 public and 334 private. By 2019, we will have more private universities than public universities. Similarly, In 2010, we had 26,000 colleges about 9,000 public ones and 17,000 operated by private players. By the turn of 2014, the total colleges grew to 36,000 10,000 in public (an incremental 1,000 colleges only), while the private colleges grew by 9,000 to 26,000 colleges. We estimate that in 2019, India would have 58,000 colleges with just 12,000 colleges being public and 46,000 operated by private players. So, by 2019, we will have more private universities and 79% would be in private colleges affiliated to a public universities. That means 85% students would be studying in a private college or a private university.
9. There is not one source that can give you complete information on higher education. MHRD, Ministry of labor, health, skill development and Law fight a continuous turf war while the students lose out. A)AICTE will not have students pursuing engineering in deemed universities. B) UGC will not have any details of the 90 Institutes of National importance etc. C) Medical Council and Bar council work for different ministries. D) Vocational training and skill development come under another ministry.
10. By 2028, India will have 350 million passing through the education system and looking for employment. India doesn't create more than 4-7 million jobs an Year.


Poonam Talwar Sayal

On Childrens Day I took my daughters out for a treat. The beautiful day was marred by an unexpected confrontation when two adolescent girls came to us begging for money!I have learnt not to encourage beggars and I believe that if everyone stops giving them alms, then they will stop asking and a sad habit will die off. So I refused to give the girls any money, instead I started asking them about their family. They refused to say anything except the pathetic words Kuchh de do, bhukh lagi hai. After a few futile attempts my husband said come with us and we will buy you something to eat, but again they were reluctant, just pressing on for money. I still wanted to take them with me but my husband very sensibly explained that any such step could land us in trouble with the kids family as well as the authorities. Our motive for taking them with us could be virtuous but people might make it sound ulterior and cause trouble. Anyway we had no official authority to do any such thing. Some NGOs might be authorized to take in the children for care-taking but we did not know any such agency. Anything unofficial can cause unnecessary trouble for the individual involved even if their motives are virtuous. So frustrated we moved on, my daughters following us reluctantly. When we sat in the restaurant my younger daughter seemed quite upset that we had left two hungry girls outside, while we were sitting down to a lavish meal. It was difficult making her understand why I had not given them any money.
This is an issue which has troubled most of us and left us feeling guilty and less humane but what can we do? This is a question that has always haunted me. If u try and feed these unfortunates, very few accept food, some very rudely throw the food and demand money instead, while others keep pleading for money…all the while expressing their pitiable plight. Very few are genuinely hungry and needy. For most it has become a profession. They want money only and not our food or concern. But these arguments apart, can we just leave behind a little girl who is telling us she is hungry? Even if she is just acting! Will giving her some money today ease her problems forever? Will she not beg again the next day? So giving her money once is not the answer to this quandary. We need to find an everlasting cure to this disease of begging.
Abroad there are government agencies or Social security Services, which take-in such homeless people and look after them. I think we also have a need for such agencies in our country, which can be held accountable and which can take these young children and other homeless beggars off the streets and offer them a better living environment. The agency needs to be transparent and the security of the inmates should be given priority. Many like me would love to be associated with such a group and help out in any manner but it has to be official.
Incidentally I had just joined the Forward India Forum and this incident made me realize the importance of groups such as ours, who can help find solutions to such problems if the members become a team and ensure that our voice is heard by all, especially the government. So I am hoping we can together address this issue so that all beggars can be provided for and the street children can be given better opportunities.