off the record

Yes, President!

Making it to Raisina Hills has not been easy for Pranab Mukherjee. For a long time now, he has been on it. He did not take any chance and always tried to cultivate an image of a politician who was open to everyone. This image helped him to the extent that even CPM, an avowed critic of the economic policies propounded by him , did not hesitate to support him.

But the question remains whether the shrewd politician will forgive all those who have bitterly annoyed him at one point in time or another .  There is a long list and many important people including P Chidambaram are on it. 

Pranab Da is giving different indications.
“I do not know how much I have given to others. People have given so much that I feel humbled and honoured,” he has been repeating since he entered the presidential race.

“How would you feel when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will call you President Sir?” a journalist asked.

“This is constitutional …” Pranab Da brushed aside the question most politely. There was a glowing calm on his face which indicated that this great achievement has really made him magnanimous.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Sensible words from Sen

Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen recently said that empowerment of women through universal education was an essential prerequisite for India to climb up the ladder of social indices.

Sen, who was formally appointed as the first Chancellor of Nalanda University, was speaking at a seminar in Patna, where the noted economist rued that basic education was missing from the first Five-Year Plan (1951-56). To buttress his point, he cited the example of Japan and China and dwelt at length how early exposure to universal education led to rise of the two Asian giants.

Giving an account of his own experience in Burma (now Myanmar) as a child, Sen said female literacy had made a great impact in reducing the infant mortality there.
This was Sen’s first public appearance after the Presidential proclamation appointing him as NU’s first Chancellor was issued on Thursday. Nalanda University will start its academic session from 2014 with two schools – School of Historical Science and School of Environment and Ecology.

The university, coming up on a 450-acre campus near Rajgir in Nalanda, will start the faculty recruitment process in 2013, but the selection of first batch of 100 students in each school will begin in 2014.

Notably, the ancient Nalanda University in the fifth century was arguably the highest seat of Buddhist learning and offered a choice of many subjects – philosophy, astronomy, literature, logic, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

2 lifelines for LIC in a week

Rarely did an iconic structure in Chennai need two lifelines in the same week as it happened, both literally and metaphorically, at the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC)’s southern headquarters here, last week.

The 14-storey ‘LIC Building’, a unique landmark on Chennai’s arterial Anna Salai was originally designed by two British architects to house the headquarters of two private Insurance companies. But finally, it was used to house the LIC when completed in 1959 after the Government had Nationalised Insurance.

Now, it was noticed that it had suddenly developed a crack on the exterior of its 11th floor.

Employees of LIC, which already survived a devastating fire in 1975, feared that the crack was caused by the underground tunneling work for the nearby Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL). The employees heaved a big sigh of relief when CMRL summoned civil engineering experts including some from IIT-Madras to study it, who in turn assured there was nothing to panic and that the Metro Rail work could not have caused it.

If that assurance was the first lifeline that LIC got, the second was related to the HR issuing a circular asking its employees to sign all communications in Hindi at least once a week. An alert DMK Chief M Karunanidhi objected to this ‘back door hindi-imposition’, and happily the circular was quickly withdrawn,  as LIC Staff Unions instantly protested.

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

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