INTELLECTUAL DILEMMA

I recently read an article by an ex-Mumbai police commissioner. He believes, “Mumbai Police was a good force. It never failed to perform when properly led. Much depends on the leader, a wrong choice ensures a downward slide.” Why are wrong choices made? Is it because the appointments are made on political considerations and not on the basis of merit? The ex-Mumbai police commissioner says, the appointments are made contrary to the norms laid by The National Police Commission. These appointments are supposed to be made in consultation with the chief minister, the leader of the opposition, and the Chief Justice of the State High Court. The Home Minister plays a critical role in this selection. If the norms are not followed while appointing the police commissioner of a State, it is a matter for grave public concern. When a wrong choice is made, the whole system collapses. The good cops don’t know what to do. The bad cops rule the state. One of the outcomes of bad administration is the appearance of bad cops with unlimited powers. A minor police official can have the audacity to confront a big industrialist. Can he do this without the help of political patronage? In politics, one is not expected to be a saint, but one is also not expected to be so vindictive. The country is in imminent danger. The issue is much bigger than money extortion.

Our country is facing another kind of intellectual dilemma. The vice chancellor of a well-known private university resigned on the grounds of becoming a ‘political liability’ of the university. One of the recent articles raised an important issue. “Founders of such institutions should know that the most important decision to be made while creating such institutions is not to define what they are set up for, but who should do the job.” Founders first need to choose the right person to drive the institution. The person should know what the institution is set up for. If the person understands that, only then the person can steer the institute successfully. A driver who knows the address can only drive the bus to the proper destination. It is not enough to become a good driver. One must know the address. Even if your bus is filled with the right people, and you don’t know the address of the destination, you can’t take your bus to the right destination. In this case, the founders of the university asked the VC to get off the bus, after so many years of association. Either the VC was the wrong choice for the objectives this institution was built, or the choice was left to him, and that subsequently was not acceptable to the university. With time everything changes. “This is the trap many promoters of many institutions tend to fall in: they think more about big names, names which may carry clout with global institutions. They risk their money and make ‘safe choices’ which will sound acceptable to the global elite.” A well-known name is a safe choice, but not always. A well-known name comes with her/his mind and that is more often than not unbendable. Safe organizations want safe leaders. When these ‘safe’ leaders begin to take risks, they become ‘unsafe’ for the founders. After all they have put a lot of money into the enterprise. Safe leaders for the founders are the ones who deliver. The private institutions follow commercial yardsticks. And that becomes another point of contention in academic institutions. I don’t know what the founders of this university wanted when they began. They now want to be friendly with the powers to be. One can take a calculated risk, if there are chances of change in the power system. If that seems not visible, why take risks. Diversity helps, but if the founders are too diverse, it results in chaos. Some public intellectuals are intolerant. They think they only have the right to oppose. Their detailed investigations are confined to their side only. The question remains – who should head institutions – unbendable intellectuals or flexible non-intellectuals?