Unmukt Chand beat the world, but not our rotten Univ system
Facebook is whizzing with young Unmukt Chand. So is twitter. The news channels are rushing to interview even the neighbouring dog. How we uncork the champagne without caring how flat and rotten our sporting system is.
Let me walk you through examples of how the champion batsman, ironically named Unmukt (totally free, in translation) has been haranguedjust to keep his B.A.Programme ambitions alive:
For his first-year exams that just concluded, the champion cricketer was found short of attendance. Besides the normal cut off, ie, 66.67 per cent, the rules on compassionate attendance expect him to have missed a maximum of 45 days of classes. That too if the cause for absence is matches alone. Practice and camps don’t count.
It’s nobody’s case that fake sportsmen who get into DU on sports quota and then fraud their way playing nothing should get exemption. But Chand? Does DU actually expect a top sportsman to remain fit and fight the best of the world within just 45 days a year? DU does.
Not surprisingly, Chand’s institution, St Stephen’s, is caught in the midst of some contrasting emotions. Never has a student delivered a world cup in cricket, much less as captain, and scoring a century in the final at that. So, the Stephanian cup of joy is overflowing.
But some folks are asking, quite understandably, why the 131-year-old institution didn’t rise to Chand’s defence when he, a teacher’s son, was attempting to continue a parallel tryst with education. Chand apparently had about 8 per cent attendance and his Stephanian tutors have been adamant against fudging the records. In doing that they haven’t just penalized the star batsman. Unwittingly, he stands unfairly treated because sportsmen in other colleges get away with compassionate attendance.
What sports lovers don’t know, or even care to bother about, is which academic has authority to take a holistic view of national heroes like Chand. Not surprisingly, there’s no one to take charge of his life, except the Vice-Chancellor himself, and a committee entitled to look into submissions by a community comprising 16 faculties, 86 academic departments, 77 colleges and 5 other recognised institutes spread all over the city, with 132,435 regular students (UG: 114494, PG:17941) and 261169 students (UG:258831,PG:2338) in the non-formal education programme. For context, rules like this were made when the university had just 750 and three constituent colleges (including Chand’s St Stephen’s. Hindu College and Ramjas) when it was founded in 1922 and the VC could be approached by any ordinary student.
Just this week, I heard a stirring example of this informality from Justice Ranjan Gogoi, now in the Supreme Court, and in the line of accession to the office of Chief Justice of India. Speaking on the occasion of his felicitation by St Stephen’s, Gogoi remembered just how the then VC, Swaroop Singh, saved him. The young 15 year-old in 1970 was denied admission at the last stages of the game because St Stephen’s didn’t have the power to admit an underage student. A young Gogoi picked up enough courage and walked into the VC’s office, and surprisingly by today’s standards, succeeding to meet him immediately.
“My job was done in 30 seconds. Those 30 seconds changed the course of my life!” he recounted.
It is hard, if not impossibe, for Champion Chand to have done a Gogoi. Not because the present VC Dinesh Singh isn’t as fine a humanist as Swaroop Singh. The sheer size of the university he must command and control leaves Dinesh Singh nearly unapproachable.
Ironically, St Stephen’s, Hindu and Ramjas are older than the university they’re expected to defer to even in deserving cases like Chand’s. So, all they do is to advise their sportsmen to take refuge under the courts, something Chand did, only causing rancor, but leaving him with the specter of failing his four papers and the choice of continuing only as a private student! (If he had not taken the exam, he could have started out as a first year student with access to classroom teaching, which he won’t have now.)
Being a cricketer, and in India at that, Chand still has a future without a formal degree. Think of almost any other sport. Is it surprising what happens when their practitioners are debarred from taking their exams. They are heavily penalized in the job market and the entire life hereon.
We jump to compare with the Chinese and the Americans. If we are serious, the prowess of their university systems to nurture athletes may be worth studying. Jamaican Usain Bolt is a case in point how the US university system courted him for for years while Bolt shunned them away. In India, Bolt would still be hanging around university bureaucrats groveling for relaxation of attendance. Since exemption is only for a race or match, who knows if he’d get it only for 9.65 seconds, the time it takes for him to complete 100 metres!
Tail Piece (excerpted from the Olympics coverage of The Daily Mail, UK): Chinese diver Wu Minxia wins gold, and then learns her grandparents died more than a year ago. The 26-year-old diver also told that her mother is battling breast cancer only after the medal was her’s.