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Mixed reaction to MHRD move on Ph.D. doctorate rule

The Hindu | R. Krishnamoorthy |  TIRUCHI, August 17, 2017 | Tamil Nadu | Opinion |

Ph.D. may become optional at UG level to gain promotions

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There is mixed opinion among the academic community here on the move by Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to make changes in the Academic Performance Index (API) to make Ph.D. optional for college teachers at the undergraduate level to gain promotions, and to increase their involvement in community activities instead. One section emphasises that Ph.D. as an entry level requirement was a must to retain and improve quality of education, while another section strongly believes that the quality of Ph.D. has taken a beating due to the stipulation. “Deterioration of the standards of higher education must not be permitted. Relaxation of the Ph.D. requirement for college teachers would be a retrograde step,” K. Anbarasu, Director of National College, said.

The reasoning of the other section of the academic community is that a college teacher should be mainly engaged in teaching, and that the quality of research has been diluted due to the Ph.D. compulsion. This section of academics cite the acknowledgement made by the Central Government during 2015 in Parliament that no dedicated study for assessing the quality of Ph.D research in the country has been undertaken under the purview of University Grants Commission. The former HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, had gone on record with her statement that there was a mushroom growth of substandard Ph.D. degrees, as it was a necessity for recruitment at entry level and for promotions. Though the UGC had framed the Minimum Standard and Procedure for the awards of M.Phil/Ph.D. Degree, Regulation 2009, to bring about uniformity in the procedure of award of M.Phil / Ph.D. Degree with a view to maintaining standards of higher education, the MHRD had come across instances of universities hiring services of supervisors who were not regular teachers on its rolls or in affiliated post-graduate colleges, in violation of the regulation. Unlike in universities, teachers in colleges are required to spend more time in teaching. “The move to make Ph.D. optional was a step in right direction. In most of the developed countries, there are teaching colleges and universities with varied objectives essential for the overall improvement of higher educational quality,” M. Selvam, Professor and Head, Department of Commerce and Financial Studies, Bharathidasan University, said. – Courtesy

No plans to replace UGC, AICTE with single regulator: Govt

The Hindu Business Line | New Delhi, 10 Aug 2017 | PTI |

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In the response, the HRD Minister said that the idea of establishing a single regulator for higher education is not new and various committees on h igher education have earlier recommended a single body. “The National Knowledge Commission (2006) recommended an independent regulatory authority for higher education, the Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education (2009) advocated an apex regulatory body by converging multiple regulatory agencies in the field of higher education,” he said. “The UGC Review Committee in 2014 had also recommended that the commission should be replaced by an apex institution titled National Higher Education Authority,” Pandey said. – Courtesy

Colleges and universities asked to adopt ‘flipped’ model using swayam e-content

Deccan Herald | DH News Service | New Delhi | Aug 10 2017 |

In Flipped model , students view short videos at home before attending classes, prompting them to focus on various exercises, projects and discussions relating to the topic.

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Colleges and universities must adopt the ‘flipped’ teaching-learning model and use the e-contents prepared for various courses in the massive open and online courses Platform swayam, the Centre has said. In Flipped model , students view short videos at home before attending classes, prompting them to focus on various exercises, projects and discussions relating to the topic. “The flipped model –where students watch swayam videos and discuss it in class- will improve the quality of learning,” a HRD Ministry official said. “Vice Chancellors of varsities have been asked to encourage their faculties to use Swayam courses during their own teaching so that we can have a blended teaching process.” Varsities have also been asked to set up a digital learning monitoring cell to ask faculties to review the current digital content, including Swayam, and suggest ways of utilising them better in universities and affiliates.

Both the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have asked varsities to “immediately” join the National Digital Library (NDL), a repository of books and learning resources created by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur. “This will help students access more than 80 lakh digital resources at no cost,” the official added. Swayam, made operational by the HRD Ministry last month, offers virtual classes for 29 secondary and senior secondary school subjects, 210 undergraduate courses and 192 post-graduate courses in various streams including Engineering and Management. It will also offer 14 certificate courses for free in a virtual classroom environment. Though the content is free, those needing certificate, diploma or degree through Swayam will have to register in its portal for a ‘little fee’. There will be an assessment at the end of each course through proctored examination. The mark secured will be transferred to the student’s academic record. If the student is enrolled in a college or university for higher education, the marks will be transferred to the parent institution. – Courtesy

College teachers may skip research, Research not be mandatory for college teachers’ promotions

The Hindu | Vikas Pathak |   NEW DELHI, July 29, 2017 |

They may no longer be required to take up such projects for getting promotions.

Teachers in colleges will soon no longer require mandatory research output for promotions, with the Ministry of Human Resource Development setting the ball rolling to change the guidelines for Academic Performance Indicators (API). However, the research requirement will continue to be mandatory for teachers in university departments for promotions. Laying out the new guidelines, Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar said, “Making research compulsory for college teachers [has] harmed research. Thirteen thousand UGC magazines came up. Many colleges made their annual magazines into quarterlies and added them. I said there are so many journals here: do you have Champak too?” The Minister was addressing a conference on “Higher Education Perspectives in India” at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay College here on Saturday.

 Relief for teachers

The change is expected come as a relief for college teachers, as their teaching load is generally higher than university faculty and many have been apprehensive that promotions would become tough as they would not have time to present well-researched publications for quality, peer-reviewed journals. “College and universities teachers are two different kinds of categories with different expectations. College teachers’ primary responsibility should be to teach well. That accountability is required,” Mr. Javadekar said. “We will not make research compulsory for them. We will say, ‘It is your choice’,” he added. – Courtesy

Research not be mandatory for college teachers’ promotions: HRD – Deccan Herald, Press Trust of India, New Delhi, Jul 29 2017

College teachers will no longer be mandated to conduct research to be eligible for promotions but would be required to be engaged more in community activities with students. This announcement was made by Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar today at a two-day national conference on higher education perspective in India. “We are going to do away with the mandatory clause of research for college teachers to get their promotions. An official announcement in this regard will follow soon. “Instead of that, I want teachers to be engaged in student activity. We will make one community activity or student activity mandatory and teachers will be given their scores on basis of that,” Javadekar said. Making changes in the Academic Performance Index (API), a criterion on which teachers get their promotions, the HRD Ministry is working on a plan to make research optional for college teachers.

“Currently college teachers are also required to do research activity to get their promotions, just like university professors. But we must understand that both of them belong to completely different category of teachers. “A college teacher should be mainly engaged in teaching. When we made research compulsory, research stopped completely. Conducting research just for the sake (of it) is taking down the quality of research,” Javadekar said. University teachers who are supposed to teach the post graduate students or guide M Phil and PhD scholars will be required to engage in research, he said. – Courtesy

UGC asks educational institutions to upload clear, accurate accurate data of institute on ‘Know Your College’ (KYC) portal

 

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all colleges and universities to upload the accurate data of institute on ‘Know Your College’ (KYC) portal and update the same periodically. In a letter dated July 21, Jaspal Sandhu, Secretary of the UGC stated that the KYC is a long term vision of the Government of India for creating an appropriate framework for the students seeking various information about the educational institutions from a single window instead of looking for different websites. Accordingly, Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched the ‘Know Your College (KYC)’ portal which will act as one-stop shop for students and their parents across the country to help them make an informed decision on the choice of institutions and the courses. The portal was officially launched by the President of India on November 11, 2014. A PIB release said that the portal covers almost 10,500 colleges which conduct about 14,000 programs in Technical Education and 35000 colleges conducting at least 20,000 programs in Non-Technical education.  It is a repository of information pertaining to colleges and information related to its faculty, labs, library, infrastructure, and availability of hostel facilities etc.

Students are encouraged to send their complaints on discrepancies of information provided by colleges through this portal. In the letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellors (VCs) of all the universities in India, the UGC Secretary however noted that “many institutions have not uploaded the data about their respective institutions on the portal.” The data uploaded on the portal need to be clear and accurate, it said. In this connection, keeping in view the importance of the KYC portal, the Secretary sought the personal intervention of all the respective VCs in the matter and requested them to “upload the accurate data” about their Institution on the KYC portal, which should be updated periodically.  This portal is being maintained by AICTE and is available to the public at http://www.knowyourcollege-gov.in/–       UGC Circular – Published on 21/07/2017 :  UGC Letter reg.: Know Your College portal

Predatory journal clones of Current Science spring up

The Hindu |  R. Prasad  |  CHENNAI | July 14, 2017 |

An online predatory journal “Current Science” (www.currentscience.org), which is a clone of the Current Science journal published by the Current Science Association, Bengaluru, has sprung up and is soliciting manuscripts from gullible researchers. “This journal has not published any issues” is what one gets to read on clicking ‘Current’ issue on the predatory journal website.  A scroll in the original Current Science website warns readers of the predatory journal trying to dupe researchers. It says: “We have learned that an entity that www.currentscience.org calls itself is operating from an IP address located in Turkey. It has copied content from the Current Science journal website and promotes itself as the publisher of Current Science.”Another clone of Current Science can be found at www.currentscience.co.in and is operating from an IP address located in Ukraine. The front page of the cloned predatory journal website is nearly identical to the original. Even the links to all the articles take the readers to the original content. Only discerning readers can spot the differences. While the URL of the original Current Science is www.currentscience.ac.in, the cloned version has a different URL (www.currentscience.co.in).

“This is a typical predatory journal behaviour and is a fraud,” says the predatory journal alert put out by Current Science. Current Science warns its readers saying: “Emails originating from currentsciencejournals@gmail.com are fraudulent. These emails are from a fake website that could include a request to submit articles and promise to publish approximately two weeks after the submission. If you receive such an email, forward the message to currsci@ias.ac.in and delete the message.” Besides publishing journals with fancy titles, there are several predatory journals that are clones of respected journals. The predatory version of Current Science is one such instance. “Prof. S.C. Lakhotia, Department of Zoology at the Banaras Hindu University received an email from the predatory journal (currentsciencejournals@gmail.com) on July 1, and he in turn alerted Prof. R. Srinivasan, the Editor of Current Science,” says G. Madhavan, Executive Secretary of Current Science Association. In an email sent to Prof. Lakhotia, the predatory journal has invited him to contribute to the next issue of Current Science. Like all predatory journals, it lists out the impact factor, the acceptance rate of papers, which is 38%, and a promise to publish papers within two weeks of submission. The mail is signed by Prof. R. Srinevasan, Editor-in-Chief, Current Science. It is only a discerning reader who will know that Current Science does not send out such emails and that the original journal has only an Editor and not an Editor-in-Chief, as mentioned in the email. Also, the Prof. Srinivasan’s name is wrongly spelt in the email. On further scrutiny one can find that the post box number (6001) of Current Science listed in the signature of the email is wrong (the current number is 8001) and so is the pin code. – Courtesy

Cloud on UGC distance learning rules : UGC Open and Distance Learning Regulations, 2017

The Telegraph | June 29 , 2017 |  Basant Kumar Mohanty |  Cloud on distance learning rules | Opinion |

New Delhi, June 28: Distance learning courses offered by institutions across the country could be headed for the freezer over the next six months after new rules notified by the University Grants Commission came into effect last week. The UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017 – notified on June 23 – asks every institution intending to offer courses in distance mode to apply to the higher education regulator for approval “at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered”. The regulations have left the 160-odd universities in the country that offer distance education worried because the recognition they had obtained earlier from the UGC has no relevance for fresh enrolment of students. The latest guidelines say that every institution has to seek a fresh nod from the regulator even if the approval they had got under the earlier rules was still valid. Most of these institutes have started the admission process for the 2017-18 academic session beginning next month when, going by the new regulations, they should have applied before January at least for courses they were intending to offer.

“The notification has come at a time when all universities have started the admission process for the 2017-18 academic session starting in July. The admission process in SOL is going on. It has created a lot of confusion,” said J. Khuntia, a professor at the School of Open Leaning in Delhi University. Nearly 1.5 lakh students enrol in July every year for the undergraduate courses the school offers. No UGC official was available for comment. Till late this evening, UGC secretary Jaspal Sandhu had not responded to calls and a text message from this newspaper. There are around 150 conventional universities and 14 open universities that offer degree and diploma courses in various subjects in distance mode. Dozens of standalone institutions not affiliated to any university also offer distance learning in diploma courses. The medium, which helps students pursue their studies without having to be physically present in classrooms, caters to nearly 40 lakh of the 3.42 crore doing their higher studies in India. Another provision in the new regulations bars institutions other than open universities from offering programmes that are not among subjects taught in the conventional face-to-face mode. At present, many private institutions offer courses they don’t teach in regular classrooms. Professor Manikrao Salunkhe, vice-chancellor of the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth, said the regulations had several good provisions to ensure quality control. For example, it wants institutions to disclose details of faculty, tuition fees and facilities on their website and in brochures. Salunkhe said there have been questions about the “standard of courses” offered in the distance mode. “The UGC has tried to standardise the courses.” The regulations have retained the restrictions on offering engineering courses, which, Salunkhe said, was a concern. “I was expecting that the regulations would enable institutions to offer various kinds of courses. But the restrictions are still there. It is a matter of concern,” he said.

The regulations bar institutions from offering courses through franchisees. There have been allegations of irregularities in granting of permission to such centres by several universities, including the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). A member of the faculty at Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University said the regulations should have disbanded study centres too. “The study centres and franchisee centres are the same thing. Only banning franchisee centres is not enough. They may come up as study centres,” he said. The regulations say 20 per cent of a course can be pursued online through the Massive Open Online Courses prepared by the UGC and the IITs in various subjects. Now the entire course is based on correspondence. According to the new regulations, standalone institutions will not be given fresh recognition. “The biggest sufferers are standalone institutions. The regulations have given them a deathblow. They can function only till the time their present permission is valid and not thereafter,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer who specialises in education-related cases. – Courtesy

Distance learning rule ‘for 2018’   :   The Telegraph, July 1 , 2017, Special Correspondent

New Delhi, June 30: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a clarification saying its new rules making it mandatory for distance learning courses to seek approval six months prior to commencement is applicable for the 2018 session. The Telegraph had reported on June 29 that distance learning courses could be headed for the freezer over the next six months because of the new rules that came into effect last week. The UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017 – notified on June 23 – asks every institution intending to offer courses in distance mode to apply to the higher education regulator for approval “at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered”. The regulations left the 160-odd universities in the country that offer distance education worried because the admission for the current session begins in July and according to the new rule, permission would have had to be sought in January.

However, in a public notice dated June 29, the UGC has now said: “Applications for recognising new higher  educational institutions and/or starting of new programmes are invited online shortly as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017, for the academic session beginning January 2018/July 2018.” The notice has been issued by Avichal Kapur, a joint secretary in the UGC. The rules that came into effect last week did not mention any date. The regulation notified in the government’s gazette, however, is yet to be amended. “How can a clarification of the UGC override its law notified in a government gazette? The UGC should have amended its own regulation. Otherwise, there will be a lot of legal complications,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer. – Courtesy

Click here to download, UGC Circular : Published on 29/06/2017 :  University Grants Commission, UGC gazette notification , 72 Pages, pdf  (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017

Click here to download, UGC Circular : Published on 29/06/2017 :  Public Notice reg.: Open and Distance Learning Programmes, 1 Page, pdf

New distance learning rules: Universities need fresh approvals from UGC for programmes

Jun 26, 2017 |  HT Correspondent |  Hindustan Times | New Delhi |

Universities offering programmes through distance mode will now be regulated under the University Grants Commission (UGC) (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017.

Universities offering programmes through distance mode will now be regulated under the University Grants Commission (UGC) (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017, notified by the commission on Friday. The commission, through the regulations, has laid down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels through open and distance learning mode.  According to officials, under the new regulations, students will also be allowed to take up to 20% of the total courses being offered in a particular programme in a semester through the online learning courses/massive open online courses as per UGC’s (Credit Framework for Online Learning Courses through SWAYAM) Regulations, 2016.  “Under this mode, students will be able to opt for online courses offered by various universities and institutions across the country and the credit will be transferred to them,” said a senior UGC official.

All higher educational institutions offering a programme in open and distance learning mode will now have to seek fresh approval from the commission to operate. Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Kurukshetra University among others will be impacted by the move. The regulations will apply to universities offering distance learning mode for all degree programmes at the undergraduate and post-graduate level, other than programmes in engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy and programmes not permitted to be offered in distance mode by any other regulatory body.  All examinations for programmes of the open and distance mode will be conducted within the institution where the study centres or learner support centres are located. – Courtesy

UGC Circular – Published on 07/06/2017 :  UGC Letter reg.: UGC (Credit Framework for online courses through SWAYAM) Regulations 2016 (First Amendment) : Click the below link to download …

Students can opt for fully online degree courses soon

Hindustan Times | Jun 16, 2017 |  Neelam Pandey |

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission.

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission. The human resource development ministry has decided to allow universities to offer such degrees and is drafting rules, official sources told HT. Once the rules are in place, institutes will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture and physiotherapy. At present, the commission does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module. From this year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. But if a student gets a degree through any online course, it’s not recognised. A number of private universities offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognised by the UGC.

The ministry has now started preparing draft regulations for online programmes that will allow universities and higher educational institutes to offer degrees by conducting exams online; students will not have to attend classes physically. The draft came up for discussion before the UGC and the HRD ministry recently. “World over online degrees and courses are offered by institutes and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts. Institutes will have to apply to the UGC for approval and degrees by such institutes will be recognised,” said a senior official. To qualify, a university would have to be NAAC-accredited with a minimum score of 3.25 on a four-point scale to ensure quality. According to the official, the online platform will be integrated with Aadhaar to verify the identity of learners at the time of application as well as through the duration of the programme, including examinations. “The programmes can be designed for conventional learners, as well as working professionals depending on what the institute is looking for,” the official said. Apart from the actual programme delivery, components such as the counselling process, online application processing and fee payment will also be provide online. – Courtesy

Journal jugglery – Traps for the unmindful researcher

The Telegraph | Samantak Das |  Wednesday , June 14 , 2017 | Opinion |

In the 17 years, from 1922 to 1939, that it was published, The Criterion was possibly the best-known, and probably the best, literary journal in the English language. Founded by the poet/ critic/ dramatist/ cultural commentator/ general fount of wisdom/ soon-to-be Nobel laureate (in 1948), Thomas Stearns – better known as TS – Eliot, The Criterion trod a very conscious, deliberately-defined international path. The first issue of October 1922 included Hermann Hesse, who contributed “German Poetry of To-Day”, an essay on James Joyce’s Ulysses by the Frenchman, Valery Larbaud, a translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Plan of a Novel” (one of the translators was Virginia Woolf), not to forget Eliot’s own modernist masterpiece, The Waste Land, among others. Should you wish to look up something in Criterion and google “criterion journal”, be prepared to be surprised. For, in first place, among some 50 million search results, will be a journal that rejoices that it “is refereed (sic) e-journal and is designed to publish theoretical articles and book reviews on interdisciplinary cross-currents in the humanities and social sciences”, while elsewhere it claims to be “designed to publish theoretical and research articles on English Literature and Language, Humanities and Social Sciences”. Its linguistically idiosyncratic web pages will not merely entertain but educate and alert readers to a brave new phenomenon in the proliferating groves of Indian academe, to wit the API-inflating, APC/F-charging, QGM-inspired “scholarly” e-journal, where API stands for academic performance indicators, APC/F for article processing charges or fees and QGM is Quick Gun Murugan. Such journals promise to publish, in double-quick time (hence QGM), articles by college and university teachers who need to improve their API scores (now mandatory for moving up the academic ladder) for a small APC/F. This particular journal, for example, takes 15 to 25 days to accept, or reject, a submission and promises to publish a piece in two months flat. And just in case you were wondering, the APC/F for an article is a most reasonable Rs 1,500, and the journal helpfully indicates that a contributor will get 25 API points since it is an “International, Refreed ( sic), Indexed and Peer-reviewed Journal”, one, moreover, that is on the now all-important University Grants Commission Journal List.

A word about this List might be in order. The “UGC Approved List of Journals” [ http://ugc.ac.in/journallist/] contains the names of all the journals where Indian academics must publish in order to score API points. The List became a necessity when it came to the notice of the powers-that-be who regulate higher education in our country that, almost immediately after the API system of awarding points for publishing was introduced, academics began publishing in journals that no one had heard of, let alone seen. Soon these journals began to actively solicit contributions and/or invite academics to serve on their editorial boards or reviewers’ panels or whatever. Your humble scribe is still regularly inundated with emails that say, “… reviews papers within one week of submission and publishes accepted articles on the internet immediately upon receiving the final versions. Our fast reviewing process is our strength.” As also “… aims at to (sic) publish unpublished, original research articles and make available a new platform to the scholars of Language, Literature and Culture. It deserves to promote (sic) the young researchers and attempts to cultivate the research aptitude among teachers in the higher educational (sic) system.” The ellipses above stand for journals whose names shall not sully the pages of a respectable publication such as this. Perhaps the most bizarre part is that the second journal quoted from above is not only “a Peer-reviewed (refereed) International Journal in ( sic) English Language and Literature” (according to its publicity pamphlet) but also on the UGC Journal List. So, clearly, in spite of all its efforts, the UGC has not been able to locate and eliminate such distinctly dodgy entities from its list.

Lest one think this is a phenomenon peculiar to India, one needs only to look at Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers [ http: //beallslist.weebly.com/], the magnificent labour of love of Jeffrey Beall, the American librarian and scholar who first identified and named such journals and created the criteria-set that is still used to judge a journal’s credentials. Sadly, Beall had to take down his own blog which had this list, probably as a result of treading on the toes of influential publishers of such journals, but his list is still available at the URL given earlier. More importantly perhaps, Beall alerted the larger scholarly world to the existence of this shadowy world of dubious academic publishing (usually online, most often open-access), where adherence to the letter of the law is usually directly proportional to the absence of academic substance. All this seems to have created something of a catch-22 situation for Indian academia and academics. On the one hand, teachers have to publish, in journals which are on the UGC List, in order to get recognition, credit, scores, promotions, prestige and so on, and the need for such a list is patently obvious in an academic publishing ecosystem teeming with frauds and predators. And, yet, on the other hand, one knows that the most cunning and persistent of such exploiters, fakes and frauds will not only find their way around all attempts at quality control but also gloat about their success on their websites. Perhaps the only thing to do in this situation is hope and pray that the UGC will periodically review and revise its List to weed out the undesirables and increase the ranks of the deserving. Only then may we expect an improvement in the quality of research published by our colleagues. But maybe the UGC ought to begin right away by doing some essential housekeeping. Here’s an example. The department where I work brings out one of the oldest journals in the subject, published regularly for six decades now. In the UGC List, rather peculiarly, the Jadavpur Journal of Comparative Literature appears twice, the first time (with UGC-assigned Journal No. 41264) “English” as the journal’s primary subject and the second time (UGC Journal No. 41570) with “English; Linguistics and Language” as its subject. As T.S. Eliot put it, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” – The author is professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, and has been working as a volunteer for a rural development NGO for the last 30 yearsCourtesy