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EDITORIAL

J&K Bank: initiatives
for socialization

The Jammu and Kashmir Bank has won laurels for its sustained progress over the years and has emerged one of the leading banks in the country. For its very satisfactory performance, the bank has won many awards more recently the World Wide Fund (WWF) Rolling Trophy for maintaining Brigadier Rajinder Singh Park Jammu. The is park maintained and developed under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy The award was given at Science Exhibition & Flower Show organized on March 13, 2011 by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (formerly Regional Research Laboratory) Jammu.
It is a matter of pride for the State that the premier bank is interested in contributing its share towards social enhancement. The bank has largely improved its functionality and infrastructure, and above all, it is taking good care of its customers as well as employees. To find a public sector enterprise flourishing well and not bogged with differences and contradictions with its staff is a matter of relief. It has to be admitted that the bank has .. . .
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Playing with fire

The news about Saudi Arabian armed forces intervening in the domestic uprising in neighbouring Bahrain is alarming. Under the UN Charter, a sovereign state has the right to seek military support from a foreign country if it feels that its security is threatened. Hence, if the ruler of Bahrain asks its neighbours, Saudis or others, for help, it is within its rights. But the important point is that there is an uprising against the ruler from his own people and not from any foreign power that he would ask for military intervention. . . . .....more

Facing a debt trap

By M.N. Minocha

Today almost half of the Central government's tax revenues are being pre-empted by the need to service the national debt.
The budget for 2011-2012 is arguably the most important that any Government has presented since the heady days of economic liberalisation after the 1991 crisis. Pranab Mukherjee described it as a budget of transition, in which the Government, having administered a sharp fiscal stimulus to the economy to get it out of recession, begins its return to 'normal,' more conservative economic management. This correction is essential, but it is not the reason for its importance.. ..
.more

Ability to learn among animals

By Maneka Gandhi

Millions of years ago, the first humans appeared .Their knowledge in the use of tools for hunting, clothing and building homes passed through the generations and today, humans are capable of doing the things that .. .. .more

Education and social change

By Ram Rattan Sharma

The relationship of education with social change is not a simple, unilateral one, as perhaps many would like to believe, education is not only instrumental in bringing about social change, it is also quite interestingly instrumental in maintaining the status quo. In other words, education plays both a conservative and radical role, it helps both in maintaining and changing different aspects of the social system. Education ..more

EDITORIAL

J&K Bank: initiatives
for socialization

The Jammu and Kashmir Bank has won laurels for its sustained progress over the years and has emerged one of the leading banks in the country. For its very satisfactory performance, the bank has won many awards more recently the World Wide Fund (WWF) Rolling Trophy for maintaining Brigadier Rajinder Singh Park Jammu. The is park maintained and developed under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy The award was given at Science Exhibition & Flower Show organized on March 13, 2011 by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (formerly Regional Research Laboratory) Jammu.
It is a matter of pride for the State that the premier bank is interested in contributing its share towards social enhancement. The bank has largely improved its functionality and infrastructure, and above all, it is taking good care of its customers as well as employees. To find a public sector enterprise flourishing well and not bogged with differences and contradictions with its staff is a matter of relief. It has to be admitted that the bank has prospered owing to capable leadership that keeps close watch over the policies and directions of the Reserve Bank of India. In modern times, banks have extended responsibilities and role to perform. Being an important component of social formulation, J&K Banks has still larger role to play that would directly affect and stimulate economic progress of the state and help in ushering in social transformation. Perhaps, in view of unusual circumstances of the state, the J&K Bank could think of more novel but much needed initiatives aimed at improving the lot of the people of the state especially those living in remote and not easily accessible areas. J&K is a hilly state and a large section of her population lives in higher reaches and remote areas. The J&K Bank could do a lot to improve overall economic condition of the people there. It could cooperate with other departments of the government in contributing to various requirements like communication, connectivity, education of backward classes, medical support, forestry and plantation, parks and playgrounds, road building, social welfare, sports and in addressing emergency situations. It is for the bank authorities to approach all these departments, constitute a panel for discussing how best the bank can contribute in addition to what the departments do. We know there are certain norms of functionality that have to be kept in mind when making plans for bank role in responding to social responsibilities. But as we said, taking into account the geography and topography of the state and the problems that confront our vast rural and hilly population, the bank should draw a special plan and obtain permission from the integrated banking system for floating those special plans. The bank should be able to bring some specific categories of weaker sections in far off places under the umbrella of special plans. The student community, senior citizens, handicapped and women folk need to be brought under the special plan meaning that loans are given on half the normal rate, quantum of loans is increased, and the repayment scheme is further liberalized. Education loans to school going children should be interest free and its repayment should be deferred until the student concerned becomes an earning hand after completion of studies. The bank can help establish coaching centres for professional and administrative examinations. Likewise, the bank should draw a permanent scheme of assistance to the victims of natural calamity like rock slips, fire, cloud burst, or failure of crops. The bank can cooperate with the health department in providing elementary medical assistance to the needed in far off places for which movement to towns for medical centres is usually difficult. The bank can open chairs in universities to encourage specialized studies and research. This scheme can be extended to major medical organizations in the state. The bank can open polyclinics of modest level in selected villages. In short, it would be advisable for the J&K Bank to begin a process of calibrated seminars on the subject of its role in meeting social responsibility in days to come. From its fundamental role of money transactions, it needs to move also to areas of social enterprises, and thereby adopt a line quite different from the one-action plan of ordinary banks. It has to realize that it is the premier banking institution in a strife-torn region where its role is both needed and appreciated.

Playing with fire

The news about Saudi Arabian armed forces intervening in the domestic uprising in neighbouring Bahrain is alarming. Under the UN Charter, a sovereign state has the right to seek military support from a foreign country if it feels that its security is threatened. Hence, if the ruler of Bahrain asks its neighbours, Saudis or others, for help, it is within its rights. But the important point is that there is an uprising against the ruler from his own people and not from any foreign power that he would ask for military intervention. Saudi troops are brought in to suppress the uprising against the local ruler. The dissidents in the Bahrain know well that the Saudi monarchical regime is protected by Pakistani Army battalions and American logistics. No wonder therefore, if these very battalions that have been deployed in Bahrain are engaged in quelling insurgency in the Gulf kingdom just as Pakistani troops are deployed by the Libyan despot. In any case, deployment or non-deployment of third country troops or mercenaries is not of much significance, but the fact that the autocrats and despots receive moral and material support from their counterfoils is not acceptable. It will not lead to silencing the flames of opposition; rather it could exacerbate the situation. It is despotism and autocracy ganging up against democratic forces in Arab world. Those who are willing to go in for military option in the countries where turmoil has struck are doing great disservice to their own cause. Such indiscreet and arrogant steps usually boomerang on their initiators. The beleaguered Shaykhs, Sultans and despots of Arabian world must understand clearly that their days are numbered, and ultimately power will rest with the people of their countries. This is also a moment of introspection for those claiming to be wedded to the power of democracy but camaraderie-ing with autocrats just for self-aggrandizement and no other logic.

Facing a debt trap

By M.N. Minocha

Today almost half of the Central government's tax revenues are being pre-empted by the need to service the national debt.
The budget for 2011-2012 is arguably the most important that any Government has presented since the heady days of economic liberalisation after the 1991 crisis. Pranab Mukherjee described it as a budget of transition, in which the Government, having administered a sharp fiscal stimulus to the economy to get it out of recession, begins its return to 'normal,' more conservative economic management. This correction is essential, but it is not the reason for its importance.
This budget derives its significance from its candid admission that India is sinking deeper every year into a debt trap, and from its detailed discussion of the policies that will have to be adopted to reverse this descent. The debt trap had been looming at the end of the fiscal road for some time: in 2007-08, before the global recession, the ratio of India's national debt to its GDP was already a shade over 70 per cent. Although this was high, thanks to a slow but steady reduction in the fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states in the previous five years, the ratio had almost ceased to rise.
But this changed dramatically in 2008-09. The so-called fiscal stimulus of 2008 - in reality a host of giveaways to powerful interest groups that had been decided long before the onset of the global recession - pushed the consolidated fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states up from 5 per cent of the GDP to 10.2 per cent. And this was a far higher rate of increase than that of the GDP. As a result, the debt to GDP ratio rose swiftly to 73.1 per cent in 2008-09 and to 75.4 per cent in 2009-10.
Every increase in this ratio increases the proportion of revenues that the Centre and states have to set aside to meet interest payments, and consequently squeezes their power to spend on actual governance. Today almost half of the Central government's tax revenues are being pre-empted by the need to service the national debt.
This trend has not only to be stopped but reversed. The virtue of the current budget is that it has candidly admitted this, albeit not in the stark terms outlined above, and also spelt out a policy for doing so. The admission and policy suggestions are not to be found in the finance minister's budget speech, which remains anodyne and self-congratulatory, but in the Fiscal Policy Strategy statement that he also unveiled while presenting the budget.
The Fiscal Policy statement is the first such document to be released alongside a budget since the Long Term Fiscal Policy statement of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and finance minister V. P. Singh in 1987. It candidly admits that the gap between the Central government's expenditure and its tax revenues has nearly doubled from 3.2 per cent of the GDP in 2007-08 to 6.2 per cent of GDP in 2009-10. In absolute terms the government spent Rs five in 2009-10 for every Rs three it earned.
The Statement has made it clear that this is not a sustainable deficit and, that since it has already cut its capital expenditure (investment) to less than one sixths of revenue expenditure (consumption), this gap cannot be bridged without reigning in the latter.
This is not the first time that a government has promised to cut its consumption. Indeed this has been a hardy annual since the mid-70s. What distinguishes the present commitment is that it formalises an effort that is already under way. In the middle of the current fiscal year the government quietly lifted price controls on gasoline and diesel. This has already begun to make a dent in its subsidies on petroleum products - a dent that is reflected, albeit somewhat optimistically in its estimate that these subsidies will fall from Rs. 38,386 crore this year to Rs. 23,640 crore in 2011-12.
However, the budget estimates Mukherjee presented show that India is far deeper inside the debt trap than most people realise and that it will take far more than a sharp reduction of oil and fertiliser subsidies to put the economy back on an even keel.
The budget data show that the Central government's total expenditure was 2.15 times its tax revenues in both 2008-9 and 2009-10. If this ratio remains unchanged in 2011-12 actual expenditure will be of the order of Rs. 14,27,000 crore in 2011-12 and not Rs. 12,57,729 crore estimated in the budget. There is nothing in either the budget or the fiscal policy statement to show how the government hopes to achieve such a large reduction.
The answer that Mukherjee has hinted at but not stated is that continued high growth will push up the rate of growth of tax revenues in 2011-12. The sharp industrial recovery during the second half of last year and the first half of this year caused a 23 per cent jump in tax revenues.
But will GDP grow by nine per cent next year? Even a cursory examination of the trends in the economy shows that it cannot. Agriculture is slated to grow by 5.4 per cent this year but only because of a rebound from last year's unprecedented drought. Even an excellent monsoon will not permit more than a two per cent growth this year.
Slower growth means an even slower growth of tax revenues. Thus the RBI is making sure that India will continue to sink deeper into a debt trap in the coming year. (INAV)

Ability to learn among animals

By Maneka Gandhi

Millions of years ago, the first humans appeared .Their knowledge in the use of tools for hunting, clothing and building homes passed through the generations and today, humans are capable of doing the things that would be deemed impossible a thousand years ago. We became smart because our ancestors were able to adapt to their environment and developed the necessary skills for our survival. That is called intelligence. We eat other beings because we refuse to believe that they are intelligent.
What constitutes intelligence ? How do humans learn ? “Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information “ Meaning, trial and error. The first time you burn yourself is the last time you will stick your hand in a fire.
How do animals learn ? Are they mindless robots who are programmed at birth to behave in a certain manner or do they evolve themselves into smart beings in the same way that we do – through observation, being taught , fear, incentives, trial and error ?
Ofcourse they learn the same way. Whether domestic or wild, from guinea pig to lion, they learn every day. Just as young children are helpless , when young birds leave the nest, they need time to learn to find food and avoid predators. Both species are more likely to starve or be killed till their learning increases.
Learning extends across all species. Even to the microscopic vinegar worm which feeds on bacteria. If it eats a disease-causing strain, it becomes ill. Worms are not born with an aversion to the dangerous bacteria. They learn , with time , to tell the difference and avoid becoming sick. Bacteria can alter behavior to help their survival. If a microbe senses a toxin, it swim away. If it senses a new food, it can switch genes on and off to alter its metabolism. E. coli , for instance, is amazingly good in adapting itself.
Insects are good at learning. Biologists at McMaster University realized that the fruitfly learns how to associate certain odours with food and other odours with predators. They also discovered that young male flies learns by hit and miss to court females by reading their signs correctly.
Researchers presented the insects with a choice of orange or pineapple jelly to eat. Both smell delicious. But the flies that land on the orange jelly discover that it is spiked with bitter quinine. At egg laying time, researchers presented the flies with orange and pineapple jelly plates. The flies chose pineapple.
Rats learn very fast. Not just how to find their way out of mazes and to pull levers to reward themselves. If you release metal-caged laboratory bred mice into the wild , they soon learn how to dig, find food, mates and safe hiding places for a group. In a study at the University of Georgia researchers were astonished to discover that rats display evidence of metacognition: they know what they know and what they don’t know. Metacognition, supposedly a human ability only, is exemplified by students who have answered exam questions.They have a pretty good sense of what their grade is likely to be. In the Georgia study, rats were asked to show their ability to distinguish between a sound tone lasting from 2 to 8 seconds, by pressing one or another lever. If the rat guessed correctly, it was rewarded with a large meal; if it judged incorrectly, it got nothing. For each trial, the rat could, after hearing the tone, opt to either take the test and press the short or long lever, or poke its nose through a side of the chamber designated the, “I don’t know” option, at which point it would get a tiny snack. As the test got more complicated , the rats made clear they knew their limits. When they knew the tone they expressed confidence in their judgment by indicating they wanted to take the lever test and earn their full-course dinner. But as the tones became mixed the rats began opting for the third option which gave them tiny morsels instead of pressing potentially wrong levers.
The popular belief that fish have a memory span of 3 seconds is just to make you feel better when you eat them. Scientists have discovered that fish are adept learners, with distinct personalities that change as they pick up information about the world. The study by the University of Liverpool, found that individual trout display very different personalities — some are bold and inquisitive; others are shy and passive. These traits, however, change in response to particular experiences, as the fish learn how best to cope with their environment. Bolder fish are much more likely to approach and eat unfamiliar forms of prey and tend to eat more which may make them more vulnerable to anglers. Shy trout, by contrast, will leave strange-looking food alone protecting themselves from the risk of being caught. Each adjusts its behaviour according to what they see from others’ experiences, becoming shyer or bolder.
Like us animals learn how to learn—that is, once they have mastered a particular task, they can more quickly learn future tasks that have the same design but rely on different stimuli. Like us they apply accumulated knowledge to new situations. The classic example is the chimpanzee in a room with a few sticks and boxes in one corner and a banana hanging from the ceiling. The chimpanzee climbs on top of the boxes and reaches for the banana with a stick. Crows, dolphins, elephants, and parrots are creative problem-solvers as well.
If intelligence is not the ability to do tricks by rote but grasp ideas and experiences and apply them to one’s own survival, then all animals are intelligent. Your goldfish swims to the surface looking for food when you move near its tank. Young creatures who live by the sea need to learn how to fish so seals, sea lions and polar bears will learn from their parents how to dive into the water and come up with a fish. A mother deer teaches her fawn to fear man by herself demonstrating such fear at the sight or scent of man. Intelligence is the ability to reason, to solve a new problem by using previous experiences. The most famous kind of trial and error method is the maze.
Mazes are based on the idea that an animal that is placed in an entrance must find the exit. As it proceeds, it finds a series of branches. The animal must make a choice at each branch or fork. If it chooses the wrong one, it comes to a dead end. Then it must go back to take the other path. The reward at the end is food . Experiments have shown that ants can master very complicated mazes, as well as frogs, turtles, rats, cockroaches and crabs. Another way to study trial and error is to place an animal in a box. Food is placed outside and the animal can reach the food only by unlocking a door. Then the animal must open the same door to get back into the box. The problem is figuring out a lock to open a door. Raccoons can open really complicated locks. Monkeys can also open locks. Both figure out the mechanism much faster than humans.
Where does this ability to learn and modify behavior come from? One of the answers could lie in the 1992 discovery of the mirror neuron. A mirror neuron is a brain cell, a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. The same neurons are fired, for instance, when I eat and when I see another eating. Mirror neurons enable us to recognize and understand what another is doing. Some scientists consider this to be one of the most important recent discoveries in neuroscience. First supposed to be only in the human brain, they have now been found in primates – and will probably turn up in every single tested animal or insect.
There will always be people who see animals as only slightly more flexible than machines- but that again, is a reflection of their own intelligence.

Education and social change

By Ram Rattan Sharma

The relationship of education with social change is not a simple, unilateral one, as perhaps many would like to believe, education is not only instrumental in bringing about social change, it is also quite interestingly instrumental in maintaining the status quo. In other words, education plays both a conservative and radical role, it helps both in maintaining and changing different aspects of the social system. Education systems are largely also influenced considerably by economic and technological factors. Education in turn may also influence social and economic change as a consequence of the role it plays in the process of discovery and dissemination of newly acquired knowledge.
The social situations, together with its underlying socio-economic structure and the political power structure are never static. These have their repercussions on the education systems as well. In the course of its development, the education system acquires certain autonomy and its own dynamics of development. It can generate conflict in the over values of different components of a system or over values of one or more components. Education has a dual character, although the process of education socializes individuals to conform to the norms and values of society, it has also the capacity to generate a spirit of enquiry and question in the accepted norms. It has the potential to encourage people to question the dominant values & norms in society, and to make them rebel against the existent societal constraints. Education mediates and maintains the cultural heritage of the society, whilst seeking to conserve, education must also ensure that culture lag in society is minimized. There must be some attempt to adjust the old culture to new conditions in order that individuals with in a society may beep up with technological change. Patterns of culture and of institutions change rapidly, even though the average member of society may be virtually unaware of the transformations taking place around her. Schools exist not merely to reflect and mediate the cultural inheritance of a society and current change; they exist also to assist in the promotion of social change and reform. The leaders of the nation, including teachers, should be educated in a way which would enable them to understand the meaning of change. Education must be for mobility, for flexibility of thought and action, for producing individuals with a high general level of culture so that they adapt to changing economic and social conditions.
Education can facilitate the process of social change as a necessary and a vital collateral factor. If often contributes to igniting, accelerating and sustaining the process by disseminating and cultivating knowledge, information, skills and values appropriate to the changing socio-economic and pol structure. Moreover in a rapidly changing situation, Education has a bearing on social concerns; educational change follows social change. More importantly, education conditions development, but is itself a product of social and economic changes in society. Education can he planned to produce social change. We know that literacy does stimulate economic and social development. Large scale literacy programmes are important tools in the development of many countries. In most developing countries, there is an enormous demand for education because it is perceived on the gateway to an improved social position. The outcome is the rise in the number of literate people in society for whom few jobs are available. The contribution of education to development is dynamic and multifaceted. Partly because there are organized educational systems which are able to secure some of their intended aims even when they come into conflict with the aims of those who control society.
There has long been a widespread understanding in academic and Govt circles that education is the main determinant of economic growth. Especially in the post World War II period, the relationship of education to economic development received, serious attention in national and international forums. Education was considered as one of the most important factors in economic growth. Education was thought to be the main instrument of social change. It is seen as introducing the developing society to new needs and expectations, education helps in wean the developing society away from the old and lead towards the new social order, it inspires a belief in progress, in efficiency in achievement and in rationality. At the same time, education may be seen as creating the conditions for political as well as economic development by laying the foundations of a democratic form of Govt. It is believed that the higher the education level of a country, the more likely is it to be a democracy. Within countries, moreover, there is an even stronger relationship between education and democratic. The influence of education upon political attitude is much more complex than has been some times supposed, and although it may be correct to argue that a high level of education is necessary for effective participation in democratic Govt.
One of the dominant themes in educational reforms in both the 19th and 20th countries has the extension of educational opportunities to wider sections of the community. This has taken the form of free schooling, scholarships and maintenance of grants for needy students, with the objective of providing equal education opportunity for all classes in the community, many children because of their family background are unable to take advantage of the opportunities. Attention is now being paid not simply to the removal of formal barriers to equality, but to the special provision of special privileges for those who would otherwise he handicapped in terms of educational achievements. Although the idea of equal educational provision for all classes in the community is now accepted, it has by no means been translated into every day practice. Even today children from slum homes are often educated in slum schools. Schools in educated deprived areas should be given priority in many respects. Standard of schooling and infrastructural facilities should be raised.
In the period between the two world wars, education assumed a mass character, occupational and social mobility occurred among segments of population. So far education had spread mainly in the upper caste and urban upper strata in society. Now it began to percolate to sections lower in the social hierarchy, the middle castes and middle strata. This carried the process of nationalism and social awakening still further to the working class in the towns and to the peasantry in the country side. The process considerably strengthened the movement for national liberation as well as the movement for social change. The growth of the colonial system of education was developing serious contradictions with in itself and the colonial socio-eco structure. From post in dependence period up to the sixties the process of social and political awakening has taken further strides. The precise relationship of the education system to social and economic change is extremely complex and it is impossible to draw conclusions. The fact that the education system is a part of the society, which is itself changing. Therefore the real issue is that of the interrelationship between educational institutions and other aspects of the society. The education system can not be seen in isolation from its social context.
(Author is free lance writer, former Dy. Librarian University of Jammu)

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