As far as I can make out from where I am now (the Sardar Sarovar dam), all is well at TISS. The academic council, I am told, stands firmly behind the director. I am also told by impartial people in the know that nothing has come out of the review. It is possible that some people are upset because so many changes have taken place in the institute in such a short time. Some changes are inevitable; changing times also prompt changes. Not everyone is dissatisfied and the quality has not suffered yet. It will take some time to get adjusted to additional courses and diversity of subjects, I guess.
This deemed university has often been helpful in conflict areas; it may not have always succeeded but by their fieldwork and research, by interventions and interactions, it has generally acted as a bridge between conflict zones and government. Through their conferences, critical issues have been raised and brought into the national consciousness. Contributions made by TISS therefore cannot be undervalued.
But for the past decade or so, the state has increasingly been biased in favour of corporates and TISS has an even more important role to play today. As long as it is allowed that, it should be fine. At the same time it can’t be expected to act as an activist.
TISS can set the agenda for for social action and change. It can do it better compared to others.
For example, TISS took up the M Ward scheme in Mankhurd. The survey was carried out by TISS students, but the Rajiv Awas Yojana has been shelved by the government. It is not for TISS to agitate or raise the issue; that is a job for activists.
It is a very serious issue, especially since the project was sanctioned after a long, hard struggle. But with a new government at the Centre, changes in law are directed against the poor and in favour of corporates. And NGOs, who are expected to play a supportive role in people’s movements, are increasingly refraining from it.
TISS can set the agenda for social action and change. Compared to other institutes, TISS can do this much better. There are several alumni who are doing good work.
Parasuramanji is possibly trying to balance both—the old and the new. They have hired activists. He is in favour of dialogue between stakeholders. But I must repeat that it would be unfair to expect TISS to be a centre for social action. Students from all campuses of TISS come to us and I am aware that there are issues that need to be sorted out. If there are any internal issues, they should be solved democratically. It doesn’t mean the TISS story is over.
A TISS alumnus, Medha Patkar won the Right Livelihood award in 1991; E-mail your columnist: letters [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com