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Need to build many more education centres of excellence

Need to build many more  education centres of excellence
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How do you feel about your six-year stint in the Legislative Council? It is quite satisfactory, though there are some issues which left me...

How do you feel about your six-year stint in the Legislative Council? It is quite satisfactory, though there are some issues which left me disappointed. I can confidently say that never I was a sleeping member in the Council. I was active all through the years and raised many issues in the Council. Thanks to the goodwill and cooperation of the chairman, I could draw the attention of the entire House whenever I rose to speak. That way I am satisfied with my stint.
Years ago, the late NTR abolished the Legislative Council saying that it was a waste of resources. What do you feel?
I cannot agree with him. Compared to the Legislative Assembly, the Council is a better forum to discuss people's problems in depth. Usually, in the Council we cannot find the passions and emotional swings that are usual in the Assembly. Because of its smaller size and the maturity of the members, the debates in the Council are sober and constructive.
Being a teacher, how were you drawn towards politics?
It is something to do with my childhood background which connected to politics. Joining politics or becoming an MLA or an MLC was never on my agenda. During my student days I took part in Telangana armed struggle activities. In 1946, when I was in BSc first year, I was arrested and jailed. First I was kept in Nalgonda jail, then in Chenchalguda jail and Aurangabad jail. I got an opportunity to interact with many great freedom fighters and politicians in the jail. I learnt a lot from them. Their way of life influenced me and developed a respect towards politics and public life. I came out of jail in 1949, but their influence stayed with me. My jail life was an impediment to get a good job in those days. But, with the help of a gentleman, Bheemaiah, who was close to Burgula Rama Krishna Rao, I got a teacher job and was posted at Sangareddy. My younger brother Venkaiah, who had gone to Bombay IIT, persuaded me to continue my studies and finally joined MSc in Osmania University in 1965. There was a 15-year age gap between me and my classmates, but I used to help them in studies. After that, I got a job in the degree college at Siddipet and then moved over to AP Residential Junior College in Nalgonda district. But, observing public life and politics continued. In 1983, NTR who became the CM reduced the retirement age from 58 to 55, affecting many including myself. That forced me to take to maths tuitions. Precisely, during those days, I had to accompany my daughter who got a rank in IIT to Chennai (then Madras) and there I noticed not many were from our state. That prompted me to take up coaching for IIT. Initially, we did not taste success, but over the years, a majority of those coached by me could get a seat in IITs. These things made me aware of the ways of higher education and its policies. Also my efforts to take up the cause of launching an IIT for the needs of our State at Basar in Adilabad district propelled me into public life. I personally mobilized people and approached then CM Chandrababu Naidu who eventually passed a resolution in the Assembly requesting the centre to start an IIT at Basar. Then Opposition leader YS Rajasekhara Reddy too backed the resolution. Then Of course, the centre was open to that idea, but YS Rajasekhara Reddy who came to power in 2004 went back on the resolution and pressed for Patancheru as the venue for the IIT. I believe some elements inimical to the development of Telangana were behind the change of location for the IIT. This prompted me to join politics and enter the Legislative Council to expose such elements. My association with Andhra Mahasabha and the CPM helped me in crystallizing my views.
How was your experience in the Council?
It was mixed. I being the leader of Progressive Democratic Front in the Council raised a variety of issues and succeeded in achieving many of them. Whether it is the issue of revised pay scales for teachers or improving the conditions in SC/ST hostels, or improving the mid-day meal scheme in schools, we have secured a positive response from the government. Apart from teachers' issues, we have also raised many other issues like open cast mines problems in Singareni Collieries at Kothagudem and fluoride issue in Nalgonda district and delinking high schools from junior colleges, but unfortunately, the response of the government was not encouraging. We could stop farmers being forced into cooperative farming in Ibrahimpuram in Warangal district.
Besides teachers problems you have also raised other issues in and out of the Council?
True, as an MLC of teachers' constituency, I have a responsibility to take up other issues too. Teachers are the only profession (besides graduates) provided for representation in the Council. So, I thought we should not restrict to teachers' issues alone .Eminent teacher MLCs like Raghavachary and Manikya Rao had fought for general public problems. I also worked on Telangana statehood issue.
Why did not you contest for another term?
There are two reasons � One is my advancing age, at 86 years, I thought I cannot take up this kind of physical work. Two, the UTF which propped me up was not ready to back separate Telangana, while other pro-Telangana teachers' organizations were not ready to support me and led to some tension. So, I opted out of a second tem.
What are the challenges before education policy makers today?
Foremost is the need to improve primary education and strengthen it from grassroots level. For instance, I played a role in setting up separate IIT-Eamcet coaching institutes for SC/ST students in AP. Second is the need to improve the quality of higher education. Unlike in the past, higher education is no longer a luxury for the elite. If India is to compete with other developed nations, we need to mass produce quality human resources at the higher education level. Research and development should be accorded top priority. A Universities too should be made to focus more on the needs of people of the region. We need to build many more centres of excellence in India because education is meant to achieve the growth of the society.
How you want to spend your time from now on?
I want to focus on the education sector. I am right now advising many educational institutions and mentoring them. I also want to promote quality standards in higher education to make our country a developed one. I want to spend more time with students and the youth. Of course, reading and writing for media will be there anyway.
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