|Thursday, 20 February 2003|
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The leasing companies still insist that vehicles bought under hire purchase or lease should be insured against war and terrorism. This entails a tidy sum. This amount is credited to a special account.
Someone in authority should declare that a terrorist cover need not be insisted upon until further notice. While much is said about the peace process and cessation of hostilities it is absurd if the leasing companies are allowed to fleece the vehicle owners by getting them to get cover for imaginary risks. In fact during the whole of last year there wasn't a single incident of damage to vehicles due to terrorism. There is a cover for riot and civil commotion and it is in addition to it that they insist on getting a further cover for terrorism. It would be good to get the benefits of the peace process for this category of people too.
The disturbances and the unrest of students in schools published in the news items and dailies in the recent past is an unpleasant situation in our educational system and detrimental to the development of our country. Unless proper attention is taken to rectify the behavioural patterns of the students by the Department, educationists and Parents, our country will have to face a severe problem to solve students' delinquency.
Although our educational system has a special place for religious education in the school curriculum, for more than five decades, how much and how far has it refined the students community is a question to ponder on.
Nowhere in the world, except in Sri Lanka, religion is taught as a subject in the school curriculum. In other countries religious education is handled by missionaries and religious organizations. If the teaching of religions based on compassion, love and respect for elders has brought about undesirable results, have we wasted billions of hours then for teaching of religion in schools? Education is not merely accumulating 'knowledge'. Unless the knowledge refine a man, it is of no value to human development.
It is the collective responsibility of all to strive to refine the child social qualities, his behaviour at school and with his friends, and his obedience.
It is an ardent duty of the teachers and parents too, to instil a sense of responsibility, patriotism and compassion into their children.
Religious education should not be exam centred. It should develop the Human Values prescribed by the Great Devine Avatar, Shri Sathya Sai Baba. They are: TRUTH, RIGHT ACTION, PEACE, LOVE and NON-VIOLENCE. These five fundamental values correspond to the five ideals of education: knowledge, ability, equilibrium, power of introspection and recognition of one's own identity.
Therefore, it is time the Government and the Educationists to review the teaching of religion in schools and revive it so as to produce the expected results. The teaching of religion in books will not help unless the teaching is put into practice. It is the greatest responsibility of all concerned to evolve a practical method to make good citizens.
In these difficult times when the last train to sanity is about to leave the station one cannot agree with what Dhanapala Senaratne had written in his letter of 3rd February. We were never short of experts in our country. But observe in what state we are in. The most developed country in Asia when Independence was granted. We are fighting today with Bangladesh for the last position.
Reading books in the libraries and listening to lectures can get one a degree, but here we have to treat a terminally ill patient. In Sri Lanka the opposition never allows the government of the day to take corrective steps to solve national problems because in case the problems are solved they fear they will continue to be elected to be in the opposition.So to send representatives from both the government and the opposition to study and discuss all aspects of federalism and see it in operation was an important step. Federalism appropriate to that era was not unknown in Sri Lanka.
Asian leaders are by and large cowards. When faced with a problem they tend to run away. Lee Kuan Yews are a rarity. The President has on many occasions shown herself to be a person of courage. Let us hope she will give the push whenever necessary and lead us to an era of peace, something she promised when she was first elected President. Since the Prime Minister is also committed to peace, they should both rise up and break the shackles that hold traditional Asian leaders back and bring in an era of peace and prosperity.
It is very timely welcome news as the cost of living reduction committee decided to grant relief to the people (DN Feb-6).
As we all are well aware the cost of living is spiralling upwards day by day and all consumable commodities, even food, gas, medicines go beyond one's imagination.
A tin of nutritional values costs Rs. 540 in one place and Rs. 560 in another place. I was advised to take this daily for my age and my frail health.
in the 'Business and Finance (DN Feb 11)' there was an article under the caption, 'Active consumer protection lobby vital'.
In neighbouring India, it is mentioned "that there is a strong and vibrant consumer protection lobby that is backed by separate consumer courts and laws. If a consumer feels aggrieved, he could go before courts and get a ruling.'
"Here, the consumer act, passed many years ago, must be activated and the authorities must respond by setting up a suitable infrastructure to back up the consumer rights." The middle class society only undergoes a difficult period because of the high cost of very essential consumables - as food items etc.
All peace loving people, the Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims should rally round to mark the First Anniversary of Ceasefire Agreement reached on the 22nd.
Steadfast dedication of both parties with the guidance of the Norwegian government should establish clear sign of honesty and genuine effort to overcome all obstacles placed and clear the route for peace.
However, in the recent past, fear, psychosis is yet being experienced in the island by forceful conscription of children, harassment, extortions and many irregular form of taxes and other human rights violations as per the news items appearing in the daily papers.
These are the main ingredients dominating and blocking all avenues of easy passage to reach our goal, "Peace".
The recent unwanted hostile acts violating all norms of negotiations should not be a hindrance and a stumbling block to foster national unity and lasting Peace.
Afterall we have had enough experience of vast devastation of men and materials in this agonising war and achieving Peace and Prosperity are our joint prayers of all citizens of our island.
It is said that where there is a will there is a way. It appears that successive governments since independence did not have the will to address the issue of graduate unemployment. If one cares to look around and keep on thinking about how to find employment for graduates many avenues could be found to employ them gainfully.
Present day governments have many ministries it is even difficult to remember who is what. Now that there are many ministries it is advisable to think of appointing a minister to be in charge of graduate unemployment or rather employment. I would suggest that this Minister should not have an office. He should stay at home and keep on thinking about ways and means of creating employment opportunities for graduates for minimum of eight hours a day.
Immediately he gets a new idea he could telephone his secretary to study the feasibility of implementing such ideas. If this problem is not given serious thought it will continue to remind us day and night of our failure towards an important segment of our society.
Let me suggest some ideas of employing our graduates. These are thoughts I conceived during the past few months the period I assumed I was the Minister of Graduate Employment.
1) The present proposal to provide 20,000 jobs in the State banks, priority be given to unemployed graduates. A graduate teacher's salary is about Rs. 6,000 per month. A bank clerk earns about Rs. 10,000 per month. Unemployed graduates would not mind becoming bank clerks.
2) Establish 500 Agency Post Offices, throughout the country. Preference be given to graduates. Government to provide suitable land or a once and for all loan on easy payment terms to meet the establishment expenses.
3) Encourage private sector to employ new graduates and arrange tax concessions for a limited period by allowing them to deduct the salary paid from the tax payable. Suggest a five-year period. One hundred per cent of the salary to be deducted during the first year and 75% the second year and 50% during the balance three years.
4) Encourage private sector to establish industrial and agricultural projects in villages. Companies employing a minimum number of graduates be given a tax holiday. Graduates to be employed in these ventures initially on an area basis.
5) Establish a rivers and streams authority to look after our waterways. The way they are being polluted, very soon we will not be able to call them waterways. The small streams near where I lived for the past 50 years is polluted to such an extent that anybody stepping in could die of poisoning.
Employ graduates to supervise the waterways and bring to book the culprits polluting them. New laws may have to be enacted to implement this idea. If implemented it will also protect the environment bordering the waterways. This proposal could be made self-financing through income from fines levied on the violators.
6) Graduates as garage owners and plumbers; motor mechanics and plumbers are in demand especially in urban areas. Government to provide training to graduates to become entrepreneurs in the above trades. Government to assist them in providing establishment expenses by arranging land and/or capital on easy terms.
7) Internship be made compulsory for graduates in various fields of activity as in the case of doctors and lawyers. This will equip them to find suitable employment.
8) Graduates as Grama Niladaris. Grama Niladari position is a very important government appointment. Their various functions keep them busy all throughout the day. Until such time graduate employment problem is solved, Grama Niladaris to be recruited from among unemployed graduates. We also could increase the number of Grama Niladari divisions, so as to provide an efficient and speedy service. This proposal could be made self-financing by levying a charge for the services and recovering the cost of forms presently given free. Grama Niladaris be given a telephone and a fax to make them easily accessible.
9) Graduates as traffic inspectors. Road accidents are on the increase and have to be brought under control. Appointing graduates as traffic inspectors with authority to levy spot fines. Court fines and spot fines will pay their salaries and also this will discipline the drivers and we will have safe highways.
10) Expand our medical colleges and faculties of engineering so that we could absorb all who qualify to enter these faculties. This will reduce the number of ordinary graduates passing out. Qualified doctors and engineers could find employment overseas.
11) Establish at least 20 other service areas like the Hotels Corporation facility at Ambepussa to cater to local and foreign travellers using main roads. This type of facilities are in demand providing clean washroom facilities, snacks etc. We could employ at least 3 graduates at each place. The capitol expenditure is not heavy and the employment generated will justify the expense.
12) Lease out government land up to 10 acres per graduate for development of agriculture and small industry. Encourage joint ventures among graduates.
13) Establish a lottery to create a fund to meet the expenses connected with graduate unemployment. This fund could also be utilized to support unemployed graduates until they find employment. Lottery agencies, sub agencies, and all employment generated by the lottery could be offered to graduates first.
14) Encourage university students to opt for foreign language studies including English. There are vacancies abroad for teachers who could teach in English and English language teachers especially in UK and Maldives.
15) Finally we cannot do anything without finance. I suggest that a development finance bank be established to cater to the small entrepreneurs who cannot meet the stringent requirements to qualify for commercial credit. We have destroyed the two development banks, the DFCC and the NDB established with great effort and foresight to provide development credit. The Central bank should never have allowed the development banks to venture into commercial banking. Now they lend money at 24% p.a. The daylight killing of development banks will have far-reaching repercussions than the collapse of the Pramuka Bank unless steps are taken to replace them soon.
Produced by Lake House