|Friday, 14 March 2003|
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When I went to pay my electricity bill at the Bank of Ceylon, Corporate Branch, Colombo, I was asked to pay an additional Rs. 15/00 as Surcharge/Service Charge by the Bank Teller. I paid this amount under protest and I was not given a receipt for this additional payment.
Since it is convenient for electricity consumers like me to pay the bills at Banks because the Ceylon Electricity Board Payment counters are not open on Saturdays, I feel this practice of collecting a Surcharge/Service Charge from consumers like me is not fair. It is not our fault for the CEB payment counters to be kept closed on Saturdays. I feel that consumers like me should not be penalised by this additional payment for the Banks to recover their handling charges.
NOEL NARENDRANATH DANIEL,
Prof. J.N.O. Fernando in an article entitled human resources development in Chemistry through professional bodies" (DN Feb. 5) has stated that the average per capita cost of producing a chemistry special degree graduate is about Rs. 2.5-6 lakhs over a four year period at a conventional state University in Sri Lanka while the per capita cost of producing a "graduate chemist" at the Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon (now the College of Chemical Sciences) is only 1 1/4 lakhs over a four year period. Prof. Fernando has also stated that the "Graduate Chemists produced are at the special degree level" and that the fees levied for this purpose are very moderate.
The graduateship course in chemistry was an admirable initiative made possible largely due to the energy and enthusiasm of Prof. Fernando. The course was intended to "provide a second opportunity to the adults, mature persons, late developers and those in middle level employment to better their prospects and upgrade their marketability". The graduateship course offers a professional qualification in Chemistry that should not be confused with the academic degrees offered at the state universities.
The graduateship course is conducted on Saturdays and Sundays over a four year period and offers courses in different ares of Chemistry and modules in Information Technology (45 h). Biotechnology (30 h). Management Studies (30 h) and Fundamental Business Studies (30 h). The B.Sc. Chemistry Special Degree at the state Universities is a full time four years course of study in Chemistry that also includes three years of study (330 h) in a subsidiary subject such as Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science and Biology and a third subject (90 h). Each subject (except Mathematics) also includes a practical component conducted at an appropriate level. At Peradeniya students may also offer a combination of minor subjects such as Management Economics. Food Science or Bio-statistics (110 X 2 h). With the introduction of the course unit system, many other subject options are now available.
Prof. Fernando claims that the cost of producing a "graduate chemist" by the graduateship course is much less than producing a Chemistry Special Degree graduate by the University system and that the Universities at Colombo and Peradeniya are capable of producing only about 25 Chemistry Special Degree graduates annually. It is likely that many more than this number could be produced at Peradeniya (and at Colombo) if it was possible for these courses to be conducted only during two day of each week.
However, at Peradeniya, the Chemistry Department has been interested in the quality of the graduates produced. Therefore our valuable resources have been used to provide specialised training in chemistry to a limited number of students who are selected each year on merit. The Department of Chemistry at Peradeniya is convinced that the resources available are insufficient to offer, to all and sandry, the specialised training that constitute a B.Sc. Special degree in Chemistry. However, about 150 B.Sc. general degree graduates with three years of study in chemistry (330 h) together with subjects in other areas of science are produced each year at the University of Peradeniya.
Prof. Fernando also states that all lectures for the Institute of Chemistry are conducted by lecturers holding Ph.D. Degrees. No mention has been made by Prof. Fernando that this is possible only because of the university system in Sri Lanka. The majority of the Ph.D. holders who conduct lectures, for the Institute of Chemistry during weekends are paid salaries by the universities. Many honorary tasks for the Institute of Chemistry are also undertaken by the university staff. The same staff were supported by the universities, during postgraduate training which led to their Ph.D. Degrees. No expense has been incurred by the Institute of Chemistry in training the lecturers.
The Institute of Chemistry pays these lecturers by the hour for their services. The cost of supporting and training lecturers is borne by the university system and this has probably been included by Prof. Fernando when estimating the cost of producing a Chemistry Special Degree graduate at a Sri Lankan state university. Not even one Ph.D. holder is employed full time by the Institute of Chemistry. Therefore it is not surprising that the Institute of Chemistry is able to produce "graduate chemists" at a moderate cost. There is no doubt that the university system is subsidizing the graduateship courses conducted by the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon.
Prof. Savitri Kumar, Department of Chemistry,
One in ten is today talking about a national policy - a national policy for education, agriculture, industries, employment etc. It has become another NATO (No Action, Talk Only). Why? No government is willing to share the credit, if any with others.
The Minister-in-charge of a particular subject, say education will always try to introduce "his" policy to the country and spend millions of rupees on the "new" system: the government changes a new Minister for education or more than one Minister is appointed by the new government. He will scrap the former system and introduce "his policy" which is described to be the best policy for this country and will not hesitate to spend more millions on his policy.
You can imagine what happens when that government too changes! Has this not happened during the "glorious" period of 55 years of our independence? In most other countries a national policy is adopted for a long period, 10 or 15 years. Of course this is done with the agreement of all parties, the result of which is that the government may change, but not the national policy.
G. P. MAHINKANDA,
The enactment of the Consumer Affairs Authority Act is indeed a landmark legislation of the Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. It is indeed timely as the consumer public are sorely affected by CoL and exploitation by some of those responsible for utility services and consumer items.
The primary purpose of the Act is to give consumers a voice through interest groups or Consumer Associations. To achieve these objectives, it is essential that they be encouraged to be formed as organisations of civil society and be free to act on in their own initiatives and express views. Thus they should essentially be non sectarian and non political, standing solely for the rights and interests of consumers whether in public utilities, fuel, basic consumer goods and services or at local levels.
The responsible private sector would welcome them as they would help clean competition and quality goods and services with the Ministry also expects as the outcome of the Act. These local initiatives could best be assisted by guidance, technical advice and perhaps an initial government grant. To give a parallel, the formation of village level senior citizen associations is being assisted with a grant of Rs. 5,000 each by the Ministry of Social Services. They have been given broad guidelines in using these funds to ensure accountability and transparency.
Any attempt to form a State sponsored network of consumers associations could well meet the same fate as overtook the State organised rural development societies of earlier era, cooperatives or farmers organisations etc which have lost much of their credibility.
Under a previous regime nearly 4,000 electorate based consumer associations were formed and as expected, they were mainly electoral in outlook.
J. V. THAMBER,
The Prime Minister was interviewed recently by three young media men from three different television stations. They sat in close proximity to the P.M. with their legs crossed. One of them even rested his ankle on his knee displaying the sole of his shoe. It certainly was not a pertly picture. Pointing the finger and making wild gestures whilst questioning the P.M. lacks refinement. After all it is an interview not an interrogation.
These young men seem to be imitating their counterparts in the West. Why ape them blindly?
Have we not our own culture and norms? Respecting elders and those in authority are priorities in our 2500 year old culture (We only seem to be paying lip service to it now!)
Could this be due to immaturity, lack of exposure, inadequate training or scant regard for values?
They are talented youngsters no doubt, having demonstrated their skills and ability to the viewing public. I do not intend to take away anything from that, but these little things also count and go a long way in maintaining discipline in society.
The Premier, however, was teaching them this very same lesson in his own inimitable way by practice rather than precept.
Throughout the hour long interview he had his "feet firmly on the ground" and was an epitome of dignity and decorum.
I sincerely hope these youngsters will take this advice in the correct spirit and make their telecasts more cultured and refined.
DAYA LALITH PALIHAKKARA,
Produced by Lake House