CNAS, TU: Challenges For Professionalism

2014-04-05

Himalayan News Service

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Even after more than ‘book length’ articles published in various papers, research reports, news, comments, suggestions, annual budget allocation, several ministerial and other speeches later, the TU leadership is still missing and has been increasingly difficult to find.

This rather gloomy picture of the situation came after the Minister for Education and Pro-chancellor of TU graced the 40th anniversary function organised by the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) of Tribhuvan University at Kirtipur. The chief guest, Minister Gangalal Tuladhar, indicated in a very polite and rather recoanciliatory term that he had had enough of political intervention and lethargy on the TU leadership selection issue.

The minister’s submission that it has been difficult to fill in the more than a dozen vacant positions for the universities only proves how partisan politics is spreading its hand all over. Normally ministers read the demands put forward between the lines spoken by the authorities there when they attend the events.

On Shrawan 1, 2066 B.S., the chief guest was Minister for Culture Dr. Minendra Rijal. Rijal’s response for further financial support to CNAS by the government was something like this: ‘How long can you, as a father (the government), keep on filling in the pocket of your 38-year-old (meaning CNAS) son? Isn’t it time the son grew up and found ways to pull on?’

The minister then added: ‘While attending this event at CNAS, I feel like visiting a fraternal organisation of my own party, the Nepali Congress, and not a research centre of a university.’ His suggestion was that research centres at the university must forage for their survival, not depend on the annual budget while the resources are scarce.

Coming of age

This scribe sat on the Ed’s chair at CNAS for a four-year term some seventeen years ago. Resources were scarce then as they are now. Things were even more difficult as one tries to remember the hard days. Then there came a light from the sky - the National Planning Commission allocated a rather hefty budget for the publication of pending research monographs on several aspects of national history.

The publishing work began, and CNAS has never looked back in this direction. A time came when CNAS was not in a position to go to the market with its publication for sale. Then Sajha Publication was invited to take the responsibility of distribution/sale of CNAS publications under an agreement.

For the first time in the history of CNAS, the publications began to bring in some revenue for the centre. CNAS had more problems than the three sister centres, and the ‘seed fund’ coming from the National Planning Commission came in handy to let CNAS make sincere efforts to stand on its own leg. CNAS now continues the publication activity and manages resources from this as well.

Continuity of the publication apart, there seems to be an obvious absence of strong editorial manpower at CNAS in recent times. Some of the books published recently prove that either the authors take the sole responsibility of finalising the manuscript for publication or CNAS overlooks the final work before publication. Two glaring examples can be cited here as this scribe comes in the scenario at least in one such work.

Dr. Ramesh Dhungel’s work ‘The Lost Heritage…’ was a research report the writer had contemplated, designed and carried out to submit to CNAS. CNAS, or for that matter the then Ed Prem Khatry, not only had no knowledge about the lost heritage accumulated in far away New York City but had also nothing to do with it as a teacher in TU and administrator of CNAS. The proposal had to be accepted due to some urgent and ‘pressing’ administrative reason favouring the writer, not the centre.

But the writer, Dr. Dhungel, indicated that the then Ed had actually ‘pressed’ him to carry out the job and ‘commanded’ him to complete it on time, hampering his Ph.D. work. These two military words were not spoken then. Yet they appeared in the book and only surprised this writer.

Fine and good, the work was completed; the monograph came in printed form. On the back flap, one senior (retd.) professor of TU writes with authority, ‘With the ‘Lost’ Heritage of Nepal, Prof. Ramesh Dhungel (actually Associate Prof - pk) has proved that he is a versatile academic that Nepal can (perhaps the word ‘be’ is missing here - pk) proud of… make his books a pleasure to read to both scholars and lyman (perhaps ‘layman’? – pk) alike.’

Here, lack of a preposition and spelling mistakes make the reading hard. Obviously, a mudrarakshasa (a print-demon) has crept in here. In this computer age, this should not have happened because this is the cover of this very expensive looking book.

Also, only the TU Service Commission has the legal authority to offer the status of a Prof. after completion of a due process. You cannot joke with this rather heavy title especially when a TU research centre is publishing this book.

The second book by Dr. Milan Shakya on the theme of Buddhism and Bodhisattwa is another glaring example of careless editing or no editing at all. Take literally any page from the book. It seems like the writer has a huge dictionary at hand, and he is spending time to find the most ‘difficult to chew’ type English words from it and inserting them rather indiscreetly without proper consideration of the meaning they carry.

Since English is not our cup of tea, the native Nepali (or other non-English speaking) writer must take time to think several times before using it in the context. Similarly, the sentences are unnaturally long yet incomplete, and there are grammatical and structural errors all over. Despite the lovely face, standard printing and design, the book is not good reading just because CNAS somehow overlooked the final ‘print-ready manuscript.’

Humble suggestions

Finally, for a well-wisher of CNAS and TU, what would be more meaningful and gratifying than the centre’s effort to manage its resources and publish good manuscripts for the use of scholars? But a work planned in haste can only damage the image of the institution we all have tried to build according to our personal capacity and team efforts.

It thus does not look nice when our guests of honour point their fingers at us and say, ‘Hey, you cannot and should not run a research centre as a fraternal wing of this party or the other. And, you are now grown up so you must find your ways to earn your living, survive and thrive.’

Also, the centre should not let the manuscript go to the press and ultimately to the market before thorough and flawless editing work is done by a professional expert. This is a humble suggestion, and should not be taken as a ‘pressing’ or, a ‘commanding’ one.

(Source: The Rising Nepal: Published on July 26)