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UGC lacks comprehensive standards, ignores the ones which it has

It is ironical that the University Grants Commission has de-listed even those magazines and journals that have meticulously maintained the highest standards. These include 'Hans', 'Economic and Political Weekly' and 'Forward Press'. It appears that the UGC doesn’t know how to assess the quality and standard of a journal, writes Sudhish Pachauri

On 2 May 2018, the University Grants Commission (UGC), removed over 4,000 journals and magazines from its list of approved journals. Among them were Forward Press, Economic and Political Weekly (online edition), Samayantar, Hans, Vagarth, Jan Media, Gandhi Marg, etc. It is important to note that no research in Humanities can be complete without quoting from these journals. This means that the researchers and professors contributing to these journals will not get the points stipulated by the UGC.

We are consistently publishing articles on this issue to apprise our readers of its seriousness and its implications. In this series, we reached out to writer, critic and columnist Sudhish Pachauri. – Managing Editor

Time for the intellectual society to lead from the front

  • Sudhish Pachauri

There are no well-defined standards for research journals in Hindi, unlike their English counterparts like the EPW, or the international journals, which are closely scrutinized by scholars. We had taken a middle path, whereby Hindi publications like Hans, Aalochana, Tadbhav or Forward Press were given recognition. Now, they too have been de-listed. This will be catastrophic for higher education as well as Hindi language.

In my opinion, the correct procedure would have been to constitute a committee of prominent academicians associated with research to review the publications and then the list of approved journals should have been compiled. Secondly, the Hindi journals do not adhere to high standards, unlike journals of science and social sciences. Whether in America or England, a standard has been set that the journals are required to maintain at any cost. The articles published in these journals are subjected to a strict scrutiny by the editorial board. Journals which charge money to publish research paper do not exist there. Or, may be, such things happen there too. But there is no doubt that the top journals maintain impeccable standards.

University Grants Commission, New Delhi

For instance, let us talk about EPW published from India. It has a certain quality, undoubtedly. Whether one agrees with it or not, it definitely has certain standards. It has built a reputation for itself. May be, there are similar magazines on social sciences in Hindi as well, although their standards are different. Magazines like Hans, Pahal, Aalochana, and Tadbhav – they are all standard magazines. They are not research journals and they do not claim to be research journals. Yet, they provide insight into the social, political and financial issues through their articles.  There is Kathadesh. It publishes stories. But the articles published in it are not fiction, they are not paid, they are not fake. There are other magazines besides Kathadesh, which, to my mind are quality research journals. Our Hindi magazines cannot and do not apply same standards as social science journals do. We need a separate standard for these magazines. For instance there is a magazine called Aalochana which has several articles which have references, but there are also a few without them. It is a major publication. I will not name my own magazine. We always ensure that all out articles have references. Yet, they do not match the high standards of international journals.

But the list produced by UGC fails to stick even to these two standards – at least from what I saw, heard and discussed. They should have done this work on a comprehensive scale as the articles published in these magazines fetch points for the teachers. Their progress in their career depends on them. The publication of a research work in such magazines decides whether it is of acceptable quality or not. And it is also the responsibility of the UGC to maintain this quality. They should have set their own standards. This is the basis on which we select journals and references have to be given in this manner. The present list of approved journals includes Haryana Academy’s Harigandha. Who has heard of it? Research journals should be known all over the world. Frankly, I find the UGC’s selection more ideological than academic. It was and it is the duty of the government to set high standards of research. These standards should be set in consultation with all the stakeholders after being exhaustively discussed and debated.

Progressive publications are being targeted by the UGC

What I am trying to say is that in India, research is not done in the way it is done in West. That is why; Indian journals require their own set of standards like giving references in all articles etc. There are some Hindi magazines that have very high standards but these have been set by them. This is the case with Vagarth and Forward Press. But they are not like English research journals; Hindi has its own flavour. So the question is why we do not have our own set of standards? I feel that Aalochana could be set as a standard. Choose another 2-4 publications and set the parameters around them. Can you reject an article published in Navbharat Times merely because it does not contain references or because it is not academic? Does it not make a unique point? What are you (UGC) doing? Should I not mention the Indian Express articles as reference? Are its articles not of the standard of research journals?

Also read: UGC must stop policing intellectuals

The fact remains that a set of standards should have been prepared. UGC should have chosen five or six publications and held them as the gold standard for all publications in Hindi. If one or all the magazines I have mentioned above would have been used then the pressure and interference of inferior publications would have been stemmed much earlier. But how will that happen now? You need 8-10 young minds to engage with the UGC and explain to it what true standards mean and arrive at a conclusion. They must tell UGC that this is what it must do. If you fill five pages of each translated article in your publication with references, then who will read it? However, the EPW does it. We need to set a standard for Hindi publications. In the current situation, neither Urdu nor any other regional language publication has a chance. This is humbug. The UGC cannot justify its actions.

Forward Press books broaden the Bahujan discourse

What I would like to know is that if you have not set any standards, then on what basis are you selecting or rejecting these publications? Clearly, you do not follow any parameters; your selection is based only on ideology, that’s all? This is not appropriate from academic and educational point of view. You, who are occupying places of authority, should have set parameters. We do not wish to talk about Forward Press or Hans – we only ask that you set a standard for all publications. After this, we can expect magazines and scholars to honour the standards. The rules for writing articles and conducting research should be laid down. We need to work on the quality and skill of scholars as well. We are in the Facebook mode right now. We give opinions without proper research. You provide references in articles on Ambedkar but I do not provide any in my articles on Gandhi. I write from an emotional standpoint. Opinion has its own place and references, their own. Research is based on references. All this will not happen overnight. It will take time. Before that, we need to find the middle path.

We need to ask the men in charge, why are you destroying things? The Hindi society is not ignorant. You are in power because of their votes. In the present situation, no teacher working in Hindi stands a chance to progress. We can progress if we can fix our system of higher education. I consider Dharamveer’s book, Kabir, a great work. It has many basic constructs. But it is not research, even though it is a significant book with strong opinions. Should I reject the intellectual richness of it? Should I not refer to the book in my articles? I say this because you need to build your standards on the basis of Hindi society. While setting these standards, one has to be absolutely unbiased and it is true that for such a significant change, one needs to make sacrifices. The reason Dr Ambedkar was able to say things was his singular ability to read and observe society. Even today, no one can prove him wrong. If he wrote about the Hindu religion, he did not provide references. But there is truth in what he has said, understand that. Similarly, there is truth in the words of Gandhi. I cannot doubt Gandhi. But I am neither Gandhi nor Ambedkar, which is why my (scholastic) responsibility is greater. I am not looking for an easy way out for myself. I do not want the easy path for myself or for the government. Not all quality articles in Hans or other publication contain research. In all, we are a society that has failed to set our own standards – we are in the habit of just doing the minimal. But now is time to put our minds to the issue and devise a set of inviolable standards. These standards will be same for me, as for the Dalits. My leader will be the one who will help set these standards. We are all provided for by Hindi and other Indian languages, whether we are from an upper caste, a lower caste or are Dalits. If we continue on this path then we are certainly doomed. I want to advance the cause of all Indian languages and take them to an international level. It is possible. We can get there in another 10 years. Meanwhile, let us tread the middle path. Let us decide the standards on the basis of what we already have.

Based on a conversation with Kamal Chandravanshi

Translation: Susmita Mukherjee, Copy-editing: Zeeshan Ali

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy:

The Case for Bahujan Literature

Mahishasur: A people’s hero

Dalit Panthers: An Authoritative History

Mahishasur: Mithak wa Paramparayen

The Common Man Speaks Out

Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

About The Author

Sudhish Pachauri

Sudhish Pachauri is a renowned columnist and critic

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