Update on March 21, 2009

1. The University of Pune, apparently, has finally begun taking some definitive steps towards actually conducting Ph.D. examination in my case, too.  …

… Well, as a student—or, rather, as the examinee—I am not supposed to know anything about this! But I have enough friends in Pune city that I came to know about it anyway!!…

And, do notice that by making this information public, I am only ensuring that I do not exercise any quality-compromising influence on my PhD examination from my own side. By bringing everything in the open, I am only rendering myself powerless to engage in any shady activities concerning my examination. … But sure, I do have a future to worry about, and so, I do enquire people if anything is moving forward concerning my over-overdue PhD examination or not.

Of course, the news still is entirely unofficial, and it will remain so forever—you see, the University of Pune has no mechanism whatsoever to let the student know about the progress/stallings/regress/subversion of the procedure meant to ensure timely and proper examination of the thesis he submits.

Once I got to know that the University of Pune officials would be taking some steps, I first postponed  suing them in the Consumer Court. Once the news came that they have actually acted (e.g. signed!), I cancelled the plan (to sue them), at least for the time being.

But still, it’s too early to say “cheers” or even “cheer up” for that matter… As far as my information goes, they (University of Pune) still have not yet contacted the potential examiners at all… So, the examination itself is still going to be months away. And that’s because, if my understanding of the process is right, the next (remaining) procedure consists of all of the following steps:

(i) The UoP will actually send the potential examiners a 10 page synopsis. And, that will happen by snail-mail, of course… What else did you think? “Paperless office,” “e-Governance,” and all such notions are just wishy-washy things that make a V/C or two feel good during their trips abroad or during their jaunts around the countryside in Rs. 22 Lakhs-a-piece cars here in India.

(When they are present in the city for a stretch of consecutive 45 days, attending to work in their office, then, of course, these Rs. 22 Lakhs-a-piece cars, sit completely idle, one would suppose. And, in any case, even with the busiest schedule, such cars do  not do more than 350-400 km per day—whether the cars cost Rs. 22 Lakhs a piece or Rs. 5 Lakhs.)

(ii) To continue with the “procedure:” The potential examiners, if they do receive that 10-pages Synopsis, will then go through it. They will then indicate in writing whether they would be interested in examining me or not. Note, they must again use paper.

And it must be the very right kind of a paper. This last is very important too. One major reason that my examination got delayed by as many as 8 months was because, apparently, my guide did not use a particular printed form of the University of Pune, and instead sent them a computer laser printout of the same information. The computer printout was signed by him, complete with his official stamp. But, since he did not use the University of Pune’s printed form (on that fragile acidic paper), they (UoP officials) refused to recognize even his signature and stamp. So, they simply sat on the matter for 8 months. They did not even bother to inform my guide about this—not even by the ubiquitous mobile or SMS. My contacting the V/C himself by email did not help either.

It is in light of this actual experience of this V/C and this University that I am not at all sure what they (people from V/C and downwards in hierarchy at UoP) are now going to do if an examiner informs them of his willingness to examine my thesis, but uses only email and does not use one of their printed forms.

… If you are a journalist working for Indian Express or Times of India feel free to ask pose this question to the honorable V/C.  Yes, Pune Mirror, who once used in their printed newspaper a photograph of COEP from my Web site without seeking my permission, may also feel free to ask the honorable V/C about a thing or two about the above—e.g. why it was that my email to him resulted only in a stern reminders of their authority, but did not result in any action towards appointment of an examination panel for my case—only delays. Needless to add, Sakal, Tanishka journalists and editors (and the “journalists” and “editors” at Yahoo! USA and Yahoo! India) also are free to raise the same questions to the honorable V/C.

(Not related to anything in this post here, but I might as well mention that more than once in the past I have wondered: Why must all our elected representatives, ministers and public officials be compulsorily described as “hon’ble”? Why can’t a single one of them be described as, say,  “des’ble”, short for “despicable”? Wouldn’t the latter be more proper?)

(iii) Anyway, continuing the story forward, if the reply of the potential examiner is a “yes,” then UoP will send them the full length thesis I submitted 1.5 years back.

(iv) The examiners will go through the thesis, make comments, and either fail the thesis or agree to examine me in a personal examination—the PhD Defense—because in their opinion the thesis was worth examining.

(v) The UoP will arrange, at their own “pace”, and as per the mutual convenience of the dates of all the examiners, the actual examination in Pune.

(vi) If the answer of the potential examiners is not a “yes” (simply because the potential examiner feels that he won’t be able to judge my thesis for whatever reason, including the famous reason that he does not “understand it” )  at the stage in the point (ii) above, then, this would require appointment of a new examiner…

But, since appointment of an examiner takes some initiative on the part of the University, therefore, this great UoP might once again sit pretty and do nothing for yet another 1.5 years.

The loop repeats until they find someone who has the minimum required brains (and not just some American Society’s honors) to understand what I have written in my thesis—which, in my opinion, is understandable by any final year undergraduate in engineering… But, since the examiners do have the freedom to say no, they often say “no” without in any way feeling guilty about it… (I know for a fact that such a thing routinely happens for professors employed by IIT Bombay—they routinely decline to be examiners, I have been told.)

The important point is, if the examiners say no, the UoP once again enters the loop, and thus, once again gets the opportunity to kill time around by not appointing the next set of potential examiners for yet another 1.5 years…. (Going by the actual process contents, this should not take anything more than 2 weeks, or at most one to 1.5 months even after factoring in holidays, staff absence, and all. But yes, UoP can easily take 1.5 years for it—if the examinee is someone like me.)

And so on…

(vii) Yet, from now on, I believe that UoP will work under the “threat” that I could actually go to the courts, and hence, I anticipate, will move their esteemed persons around at a somewhat faster pace.

2. I have a lot of comments as well as some updates and observations to make about many topics, including about the elections, including who should be projected as the PM candidate from the Congress+Allies. (You should know my answer on the last point.)  Guess I will postpone it all for the time being… Also, some points on science and engineering and all… Keep watching…

3. Apart from it all, one of the things I’ve really missed over the past 1.5 years is the PhD defenses of many candidates of UoP who actually were examined, apparently in a timely manner, including the defenses of those PhD students who were being personally supervised by the Director of BCUD Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar himself. …

A PhD defence is supposed to be a public event, and anyone is supposed to be allowed to question the candidate. The word “anyone,” here, is of course to be taken within reason. Formally, it is within the discretion of the Chairman of the particular Examination Panel that has been appointed to examine a particular PhD thesis. (The Examination Panel is separately appointed for each PhD student, and consists of the examiners who agree as per the procedure I spelt out in point no. 1 above.) But, usually, the Examination Panel certainly allows other PhD students to attend and ask questions.

Now  I suppose it wouldn’t have taken me more than one month or so to prepare some good questions to be asked to one of Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar’s students—Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar has graduated two PhD students in the recent past and without naming the names, I can say that at least the abstract of at least one graduate fails to impress me in any way. I could certainly also raise questions to Mr. Narendra Jadhav’s own PhD students, presuming, of course, that he has had any PhD students to guide at all.

But as I said, at least for the time being, any such a thing that I could have done is being kept aside…

But, yes, if the UoP further delays my process, sure, this also is one way in which I could bring the importance of my case to their notice—the necessity of having to conduct examination in a timely manner for me, too.

And, as far as I know, this all would be perfectly legal—including my posting of this comment. And, everything here of course goes only in the interests of ensuring high quality at the PhD examinations, too!

Needless to add, when it comes to my own case, I am fully confident of facing any rational query on my thesis at the time of my own PhD examination—provided it is at all held sometime in future…

But yes, UoP seems to be taking some steps now—even though they have taken 1.5 years for what should have been a matter of 1 to 1.5 months at the most.

… May be, the fact that I was neither a Dalit, nor a Brahmin, nor a guy from the Esteemed Marathwada Region very very dear to a certain High High High Command went against me.

…Or, may be, what went against me was that my research work really was believed to be of  good quality, and hence, my case could be roped in for use in the PR wars concerning USA–India relations, nuclear deal, and whatnot, who knows?

But, yes, in today’s world, such a thing is not only easily possible, but if my judgment is right, it actually does happen routinely, including in cases like mine.

[This post, first published on the afternoon of March 21, 2009, was expanded by me right on March 21, 2009 at 10:40 PM (all times in IST).]