December 20, 2012

Everybody knows

(All poetry from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody knows’- and special thanks to a friend whose email that gave me an idea)

Everybody knows, by now in India, that the basis on which Pre-Sea maritime training institutes are allotted students in line with their approved intake of General Purpose Ratings- the Common Entrance Examination- is headed for abject failure. The latest twist is this: it has been announced that, should enough CET approved trainees be not available, each institute is allowed to take in trainees on their own to fill up its seats for the January batch. This, in my opinion, is akin to the ‘management quota’ system in use and abuse in engineering and other colleges in the country. Everybody knows that this undermines any common entrance examination system like nothing else does.

Everybody could see this coming. Everybody knows that the GP Rating CET system was plagued with problems from the start. That the shortage of successful CET candidates meant that some institutes ran batches at less than full strength, and were up in arms because they suffered revenue losses. That some went to court and took in students on their own to fill their seats, upsetting the Directorate General of Shipping and the BES, the Board that conducts the entrance (and exit) exams for GP Ratings.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows that the CET has been gasping for breath ever since it was rolled out just a couple of years ago. The presumed objective- standardisation and a raising of standards- may have been a worthy one, but it never really worked on the ground; at least I never felt  that any CET cleared student I saw had more potential than those taken in earlier, before the CET; even their English language skills were found wanting. Surprising that, considering that the CET was conducted in English.

What everyone did not know, though some were suspicious, was that the CET was a way the system was trying to limit the number of Indian ratings entering the job market- a market that had little place for them anyway. And while this may have been an even more laudable objective, everybody knew that maritime training institutes- some politically connected and all having invested considerable sums in premises and material- were not going to sit idly by and celebrate their own funerals.

In this scenario, and with
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

it is hardly surprising that we are where we are today. The CET system has been successfully subverted now. I do not know who in their right minds will appear at the CET next time; as it is, stories are doing the rounds of successful CET candidates who are complaining on various grounds. Who will spend money, time and effort in writing an exam when he can get admission into the same institute at the same price without the effort? (Perhaps not the same price; stories are also doing the rounds of some institutes charging significantly higher fees from non CET students)

What has been lost sight of, in all this drama of turf wars and revenues, is the farce that is being perpetuated on hapless pre-sea trainees in the country today. Everybody knows that there are no jobs for these guys. Everybody knows that they will likely get substandard training. Everybody knows that they will pay some tout in some shipping company to get a job. Everybody knows that their future is bleak, and everybody knows that that the chances of their careers taking off, or of these guys becoming reputed seafarers of tomorrow, are similar to a snowflake’s chance in hell.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

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