With the inauguration of its permanent campus by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 12, IIT Dharwad, which started in 2016, is in the process of shifting out of its temporary campus in a phased manner. The institute’s director Venkappayya R Desai speaks to The Indian Express about his priorities with the new institute, changing academic landscapes, interdisciplinary courses, and the suicide cases at the IITs. Excerpts:Q. What are your priorities as IIT Dharwad director?Our top priority is to clear the major bottlenecks in the permanent campus. One is the main electrical station, along with the kitchen equipment for the student dining hall.We also need to get the sewage treatment plant ready, so that we are in a position to move. However, we will move in a gradual manner because we have a lot of sophisticated equipment which cannot straightway be moved from here (current campus) to the permanent campus.Secondly, we want to ensure that students and faculty are properly housed. Academically, we have seven Bachelor in Technology (BTech) programmes, one BS (Bachelor of Science) and MS (Master of Science) dual degree programme, alongside Masters in Technology (MTech) and Phd programmes.We want to introduce a BTech programme in the humanities and social sciences department as it does not have one on its own. The other nine departments have the programme in some way or the other. We are also deliberating on introducing economics probability, financial engineering, among other subjects, to make the BS and MS integrated programmes more inclusive.Additionally, we are also looking to link modern science and technology with traditional technology. We want to use historical materials from Sanskrit literature and classical Indian languages and apply it to modern science, for all branches. Even the new education policy emphasises on promoting Indian languages.Q. IIT Dharwad is among the youngest IITs in the country. Six months have passed since your appointment as the institute’s director. What milestones, in your opinion, has it achieved? What needs to be worked on?Recently, IIT Dharwad got formally announced as the Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) centre, giving scope for government, government-aided and private engineering college faculty members to enroll and improve their quality through enhancement of qualifications.The engineering college faculty members with bachelor qualifications can enroll and get a masters degree through QIP. In addition to the regular salary these faculty members get from their host institutions, they will also get subsistence allowance as these are time-bound programmes.Meanwhile, we have only one MTech programme in mechanical engineering. We need to extend this to two more departments — electrical engineering and computer science. Our priority is to serve our full capacity of 25 masters seats under QIP. Since it is a new IIT, the number of professors are less in number. We have 70 professors (including assistant professors) and around 15 visiting professors. However, the sanctioned faculty strength is 100 with a student teacher ratio of 1:10.Q. IIT Dharwad was mentored by IIT Bombay for its three batches so far. Each IIT has a unique academic culture and strengths. What do you think you have imbibed from them?IIT Bombay is the second-oldest IIT and is located in the financial capital of the country. As a result, every faculty member’s time is very precious. Things are simple and straightforward in IIT Bombay. The institute also helps us in senate meetings because we have very few full-time professors. During senate meetings, we need help from external senate members from IIT Bombay and industry experts too. We also take help from IIT Bombay professors from relevant departments in shortlisting our faculty applicants.Q. There have been many suicides in IITs in the last six months. Do you think IITs need to revisit their support systems and improve them to help prevent such deaths?Caste discrimination is a very general problem. We should make students aware of other children who are more economically and socially challenged. When we make them aware of the existing reality, the students will realise that they can still put up a smiling face and be positive compared to those children who are both economically and socially weaker. Moreover, faculty should also play a major role in enhancing student welfare activities.When Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated our new permanent campus, he suggested that we use Japanese technology to increase vegetation density around the campus. The vegetation will be planted in lines of vruksha nakshatra that will imbibe Indian traditional values and serve as a stress buster to students. If you look at the life of the student two weeks prior to the suicide, you will find them isolating from the near and dear ones. As a result, they come across negative incidents, news reports and end up in suicidal thoughts. It is equally important to have good food. Being more social will also help students. Unfortunately, some marginalised students are isolated in the initial few weeks in the dining hall sometimes – this happens across all IITs.Sometimes, ragging also is a major problem. Fortunately, at IIT Dharwad we have not come across such cases.Q. A research paper published by IIT Bombay recently found that except for Computer Science & Engineering (CSE), and to some extent for Electrical Engineering (EE), IIT Bombay students have predominantly opted for non-engineering jobs. What do you think is the reason?Things are no longer in silos. I am a civil engineer by qualification, but I have my own interest in linguistic subjects. These kind of things happen with everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. We can’t force students to take up jobs as per their qualifications. I believe in the principle of “get what you like and like what you get”. Life is all about making feasible compromises. In addition to their programmes, students should explore various opportunities in areas of one’s interest. Sometimes, their interests are partially misguided by parents also.Q. There have been consultations within the government to bring institutes of national importance within the ambit of the proposed Higher Education Commission of India. Would it be a good idea to bring IITs and IIMs within the HECI’s ambit?It is a good idea. IITs, NITs are excluded from the purview of AICTE. A newly established institution like IIT Dharwad will be deprived of the positive experience of some of the selected institutes which have a history of over 50 or 75 years. There should be good exchange of ideas and best practices. Hence, it is a welcome move to bring institutes of national importance under a regulatory purview.Q. Interdisciplinarity is among the main focus of the new education policy. How is IIT Dharwad approaching this?We have a 5 year BS-MS interdisciplinary programme. Students can either choose physics/ chemistry or mathematics/biology specialisations. There are enough electives offered by other departments like humanities and social sciences, philosophy, sociology and others.Q. Are you worried about ChatGPT and its impact on academics?I am hearing that ChatGPT will soon make Google extinct, but I think any new innovation cannot be exclusive. We need not get worried excessively because every technology evolves with time. It cannot be 100 per cent accurate and efficient. Any new thing is high on technology but low in experience. Any old thing may be low on technology. However, it is definitely tested by time.Q. Education faced a huge disruption during the pandemic. It has been over a year since students have joined physical classes. Have you noticed any changes in the learning patterns?Students are still in the pandemic or lockdown mode. Our faculty members noticed that some students are not at all seen in the campus. They have registered and are nowhere to be seen. It is high time that we as faculty bring the students back to the pre-pandemic levels. It is fine if they are taking up internships, but they should take an official permission so that it is formalised. The learning ability has taken a beating. Lab courses and experiments go on through video demonstrations. The hands-on experience in lab experiments has actually stopped after the pandemic. It is an individual and collective responsibility of every faculty member to restore the learning experience.
IT’S NOT just the Jio Institute, the greenfield venture, which is waiting to get Institution Of Eminence (IOE) status. In the same queue are three other private institutions — Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham — which were selected for the flagship initiative in higher education.According to records and interviews with officials, the readiness reports of the three institutions were approved by the Education ministry’s Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) on IOEs by July 2020. Nearly three years on, all three are waiting for the final MoUs to be signed.Former EEC chairman N Gopalaswami said the final MoUs for the three institutions, along with Jio Institute, were vetted and approved by the committee under him before its term expired in February 2021. The KIIT has since been waiting to get the IOE status for 1,121 days and counting; and, VIT and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham for 976 days each.Records show that another private institution on the list, Jamia Hamdard, may not get the IOE tag at all due to a legal dispute, while Bharti Foundation — the second greenfield selection apart from Jio — pulled out of the process due to lack of “appropriate land”.KIIT: Records show that a 13-member expert committee set up by the EEC visited KIIT in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar on February 17-18, 2020. By July 2020, the EEC approved the readiness report submitted by the 13-member panel led by AICTE vice chairman M P Poonia.According to KIIT’s IOE coordinator Professor C K Panigrahi, the institute submitted a draft MoU to the ministry about two years ago and hasn’t received an update since.VIT: A 12-member committee led by Prof G D Yadav of Institute of Chemical Technology conducted a virtual inspection of VIT on July 13-14, 2020 and the EEC approved the readiness report.“The final version of the draft MoU was submitted to the government in November 2021. Following that we contacted the ministry several times. However, there has been no communication from the government. (We were) told verbally that the MoU will be signed after the reconstitution of the EEC,” a VIT official said.Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham: A virtual review was conducted by a 16-member committee led by Mahesh Verma, V-C of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in Delhi, on July 17-18, 2020 and the EEC approved the readiness report.According to Vidyapeetham’s IOE coordinator Prof Raghu Raman, the deemed university has written multiple times to the government since July 2020, asking for updates and “next steps”.Jamia Hamdard: In September 2020, the EEC recommended the removal of Jamia Hamdard from the list. The minutes of an EEC meeting on September 16, 2020, state: “The EEC selected the composite entity Jamia Hamdard consisting of medical college and university, but… the composite unit is no longer a valid entity after the family settlement approved by the SC, as the management has gone to two different bodies…”Jamia Hamdard’s V-C Prof Mohammad Afshar Alam said, “After taking charge in 2019, I took permission from our sponsoring trust and wrote to the UGC and Education ministry, requesting a visit of the expert committee to our campus. I haven’t heard from the government since.”Bharti Foundation: The other greenfield selection, apart from Jio, Bharti Foundation, withdrew its bid in October 2020 after it failed to acquire “an appropriate land parcel” in Mohali, Punjab. However, the Foundation said that it has now signed an MoU with Plaksha University in Mohali.Records show that apart from these private institutions, the fate of two — Jadavpur University in West Bengal and Anna University in Tamil Nadu — of the eight public universities on the IOE list is similar.In September 2020, the EEC recommended the removal of Jadavpur University, along with Jamia Hamdard, from the list of IOEs. Jadavpur’s bid was rejected since the West Bengal government did not commit to paying part of the plan requirements not met by the Centre.The university then submitted a revised plan with a reduced budget of Rs 606 crore, of which it proposed to raise 25 per cent. In June 2020, the Education ministry wrote to the UGC seeking the EEC’s advice on the revised budget.In an email dated September 15, 2020, the EEC stated: “The EEC is of view that… the substantial budget cut is not conducive to realising the target set for IOEs. The EEC therefore recommends to the UGC to release Jadavpur University from the list…”On July 19, 2021, the UGC forwarded this recommendation to the ministry and there has been no communication since.“We earnestly hope that the Central government will recognise the academic excellence of Jadavpur as acknowledged by the empowered committee,” Jadavpur University V-C Dr Suranjan Das said.As for Anna University, records show the Chennai-based institution’s original IOE plan was affected by lack of funding from the Tamil Nadu government, leading the university to submit a revised proposal relying on its own resources. The revised plan was approved by the EEC on the condition that the state will provide an assurance to cover any shortfall. The university, however, is yet to receive an official word from the government.“Ever since I assumed charge (in August 2021), we haven’t received any communication from the government… If we get that (IOE status), it will be a good thing and we won’t have to chase every small accreditation to prove our excellence,” Anna University V-C Dr R Velraj said.
WHILE four private institutions remain stranded on a thorny path to get the coveted status of Institution of Eminence (IOE) despite getting the all-clear from the Government’s empowered committee, it’s not exactly been a bed of roses for the other four that made the cut.On paper, these private IOEs, who don’t get any funds under the scheme unlike Government institutions, are assured of autonomy and significant regulatory relief. But in practice, they continue to be weighed down by red tape and regulatory interference, an investigation by The Indian Express, based on official records, visits to campuses across the country and interviews with several university personnel and Government officials, has revealed.Only four of the 10 private higher education institutions selected for the IOE status have received official recognition to date: Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), BITS Pilani, OP Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University. Of these, Shiv Nadar is the youngest IOE, having received the status just last year.The Indian Express found that the three oldest private IOEs on many occasions had asserted their autonomy under the scheme but eventually had to toe the regulatory line.The Centre’s track record on assuring autonomy for the private IOEs is significant given that it is planning to roll out similar freedoms to foreign universities on academic, administrative and financial matters to attract them to India.Multiplicity of regulatorsFor private IOEs, the road to achieving world-class status is riddled with multiple higher education regulators.Although IOE regulations promise autonomy from the University Grants Commission, there are over 15 bodies regulating the higher education space in the country. Private IOEs say this works against multidisciplinary institutions, as they continue to face red tape, delays, and compliance demands from various regulators such as the National Medical Commission, Bar Council of India, Architecture Council of India, Nursing Council, and more.For instance, the autonomy to fix fees and decide admission procedures has been meaningless for MAHE, which also runs a medical college. The National Medical Commission insists that all medical students are admitted only through NEET, which is difficult for international students to crack. MAHE, The Indian Express learned, requested an exemption from NEET for international students, but their request was turned down.Last February, MAHE requested exclusion from NMC’s directive to charge fees equivalent to government medical colleges for half of their total approved capacity. In its letter, the institute reiterated its eminent status. However, NMC rejected the request.Private IOEs have raised concerns about the multiplicity of regulators to the government. OP Jindal Global University made a presentation in 2020 to the then Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on the imperatives of autonomy. While the university can start new programmes and schools with just an intimation to UGC, it has to comply with the Bar Council of India’s regulations for law programmes.The presentation highlighted the need for IoEs to be autonomous and exempted from regulation by all professional bodies or councils to achieve world-class standards in all higher education disciplines.MAHE, too, confirmed that it flagged the issue to review committees sent by the Education Ministry, stating that “freedom from multiple regulators” is necessary to achieve the goals of the IOE scheme.Although BITS Pilani hasn’t written to the government on this issue yet, the university, in its response to this newspaper, said, “Bringing all regulatory bodies under one umbrella would bring uniformity and consistency in the process, making it convenient for good institutes to perform better.”UGC interferenceDespite their special status, private IOEs have found it challenging to deal with the University Grants Commission (UGC).“The private institutes are not entitled to funds like the government IOEs are. So we applied (for the IOE status) for the promise of autonomy. But we keep getting letters from UGC regarding compliances and we are expected to fall in line,” said an officer at one of the four private IOEs.Even on an issue as trivial as the name of a department, red tape kicks in. BITS Pilani’s research cell is currently called sponsored research and consultancy division, but UGC wants BITS to rename it “research development cell.” MAHE, which has already established a Directorate of Research, had received a similar letter from UGC.The UGC, sources said, had also objected to the BITS dual degree programme which allows candidates pursuing a Master’s to also pursue a bachelor’s degree. “UGC felt this was not right,” said an officer of the institute.In 2021 and last year, the UGC got all three private IOEs to refund the fee of all students who either cancelled or withdrew their admission within October 31, leading to several last-minute vacancies that could not be filled afterwards.The UGC order led to about 300 vacancies at BITS Pilani last year. “Refunding fees of students who have already spent a few months studying with an institute means those seats will remain vacant for the next four years. This is a huge revenue loss for us. We are as good as any IIT in the country. They don’t face any such interference from regulators” said an officer of BITS Pilani.In an emailed statement, BITS Pilani said, “All cases of fee refund are being dealt with in accordance with the UGC directives and as per the declared policy of the institute. It would be much easier for us to perform better if admissions related to full autonomy (including fees refund in Admissions processes) is offered to the institutes such as BITS Pilani.”OP Jindal University tried to assert its autonomy under the IOE rules that permit institutions to determine fee and admission policy, they ultimately had to refund the fee.JGU wrote in an emailed statement that “… (despite) following the UGC – (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2017 (UGC – IoE Regulations 2017) and the subsequent amendments of 2021 diligently, we are still constrained to follow the UGC policies related to Fees and Refunds. Considering the aforementioned facts, we had written to the Ministry of Education requesting their guidance to fulfil the objective of creating an enabling regulatory architecture for the Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities and ranked among the world’s top institutions.”MAHE, too confirmed vacancies on account of the UGC institutions. “With interest of students, MAHE did not fill those vacant seats for the year 2022 as well 2021,” the university said in its response to The Indian Express.Red tape on foreign facultyEven as the government expects the IOEs to hire more foreign teachers to boost their performance in international rankings, for the private IOEs, the litany of permissions required to finalise an appointment is a hindrance.For one, the delay in processing work visa applications for foreign teachers often acts as a disincentive. Moreover, visas are usually issued for a year and, only in rare cases for two years. “If we want to attract foreign faculty then we should be able to offer long-term employment. The obligation of renewing work visas annually is a disincentive,” said an officer at a private IOE.The delay in getting Aadhaar number for foreign nationals working in India is another irritant as it delays their PF withdrawal. “As institutions, we try to assist them but there’s nothing we can do to expedite this process or cut red tape,” said another officer of a private IOE.Both MAHE and Jindal have requested the easing of norms for foreign faculty. A spokesperson for OP Jindal University confirmed that the university has suggested to the Government a ‘Specially Expedited Institutions of Eminence Multiple Entry Employment Visa Scheme for International Faculty’. Under this, IOEs should get “preferential treatment in all Government-related approvals and visa processes to enable them to implement their faculty hiring plans in good time,” the spokesperson said. MAHE has called for easing of norms with respect to salary and benefits to international faculty.
Our brave soldiers serve the nation with commitment and conviction, often leaving their families behind. They sacrifice their lives and it is only because of their “shahadat” (martyrdom) that we are safe in our homes today. It is not enough for the government to just give compensation packages and say that it has fulfilled its duty — rules regarding compensation should also be tweaked with time and on a case-to-case basis.As of July 2022, a total of 307 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in the five preceding years. As many as 156 army men and three IAF personnel were killed in terrorist attacks as well as counter-terror operations in the last five years. In the same period, 819 armed forces personnel committed suicide, with the Army reporting the maximum number of such cases at 642. These figures are an indication of the conditions — including staying away for long from their families — under which our soldiers perform their duties, which often results in mental health issues as well.The recent protests by the widows of Pulwama martyrs in Rajasthan are a grim reminder of the challenges faced by the families of soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice. It is heart-wrenching to see them struggle to claim the benefits due to them, and running from pillar to post. The government should go out of its way, if needed, and ensure that the rules meant for the welfare of those who survive soldiers should not become a tool for denying them their legitimate demands. The protesting veeranganas (wives of jawans) were detained by the police and treated unjustly. They wanted certain demands to be fulfilled, which would require some amendments in the rules governing the welfare measures meant for families of martyrs.Consider some of the global practices when it comes to the welfare of the families of martyrs: The US provides financial assistance through the police department or local government to help families of fallen officers cover immediate expenses such as funeral costs, housing, and other expenses. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund provides financial assistance, scholarships, and other support to the families of officers who have died in the line of duty. Similarly, the Fraternal Order of Police provides financial assistance and other support to its members and their families. The UK has schemes like the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme to provide compensation to military personnel who have been injured, are ill or have died as a result of service and War Disablement Pension schemes to provide tax-free financial assistance to military personnel who were disabled in the discharge of their duty.As a country which takes pride in its soldiers, we should listen to the legitimate demands of the veeranganas. The issues they have raised relate to the sentiments of the common man and are above any political considerations.Three major concerns must be addressed. The first is the demand for flexibility in the rules for providing jobs on compassionate grounds. This is a major bone of contention between the government and the veeranganas. The latter have demanded that not just the children of martyrs, but other members of the family, including brothers-in-law, should be given government jobs on compassionate grounds. The government’s argument that if the rules are altered for one case, then the future of all the children of the martyrs will be compromised, is technically sound. If the rules are amended to include distant family relations then they can also be used as a tool to blackmail the widows and pressure them for jobs, shunning them in case they fail to do so.It is argued that if the children are not academically brilliant or are unable to complete their education due to health issues, accidents etc., then having a job reserved for the family will secure the future of the child. The government should be liberal and amend the rules to remove any kind of restriction on the number of children of a martyr who are entitled to jobs on compassionate grounds. One child getting the job and his or her sibling being denied the same is unfair because the loss is equal for both.Second, there is a demand for the construction of multiple statues of martyrs. If other public figures have the privilege of having statues erected in different parts of the country, why can’t we have the same provision for martyrs? The government should amend the rules and a provision can be added that in case of more than one statue, it can involve local bodies like panchayat and municipal administration, local MLAs, NGOs and bhamashah (philanthropists) who can make matching contributions to the extent of 50 per cent for the construction of memorials or statues of martyrs. The government can also utilise corporate social responsibility funds for the same. These statues are not just brick-and-mortar structures, they are symbols of the sacrifice of our martyrs which will inspire the generations to come.Third, a department of welfare for the families of the martyrs, both at the central and state level, should be set up in order to facilitate social security benefits for them. The department should be allocated funds to provide housing grants to the families of the martyrs; marriage grants for their children; financial aid in the form of education, medical care and housing; in addition to offering counselling services to assist them in coping with their loss. By making these additional resources available to the families of those who have been martyred, we can demonstrate our support for them.The department should also work on providing benefits/concessions on utilities, free transportation via air, rail and bus, and benefits for the purchase of prescription medication and other healthcare services to the families of the martyrs. The issue of the welfare of the families of the martyrs is one that goes beyond politics and the solution has to be rooted in a rights-based approach.It is important to bear in mind that these families take pride in their sacrifice. Given the current state of affairs and the apathy of the administration, there is an urgent need for the sensitisation of not only the bureaucracy but also political leaders while dealing with these issues.The writer is Congress MLA from Osian (Rajasthan)
Until a few years ago, access to technology was considered a privilege restricted to the urban elite. The internet was unaffordable for people in rural areas. Only 25 crore Indians used the internet till 2014, which increased to 84 crore in 2022. Earlier, the cost of 1GB of data was about Rs 300. Now it has come down to about Rs 13.5 per GB, making it affordable. This is a snapshot of how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has driven inclusion through technology in New India.The pandemic was a testing time and Digital India minimised the impact of disruption. The affordability of the internet led to accessibility of services. When education in schools went online during the pandemic, Suhani Sahu, a student in Balrampur, UP, attended her course curriculum online via the Diksha platform. Shubham Kumar living in a village in East Champaran, Bihar, ensured uninterrupted treatment of his ailing mother, saving on travel time and cost by taking teleconsultation from a doctor on the eSanjeevani app. Over 10 crore such teleconsultations have happened so far.Hari Ram, a taxi driver in Dehradun, had a ration card from Hardoi in UP. The One Nation One Ration Card framework helped him access food supplies even in Dehradun. The Gramin Dak Sevaks of India Post provided financial service assistance at doorsteps using the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) to people in the remotest corner of the country.PM Modi’s thrust on turning technology into a tool against poverty and improving the ease of living has benefitted the Indian masses.Digital technologies have come of age. They have become an integral part of our lives. AI, 5G, and quantum technology have matured to a level where they are becoming mainstream.This makes 2023 an inflection point. In these exciting times, India has assumed the leadership of the G20. Atmanirbhar Bharat is ready to showcase its technology platforms to the world with the philosophy of using them for the greater good.PM Modi has said “today, people do not see the government as an obstacle; rather, people see our government as a catalyst for new opportunities. Certainly, technology has played a big role in this.” These words echo across the nation and this vision-led transformation is visible in every nook and corner of India. India went on a complete digital transformation. The country is focused on creating public digital platforms which are open source, available to everybody, of large scale and born-digital.That’s how CoWIN was developed. The entire process of onboarding vaccine manufacturers, clinics, hospitals, registration of citizens, and scheduling, till the final certificate of vaccination, is digital. This enabled India to administer 150 crore doses within the first 12 months of the vaccination drive. India has now delivered close to 220 crore doses. Today, CoWIN has become a ground-breaking example of democratising digital technology.It is no coincidence that India has shown a unique way to use technology to benefit society. Today, street vendors, vegetable carts, small shops, and big showrooms across India have QR (quick response) code stickers for digital payments. Payment QR codes randomly placed for scanning in the midst of piping hot tea and snacks at a roadside small tea stall have become an everyday sight.Using public funds, we created a platform where banks have joined, as have insurance companies, e-commerce companies, MSMEs, startups and most importantly 120 crore people have joined. In this public private partnership, no single entity has complete control over the platform, making it democratic.Launched in 2016, UPI now does $1.5 trillion worth of transactions every year. The average settlement time for each transaction is two seconds. This has led to an increase in transparency and convenience. This is why India’s UPI has become a global standard for digital payments.Technology’s role in enhancing the ease of living is becoming increasingly visible by the day. The FASTag technology has ensured that our vehicles continue blazing through the highways without stopping. This use of technology has reduced congestion and the waiting time at the toll plazas, providing smooth movement within our borders, while boosting digital payments.Technology has taken a giant leap with the roll out of 5G. While launching 5G services in India, PM Modi shared his vision of using 5G in healthcare, education, agriculture, construction sectors etc., to make living easy for people. India is also relentlessly working towards becoming a 4G and 5G technology exporter in the coming three years.We have proved the prowess of our engineers and scientists with these scalable digital public goods. Now we’re developing the OCEN (open credit enablement network), which will raise credit penetration by transitioning the system to cash flow-based lending. OCEN will lead to competition among various banks for giving loans to a person, lowering the cost of credit. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, this will propel the credit to GDP ratio from the current 57 per cent to 100 per cent by 2031.This game-changing digital and tech-led revolution powered by PM Modi’s vision empowers and transforms the lives of ordinary citizens. It gives power to the poorest and marginalised sections and offers the ability to create something in the hands of the creative minds of the young and talented generation. This model is now being replicated across different sectors. Be it the health sector, education, logistics, agriculture or defence, similar platforms are being created on which a vibrant ecosystem of startups or any enterprise can build solutions.India has entered its Amrit Kaal in times of global uncertainty. Moving forward, under the farsighted, decisive and action-oriented leadership of PM Modi, India’s G20 Presidency will be pathbreaking, serving and sharing our scalable public digital infrastructure with the world.The writer is Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology
AT THE heart of the delays affecting the Institution of Eminence (IOE) scheme is a defunct Empowered Expert Committee (EEC), which was first created to cut red tape and make UGC regulations more flexible for the 20 selected institutions.However, the EEC has been inactive for the past two years because the last committee, led by former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, completed its three-year term on February 20, 2021. Since then, the Government has not appointed new members or extended the term of the Gopalaswami panel, leaving the IOE notification of at least four private and two public institutions hanging.The Indian Express has learnt that Gopalaswami had written a letter to the Education Ministry in 2021 reminding the Government of the approaching end of the panel’s three-year term. But no decision has officially been taken on the file moved for reconstitution of the panel, sources said.“A letter would have been written in the normal course (reminding the Government of the committee’s term ending). It would have been done by the office. I don’t remember exactly when, but it would have been done,” Gopalaswami told The Indian Express.Asked whether the absence of an EEC affects the progress of the IOE scheme, he said, “I have no opinion on this. It’s for the Government to decide whether they want to have it (EEC) or not. I have no locus in the matter since my term as chairman has already ended.”According to Clause 7.1 of the IOE Regulations 2017, the members of the EEC are appointed by the UGC on the advice of the Government, which sends names to the higher education regulator after taking approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.Asked about the delay, UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar said that the regulator has no role in the formation of the EEC. “It can only notify the names forwarded by the Government,” he said.The Education Ministry did not respond to a questionnaire sent by The Indian Express about the absence of a functioning empowered committee. Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was not reachable for comment.“When the IOE Regulations were created, the National Education Policy was still being developed. With the NEP now in place, the idea of autonomy is embedded in the philosophy of the proposed Higher Education Commission of India, the new higher education regulator. The 12 institutions that have received IOE status will continue to have it. Rather than establishing another EEC, the proposed HECI could be responsible for liberalising the regulatory system. For the others that have not yet been notified as IOEs, we will make a decision after the new regulator is established,” said a Government source.The EEC is unlike any routine selection panel appointment by the government. “The word empowered is in the name of the committee. This panel was meant to be the driving force of the scheme and key to its success. Not only was it empowered to search and select the 20 IOEs but also monitor and review their progress, recommend penalties and have the final word on all issues not covered in the regulations,” said a source who was involved in the drafting of the regulations in 2017.“The rationale behind creating an empowered body was that the scheme should be driven by a committee of renowned people because it was felt that the UGC had a controlling mindset and may not serve the objective of the IOE scheme which was to give these 20 institutions more autonomy. So the UGC’s role was minimised and limited to forwarding recommendations of the Empowered Expert Committee,” said another source involved in the drafting of regulations.In this context, a search panel headed by the Cabinet Secretary at the time had recommended names of Gopalaswami, Professor Tarun Khanna of Harvard Business School, Renu Khator of the University of Houston and former director of IIM-Lucknow Pitam Singh. The committee was notified by the UGC on February 20, 2018.After Singh’s death in June 2020, Gopalaswami had written to the Government requesting a replacement but it wasn’t done. Eight months later, the term of the EEC expired. When contacted, Khator did not wish to comment on the matter, and Khanna did not respond to an email seeking his views on the delay.
Written by Firasha ShaikhThis week, The Indian Express published a report on the Delhi University students facing punishment for screening the banned BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question on campus (‘For 8 students punished by Delhi University over BBC documentary, futures at stake’, March 23). As I read the students’ responses, many of whom came from underprivileged backgrounds, have ambitious dreams and worried parents back home, I got flashbacks of my conversations with classmates in junior college. Many of my friends and classmates were the first in their families to attend college and get a graduate degree. Participating in extracurricular activities like debate competitions, NSS, etc., held a special significance for them. They recounted the respect and recognition they would get from people in their hometown, and the sense of quiet pride on their parents’ faces when they introduced their children as college graduates.This attachment to higher education institutes, for many of us, is a lifelong one: The space of the university is one that helps us shape our identity and discover who we are as individuals. It opens up the world for us. To have this opportunity blighted by those who are supposed to enable it — governments and university administration — is unsettling.Reading the rusticated students’ thoughts reminded me of just how much higher education means for young people, especially those from humble backgrounds.For students from marginalised communities, the university is about more than the degrees it offers. It’s an opportunity to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to improve one’s socioeconomic standing, break intergenerational cycles of poverty, and uplift one’s community.Unfortunately, this is all elusive for many of India’s students due to the several issues plaguing India’s higher education system. Between the corporatisation of higher education brought on with NEP 2020, the discontinuation of various scholarship schemes meant for minority communities, like the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, anti-reservation sentiment, and discrimination in the classroom — the future of India’s students in general and marginalised students in particular, seems bleak. After crossing numerous obstacles, like regional disparities, income inequality, and caste barriers, for the few students who do make it into the hallowed, gate kept grounds of the university, the opportunity is sometimes brutally cut short because of institutionalised casteism, Islamophobia, and the repression that follows, when one tries to protest and speak out against it. Rohith Vemula, Fathima Latheef, Darshan Solanki — how many more names until this ends?The defiance of young people is by no means a new phenomenon — from the Young Bengal group in colonial India and the national students’ movement during the Emergency, to recent agitations like the ones that took place in FTII and JNU and the anti-CAA protests which saw the participation of a large number of students. But after the police lathis stop falling and the teargas dissipates, after our fellow students are detained or jailed, and when the rustication and suspension period draws to a close — and the lengthy court battles and disputes with university administrations begin — the desolation and disillusionment sets in.In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire writes, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, how men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”DU students, in screening the documentary, and Jamia and AMU students, in leading the anti-CAA protests embodied Freire’s words by resisting integration into majoritarianism and compelled onlookers to engage critically with reality, to engage with the practice of freedom. To face the truth — no matter how unsettling and uncomfortable it may be. Perhaps amidst that discomfort, we may, together, chart a path towards justice for all.The writer is a student and holds a postgraduate degree in political science
For over a century, universities in the UK have been the cornerstone for science and technology, having inspired ideation and invention through training in technical subjects. Today, when the global economy is increasingly driven by technology and innovation, and there is a growing demand for workers with STEM-related skills, the UK has the potential to give the world what it needs across STEM education.Scientific and technical education not only provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the demands of the job market but is also essential for driving innovation and addressing global challenges in areas such as artificial intelligence, healthcare, renewable energy, climate change and more. STEM education also fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills and allows students to work collaboratively to find solutions.The UK government has always invested in research and development, which has supported innovation and the advancement of knowledge in STEM fields in the country. Notably, the UK has given the world some of the most successful people in science like Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, Tim Burners Lee, Michael Faraday to name a few. Additionally, the UK has a strong track record of producing Nobel Prize winners in STEM fields like Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Alexander Fleming, Peter Higgs, and more. The revolutionaries from the UK have rewarded the world with their life-altering innovations.With such a rich legacy, the UK has been a popular destination for Indian students pursuing STEM education. According to the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the academic year 2019/20, approximately 49,000 Indian students were studying STEM subjects in the UK. The most popular STEM subjects among Indian students were Engineering and Technology, followed by Mathematical Sciences, Computer Science, and Biological Sciences.Here are some key reasons for students to opt for higher education in STEM subjects across the UK – Research CultureThe UK is a leader in research and development with a strong research culture. Universities in the UK are at the forefront of many areas of research. Students who pursue higher education in the UK have the opportunity to work with leading researchers and be part of ground-breaking research projects. Students studying STEM subjects in the UK have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research projects, work with leading academics and researchers, and develop valuable skills in research and development.Academic QualityThe UK is considered to be one of the leading countries in the world for STEM education at the university level, and it consistently ranks highly in international rankings, with state-of-the-art facilities, including labs and resource centers. According to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022, UK universities perform very well in a wide range of STEM subjects. The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world for multiple STEM subjects, including mathematics, computer science, engineering, and natural sciences. Other UK universities such as Imperial College London, University College London, and The University of Edinburgh also rank highly for STEM subjects.Availability of New Age CoursesUniversities in the UK offer a wide range of new age STEM courses to keep up with the rapidly evolving fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Some of the new age STEM courses offered by UK universities include:Career opportunitiesStudying STEM subjects in the UK can lead to exciting career opportunities in a range of industries, including technology, engineering, healthcare, and many more. Many UK universities have strong links with industry, providing students with opportunities to gain work experience and develop their skills to complete tasks in real-world settings. This also positively impacts employment rates and provides students with access to careers advice and support. The UK’s post-study work visa also allows international students to stay and work in the UK for up to 2 years after graduation. Students graduating from the UK are widely considered highly employable as they receive high-quality education, practical experience, and the opportunity to develop valuable skills. Additionally, studying in the UK can help students develop their language skills, intercultural skills, and networking skills, which are all highly valued by employers in today’s global economy.ConclusionFinally, it is important to remember that the UK government and universities offer thousands of scholarships grants to foreign students to be used towards tuition, living expenses and other educational costs associated with studying in the UK. One such scholarship for STEM education is the British Council Women in STEM scholarship. Applications are currently open for 48 spots are open for women STEM scholars from India and other South Asian countries, which will be awarded on merit basis alone. Students may check out the brand website for respective timelines.
Nitin Gadkari wrote to Eknath Shinde seeking the transfer of the state's Medical Education SecretaryMumbai: A letter written by Union minister Nitin Gadkari to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde seeking the transfer of state's Medical Education Secretary Dr Ashwini Joshi, who has reportedly disrupted smooth functioning of the medical education department, has raised questions of conflict of interest.In a letter to CM Shinde and Chief Secretary Manukumar Srivastava on March 9, Gadkari also criticised Joshi, an IAS officer, for allegedly stalling admission to nearly 1,100 seats linked to courses offered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons-affiliated (CPS).His wife Kanchan Gadkari is on the advisory board of the Association of CPS Affiliated Institutes, which was formed recently and holds membership of approximately 100 colleges that offer CPS courses, said an official of the organisation.Earlier, Joshi had written to the Centre highlighting "severe deficiencies" in institutes running CPS courses.Mumbai-based CPS is an autonomous body and runs 2-year diploma and 3-year fellowship medical courses across the state."Kanchan Gadkari is an advisor of the association. Simply being the wife of a politician doesn't disqualify her. She has some position in her public life," said Dr Bakul Parekh, president of the association, stressing that they seek her advice mainly on administrative matters."She has a huge expertise in that area," he added.Despite Gadkari attaching the association's letter with his March 9 communication stressing why CPS courses need to start immediately, Parekh claimed that the association did not approach him directly. He said the CPS management might have approached the minister."Union minister Gadkari is a prominent personality and known to be a positive person. That could be the reason," he said. According to Parekh, the association was formed nine months ago and its members want some solution.Admissions to nearly 1,100 CPS seats have not taken place since the medical education department has not begun counselling following Joshi's observations.Joshi has maintained through her letters that till she doesn't get a satisfactory response from CPS explaining the alleged deficiencies, there is likely to be a status quo. She had also issued a show-cause notice to CPS on March 14 and asked them to submit answers by March 21.With the issue appearing to acquire a political colour, few officials are willing to speak about it openly.State Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan, who is learnt to be backing Joshi's action against CPS, and Gadkari couldn't be reached for comments. Dr Parekh said not all CPS colleges are bad and the solution doesn't lie in shutting down a 110-year-old institution.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comHowever, sources said, several members of the medical fraternity have been calling for the CPS to operate with greater transparency.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
As both Houses of Parliament remain paralysed amid the continuing standoff between the government and the Opposition, the second half of the Budget Session may turn out to be a washout. A sidebar to the conflict between the two sides is the widening of fissures within the Opposition ranks over the leadership of the Congress and Rahul. These developments are dominating the pages of the Urdu dailies as they bring their readers up to speed with their twists and turns.INQUILABCommenting on the gridlock in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha amid the face-off between the Narendra Modi-led BJP government and the Congress-led Opposition — with the BJP demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi over his critique from the UK of the current state of democracy in India and the Opposition seeking the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the Adani affair — the New Delhi edition of Inquilab, in its editorial on March 18, says this is perhaps the first time that the Treasury benches are stalling the proceedings of Parliament. “When Rahul attended the House after returning from Britain, clarifications should have been sought from him, but it was not done, forcing him to address a press conference,” it states. Rahul said he has a right to respond to the allegations levelled against him by four ministers. ”Rahul told the press conference that he also met the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to convey his position, but the Speaker was non-committal and in his way he smiled,” the daily says.The editorial notes that while addressing various events in the UK Rahul had stuck to his allegation that the Opposition’s voice is being silenced in India under the current regime. “By not letting Rahul speak in the House, the ruling side is reinforcing his charge,” it says. “There is nothing in the remarks Rahul made abroad that could be labelled anti-India. It has already been pointed out that during his foreign visits PM Modi had made similarly critical remarks too.”The editorial says the Treasury benches seem to be bent on stonewalling a debate on the Adani issue. “This could be a bid to deflect attention so that the demand for a JPC probe is shot down,” it says. “However, in this standoff the advantage is with the Congress and Rahul, as the BJP is making its play trickier.”SIASATIn its editorial on March 19, the Hyderabad-based Siasat says that while the ruling BJP seems to have stepped up its campaign against the Opposition parties in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, especially moving to gun for Rahul Gandhi, the Opposition’s attempts to create a joint front against the BJP appear to be faltering. Although the Congress and Rahul himself have tried to downplay the question of their leadership of an Opposition amalgam, the BJP has managed to fuel suspicion in some regional parties that Rahul may emerge as the face of their front, the editorial states.The signals sent by West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and SP president and ex-UP CM Akhilesh Yadav following their meeting in Kolkata have reflected the cracks in the Opposition unity that would lead to brightening of the BJP’s prospects in the 2024 polls, the daily says.In a snub to the Congress, the TMC leadership and Akhilesh have announced their plan to remain equidistant from the BJP and the grand old party. “A section of the Opposition wants the Congress to lead their ranks against the BJP. Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar is at its forefront. However, another Opposition section comprising of leaders like Mamata, Akhilesh and Telangana CM and BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao are batting for an anti-BJP front sans the Congress,” the edit notes. After her party’s dismal performance in Meghalaya and Tripura Assembly polls, Mamata had announced that she will go solo in the upcoming polls. But after her meeting with Akhilesh, the TMC has made it clear that she would be engaged in forging a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance, which may even get Odisha CM and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik on board.“Although several Opposition parties including the NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), DMK, JD(U), RJD, JMM want the Congress’s inclusion in an anti-BJP front, the stand of major regional players like Mamata and Akhilesh have dealt a blow to the bid for a larger Opposition unity, which may undermine their efforts to defeat the BJP in 2024,” the edit says. “In this scenario, the Opposition should review the blueprint for their future course of action.”ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARAReferring to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma’s remarks made while addressing a large gathering in Belagavi in the poll-bound Karnataka that he intends to shut down all madrasas in his state, the multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on March 19, writes that Sarma is among thoseleaders who remain in the news owing to their various comments. Sarma told the Belagavi event that he has closed 600 madrasas in Assam, but his intention is to shut all madrasas because they are not needed in “New India” that needs schools, colleges and universities, the editorial says. “If Sarma has made these comments in view of the upcoming Karnataka polls it is another matter, but in a democratic country like India he has no right to decide what all the people need.”Underlining that PM Modi talks about “Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”, the editorial says CM Sarma’s remarks are at variance with it. “Sarma seems to be unaware of the role played by madrasas in strengthening India. They have played a key role in ensuring subsistence of many poor children, providing them free food and clothes along with education. And they have been ensuring this long before the mid-day meal scheme for school children was launched in the country in 1995,” it states. “Besides religious education, these madrasas should ensure modern education too so that it could benefit all children… The point also remains that less than five per cent of Indian Muslim children are enrolled in madrasas.”Noting that India’s literacy rate as per 2011 Census was 74 per cent, the daily asks Sarma about his plans to impart education to the rest of the population. A 2021 Unesco report said that India needs 11.16 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall and that there are over 1.1 lakh single-teacher schools in the country, it says. “In December 2022, Assam education minister Ranoj Pegu had admitted lack of teachers as well as basic facilities like toilet, water and electricity in the state’s schools. In Assam, 2,979 schools are run by single-teacher, 15,161 are two teacher schools, and 8,207 are three-teacher schools,” the edit says. “Sarma should focus on solving these problems affecting Assam’s schools rather than targeting madrasas.”
In a week from today, Arvind Kejriwal’s Number 2, the marquee face of AAP’s education reform, former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia, would have spent a month in custody. On Friday, orders went out to his family to vacate their official bungalow, and to the family of Satyendar Jain, the other AAP minister in jail, arrested last year.As the BJP and the Opposition trade sharp unpleasantries on the government’s alleged targeting of political opponents, on the Delhi street, a whiff of a reality check to both AAP and the BJP carries a layered message.The BJP’s hectic bid to smear AAP with the corruption taint hasn’t found much of an echo but, at the same time, few are shedding tears for its leaders in jail.And for all that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appear locked in mortal combat, the two leaders are seen as a cross-party version of the “double engine”: Modi at the Centre, Kejriwal in Delhi.From a JJ camp in Shalimar Bagh to a South Delhi office and mall, you are likely to hear the same division of political labour: Kejriwal for the provision of quotidian “suvidhaein”, goods and services made accessible and free — bijli and paani, mohalla clinic and sarkari school, and free travel in buses for women, not necessarily in that order.Modi for Hindutva of course, Ram Mandir and Article 370. But also for other “big ideas” and, more and more, for securing the country’s “sarhad (borders)”, and steering the “desh-videsh” assertion and outreach.That last image, of India-in-the-world, recurs in the conversation on Modi, even as the refurbished sarkari school is a prominent motif when you talk about Kejriwal — very often to the same voter. It may point to a shift: Modi, who has energetically courted a pro-poor image across the country, is, in Delhi at least, forced to share some of that space with Kejriwal. Here, Modi’s claim to solo space is as the god of big things.In Shalimar Bagh, listen to Shakuntala, housewife, mother of six. Drainage is a problem, dirty water constantly runs into her home, she says, but the government school has definitely improved. Two of her six children go to a sarkari school in the time of the Kejriwal government. “Ab bachhon pe dhyaan dete hain (now they pay attention to the child in school). I went to a parent teacher meeting, and I could see that the teachers were under pressure not to waste time”. She remembers the phone call from Sisodia’s office when one of her children came first in class. “They asked aage kya karna hai (what have you thought for the future of your child)?”Yet “desh ke liye (for the country)”, for Shakuntala too, it is Modi. Because “woh desh-videsh ko madad karte hain, madad lete nahin hain, yeh sahi hai (on Modi’s watch, India helps other countries, instead of seeking their help, that is how it should be)”.Across the city, outside a law firm in well-to-do Jangpura, young lawyer Supriya Jain also acknowledges the Kejriwal government’s success story. “My maid’s son went to a government school, got a scholarship and went on to do a computer course”. But “country-wise”, she says, “it is Modi. His work is being recognised by the world”.The Modi-dominated poster advertising India’s G20 presidency may well have put its finger on a beating pulse. “Climate change, terrorism and pandemic can only be solved by acting together”, it says, marking out the wider ambitions that the BJP hopes will help lift the Modi campaign off the ground when the time comes, and take it to a place presumably unsinged by anti-incumbency.This high-voltage push framing Modi as the leader taking India to the world resonates — but equally, its campaign to tar AAP with corruption has failed.For the AAP, even as the corruption shadow over individual leaders has so far not spread over the party, there is not-so-good news too.The aam aadmi and aurat in Delhi view the arrests of Sisodia and Jain, who presided over two of its biggest success stories — the sarkari school and the mohalla clinic — as par for the political course in a system that typically hides more than it reveals and, in all events, as something the same system will fix eventually.At the Government Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Burari, their children’s exam-time stress is writ large on the faces of parents who crowd at the gates. A teacher lists the many positive changes in the school, from furniture to attendance, and is confident that “the improvement is here to stay”. On Education Minister Sisodia’s arrest, he says: “Tantra hai (this is the system). The people know, it happens, an election is coming… Remember Jain bandhu (a reference to the Hawala scandal in the 1990s), where are they now, that storm passed too. Only the media is agitated.”And at the Seelampur mohalla clinic, where the footfall is high, and a doctor is available in two shifts, asked about the arrest of former Health Minister Jain, patients draw a distinction between what is visible, and what is not.“Hum aam public hain… dawaiyan mil rahi hain, shiksha mil rahi hai, ration mil raha hai… androoni baat hamein nahi pata (we are getting medicines, education and ration, how do we know what goes on behind the scenes)”, says Ram Vinay, who describes himself as unemployed.While the response on the street to the arrests of Sisodia and Jain is marked by the absence of urgency or outrage, on one of the issues in play — the scrapped excise policy in connection with which Sisodia has been sent to jail — there is more than a hint of moral censure.In Seelampur, Ashok Kumar says, “The buy-one-get-one-free scheme that was being offered by private liquor shops was completely out of order”.“Bas sharaab ka kaam galat hua hai (there was a mess-up on the alcohol front)”, says Imran, in a tea shop near the Seelampur clinic. Here, a group of young men, self-professed Kejriwal supporters, are strong critics of Modi. “In 2014, a roti cost Rs 2, now it is Rs 5. A plate of korma was for Rs 30, now it costs Rs 70,” says Fahim.And at the liquor vend in a mall in Mayur Vihar, customer Deepak Sarna, an interior designer, says: “Alcohol had become too easy. People started drinking even during the day”.Another takeaway for the AAP: There is goodwill for Sisodia, for his work in the government school, but a campaign around his arrest is also likely to come up against the stigma that attaches to all issues involving alcohol.A signal for the Congress, too, the almost invisible third Delhi player, in the matter-of-fact response to the escalating political hostilities on public display. “A thin line divides the ruling party and Central agencies” but “there is a nyaypalika (justice system) to go to”, says Abhishek, a civil service aspirant, out with friends at a Saket mall.Santosh, the balloon seller outside the same mall, says: “Let the CBI tell us (the evidence for Sisodia’s arrest)”. And in Shalimar Bagh’s JJ cluster, Anil Chowdhury says: “One man may want to impress his dominance in the country but this is a prajatantra, not rajtantra (democracy, not monarchy)”. Rahul Gandhi’s scenario of institutions bent and broken under the growing pressure of authoritarianism strikes very few sparks.
One morning in July 1948, a group of women convened somewhere in the quaint riverside town of Tezpur in central Assam. They met often but the outcome of this meeting was unlike any other: a stream of angry letters to the editor, a fair amount of name-calling, and fodder for a long-running joke among the townsfolk. An idea this crazy could come only from Tezpur, someone had said, alluding to the town being home to one of the country’s oldest mental asylums.The cause of this flutter? The ladies had proposed that families in Assam adopt “fixed mealtimes” in order to enable “women’s leisure”.“Women have to keep themselves busy with kitchen work all day long and as such are not free to join any activities outside the domestic sphere…in order to…take their part in cultural activities they must have sufficient leisure”, the resolution [in Assamese] stated. Making a case for lunch by 12 PM and dinner by 10 PM for towns across Assam, it asked for “public cooperation”, and added: “No meal should be served after one hour of the proposed time.”The resolution was reproduced in several Assamese dailies, as well as The Assam Tribune, the state’s oldest circulating English language newspaper. Public outrage followed.“What is the duty of a wife towards such a husband who toiled the whole day in scorching sun… Is it her duty to stop his meals when his belly is burning of hunger? Is it her duty to go for social work when he needs someone dearer and nearer to share his exhaustion… and invigorate his losing spirit and energy?” wrote a particularly angry gentleman from Guwahati in his letter to the editor. Another dismissed it as “occasional entertainment”. He added: “No amount of participation in cultural activities would be able to compensate a woman for the loss of happiness at home.”It is unlikely that the Tezpur resolution was implemented, but 75 years later it stands out as among the many examples of quiet rebellion that make up the storied history of the Tezpur Mahila Samiti, one among the few pre-independence ‘women’s collectives’ that had sprung up in towns across Assam.For the last two years, Northeast Lightbox, a Guwahati-based non-profit collective, has been creating a digital database of the Tezpur Samiti, documenting testimonials, official records, publications, meeting minutes and photographs, spanning over a period of a hundred years.For three days in March, the non-profit, supported by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies, and Tezpur University, is putting the collection up on display in the nearly 72-year-old Assam-type office of Mahila Samiti in an exhibition titled ‘Sisters of Tezpur’.“Whether it was during the Indo-China war, or the Tibetan refugee crisis, women here in Tezpur sacrificed and did outstanding work. But we never hear of them in mainstream discourses,” said Northeast Lightbox’s Anidrita Saikia. “By expanding beyond chronicles of politics and events, our project explores narratives of localised feminist history, often overlooked in the mainstream discourses of the regional past.”Fighting patriarchy at homeTo this day, mahila samitis across Assam — both district and village level, numbering at least a thousand — make up a rich part of the state’s women’s movement.But in the early 1900s, they came up one by one (Dibrugarh in 1907, Sivasagar in 1916, Nagaon in 1917, Tezpur in 1918) in urban centres across Assam, before the apex Assam Mahila Samiti was formed in 1926, with firebrand feminist leader Chandraprabha Saikiani as its founding secretary. It went on to become, in the words of famous freedom fighter and politician Sucheta Kripalani, the “largest democratic women’s association in India by 1949”.Formed largely in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for women to participate in the freedom struggle, the samitis forayed into the national movement with activities related to weaving, handloom and the spinning of khadi. But soon, argues Dr Hemjyoti Medhi, Associate Professor at Tezpur University, they emerged as “independent movements articulating their own separate agendas”.Apart from fixed mealtimes by the Tezpur Samiti, the Assam Mahila Samiti, served a legal notice (citing the Child Marriage Restraint Act or the Sarda Act as it was popularly known in 1929) to a groom in 1934 for marrying a 12-year-old. Later in 1948, the members tried to enter the kirtan ghar (prayer hall) of the Barpeta Satra, which bars the entry of women even today. “So while most would remember the samitis within the framework of the national movement, they actually go beyond it. Instead of [just] fighting the colonial authority, they were fighting patriarchy at home,” Medhi said.Meenakshi Bhuyan, a resident of Tezpur and member of the Tezpur Samiti since she was a teen, said most of these examples can be found in newspaper clippings and preserved meeting minutes — which form a section of the Northeast Lightbox exhibition. “At the end of every meeting, the women would pass a resolution, which would be forwarded to the government,” she said. Bhuyan, now 80, says she was “shocked” when she came across the clipping about the “fixed lunch and dinner hours” in her mother’s (also an active member of the committee in the 1940s) cupboard. “Fixed meal times, free and compulsory education for girls, questions about why women are relegated to certain kinds of jobs (nurses and teachers) were things they discussed. Imagine in the 1940s…they were truly ahead of the times,” she said.Take for instance, a meeting from August 26, 1928, minutes of which state: “Out of all the speeches, the poetry presentation by Devyani Devi was a remarkable one. Despite the fact of her incomplete elementary education, the poem was incredibly mature and was praised in unison. This sends a message to all women who are illiterate that more than formal education, will and passion are crucial in channelling one’s expression.” According to Medhi, it is instances like these that illustrate how the Samiti “accelerated” women’s foray into the public sphere. “Middle class women came out mostly during Gandhian mobilisation of the Indian nationalist movement. And mahila samitis accelerated the process by extending this participation from politics to other spheres of public life such as cultural performances, participation in literary society meetings, public speaking, among other things,” she said.1959: To the aid of the Tibetan refugeesPerhaps it was around the 1962 Indo-China War, as Chinese troops reached Bomdila, about 150 km away from Tezpur that the Tezpur Samiti did its most defining work.In 1959, as India gave asylum to the Dalai Lama, Tibetan refugees flowed in. From stitching clothes for the refugees to raising funds and mobilising volunteers, old timers remember the Samiti giving their “heart and soul” to the refugees.Just before the war, the women of Tezpur also underwent voluntary military training by the Indian Home Guard: an enduring image from the time — also a part of the Lightbox exhibit — shows women in their traditional mekhela sadors, many of the members of the Samiti, holding rifles.Bhuyan recalled that the work did not end even after a ceasefire was declared in 1962, “After the war, the Samiti sprang back to action… members visited the war-affected areas in of Rupa, Bomdila, Sessa in Arunachal Pradesh (the North-East Frontier Agency) and set up schools and anganwadis,” she said. In 1964, the Samiti raised Rs 14,000 (by no means a small sum) and donated it to the Prime Minister National Defence Fund.Since the 1980s, the samiti’s work has been focused on income generation to address inequality among women. “Programmes were held to train women in agriculture, dairy, weaving, sericulture… but alongside they would also hold sensitisation programmes on domestic violence and women’s rights,” said Dr Monisha Behal, a social worker and women’s rights activist, who was associated with the Samiti in the 1980s.Till today, it continues to focus on such initiatives: weaving, small saving schemes, assistance in domestic violence cases. Medhi pointed out that while the Samiti had gone through some periods of lull, it has sustained itself through the years. Exhibitions like these make for crucial interventions. “Going back to documents is very important… it reminds us of radical or subversive moments by these women, which would have otherwise been forgotten,” she said.‘Sisters of Tezpur’ is open to the public from March 16 to 18 at the Tezpur Mahila Samiti premises in Tezpur, Assam
FROM THE state that pioneered the mid-day meal scheme, comes some astounding good news regarding the effects of introducing free breakfast in schools. A recent assessment study by the School Education Department shows that in all but six of the 1,545 government primary schools where the scheme was introduced in September last year, attendance has seen an increase.The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme covers 1.5 lakh students currently, with the state declaring that it will extend it to all government primary schools, benefiting 17 lakh students in total, by June this year.For the M K Stalin government, which has projected its “Dravidian model” as superior to the Centre’s, this is a great endorsement. Particularly as a proposal in the New Education Policy of the Narendra Modi government to introduce breakfast besides mid-day meals in schools, remained a non-starter after the Ministry of Finance baulked at the estimated cost of around Rs 4,000 crore.The Tamil Nadu government’s assessment study shows that in 1,086 schools of the 1,545 schools covered by the breakfast scheme, attendance was up 20%. In 22 schools, the rise was more than 40%. Across all districts, there was an increase in attendance, while in the districts of Tirupathur, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Tiruvarur, all schools where the scheme was rolled out showed the phenomenon.The DMK-led government mooted the plan based on its finding that many children who come to government schools do so without any food in the morning, either due to strained circumstances, or working parents who did not find the time to cook, or the long distance they had to cover to reach school on time.Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan told The Indian Express that the gains from the scheme currently surpass those from mid-day meal, and that they too were taken by surprise by the findings. “The study shows that the breakfast scheme is proving to be more important than lunch. Though these schemes focus on improving nutrition, overall development and long-term outcomes, the government did not expect such a sudden improvement in attendance records,” he said, adding that 300-400 schools had seen more than a 10 per cent increase in attendance, while in some schools, this was as high as 200%.Crucial learnings from the mid-day meal scheme, now in place in the state for about seven decades, were applied, including the fact that two-thirds of its cost went towards non-food expenses and that quality control remained a challenge.So the breakfast scheme is run using common kitchens, or what are popularly known as cloud kitchens in urban areas, with automated machines doing the cooking, with no human interface. The meals are then dispatched on trucks to schools.In rural areas, they are run with the help of Self-help Groups (SHGs) under local bodies. Members of the SHGs are parents of children who themselves buy the ingredients and prepare the food.The amount assigned is Rs 12.75 per student currently, working out to Rs 33.56 crore in all. Of the 1,545 schools, 417 are located in cities, 163 in towns, 728 in rural and 237 in remote, hilly regions. The menu changes on a daily basis and includes items such as upma, khichdi, pongal, rava kesari, semiya kesari.When the 1956 Congress government of K Kamaraj first introduced the noon meal scheme in government schools, children were served “baby rotis”. The subsequent DMK and AIADMK governments expanded the funding and menu. In 1989, the M Karunanidhi-led DMK government added an egg a week, increased it to three in 2007 and five by 2010 (the option for non-egg eaters was banana). The AIADMK government led by Jayalalithaa introduced rice varieties to the menu.Officials point out how the mid-day meal initially did not have takers either. J Jeyaranjan, Vice-Chairman, Tamil Nadu Planning Board, says among them was Manmohan Singh, who later as Prime Minister would roll out widely appreciated welfare programmes like the MNREGA.A Planning Commissioner member at the time, Singh questioned the then M G Ramachandran’s plans to expand the noon meal programme. “He asked MGR if he planned to run schools or eateries, inviting instant objection by MGR,” recalls Jeyaranjan.The success of the breakfast scheme is also a good counterpoint for the DMK against the BJP campaign accusing Opposition governments of freebies, or revdis as Modi first dubbed them. While Tamil Nadu is ahead of most states in its politicians offering doles in the run-up to elections, the breakfast meal bolsters the Opposition’s argument that there is only a fine distinction between freebies and welfare.
The technical education department in Punjab procured 3,780 two-seater desks/chairs for Rs 2.31 crore when the department actually only needed 1,512 such two-seaters and when the polytechnics for which the furniture was being procured were still under construction. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has now raised questions on the former SAD-BJP government for purchasing the chairs “in excess of immediate requirement” and the former Congress government for not returning the money to the Centre.Objecting to the procurement of the two-seater desks/chairs, the CAG said these were in “excess of immediate requirement, even before completion of civil work of the polytechnic buildings, in contravention of the Punjab Financial Rules”. This resulted in an unnecessary expenditure of Rs 1.39 crore.According to the CAG report, the procurement was done under the Centre’s nationwide scheme, ‘Sub-Mission on Polytechnics’. In 2009, seven districts in Punjab were identified for setting up new polytechnics under the scheme – Barnala, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Kapurthala, Mansa, Muktsar and Nawanshahr. “Accordingly, GoI released central assistance of Rs 70 crore (Rs 56 crore for civil works and Rs 14 crore for M&E) between July 2009 and June 2016, leaving a balance of Rs 16.10 crore for the purpose,” the report says.The ordered desks/chairs were received in March-April 2014, 540 two-seaters at each polytechnic. However, the excess number of 2,268 desks/chairs lay idle or were used for unintended purposes in the polytechnics for more than eight years, the CAG has observed.From March 2007 to 2017, the SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal was in power in Punjab. In March 2017, the Congress government led by Amarinder Singh took over the reins.In 2009, the chief engineer (buildings) of the state public works department worked out the estimated cost of civil works for all seven polytechnics at Rs 130.41 crore (Rs 18.63 crore per polytechnic) to construct a four-storey main building and workshop, meeting All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) norms. However, in January-February 2010, the department began construction work on single-storey buildings (with a foundation for additional three storeys) and the workshop for seven polytechnics with the available funds of Rs 56 crore (i.e. Rs 8 crore per polytechnic). This work was completed by 2013-14 for Rs 59.43 crore, the CAG report says.In the meantime, in November 2011, the department notified five courses with an annual intake of 60 students per course, per polytechnic. However, in November 2012, the AICTE, considering the available infrastructure, approved only two courses with an annual intake of 60 students per course per polytechnic from the 2012-13 session, initially in mentor institutes (second shift) for two years, and thereafter, in newly constructed polytechnics. The requirement of funds to build the remaining storeys escalated to Rs 115.29 crore by October 2015 due to time overruns, the report says. All this was during the SAD-BJP government’s tenure.However, even in 2022, the polytechnics remained incomplete for want of additional funds from the Punjab government. The institutes continued to run two courses from the partially constructed buildings with an annual sanctioned intake of 15-60 students per course. After observing that the construction was not being done as per AICTE norms and the lack of an undertaking from the government or department on further construction, the Centre did not release balance funds of Rs 16.10 crore. In November 2016, the Centre instead asked the department to refund the already released central assistance of Rs 70 crore along with interest, if any. The subsequent action of the department was awaited as of November 2022, the report points out.The CAG has said that knowing that without completion of civil works as per AICTE norms, the polytechnics cannot run to full capacity, and without obtaining even an assurance from the finance department on funds to complete the civil works, the department in March 2014 still placed a supply order for 3,780 two-seater desks/chairs.
More than 700 Indian students are facing deportation from Canada after the authorities in the North American country found their ‘admission offer letters’ to educational institutions to be fake. They received the deportation letters from the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) recently.According to media reports, these 700 students had applied for study visas via Education Migration Services (located in Jalandhar) headed by Brijesh Mishra, who had charged more than Rs 16 lakh per student for all expenses, including admission fee to premier institute Humber College but excluding the air tickets and security deposits.These students had gone to Canada on a study basis in 2018-19 . The fraud came to light when these students applied for permanent residency (PR) in Canada for which the ‘admission offer letters’ came under scrutiny, that is, the CBSA examined the documents based on which the visas were issued to the students and found the ‘admission offer letters’ to be fake.Experts said most of these students had already completed their studies, got work permits and gained work experience as well. It’s only when they applied for PR, they landed in trouble.This education fraud is one of its kind which came to the fore in Canada for the first time. Experts said that such a big fraud was a result of a large number of applicants to Canada.A Jalandhar-based consultant, who has been sending students to Canada for the past 10 years, told The Indian Express that in such frauds multiple factors are involved – from getting forged offer letters of colleges to providing forged fee payment receipts to students for seeking visas as visas are issued only after depositing the fee to the colleges.“In this case most of the students were provided the offer letters of such colleges where they did not study eventually after landing in Canada. They were either shifted to other colleges or asked to wait for the next semester, that is, not in the semester which was shown in the documents at the time of applying for visas,” an established consultant from Kapurthala said, adding that there is a huge rush of Indian students to Canada and such desperation of students is being capitalised by some fraudulent agents by conniving with a Canada-based private college.A Jalandhar-based student, who is among these 700 students, on the condition of anonymity told The Indian Express that she has completed her diploma in computer science from a public college in Canada because at the time of seeking visa, she was given the offer letter of a private college but she insisted for getting admission to the public (government) college and for that her fee was returned by the agent and he facilitated her to get admission in the new college. She said the consultant told her that she can change her college after reaching Canada.She said that there are several such cases wherein students change their college on reaching Canada after paying some commission to the agent.Several students said that their fee was returned to them by the said agent because of which they took admission to some other colleges but they did not update the Canadian government about it. And returning the fee (by agent) made things less suspicious about the agent.Another consultant told The Indian Express that in this case the role of those colleges which had issued the ‘admission offer letters’ must be scrutinised, that is, whether they (colleges) had actually issued them or were they forged by the agent. He also said that the involvement of such colleges cannot be ruled out as students are mostly unaware of such things.Earlier also a few colleges in Montreal were blacklisted by the Quebec government due to high rate of admission of international students there, and students who took admission to these colleges were advised by Indian High Commission to file a complaint with the ministry of higher education, the government of Quebec. These students were then given a negative review but now they are being considered empathetically by the Canadian High Commission, said a consultant. Reports said that the students’ only option is to challenge the deportation notices in court, where proceedings could last around four years.Police Commissioner Jalandhar Kuldeep Singh Chahal told The Indian Express that no such complaint has come to his notice at the moment.Students said that the agent did it quite smartly as he did not sign any application. He (agent) got everything signed by the students, that is, the students were made self-applicants. So, now it is difficult to prove his (agent) involvement in this fraud. At the same time, it is also difficult to prove the students’ innocence. But the fact of the matter is that all the students are innocent, the students said.
The UK has been one of the most popular destinations for Indian students planning to study overseas. With a list of renowned universities, the UK is a preferred destination to build a great career. Over the past decade, Indian students have increasingly opted to enroll at a university in the UK to reap from its education legacy and gain exposure to new ideologies and opportunities. India-UK have also strengthened their ties to actively work towards improving prospects in higher education for students across both nations.Universities in the UK enable students to expand their horizons, by delivering key skills that can allow them to future proof their professional profiles, and be employable, even sought-after by employers, in a globalized market. This has been possible since the nation offers a strong curriculum backed by research and real-time learning. In fact, Indian students recognise the edge they can get by pursuing higher education in the UK compared to other popular international destinations. In the past two years, both India and the UK have worked together towards Internationalizing higher education, with more plans of cooperation in transnational education. It therefore comes as no surprise that the UK has witnessed a sharp rise in study visa applications from Indian students. As per the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the overall number of students from India in the UK in 2021/22 stood at 126,535, a rise of 50% compared with the previous year.Here are a few reasons that make the UK a great stepping-stone for a global career after UG/PG courses.Academic Quality and Curriculum The UK’s world class institutions offer high value credentials with a curriculum focused on research and innovation and practical application of all that students learn in the classrooms. With thousands of courses to choose from across 100 plus universities students have many options. Additionally, the availability of alumni support, student communities and experienced faculty really bumps up the experience for international students. The UK’s flexible educational system allows students a chance to learn in a way that fits their lifestyle and professional goals. Students gain a distinct perspective from the UK’s blend of various cultures, modern thought, and interesting adventures. The UK is also home to four of the top 10 institutes globally as per QS World Rankings 2023 and 81 in the list of top 1,000, making it the hub of quality education. The UK lays greater emphasis on balanced learning and prepares students for diverse scenarios. As per a fact reported by UUKI’s International Graduate Outcomes report, 83% of international graduates agree that their degree from the UK helps them secure a job. Scaling EmployabilityA college degree from the UK holds tremendous value and can provide a foot in the door for many opportunities. The employment opportunities in the UK have received a leg up with the launch of the Graduate Route. Introduced in July 2021, the GR permits Indian graduates to stay back in the UK and find employment in an allocated time of two years, while students with doctoral (Ph.D.) qualifications get an extra year. The prospect improves possibilities for Indian students looking to gain work experience in the UK. Students also get many opportunities to upskill their skill set through internships and placements while studying.At UK universities the programmes are designed with the goal of giving students a practical, relevant grasp of the disciplines that will give them a chance to find employment in an unstable and dynamic work environment. Also, the strong industry-academia link all but ensures relevant learning and relevant exposure. This also allows students to make strong influential professional networks. Recognition of DegreesEducation, research and innovation are the key pillars of the India-UK bilateral relationship. On 21 July 2022, the nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to legally recognise each other’s academic qualifications. Under the agreement, all bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees are legally recognised. To clarify, higher secondary education credentials from India are eligible for admission to UK higher education institutions. Also, Indian graduates can now apply for post-doctoral degrees, which wasn’t possible previously. This expansive cooperation between universities has further augmented the growth of direct linkages and alliances between higher education institutes of both countries, besides encouraging the two-way mobility of students, teachers and researchers.The proof of mobility lies with the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa (Tier 1) which supports graduates with a business idea to set up their establishments in the UK. The historic agreement also has a potent impact on facilitation of mobility. This means movement of students and academicians back-and-forth between India-UK, making it convenient to work or pursue higher education. ConclusionRight from quality and value of education to establishing a support system, the universities in the UK have made it possible for international students to access training in science, technology, arts, culture, business and many more disciplines opportunities to be equally shared. With the ever-increasing demand to hone dynamic skills, the launchpad is well and truly available. Also, with programmes like Graduate Route and MRQs the transition for Indian students to kick-start their career will further ease.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed an order passed by the Director of School Education, Punjab, on March 9 appointing Deputy District Education Officer (DEO), Patiala as the administrator of Mohindra Kanya Maha Vidyalaya, an aided school in Patiala.The order was passed by Justice Pankaj Jain on a petition filed by the managing committee of Mohindra Kanya Maha Vidyalaya, Nabha Gate, Patiala, through its secretary Preetinder Singh Sidhu. The committee had challenged the appointment alleging it to be illegal, arbitrary, and also against the canon of justice.The counsels of the petitioner, Kapil Kakkar and Shreesh Kakkar, argued before the high court that the director had no authority under any law, statute, regulation, or rule to make such an appointment and as such the order was not without jurisdiction.It was further alleged that the director had passed the order with malafide intention at the behest of the District Education Officer, Patiala, who has been nursing a grudge towards the management for long and the education department authorities were unnecessarily creating hurdles in the functioning of the school.Justice Jain, while issuing the notice of motion for July 9, 2023, said, “It is sad to see that an aided educational institution is being repeatedly forced to spend its resources to save its autonomy and to save the institution from being poached that too at the hands of the public authority.”Sehajbir S Aulakh, assistant advocate general, Punjab, accepted the notice on behalf of the respondents.Meanwhile, the court directed the Director of School Education, Punjab, to file an affidavit explaining the conduct of his office on or before the next date of hearing. The HC held that in the meantime the operation of the order shall remain stayed.
MSBTE Winter Result 2023: Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education has released the MSBTE Winter Result 2023 today, on February 22. Candidates who appeared in the January Diploma examination can check and download their result from the official website of MSBTE at msbte.org.in.Candidates can check the MSBTE Diploma Result 2023 by simply logging in their 'Enrollment Number' or 'Seat Number' on the official portal. The MSBTE theory exam for all the students was conducted from January 03 to January 24, 2023. While, the practical exam for newly admitted students of Semester-I was held from December 26 to December 30, 2022, and for other students from December 22 to 30, 2022.To check the Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education Winter Diploma Result 2023, candidates can follow the below-mentioned steps.Direct Link: MSBTE Winter Diploma Result 2023How to check MSBTE Diploma Result 2023?Step 1. Visit the official website at msbte.org.in Step 2. On the homepage, click on the line that reads, "Click here to see Winter 2022 Diploma Results"Step 3. A new page will open, login using your enrollment numberStep 4. Your MSBTE result will appear on the screen Step 5. Download and take a printout of the result for future referenceCandidates can refer to the academic calendar for the session 2022-23 for AICTE-Approved Diploma Engineering, PCI-Approved Diploma Pharmacy & State Government Approved Short Term (Non-AICTE) Courses.
Mumbai: The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body for technical professional education, has closed about a dozen regional offices across the country. The decision to centralise all operations, though, had not gone down well with several students and faculty who said the nodal officers in the regional centres were approachable and local problems were solved quickly. Yet, last week, the AICTE directed all its officers to display a circular that regional offices have been shut and all issues and queries must be escalated at the headquarter level.“Maharashtra is one of the states with a large number of institutions imparting technical education which are regulated by AICTE. The AICTE’s western office is located in Mumbai and is convenient to all stakeholders. There is unrest among the stakeholders regarding the shifting proposal,” said Vinod Mohitkar, in-charge head of the state Directorate of Technical Education. “The AICTE was set up as an Act of the Parliament. To shut the regional offices, the matter should have been placed in the Parliament. But that was not done. The future of hundreds of contractual employees who were hired is in the dark now,” said a senior AICTE officer.“Colleges flouting norms, not paying salaries, were all issues that one could raise with the regional offices,” said Vaibhav Narawde, general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangathan. “Each year when scrutiny of institutes takes place, there is a gathering at Sydenham College where we need to go with so many files. Do they now expect every college to travel to Delhi for this work?” he asked.
MUMBAI: A pan-India study has revealed that dementia, a debilitating disorder that affects memory and cognitive function, is prevalent among an estimated 7.4% of seniors, or 8.8 million individuals, in the country. This figure is notably higher than previous estimates, which had put the prevalence at 3.7 million in 2010 and predicted it would double by 2030. The new findings suggest that the number has doubled a decade earlier, underscoring the pressing need for better care and support.Maharashtra has been identified as one of 11 states where prevalence is higher than the national average. It is 7.61% in the state, with researchers projecting that individuals living with the condition in the state will rise from nearly a million to 1.8 million by 2036. Notably, the study, led by researchers from the University of Southern California, and AIIMS, in collaboration with 18 other institutes, including Mumbai's JJ Hospital, found wide variations in the presence of dementia among different states.Dementia prevalence was found to be almost double among women (9%) than men (5.8%), which experts have linked with differences in education and early life nutrition. Prevalence was also higher in the rural areas at 8.4% than in urban areas (5.3%), underlining the urgent need to scale up diagnosis in rural health facilities. Further, lower education was associated with a greater risk of dementia even in this study. The estimated prevalence was 10% in those with no education at all, compared to 4.5% in those who had primary level education and 1.5% in those who went to eighth standard and above."Different levels of education across states could also contribute to cross-state differences in various dementia risk factors, such as under-nutrition, uncontrolled cardiovascular disease, and exposure to indoor air pollution," the researchers noted in the paper, calling for more localised policies to tackle the disorder. "This is the largest cognitive ageing study in the world where globally-used scientific tools have been deployed to show that dementia affects nearly all regions, and that India needs to double down on empowering all health systems, including primary health centres, to tackle it," said Dr Aparajit Dey, formerly project lead with the department of geriatric medicine at AIIMS, Delhi. He said that while the high rural incidence or the education correlation was not completely unknown, the wide variation between states surprised researchers. The prevalence of dementia in J&K is the highest in the country, at 11%. While most of the samples were collected from Kashmir, experts believe there is scope for more detailed study to gauge if political turbulence over decades played a role. Dr Lalit Sankhe, head of community medicine at JJ Hospital, said it was crucial now to understand the early onset of dementia and explore preventive measures. Dr Dev said upcoming phases of the study will look at nutritional aspects and if a correlation exists with developing dementia.
Kolhapur: Employees of non-agricultural universities across the state will start an indefinite strike from February 20 demanding that the government agrees to their demands. A decision in this regard was taken during the online meeting of the Maharashtra State University and College Employees’ Joint Action Committee. The committee has already boycotted the conduct of all university and college-level examinations to meet their pending demands since February 2. Milind Bhosale, the chief coordinator of the committee, said, “A meeting was held between deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the joint action committee members on February 15 in Mumbai. The deputy CM was positive regarding four of our demands. However, the minutes of the meeting provided by the higher and technical education department were not in accordance with that. All non-agricultural universities and affiliated colleges will remain closed indefinitely from 20 February.”
PUNE: The state education department has decided to implement PM Shri Yojana, which provides for comprehensive development of 846 schools in the state. State project director of Maharashtra Prathamik Shikshan Parishad (Maharashtra Primary Education Council), Kailash Pagare said, "In the second phase of this scheme, schools will be selected from among 408 groups, 28 municipalities, 383 local self-governments, and municipal councils."The scheme is implemented through the committee headed by the school education minister at the state level, by the chief executive officer at the district level, and by the municipal commissioner at the municipal level. The state project director will be the chairman of the state implementation committee.Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, access and infrastructure, human resources and school leadership, inclusive practices and gender issues, management, monitoring and administration, and beneficiary satisfaction will be the six key pillars of development under this scheme, said Pagare.Various committees have been formed for this purpose and experiential learning will be imparted through these schools. "Students will be assessed based on their conceptual understanding and application of knowledge in real life. Ex-students will also be involved in these schools to provide career guidance and educational assistance to the students. If students drop out of school, such children will be re-admitted and brought into the mainstream," Pagare added.
PUNE: After a lull in the past two years for the middle (Std V) and high (Std VIII) school scholarships, the response to the exam this year was tremendous with 96% and 97% attendance from students across Maharashtra. The scholarship examination was conducted by the Maharashtra State Examination Council on Sunday in 38 districts for which a total of 9.6 lakh students had registered.The scholarship exam is held every year in February. For Std V, 5.3 lakh students registered and for Std VIII, 3.6 lakh students had registered. Last year, 3.82 lakh Std V students and 2.79 lakh pupils from Std VIII appeared for the examinaiton.According to education officer Smita Goud, who looks after the scholarship exams in Maharashtra, the exam was conducted smoothly in 429 talukas and 52,536 schools on Sunday. "The exam was held in time without any technical difficulties," she added.As many as 6,183 centre heads, 221, sub-centre heads, 44,797 invigilators, 11,891 peons, 114 district-level employees, and 858 taluka-level employees were on duty.
NAGPUR: From just 60 students in August 2016 to over 900 students, the Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU) in the city has come a long way in its six and a half years of the journey. Starting its operations from the Judicial Officers’ Training Academy (JOTI) at Civil Lines, the premier institution has moved to its full-fledged campus at Waranga off Wardha Road spread over 60 acres in 2021.On Saturday, it would be hosting its first ever convocation which would be attended by Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Chandrachud. A major part of the law university’s development came when former CJI Sharad Bobde was made its first chancellor. After Bobde’s retirement, Supreme Court judge Bhushan Gavai was appointed and the pace of development continued. Both ex-CJI Bobde and Gavai would attend the ceremony which would be held at MNLU’s new campus from 11.55am, said officials.Set up by the Maharashtra government under the 2014 Act, the MNLU would be holding two convocations simultaneously of the 2016 and 2017 batches. Due to Covid pandemic, it could not hold the ceremony for both these batches. The institution would confer 220 degrees, including graduate, postgraduate and PhD degrees on Saturday and also bestow 28 gold medals to meritorious students from all courses. “We are on the verge of completion of our first phase. We have completed two academic blocks and hostels for boys and girls. We would inaugurate the new buildings of the first phase in the next three to four months as per the chancellor’s directives,” vice chancellor Vijender Kumar told TOI.MNLU is preparing drawings for its second phase of expansion which would have an additional number of hostels for both boys and girls to accommodate them. It also plans to start a BScLLB course in the third phase of expansion. “We are preparing architectural designs of the new buildings. We will submit them to the government in the next five to six months for approval. We will have an additional administrative block and a part of the library in this phase along with dining halls for students. Currently, around 700 students are staying in the hostels while 180 have been accommodated in the Moraj township in Mihan,” the VC said.
NASHIK: State medical education minister and pro-chancellor of Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) Girish Mahajan has called upon medical graduates and postgraduates to stick to ethics and render proper services to people, especially the poor, in rural areas of the state.Addressing a gathering during the 22nd convocation of MUHS at the university premises on Monday, Mahajan said, “There are instances of some medical practitioners engaging in illegal practices that cause more harm to patients. The graduates and postgraduates passing out of the university should not engage in unhealthy and illegal practices as they tend to tarnish the image of the medical fraternity.”Professor of Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences of Savitribai Phule Pune University Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, currently chairman NAAC, vice-chancellor of MUHS Lt General Madhuri Kanitkar (Retd) and others were present on the occasion.Mahajan said that the work in the health sector will always be challenging and all those working in the sector should cultivate positivity, ensure good communication with patients and their relatives to avoid bitter incidents and be committed socially.The minister also pointed out that the government was undertaking a campaign to raise awareness among the masses on issues like blood donation to ensure easy availability, obesity – to fight diabetes and other diseases, Swaachh Mukh Abhiyaan (Clean Mouth Mission) – to curb chances of cancer, thyroid, prevention of blindness, organ donation etc.Dr Patwardhan urged the students to refrain from aping the west blindly. He said that their eating habits should not be adopted but their discipline should be inculcated. He called upon the medical practitioners to bring glory to the family physician concept and implement the integrated medicinal approach.Lt General Kanitkar (Retd) said 52 students have been admitted to the Maharashtra Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research Centre, Nashik, currently being run at Civil Hospital Nashik, and thus the number of doctors in the hospital has increased significantly. Degrees were awarded to 12,727 graduates of various faculties of the university who completed their diploma, degree and postgraduate courses.
NAGPUR: The Nashik-based Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the data science department of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, for developing a search portal on diseases and their patterns.This year, the plan is to create a search-portal using 12B2 analytical tool developed by Harvard Medical School which will be made available to MUHS and teaching hospitals free of cost. “We will conduct joint training programmes for capacity building at Nashik Civil Hospital, and workshops to train our faculty students and staff to use the portal. Projects for health-quality improvement and research, using the portal, will also be undertaken,” Dr Madhuri Kanitkar, vice-chancellor, MUHS, said.Four faculty members from the US-based hospital had flown down to Nashik on Friday for conducting a training workshop. All stakeholders, including medical education and drugs department (MeDD), directorate of medical education and research (DMER), deans of medical colleges and IT departments and professionals participated in the workshop.“All those handling clinical workload got training on analyzing and utilizing patient data. The MGH will help us know how to develop an online platform for seamless data availability. We often face this situation where we come across complaints on poor maintenance of health records. Without sharing our patient data with MGH, we shall learn how to make proper use of it,” said Dr Kanitkar.She said that the project has already been implemented in Nashik General Hospital. “Data from around four departments of the hospital is now being processed,” she said.“The portal will make it easy for faculty to quickly find the number of patients with particular diseases, and to study the seasonal trend of the disease. It will help students develop an understanding of the indigenous patterns of disease, rather than rely on text-book content from western countries. The portal will also be helpful for municipal and government officials to rapidly monitor public health related issues, like caseloads during an epidemic, utilization of medications etc. Overall, the portal will allow healthcare service providers to understand and address the local population needs apart from increasing the cost-efficiency of the system,” Dr Kanitkar said.
PUNE: The admission process under the 25% Right to Education (RTE) Act quota for students belonging to economically backward classes will start online from February 20, the state primary education department has said. There are over one lakh seats under the scheme in over 8,600 schools in Maharashtra. Officials stated that they had expected 9,230 schools to register this year, but the response was low ."It will take nine days for the verification of the schools registered. Parents have been requested to keep the necessary documents ready for the admission of their children," said Sharad Gosavi, chairman of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. He added that parents seeking admission need to visit this website: https://rte25admission.maharashtra.gov.in/adm_portal/There are 15,622 seats available across 931 schools in the Pune district. More than 400 schools are still due for registration, so the seats are likely to increase, said Gosavi.