The Delhi Government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) are working together to ensure better education for every child, Delhi Education Minister Atishi said Saturday. The AAP leader and Delhi Mayor Dr Shelly Oberoi interacted with principals from various schools under the Directorate of Education (DoE) and MCD during their orientation programme on Mission Buniyaad held at Thyagaraj Stadium.“Mission Buniyaad is a platform that aims to ensure better education for every child in Delhi, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” said Atishi. “I am happy that the Delhi government and the MCD teams are now working together on a platform to ensure better education for every child in Delhi. Seventy-five years ago, Babasaheb had dreamt that every child in the country, irrespective of their background, should have access to good education and equal opportunities. It is a happy occasion that on the day after Ambedkar Jayanti, our entire education team is discussing how we can provide quality education to every child,” she added.The minister added that the future of many children is determined at a young age. Those with resources send their children to private schools where they receive a better education and find better job opportunities. Meanwhile, those without resources are forced to send their children to government schools where the quality of education is often not as good.Under the programme, children in grades 3 to 5 will be taught to read short stories smoothly and all remaining children in grades 6 to 8 will be taught to read advanced stories. This will help them in reading their textbooks. In addition, all children will be taught to simplify fractions.As per an official notification on Saturday, attention will be given to activities that help children read fluently, write without mistakes and understand high-order maths problems related to multiplication and division with a clear understanding.In addition, under the leadership of the State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT), DoE and seniorofficials of the MCD, a nodal team has prepared a joint teaching strategy to monitor the progress of children in detail. Now, MCD schools and teachers will ensure that every child in the sixth grade will be completely skilled inreading, writing and solving math problems in the coming year.
THE SURPRISE resignation of Thokchom Radheshyam Singh, the advisor to Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, on Thursday could prove embarrassing for the CM. A BJP MLA, Radheshyam has said that he was not left with any choice as he was not given any responsibilities, nor consulted on anything since his appointment.A former IPS officer, Radheshyam formally joined the BJP in 2016 after taking voluntary retirement from service. It was a significant addition for the BJP as Radheshyam was a celebrated police officer, who had led anti-militant operations as in-charge of a special police commando force, served as SP of different districts of the state and as commandant, Manipur Rifles.During the peak of the Manipuri insurgency in 1996, Radheshyam had survived an ambush after suffering seven bullet injuries, losing a colleague and six police personnel. His police service would see him earn many commendations and awards, including the President’s Police Medal for gallantry and meritorious services, besides commendations of the Chief of Army Staff and the DGP.After resigning on Friday, Radheshyam said he had entered mainstream politics for three reasons. “The first is that the MLA of my constituency back then was not working in the interests of the people. Secondly, I wanted to be part of policymaking, as schemes or policies were not reaching the targeted people. Thirdly, my constituency was lagging behind in development.”He said he had chosen the BJP as he had been a part of the ABVP in college and had worked with its Manipur in-charge Madhu Lohar, and that he had also been associated with the Sangh Parivar since 1988.In his first election in the 2017 state Assembly polls, Radheshyam contested from Heirok constituency in Thoubal district and defeated Congress heavyweight Moirangthem Okendro by a huge margin. He went on to become a minister in the N Biren Singh-led BJP government, and was given the important portfolios of education, labour and employment, which he held for three-and-a-half years. During his stint as the Manipur education minister, he was credited with initiatives in the education sector such as “School Fagathansi (Let us improve schools)” and “No Bag Day” on Saturdays.CM Biren Singh dropped Radheshyam from his Cabinet as part of a mid-term reshuffle in September 2020, in which six Cabinet Ministers, including three from the BJP, were replaced by five new faces. The CM said the objective of the reshuffle was “progress”, and that the government would perform better. But there were reports then that some of the MLAs were unhappy at being dropped.In the 2022 Assembly elections that returned the BJP to power, Radheshyam was elected from Heirok again, but this time was not given a Cabinet berth.The CM is yet to comment on the development.State BJP vice-president Ch Chidananda Singh claimed the party is not aware of Radheshyam’s resignation, as he had not informed the party officially, nor approach any party leader about his grievances. “This may be his personal issue. Everything is well within the BJP family,” the senior BJP leader said.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) consulted 25 external experts to carry out its syllabus rationalisation exercise as part of which it spiked portions on Mughals, Mahatma Gandhi, his assassin Nathuram Godse, reference to Hindu extremists, and the 2002 Gujarat riots among others from school textbooks.According to a written response to a Lok Sabha question, dated July 18, 2022, groups of such experts of two to five each were engaged by the seven subject departments of the NCERT, whose “in-house experts” were also involved in the process which has sparked a controversy with the Opposition parties and prominent scholars questioning the deletions.Among the most contested deletions are from History and Political Science textbooks for which the NCERT consulted five and two external experts respectively, according to the answer in response to a question by NCP MP Mohammed Faizal. One round of consultation each was held with the experts, added the reply.In the case of History, the five experts who were consulted are Umesh Kadam, who is a professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and a member secretary at the Indian Council for Historical Research; Hind College associate professor (History) Dr Archana Verma; Delhi Public School RK Puram teachers (Head of Department of History) Shruti Mishra, and two Delhi-based Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers Krishna Ranjan and Sunil Kumar.According to the Lok Sabha response by the Ministry of Education, for Political Science, the NCERT held two round of consultation with four experts: Vanthangpui Khobung, who is an assistant professor of Political Science at the NCERT’s Regional Institute of Education in Bhopal; Maneesha Pandey who teaches Political Science at Hindu College; and school teachers Kavita Jain and Sunita Kathuria.In the case of Sociology, three rounds of consultation were held with four external experts: Manju Bhatt, a former professor with the Department of Education in Social Science, NCERT; Hindu College associate professor of sociology Achala Pritam Tondon; Seema Banerjee who teaches sociology at Delhi’s Laxman Public School and Abha Seth, who also teachers the same subject at the DAV Public School at Vasant Kunj.“Aside from NCERT in-house experts, NCERT has informed that they seek expertise of subject experts from Universities/Organisations and practicing teachers in all its activities related to Research, Development, Training and Extension for wider consultation,” the ministry said in response to the Lok Sabha MP’s question on why it did not consult social scientists associated with NCERT to carry out the rationalisation.The NCERT also held a consultation meeting with 16 teachers nominated by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to discuss the rationalisation exercise, done in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, done across the subject areas, the ministry added.In June 2022, the NCERT made public a list of changes and deletions in the reprinted textbooks that came into the market recently. However, many deletions, including the ones on Mahatma Gandhi, were not notified and brought to the light by The Indian Express recently. The factors cited by the NCERT behind the deletions include content which are “overlapping”, “not relevant or outdated in the present context”, “difficult”, “easily accessible to children and can be learned through self-learning or peer-learning”.
Twenty months after the power shift in Kabul, a school for Afghan children in faraway Delhi stares at uncertainty, and possible closure, with the Taliban regime, opposed to education of girls and young women, withdrawing all support and recognition.The Ministry of External Affairs has stepped in to help nearly 300 students of the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan High School, running from a rented building in Bhogal in Delhi, by asking them to shift to “other Indian schools” given that the Afghan education board no longer grants recognition to the school or its students.The Indian Express has learnt that teachers at the school have been asked to vacate the rented building by the end of May and told that the students must enrol in schools recognised by Indian school boards.The Afghan school, which has students from classes 1 to 12, uses Dari and Pashto as the teaching medium. It is a unique space for Afghan children in the heart of Delhi, especially girls.Started in 1994 as an educational centre for children of Afghan refugees in India, it became a primary school in 2008 and a high school in 2017. It was then that the Ashraf Ghani government, on a request from the refugees in India, began funding the school and granted it recognition.All that changed when Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, 2021. When the funding from Afghan government stopped, the MEA helped the school financially and saved it from closure. But now that the school is no longer recognised by those in control of Afghanistan – India does not recognise the Taliban government – the MEA plans to shift the students to schools run by Indian boards.While MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi declined to comment on the matter, another official of the Ministry said, “Since the school is not recognised, we are considering shifting students to schools where they can get recognised certificates from CBSE etc. This is in the larger and long-term interest of the students. There is no point in continuing with a school which is no longer recognised by the authorities in Afghanistan. We will provide financial support to needy students and help them in shifting.”Reached for comment, Sayed Ziaullah Hashimi, First Secretary at the Afghanistan embassy in Delhi and a member of the school board, said, “Before the Taliban, the school was recognised by the Afghan government which used to issue certificates for board classes. After the Taliban takeover, the Afghan embassy was issuing certificates not recognised by any board. The students are being shifted for their better future. We will try to arrange other jobs for the teachers who will be unemployed.”A teacher told The Indian Express: “We were informed by Afghan embassy officials that we have to vacate the building by March 31. After we protested, they granted an extension until May-end. They told us that the MEA will no longer financially support our school and we have to close it. They said students will be transferred to Indian schools. They said the school is being closed as it does not have CBSE recognition and the building is not as per standards.”At least 17 teachers will be unemployed if the school shuts down.Despite challenges, of the 278 students, there are more girls (143) than boys (135) in the school. Seventeen students who passed out in 2022 had made it to universities, including 13 in Delhi University.Earlier, the school had also setup ‘Gandhi-Badshah Khan Educational Society’, named after Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and was planning to apply for CBSE affiliation. Asked why the school cannot be given CBSE affiliation, MEA official said: “They won’t be able to fulfil stringent CBSE norms.”Most students are worried about shifting to Indian schools because there are multiple issues such as the language barrier, syllabus change, board exam preparations.A Class 12 student said: “It is our last year in school and suddenly we are being told to shift to English-medium. Since the beginning, we have studied in our own Afghan school, in our own language. We do have English as one of our subjects but we cannot learn other subjects in English in such a short time. We request the MEA and the Government of India to please think about our future and let our own school continue. This school is also helping us keep our Afghan languages and culture alive while we live in another country.”
Parul University, renowned for its exceptional insights and knowledge, is preparing to introduce its B. Des program for the incoming batch of 2024 students. The university aims to foster creativity, imagination, and practical implementation in its students, offering specialized degrees in Interior and Future Design, Fashion Design and Technology, Product Design, and Visual Communication.The curriculum of this program spans various subjects such as design history, design theory, drawing and sketching, computer-aided design, typography, colour theory, user-centred design, and design thinking. The coursework is designed to incorporate hands-on projects and design studios, enabling students to apply the concepts learned in class to real-world design challenges.Prabhas C Pandey, Dean, Faculty of Design, Parul University expressed their elation and privilege to announce the enrichment of the program. They stated, “The university is now offering a four-year integrated B. Des program with a unique curriculum that emphasizes the development of the ability to demonstrate growth, exhibit original and novel ideas in design, and project global trends. The university’s approach towards designing is uncomplicated yet pioneering, and they aim to provide the best mentorship to their candidates. Parul University’s focus is on grooming and encouraging the creative potential of students while prioritizing originality and hard work.”Moreover, Dr. Devanshu Patel, President, Parul University outlined their educational approach, stating that they go beyond conceptual and theoretical knowledge to help students think out of the box and believe in modernity and innovation. The university has produced top creators in the country on various occasions and spotlight shows, which further enhances their design confidence and creative abilities. The designing faculty is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and design studios, which play a crucial role in shaping the practical skills of the students. This development within the students leads to an apt understanding of industrial practices during the course of the program. The curriculum is specifically designed to cater to the latest trends related to design, which further helps in the holistic growth of the students in this field. The program is tailored to cater to the individual creative elements of each student, bringing out their unique design essence and promoting innovation. The faculty, students, and placement cell’s efforts and commitment are evident in the continually rising placement figures each year. The average package offered stands at 8 LPA, while the highest package recorded is 30 LPA, showcasing the program’s effectiveness in preparing students for successful careers in the design industry.Parul University stands at the pinnacle of the education sector, providing students with a full-scale industry experience while also encouraging them to upskill and innovate. The institution has over 700 industry collaborations and has received funding worth over 10 crores for more than 125 projects and start-ups accepted within the institute. With over 45,000 students, more than 10 crore in creative innovation funding, 30+ spaces and labs, and a network of 100+ top alumni designers, the University has a strong reputation in education and exposure.Parul University has forged exclusive partnerships in the fashion design sector for recruitment with renowned brands such as Raymond, Biba, Louis Phillipe, Allen Solly, Levi’s, Oxemburg, Nike, Monte Carlo, H&M, Peter England, Manyavar, and FabIndia.Parul University aims to provide its students with a comprehensive understanding of industry concepts on a global scale. To achieve this goal, the university has established partnerships with numerous international institutions, making it easier to exchange knowledge and ideas across borders. Presently, the university proudly announces collaborations with more than 15 international universities.The University’s impressive reputation extends far beyond its outstanding academics, faculty, and infrastructure. In fact, it is the youngest university to have received NAAC A++ accreditation in the first cycle and holds global memberships in esteemed bodies like the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Furthermore, the University has earned several notable recognitions, including DISR recognition for quality research, NABL accreditation for excellence in clinical medical research, NABH accreditation for quality healthcare, and ARIIA Top 50 ranking for innovation achievements nationwide. Parul University has also received numerous awards, such as being named the Best Private University in Western India by Praxis Media and the Best University in Placements by ASSOCHAM, as well as the Most Outstanding University in the West Zone for having the highest nationalities in the campus at the World Education Summit Awards, all in recognition of its excellence in education.To know more visit https://paruluniversity.ac.in/pid/
Written by Reet MulchandaniIt’s 4am, Aundh road is desolate save for a 21-year-old who heaves for air as he runs. It’s his 37th mile in 28 hours. He gives a tired smile as he sees two people from his team sitting ahead, waiting for him to catch up. Fatigued as they all are, together their steps turn more determined, the blisters on their feet forgotten.They are all part of the 4x4x48pune challenge — running four miles every four hours for forty-eight hours. Their cause is to raise awareness and donations for three city-based NGOs, Inspiring Pink, Aseem foundation and Ekalavya Nyasa.“We wanted to make sure that our contribution can make a sizable impact to the organisations”, says Parshva Vora, a 19-year-old student of MMCOE. Vora is among the six college students and a young techie in Pune who are the faces and voices behind 4x4x48pune, an independent initiative.“Each NGO works for a different cause Inspiring Pink provides free sanitary pads and hygiene education to underprivileged women. Aseem Foundation works in the border regions of the country and has provided education for Kashmiri students. Eklavya Nyasa educates children of commercial sex workers, alcoholics, single parents and street children,” says Vora.The idea sprung up when Shrey Bakhai and Parshva Vora, two running enthusiasts, discussed the challenge that was first conceptualised by David Goggins, an American ultra-endurance athlete. Cue the team of seven students, with five runners. Apart from Vora, they include Darsh Deshpande (21 years, MITWPU), Sudhanshu Mali (19 years, KCASC), Varad Joshi (20 years, Garware college), Kshitij Gaur (23 years, working at Accion labs) — and two support members; Samarth Tarkunde (19 years, MMCOE) and Kunal Likhite (20 years, MITWPU).Over the course of two weeks, the 4x4x48pune team mapped twelve routes, spanning 4 miles each (6.4km) across the city, collaborated with three NGOs and managed to raise over Rs 1.5 lakh for their causes.Over 45 runners in the age range of 15-57 joined the two-day ultra-marathon, which covered 48 miles (77.2km) early this month. “It was overwhelming to see the amount of support we received”, says Mali. “Our parents were the biggest help. They accompanied us to the runs, arranged for food and water and even surprised us with trophies after the last run.”Says Antara Deshpande, Darsh’s mother, “Usually when they do an event, it lasts for 2-3 hours and then there’s time to recuperate. This time, they had to be on the go for 48 hours, with practically no sleep so we wanted to make sure their health and diet was taken care of. We distributed the work amongst ourselves and ensured a parent was on ground at all times.”The 4x4x48pune team hopes to achieve their target for collection in a month and are planning to organise practice runs on the weekend. Sarang Gosavi, of Aseem Foundation, says “Everything from the concept to the execution was phenomenal. We are very proud of the students and are grateful for the contribution they will provide.”
As the dust settles down on The Indian Express’s recent series on Institutions of Eminence (IoE), memory takes me back to my first day in college (+2), “most reputed” as it later came to be known.As the meritorious students (selected through a state-wide entrance) got off the bus and entered the secluded “campus”, they found nothing but vacant cement godowns, which served both as classrooms and hostels. The godown floor was the bedroom, and trees around hosted the classes.Protests by worried parents got drowned in a lively atmosphere created by charismatic teachers, who motivated the enthusiastic students. Two years passed, and the college took six out of the 10 top tanks in the state, and the students went on to occupy the highest positions in tech, management and administration fields. The college had a minimal infrastructure, but what differentiated this from others was the high level of motivation in the teachers, and enthusiasm in the students.Every year, there is one college that is ranked best in the country — Miranda House of Delhi University — while the more “reputed” institutions rank much lower. Since admission and recruitment norms are common to all Delhi University colleges, the reason Miranda stands apart is the ability of the faculty to produce good quality research publications year after year.It is often stated that “a nation is made by the quality of its people, not by the quality of its infrastructure”. The same holds true for institutions. If infrastructure can determine the quality, many engineering colleges that were constructed lavishly, should have been top-notch institutions, not the IITs, many of which still have only basic facilities. Great institutions are made by great individuals driven by passion, and not by great buildings.Most of the higher education institutions in India have remained teaching institutions, imparting knowledge — not creating new knowledge. As long as this continues, they can, at best, be followers, not leaders at the global level. The NEP 2020 has correctly identified this and proposed to establish the National Research Foundation to channel more resources for funding research in educational institutions.What makes a great institution, or how does one make an institution great, has been a question that eluded answers. The approach has always been to invest in building more classrooms, buying more furniture, and making bigger campuses. Though some schemes for promoting research output have been floated, the funding for research has always been meagre. The regulations for ranking and rating, have yielded some results in focusing on academic outcomes. Despite these efforts, we are yet to reach anywhere near the goal of making India a global destination for quality higher education.The UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulation 2017 has been crafted with the express intent to create (or develop) world-class universities. This was further amended in 2021 to primarily permit the setting up of off-shore and off-campus centres by these institutions.The UGC (Government Institutions declared as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines 2017 were issued to provide funding support to the selected government institutions. The idea behind the regulation is to develop both public and private institutions equally.This complexity between the public and private institutions is not, however, recognised by the global education ranking system. Most of the ranking systems give close to 50 per cent weightage to the research productivity. The IoE scheme, for being successful, should have been combined with the other crucial initiative (yet to be born) of the National Research Foundation. Despite the budget announcement, the NRF is still to see the light of day. With the investments in research being so poor, there is hardly any chance that the IoE scheme could help institutions radically increase their global ranking status.The IITs are still the only bet for the country to produce global-best institutions. With a considerable focus on the quality of research and academic publications, high-quality faculty and students, a concerted focus on these institutions combined with greater autonomy to these institutions would have helped them to break to the top 100 ranks in the world. The proposal for providing greater autonomy to these premier institutions is still under examination.There are private universities which came up with the principle of providing liberal arts and wholesome education. These have the chance of providing the best education globally and becoming widely known.There is a strong view that three factors — size, age and funding — would determine the global best universities. The top global universities are more than a century old, have more than 10,000 students and are funded liberally by the state or other endowments. Some institutions have argued that regulatory processes are impeding institutional autonomy, and with a more liberal regulatory regime, they can flourish. The NEP 2020 has emphasised light but tight regulation and investments in research.Whereas there is truth in each of these, the real solution lies in having inspired faculty and students. Inspiration doesn’t come merely from better facilities or better terms of appointment or even better training. Inspiration has to come from academic leadership — trusting, supporting, and guiding the younger faculty working in a free environment. The creation of new knowledge needs critical thinking, problem-solving, innovative outlook of the faculty and their teams doing collaborative research. Of course, funding for research matters. But these don’t cost much.Are we ready?The writer is former secretary (higher education and social justice), Government of India
India’s path to economic growth is paved with the promise of its young and vibrant population. As the world’s third-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), the country is on track to reach unprecedented levels of prosperity. A significant contributing factor is our young population, with 43 per cent of Indians aged 25 and younger in 2023, and the majority of the population expected to remain of working age until at least 2100. As the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) notes in a recent report, if the country’s working-age population is productively employed, India’s GDP can grow from $3 trillion to $9 trillion by 2030 and $40 trillion by 2047.The key to unlocking this potential lies in education technology, or EdTech. India has already started taking steps towards capitalising on its “demographic dividend” by prioritising the provision of world-class, tech-enabled education to its youth. The “Amrit Kaal”, from now until 2047, is a time to build on our successes and provide a happy life for everyone.On the journey towards becoming a global power, India’s ancient value systems, which have always emphasised the importance of education, will play a pivotal role in ushering the nation into the Knowledge Age. In this era, every child, regardless of their location or socio-economic background, will have access to quality learning opportunities, shaping a future in which learning is really liberated and knowledge is truly democratised. The next 25 years will be defined by how well we can educate our people, building on the collective sense of purpose, freedom, and growth that has defined the last 75 years.Democratising technology and unleashing its full potential is the catalyst India needs to not only propel the nation towards its Amrit Kaal goals but also reap their outcomes for decades to come. Digital technology is the foundation of the modern ecosystem. India’s march towards this digital economy with the India Stack (Aadhar, UPI, ONDC) and, more significantly, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, is a massive leap in the right direction.Imagine intelligence-embedded virtual classrooms, multi-disciplinary institutions, simulated field visits, and schools that digitally decode, deliver, and disseminate knowledge to students anywhere in the world. I further hope for a 2047 where investments in tech-driven education will mould students into competent, compassionate, and transformative future leaders, while teachers evolve to nurture global mindsets and guide students on how to think rather than what to think.However, the path to realising this dream is not easy. Even though access to quality education is a birthright, new UNESCO data shows that one out of four children aged five has never had any form of pre-primary education. This represents 35 million out of 137 million five-year-old children worldwide.The pandemic further exacerbated challenges to education, widening learning gaps and bringing in a generational learning loss. Data shows that children with disabilities, from migrant families, those living in remote areas, from marginalised communities, and girls in particular experience these inequalities most acutely. It has never been more urgent for humanity to re-calibrate our relationship with technology in order to transform the future and enhance our commitment to equity, inclusion, and democratic participation.What is truly remarkable about India’s drive towards a transformed education system is the country’s capacity for innovation. One inspiring example is Sapan Patralekh of Jharkhand’s Dhumartar village, who turned the walls of mud houses in the village into blackboards because leaving behind students with fewer means of access to digital learning during the lockdown was just not an option. Shailesh Raval’s famous loudspeaker classes in Gujarat’s Parpada village, along with several other “mohalla” classes utilising the public announcement systems of Panchayat Bhawan in Chhattisgarh and Haryana, are shining examples of India’s thirst for knowledge, innovation, and unrelenting determination to pursue learning.These powerful voices of change are an inspiration and a call to action, further fuelling my own drive to create inclusive, accessible, and equal learning environments for India’s children. As a teacher myself, I am constantly reminded of the transformative power of education and how it can change lives for the better. By nurturing the talents and potential of every child, we can create a society that is truly prosperous, innovative, and compassionate. Our great country deserves nothing less.The writer is the co-founder and director of Byju’s. This article is part of an ongoing series, which began on August 15, by women who have made a mark, across sectors
The Delhi Government is set to launch ‘999 Challenge’ for students and teachers to learn yoga and meditation in all its government schools on April 18. The ‘999 Challenge’ involves nine rounds of Surya Namaskar, and nine minutes of meditation for world peace.“This has to be practised daily for 9 days. Before rolling out ‘999 Challenge’ a series of zoom interactions and meetings are to be held,” said an officer.The integrated holistic health team will have an online interaction session with 40 selected heads of schools of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD). After the completion of the online interaction session, the yoga and meditation challenge will be formally launched in all schools on April 18, said the officials.According to senior officials, the key aim of the session is to highlight how yoga can have a positive impact on the mental health of students and teachers.All the school heads have also been given instructions to appoint two teachers from their schools, one as an instructor and another as a demonstrator and encourage students to practise yoga and meditation. These teachers will also be provided online training, said officials.“Integrated holistic health summit was held at Amrita Hospitals convention centre, Faridabad, last week and as an esteemed representative from the education sector, the director of education participated in a plenary session on April 8 and announced the launch of the ‘999 Challenge’ through Delhi School System,” said the officer.The AAP government had earlier started free yoga classes across the city for the people of Delhi. However, the classes stopped following a tussle between the Lieutenant Governor and Delhi government.
A Centre-state “joint review” of the implementation of the PM Poshan scheme in West Bengal has flagged “great concern” over 16 crore midday meals worth “more than Rs 100 crore” being “over-reported” by the local administration between April and September last year.In its report, the Joint Review Mission (JRM), set up by the Ministry of Education in January this year, has also questioned the diversion of funds meant for the scheme to pay compensation to fire victims, misallocation of food grains, cooking of rice, dal and vegetables up to 70 per cent less than “prescribed quantities”, and usage of expired packets of condiments.The Indian Express has learnt that these are among the “serious discrepancies” and “major areas of concern” communicated by the Union Ministry of Education to the state government on March 24 along with the observation that the “wrong reporting about the number of meals served and its financial aspect was a matter of great concern”.On March 30, West Bengal responded to the Centre saying it directed the local project director of the scheme to examine the findings, which were based on a review carried out by the mission during its visit to the state between January 29 and February 7.The “serious mismatch” in the number of children availing midday meals as reported by the state government to the Centre and the figures maintained in the district-level logbooks is the major thrust of the report prepared by the JRM, led by Prof Anuradha Dutta who heads the department of food and nutrition at the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology.The report states, “As per the 1st and 2nd Quarterly Progress Reports (QPRs) submitted to the Government of India by the state government, about 140.25 crore meals have been served under PM Poshan scheme during April to September, 2022. However, as per the QPRs submitted by the districts to the state, the number of meals served is about 124.22 crore.”It adds that the “over-reporting of serving of over 16 crore meals is a very serious issue” as the “material cost of 16 crore meals translates to over Rs 100 crore”. West Bengal Education Minister Bratya Basu and School Education Secretary Manish Jain did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comments on the alleged irregularities.However, officials in the West Bengal department of school education said the JRM report was finalised “without the signature of the state’s representative”. “Our midday meal project director did not sign the report. We have written to the Centre over this. The allegations are also being examined,” the official added.Another top official of the state said, “The Centre did not respect the spirit of how JRMs should function. Neither was the report signed by our representative, nor was it communicated to him before it was finalised. He should have been given the opportunity to place the state’s version. We have raised the issue with the Centre.”Meanwhile, the JRM pointed out that as against the claim of the state that over 95 per cent of the enrolled children were availing midday meals on an average basis in 2022, in reality the number hovered between 60 per cent and 85 per cent. Around the time of the JRM’s visit, the average rate of children availing hot cooked meals under the scheme was 52 per cent, it said in its report.For the year 2022-23, the Project Advisory Board of PM Poshan had granted approval for the scheme to cover 71.95 lakh children in primary classes (1-5), 44 lakh children in upper primary classes (6-8) and 10.38 lakh children in Bal Vatikas or pre-primary schools in West Bengal at a cost of Rs 2,258 crore. Of this, Rs 1,434 crore was to be borne by the Centre and Rs 824 crore by the state.Under the scheme, most components including cooking cost are split in a 60:40 ratio between the Union government and the states and Union territories with legislatures, and 90:10 with the north-eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The cost of food grains is borne entirely by the Centre. Officially, the scheme covers 12.21 crore students in classes 1-8 across states and UTs.On January 5, West Bengal Leader of Opposition and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari had written to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, alleging that the fund meant for PM Poshan “granted by the Central government has been systematically diverted unethically by the state government on a regular basis to serve their own interests.” Subsequently, the JRM, which is a component of the PM Poshan guidelines, was set up.The JRM also pointed out that the mechanism for the allocation of food grains “needs to be revisited”, adding that in 70 per cent of the schools visited by the team, “less rice was cooked than the prescribed quantities”. Similar shortfalls were noticed in the case of dal in 60 per cent of schools, oil in 47 per cent of schools, and cooked vegetables in 27 per cent of schools.“Iron and Folic Acid tablets and deworming medicines were not distributed during 2022 in most of the schools visited by the JRM team… 16.67% of the condiments packets showed that they were beyond the expiry date,” according to the report. In one instance, notes the report, the district magistrate of Birbhum used midday meal funds for compensating victims of a fire under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
IIM Shillong is now focusing on increasing its intake of students from 600 to 1,000 to enhance the Gross Enrolment Ratio, a goal set by the new National Education Policy (NEP), IIM Shillong director DP Goyal told The Indian Express in an interview. He is not worried about the large-scale tech layoff in the US and the impact it could have on placements in India this year. Goyal spoke to The Indian Express about his priorities for the institute, efforts to expand the student strength, and how the IIM Act has given them the freedom to achieve more in higher education.Edited excerpts:Q. You were appointed director in 2019 and in less than a year we were hit by the pandemic. What were your priorities for IIM Shillong when you took over as director and how did you have to tweak those amid the disruption caused by the pandemic?The priority was to shift to the new campus. We started in 2008, but until 2019, we were operating out of a small campus of six acres; of course, it’s a beautiful campus. But this restricted our intake. My second goal was to focus on increasing the intake and starting new programmes.Of course, because of Covid-19 pandemic, there was a delay of about six to seven months in shifting to the new campus since we had to volunteer 258 rooms for the Covid recovery centres. As an IIM, we cannot continue having the same old management programmes with a small numbers of students. Year after year, we are gradually increasing the numbers by adding more classroom sections to each course. We are also focusing on expanding our hostel infrastructure.Another goal was to gain international accreditation, which got delayed by six months. It is now underway and will be awarded soon.Q. Are there certain milestones or goals you think you won’t be able to achieve during your term?It’s a continuous process, and of course, I won’t be able to achieve all the goals during my tenure that I had envisioned. We want to be triple-crowned and this cannot be achieved in four or five years. The triple crown accreditations include the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).This good news might come in the next director’s tenure. Any director would wish a minimum of one-third of the institute’s students to go for foreign exchange to encourage peer learning. We started the exchange programmes last year, where we sent two students to the University of Wollongong.Q. The government is planning to invite foreign universities to set up campuses in India. What do you think of this plan? Should Indian higher education institutions feel threatened or worried?I feel like it’s just a mindset where we just fear something. Earlier, we said if malls came, then smaller shops would not survive; with IT many other jobs would not be there. At IIMs, we focus on quality. Once we say IIMs for excellence, and IIMs for quality, why should we feel threatened? Rather, we should all compete in a healthy way. And we all know that Indians, wherever we go, can compete with anybody. You will find Indians in all top companies worldwide. As far as competence is concerned, one cannot beat Indians. So we should not worry about that at all.Q. IIMs don’t reserve faculty positions despite several reminders from the government on the same. Why have IIMs stayed away from fulfilling this constitutional obligation? IIM Shillong is following all rules regarding reservations and we have conducted nine recruitment drives highlighting reservations for SC/ST in the last four years. It is very clearly mentioned in every advertisement we put out that the recruitment drives are for SC/ST/OBC and EWS too. We are also putting the numbers of faculty recruited under these categories on our website. We have filled a good number of candidates for these positions.Q. The new National Education Policy lays emphasis on multidisciplinarity. Some of the IITs have started embracing this by introducing more flexibility in their programmes and even scaling up their humanities (and management) departments. Are the IIMs open to adopting the multidisciplinary approach? If yes, how is IIM Shillong planning to do it?We are in the process of introducing new collaborative courses with the National Law University in Shillong. We are thinking of an MBA in judiciary infrastructure management. This is at an initial stage right now. We are already planning to collaborate with IIT Guwahati and AIIMS Guwahati to have a few courses like management in healthcare and administration.MBA is not only for corporations. We found that doctors are not taught to manage and this could benefit those who work at corporate hospitals. NEP is a wonderful policy and we are exploring these multidisciplinary options. We are flexible as our students can pick up any course from anywhere and we will accept it and credit it.Q. New NEP also speaks of doubling Gross Enrolment Ratio. IIMs educate a much smaller number of students compared to other Institutes of National Importance. Is IIM Shillong planning to ramp up its enrolment numbers to align with the GER goal of the new NEP? If yes, then how? Goyal: It did not happen with 180 students. Our priority is to bring in more numbers and currently, we are focusing on building more and more hostels as this is a residential programme. We are aiming for 500 more hostel accommodations so that we can contribute and admit more students. So very soon, we should have about 1,000 students on campus. Currently, we have 600.Q. How has the IIM Act made a difference to IIM Shillong?The IIM Act was a very good step as it is helping education transform the way it should. The Act provides administrative and financial autonomy. The board is totally empowered and if we want to make decisions like increasing the number of faculty seats, the board’s approval is all that we require. We don’t have to wait longer for the government’s approval. It becomes easier to evolve.Q. As an academician, are you bothered about ChatGPT and its impact on learning and teaching and assessments?Not at all. For instance, let’s take Google. Google came and students used to copy from Google and submit assignments but then we got a solution like a plagiarism check for that. ChatGPT also has a solution where certain software tells you whether you have prepared a paper from ChatGPT. We, humans, are equally competent to have solutions for technology as well. Many more like ChatGPT will come, but these can’t threaten a teacher. For a teacher, anyone can copy my content, but my delivery, my pedagogy, my style, and my hard work can’t be threatened by technology.Q. Are you worried about layoffs across tech giants in the US? What impact do you think it will have on the placements at your institute and how is it planning to insulate itself?There has been an increase of 17% in placement this time. We also got very good pre-placement offers and pre-placement interviews. And so far, all is good. Even during Covid, we were lucky as we did not have any disruptions in our placements. The increase in CTC also ramped up during the pandemic placements.Q. The IIM classroom has been mostly dominated by engineers. IIMs have tried breaking this pattern in the past but it hasn’t changed the composition drastically. Why do you think that happens? Have candidates of engineering background cracked the CAT pattern? Or is it just a function of engineers making up the majority of the applicant pool? It is said that CAT is designed in a way which is more favourable toward engineers. But with every passing year, things are changing. The trend of the CAT exam pattern is changing and new policies are also additionally helping more students from diverse backgrounds get a chance to study at IIMs. For instance, Engineers may not be as good at writing skills as compared to mathematics. Analytical and writing skills are also being given preference. You will find fewer engineers than you used earlier in the top twenty ranks.
The Blues corner of the Molineux Stadium, home of Wolverhampton Wolves, roared when Frank Lampard strode onto the turf in his third and latest avatar for Chelsea. The first and the most glorious chapter was as their decade-long figurehead, their shining light in their brightest hour; the second iteration was forgettable, as an often naive manager, ripping the aged notion of a great player returning to vault the club to further greatness. The third and latest incarnation, which unfolded on Saturday with a defeat, is of a caretaker manager, designated to ride through the darkest hour of the club he once called “as close to my heart as my family”. Whether he would lead them— placed 11th on the table, their worst faring since 1995/96—or plunge them further unto the abyss, it would be an engrossing narrative.His return after Graham Potter was axed was more shocking than it was surprising. Just two years ago, he was sacked from the club after the fans and directors removed the veneer of nostalgia and began to assess him through the cold eyes of results and numbers. It is not that between now and then, he polished his managerial CV, only three months have passed since Everton sacked him after their worst season of this century, when it seemed that he was not capable enough to keep them in the league. Through much of his chaotic, directionless reign, Everton spent time in the bottom three. They are still in the relegation zone, but Sean Dyche, Lampard’s successor, has breathed some hope.In this backdrop, it’s baffling that Chelsea rehired him even as caretaker in a season meandering into a territory of meaninglessness. Forget Champions League, even a Europa berth looks distant at this stage. The only scrap could be for finishing in the top 10, which they have managed for 27 years on the spin. For these monumental aspirations, even the present regime of first-team coaches – the assistants during Potter’s time, Bruno Salter Grau, Bjorn Hamburg and Anthony Barry- would have sufficed for the nine-match sojourn.The only rationale in appointing Lampard could be to soothe the angst building up against the new owner Todd Boehly and the discontent generated by another trophy-less year, where Lampard would be their third manager. In essence, this is a pure PR-masterminded stunt. There is no better distraction gig than bringing back a club legend, his blazing light blinking the smouldering darkness around the club. A dopamine rush for sad and angry fans. And those that repeatedly booed the club management are now waving banners like“In Frank We Trust. Then. Now. Forever.”Beyond all such assumptions and speculations, let’s not forget this is Chelsea. The Chaos Club, stretching the limits of the Chaos Theory, where virtues like patience, order and stability are obsolete, where change is the only constant. No top-six club has jettisoned managers as frequently as Chelsea have in the last 20 years.With the club, Boehly seemed to have bought the whimsical nature of the previous owner Roman Ibrahimovic. From June 2004 to April 2023, they played under 19 different managers including eight caretakers. Each of them (the regulars and not caretakers) were granted the transfer wish-list (rather treasure-chest). In the last two transfer windows alone they have splurged 350 million dollars, making it not only the highest spender in the Premier League by some distance, but also saw it spend more than all the teams in Europe’s top five leagues combined. The managers were also assured time, to forge an identity, to formulate a sustainable winning formula and the redemption path to overcome inevitable failures.But you know how it always ends—with a note of remorselessness. Having tasted the ouster once, Lampard himself could imagine how his second coming would end. Hence he was careful with the choice of words in the press conference before the Wolves game: “For me, it’s not about unfinished business,” he said. “That sounds a bit Hollywood. I just want to work and help the club as much as I can.”But the lure remains—if he indeed does something special, he could be upgraded to a permanent manager. It’s a temptation that both Chelsea and Lampard should avoid. It is easy to get carried away, should Lampard string together some favourable results. It’s a beguiling but tragic script—a hero coming back to save his club is pure Hollywood or pulp fiction (both are often the same).Only a few have pulled off the perfect script with aplomb this century. There is Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola, El Clasico rivals and exceptions. Both, though, had proper coaching education—Zidane spent six years in various roles at Real Madrid, as special advisor, sporting director, assistant coach, and coach of Real Madrid B before he assumed full reins. He realised that who he had been as a player was not directly related to who he wanted to be as a manager, he once said. After his playing career, during the time when he was clearing the coaching levels, Guardiola would often spend time with coaches that had inspired him.He traveled to meet Marcelo Bielsa. He spent weeks with him in Chile, who the Argentine was coaching, chiselling his coaching ideals. He held lengthy conversations with Johan Cruyff and studied managers of every league. He even played six months for Mexican club Dorados so that he could play under Juanma Lillo, who was his assistant at Manchester City.Thus, it’s not like Zidane and Guardiola spun a magic wand and transformed their club to overnight world-beaters, instilled system and identity by their mere presence. The labour behind often goes unseen. It was not their aura that fetched the results—it could have played a bit-part—but their managerial wisdom and acumen.Besides these are two men with a broader perspective of life and culture than Lampard. Zidane has played in three different countries; Guardiola in four. Whether Lampard has enjoyed such exposure and education is doubtful. He retired in 2016, managed Derby County for a year and was straightaway managing one of the top football clubs in the world, A ruthless, sack-happy club at that. For this precise reason, he should resist the temptation to sign a permanent deal next year, in case it is offered. If the start were an indication—an insipid defeat—it’s unlikely that he would lead the club to the ground next season. That would be a win-win situation for both the club and its legend.
Having a “less educated” Prime Minister was “extremely dangerous” for the country, former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia wrote in an open ‘letter to the nation’ from behind bars Friday in which he sought to underline the need for India to have “an educated PM”.The BJP was quick to go on the offensive, accusing the AAP MLA of holding “only a diploma” himself and advising him to judge people on the basis of their maturity and wisdom instead of academic degrees.Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former Delhi education minister alleged that the PM neither understood science nor “the importance of education” even as he accused the BJP-led Centre of shutting down 60,000 government schools across the country over the last few years.Jailed former Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia writes to PM Modi, raises questions on his education.“For the progress of India, it is necessary to have an educated PM,” Sisodia writes in his letter to the PM. pic.twitter.com/yV7peRjns3— ANI (@ANI) April 7, 2023“We are living in the 21st century today. New innovations in science and technology are taking place all over the world every day. The world is talking about Artificial Intelligence…given this, when I hear the PM say that dirty gas funnelled from a drain can be used to make tea or food, my heart sinks,” Sisodia, currently in judicial custody till April 17 following his arrest in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, wrote.“Can this gas be used to make tea or food? No! He becomes the butt of jokes across the world and children in school and college make fun of him when he says that aircraft behind clouds cannot be detected by radar. Such comments of his are extremely dangerous for the country,” he added.The Prime Minister’s statements to this effect, Sisodia sought to argue, betrayed how “less educated” India’s PM was to the world and how he lacked even foundational knowledge about science.World leaders visiting the country and hugging the PM led to heavy costs for India because what they were getting “signed away” from the PM was beyond his comprehension, he added.“Today, the youth of the country is aspirational…it wants to win the world. Does a less educated PM have the capability to fulfil these aspirations?” Sisodia asked.“The population of the country is increasing and so should the number of government schools but 60,000 of these have been shut across the country which is alarming as it shows that education is not a priority for them…how will my India prosper like this?” he asked.Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana took on the jailed former minister, terming his comments regrettable.“I want to tell Sisodia, a person cannot be judged on the basis of their degrees, but their maturity, wisdom, their thinking and their understanding of issues — all of which, unfortunately, you do not possess yourself,” Khurana said.“You yourself are just a diploma-holder and you’re questioning a qualified MA? You neither have the wisdom nor the required understanding of issues and you are questioning a PM whom the country is proud of and the world salutes India for? This amazes me,” Khurana added.
The inevitable seems to have happened. When hyper-nationalists guided by the discourse of militant Hindutva become overwhelmingly powerful, how can we assume that they would refuse to play the role of educators? It is, therefore, not surprising that the politically appointed academic bureaucrats or their hired experts who run the NCERT are over-enthusiastic in “rationalising” the school textbooks, and deleting chapters and select paragraphs which, they feel, our children need not learn. Yes, for consolidating ideological hegemony, the political establishment — particularly, all potentially authoritarian regimes — take an active interest in shaping the contents as well as the culture of learning. In a way, what is “worth teaching” or “worth learning” is never free from politics. The texts once written by the liberal/left academic fraternity, therefore, cannot remain untouched as we see the assertion of right-wing nationalism. Hence, there is no reason to believe that the NCERT has done this exercise only to relieve school children from the excessive burden of academic load. The act is purely political; it is inseparable from the politics of knowledge.Is there any reason to doubt that Hindu nationalists dislike Gandhi? Well, because of Gandhi’s international “brand” value, they might show their token respect to the Mahatma on October 2 and January 30, and charm foreign delegates through the act of playing with the spinning wheel at Sabarmati Ashram. Otherwise, their hyper-masculine aggression is the antithesis of Gandhian ahimsa; the cult of narcissism which is inseparable from the ruling regime is always uncomfortable with the Gandhian spirit of dialogue and reconciliation; and above all, the parameters of Hindutva — shaped by the likes of Savarkar and Golwalkar — can never coincide with the Gandhian principle of cultural and religious pluralism. Not surprisingly then, the NCERT experts think that our children — as they grow up and begin to think politically — should not be told that “Gandhi was convinced that any attempt to make India into a country only for the Hindus would destroy India”. Likewise, it is also not necessary to know that “his steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji”.Moreover, the hired political theorists or historians of the NCERT variety think that there is no need to make these school children aware of “the ban on the RSS following Gandhi’s assassination”. Likewise, it is also not desirable to know that Nathuram Godse was the “editor of an extremist Hindu newspaper”. How can we avoid the deletion of these insightful passages from school texts when even a documentary film on the Gujarat riots can unsettle the otherwise “powerful” regime? In fact, when Nathuram Godse is openly valorised and hate speech is normalised, who bothers about Gandhi? In a way, this politically engineered deletion from the NCERT texts reaffirms the politics of Hindutva.Think of the prevalent state of school education in the country. Barring exceptions, the tyranny of the textbook, the normalisation of rote learning, and the steady erosion of creative and critical thinking through the continual recurrence of unimaginative examinations and MCQ-centric standardised tests have made it almost impossible to celebrate the dialogic spirit of critical pedagogy. However, it’s only through the vibrancy of critical pedagogy that our children can learn to debate and interrogate, raise new questions and acquire the courage to see the world through multiple perspectives. But then, these “experiments” with the NCERT texts would further diminish the spirit of critical pedagogy. Think of it. These texts do not want our children to be aware of, or debate and reflect on the Gujarat riots, the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Naxalite movement. And particularly when the overflow of fake news has become the new normal amid the instantaneity of social media, there is no escape from this pathology without a culture of learning that encourages young students and their teachers to debate on every issue without fear, be it Gandhi or Nehru, Ambedkar or Phule, Savarkar or Jinnah, development or displacement, and neoliberal glitz or heightened social inequality. It is sad that our academic bureaucrats seldom bother about the spirit of critical pedagogy without which it is impossible to nurture the ethos of democratic and enlightened citizenship.Amid this crisis or death of studentship, a disturbing question haunts me. As teachers and educators, can we see beyond all sorts of reductionism or determinism — “leftist” or “rightist”? Is it possible for a “Marxist” teacher to encourage her students to read, reflect and write an essay on Swami Vivekananda’s “practical Vedanta”? Can a professor who cherishes Ambedkarism inspire her researchers to write a review of Nirmal Kumar Bose’s My Days with Gandhi? Can a teacher who loves Savarkar acquire the courage to gift the books of Sumit Sarkar and Bipan Chandra to her students? Yes, a reductionist doctrine is likely to see this openness or dialogic spirit as an impossible project. But then, any form of indoctrination, be it in the name of Gandhi or Ambedkar or Marx or Savarkar, negates the fundamental ethos of studentship — the curiosity to know, enquire and evolve an informed opinion.The organised assault on critical pedagogy can be fought meaningfully only when, as students/teachers, we begin to rediscover ourselves as wanderers (not passive consumers of diverse brands of politico-ideological capsules) and fight for the recovery of the classroom, free from the technologies of surveillance and the authoritarian gaze.The author writes on culture and education
Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma makes no effort, unlike some of his colleagues, to conceal his distance from the Constitution of India. In his speech in the Assembly, he said, in relation to his policies against child marriage, the ratio of arrests of Muslims to Hindus was 55:45. He reportedly said he had got “some of our people picked up too otherwise you all (the Opposition) will feel bad”. “Our people” — where does such a phrase come from? It is the Hindutva conceptualisation of India where all non-Hindus are not “our people”. Whether the ratio declared is accurate or not, the communal mindset of the chief minister expressed in his own words is clear enough. The Preamble of the Constitution states, “We the people of India”, not we the people belonging to this or that religion. All citizens are “our citizens”.Even after the damning data from the NFHS-5, which put Assam at the bottom of the list on many socio-economic indicators such as increasing child marriage, poor education levels and high rate of domestic violence, the Assam government had taken no steps for redressal. For example, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act mandates the setting up of child marriage prohibition officers and committees of citizens at the block level to spread awareness against child marriage and to intervene to directly prevent such marriages if they were to occur. There was not a single such officer appointed or committee formed till after the arrests in February this year. As the experiences of the more successful states like Kerala have shown, education is critical for the eradication of this social evil. Perhaps the chief minister, who quoted child marriage statistics from Muslim-populated districts like Dhubri, could learn especially from Kashmir which has one of the lowest percentages of child marriage in the country.I visited two districts in lower Assam along with a team of the All India Democratic Women’s Association that had surveyed many districts earlier. We met a number of victims of the Assam government’s policy against child marriage. I use the word victim deliberately because what is happening in the name of prevention and punishment is blatantly illegal on several counts.We found to our surprise that every single one of the scores of young women we met whose husbands, and in some cases other relatives too, had been arrested, was either pregnant or had a baby in her arms. In a blatantly unethical if not illegal action, the government had taken the personal data of the women, including their age, from the health department where the women had registered for treatment for a medical checkup or for that of their child, and handed it over to the police to make the arrests. This is nothing but the weaponisation of private health data which is available to the government for a limited purpose. To misuse such data without the woman’s consent to arrest her husband and other relatives, as the case may be, is not just an invasion of her privacy but is also a guarantee that other young women will stop going to government health centres, which will further worsen the already worrying health indicators such as infant and maternal mortality. Many told us, “if we had not gone to the health centre, this would not have happened”.The second illegality is the use of the PCMA with retrospective effect, stretching to seven years. The law does not permit it. Under the PCMA, a child marriage is not automatically anulled but is considered valid unless on attaining majority age one of the couple asks for it to be voided. Most of the girls we met, or who were earlier surveyed by AIDWA, have now crossed the age of 18 and not a single one of them has asked for the marriage to be voided. How can an arrest be made after the girl has become an adult and has not asked for annulment? Again, in several cases, the young people had eloped and their parents recognised their marriage later.Thirdly, under Section 11 of the PCMA, no woman can be imprisoned. Among the victims we met was the mother of a boy who had eloped with a girl of 17. She had been imprisoned for almost a month and locked up in one of the notorious detention centres meant for so-called illegal immigrants, since the jails were too full. She told us that there were 26 other women also imprisoned under the PCMA. This too is illegal.The government declared that the more stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) would be applied to all child marriage cases where the child was 14 or below. This did not apply in any of the cases we had seen. Yet POCSO had been added to the FIR making it all the more difficult to get bail. The Gauhati High Court also strongly questioned the use of POCSO while granting bail to some of the accused, but it has not made a jot of difference to the government. The women we met spoke of the loans they had to arrange — between Rs 40,000 to 50,000 — to get their husbands out of jail. Thus the young women are the main sufferers, with a baby to look after, husbands in jail, having to borrow money for their release and many having to deal with their own health problems.Finally, why should the Assam government declare that these measures will continue till the state assembly elections next year? This betrays the politically motivated nature of the campaign which, despite the disclaimer of the chief minister, has an undoubted communal colour.Child marriage is a social evil which must be eradicated. The cruel and legally questionable measures being adopted by the Assam government will not achieve this goal.The writer is a member of the CPM politburo
The Reserve Bank of India on Monday appointed Neeraj Nigam as executive director (ED) who will look after four departments, including that of consumer education and protection.Prior to being promoted as ED, he was heading the Bhopal regional office of the RBI as director.Nigam has, over a span of more than three decades, served in Regulation and Supervision, human resource management, premises, currency management, bank accounts and other areas in the Reserve Bank, in its central office as well as regional offices.As ED, he will look after consumer education and protection department; financial inclusion and development department, legal department, and Secretary’s department, the RBI said in a statement.He holds a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Barkatullah University, Bhopal besides having earned the professional qualification of Certified Associate of Indian Institute of Banking and Finance (CAIIB).
The Board School Education, Telangana today (April 3) started conducting the Telangana Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSC) examinations. To make travelling easier for students appearing in the board exams, the state’s education ministry has joined hands with the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC).As per local media reports, TSRTS will provide free rides to all students who are appearing for the TS SSC board exams from April 3 to April 13. To avail of the free bus pass, students simply have to show their TS SSC admit cards/ hall tickets to the bus authorities. Free bus rides are available irrespective of distance and origin anywhere across the State.This year, over 4.90 lakh students have registered to appear for the TS SSC Class 10 exams. The state education minister, Sabitha Indra Reddy, took to Twitter to wish all the students good luck for their exams. “Congratulations to all the students who are appearing for the 10th class exams…take the exams in a calm environment without any stress or anxiety. All the best,” she tweeted.పదవ తరగతి పరీక్షలకు హాజరవుతున్న విద్యార్థిని, విద్యార్థులకు శుభాభినందనలు…ఒత్తిడి, ఆందోళనకు గురికాకుండా ప్రశాంత వాతావరణంలో పరీక్షలు రాయండి.…అల్ ది బెస్ట్👍.— SabithaReddy (@SabithaindraTRS) April 3, 2023In the 2022 TS SSC exams, 5,03,5790 students appeared, out of which 4,53,201 had cleared the Class 10 exams. The overall pass percentage was recorded as 90 per cent. As many as 5,03,579 students registered for the class 10 exams.Additionally, as many as 30007 schools have recorded a 100 per cent pass percentage while 15 state schools got zero. Last year, Siddipet recorded the highest pass percentage of 97.85 per cent and Hyderabad had the lowest pass percentage of 79.63 per cent.
In the intense and desperate assertions for electoral support, the RSS-BJP’s spin doctors have concocted two imaginary soldiers, Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda from the Vokkaliga community, as the brave slayers of Tipu Sultan, whom they vilify as an anti-Hindu tyrant. Invoking the last Mysore War (1799), which led to the consolidation of the British empire in India, is only one sign that the forthcoming assembly elections in Karnataka, scheduled to be held on May 10, will be a battle not only between political parties. It will be for the very soul of Karnataka and for the future of democracy in India.Since the BJP’s rise to power via “Operation Kamala” in 2019, Karnataka has been subject to the relentless imposition of RSS-BJP agendas which have ruptured its very identity, orientation, and social fabric. Infrastructure and construction projects, with their links to kickbacks and distortions from decentralised democratic development, have found a place, and they have no place for either economic rationality nor ecological sustainability. Corruption is rampant — PWD contractors themselves have alleged demands of 40 per cent commission by officials. The state BJP’s subservience to the Centre’s RSS-BJP agenda has been blatant, defying both constitutional norms of federalism and the state’s history and culture.Scrapping the state planning board to rename it the State Institute for Transformation of Karnataka was to second the formation of the NITI (National Institute for Transformation of India) Aayog; promoting Hindi in public fora was a signal of the arrival of the state’s RSS-BJP troupe into the national RSS-BJP fold. The state government brought in legislation along the lines of the now revoked farm laws of the Centre. Pro-industry amendments have been made to the Land Reform Act and the state has been the first to endorse and implement the New Education Policy. Despite contestations, anti-religious conversion and protection of cow Acts have been promulgated. In the domains of economic planning, the interests of the state have been sacrificed to subscribe to the revised formulae of centre-state budget allocation and despite the fact that the average revenue of the state is higher than the national average, the state has been steadily losing its central allocation funds. As one financial expert has noted, Karnataka’s once efficient fiscal management is now on a downturn and the BJP’s extravagant expenditure on numerous statues, religious parks, caste corporations and temple construction will only make a larger hole in its coffers. A culture of impunity has encouraged legislators and RSS supporters to mouth threats, violence and vulgarity against both individuals and communities.As the battle for votes intensifies, the Congress and JD(S) are now in competition with the BJP to make promises of a bounty of goods, services and money. From cash payments to farmers, students, and housewives, to free English education and payment for daughters’ marriages, voters are being showered with promises of a plenitude. Contenders in the three main parties represent big money and, as the records of the previous legislators showed, crorepatis out-number those whose annual income is less than a crore. While an anti-incumbency wave is anticipated due to the failure to address a range of key issues such as that of rampant corruption and maladministration, the ability of the BJP to deploy media, money and muscle power cannot be ruled out. The fact that new players such as the AAP, Karnataka Rashtra Samiti, and CPI-ML, apart from CPM, will field contestants is not assurance that they will make a dent in the “Modi mania” that continues to have currency.That this battle for Karnataka will have other non-political players and voices which may be decisive in the final run is evident in the small but significant push-back of leading intellectuals and civil society groups. Leading litterateur Devanoora Mahadeva defied the ban on beef by openly purchasing it and his booklet on the RSS sold one lakh copies within the first month of its publication. Overcoming their differences in political ideology and strategies, several civil society organisations have forged a new common platform with which to halt the return to power of the BJP. Some Dalit writers and activists have distanced themselves from the call by the Republican Party of India that has endorsed the BJP. They have called for recognising the need for Dalits to assert their independent identity, despite the social engineering that focuses on new quotas for castes.Even as much of the mainstream media, both print and television, in Kannada have become mouthpieces of the BJP, a number of new and innovative media outlets, especially online ones, are spearheading calls for a return to the Karnataka of the poet Kuvempu’s imagination — a land of peace and harmony. Shifting Karnataka’s trajectory from one of broad-based welfare of the most disadvantaged (which Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan had initiated by distributing land to the then untouchables in the Mysuru region) to that of “ill-fare” in which accumulation by a few, deprivation for a majority, and distortions of history, identity and social relations have become key will mean that this battle for Karnataka will be as historic and significant as the Battle of 1799.The writer is a social anthropologist, based in Karnataka
Would you call it a diet or an extreme challenge? More than a litre of cola every day. No breakfast. Packaged juice instead. More juice, more syrups. Only one big meal at 5 pm: Two large pizzas, burgers and more junk. No dinner. That’s how 33-year-old Sohit Chaturvedi, who had just started his biotech firm, lived his days in 2017. Till the day he was diagnosed with liver fibrosis, extreme diabetes, plaques in his heart and told that, given his family history of diseases and early mortality, he wouldn’t live long. That was the moment of reckoning. Today, his diabetes is in remission and he is off medication. “No new plaques, no diabetes and holding still for a year now,” he says, pleased with the biggest milestone of his life. Having been part of a diabetes management education programme, he is now a part-time diet counsellor for his friends, family and colleagues. “Indians live with a sickness burden of their own making and it is in our hands to reclaim our lives,” he says.With diabetes education, patients have been reported to have been in remission for up to 15 years. Of course, under watch. Tending to his garden at his Sainik Farms house and in between playing with his daughter, Chaturvedi recalls the time he set up his firm. “Since it was involved in bio-manufacturing with photosynthesis, I worked in the diurnal range between 5 am and 5 pm. This involved rigorous physical activity. Tired, I would binge in the evening, sleep by 8 pm and wouldn’t feel hungry in the morning. The sugar in colas and juices kept me supercharged. You could say that other than munching, I would have a proper sit-down, huge meal at 5 pm, something I would look forward to. It was always about eating out or ordering in, I rarely had home-cooked food. Sometimes I would go without food for 20-odd hours, living entirely on juice,” says Chaturvedi.The alarm bells rang in 2018, when he was diagnosed with liver fibrosis. Having had a fatty liver since his teenage years, he thought he could shake it off. When he couldn’t, he consulted a dietician but seeing no improvement, stuck to it for only a year. “I didn’t know back then that though I kept to meal timings, what I was eating was all wrong,” says he.That realisation came in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when a numbing sensation in his leg was bothersome enough for him to reach out for the blood glucose monitor. “With a family history of diabetes and cholesterol, I thought I should test my sugar levels. My post-meal reading came to 300 mg/dL, when it should not be more than 140 mg/dL. The reading after two hours of eating a meal came to 360 mg/dL, which should be less than 180 mg/dL. I tried dietary corrections but the levels kept going up to frightening proportions,” says Chaturvedi. As his HbA1c levels rose to an astounding 10.1 per cent, he showed up at the OPD of Dr Ambrish Mithal, Chairman of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Max Healthcare. Apart from medication, he placed Chaturvedi in a diabetes reversal programme led by diabetic educator and dietitian Shubhda Bhanot.“First of all, we got our patient to adhere to a three-meal pattern, then got him to eat small meals every two hours. What you eat is much more important than how much you can eat. We changed the food pattern and its sequencing to fibre first, protein in the middle and carbohydrates last. Since he is a vegetarian, we put him on salads before every meal followed by a protein-rich yogurt and then vegetables and rotis made with a mixed flour comprising wheat (30 per cent) wheat bran (20 per cent) and chickpea flour (20 per cent),” says Bhanot. What the fibre-first approach does, she explains, is add bulk, satiety and delay the digestive process and the release of sugar. “Fibres reduce the glycaemic index over time and there are no sudden sugar spikes unlike those caused by ingesting carbohydrates first. Some other alternatives could be having psyllium husk or apple cider vinegar before meals. Protein, either as tofu or chicken/fish for animal food lovers, promotes satiety too. So by the time you come to rice and vegetables, your stomach is almost full and executes portion control on its own,” she adds.Chaturvedi says the new meal plan almost showed immediate results, with his sugar levels dropping within two days. “And seeing the results, I stuck to it. For breakfast it is chickpea flour, oats and quinoa pancakes. I learnt poha is bad because flattened rice has starch while sooji or semolina is refined flour. I have given up breads and potatoes, snack on salads, sprouts and nuts. I begin my day with fenugreek seed-soaked water, six unpeeled almonds and two walnuts, all of which lower blood sugar. My diet worked better than the medication and now I am off it,” he adds.While he depended on heavy medication for the first three months, it was scaled down gradually. Dietary management and a sound exercise regime meant that his counts came down. “Bhanot helped pull me back from the precipice over one-and-a-half years through discipline. I was determined not to be dependent on insulin. From barely four hours, I now sleep eight hours at least three times a week. I am regular with my exercises, have taken to running, walk 3,000 steps a day and have lost weight. But I am maniacal about counting the calorie value of whatever I eat. Even in social situations, where some indulgence happens, I take a quick five to ten-minute walk after it to ensure that I wear out the extra calorie load,” says Chaturvedi.As a diabetes educator, Bhanot has a ground rule about indulgence. “There is nothing called a cheat day. I tell patients that they would only end up cheating themselves. I also put my patients through a realistic module of lifestyle management pivoted around their lives. I will never advise somebody not used to early mornings to wake up at 5 am. I set goals with the patient concerned. The idea is to equip them to self-manage their condition, interpret their blood glucose counts, understand how their medications work and manage a sudden crisis,” she says. Chaturvedi now gets all his senior staff tested for blood sugar at his own expense every year. “We cannot let diabetes ruin our work and lives,” he says.
Also written by Abhishek Arora & Diva DharMore women and men get married in India than anywhere else in the world. In 2018, over 99 per cent women and 97 per cent of men above 35 were (ever) married. India was ranked 143 out of 146 countries in 2022 in the Global Gender Gap Report’s category for economic participation and opportunity category for women. In contrast to countries at similar income, education and fertility levels, female labour force participation rates in urban India at 24 per cent continue to be the lowest (Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS 2017-18)).These two facts may be related. Can partner preferences in the marriage market influence women’s labour market decisions? In a setting with near-universal marriage, the preferences of potential spouses or their families may loom large for Indian women. If men systematically discriminate against employed women when it comes to choosing a life partner, this could contribute to women who might otherwise wish to work, choosing not to.In a recent study, we carried out an innovative experiment on a large matrimonial website to understand the marital preferences of men. We found a striking penalty for employed women in the “marriage market”, especially in north India.Matchmaking is now increasingly an online phenomenon, with over 1,500 online platforms for marital matching in India. Almost 90 per cent of young people under the age of 30 report using online matrimonial services to find their significant other (Lok Foundation-Oxford University Survey 2018). Measuring male preferences expressed through these platforms, thus, is a good way to capture women’s experiences and the trade-offs they may have to make.We created and observed many different fictitious profiles for women on a leading matrimonial platform. While the profiles were identical on aspects such as age, height, family characteristics such as demographics and income, we varied the profile’s details on working status — both whether the woman was currently working, and whether she wanted to continue work after marriage.For profiles of working women, we further varied their occupation as either “feminine” (for example, school teacher), “masculine” (technical supervisor) or gender “neutral” (data entry operator) based on the existing proportion of women workers in these occupations (as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2018-19). We created these profiles for different castes (Brahmins, other high castes and Scheduled Castes), education (Diploma, BA, MA) and for two different cities (Bengaluru and Delhi). We then monitored each profile for a month to observe the responses of male suitors.Using data on responses to each female profile we found that the ones who were employed received nearly 15 per cent fewer responses from male suitors relative to those who were not working. The preference for non-working female partners holds across all education groups of female profiles. Moreover, women employed in “masculine” occupations were additionally 3 per cent less likely to receive responses compared to women employed in “feminine” occupations.Lastly, a woman in a “masculine” job who stated a preference to continue to work after marriage was less likely to elicit male interest, relative to a woman in a “feminine” job who preferred to continue working. These patterns are likely to reinforce the gendered patterns that typify the Indian workforce, making it harder for women to work, especially in occupations where they are not already well represented.We also find that profiles of working women elicited less interest from men even when their caste, education levels and family incomes matched those of the men. These results are driven by responses from higher caste men in Delhi, where patriarchal norms are more salient. Further, the level of discrimination against working women was higher by male suitors with lower education levels, who are more representative of the average male population in India.It is worth remembering that having a spouse who works is likely to increase household income significantly. By penalising women for making this choice, men are expressing a preference that is strong enough that they are willing to give up additional household income.Data on women’s market and domestic work in India reveal patterns that line up with these male preferences. In urban India, married women spend almost 7.5 times more time on domestic work as compared to married men. Women in north India, and especially amongst high castes, spend more time on domestic work relative to women in the south (Time Use Survey, 2019). Thus, the gender gap in time spent in domestic work is significantly higher in north India.Additionally, women who are not working spend much more time on domestic work — more than women in “feminine” occupations and much more than those in “masculine” fields (Consumer Pyramids Household Survey 2021). These findings suggest that male-dominated occupations may be characterised by more inflexible working schedules. Other evidence suggests that women who work, in general, and those who work in male-dominated occupations, may even be considered “sexually impure” due to greater interactions with men at work.The marriage market penalty we document likely contributes to India’s persistently low female labour force participation and high levels of occupational segregation by gender. This segregation may also perpetuate the gender gap in earnings, because “feminine” occupations pay 30 per cent lower daily wages on average than male dominated, “masculine” occupations.A developing country like India, seeking to achieve rapid economic growth can ill afford educated women staying out of the workforce. Changing norms and attitudes of men (besides women) is critical to increasing women’s participation and reducing their occupational segregation.Afridi is Professor, ISI Delhi and Head, Digital Platforms and Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme; Arora is pre-doctoral student, Harvard University; Dhar is doctoral candidate, University of Oxford and Mahajan is Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
The number of dropout students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in all Central Universities, Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), and the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) during the period 2018 to 2023 has crossed 19,000.This figure was shared by the Union Minister of State for Education, Subhas Sarkar, in response to a written question in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.Tiruchi Siva, a member of the Parliament of India representing Tamil Nadu, had asked the government about the number of SC, ST and OBC candidates who have dropped out from IITs, IIMs and other central universities in the past five years. She also wanted to know “whether Government has conducted any study in regard to the reasons for the high dropout rate of OBCs, SCs, and STs students in these higher educational institutions”.In response to Siva, Sarkar revealed that 6901 OBC candidates, 3596 SC and 3949 ST students dropped out of Central Universities. Similarly, 2544 OBC candidates, 1362 SC and 538 ST students dropped out of IITs. Additionally, 133 OBC, 143 SC and 90 ST candidates dropped out of IIMs in the past five years.“The Government has taken various steps like fee reduction, establishment of more institutes, scholarship, priority access to national level scholarships to aid the students with poor financial backgrounds to pursue their education. For the welfare of SC/ST students the schemes like ‘waiver of tuition fees in IITs’, grant of national scholarships under Central Sector Scheme, scholarships in Institutes etc. are also there,” Sarkar added.
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)