Times of India | 1 month ago | 30-01-2023 | 07:08 am
MUMBAI: To acquire de-novo status for the proposed Sir JJ University of Art, Architecture and Design, the state government is likely to take the route of registering it as a company under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. Deemed institutions focussed on innovations and research in unique and emerging areas fall under the de-novo category, as per University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations. While a section 8 company primarily operates for charitable and non-profit objectives, the state government will now have to resolve the names for its board of directors. The Department of Higher Education of the Union Ministry of Education in its letter of intent granted on October 27, 2021, has asked the state to fulfil around nine conditions for the de-novo status. The most important one was to set up the cluster of three institutions - Sir JJ School of Art, Applied Art and Architecture - as a separate and dedicated society/trust/company that needs to be registered under the new name as per UGC regulations of 2019. Sources from the state government said that the taskforce set up to work on the conditions have decided to register the new university as a Section 8 company, which will be sponsored by the state government. The taskforce led by state project director for Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, Nipun Vinayak, has resolved many conditions laid down in the letter of intent and will soon submit the final report to the government. Speaking to TOI, the officer said that it is a visionary move for Sir JJ Institutions to become a world-class university with a 'de-novo' status, one of its kind in the country. "For this, like other de-novo universities, the institution will have a sponsoring body in the form of a trust or a Section 8 company upon which the taskforce is deliberating," he said. Only a handful of institutions in the country have been granted de-novo status. Another official said, "Once the state finalises the decision to register as a company, the institutions can recommend some names for the board of directors. The final decision, however, will lay with the government. Ideally, the institutions will prefer to have the deans and some of their illustrious alumni on the board." The state has time till October 2024 to fulfil the conditions laid down in the letter of intent. While the letter of intent came in 2021, the state's higher education department, under MVA then, decided to convert the Sir JJ Group of Institutions into a state university. The decision did not find many takers. Now the de-novo plan is back on track. But students have apprehensions about fee hikes, though officials said this won't be the case.
With the inauguration of its permanent campus by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 12, IIT Dharwad, which started in 2016, is in the process of shifting out of its temporary campus in a phased manner. The institute’s director Venkappayya R Desai speaks to The Indian Express about his priorities with the new institute, changing academic landscapes, interdisciplinary courses, and the suicide cases at the IITs. Excerpts:Q. What are your priorities as IIT Dharwad director?Our top priority is to clear the major bottlenecks in the permanent campus. One is the main electrical station, along with the kitchen equipment for the student dining hall.We also need to get the sewage treatment plant ready, so that we are in a position to move. However, we will move in a gradual manner because we have a lot of sophisticated equipment which cannot straightway be moved from here (current campus) to the permanent campus.Secondly, we want to ensure that students and faculty are properly housed. Academically, we have seven Bachelor in Technology (BTech) programmes, one BS (Bachelor of Science) and MS (Master of Science) dual degree programme, alongside Masters in Technology (MTech) and Phd programmes.We want to introduce a BTech programme in the humanities and social sciences department as it does not have one on its own. The other nine departments have the programme in some way or the other. We are also deliberating on introducing economics probability, financial engineering, among other subjects, to make the BS and MS integrated programmes more inclusive.Additionally, we are also looking to link modern science and technology with traditional technology. We want to use historical materials from Sanskrit literature and classical Indian languages and apply it to modern science, for all branches. Even the new education policy emphasises on promoting Indian languages.Q. IIT Dharwad is among the youngest IITs in the country. Six months have passed since your appointment as the institute’s director. What milestones, in your opinion, has it achieved? What needs to be worked on?Recently, IIT Dharwad got formally announced as the Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) centre, giving scope for government, government-aided and private engineering college faculty members to enroll and improve their quality through enhancement of qualifications.The engineering college faculty members with bachelor qualifications can enroll and get a masters degree through QIP. In addition to the regular salary these faculty members get from their host institutions, they will also get subsistence allowance as these are time-bound programmes.Meanwhile, we have only one MTech programme in mechanical engineering. We need to extend this to two more departments — electrical engineering and computer science. Our priority is to serve our full capacity of 25 masters seats under QIP. Since it is a new IIT, the number of professors are less in number. We have 70 professors (including assistant professors) and around 15 visiting professors. However, the sanctioned faculty strength is 100 with a student teacher ratio of 1:10.Q. IIT Dharwad was mentored by IIT Bombay for its three batches so far. Each IIT has a unique academic culture and strengths. What do you think you have imbibed from them?IIT Bombay is the second-oldest IIT and is located in the financial capital of the country. As a result, every faculty member’s time is very precious. Things are simple and straightforward in IIT Bombay. The institute also helps us in senate meetings because we have very few full-time professors. During senate meetings, we need help from external senate members from IIT Bombay and industry experts too. We also take help from IIT Bombay professors from relevant departments in shortlisting our faculty applicants.Q. There have been many suicides in IITs in the last six months. Do you think IITs need to revisit their support systems and improve them to help prevent such deaths?Caste discrimination is a very general problem. We should make students aware of other children who are more economically and socially challenged. When we make them aware of the existing reality, the students will realise that they can still put up a smiling face and be positive compared to those children who are both economically and socially weaker. Moreover, faculty should also play a major role in enhancing student welfare activities.When Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated our new permanent campus, he suggested that we use Japanese technology to increase vegetation density around the campus. The vegetation will be planted in lines of vruksha nakshatra that will imbibe Indian traditional values and serve as a stress buster to students. If you look at the life of the student two weeks prior to the suicide, you will find them isolating from the near and dear ones. As a result, they come across negative incidents, news reports and end up in suicidal thoughts. It is equally important to have good food. Being more social will also help students. Unfortunately, some marginalised students are isolated in the initial few weeks in the dining hall sometimes – this happens across all IITs.Sometimes, ragging also is a major problem. Fortunately, at IIT Dharwad we have not come across such cases.Q. A research paper published by IIT Bombay recently found that except for Computer Science & Engineering (CSE), and to some extent for Electrical Engineering (EE), IIT Bombay students have predominantly opted for non-engineering jobs. What do you think is the reason?Things are no longer in silos. I am a civil engineer by qualification, but I have my own interest in linguistic subjects. These kind of things happen with everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. We can’t force students to take up jobs as per their qualifications. I believe in the principle of “get what you like and like what you get”. Life is all about making feasible compromises. In addition to their programmes, students should explore various opportunities in areas of one’s interest. Sometimes, their interests are partially misguided by parents also.Q. There have been consultations within the government to bring institutes of national importance within the ambit of the proposed Higher Education Commission of India. Would it be a good idea to bring IITs and IIMs within the HECI’s ambit?It is a good idea. IITs, NITs are excluded from the purview of AICTE. A newly established institution like IIT Dharwad will be deprived of the positive experience of some of the selected institutes which have a history of over 50 or 75 years. There should be good exchange of ideas and best practices. Hence, it is a welcome move to bring institutes of national importance under a regulatory purview.Q. Interdisciplinarity is among the main focus of the new education policy. How is IIT Dharwad approaching this?We have a 5 year BS-MS interdisciplinary programme. Students can either choose physics/ chemistry or mathematics/biology specialisations. There are enough electives offered by other departments like humanities and social sciences, philosophy, sociology and others.Q. Are you worried about ChatGPT and its impact on academics?I am hearing that ChatGPT will soon make Google extinct, but I think any new innovation cannot be exclusive. We need not get worried excessively because every technology evolves with time. It cannot be 100 per cent accurate and efficient. Any new thing is high on technology but low in experience. Any old thing may be low on technology. However, it is definitely tested by time.Q. Education faced a huge disruption during the pandemic. It has been over a year since students have joined physical classes. Have you noticed any changes in the learning patterns?Students are still in the pandemic or lockdown mode. Our faculty members noticed that some students are not at all seen in the campus. They have registered and are nowhere to be seen. It is high time that we as faculty bring the students back to the pre-pandemic levels. It is fine if they are taking up internships, but they should take an official permission so that it is formalised. The learning ability has taken a beating. Lab courses and experiments go on through video demonstrations. The hands-on experience in lab experiments has actually stopped after the pandemic. It is an individual and collective responsibility of every faculty member to restore the learning experience.
IT’S NOT just the Jio Institute, the greenfield venture, which is waiting to get Institution Of Eminence (IOE) status. In the same queue are three other private institutions — Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham — which were selected for the flagship initiative in higher education.According to records and interviews with officials, the readiness reports of the three institutions were approved by the Education ministry’s Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) on IOEs by July 2020. Nearly three years on, all three are waiting for the final MoUs to be signed.Former EEC chairman N Gopalaswami said the final MoUs for the three institutions, along with Jio Institute, were vetted and approved by the committee under him before its term expired in February 2021. The KIIT has since been waiting to get the IOE status for 1,121 days and counting; and, VIT and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham for 976 days each.Records show that another private institution on the list, Jamia Hamdard, may not get the IOE tag at all due to a legal dispute, while Bharti Foundation — the second greenfield selection apart from Jio — pulled out of the process due to lack of “appropriate land”.KIIT: Records show that a 13-member expert committee set up by the EEC visited KIIT in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar on February 17-18, 2020. By July 2020, the EEC approved the readiness report submitted by the 13-member panel led by AICTE vice chairman M P Poonia.According to KIIT’s IOE coordinator Professor C K Panigrahi, the institute submitted a draft MoU to the ministry about two years ago and hasn’t received an update since.VIT: A 12-member committee led by Prof G D Yadav of Institute of Chemical Technology conducted a virtual inspection of VIT on July 13-14, 2020 and the EEC approved the readiness report.“The final version of the draft MoU was submitted to the government in November 2021. Following that we contacted the ministry several times. However, there has been no communication from the government. (We were) told verbally that the MoU will be signed after the reconstitution of the EEC,” a VIT official said.Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham: A virtual review was conducted by a 16-member committee led by Mahesh Verma, V-C of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in Delhi, on July 17-18, 2020 and the EEC approved the readiness report.According to Vidyapeetham’s IOE coordinator Prof Raghu Raman, the deemed university has written multiple times to the government since July 2020, asking for updates and “next steps”.Jamia Hamdard: In September 2020, the EEC recommended the removal of Jamia Hamdard from the list. The minutes of an EEC meeting on September 16, 2020, state: “The EEC selected the composite entity Jamia Hamdard consisting of medical college and university, but… the composite unit is no longer a valid entity after the family settlement approved by the SC, as the management has gone to two different bodies…”Jamia Hamdard’s V-C Prof Mohammad Afshar Alam said, “After taking charge in 2019, I took permission from our sponsoring trust and wrote to the UGC and Education ministry, requesting a visit of the expert committee to our campus. I haven’t heard from the government since.”Bharti Foundation: The other greenfield selection, apart from Jio, Bharti Foundation, withdrew its bid in October 2020 after it failed to acquire “an appropriate land parcel” in Mohali, Punjab. However, the Foundation said that it has now signed an MoU with Plaksha University in Mohali.Records show that apart from these private institutions, the fate of two — Jadavpur University in West Bengal and Anna University in Tamil Nadu — of the eight public universities on the IOE list is similar.In September 2020, the EEC recommended the removal of Jadavpur University, along with Jamia Hamdard, from the list of IOEs. Jadavpur’s bid was rejected since the West Bengal government did not commit to paying part of the plan requirements not met by the Centre.The university then submitted a revised plan with a reduced budget of Rs 606 crore, of which it proposed to raise 25 per cent. In June 2020, the Education ministry wrote to the UGC seeking the EEC’s advice on the revised budget.In an email dated September 15, 2020, the EEC stated: “The EEC is of view that… the substantial budget cut is not conducive to realising the target set for IOEs. The EEC therefore recommends to the UGC to release Jadavpur University from the list…”On July 19, 2021, the UGC forwarded this recommendation to the ministry and there has been no communication since.“We earnestly hope that the Central government will recognise the academic excellence of Jadavpur as acknowledged by the empowered committee,” Jadavpur University V-C Dr Suranjan Das said.As for Anna University, records show the Chennai-based institution’s original IOE plan was affected by lack of funding from the Tamil Nadu government, leading the university to submit a revised proposal relying on its own resources. The revised plan was approved by the EEC on the condition that the state will provide an assurance to cover any shortfall. The university, however, is yet to receive an official word from the government.“Ever since I assumed charge (in August 2021), we haven’t received any communication from the government… If we get that (IOE status), it will be a good thing and we won’t have to chase every small accreditation to prove our excellence,” Anna University V-C Dr R Velraj said.
WHILE four private institutions remain stranded on a thorny path to get the coveted status of Institution of Eminence (IOE) despite getting the all-clear from the Government’s empowered committee, it’s not exactly been a bed of roses for the other four that made the cut.On paper, these private IOEs, who don’t get any funds under the scheme unlike Government institutions, are assured of autonomy and significant regulatory relief. But in practice, they continue to be weighed down by red tape and regulatory interference, an investigation by The Indian Express, based on official records, visits to campuses across the country and interviews with several university personnel and Government officials, has revealed.Only four of the 10 private higher education institutions selected for the IOE status have received official recognition to date: Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), BITS Pilani, OP Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University. Of these, Shiv Nadar is the youngest IOE, having received the status just last year.The Indian Express found that the three oldest private IOEs on many occasions had asserted their autonomy under the scheme but eventually had to toe the regulatory line.The Centre’s track record on assuring autonomy for the private IOEs is significant given that it is planning to roll out similar freedoms to foreign universities on academic, administrative and financial matters to attract them to India.Multiplicity of regulatorsFor private IOEs, the road to achieving world-class status is riddled with multiple higher education regulators.Although IOE regulations promise autonomy from the University Grants Commission, there are over 15 bodies regulating the higher education space in the country. Private IOEs say this works against multidisciplinary institutions, as they continue to face red tape, delays, and compliance demands from various regulators such as the National Medical Commission, Bar Council of India, Architecture Council of India, Nursing Council, and more.For instance, the autonomy to fix fees and decide admission procedures has been meaningless for MAHE, which also runs a medical college. The National Medical Commission insists that all medical students are admitted only through NEET, which is difficult for international students to crack. MAHE, The Indian Express learned, requested an exemption from NEET for international students, but their request was turned down.Last February, MAHE requested exclusion from NMC’s directive to charge fees equivalent to government medical colleges for half of their total approved capacity. In its letter, the institute reiterated its eminent status. However, NMC rejected the request.Private IOEs have raised concerns about the multiplicity of regulators to the government. OP Jindal Global University made a presentation in 2020 to the then Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on the imperatives of autonomy. While the university can start new programmes and schools with just an intimation to UGC, it has to comply with the Bar Council of India’s regulations for law programmes.The presentation highlighted the need for IoEs to be autonomous and exempted from regulation by all professional bodies or councils to achieve world-class standards in all higher education disciplines.MAHE, too, confirmed that it flagged the issue to review committees sent by the Education Ministry, stating that “freedom from multiple regulators” is necessary to achieve the goals of the IOE scheme.Although BITS Pilani hasn’t written to the government on this issue yet, the university, in its response to this newspaper, said, “Bringing all regulatory bodies under one umbrella would bring uniformity and consistency in the process, making it convenient for good institutes to perform better.”UGC interferenceDespite their special status, private IOEs have found it challenging to deal with the University Grants Commission (UGC).“The private institutes are not entitled to funds like the government IOEs are. So we applied (for the IOE status) for the promise of autonomy. But we keep getting letters from UGC regarding compliances and we are expected to fall in line,” said an officer at one of the four private IOEs.Even on an issue as trivial as the name of a department, red tape kicks in. BITS Pilani’s research cell is currently called sponsored research and consultancy division, but UGC wants BITS to rename it “research development cell.” MAHE, which has already established a Directorate of Research, had received a similar letter from UGC.The UGC, sources said, had also objected to the BITS dual degree programme which allows candidates pursuing a Master’s to also pursue a bachelor’s degree. “UGC felt this was not right,” said an officer of the institute.In 2021 and last year, the UGC got all three private IOEs to refund the fee of all students who either cancelled or withdrew their admission within October 31, leading to several last-minute vacancies that could not be filled afterwards.The UGC order led to about 300 vacancies at BITS Pilani last year. “Refunding fees of students who have already spent a few months studying with an institute means those seats will remain vacant for the next four years. This is a huge revenue loss for us. We are as good as any IIT in the country. They don’t face any such interference from regulators” said an officer of BITS Pilani.In an emailed statement, BITS Pilani said, “All cases of fee refund are being dealt with in accordance with the UGC directives and as per the declared policy of the institute. It would be much easier for us to perform better if admissions related to full autonomy (including fees refund in Admissions processes) is offered to the institutes such as BITS Pilani.”OP Jindal University tried to assert its autonomy under the IOE rules that permit institutions to determine fee and admission policy, they ultimately had to refund the fee.JGU wrote in an emailed statement that “… (despite) following the UGC – (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2017 (UGC – IoE Regulations 2017) and the subsequent amendments of 2021 diligently, we are still constrained to follow the UGC policies related to Fees and Refunds. Considering the aforementioned facts, we had written to the Ministry of Education requesting their guidance to fulfil the objective of creating an enabling regulatory architecture for the Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities and ranked among the world’s top institutions.”MAHE, too confirmed vacancies on account of the UGC institutions. “With interest of students, MAHE did not fill those vacant seats for the year 2022 as well 2021,” the university said in its response to The Indian Express.Red tape on foreign facultyEven as the government expects the IOEs to hire more foreign teachers to boost their performance in international rankings, for the private IOEs, the litany of permissions required to finalise an appointment is a hindrance.For one, the delay in processing work visa applications for foreign teachers often acts as a disincentive. Moreover, visas are usually issued for a year and, only in rare cases for two years. “If we want to attract foreign faculty then we should be able to offer long-term employment. The obligation of renewing work visas annually is a disincentive,” said an officer at a private IOE.The delay in getting Aadhaar number for foreign nationals working in India is another irritant as it delays their PF withdrawal. “As institutions, we try to assist them but there’s nothing we can do to expedite this process or cut red tape,” said another officer of a private IOE.Both MAHE and Jindal have requested the easing of norms for foreign faculty. A spokesperson for OP Jindal University confirmed that the university has suggested to the Government a ‘Specially Expedited Institutions of Eminence Multiple Entry Employment Visa Scheme for International Faculty’. Under this, IOEs should get “preferential treatment in all Government-related approvals and visa processes to enable them to implement their faculty hiring plans in good time,” the spokesperson said. MAHE has called for easing of norms with respect to salary and benefits to international faculty.
Our brave soldiers serve the nation with commitment and conviction, often leaving their families behind. They sacrifice their lives and it is only because of their “shahadat” (martyrdom) that we are safe in our homes today. It is not enough for the government to just give compensation packages and say that it has fulfilled its duty — rules regarding compensation should also be tweaked with time and on a case-to-case basis.As of July 2022, a total of 307 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in the five preceding years. As many as 156 army men and three IAF personnel were killed in terrorist attacks as well as counter-terror operations in the last five years. In the same period, 819 armed forces personnel committed suicide, with the Army reporting the maximum number of such cases at 642. These figures are an indication of the conditions — including staying away for long from their families — under which our soldiers perform their duties, which often results in mental health issues as well.The recent protests by the widows of Pulwama martyrs in Rajasthan are a grim reminder of the challenges faced by the families of soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice. It is heart-wrenching to see them struggle to claim the benefits due to them, and running from pillar to post. The government should go out of its way, if needed, and ensure that the rules meant for the welfare of those who survive soldiers should not become a tool for denying them their legitimate demands. The protesting veeranganas (wives of jawans) were detained by the police and treated unjustly. They wanted certain demands to be fulfilled, which would require some amendments in the rules governing the welfare measures meant for families of martyrs.Consider some of the global practices when it comes to the welfare of the families of martyrs: The US provides financial assistance through the police department or local government to help families of fallen officers cover immediate expenses such as funeral costs, housing, and other expenses. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund provides financial assistance, scholarships, and other support to the families of officers who have died in the line of duty. Similarly, the Fraternal Order of Police provides financial assistance and other support to its members and their families. The UK has schemes like the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme to provide compensation to military personnel who have been injured, are ill or have died as a result of service and War Disablement Pension schemes to provide tax-free financial assistance to military personnel who were disabled in the discharge of their duty.As a country which takes pride in its soldiers, we should listen to the legitimate demands of the veeranganas. The issues they have raised relate to the sentiments of the common man and are above any political considerations.Three major concerns must be addressed. The first is the demand for flexibility in the rules for providing jobs on compassionate grounds. This is a major bone of contention between the government and the veeranganas. The latter have demanded that not just the children of martyrs, but other members of the family, including brothers-in-law, should be given government jobs on compassionate grounds. The government’s argument that if the rules are altered for one case, then the future of all the children of the martyrs will be compromised, is technically sound. If the rules are amended to include distant family relations then they can also be used as a tool to blackmail the widows and pressure them for jobs, shunning them in case they fail to do so.It is argued that if the children are not academically brilliant or are unable to complete their education due to health issues, accidents etc., then having a job reserved for the family will secure the future of the child. The government should be liberal and amend the rules to remove any kind of restriction on the number of children of a martyr who are entitled to jobs on compassionate grounds. One child getting the job and his or her sibling being denied the same is unfair because the loss is equal for both.Second, there is a demand for the construction of multiple statues of martyrs. If other public figures have the privilege of having statues erected in different parts of the country, why can’t we have the same provision for martyrs? The government should amend the rules and a provision can be added that in case of more than one statue, it can involve local bodies like panchayat and municipal administration, local MLAs, NGOs and bhamashah (philanthropists) who can make matching contributions to the extent of 50 per cent for the construction of memorials or statues of martyrs. The government can also utilise corporate social responsibility funds for the same. These statues are not just brick-and-mortar structures, they are symbols of the sacrifice of our martyrs which will inspire the generations to come.Third, a department of welfare for the families of the martyrs, both at the central and state level, should be set up in order to facilitate social security benefits for them. The department should be allocated funds to provide housing grants to the families of the martyrs; marriage grants for their children; financial aid in the form of education, medical care and housing; in addition to offering counselling services to assist them in coping with their loss. By making these additional resources available to the families of those who have been martyred, we can demonstrate our support for them.The department should also work on providing benefits/concessions on utilities, free transportation via air, rail and bus, and benefits for the purchase of prescription medication and other healthcare services to the families of the martyrs. The issue of the welfare of the families of the martyrs is one that goes beyond politics and the solution has to be rooted in a rights-based approach.It is important to bear in mind that these families take pride in their sacrifice. Given the current state of affairs and the apathy of the administration, there is an urgent need for the sensitisation of not only the bureaucracy but also political leaders while dealing with these issues.The writer is Congress MLA from Osian (Rajasthan)
Until a few years ago, access to technology was considered a privilege restricted to the urban elite. The internet was unaffordable for people in rural areas. Only 25 crore Indians used the internet till 2014, which increased to 84 crore in 2022. Earlier, the cost of 1GB of data was about Rs 300. Now it has come down to about Rs 13.5 per GB, making it affordable. This is a snapshot of how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has driven inclusion through technology in New India.The pandemic was a testing time and Digital India minimised the impact of disruption. The affordability of the internet led to accessibility of services. When education in schools went online during the pandemic, Suhani Sahu, a student in Balrampur, UP, attended her course curriculum online via the Diksha platform. Shubham Kumar living in a village in East Champaran, Bihar, ensured uninterrupted treatment of his ailing mother, saving on travel time and cost by taking teleconsultation from a doctor on the eSanjeevani app. Over 10 crore such teleconsultations have happened so far.Hari Ram, a taxi driver in Dehradun, had a ration card from Hardoi in UP. The One Nation One Ration Card framework helped him access food supplies even in Dehradun. The Gramin Dak Sevaks of India Post provided financial service assistance at doorsteps using the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) to people in the remotest corner of the country.PM Modi’s thrust on turning technology into a tool against poverty and improving the ease of living has benefitted the Indian masses.Digital technologies have come of age. They have become an integral part of our lives. AI, 5G, and quantum technology have matured to a level where they are becoming mainstream.This makes 2023 an inflection point. In these exciting times, India has assumed the leadership of the G20. Atmanirbhar Bharat is ready to showcase its technology platforms to the world with the philosophy of using them for the greater good.PM Modi has said “today, people do not see the government as an obstacle; rather, people see our government as a catalyst for new opportunities. Certainly, technology has played a big role in this.” These words echo across the nation and this vision-led transformation is visible in every nook and corner of India. India went on a complete digital transformation. The country is focused on creating public digital platforms which are open source, available to everybody, of large scale and born-digital.That’s how CoWIN was developed. The entire process of onboarding vaccine manufacturers, clinics, hospitals, registration of citizens, and scheduling, till the final certificate of vaccination, is digital. This enabled India to administer 150 crore doses within the first 12 months of the vaccination drive. India has now delivered close to 220 crore doses. Today, CoWIN has become a ground-breaking example of democratising digital technology.It is no coincidence that India has shown a unique way to use technology to benefit society. Today, street vendors, vegetable carts, small shops, and big showrooms across India have QR (quick response) code stickers for digital payments. Payment QR codes randomly placed for scanning in the midst of piping hot tea and snacks at a roadside small tea stall have become an everyday sight.Using public funds, we created a platform where banks have joined, as have insurance companies, e-commerce companies, MSMEs, startups and most importantly 120 crore people have joined. In this public private partnership, no single entity has complete control over the platform, making it democratic.Launched in 2016, UPI now does $1.5 trillion worth of transactions every year. The average settlement time for each transaction is two seconds. This has led to an increase in transparency and convenience. This is why India’s UPI has become a global standard for digital payments.Technology’s role in enhancing the ease of living is becoming increasingly visible by the day. The FASTag technology has ensured that our vehicles continue blazing through the highways without stopping. This use of technology has reduced congestion and the waiting time at the toll plazas, providing smooth movement within our borders, while boosting digital payments.Technology has taken a giant leap with the roll out of 5G. While launching 5G services in India, PM Modi shared his vision of using 5G in healthcare, education, agriculture, construction sectors etc., to make living easy for people. India is also relentlessly working towards becoming a 4G and 5G technology exporter in the coming three years.We have proved the prowess of our engineers and scientists with these scalable digital public goods. Now we’re developing the OCEN (open credit enablement network), which will raise credit penetration by transitioning the system to cash flow-based lending. OCEN will lead to competition among various banks for giving loans to a person, lowering the cost of credit. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, this will propel the credit to GDP ratio from the current 57 per cent to 100 per cent by 2031.This game-changing digital and tech-led revolution powered by PM Modi’s vision empowers and transforms the lives of ordinary citizens. It gives power to the poorest and marginalised sections and offers the ability to create something in the hands of the creative minds of the young and talented generation. This model is now being replicated across different sectors. Be it the health sector, education, logistics, agriculture or defence, similar platforms are being created on which a vibrant ecosystem of startups or any enterprise can build solutions.India has entered its Amrit Kaal in times of global uncertainty. Moving forward, under the farsighted, decisive and action-oriented leadership of PM Modi, India’s G20 Presidency will be pathbreaking, serving and sharing our scalable public digital infrastructure with the world.The writer is Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology