Polity & Governance
- Extend quota for poor students in minority schools, says panel
- Panel on education policy wants UGC Act to lapse
- Parliamentary panel to review election code, suggests ways to curb freebies
- Model for airport fees may increase passenger fares
Environment & Ecology
- Environmentalists hail decision to declare Mangar Bani as no-construction belt
Polity & Governance
Extend quota for poor students in minority schools, says panel
The draft report on the new national policy on education submitted by a panel headed by T.S.R. Subramanian wants reservation for disadvantaged children to be extended to unaided minority schools.
- The report has recommended to the government that the larger national obligations to meet the rights of economically weaker sections should extend to all institutions including minority (both religious and linguistic) institutions.
- The panel report has pointed out that it is now important to reconcile the rights of the economically weaker sections with the rights of the minorities under Article 30 (1).
- The report calls for further examination of this, saying that it is necessary to ensure that “minority institutions are established only for genuine reasons envisaged by the Constitution.
- The panel report suggests that minority institutions do not use their constitutional privilege to manoeuvre out of national obligations established in overall public interest.
- While the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, mandates that even private, unaided schools shall provide admission to children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in admission to Class-1 to the extent of at least 25% of the admissions done, private, unaided minority institutions are exempt from this requirement.
- The Supreme Court, in 2012, held that the provision did not extend to institutions set by minorities, which are defined as religious and linguistic minorities in India.
Definition of “disadvantaged group” & “weaker sections”:
- The Right to Education Act includes the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes in its definition of “disadvantaged group”.
- The RTE act defines a child belonging to “weaker sections” as one whose parent or guardian earns below a minimum level of income specified by the appropriate government.
Article 30 of the constitution:
- Article 30 is classified under Part III of the Indian Constitution that elucidates all the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the citizens of India irrespective of their religion, caste and sex.
- Article 30 upholds the right of the minorities “to establish and administer educational institutions”.
- Article 30 (1): all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Panel on education policy wants UGC Act to lapse
A high-power committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, tasked with drawing a blueprint for a new national education policy, has recommended that the law that set up the higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) be allowed to lapse.
- The committee has suggested an alternative arrangement for a pruned UGC as the UGC has been unable to effectively implement its regulations aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education in the country over the years.
- According to the panel, the UGC could be revamped, made considerably leaner and thinner, and could be the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function.
- The Subramanian-panel believes that specialised functions should be undertaken by specialised bodies.
Reasons for lapsing UGC:
- The Committee was informed that over the years there are widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses.
- There are serious concerns about the quality of education provided by a large number of colleges/universities; it is the responsibility of the UGC to monitor standards of education in higher education institutions and the UGC has not succeeded in ensuring this.
- The credibility of the UGC has been seriously dented by approvals given to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities.
Previous committees supporting the lapse of UGC:
- An expert Committee headed by Hari Gautam recently has examined thoroughly the past, present and future role of UGC; the report is under examination by the Ministry. It is understood that the report had concluded that the UGC does not have the adequate number of personnel, of requisite quality, to be an effective regulatory force in the higher education sector.
- The Yashpal Committee had suggested subsuming of various authorities like UGC and AICTE — the technical education regulator — within a bigger platform providing interaction between different areas of knowledge.
Other important recommendations of the Subramanian committee:
- Seeing both quality and inclusion as important, the panel has recommended linking the autonomy of higher education institutions with their rating/performance.
- The report has recommended full academic autonomy to those getting rated in the highest category. According to the panel, the institutions being rated in the lowest category should close down. Higher the rating, more the autonomy.
- Full academic autonomy includes the freedom to choose their fee structure, curriculum and even the scales paid to their faculty members.
Professionalism in rating:
- The panel also proposed greater professionalism in rating. As of now, NAAC under the UGC rates institutions across India.
- According to the panel, while a government body like the UGC should set standards, the inspection or assessment of institutions based on these standards needed greater professionalism, and agencies/companies that are trained to evaluate should be entrusted with the task.
Indian Education Service:
- The committee has also called for an ‘Indian Education Service’ with selections done by the UGC for pulling in greater talent into teaching.
Quality in school education:
- It has also underlined the need for greater quality in school education, suggesting a no-detention policy only till Class V, instead of Class VIII at present.
Other options for students:
- The committee has opened other options for students i.e. students not learning as per requirements should be offered remedial classes from class 1 itself, and online resources can also be used for this.
- A student failing the Class V exam should be given another attempt to pass. If he or she fails again, there should be an option to specialise in some vocation, so that vocational training can go alongside language and numerical skills.
Inculcation of values:
- The report has also recommended the inculcation of values — peace, harmony, respect for diversity, equality, truth, dharma and non-violence among others — in students and has said that pride in the nation should be one of the values education should promote.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- It is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
- It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.
- The UGC’s mandate also includes overseeing disbursal of fellowships to students.
- Its headquarters is in New Delhi, and six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.
Short history of UGC:
- The UGC was first formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. Its responsibility was extended in 1947 to cover all Indian universities.
- In 1949, a recommendation was made to reconstitute the UGC along similar lines to the University Grants Committee of the United Kingdom. This recommendation was made by the University Education Commission of 1948-1949 which was set up under the chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan.
- In 1956, the UGC became a statutory body upon the passing of the “University Grants Commission Act, 1956” by the Indian Parliament.
Parliamentary panel to review election code, suggests ways to curb freebies
The model code of conduct (MCC) for polls is under review by a Parliamentary Committee.
- The committee will suggest ways to check use of cash and other freebies to lure voters during the elections.
- The panel has also decided to suggest ways to check distribution of cash and freebies ahead of the polls.
- The panel had, in an earlier report submitted three years ago, recommended reducing the time between enforcement of the model code and the day of polling.
- The panel had also suggested that the MCC should come into force from the date of notification and not the announcement of poll schedule. “It (the proposal) is pending with the government.
The move comes after it took cognisance of the cancellation of polls in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies in Tamil Nadu recently following evidence of use of money and gifts to influence the voters.
About Model Code of Conduct (MCC):
- Model Code of Conduct are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
- The aim of these Model Code of Conduct is to ensure free and fair elections.
- The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
- The code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect.
- It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
- The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time.
Model for airport fees may increase passenger fares
According to experts, the civil aviation policy’s adoption of a hybrid-till model for calculating airport fees could push up airfares, by raising airport charges for airlines instead of bringing them down as per the policy’s stated objective.
What’s the issue?
- The hybrid-till model, under which 30% of airport operator’s non-aeronautical revenues would be used to subsidise airport costs, is in contrast with stance taken by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA), a tariff regulator set up by an Act of Parliament in 2009 for major airports across the country.
- AERA has adopted the single-till model for determining aeronautical tariffs that can be set by airports, wherein passengers and airlines are charged less.
Implications of the move:
- The move will bring clarity as the conflicting interpretations on the tariff front resulted in battles with AERA ultimately driving away investors.
- The move may marginally increase costs at 13 other major airports (with capacity of more than 15 lakh passengers) such as Ahmedabad, Calicut, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, among others.
- While the draft policy released in October last year had stated that the hybrid-till model will be followed for “all future airports,” the final policy, released last week, states that “future tariffs at all airports will be calculated on a ‘hybrid-till’ basis.”
What are single, double and hybrid till models?
There are three models to calculate charges at the airports – single till, double till and hybrid till.
- In the single-till model, both aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges are taken into account to calculate the airport charges.
- While in the double-till model, aeronautical charges are calculated on the basis of revenues from aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges on the basis of collections from non-aeronautical.
- Under the hybrid-till model, the airport operator adds a part of the non-aeronautical (duty-free shops, hotel, restaurant, among others) revenue and the total revenue from the aeronautical (landing, parking and ground handling charges) side to compile total earnings.
Airport costs constitute 10-14% of an airline’s operational costs.
Which one is good, single-till or hybrid-till model?
- AERA has been in favour of the single-till model which is more consumer-oriented. AERA officials said it was easier for the regulator to determine tariff on a single-till basis. Airlines prefer a single-till model as it reduces their charges and passenger fees.
- According to others, the move to switch to hybrid-till may revive private developer interest in running airports as the model increases their revenue.
- Under single-till, developers’ return remains the same even if non-aero was nil. This, in turn, will mean that airport will have to increase aeronautical charges. Thus, in long run single-till can lead to higher aero charges as compared to hybrid till.
Environment & Ecology
Environmentalists hail decision to declare Mangar Bani as no-construction belt
Environmentalists have hailed the recent decision of the Haryana government to notify Mangar Bani, off Gurgaon-Faridabad road, as a no-construction belt.
- Not just environmentalists, but the Central Ground Water Board has declared in its report that Mangar Bani is an excellent water recharge zone.
- With the groundwater level in Gurgaon fast depleting, the Aravallis are the lifeline of the region.
- The area would serve as a wildlife corridor between the Asola wildlife sanctuary in Delhi and the Sariska national park in Rajasthan, besides being a water recharge zone.
- Taking a step towards protecting the Aravalli mountain range, the Haryana government has identified the Mangar Bani on scientific principles.
- The National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) had earmarked the Mangar Bani grove in Haryana as “no-construction zone” and said that it would be out of bounds for tourism activities.