Tuesday December 12, 2017
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Education and Modi govt’s misplaced priorities

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By Sapan Kapoor

After days of protest by hundreds of students over the scrapping of the non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowship, the Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, in a bid to assuage the concerns of the latter, clarified that the programme would continue. However, the students, notwithstanding the government’s assurances in this regard, are continuing with their ‘Occupy UGC’ demonstration, painting graffiti in black and red on the walls adjacent to the UGC building in New Delhi.

It read, “#OccupyUGC… This wall will fall.”

The students demanded written assurances from the powers-that-be and an increase in the amount of the grant.

The students have a point, for needless to say education in India is not just a socio-economic issue, but a national security issue as well. Thousands of people, both security forces and civilians, have died in India due to Maoist violence with the illiterate, unemployed and unemployable youth waging a sanguine war against the state. It only shows how if the youth is not provided with quality education and training, the much-vaunted demographic dividend – at present India has 50% of its population below 25 years and 65% below 35 years – that our country is supposed to enjoy can turn into a disaster.

The pathetic quality of education being imparted to Indians can be gauged with the following example alone that should suffice to give us sleepless nights.

In the second week of September 2015, 23 lakh candidates applied for just 368 vacancies for the post of a peon in the government secretariat in Uttar Pradesh. To be a peon, one is required to be but a fifth grader (duh). However, shockingly, the applicants for this post included 250 doctorates, 25,000 Postgraduates, 1.5 lakh graduates, 7.5 lakh Higher secondary school pass outs and 11.2 lakh class 10 or equivalent pass outs. When PhD holders and engineers start applying for the post of peon in a country, it should become obvious that there’s something seriously wrong with its education system.

We are in troubled waters, but the authorities do not seem to be losing their sleep over this pressing issue. It is a matter of great regret that when it comes to funding for the important sector of education, the treatment Modi sarkar has meted out to it does not inspire much confidence; and above all should be a cause of concern for one and all.

When the need of the hour is to spend more on educating India’s youth, the NDA government has chosen to walk in the opposite direction that leads nowhere but the abyss of darkness and ignorance.

Let’s have a look at some disturbing figures in this regard. The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reduced India’s overall education budget from Rs. 82,771 cr to Rs. 69,074 cr. While under the previous government the Plan allocation went up by 18 per cent in 2012-13 and by 8.03 per cent in 2013-14, the Modi sarkar has reduced the Plan allocation for 2015-16 by 24.68 per cent.

The government’s apathy towards education is apparent from the fact that funding for the flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been reduced by 22.14 per cent; the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by 16.41 per cent; the Rashtriya Madhyama Shiksha Abhiyan for secondary education by 28.7 per cent; and the Rashtriya Uchhattar Shiksha Abhiyan, to support state colleges, by 48 per cent.

Moreover, when the Smriti Irani’s Human Resource ministry demanded Rs 50,000 cr in 2015-16 for SSA, it received just Rs 22,000 cr from the current Budget. The Union Budget for 2015-16 also cut spending on child education, development, health and protection as compared to last year. “In absolute terms”, according to child rights NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), child budget decreased from Rs 81,075.26 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 57,918.51 cr in 2015-16.

Ironically, the government of India announced Rs 250 million assistance package for the preservation of the Pashupatinath temple in Nepal last year prior to Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Himalayan country. Furthermore, PM Modi ‘gifted’ 2,500 kg of Shrikhanda (Sandalwood) worth Rs 2 crore for the temple, besides providing assistance in building a 400-bed ‘dharamshala’ inside the temple premises.

It is, therefore, a pity that when the need of the hour is to urgently boost spending on education, India’s scarce resources are being literally frittered away on temples that too in foreign lands, finding ancient rivers and funding cultural tours from relief funds meant for natural disasters, especially when hundreds of debt-ridden, wretched farmers have been compelled to put an end to their precious lives.

It is apparent the government has got its priorities wrong or, perchance, it does not fully understand the gravity of the situation. In the 21st century India, quality, affordable education ought not to be the preserve of the privileged few, for not everyone is as fortunate enough like PM Modi who despite being from a humble background has gone on to lead the nation.

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Narendra Modi App : Amazing Platform where Prime Minister connects with the citizens

Wanna give ideas to or interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Go and download Narendra Modi app on android and iOs

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an amazing sense of connecting with masses. Prime Minister knows the nerve of Indian public and at various instances proves himself as a pan Indian leader. Prime Minster Modi is undoubtedly one of the most tech-savvy global leader and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance since a long time. Within two months of assuming Prime Minister-ship, he had launched the ambitious myGov project. In continuing the tradition of citizen connect, Prime Minister Modi took another step towards connecting with the people at their convenience by launching Narendra Modi app couple of years back.

Narendra Modi app
Prime Minister launching Narendra Modi App

The Narendra Modi app provides updates on the day-to-day activities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It presents an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from Shri Narendra Modi. There is also an option to contribute and earn ‘badges’ through to-do tasks in various social initiatives. Through Narendra Modi app, one can tune-in and listen to the various episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, read Prime Minister Modi’s blogs, and get to know more about him from his Biography section. Narendra Modi app also provides comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, which has an ‘infographics’ section for insights.

Such type of initiative by a global leader gives a strong message how technology can be used by governments to bridge gap between leaders and citizens. apart from this app Prime Minister Modi is also very much active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Prime Minister Modi is the one of the most followed global leader on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for. Go and share some ideas of innovation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and contribute in his vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”.

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

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Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)

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Will India be able to travel in the Bullet Train Soon? Yes, Say Railway Officials; Indian Railways Target Completing the Project Before the August 2022 Deadline

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14

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Bullet Train
Railway Board Chairman held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman. (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : Unfazed by opposition criticism, Indian Railways is working overtime to push ahead with the much-talked about the “Bullet Train” project, aiming to complete it ahead of the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who has a reputation of a turnaround man, has taken up the task of monitoring and chairing the periodic review meetings of the project that is estimated to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion).

Lohani held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Central government officials, Principal Secretary-rank officials of Gujarat and Maharashtra, officials of NHSRCL (National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited), officials of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the General Manager of Western Railway.

A senior railway board member, requesting anonymity, told IANS, “The railways is in no mood to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Lohani will now hold a review meeting once every three months… And even on weekly basis, if required.”

Emphasising on the government’s intention, the official said, “The attendance of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the Japanese Ambassador and the CRB in the review meeting is a clear signal that the government is taking the project seriously and there is no scope for any delay.”

“The CRB wants Indian Railway officials to take lessons from their Japanese counterparts about meeting deadlines,” he said.

The opposition has attacked the government for taking up a project at a huge cost instead of focusing on safety, a dire need of the time, and on schemes to improve passenger amenities.

The official said it was also decided at the meeting that “a road map for consultancy and civil engineering works will be prepared by January 2018”.

A ministry official associated with the Bullet Train project said a report on the signalling system and electrical reports would be ready by April 2018. According to him, the tracks and most of the signalling system would be brought from Japan.

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14.

Of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent for 50 years. And the repayment will begin only after 15 years.

The railway official said that to encourage the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, “an appeal will be made to Indian and Japanese companies to make use the opportunity to work together”.

Meanwhile, the officials of the government of Maharashtra and Gujarat assured the railways of their help in land acquisition and smooth shifting of raw materials to construction venues.

A three-level monitoring committee was also constituted, including the Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog and Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister.

A working group led by Managing Director of NHSRCL Achal Khare and consisting of representatives of the ministries concerned, and the representative of JICA, has been formed. Besides the two committees, a technical expert committee led by the Managing Director of NHSRCL has also been formed.

Of the 508 km stretch, 92 per cent (468 km) of the route will be elevated, six per cent (27 km) will be in tunnels and the remaining two per cent (13 km) will be on the ground .

The high-speed train would also pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Twelve stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance will be covered in two hours and seven minutes if the train stops at four stations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. If the train stops at all 12 stations, it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

According to Railway Ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train would be 320 kmph and the maximum speed would be 350 kmph.

 

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Anand K. Singh and was first published by IANS. Anand can be contacted at can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)