Wednesday November 22, 2017

‘Corruption biggest hurdle in India’s quest for quality education’

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New Delhi: Corruption remains the biggest hurdle in the realization of the long-awaited quest of Indians to receive free-of-cost quality education, noted speakers and representatives of schools associations rued at the seventh School Choice National Conference in the national capital on Saturday.

This comes as the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) is currently developing the New Education Policy (NEP) in a bid to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to eliminate the shortage of manpower. The last NEP was brought out in 1986 and later amended in 1992.

While speaking at the Conference at the Indian Habitat Centre, Ekta Sodha, the CEO of Sodha Schools in Gujarat, narrated her “frustrating” experience when “one minor typo error” delayed her in opening a school in the state for a year.

“We talk about policies and a lot of things, but this is not how we see it by working day in, day out at the grassroots level. How does corruption happen? It happens through discretion… Someone told me recently that in Gujarat the system of transfer of teachers has become very transparent. I asked him how. He replied that everything is done online now. There is a platform where the teachers can apply for transfers directly and it gets done in a time-bound manner. However, a teacher who came to my office a few days ago shared a different story. He told me that earlier a teacher was required to pay a bribe of only Rs 10,000 to 15,000 at a local level, but now they are supposed to go to Gandhinagar and pay Rs 50,000 for transfers,” Lodha said, as the gathering burst into peals of laughter.

Lodha also threw some light upon the rampant corruption in the Gujarat government’s endeavor to build ‘model schools’ that were meant to compete with any of the private schools in terms of providing quality education.

The model schools are being set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan’ (RMSA), where the central government provides 72 per cent funds while the rest 28 percent is contributed by the state government.

“Gujarat is talking about model schools. They say they’ll open what a model school will look like and a lot of grant has been passed for that… So, there is a school nearby (from where I am in Gujarat) and grant of around Rs four crores have been passed for that. I have a friend who is associated with that project. They have nearly spent Rs four crores on the school yet even plastering work has not been done on the building. They will apply for more grant, I am sure.”

Lodha also told the gathering that the teacher training programme in Gujarat remains only on the paper.

“When teachers of my schools go to these government training centres, they are made to get photographed with the trainer, offered food and then asked to leave… There is no training,” she narrated.

R C Jain, President of National Independent School Alliance and Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association, also narrated the hurdles faced by the people in the education sector due to red-tapism, accusing the government of imposing unnecessary rules over the private schools where 30 per cent children of India study.

“Up until now I have written over 10,000 letters all over India talking about the lacunas in the RTE Act. Moreover, I represent around 4,000 schools in Delhi. They regret that they came to this field and I understand their pain… At least, give teachers the respect they deserve,” Jain said, adding, “The government should not impose rules and restrictions on the private schools, for it is important to keep their autonomy intact.”

Jain said the government through RTE Act set a limit in the number of students in a class but did not provide infrastructure to schools to accommodate them.

The speakers rued that the Right to Education Act 2009 under section (6) directs the government to establish new schools in areas where they do not exist. Contrary to this provision of the Act, various states are shutting down thousands of government schools due to falling enrolments, which is a clear indicator that more and more people prefer to send their children to private schools for education rather than free-of-cost government schools.

“In 2014-15, Rajasthan closed down 18000 government schools, Maharashtra closed down 4000 government schools and Chhattisgarh closed down 2913 government schools,” Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdom said.

On the other hand, in accordance with Section 19 of the Act, thousands of private unaided schools which are not able to fulfill stringent infrastructure norms specified in the Act, despite producing higher learning outcomes, have also been forced to shut down. According to a National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) report of March 2014, since the implementation of the RTE Act, 19,414 private unaided schools have been shut down or issued notice of closure (affecting the education of nearly 40 lakh children), she said.

“There should be a change at the grassroots level.”

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Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Indicted on Corruption Charges

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Muhammad Safdar, husband of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of ousted Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, waves from a a vehicle as he arrives at an accountability court in Islamabad. VOA

Islamabad, October 19: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been indicted on corruption charges stemming from information taken from the so-called “Panama Papers.”

The country’s anti-corruption court indicted the 67-year-old Sharif during a hearing Thursday in Islamabad. His daughter Maryam and son-in-law Mohammed Safdar were also indicted. Maryam Sharif and Mohammed Safdar appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A lawyer for the elder Sharif, who is in London with his wife as she undergoes cancer treatment, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Maryam Sharif angrily dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and removed from office in July after leaked documents last year from a Panama-based law firm revealed the family held a number of unreported overseas assets.(VOA)

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Journalist Behind the Panama Papers Killed in a Car Bomb

Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a "one-woman WikiLeaks".

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Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device. (Representative image) Pixabay

Valletta, October 17, 2017 : A journalist who led the Panama Papers probe into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her residence, the media reported.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device, reports the Guardian.

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.

Her latest revelations accused Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, the Guardian reported.

Malta’s President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for calm. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgement and to show solidarity.”

ALSO READ Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption

In a statement, Muscat condemned the “barbaric attack”.

“Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine,” said Muscat, adding “Both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way.”

He announced in parliament later on Monday that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers were on their way to Malta to assist with the investigation, following his request for help from the US government.

According to local media reports, Caruana Galizia filed a police report 15 days ago to say that she had been receiving death threats.

The journalist posted her final blog on her Running Commentary website at 2.35 p.m. on Monday, and the explosion, which occurred near her home, was reported to police just after 3 p.m.

Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5 million documents leaked from the internal database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. (IANS)

 

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Amit Shah Rejects Allegation of Money Laundering on Son Jay Shah

"Where has money laundering been done? All the transactions happened through cheques and banks," claimed Amit Shah at an event.

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Amit Shah, BJP National President. Wikimedia

Ahmedabad, October 13, 2017 : Breaking his silence, BJP president Amit Shah rejected allegations of money laundering against his son Jay Shah whose company had reportedly recorded an extraordinary spike in business after the BJP came to power at the Centre, and asserted that it had not done any business with the government nor taken any kickbacks.

He also said that unlike the Congress, which had faced many corruption charges in the past, his son has shown courage to file a civil and criminal defamation suit on the allegations levelled against him and “invited a probe against himself” by this step.

“There is no money laundering involved in Jay’s company. This company is completely in commodity business, where turnover is more while the profit is less. We have exported bajra, corn and rice while coriander was imported. And after doing a turnover of Rs 80 crore, they don’t tell how much they made profit,” Amit Shah said at an “India Today” event “Gujarat Panchayat”.

Answering questions, he said that after making a turnover of Rs 80 crore, Jay made a loss of Rs 1.5 crore. “Where has money laundering been done? All the transactions happened through cheques and banks,” he said.

Asked about Jay Shah filing a defamation suit against the publication, Shah said: “Before answering your question I would like to ask you one thing. After Independence, how many corruption charges have been made against the Congress?

“Please understand this is not corruption. Many allegations of corruption were made against the Congress. Did it ever file a civil suit or defamation suit? No. Why they lacked such courage? Today Jay has filed a defamation as well as civil suit and is demanding a probe himself. Those who have the evidence can submit it to the court, and then the court will decide,” the BJP president said.

He said: “We have ourselves invited a probe and on the company issue I want to clarify that it has not done business with the government of even Re 1 nor taken any government land or tender. Neither has it received kickbacks as in the case of Bofors.”

When asked about Jay’s company securing unsecured loans, Shah said it was not unsecured loans. “It was a line of credit,” he added. (IANS)