Thursday October 19, 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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Richard Thaler Supported Demonetisation, there is More to the Story

Demonetisation is what Richard Thaler had long supported. However, he remarked "Really? Damn," when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

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Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.Wikimedia

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to scrape Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last November, Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler supported demonetization describing it as a policy that he had long supported.

Dr. Richard Thaler, a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.

Did Richard Thaler really support demonetization in the way BJP took it? There is more to the story than what meets the eye.

As soon as Thaler was declared the Nobel Prize winner, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started sharing Thaler’s tweet regarding demonetization on social media affirming that the move which was severely criticised by the members of the opposition was actually supported by a Nobel Prize winner. The BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya retweeted the old tweet within a fraction of a second.

However, Richard Thaler remarked “Really? Damn,” when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 note thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

It was not only the BJP supporters but also a large number of BJP leaders who were flowed away with incomplete picture depicted by Malviya and tweeted about it.‬ This included Union Minister Giriraj Singh, former BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta, and many others.

Soon after, twitterati realized that the full picture of Thaler’s statement on demonetization was rather hidden.

Prime Minister Modi declared that the motivation behind scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was to promote cashless economy and reduce corruption. This decision was severely criticised by different sections of the society putting on Modi the ultimate responsibility for heralding economic deceleration. Demonetisation pulled down India’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1% in 2016-17.

Some highlighted that the introduction of Rs 2000 note was an ephemeral panacea for remonetization and that its printing has been terminated.

-Prepared by Mohima Haque of NewsGram, Twitter: mohimahaque26

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PM Narendra Modi: Don’t believe in vote bank politics, Nation comes first

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

Varanasi, Sep 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday, said that the BJP did not believe in vote bank politics as the country was above party politics. This is his second day of the visit to his parliamentary constituency in Varanasi.

Modi told a gathering that he had launched a major war against corruption and the corrupt to ease the life of the common man. He also said cleanliness was worship for him as it could rid the poor of various diseases and a lot of economic burdens.

“Governance for us is not about votes or winning elections. The priority is the development of the nation. For us, the country is bigger than party,” he said, in his address to farmers in Shahanshahpur on the outskirts of Varanasi.

He said most of the problems faced by the common people in India were rooted in corruption.

“I have launched a war against it and will take it further to ensure that graft is weeded out from the country.”(IANS)

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PM Modi in Varanasi: Sanitation is worship, Cleanliness Is a Way to Serve the Poor

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The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi addresses the gathering, at Shahanshahpur, Varanasi Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on September 23, 2017.

Varanasi, Sep 23 :  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a public gathering in Varanasi said that sanitation is worship for him, as it can rid the poor of various diseases.

The gathering was largely attended by people on the second day of his Varanasi visit. Modi visited, Shahanshahpur a village of his Lok Sabha constituency. Where he laid the foundation stone of a public toilet in the area.

“That is because sanitation is also a kind of worship for me. It will rid the poor of my country of various diseases and the economic burden due to those diseases that result from dirty surroundings,” he said while addressing people there.

He said while no one likes garbage, everyone in India shies away from the responsibility of keeping their surroundings clean.

“It is the responsibility of every citizen and every family to keep their surroundings clean so we are able to build clean villages, clean cities and a clean nation,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister urged people to take one resolution each, to improve the nation by 2022. The year will also mark the 75 years of independence.

“In the coming five years, we have to be committed towards that resolution. If 125 crore people take one resolution each and live up to it, then the nation would move 125 crore steps forward in the next five years,” he said.

(IANS)