Friday April 20, 2018
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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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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS