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Pihani, (UP), Feb 20, 2017: For 16 years, Kailash Rai (not his real name), 49, has been commuting six hours every working day between his home in the state capital Lucknow and the government degree college where he teaches in Pihani, 135 km to the northwest.
A political-science lecturer, Rai cannot move with his family to Pihani, a cluster of over 100 villages (called a kasba) in Hardoi district, with less than 40,000 families as per Census 2011. When he started working there in 2000, it lacked the basic public facilities-regular power supply, good roads, public transport and good medical services.
Pihani remains an economic backwater. In the ongoing assembly elections, UP’s incumbent and contesting politicians are still promising the basic facilities they did 16 years ago: Electricity, buses and jobs, along with laptops and free data for poor youth.
UP’s story parallels that of Pihani. The kasba’s population of 206,743 is serviced by four colleges-a government degree college, a state-run industrial training institute (ITI) and two private degree colleges more than the Indian average of 27 colleges per 100,000 youth in the 18-23 age group, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2014-15. But it has been unable to produce talent to run local educational institutions, banks, and medical centres.
UP has the highest number of colleges in any Indian state (6,026), according to AISHE 2014-15, but it has been unable to produce the qualified workforce to drive development, as IndiaSpend reported on February 11, 2017.
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UP is India’s most populous and youngest state. Its median age is 23 and the flaws in its development model typified by Pihani explain why its towns and village clusters (blocks with a population of less than 250,000 in 2011) cannot cope with the aspirations of its people, especially with regard to education and employment.
Pihani’s dropout rate of 36 per cent at elementary school level exceeds UP’s overall rate of 21 percent. Like other village clusters in the state, connections to bigger cities are limited because there are few railway links, hardly any feeder roads to highways or efficient public transport services. Less than half the houses in the villages have electricity.
UP has made higher education available everywhere, so why hasn’t the state become a hub for learning? Why doesn’t the state with the highest college enrollment in India –25 per cent of men and women in the 18-23 age group — manage to create a pool of employable youth?
Some answers can be found in Pihani. The primary factor is the state’s disinterest in developing the basic infrastructure in its towns and villages that are now flush with schools and colleges.
Institutes have spread, so why hasn’t education?
Despite a large number of colleges in the district, Hardoi’s school education system is a mess. Only 64 percent of children in the district progress from primary to upper levels in school, according to data from the District Information for School Education surveys 2014-15. The all-India rate of transition from primary to upper primary level was 90 percent.
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In a drive to push higher education in its backward pockets, many of UP’s colleges were set up in villages and kasbas. This growth was fuelled by both the government and private entrepreneurs. Hardoi district itself has 132 colleges, eight of them are government institutions — Pihani’s government degree college is one such — and 124 are private.
Over the years, the government degree college has acquired projectors, computers, and generators but Pihani remains a backwater. This, according to Rai, is why the teachers at his college — and most employees in local banks, schools, and hospitals — opt for long commutes from larger cities. They are what Rai describes as “reverse migrants”, working in villages and living in cities.
Pihani’s residents, it would appear, are not educated or skilled enough to fill in these jobs. The reason could lie in the quality of education.
“Government colleges are understaffed; usually, they work with one-third the required strength. This means that teachers are overworked,” said PC Joshi, a retired principal from a government degree college in UP.
However, he pointed out, private colleges have an even bigger problem. “Government colleges appoint qualified staff and the recruitment processes is fair and transparent. But privately-owned or funded colleges are often under-resourced in terms of physical infrastructure. And their recruitments are mostly on paper; in practice, there is hardly any teaching. There isn’t enough assessment of whether students are being taught regularly and adequately,” he told IndiaSpend.
Also, 17 less-populous states and union territories have better enrollment rates in higher education than UP: The union territory of Chandigarh reports India’s highest enrollment at 56 per cent, followed by Puducherry at 46 per cent. Manipur, among the northeastern states has a 36 per cent enrolment ratio in colleges. Among larger states, Tamil Nadu has India’s highest student enrollment in higher education at 45 percent.
There are other problems. The quality of education offered in colleges across UP varies widely because of lack of infrastructure. It is not rare in UP to see a college with two rooms, a clerk, an odd-jobs man and two teachers.
Second, colleges do not offer functional education geared to employment. The Pihani government college offers 10 subjects and degrees in undergraduate courses that include humanities and commerce.
“Most students come from poor families and also work in farms so they are not able to fulfil college attendance requirements,” said Rai. “Life is hard for these youngsters and the curriculum does not provide much functional education.”
Other than the proliferation of colleges, little has improved in Pihani, keeping its cluster of villages poor, badly connected and with scanty power supply.
However, he pointed out, private colleges have an even bigger problem. “Government colleges appoint qualified staff and the recruitment processes is fair and transparent. But privately-owned or funded colleges are often under-resourced in terms of physical infrastructure. And their recruitments are mostly on paper; in practice, there is hardly any teaching. There isn’t enough assessment of whether students are being taught regularly and adequately,” Rai told IndiaSpend.
The education-job gap: why Pihani needs more employment-oriented courses
Seema Gupta (not her real name), 19, is a student at the Pihani government degree college. It helps her that the college is easily accessible from her village, but her bachelor in arts degree is unlikely to get her a job. She would like to work to work in a cyber cafe-these are still popular in mofussil areas. But she needs additional computer training for this that is not available in Pihani.
Gupta would have preferred the college in Hardoi which offers technical courses but her parents did not want her to travel that far. “Safety is a big concern for women in Pihani,” said Gupta. “Parents allow boys to study in better colleges outside the village, but girls can’t travel that far.”
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“But I hope my students can be offered better technical courses so that they have greater employability,” said Rai. (IANS/Indiaspend)
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NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.