The fundamental disagreement in the clash of the titans, Amartya Sen and PratapBhanu Mehta, appears to center on the question of whether political interference in universities today is more egregious than in the past.
The Indian university has increasingly and exclusively become a source of credentialisation for a society in which certification matters more than what is learned.
Two current obsessions — that of fake degrees and of 100 per cent marks in school-leaving examinations — are poignant symbols of this.
Should Indian Universities be made Autonomous?
There is an urgent need to seek a complete overhaul of the regulatory framework.
Universities in India need to be made more autonomous; they need freedom, in every sense of the word, from both government and from regulatory bodies.
The agenda of universities needs to be established by the faculty and students, keeping in mind the needs and aspirations of everyone in society.
What are the Major concerns?
The Napoleonic model of the university as a department of state, with faculty treated as (lesser) civil servants, has long thrived in India.
Centralisation and bureaucratisation have serious implications — curricular and pedagogical — for universities.
Indeed, a major concern of the university community today is the clumsy attempt, initiated by the last government and being energetically promoted today, to standardise the curricula of the central universities, ostensibly to give students more choice.
What are the most serious challenges that are being faced by universities?
Ironically, this so-called choice entails the sacrifice of diversity and greater control through homogenisation.
This is certainly among the most serious challenges facing universities today, along with the stifling of dissent, the packing of leadership positions with individuals whose calling card is loyalty rather than academic credentials, and the pathetic attempts to infiltrate the intellectual life of the academy armed with faith and myth rather than objective standards of scientific achievement.
In the states, where the bulk of Indian universities are located, talk of nepotism, cronyism, and even corruption in appointments — from lectureships to vice-chancellorships — is commonplace.
What are the Reforms and Policy Initiatives that Indian Universities should consider?
First, there is an urgent need to recognise that not all universities need to be engaged in the same manner on different aspects of institution building.
Second, taking inspiration from the Project 5-100 initiative, India could consider empowering 50 of its top universities in every possible manner to seek global excellence.
Third, there is an urgent need to seek a complete overhaul of the regulatory framework.
Fourth, there is no doubt that world-class universities are built and nurtured with a strong focus on research.
Fifth, it is important that we need to focus on internationalisation of faculty members and students within Indian universities.
IAS BABA’s View
In the end, what we have is a highly uneven and differentiated university system in which there is little reflection and no consensus on what a university is for.
There has to be a new imagination for Indian universities — one which draws inspiration from the past, but will also have to look to the future.
Transformational change needs to take place at every level of policymaking, regulation and governance in higher education if Indian universities are serious about seeking global excellence and achieving higher rankings.
Connecting the Dots:
Write a note on policymaking, regulation and governance in higher education of Indian universities.
What inspiration can India take from the Project 5-100 initiative of Russia
NITI Aayog taskforce to draw the line on poverty
A high-powered taskforce on poverty elimination, has been constituted under vice-chairman of NITI Ayog Arvind Panagariya.
What is the job of the TaskForce?
To recommend use of poverty line to analyse poverty over time and better understand allocation of resources to the poor.
How would this help in targeting poverty?
The poverty line would act as a yardstick to measure efficacy of government schemes/programs on the lives of lower strata of society.
The poverty ratio would give a better understanding of the distribution of the resources and bettertargeting of household subsidies to eliminate poverty faster.
The taskforce is also expected to highlight the need for sustained economic growth and composition of that growth as being the imperatives to bring down poverty.
Poverty estimation over the years:
However, some experts argue that since Socio Economic Cast Census (SECC) for Rural India has already come up with a number in absolute terms based on certain deprivations, there is no need to recalculate poverty based on any other criteria.
The erstwhile Planning Commission had landed itself in a number of controversies relating to poverty line and yardsticks for calculating that.
An earlier method, based on the Suresh Tendulkar methodology, had said anyone spending more than Rs 33 in urban areas and over Rs 27 in villages a day in 2011-12 as not poor. Later, the Rangarajan panel had pegged these as Rs 47 a day in urban areas and Rs 32 in villages.
Note:For more information refer our Previous Articles on ‘Estimation of Poverty’ & SECC
Connecting the Dots:
Is there is a need to recalculate poverty when Socio Economic Cast Census (SECC) has already come up with one?
Though there are many committees setup by the government, the poverty estimation has always been questioned. What are the difficulties in estimation of poverty? Are the hitherto available estimates reliable? Can they be used in better poverty targeting?
Why was Planning Commission replaced by Niti Ayog?
Corporate Governance & Issues with Public Undertakings in India
India’s PSUs should be setting the benchmark for governance, which can in turn help put pressure on private-sector firms when it comes to corporate behaviour.
Sadly, that does not appear to be the case. Data compiled by Prime Database shows that several state-owned companies are, in fact, violating the Companies Act, 2013, and Sebi’s equity listing agreement.
What is raising the question of Transparency and professionalism?
Independent directors are key to good corporate governance, especially to safeguard the rights of minority shareholders, all the more important when the dominant shareholder is as powerful an entity as the sovereign or the government of India.
The absence of such independent directors not only raises questions of transparency but also of professionalism — independent directors are meant to have domain expertise and discharge supervisory functions.
Further, non-compliance with norms raises questions of propriety for the government’s ambitious disinvestment agenda.
How the Logic of Privatization works?
In this context there is merit in assuming that the logic of privatization of a few enterprises does not necessarily settle the broader issue of government-public enterprise interface.
This issue must be kept alive not only because of the transition problems and the continuance of the public enterprise system in some strategic areas but also because of two other reasons:
As seen in several countries the first step in administrative reforms results in corporatization of activities which often take the shape of public enterprises.
Some countries in the developing world have indicated the possibilities of governmental intervention/re-nationalization. For these reasons it is contextual to revisit the issue of public enterprises and arrive at an action agenda for restructuring the control architecture.
What is the Issue of Independent Directors?
The absence of independent directors on PSU boards raises questions of corporate governance and poses a challenge for the government’s target of raising Rs 41,000 crore through minority stake sale in these companies.
In April, the government had tightened norms for the appointment of independent directors to raise the bar for corporate governance at state-owned banks and financial institutions.
The issue of vacancies has been taken up with the government and that the process of filling these vacancies was currently on at the ministry-level
IAS BABA’s View
According to information accessed from Prime Database, only BHEL appointed a new independent director during this period when it brought in Anami Narayan Roy, former Mumbai Police chief and ex-DGP of Maharashtra, last August (2014).
The 32 PSUs, including blue chip names such as ONGC, Coal India, IOC, NTPC and SAIL, have admitted in their compliance reports submitted to the National Stock Exchange that they have failed to comply with norms specified in the equity listing agreement for independent directors on their boards.
Connecting the Dots:
Write a note on Shortfall of Independent Directors in Indian PSU’S and their effect to the Economy.
In what way Competitive neutrality is important in an economy where critical infrastructure and service sectors are dominated by the public sector?