India and its neighborhood and International – relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
India and Bangladesh: Ups and Downs
India and Bangladesh are not just neighbours. They are two nations bound by the threads of history, religion, culture, language and kinship
Period between 2001 – 2006 is regarded as one of the worst periods in India-Bangladesh relations
Only minor protocols or agreements were signed during that time
The period also saw a surge in insurgency activities in the Northeast with the United Liberation Front of Asom and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland, among other outfits, crossing the border for training
However, from 2009 onwards, as cross-border issues were addressed, bilateral relationship improved and progress was made in some key areas
PM Modi’s visit to Bangladesh last year: Highlights
Raised hopes for the settlement of old issues between the countries
Increased economic and strategic ties (22 agreements were signed, including the historic ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement)
Cross-border trade increased to new levels
Bangladesh imported products worth $5.82 billion from India in the last fiscal year.
India also exports goods estimated more than $5 billion through informal channels, making the volume of official and non-official trade approximately the same.
Informal trade is mostly due to corruption and inadequate border infrastructure.
Concern: However, Bangladesh’s exports to India were only at $527 million with almost 20 per cent being ready-made garments. Other items include jute products, agro processed and non-processed foods, and light engineering products.
Despite duty-free access, Bangladeshi exporters face high non-tariff barriers in the form of
bureaucratic and customs bottlenecks,
delays due to manual clearance,
lack of banking services and
lack of warehouse facilities at the border
The cost of cross-border trade is quite high
‘Border Haats’, or markets across the India-Bangladesh border, were a successful solution to increase legal business on the borders. Recently, Bangladesh and India have agreed to set up six more haats along their borders.
One bone of contention has been cattle trade.
India has surplus cows (three times more than what is needed to produce the volume of milk consumed nationally), since eating beef is a religious stigma in many places
These surplus cows are mostly donated to temples where they are tied to fences, die from dehydration and the remains sold to leather merchants.
However, exporting such cows to Bangladesh, which tantamount to making gains from sunk capital, is still prohibited, leading to cattle smuggling.
Border killing of Bangladeshis by the Indian Border Security Force is a continued concern.
From 2010-2015, at least 236 Bangladeshis have been killed by BSF personnel.
The above figure is very worse when compared to that, killings along the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol since 2010 been only 48 where drugs worth billions are smuggled across the border
Cattle, even if smuggled, can’t be worse than drugs, and shooting the offenders is not the right solution when there are options for imprisonment, fines, and confiscation.
There have been incidents of BSF killing those who were allegedly smuggling illegal goods.
Similarly, the latest decision by the Indian Home Minister to completely seal off border with Assam by June 2017 is inconsistent with healthy neighbourly relations.
Government-to-government power trade is 1,300 MW from India to Bangladesh.
India’s state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is building the Rampal coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh despite environmental concerns that the Sundarbans is situated only 14 km away from the proposed site.
In the private sector, Reliance Power has won approval to set up a 750 MW LNG-based power plant and an LNG terminal in Bangladesh, paving the way for $1.3 billion investment, and Adani Group is set to sell 3,000 MW power to Bangladesh.
On connectivity, the focus has been on road, rail, rivers, sea, transmission lines, petroleum pipelines, and digital links that would give Delhi access to the Northeast and to Southeast Asia through Bangladesh.
Bangladesh-India coastal shipping began in March this year
Trains are set to run from Kolkata to Agartala, a project to be completed by 2017.
Trucks carrying Indian goods reached Tripura from Ashuganj port on June 19, making the long-cherished idea of transhipment into reality.
The Teesta water-sharing agreement had been stalled due to the West Bengal elections. (As Mamata Banerjee has swept back to power, it is time to deliver on the promise).
India had also undertaken the Tipaimukh project on the Barak river without officially informing Bangladesh. If built, the dam will adversely affect nearly 40,000 people in Bangladesh.
With resistance from Bangladesh and Manipur, the project has been temporarily deferred.
While progress has been made since Mr. Modi’s visit, greater issues are still at bay. The time is ripe to build on the successes and resolve the remaining issues.
As the pragmatic new-generation Bangladeshis have shed the anti-India mindset of the 1970s, the challenge for India is to keep up the momentum and not to be perceived as being tied to any particular party or ideology but only to the people of Bangladesh.
Both the Nations should work together to harness the rich potential of relationship.
Connecting the dots:
Recent trends in India and Bangladesh relations have witnessed increased economic and strategic ties. However, there are many unresolved issues between the two nations. Critically examine both the statement and suggest suitable strategies to resolve the issues diplomatically.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
UGC— A Silent Spectator (1956—2016)
The University Grants Commission (UGC) is the central body for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education in India. It has been mandated to initiate important decisions and dialogues which have an important bearing on the entire student population of the country
Primary functions of UGC spelled out:
Overseeing distribution of grants to universities and colleges in India
Providing scholarships/fellowships to beneficiaries
Monitoring conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges
Worrying trend exhibited by UGC: It has become increasingly difficult for the UGC to keep pace with the changing dynamics of higher education; recent decisions have been considered to be ill-considered, with a lack in research and no proper consultation with the stakeholders. Some of the decisions that have paved way for such conclusion:
Increase in teaching hours of the faculty and its subsequent cancellation
Implementation of the choice-based credit semester system in Delhi University
Decision to discontinue UGC non-NET scholarship for MPhil and PhD students and its abandonment after protests
Failure of UGC to evolve according to the changing dynamics of higher education—
Delay in fellowships— A regular affair
More prevalent: In ministries such as minority affairs, social justice, and tribal affairs
Solutions to gain more ground:
Usage of direct benefit transfers for fellowships
Bringing of institutions under the public finance monitoring system
An understaffed UGC
Lack of manpower leads to lack of established standards in disbursing the primary functions— workforce not efficiently utilised
An inefficient working ecosystem fails to ensure quality standards
QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings: India ranks 24th in higher education system strength out of the 50 countries
Under-regulation & Over-regulation:
Many substandard institutions have found a way to flourish in the country owing to the under-regulation exercised by the UGC based on their own whims (Fake degrees, irregularities in finance, threefold increase in complaints)
Also, many reputed institutes have come under the wrath of UGC— if the universities have defied UGC on their way ahead
2015: UGC wrote to 10 institutions asking them to shut down their off-campus centres for violating rules (BITS Pilani was served a court stay order for the same)
Lifts the bar on the number of off-campus centres for the deemed universities
Stipulates that the UGC and human resource development ministry approve applications for deemed universities within seven months (earlier—6-7 years)
T.S.R. Subramanian Committee on UGC: UGC Act should be allowed to lapse and be replaced by a new National Higher Education Act as it has been unable to effectively implement its regulations aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education in the country over the years
Widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses
Loopholes by UGC in monitoring standards of education in higher education institution
Credentials compromised owing to large scale approvals granted to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities
UGC does not have the adequate number of personnel with credentials that matches to the required positions in question to be an effective regulatory force in the higher education sector
Other committees echoing the same note:
Hari Gautam committee report
Yashpal Committee (subsuming of various authorities like UGC and AICTE — the technical education regulator — within a bigger platform providing interaction between different areas of knowledge)
Specialised functions should be undertaken by specialised bodies
The UGC could be revamped, and could be made the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function
Recommendations of Subramanian Committee on New Education Policy
1) An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers being on permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry.
2) The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time.
3) There should be minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers. The Centre and states should jointly lay down norms and standards for TET.
4) Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
5) Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right and a programme for it implemented immediately.
6) The no detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class V when the child will be 11 years old. At the upper primary stage, the system of detention shall be restored subject to the provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove his capability to move to a higher class
7) On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents. A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
8) The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. This is necessary as levels of malnutrition and anemia continue to be high among adolescents.
9) UGC Act must be allowed to lapse once a separate law is created for the management of higher education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) needs to be made leaner and thinner and given the role of disbursal of scholarships and fellowships.
10) Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university
Connecting the Dots:
Does the scrapping of UGC merit attention of it being a remedy needed for India’s higher education system? Discuss.