General Studies 1
- Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Swachhta Survekshan 2017
Cities are the engines of growth and urban India contribute to about 70% of country’s GDP.
For cities to continue their contribution and provide quality of life to citizens, urban cleanliness is of central importance.
- In order to foster a healthy competition between cities for improving cleanliness standards, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) started the “Swachh Survekshan” survey, ranking of cities on cleanliness and other aspects of urban sanitation, in 2016 which ranked 73 cities across the country.
- On the same lines, MoUD initiated “Swachh Survekshan” 2017 which was a survey to rank 500 cities of India.
- The performance evaluation of the Swachh survekshan is conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI), an autonomous body established by Government of India in 1997 for Quality assurance in all spheres of activities including Governance.
- Swachh Survekshan 2017, a survey which ranked 500 cities for their cleanliness, drew criticism for allegedly being biased towards BJP-ruled States.
- It showed that Indore in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh had emerged the cleanest city in the country, followed by Bhopal, and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
- Of the top 50 cities, 23 belong to BJP-ruled MP and Gujarat, and eight are from Andhra Pradesh which is ruled by NDA ally the TDP.
- At the same time, relatively cleaner cities in Kerala or Goa were pushed down. But there’s also a deeper problem.
- As the Centre for Science and Environment points out, the survey’s gives undue weightage to centralised waste management methods such as landfill and waste-to-energy plants, ignoring decentralised approaches such as waste segregation, and recycling and reuse.
- Evidently, cities that promoted a fairly centralised, top-down approach to waste management were given priority over those that had taken a participatory, decentralised approach.
- This is not a sound understanding of the cleanliness for large urban base like India.
- For one, such a ranking will encourage unsustainable approaches to waste management.
- Panjim in Goa and Alappuzha in Kerala advocating decentralised waste management based on household level segregation, recycling and reuse, were ranked low.
- Alappuzha has an impressive decentralised model lauded by several agencies: it ranks a poor 380 in the survey, while, Surat, which dumps 1,600 tonnes of unsegregated, unprocessed garbage every day in a landfill, is ranked fourth.
- All three top cities dump unsegregated waste.
- They turn a blind eye to the requirements of the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2016 which direct that waste needs to be segregated into three categories at the household level — wet, dry and domestic hazardous.
- Further, the Rules stipulate that waste to energy plants should not burn mixed waste.
- Landfills are the least preferred option.
- Clearly, the methodology is based on incorrect parameters. The Government would do better to encourage sustainable practices such as segregation at source, and recycle and reuse
A competitive approach to promote healthy practices is encouraged. But the competition should be based on sound parameters and scientifically tested. Else the intended results can turn wayward.
Connecting the dots:
- Critically analyse the significance of a measure like Swachhta Survekshan and the impact of the same on urban fabric of India.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Private schools need to be regulated
Across the country, media has been abuzz with stories of the exploitative fees of private schools and the efforts of some state governments to intervene.
This is a national malady and it needs to be cured. The cure requires that we recognize that education is a quasi-public good that cannot be delivered effectively through market mechanisms. The ideal would have been a high-quality, equitable, common public school system.
Need for more effective regulation
Poor governance in education allows concentrated oligopolies to develop. Oligopoly is a market structure in which a small number of firms has the large majority of market share. An oligopoly is similar to a monopoly, except that rather than one firm, two or more firms dominate the market.
This manifests in many ways, including in the quality of education having no relation to the fees that parents pay. The nexus between bad governance and bad schools crowds out good education.
We should recognize that the regulation of schools is the domain of state governments. The regulatory mandate must be limited to only the minimal essentials. Regulation need have only two goals. One, that all private and public schools meet standards in basic academic and operational aspects: for example, the number of teachers and their qualifications, classrooms, safety. The other goal should be to protect the public from the exploitative practices of schools.
With over 250,000 private schools spread everywhere, and our current sociopolitical culture, any regulatory mechanism will be far from perfect. However, some possible solutions include –
- The states must form an independent, quasi-judicial school regulatory body. Today, the state departments of education are conflicted as they are regulators and also the largest operators of schools. An independent body protected from political and bureaucratic interference will enable efficiency through focus, improve probity by forcing transparency, and increase accountability. Such bodies will not be perfect, but would be a substantial improvement.
- The school regulator must demand that schools be not-for-profit, as required by law. And for substantiating this, annual financial audits, executed with the same rigour as in companies, must be required.
- Accounting standards need to be developed for schools with the objective of eliminating practices that are often used for skimming money from such not-for-profit entities: for example, “management” cannot be outsourced. Again, this won’t be perfect, because our audit ecosystem is not perfect. But then, we have nothing better.
- Schools must publish their fees publicly every year for the following three years, and thereafter no changes should be permitted. Fees must not be capped. There is no way of determining appropriate levels for capping, and any such effort will provide room for more corruption.
- A grievance redressal mechanism for parents should be made available, on stability of fees, other financial matters and safety. The quasi-judicial status of the regulator will enable this.
To prevent private schools from charging exorbitant fees in absence of clear laws, the Gujarat government announced to bring a Bill providing for constitution of a Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC).
The bill empowers the state government to constitute four Fee Regulatory Committees for four zones, “for the purpose of determination of fee for admission to any standard or course of study in self financed schools”.
This committee will be headed by a Chairman, who can be either a retired district and sessions judge or a retired IPS or All India Services officer.
The committee will have jurisdiction over all the private schools, right from pre-primary to higher secondary private schools affiliated to Gujarat Board or CBSE.
The fee structure proposed in the bill for primary, secondary and higher secondary school is Rs 15,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 27,000 per year, respectively. Schools will have to put up the fees approved by the FRC on its notice board and website.
The FRC has been given wide powers to verify the justifications given by private schools for the fees being charged by them. The committee will have the powers to initiate inquiry suo moto against any school which is found to be charging excess fees.
As per the Bill, aggrieved persons can also register their complaints against a private school. In case of violation of the Act, the concerned school can face punitive steps which can include derecognition.
Connecting the dots:
- There is a strong case for regulation of private schools. What in your opinion should be the model policy framework for education in India? Suggest.
- The present status of school education in India leaves a lot to be desired. Do you agree? Critically examine why there is a need for more effective regulation of private school fees.
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