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STATESMAN, AUG 9, 2017
India must protect its food-givers
The sloganJai Jawan Jai Kisanholds resonance for the spirit of those who secure us along the borders and those who provide us food. But over the years, our kisanconsciousness just seems to have vanished into thin air, leaving millions of our farmers struggling for a basic livelihood. We appear to have consistently evaded our responsibility leaving our food givers with everyday agony and forcing them to commit suicide, almost by the hour. Over 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995.
A majority of them are concentrated in five major agricultural states of the country - Maharashtra Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. Punjab and Tamil Nadu are catching up and many others are joining the list. Farmers suicides have been steadily increasing. On an average, some 16,000 farmers ended their lives each year between 1995 and 2003 and it has been increasing since then.
India is an agrarian economy with more than 70 per cent citizens depending directly or indirectly on agriculture. But it seems a nation of billions is heartlessly and silently witnessing its life-givers dying so helplessly. Today there is urgent need for greater awareness of the problem.
Why are farmers forced to kill themselves? Vagaries of the monsoon, flood, drought, high debt, unthinkable pressures to pay off loans, unkind government policies and sometimes personal problems lead to sheer helplessness. But it seems some politicians and ruling parties in states as well at the Centre have discovered new alibis marital discord, love affairs and impotency to explain farmer suicides.
While nothing can be more farfetched than assumptions like these, it is not really shocking because often thoughtless and non-functioning bureaucrats feed such irrational hypotheses to unconcerned ministers who parrot them without checking facts. The logic is simple. The more they invent new reasons for farmers suicides, the less may be the blame on the government. There are two types of farmers; the rich and the poor.
According to official figures, rich farmers, with large land holdings constitute only 5 per cent of the farming population. The rest are medium and mostly poor. The poor ones form bulk of the farming community and they either have only a few bighas of land or have been reduced to being landless agricultural labourers. Needs of their family and the aspiration to upgrade make them cultivate the lands of village landlords or zamindars on a sharing basis. For this, many take loans from moneylenders who are often the big landowners themselves.
If because of a bad monsoon or any other reason the crop fails, the farmers lose on two fronts - less produce and inability to pay off loans. This cycle of misery goes on season after season. But why do farmers take loans from private money-lenders at higher interest rates and with stringent conditions; why not from banks when we have a robust banking system? Sadly, even shockingly, our banking system is rich-friendly.
It may be impossible to obtain even a small loan without pledging an asset. Poor, landless farmers have nothing to offer and are thus kept out of the loop. So the cycle continues for poor farmers and they are forced to die with debt. Its an irony that our banks are bleeding with over Rs.9 lakh crore as Non Performing Assets standing as loans to the rich who lead expansive lives, while poor farmers kill themselves every day.
This must change. Indian agriculture is almost fully dependent on Natures moods and the crop pattern is based on that. Kharif and Rabi indicate the two crop-growing seasons. Kharif crops are monsoon crops such as rice, moong, corn, sugarcane, cotton etc.; they are sown in May-June and harvested in OctoberNovember.
Rabi crops like wheat, mustard etc. are grown during the winter - their seeds are sown at the beginning of winter and are harvested in spring. If the weather lets the farmer down, the crops fail. Going by rainfall data of the last 100 years, it is clear that almost every year or two, drought chases some regions of India and at times many, thus severely affecting all calculations of farmers and planners. We must educate people. In a country where people in the system are ignorant and unmindful of the basic crop blueprint, can we really expect them to understand the woes of farmers and deliver solutions?
How can we have the focus on something thats not in our knowledge bank or active consciousness? Why just babus and irresponsible Members of Parliament I bet 80 per cent of our students in great universities and institutions, readying to become future policy makers or planners, have little knowledge about Rabi or Kharif crops and how they are linked to a farmers life and future.
Its time to work at the grassroots in order to transform the status of agriculture and lives of farmers, once and for all. Recently Chief Justice J. S. Kheher and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, agreeing with the Centre, observed that time and proper management were needed for implementation of policies and that farmers suicides cannot be tackled overnight. True, no big problem can possibly be solved overnight, but I think the words and tone of our learned judges here should have been of grave concern and caution rather than trite logic applicable almost anywhere.
At the very least they could have appointed a high level committee under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court Judge with five experts on agricultural-related issues as members. The issue calls for determined will. It requires remedial measures at all levels.
No issue of national dimension can be dealt with overnight. However the incidence of suicides by the day, by the hour almost should provoke realisation of an emergency situation, one that demands urgent justice. What should the government do now? I often hear thinkers, planners and concerned citizens ask about a problem that has not just become a national stigma but has been eluding solutions.
The need of the hour is innovative thinking to transform the agriculture sector and the lives of our farmers. In every district, we should have multiple vegetable mandis - small, medium and large - proportionately customized as per needs. The idea should be to provide easy and instant access to poor farmers, many of whom cant even carry produce to a distant marketplace.
The government should encourage either public-private partnerships or even private sector initiatives to bring about a coldstorage revolution in the country. Our vast country needs thousands of areaspecific mini cold-storages, so that farmers of nearby villages can store their produce without fearing wastage and the compulsion to sell at distress prices. As a country with varied geography, we have large banks of fertile lands suited for specific vegetables and fruits or particular grains. After studying land potential, we must create SAZ - special agricultural zones - and encourage farmers to go for specific cultivation for best export quality produce.
Let this produce from our SAZs be exported around the world to ensure more profits for our farmers. Let our young men and women be trained with required skills to understand the cultivation process, crop-insurance, packing of products, branding, global market dynamics, export and international distribution processes so that they become facilitators for our simple farmers. In return, they should get exclusive commissions out of the profit.
By this device, we can solve the problems of youth unemployment and at the same time vastly transform the lives of poor farmers too. The Prime Minister is an astute and resolute planner. He has been trying to create a niche for the nation in the new age world.
His transformative zeal and skill are not hidden from anyone. One hopes that understanding the extreme plight of the poor food givers to the nation, he would create happiness for them and stability for the nation.
(The writer is Chairman, Paras Foundation and can be reached at [email protected])
INDIAN EXPRESS, AUG 14, 2017
Centre plans post Mandal: Sub-quotas within OBCshare
There are two potential ways to explore it. Either through a commission for sub-categorisation/classification on a socio-economic basis within OBCs or by re-constituting the NCBC with a term of reference for sub-classification, said sources.
Written byRavish Tiwari
Currently, there is no sub-categorisation among OBCs at the national level. However, states, such as Bihar, have a quota within quota for OBCs based on sub-categories.
Even as the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) awaits Constitutional status, the idea of sub-categorisation among OBCs appears to have emerged as an item on the Governments future agenda, sources told The Indian Express.
The idea is still at a very nascent stage but has received attention at the top levels of the Government, said sources with knowledge of the ruling establishments line on this issue.
There are two potential ways to explore it. Either through a commission for sub-categorisation/classification on a socio-economic basis within OBCs or by re-constituting the NCBC with a term of reference for sub-classification, said sources, referring to the ideas being considered at the moment.
Currently, there is no sub-categorisation among OBCs at the national level. However, states, such as Bihar, have a quota within quota for OBCs based on sub-categories. An earlier attempt to provide sub-quotas for minorities among OBCs in Andhra Pradesh, before Telangana was carved out, was stalled by courts on the ground that religion-based quota is not permitted.
Against this backdrop, the proposed sub-categorisation at the national level could be the most radical move since the V P Singh government accepted the Mandal Commissions recommendations in 1989.
A quota within quota is considered to be the next stage Mandal 2.0 of reservation for OBCs to ensure that the benefits are distributed fairly among constituent castes instead of going only to a few dominant ones.
The idea is gaining traction within the Government after the Congress and other Opposition parties derailed the legislation to grant Constitutional status to NCBC in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session.
However, the move is fraught with political risk as regional parties championing the interests of dominant OBC castes are likely to oppose such sub-categorisation. On the other hand, it would suit the BJPs electoral gambit to woo extremely backward castes (EBCs) as a permanent support base.
During the UP assembly elections this year, non-dominant OBCs had demonstrated their willingness to side with the BJP. In Bihar, the EBCs had turned away from Lalu Prasads RJD and rallied behind the JD(U). WithNitish Kumarclosing ranks with the BJP once again, the BJP has got a fresh opportunity to create an appeal for itself among EBCs in Bihar. The BJP has also rallied its politics in Haryana around non-dominant OBCs. BJPs biggest electoral bet Prime MinisterNarendra Modi too, hails from among non-dominant OBCs.
Apart from garnering their electoral support, Modi has quietly moved to deepen his partys appeal among OBCs.
For instance, he raised the cap for the OBC creamy layer from Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh per annum while marking the completion of his governments three years in office in May.
The move to grant Constitutional status to NCBC was another such move. However, the legislation went off track after the Opposition pressed for a number of amendments, forcing the Government to wait for the winter session of Parliament. With the Gujarat assembly elections likely around that period, the Government doesnt expect much cooperation from the Opposition on this legislation.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 11, 2017
379 IAS officers have not filed asset details: Government
NEW DELHI: As many as 379 IAS officers have not filed their immovable property returns (IPRs) for the year 2016, the government told Parliament today. The IPRs for the last year were to be filed by January 31, 2017. "Out of 5,004 officers as per civil list 2017, as on date 379 IAS officers have not filed their IPRs for the year 2016. Of these, 38 officers have retired till date and two have expired," Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. Of the total officers, the highest of 37 are from Manipur-Tripura cadre, 34 of union territories cadre, 32 of Andhra Pradesh, 31 of Uttar Pradesh, 27 of West Bengal cadre, and 22 of Punjab cadre, Singh said. There are 20 IAS officers of Odisha cadre, 19 each of Jharkhand and Nagaland cadres, 18 of Karnataka, 17 each of Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, 15 of Telangana, 12 of Madhya Pradesh, 11 of Jammu and Kashmir, nine of Assam-Meghalaya, eight of Bihar, four of Tamil Nadu, five of Sikkim, three of Kerala, two each of Chhattisgarh and Gujarat, and one of Maharashtra, he said. As per rules, officials would be denied vigilance clearance if they fail to submit IPRs in time.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 11, 2017
Cabinet secretary asks all invited officers to attend Independence Day ceremony
NEW DELHI: Cabinet secretary PK Sinha has taken a serious note of absenteeism at Independence Day flag hoisting ceremony at Red Fort and directed all secretaries to ensure full attendance at the national function. In a letter written to all secretaries, Sinha has said that officers who are invited to attend the ceremony should be present but the attendance is usually very thin. The Independence Day flag hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort is an important historic and national function held every year on 15th of August. Considering the importance of this national function at which the prime minister addresses the nation, it is expected that all officers who are invited attend the ceremony, Sinha said in the letter, adding, It has been observed that there is, at times, low attendance of the official invitees to the ceremony. Terming absenteeism at the ceremony inappropriate, Sinha asked all secretaries to ensure that invited officers attend the formal ceremony where the PM gives a speech and hoists the tricolour. This is inappropriate considering that the occasion is of great national importance. There is, clearly, a need to remind the officers that it is their duty to attend the Independence Day ceremony. You may suitably advise all officers of your ministry/department, who are invited to the Independence Day ceremony, to attend the function, he said in the letter. The cabinet secretary also directed the secretaries to caution the officers that absence would not be taken lightly. You may also like to caution them that a serious view can be taken of their absence on this occasion, he said. All ministries have swung into action following receipt of the cabinet secretarys letter, with secretaries asking for a list of officers who are expected to attend. These officials have been asked to be mandatorily present at Red Fort for the function.
INDIAN EXPRESS, AUG 8, 2017
Want to invest 50% of govt staff pension fund in market, saysregulator
The EPFO, which has a corpus of close to Rs 10 lakh crore, decided last month to pump in Rs 22,500 crore in exchange traded funds in 2017-18 following approval from its central board of trustees to increase the equity investment from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
Written byGeorge Mathew
Indias pension regulator, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), has written to the government seeking approval to invest 50 per cent of the funds contributed by government employees under the National Pension Scheme (NPS), its flagship scheme in stocks. This signals a major shift considering that only 15 per cent of such funds are now routed to the stock markets.
The NPS now has a corpus of Rs 198,000 crore with 87 per cent Rs 172,260 crore being contributed by government employees. Pension funds regulated by PFRDA would be able to invest over Rs 86,000 crore in the Indian stock market if the government approves the proposal. Thats an additional Rs 57,000 crore for stocks. Currently, PFRDA can invest only 15 per cent (close to Rs 29,000 crore) of the corpus of funds contributed by government employees in the stock market.
NPS is an alternate option for those looking at retirement savings compared to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the organised sector which is controlled by the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) of the government.
The EPFO, which has a corpus of close to Rs 10 lakh crore, decided last month to pump in Rs 22,500 crore in exchange traded funds in 2017-18 following approval from its central board of trustees to increase the equity investment from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
According to PFRDA chairman Hemant Contractor, close to 13-14 per cent of NPS funds are invested in the equity market.
We are planning to increase it. We have put up a proposal to the government to increase it to 50 per cent. In the case of government servants, the equity investment is limited to 15 per cent whereas in the case of non-government employees it can go up to as high as 50 per cent. It should be uniform for all, Contractor told The Indian Express.
We have said government servants should be given the same choice. If that happens, it will be a big change. Government money still accounts for 87 per cent of the total funds. That could make a lot of difference. In the long-term, it has shown that equity is the better investment in terms of returns, Contractor said.
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Under the NPS, administered and regulated by the PFRDA, individual savings are pooled in a pension fund which is invested by PFRDA-regulated professional fund managers according to the approved investment guidelines in diversified portfolios comprising government bonds, bills, corporate debentures and shares. These contributions grow and accumulate over the years, depending on the returns earned on the investment made.
On the returns on investment under NPS, Contractor said, For the last eight years, we have given a return of over 10 per cent. Last year, on the equity investment, we generated a return of 18 per cent, around 12 per cent for corporate bonds and less than on government securities. Returns are as good as what you can get in the market.
However, in a changing interest rate scenario, returns can also come down. The general trend is that interest rates will come down. These will come down. It will be within the range of the market, he said.
In December 2016, the EPFO had reduced interest rate on provident fund deposits to 8.65 per cent for 2016-17 from the current 8.8 per cent for its 17 crore subscribers.
The PFRDA chief said the growth this year has been as good as last year. Last year the subscriber grew by around 27 per cent. We are maintaining that pace of growth in the number of subscribers. Investments also grew by around 47 per cent last year. This year also we are averaging around the same growth. The amount that we have under investment is just under Rs two lakh crore thats Rs 198,000 crore. The number of subscribers is around 16.7 million now, he said.
According to him, the growth in number of subscribers in the government sector is around 11-12 per cent, which is less than the average that the PFRDA has clocked. The growth in government subscribers depends on the retirement thats taking place and replacements, he said.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 14, 2017
Authorised joint secretary can suspend telecom service in an area
NEW DELHI: A joint secretary level officer authorised by Union or state home secretary can order suspension of telecom services in an area in case of an emergency, according to new guidelines. The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017, notified by the government last week, authorises Union and state home secretary to order such suspension in a given area. "... under unavoidable circumstances, where obtaining of prior direction is not feasible, such order may be issued by an officer, not below the rank of a joint secretary to the Government of India, who has been duly authorised by the Union home secretary or the state home secretary," the order said. The government often suspends telecom services in disturbed areas with an aim to maintain law and order in a state or in the country. The order issued by officer authorised by either Union or state home secretary will have to be approved from the competent authority within 24 hours of such issuance and in failure of approval confirmation, the suspension order will cease to exist. According to the rules, a copy of any order issued for suspension of telecom services needs to be forwarded to a three-member review committee within 24 hours along with the associated reason. In the case of centre, the committee will be chaired by the Cabinet secretary and the state level review committee will be headed by chief secretary of the state. The new rules make it binding for the committee to meet and review the order within five working days from the date the order is issued. The rules also laid down that the order for suspension of telecom services will have to be communicated by an officer not below the superintendent of police or of equivalent rank in writing or by secure electronic communication to an authorised officer.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, AUG 9, 2017
Overcrowded jails fail to either deliver justice or reform criminalsOvercrowding in prisons has a direct, but often underrated, impact on the security of prisons, and health and hygiene of inmates. It, jail authorities agree, also has an adverse effect on the mental health of inmates
Replying to a question raised in Lok Sabha, minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir said that more than 10% of prisons in India had an overcrowding rate of more than 200%. Of the 1,401 prisons across the country, 149 were holding more than double the number of inmates. This not only reflects poorly on the management of prisons but also the failure of the judicial process to dispose cases in a time-bound manner. Though the occupancy rate (number of inmates against the authorised capacity of 100 inmates) in prisons has been decreasing slightly over the years, it is still above capacity at present the average in India is 114%.
Overcrowding in prisons has a direct, but often underrated, impact on the security of prisons, and health and hygiene of inmates. It, jail authorities agree, also has an adverse effect on the mental health of inmates.
One of the reasons for overcrowding in prisons is the overwhelming number of undertrials awaiting a verdict. According to the Prison Statistics India 2015 report, published in September, 67% (or 282,076) of the total 419,623 inmates in Indias 1,401 prisons are undertrials. Dadra & Nagar Haveli, with 276% has the most overcrowded prisons. This is followed by Chhattisgarh (234%) and Delhi (227%).
If trials and convictions took place in a timely manner and the judiciary was working at full force the number of inmates in prisons would have drastically reduced. According to the report, more than 3,500 undertrails have been in jail for more than five years awaiting a trail in many cases the time these undertrials would have spent in jail if convicted would be shorter. Another reason why there are a high number of undertrails is that many of them do not have adequate access to legal aid.
Jails are meant to be correction facilities, where convicts are expected to realise their mistakes and are guided to become better citizens by the time they finish their sentence. In the process they are also trained in skills to prevent them from going back to their old ways once their sentence is served. The basic purpose of a prison in a modern democracy is that of a correctional facility but thats not the case in India. Here we often hear stories of how petty criminals turn hardcore after spending time in jail. Jails often become, and continue to be, places where criminals cool their heels while plotting future plans. Also, modernising of jails has been a project in the pipeline for far too long and its time some visible progress is made on this front.
The criminal justice system is not well served if jails continue to be in such a shambles.
STATESMAN, AUG 10, 2017
Modi asks District Collectors to prepare vision document for 2022
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked District Collectors across India to prepare a vision document for their districts by August 15 to reflect 10-15 objectives which should be achieved by 2022, the 75th anniversary of country's Independence.
Addressing the district administrative heads across the country through video-conferencing on the theme "New India - Manthan", Modi asked them to decide where they must see their districts in 2022 in terms of removal of deficiencies and improvement in services, an official release said.
Noting the government is asking each individual, each family and each organisation to aim for certain goals which they should accomplish by 2022, he asked the Collectors of 100 most backward districts to work in a mission mode and listen carefully to the poor who approach them with their grievances.
The first-of-its-kind interaction with the Collectors was held on 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement with the aim of catalysing the "manthan" at the grassroots level.
According to the statement, Modi asked the Collectors to seek help from colleagues, intellectuals of the district, and students of schools and colleges, to prepare a vision, or resolution document for their district before August 15.
He said August 9 is intrinsically linked with the mantra of "Sankalp se Siddhi - Achievement through Resolve" and the date symbolises the willpower and ambition of the youth.
Citing how senior leaders of the freedom movement were arrested at the beginning of the Quit India Movement but youth across the country successfully carried the movement forward, he said Collectors were not only representatives of the districts but also of the youth.
"When youth assume a leadership role, goals are sure to be achieved," Modi said adding that Collectors were fortunate as they have been given the opportunity to dedicate themselves to the nation.
The Prime Minister noted that some districts have always lagged in basic services such as electricity, water, education and when socio-economic conditions improve, it would give a big boost to the overall development parameters of the country.
Practices where good results have been achieved in districts should be replicated and scaled up, he said, adding that as he is doing the manthan with the collectors, they can do the same in the districts.
Noting many schemes fail to have the desired impact many times just because people are not aware about them, he asked the Collectors to make people aware about the benefit of initiatives such as LED bulbs and BHIM App. He said that Clean India Campaign was dependent on a responsive administration and awareness among people and the real change can only come through public participation.
Urging the Collectors to go out in the field more to understand ground realities, he said that the more a Collector visits the field, "the more active he will be on files".
STATESMAN, AUG 14, 2017
Plan to replace UGC, AICTE with single regulator in limbo
Prakash Javadekar (Photo: Facebook)
The governments plan to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with a single higher education regulator seems to have hit a roadblock with the HRD ministry putting the idea on hold. The plan to introduce Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency or HEERA with an aim to 
The governments plan to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with a single higher education regulator seems to have hit a roadblock with the HRD ministry putting the idea on hold.
The plan to introduce Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency or HEERA with an aim to eliminate overlaps in jurisdiction and remove irrelevant regulatory provisions is in limbo.
While the HRD Ministry and the Niti Ayog were earlier working to bring technical and non-technical education institutions under one umbrella, there has been no headway yet on the same.
The issue was raised in Parliament last week where Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha said no proposal has been considered at present in this regard.No such proposal is under consideration at present, to merge the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) into a single higher education regulator, Kushwaha had informed the Rajya Sabha.
HRD officials remained tightlipped when asked about the reasons behind it.The ministry officials had earlier claimed a detailed blueprint of the proposed regulator and its legislation is being worked upon.
It was felt that multiple regulatory bodies led to excessive and restrictive regulation and hence contributed to the lack of institutional autonomy, they had said.The idea to have a single higher education regulator is not a new one, but has been recommended by various committees set up by previous governments.
While the National Knowledge Commission (2006) had recommended an independent regulatory authority for higher education, the Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education (2009) had also advocated an apex regulatory body by converging multiple agencies in the field of higher education.
The UGC Review Committee in 2014 had also recommended the commission be replaced with an apex institution named National Higher Education Authority.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 10, 2017
Government to establish separate board for ITIs: Minister Rudy
NEW DELHI: Around 23 lakh students graduating from over 13,000 industrial training institutes across the country may soon be awarded certificates equivalent to the ones given to ICSE and CBSE Board pass-outs. A proposal for the establishment of a separate board benchmarked with the quality standards of CBSE and ICSE, which was mooted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, has been accepted by the HRD ministry. "First time we have decided, and the HRD ministry is on the same page, that we are going to establish a Board for a certification of equivalence of CBSE and ICSE to all these 2.3 million students (in ITIs)," Union Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Rudy said addressing the media here. He said the ministry was working in the direction to establish a national board so that exams all over the country are conducted on the pattern involving 70 per cent practical and 30 per cent elective subjects. Rudy asserted that industrial training institutes (ITIs) will come up like CBSE and ICSE schools in the days to come, adding that the ministry has completely revamped their infrastructure requirements and syllabus. The minister said the figure of 2.5 per cent skilled workforce in India put out by the National Sample Survey Organisation was "not true" as there were many areas which have not been captured while arriving at the outcome. Rudy said the ministry was looking at the services sector "in a big way" towards skilling its workforce to meet the demands of the industry. At another event here, Rudy said the government is imparting skill-based training for entry-level jobs and employment opportunities for people in the unorganised sector including those seeking to work abroad as drivers and domestic help. "Ideally, such basic skills should be imparted at the school level itself but since it did not happen, it is being taken up separately by the government," said Rudy while addressing an Assocham Skill India Summit. Rudy also said there have been many instances where people went abroad to work as a driver or as domestic help but since they were not aware of the rules, law and order of that foreign country they got caught and were imprisoned for unknowingly doing something wrong.
INDIAN EXPRESS, AUG 11, 2017
IIMC considers Civil Service rules for staff: No criticism of govt,dissentJD(U) MPs Ali Anwar Ansari, Kahkashan Perween and Ramnath Thakur have in their letter to Irani also mentioned that the administration was trying to impose CCS rules. Is the attempt to snatch academic freedom of faculty members at higher educational institutions, and especially at institutes of journalism, justified? they have written.
Written byAranya Shankar
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), the premier Central institution for journalism education, is considering whether to adopt Central Civil Services (CCS) Rules meant for government employees for its faculty members for disciplinary cases. The IIMCs Executive Council (EC) will discuss this in its meeting on Friday, according to an agenda note.
A section of faculty members argue that this is a way to curb dissent and erode academic freedom. Three MPs from theJanata Dal(United) also wrote to I&B MinisterSmriti Iranion July 26 expressing their apprehension over the move, among other things.
The CCS Rules 1964 say, No Government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government.
The agenda note reads: A Committee was constituted by DG, IIMC, with a view to strengthen, expand, elaborate and revise provisions related to Code of Conduct, Professional ethics and Disciplinary matters in the Bye Laws of the IIMC. During the Committee meetings, there was a suggestion that the Central Government\s CCS Conduct Rules may be adopted by IIMC as such along with all other procedural rules such as CCS (CCA Rules) to cover the disciplinary cases.
The agenda note says that some faculty members were not in favour of its adoption arguing that media have to perform a role of watchdog. However, it adds, IIMC is not a media organization acting as watchdog but a media institute and, therefore, this contention of the faculty member cannot be accepted.
The Committee felt that instead of re-writing the Bye-Laws of the IIMC, a clause may be inserted that wherever IIMC Bye-Laws are silent, the Institute will follow the rules of the Central Government. This will also eliminate possibilities of discretion and ambiguities in interpretation while dealing with the cases, the agenda note says.
JD(U) MPs Ali Anwar Ansari, Kahkashan Perween and Ramnath Thakur have in their letter to Irani also mentioned that the administration was trying to impose CCS rules. Is the attempt to snatch academic freedom of faculty members at higher educational institutions, and especially at institutes of journalism, justified? they have written.
A faculty member of IIMC said it would be a transparent contradiction that journalism/media faculty are not allowed to express their opinion and critique on public policy and other relevant social, political and economic issues in the media.
IIMCs Recruitment Rules for faculty allow senior journalists and editors to apply for faculty positions. But do we expect that a senior editor of a newspaper or news channel after appointment as faculty in IIMC should stop writing and commenting on contemporary issues? he said.
Professor Jaishri Jethwaney, member of the Committee until October 2016, before she retired, said she didnt think the Committee submitted a report per se. It was decided that viewpoints would be sought from a larger group There were apprehensions because these rules belong to file pushers and not academicians, she said.
IIMC DG K G Suresh said he could not comment on agenda items of the EC until they had been discussed in the meeting.
STATESMAN, AUG 9, 2017
School board too many
A multiplicity of school boards cannot attain the noble objectives of the Right to Education Act. This is quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon the West Bengal governments decision to set up a separate board for English-medium schools, most particularly the missionary institutions.
On the face of it, this will be in addition to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE), the Central board that conducts the CBSE exam, and the two state boards for the Secondary and Higher Secondary exams.
Not that the likes of Partha Chatterjee are unaware that many of these English-medium schools impart the best instruction. As education minister, he is grappling with a turmoil of ideas, as most education ministers are prone to.
Unwittingly or otherwise, he emulates his CPI-M predecessor, Kanti Biswas, who in 2005 had wanted to turn the screws on Anglo-Indian schools, notably by determining their fee structure and the terms of teachers appointment. The move was generally criticised even within the Left, and it is quite another story that he wasnt nominated for the 2006 assembly election.
As reported in this newspaper, the raison detre of the new board is to ensure that these schools enforce the governments norms to facilitate state regulation.
This is bound to impinge on the autonomy of Anglo-Indian schools, which function with the Church as the overarching entity. As much is clear from the ministers statement that at times the schools affiliated to the CISCE do not follow our instructions.
Sad to reflect, there is little to distinguish the praxis of the Trinamul government from that of the CPI-M. Of course, the Lefts education minister didnt have his way.
Chatterjees politically-driven initiative does call for reflection, as does the Centres dithering over detention and more recently the move to hold a common examination in Class 5 and 8. Small wonder that the second has been stoutly opposed by the schools generally.
The function of the board has been left delightfully vague by the minister, pending the legislation which is said to be on the anvil.
But should a pragmatic school of learning have its way, the Bill, crafted byChatterjee, may be expected to buttress the states agenda to monitor the fee structure and to frame its own norms. The breathless initiative comes after a bout of simulated bonhomie at a meeting convened by the Chief Minister with Lady Principals at Town Hall recently. There was no verbal demarche on fees, unlike the interaction with the authorities of private hospitals.
It must remain open to question whether a board run by the state government can ensure that the fees are not exorbitant, as the minister imagines. The government ought to be riveted to the other issue ~ donations for admission.
TELEGRAPH, AUG 11, 2017
5000 Group D jobs before polls
Aug. 10:The Bengal government has started a process to appoint about 5,000 Group D employees on a contractual basis ahead of the panchayat polls next year.
The contractual jobs, the application for which was issued in a little-known Bengali daily, have given rise to speculation that recruitment norms are being bypassed in a hurry to complete the process ahead of the elections.
Sources in Nabanna said education and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee had started sending lists of applicants to various departments along with a letter urging them to offer contractual employment to those mentioned.
Metrohas learnt that at least two departments - PWD and irrigation - have received the letter and lists from Chatterjee so far. Sources said more departments would be sent such lists soon.
While the PWD has reportedly received a list of 1,200 candidates, the irrigation department has been sent names of about 400 youths.
"The government has a plan to appoint 5,000 youths in various departments over the next few months.... The finance department has already approved the appointments on a contract basis," said a senior official.
The contractual employees will get a salary of Rs 7,500 a month, along with several other benefits like pay revision and post-retirement sops.
Giving jobs in the Group D category - which covers mainly peon and sweeper positions in the government - and creating beneficiaries have been used as a political tool by successive governments in Bengal.
The Left Front had on a regular basis appointed youths allegedly loyal to aligned parties on a regular basis. But the practice had come to a halt in the later part of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government.
Officials pointed out that Trinamul had reintroduced the practice after coming to power in 2011 when about 3,000 people were given contractual employment in Group D posts.
But the decision this time, with an aim to complete the process before the polls next year, has led to discussions in administrative circles on whether the government was bypassing norms.
Senior officials pointed out that the advertisement seeking application for the Group D posts was published in a little-known Bengali daily on April 15. According to recruitment norms, job advertisements should be given in at least two "widely" circulated dailies, one Bengali and one English.
"The norm framed by the finance department during the Left Front tenure covers both permanent and contractual engagements. The norm was set to give opportunity to all the unemployed to apply for the posts. In this case, it was bypassed," said an official.
Sources said that when the government keeps the larger section of the unemployed unaware of vacant posts, questions are raised over transparency in the recruitment process.
The fact that employment is a problem in Bengal became clear when around 25 lakh applicants applied for 6,000 Group D posts after the newly formed Group D Recruitment Board gave advertisements.
The board had held a written exam of all the eligible candidates, the number of which comes to about 24.4 lakh, in May this year. The board has now decided to call about 12,000 successful candidates for the interview before publishing a final list of successful candidates.
Told about the speculation, minister Chatterjee said: "There is no question of any irregularities on in them. It has been done through proper advertisement and other formalities."
FINANCIAL EXPRESS, AUG 11, 2017
Government sweetens jobs scheme, to pay 1% of basicpay
To accelerate job creation in the formal sector, the government may enhance its contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for new employees under the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY) by additional 1% of their basic pay.
By:Surya Sarathi Ray
Under PMRPY, the EPS share is provided by the government so that firms are encouraged to recruit unemployed persons and also bring informal workers into the payroll. (Reuters)
To accelerate job creation in the formal sector, the government may enhance its contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for new employees under the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY) by additional 1% of their basic pay. Under the scheme launched in August 2016, the government is obliged to pay the entire employee pension scheme (EPS) component of the employers EPF contribution for workers with a salary up to Rs 15,000 per month for the first three years of their employment.
Of the employers share of EPF kitty, 8.33% goes to EPS, 3.67% to EPF, 0.65% towards administrative charges, 0.5% to Employees Deposit-linked Insurance Scheme and 0.01% for EDLI maintenance. Under PMRPY, the EPS share is provided by the government so that firms are encouraged to recruit unemployed persons and also bring informal workers into the payroll. A few months after the PMRPY launch, the government also relaxed the condition of new employees and extended its benefit to all new recruits in a firm, including those who replaced previous ones.
While sources told FE that PMRPY was going to be reinforced, it was not immediately clear whether the additional 1% EPF share of the government will go to the provident fund or be in the form of waiver of administrative charges/payment of insurance premiums.
The PMRPY scheme has so far generated only moderate response. Only 6,588 establishments availed the benefit and over 3 lakh workers had enrolled under the scheme till July 30, 2017. While the budget sanctioned for the scheme was Rs 1,000 crore, only Rs 31 crore has been spent so far.
While PMRPY has had a slow start, the Pradhan Mantri Paridhan Rojgar Protsahan Yojana for the textile sector too hasnt met the policymakers expectations so far. While a crucial component of the textile labour package was an undertaking that the government will bear the entire 12% employers contribution to the retirement fund for the first three years against 8.33% for other sectors under PMRPY just 40,500 new workers had enrolled under the scheme till July-end. The schemes objective was, of course, very ambitious: To create 1 crore jobs, achieve a cumulative increase of $30 billion in the export of textiles and garments and Rs 74,000 crore investments in the employment-intensive sector over three years.
The EPFO had received Rs 1,232 crore under the EDLI scheme (insurance fund) in 2015-16, up from Rs 936 crore in the previous fiscal. It also received Rs 4,908 crore in 2015-16 as administrative charges, up from Rs 4,904 crore a year earlier.
The Centre also pays an additional 1.16% of the total wages of an employee towards pension scheme for all existing EPFO subscribers. In 2015-16, it remitted the retirement fund a sum of Rs 3,030 crore towards its contribution on the EPS, up from Rs 2,300 crore a year ago.
PIONEER, AUG 11, 2017
CM EMPLOYMENT GENERATION SCHEME TO BE LAUNCHED ON AUG 15
Chhattisgarhs rural youth will be gifted with Chief Ministers Employment Generation Scheme (Mukhyamantri Rojgaar Srujan Karyakram) on the occasion of Raman Singh Government completing 5,000 days in office.
The project will be operated by the Chhattisgarh Khadi and Gramodyog Board. It will be launched on Independence Day. It may be mentioned that Chief Minister Raman Singhs Government will be completing 5,000 days in office on August 14. The educated unemployed youth in the rural regions will be provided with loans to start village industry units, officials informed.
The Chief Minister accepted the proposal of Board Chairman Krishna Kumar Rai to implement the scheme.
Chhattisgarh Khadi and Gramodyog Board Managing Director Alok Katiyar said that is an important scheme of the State Government. The youth who have passed fifth standard will get loans up to Rs 1 lakh for self-employment and for youth who have passed eighth standard will be given a loan of Rs 3 lakh. The youth will have to invest only five per cent of investment rest of it will be invested by the local bank, he said.
Katiyar said that the youth would have to pay only 65 per cent of the loans in easy installments. Notably, the Chhattisgarh Government will be setting up an Apparel Design and Training Centre at Dharampura village of Bastar district, officials informed.
Notably, a total of 940 weavers had been benefitted under the Village Industries Departments Integrated Handloom Development Programme in the State during 2016-17 , officials informed.
Village Industries Department officials informed that this scheme was started for development of handloom weavers of the State, under which financially weak weavers of rural areas are divided into groups of 20 and are provided weaving training of four months so as to make them more employable.
For making designs as per the market demands, weavers are provided two-months of skill improvement training. Weavers who do not have their own looms are provided Rs 25,000 for loom and Rs 3,000 for other necessary equipment. Moreover, Weavers cooperative societies are provided financial aid of Rs 20 lakh each for infrastructure development.
A total of 8,500 people were provided employment under the Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) in Chhattisgarh during the past eight years, officials stated.
According to Chhattisgarh Khadi and Village Industries Board, the PMEGP during the financial year 2015-16 as on December 2015 had provided fund of Rs 17.56 crore to 830 cottage industry units for commencing their works.
In turn, these units have provided employment to 948 persons. The PMEGP is a programme sponsored by Central Khadi and Village Industries Commission. Under this scheme, for setting up of cottage industry, projects costing upto Rs 25 lakh is sanctioned. For beneficiaries of general category margin money of Rs 25 per cent is provided by the Board, while for beneficiaries belonging to the female category, ST, SC and OBC class, 35 per cent margin money is provided as grant, officers said.
The loan availed from the bank has to be returned over a period of seven years, they said.
Mainly Poha Mill, mini rice mill, crusher plant, lack production, bamboo and cane production center, pottery business, pulses mill, flour mill, soap industry, incense sticks, candle industry, carpenter works, ironsmith, hosiery, production of utensils from brass-copper-brass, aluminum utensil, iron furniture production unit and others are financed under the programme.
As many as 119 cottage industry units were established in Chhattisgarh involving an estimated cost of Rs 1.78 crore under Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) during 2015-16, officials stated.
The project in Chhattisgarh is being run by Chhattisgarh Khadi and Gramodhyog Board.
Notably, Chhattisgarh had 7,586 people involved in manufacture of Khadi products as on March 31, 2015, officials stated. Out of the 7,586 people, there were 6,502 spinners and 1,084 weavers, according to the data released by the Union Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), officials stated.
Notably, the Chhattisgarh Khadi and Village Industries Board has been churning out trained youngsters through its various training programmes from rural areas with complete knowledge of availability of raw material, marketing and financial management to run their units , officials stated.
Beneficiaries of this scheme also have easy access to bank loans. The Board provided self-employment training to 73 youth from rural pockets of the State during 2014-15 under its Artisan Training Scheme. Nearly Rs 14.84 lakh has been spent on this training in the programme. Board officials informed that under this scheme, youngsters of rural areas are provided training in various trades for self-employment. The Chhattisgarh Government has also established an Apparel Training & Designing Centre each in Bilaspur, Raipur, Bhilai and Rajnandgaon, officials stated.
The Chhattisgarh State Industrial Development Corporation (CSIDC) has also identified a land parcel measuring 30 hectares at Village Khapri, Tehsil Tilda in Raipur district for the development of a Textile Park. The proposed Textile Park at Tilda is aimed at providing one stop integrated facilities with manufacturing support, welfare and common infrastructure facilities to the prospective textile industries. The proposed Textile Park is envisaged to house world class eco system for textile industry, officials stated.
Testing laboratory (Including equipment), Design centre (Including equipment) , Training Centre, Trade & display centre , Conferencing and meeting facilities, Warehouse/ raw material depot , packaging unit Canteen and worker hostels and Recreation Centre.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 8, 2017
Learn Kannada or lose job: Karnataka body warns bank staff
BENGALURU: The Kannada Development Authority Development Authority on Monday asked regional heads of nationalised, rural and scheduled banks to make it mandatory for non-Kannada-speaking staffers to learn the language in six months. In a circular issued to banks, KDA chairman SG Siddaramaiah said, If employees fail to learn Kannada in six months, they should be relieved of their services in accordance with the recruitment rules. The authority said a Kannada unit must be set up in all the bank branches in the manner Hindi units were opened throughout the country when Hindi was implemented. There is a lack of will in implementing the local language in many banks. ...not paying due respect to the local language can lead to conflicts in future.Banks have to take up the measures on an emergency basis, Siddaramaiah said. The authority said banks must follow the three-language formula in all advertisements. Banks have been told to mandatorily implement the Dr Sarojini Mahishi report that says all Group `C' and `D' posts must be given to local applicants.The KDA chairman said he would visit the banks to review the implementation of Kannada. SP Shankar a senior advocate, said that service conditions cannot be altered midcareer to the detriment of employees.
BUSINESS STANDARD, AUG 8, 2017
One mn bank staff to go on strike on August 22 over privatisation, mergersUFBU strike call also due to write-off of corporate NPAs, criminalisation of willful default
T E Narasimhan
Bank officers want pay equality with central govt officersBank unions take realistic view, sign MoU on turnaround planRecovery bogey haunts 5 PSBs with high NPAsBank unions to discuss benefit curtailment plan
Around one millionbank employeesand officers will go on strike on August 22, following a call by theUnited Forum of Bank Unions(UFBU), which consists of all the nine bank unions.
TheUFBUis criticising the government's decision to privatise public sector banks, mergers and consolidation of banks, and write off corporate Non-Performing Assets(NPAs) and demanding to declarewillful default of bank loans as a criminal offence, implement recommendations of the parliamentary committee on the recovery ofNPAs.
The Union also wants the government to ensure accountability of top Management/executives for bad loans and put in place stringent measures to recover bad loans and withdraw proposed Financial resolution and deposit insurance (FRDI) Bill, abolish Banks Board Bureau and not to pass on the burden of corporateNPAson bank customers by hiking charges.
C H Venkatachalam, general secretary, All IndiaBank EmployeesAssociation (AIBEA) saidUFBUhas observed that instead of taking urgent remedial measures to recover the alarmingly increasing bad loans which are threatening to drive the banks into a serious crisis, the steps like MOU, PCA, FRDI Bill, NPA Ordnance, IBC, etc. are only aimed to clean the balance sheets at the cost of the banks which represent the hard earned savings of the people rather than to recover the money, he alleged.
While denying the Public Sector Banks of adequate capital thus restricting their business expansion, licences are freely being given to the corporate houses to open private banks, small banks and payment banks, thus weakening the Public Sector Banks, Venkatachalam said.
The Union urged for tough measures, including criminal action on willful defaulters to recover the huge bad loans given to the corporate houses, big business and top industrialists.
"It is also observed that the burden of the corporateNPAsare put on the shoulders of the common public and banking clientele in the form of hike in fees, charges, penalties, etc. for every type of normal banking services. Recently, SBI and Bank of Baroda have reduced the rate of interest on savings deposits," said the Union.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 8, 2017
Manipur governor moots 'Flying Doctor" scheme
IMPHAL: Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla today said that she had informed the prime minister of the 'flying doctor' plan mooted by her, which she said would be help to the people of the hill areas of the state and its neighbours. Heptulla, who is away in Delhi, told PTI over phone that she had tied the rakhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the day and informed him of the plan. "The scheme is one of its kind and will be very useful for other hill areas in the NE region as the neighbouring states in the area share similar topographical features," the governor said adding she had requested the prime minister to inaugurate it after the completion of the official and mandatory requirements. Heptulla had told a function here last week that the North Eastern Council has allocated Rs 25 crore for the flying doctor scheme and that various districts, both in the hills and valley would be covered through choppers equipped with medical necessities. Manipur was recently hit by the worst flood in 20 years and had been plagued by vector-borne diseases like Japanese encephalitis and dengue both in the hill and valley areas where surface transport services are difficult due to landslides during the monsoons.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 8, 2017
August 15 to be celebrated as 'Sankalp Parva': Government
NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to observe this Independence Day as 'Sankalp Parva' and asked the people to dedicate themselves to social causes and share their ideas to make a new India. The 70th Independence Day on August 15 to be celebrated as the 'Sankalp Parva', the Ministry of Personnel said in an order. Terming 'Quit India Movement' as an important milestone, the government has asked people to take a pledge to create a new India that is strong, prosperous and inclusive. The Quit India Movement or 'August Kranti' began on August 9, 1942. "Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, people across India, in every village, city, transcending all barriers came together with a common mission to uproot imperialism," the order said. As the nation would be observing 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement this year, five years from now i.e. in August 2022, we will complete 75 years as an independent nation, it said. "This five-year period, from 2017-2022, gives us an unique opportunity of 'Sankalp' to 'Siddhi' towards a new India. Hence, August 15, 2017 be celebrated as the 'Sankalp Parva' or the Day of Resolve, and in 2022 our nation will transform that resolve into 'Siddhi' or attainment," it said. This five-year period can ignite the transformation that will create an India, which our freedom fighters will be proud of, it said. During his 'Mann Ki Baat' programme, the prime minister had said that in this month of August, the month of the Quit India Movement, let us come together and resolve: Dirt-Quit India; Poverty-Quit India; Corruption-Quit India; Terrorism- Quit India; Casteism-Quit India; Communalism-Quit India!
DECCAN HERALD, AUG 9, 2017
Justice Dipak Misra to be next CJI
Justice Dipak Misra, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was on Tuesday appointed as the next Chief Justice of India (CJI).
Justice Misra, 64, will assume office on retirement of incumbent CJI Justice J S Khehar on August 27. He will remain in office till October 2, 2018.
The law ministry issued a notification on the appointment of Justice Misra as the 45th CJI on Tuesday evening.
Justice Misra was elevated to the apex court on October 10, 2011. He has earlier acted as the Chief Justice of Delhi and Patna High Courts. After his enrolment as an advocate in 1977, Justice Misra practiced in constitutional, civil, criminal, revenue, service and sales tax matters in the Orissa High Court.
He was appointed as an additional judge of the Orissa High Court on January 17, 1996, before his transfer to the Madhya Pradesh High Court. He became a permanent judge on December 19, 1997.
Justice Misra is currently presiding over a bench hearing the Cauvery and Krishna river water disputes, BCCI reforms and Sahara case among others. He headed the bench that passed the order for mandatory singing of the national anthem in cinema halls across the country.
Justice Misra, along with Justice P C Pant, had in May, declined to de-criminalise defamation an offence punishable with two years in jail apart from fine saying the right to free speech cannot mean that a citizen can defame anybody.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 15, 2017
National Archives Set for a Digital Life
Tech companies urged to digitise national records as part of their CSR programme
The National Archives of India (NAI), the custodian of some of the country's most valuable manuscripts and records, plans to rope in technology companies to create a new avatar of the voluminous physical texts housed in its sprawling colonial-era building in the national capital.
The 125-year-old body is home to priceless articles of Indian history such as centuries old Buddhist texts, official records maintained by the East India Company and papers related to the final years of freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose. At a recent meeting with IT industry forum Nasscom, Raghvendra Singh, director general of the National Archives, proposed that IT companies come forward to digitise a part of the national records as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme -a proposal that the govern ment will first test through a pilot programme.
The idea is not just to digitise the documents, but also to create a convergence where links to archives of other ministries or states could be provided for a certain topic to make research simpler, Singh told ET.
Currently, over 90% of the records are in original paper format and are susceptible to decay and destruction. Moreover, scholars looking for research material have to visit the archives in person and request for a document to be retrieved, a process that can take anywhere between a few weeks to months. Shrikant Sinha, CEO of Nasscom Foundation, said the industry forum is exploring the best methods to undertake such a mammoth exercise of national importance. The NAI's vast content, with millions of documents, is a key national heritage, and making that content accessible to India and the world is a very exciting prospect.
One of the models being considered is to position this as part of the Indian Public Libraries Movement, an initiative started by Nasscom Foundation with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reposition public libraries.
It won't take much for them since they have the wherewithal -for example, the British Library runs an `adopt a book' campaign, we could start an `adopt a series' initiative for the IT companies, said Sanjay Garg, deputy director general at NAI.
Apart from granting researchers the ability to access content from anywhere anytime, digitised images are often even better than the originals due to image enhancement technologies.
The earliest record with the Archives is from 1342, from the time of Feroz Shah Tughlaq, and digitising assets like these will significantly enhance the value of the archives. To drive home this point, Garg cited the example of the 4th Century Buddhist texts called the Gilgit manuscripts which have been digitised and compiled into a book.They are even better and clearer than the original because of the use of several softwares, he said. NAI already has a digitisation process underway through a third party agency with support from the electronics and IT ministry. A total of 40 lakh papers have been digitised so far with 11 lakh private archives and 19 lakh public records.
ON DEMAND DIGITISATION
Singh said there is also a proposal to offer an on-demand digitisation facility. This may help us in digitising the most relevant or most in demand records first instead of going through the entire archives in a linear fashion, said Singh. The online archives, however, will not come free.They will be put behind a `paywall' for the Archives office to be a `self-sustaining' organisation.
Governments the world over have recognised the need to digitise their archives.According to the website of the National Archives of the UK government, it began to shift to digital over ten years ago, and now digitises around 8 million pages of archival material every year. It says that it delivers over 200 documents online for every one delivered in the reading rooms.On the other hand, the US National Archives and Records Administration has unveiled a strategic plan for 20142018 under which it plans to work to digities selected records, including those most requested by researchers, and will put searchable descriptions of all its holdings online.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
TELEGRAPH, AUG 15, 2017
two nations at 70- Thesangh parivaris vindicating the idea of Pakistan
Long before a raging gale in the form of Narendra Modi swept aside Lal Krishna Advani from the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2013, the grand patriarch had already fallen from grace in the eyes of his ideological brethren in thesangh parivar.
The fall took place on June 4, 2005, when Advani visited the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan and penned a fulsome tribute to the man generations of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members had been taught to loathe.
In the register at the mausoleum, Advani wrote: "There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history, but there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual."
Advani went on to recall Jinnah's address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 and described it as "really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practise his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man."
His words created a storm back home and he was privately reviled and publicly isolated within his party. Although he was allowed to remain BJP president for a few months, the RSS made it clear that he would have to step down by the end of the year. Advani led a dispirited BJP to a second consecutive defeat in 2009 but after the Jinnah episode, he never recovered the status that he had long held as the premier ideologue of the party.
Advani has never quite explained what made him suddenly turn dewy-eyed about Jinnah and we can only speculate on the deeper political and psychological reasons that lay behind it. It is possible that Advani - the man singularly responsible for leading the movement to demolish the Babri Masjid that was the biggest assault on free India's secular fabric - sought an image makeover in the hope of becoming more acceptable to a broader constituency.
And he found a kindred spirit in Jinnah who succeeded in dividing India on religious lines and then - after the bloodiest orgy of violence and the biggest mass migration of people ever witnessed in history - chose to blithely extol the virtues of secularism in that much quoted August 11 address.
Even if the two men were sincere in their belated recognition of the follies of fomenting a religious identity-based politics, neither could undo the lasting consequences of their past championing of it.
Advani's praise for Jinnah may have become a forgotten footnote in history. But as India celebrates the 70th anniversary of Independence and Pakistan too turns 70, a bigger irony is unfolding: thesangh parivarnow ruling the country is paying a much more profound tribute to the founder of Pakistan than Advani ever did.
Reams have been written about Partition in the last seven decades and each year brings yet more works of research and scholarship on the subject. The "divide and rule" policy of the Britishraj, the naivet of the Congress leadership which did not take the demand seriously till it was too late, the dizzying pace of events in the aftermath of the Second World War when the British were in a hurry to leave and the nationalists showed equal haste in wanting freedom, the rapid spread of communal violence in that period have all been analysed in excruciating detail - and generations of Indians have believed that Partition was a colossal tragedy that could have been averted if the leadership on both sides had been more far-sighted, accommodative and patient.
This belief was bolstered by the fact that the Congress - which before Independence insisted that it represented all communities and not just the Hindus - continued to maintain and implement that stand even after the horrors of Partition. Jawaharlal Nehru, the most ardent champion of secularism and India's composite heritage, may have failed to avert India's division but he resolutely laid the foundations of a secular republic that - for all its flaws and imperfections - not only gave a sense of belonging to India's many minorities but also allowed space for the myriad diversities within the 'majority' to flourish.
Pakistanis, for the most part, have viewed Partition very differently. With more Muslims remaining behind in India, Partition did not deliver the "Muslim Homeland" as envisaged by the leaders of the Muslim League, but there has always been a large measure of support for Jinnah's two-nation theory.
The Muslim League may have been formed as far back as 1906 but the idea of Pakistan took birth at the Lahore session of the League in 1940 when Jinnah forcefully argued that Muslims and Hindus were two separate nations and in spite of living in close contact for a thousand years could not "be expected to transform themselves into one nation merely by means of subjecting them to a democratic constitution and holding them forcibly together by unnatural and artificial methods of British parliamentary statutes".
The break-up of Pakistan with the formation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the internal turmoil within the country between sub-nationalities underscored the infirmities of the two-nation theory and was ample proof that religious identity cannot be the glue that keeps a nation together.
But the biggest refutation of the two-nation theory was India's vibrant secular democracy that was no mere constitutional abstraction but part of everyday lived reality manifest in food and music, films and clothing, sports and culture, imbuing all Indians with a sense of a shared history and a common destiny.
That history and that destiny are now under threat. A combination of neglect, complacency and opportunism had frayed the secular fundamentals of India for some time past. But in the last three years, it is being ripped apart - sometimes violently, more often insidiously. The prime minister may go on making lofty speeches about creating a "New India", go on repeating the shibboleth of "sabka saath, sabka vikas", but thesangh parivar's foot soldiers and storm troopers make no bones about their mission to make India a Hindu rashtra.
It is not just the lynchings in the name of cow protection that mark this mission. It is in the daily invocations to a nationalism imbued withHindutva: making the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in schools, deleting Mughal history from textbooks, altering facts to glorify a mythic Hindu past, uttering cries of "Jai Shri Ram" at official functions, imposing diet codes on everyone during Navratras, abusing an outgoing vice-president for expressing the same concerns that an outgoing president did because the former is a Muslim and the latter is not.
Pakistan underwent a similar stifling in the name of Islamization after Zia-ul-Haq seized power. But in India, we cannot blame unelected clerics or army dictators or a conquering power for imposing a new order upon us. It is a democratically elected government which rules India after all, and rules in our name whether we like it or not.
Jinnah, in that same 1940 speech, had evoked fears that a democratic system where Hindus are in a majority would only lead to a Hinduraj. Those ominous words ring truer today than ever before in the last 70 years.
But today is also a good day to remember that the accommodative ethos of India triumphed over the frenzy of hate that gripped the country during Partition seven decades ago. That the reservoirs of hope and resilience still run deep in this land even when silent and invisible. That the deep bonds that bind the Indian people may take some hard knocks but can never be permanently breached. That is why, try as they might, the RSS and its affiliates will, hopefully, never succeed in proving Jinnah's dark prophecy about India right.
DECCAN HERALD, AUG 14, 2017
Turf war: Centre and West Bengal Govt squabble over Independence Day celebration
West Bengal Government has turned down Centre's request to hold various activities including a pledge taking ceremony at the educational institutions in the State in response to Prime Minister's call for freeing India from communalism, terrorism, casteism, corruption and filth by 2022 in commemoration of the 75thyear of the 'Quit India' movement this month.
The Centre called the response of Trinamool Congress (TMC)-ruled State as "unfortunate," asking what was wrong in celebrating the 75thyear of Quit India movement as well as the 70thyear of India's freedom from Imperial Rule in such a manner.
Prime Minister has proposed "a secular and a national agenda," Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters here on Sunday.
It is not a political agenda of the party. I hope wisdom will prevail (on the West Bengal government), he added.
Issuing an advisory to all the States earlier this month, HRD Ministry asked the States to organise various activities in their schools and higher educational institutions like painting competition, quiz, student visits to memorials between August 9 to August 30 to commemorate75thyear of Independence and 70thyear of India's freedom from British Rule.
The Ministry also asked the States to make students, teachers and other staff of the educational institutions take a pledge to free India from communalism, terrorism, casteism, corruption and filth, sharing a format of the pledge, titled 'Shapath Se Siddhi-Letustogether pledge for a new India'.
We did not make it mandatory. We only gave suggestive programmes that could be organised to mark the occasion. But, West Bengal government has issued circular in the State saying that the Independence Day will not be celebrated in such manner. What is the manner that we have suggested? It is very unfortunate that the State is not participating, HRD Minister said.
He also said that he did not intend to engage with the West Bengal government through media on the issue.
I will talk to them (West Bengal government) independently. it's unfortunate, he added.
Javadekar said that Prime Minister's gave a clarion call to free India from communalism, terrorism, casteism, corruption, poverty and dirt because they are the real problems that the country was facing today.
The entire country has welcomed it and people are doing their bit. This is a national agenda. There has to be cooperation by all, the HRD Minister added.
ECONOMIC TIMES, AUG 14, 2017
How PM Modi is using Indias high-quality, low-cost technology to lift 400 mn out of poverty by 2022 On 15 February this year, Isro placed 104 satellites into orbit using only a single launch of one vehicle, PSLV-C37. The video of the event, available easily enough on the net, shows the familiar zoom of a rocket entering space, and then little flicks chase one another into the deep distance until the mission is completed. Only three satellites were Indian; 96 were commissioned by two American companies, Planet Laks and Spire Global.
The acceleration in space, impressive as it is, might be less spectacular than the change taking place on the ground. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated a transformation towards a new India in which historic burdens such as poverty and corruption have been eliminated, and inheritance ills like communalism and casteism are only bad memory. His mission has a calendar; the deadline is 2022, when India celebrates its 75th year of independence.
Transformative change needs radical thinking. The economic empowerment of women is being used as a principal cure for poverty. Under Mudra, the PMs signature project for those at the base of the economic pyramid, loans worth Rs 3,55,590 crore have been disbursed. Remarkably, 78% of those taking these loans are women.
The PMs housing plan, for the impoverished, is an equally big story in gender emancipation. A woman can take this home loan as sole owner, but a man needs a woman as co-owner unless he is a widower or bachelor. This is a fundamental shift in the balance of power within a family. Over 25 million women who thought that a gas cylinder was a privilege of the middle class or rich, are now in smokeless kitchens. Swachh Bharat is a means to dignity and better health for women. The list is long.
The objective is to lift about 400 million out of harsh poverty in five years by ensuring that the first fruits and the largest share of economic growth go to those who need it most. In a complementary initiative, the PM is using Indias proven capability in high-quality, low-cost technology to create efficient, sustainable and corruption-free delivery systems for direct benefits to the poor on an unprecedented scale.
Jan Dhan was an essential first step. In 2015, within three months, banks opened 300 million accounts for those who had never crossed the doors of a bank before. Critics sneered that these were cashless. Unsurprisingly, they had missed the point: banks were now serving those without money, rather than those with.
Use of technology for transparency has also become mandatory in the bidding process for government contracts. In a country where, particularly during the long decade between 2004 and 2014, contracts became synonymous with corruption, the change is a virtual revolution, leaving sections of the old political-industrial complex frustrated, angry and desperate to restore the previous order.
New India is being fashioned from embers of the old. Sceptics who cannot fathom why Narendra Modi has become the most popular PM in memory need look no further than his comprehensive assault on poverty and corruption.
It surely cannot be anyones case that through some twirl of a magic wand, India should suddenly become free of all ills. Among our difficult legacies is the politics of Hindu-Muslim differences, a tragedy that has simmered and often bubbled into conflict. One longstanding dispute has been over the cow, held sacred in Hinduism. Mahatma Gandhi urged an end to cow slaughter; and the lead architect of our Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, included this as a guiding tenet of our Constitution. Beef was banned in most states by Congress governments.
Of late, cow vigilantes have attacked Muslims and Dalits on suspicion of eating or transporting beef. Two incidents attracted wide, and understandable, media coverage: of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan and Junaid in Haryana.
No government can prevent crime. A governments bona fides are tested by what it does in pursuit of the criminal. In Rajasthan, seven suspects have been charged with murder. The states chief minister Vasundhara Raje has dismissed as malicious the allegation that her administration was biased and argued the same in this newspaper, in an oped piece headlined Mob violence is unacceptable (27 July). Comparisons are not an answer, but she pointed out that murders and mob violence took a higher tally in Rajasthan in 2012, when Congress was in power. In Haryana, five were arrested but the main suspect escaped. Police traced him to Sakri, in Maharashtra, where he thought he had found safety in obscurity. He has now confessed to stabbing Junaid.
On 29 June, PM Modi expressed his anguish during the centenary event of Mahatma Gandhis Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, wondering how much pain Gandhi himself would have felt. Gandhi had offered to die for the cow, but never advocated violence in its name. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has described the incidents as barbaric.
Both voters and politicians are increasingly dismissive of the motivated and fraying narrative of extended guilt. Nitish Kumar, for instance, refused to buy this false propaganda of Congress, whose only electoral crutch now is the alleged insecurity of minorities.
In 2013, there was an assassination attempt on Narendra Modi during a rally in Patna. At that critical, volatile moment, he said that Hindus and Muslims had a choice: they could either fight each other, or they could unite to fight the true enemy, poverty. Fraternity and prosperity of all Indians is the only creed of Narendra Modi.
STATESMAN, AUG 8, 2017
Anybody connected with political science, economics, development studies, democracy, and socialism has to willy-nilly engage in discussions on the marginalised, the deprived, the downtrodden, the destitute... in a word, the poor. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: Poverty is an insult, poverty stinks, it demeans, dehumanises, destroys the body and the mind if not the soul. It is the deadliest form of violence. Perhaps, no other problem receives greater global attention today.
Poverty is indeed a multidimensional phenomenon. Hence, it is difficult to offer a suitable definition. However, what really constitutes poverty has comprehensively been asserted in the Copenhagen Declaration in 1995: Poverty has various manifestations, including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterised by a lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life.
Poverty is not simply characterised by a lack of adequate income, it is an all-encompassing issue. The poor and the marginalised have no race, ethnicity, or nationality; their binding identity is that they suffer from deprivation and restrictions. In the words of Amartya Sen: Poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities rather than merely as lowness of incomes, which is the standard criterion of identification of poverty. The perspective of capabilitypoverty does not involve any denial of the sensible view that low income is clearly one of the major causes of poverty, since lack of income can be a principal reason for a persons capability deprivation.
Poverty reduction has the overriding objective of development planning. The country has initiated several anti-poverty programmes since the 1950s, but unfortunately the impact has been negligible. Most of the programmes and interventions seem impressive on paper, but are often deeply flawed. Lack of commitment at the highest levels and the absence of a work ethics have led to an almost endemic crisis. And the fallout is obvious ~ India remains a poor country even after 70 years of independence and holds the distinction of having around a third of the world's poor. The GDP indicates impressive growth over a period of time but the income generated by economic growth has been unequally shared, and the newly created resources have not been utilised adequately in order to address social deprivation. Economic growth has led to a very marginal increase in wages and incomes for the poorer sections of the population. The growth runs parallel to a failure to generate adequate employment, sometimes described as jobless growth. Moreover, the countrys seemingly meteoric GDP growth rate is creating economic inequality and two demarcated societies ~ one poor and another rich. The American economist Lant Pritchett has offered an interesting explanation of why things go so shockingly awry in India, and why it is incapable of implementing programmes and policies. He called this the flailing state syndrome ~ a nation state in which the head, that is elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remains sound and functional but that this head is no longer realisably connected via nerves and sinews to its ownlimbs
Pritchett described flailing as the inability to maintain sufficient control of the administrative apparatus to effectively deliver services through the government 'in spite of democracy and strong capability at the state level. In India, it is not just the hand that is not functioning, but also the head. The failure to alleviate poverty can reasonably be ascribed to the failure of policies, priorities of government and politics ~ a failure to integrate growth with development. While the economic growth measures a value of output of goods and services within a time period, the economic development is a measure of the welfare of people in society. High growth, though essential, says the India Development Report, is not sufficient for poverty reduction on a substantive basis. As Amartya Sen has remarked: We are bombarded by deafening rhetoric on the priority of economic growth, with little thought given to health, education and other aspects of the formation of human capabilities ~ reflecting a disarmingly foggy understanding of how long-run growth and participatory development can actually be achieved and sustained.
Democracies are, without exception, better at avoiding catastrophes and in managing mass starvation. But the political system of democracy does not automatically guarantee equal opportunities to all. On the contrary, there is enough evidence to prove that poverty and income inequalities in most democratic countries are increasing. Professor Ashutosh Varshney, a political scientist, has shown that poverty levels are high in several poor countries that have been democratic for decades. Why are democracies so tolerant of poverty? This is because democracy favours direct rather than an indirect attack on poverty. Direct attacks include subsidies, job reservation, transfer of assets and other poverty alleviation programmes, many of which end up as mere doles. These are paraded in the name of the poor but the benefits are reaped by the creamy layer and middle class. Indeed, doles neither assuage the psychological frustrations of poverty-stricken people nor are they economically sustainable. Still these populist measures are preferred because they are far more visible to voters.
Democracy today is essentially majoritarian rather than egalitarian. The middle classes, caught between the high-income group (around 15 per cent of population) and the working class (ar