Monday, May 28, 2012

How logical is Right to Education Act?

The Government of India passed the Right to Education Act (RTE) which recognizes education as the fundamental right of every child. It makes provision for compulsory and free education for children aged between 6 and 14 years. This act also has provisions which compel private institutions to admit 25 percent of the students from economically backward sections. Its legal validity has also been upheld by the Supreme Court. This initiative by the government is undoubtedly commendable but it lacks logic and has some serious loopholes.

As I have mentioned, the act makes it compulsory to induct 25 percent of the students from economically backward sections and no seats in that quota can be left vacant. The schools will be subsidised at the rate of average per learner costs in a government school. However, the policy makers have failed to take into account that the government schools charge less as they lack basic infrastructure like library and sports facilities. There is low attendance of the teachers in government schools and the teachers are under paid. Also, government run educational institutions enjoy various tax exemptions which private institutions are not entitled to. This raises some serious questions on the basis at which subsidies were decided?

Perhaps the policy makers should have used the famous ‘Pareto principle’. It states that the top 20 percent of the population contributes to the 80 percent of the costs and the remaining/bottom of the population contributes to only 20 percent of the costs. The more logical argument would have been charging only 20 percent of the fees from the economically weaker students. And this 20 percent of the fees could have been subsidised by the Central/State government.

The second most important question that arises is the basis on which the 25 percent reservations in private schools were decided. Why not 20 or 30 percent was selected. Was it selected on the basis of BPL data? The figure of 25 percent seems random.

The third important question is about exemption of minority run educational institutions. The minority run educational institutions have been exempted from this Act. Now, what is the definition of a minority run institution? Is it decided on the basis of religion? If it is decided on the basis of religion then what about the educational institutions run by sub-sub Hindu castes. The Hindu High School in Madras, for instance run by miniscule sub-sub Hindu caste people, by law, does not enjoy minority status.

The fourth important question is about the orphans. The stringent provision of the law makes it compulsory to produce caste certificates, BPL cards, birth certificates, etc. So how will the orphans arrange all this certificates?

And the fifth important question is the about the availability of funds. Estimates suggest that Rs. 171,000 crores or 1.71 trillion (US $ 38.2 billion) would be required in the next five years to implement the Act. With  the increasing budget and fiscal deficit the government will find it difficult to make both the ends meet.

I am sceptical about the implementation and success of this Act until and unless the above five questions are answered. I hope that the government finds logical answers to the above questions and this Act is a grand success.

Information Source – Banking Services Chronicle (June Edition), Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Parliament turns 60, but is it mature enough?

 The age of 60 is considered quite a ripe age. Indian Parliament too turned 60 recently. But I wonder whether it has gained the necessary maturity. Off course we can take credit that our Parliamentary democracy has survived for 60 years, while our neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have faced military coups. The credit also goes to our armed forces for maintaining law and order and protecting India’s border from external aggressors.  But the million dollar question is whether parliamentary democracy in India has matured enough?

We have seen occasions when some of the important bills have got stagnated due to pressure from the regional and smaller parties. Women’s reservation bill and Jan Lokpal bill are some of the examples. Parliament has also witnessed some of the important finance bills related to Foreign Direct Investment being stalked. And there are regional parties like Telangana Rajya Samiti (TRS) and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) creating ruckus in the Parliament demanding a separate state. These parties don’t have any development plans worked out, but they do know how to gain political mileage by stalling parliamentary proceedings. They don’t understand that by creating ruckus in the Parliament and not bringing any constructive suggestions they are wasting crores of public money. Does this behaviour from the Parliamentarians reflect any maturity?

Indian Parliamentary system also doesn’t have any law which bares people with a criminal background from contesting the elections. Some of the Indian politicians are illiterate as well. And there is no age bar for the politicians. We have some parliamentarians who are above 80 years of age and who are aloof from the present realities. We have an age cap and a specific retirement age in both public and private sector. But I wonder why we don’t have a retirement age defined for our Parliamentarians.

The present UPA government has been inept in fighting with corruption that has plagued and crippled the bureaucracy of this country. There have been numerous scams like 2G scam, CWG scam, Adarsh scam, etc in which people from the ruling parties have been involved. There have also been scams in opposition ruled states like Karnataka where politicians have become puppets in the hands of mining mafia. These politicians have been afraid of bringing strict anti-corruption laws.

There are numerous cases of financial mismanagement on the part of government.  There have been numerous cases of farmers committing suicide in the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Common man is facing hardships due to increasing inflation and rising prices. This shows the inability of the Parliamentarians to frame proper financial policies.

The present scenario of Parliamentary democracy demands an immediate overhaul of the entire system. I am not sure how long will it take for the Parliamentary democracy to mature enough. But I can certainly say that it has not matured enough and still a lot of work needs to be done.