Thursday, October 07, 2010

National Educational Tribunal: Sibal sorts out issue with House panel

Higher education reform is back on government agenda, with HRD minister Kapil Sibal taking the parliamentary standing committee on board. Mr. Sibal met with standing committee members to resolve the impasse over the National Educational Tribunal.

Sources indicated that recommendations of the standing committee that appear to have been accepted includes reducing the age of the tribunal members from 55 to 35 years and increasing the number of benches in states. The minister is understood to have assured the standing committee that he will take on board some of their recommendations. Mr. Sibal is expected to give Parliament an assurance to this effect. The recommendations will, however, be included as an amendment to the bill at a later date.

Sources close to the developments said that, Mr. Sibal will assure Parliament that the government will come back with amendments once the tribunal is operational for some time. A likely timeline of a year has been suggested, as this would allow the government to address any other deficiencies that the tribunal may experience.

In resolving the differences, the way has been paved for the parliamentary panel to take up discussions on two other bills --- The Prohibition of Unfair Practises in Technical, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill and the National Authority for Regulation in Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Bill. These three bills form the basic framework of the proposed higher education reform.

The stand off between the members of the parliamentary standing committee had resulted after the government attempted to push the educational tribunal bill through Rajya Sabha on the last day of the monsoon session.
Members expressed displeasure over the governments disregard for the recommendations made by the standing committee. In the face of opposition from even Congress MPs, the government was forced to defer the bill. During the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, members questioned the ministry's decision to disregard the panels recommendation. Congress MP Keshav Rao objected to the ministry's decision to reject the standing committee report. Mr. Rao had questioned the rationale behind the standing committee deliberating on a bill if the government was unwilling to consider its views. He said that rejection of the report on the bill and not telling Parliament about it to the House was unacceptable.

In yet another expression of displeasure, the standing committee decided to defer discussions on a bill meant to check malpractice in higher education till the Rajya Sabha passes the National Educational Tribunal Bill. The decision effectively threw a spanner in the ministry's plans to fast-track reform in higher education. Mr. Sibal, who was in the U.S. at that time, then decided to reach out to MPs.

Source: The Economic Times, October 7, 2010
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