Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Kapil Sibal blames opposition for slow reforms in education sector

Human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal has blamed the Opposition for lack of progress in structural and administrative reforms in the education sector. As many as 14 education-related legislations are pending in Parliament.

"They are all pending in Parliament, and for two years. Nobody wishes to debate them, nobody wishes to put them on the agenda. We (UPA) don't have majority in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament). So if somebody says we will not allow the bill to come on the agenda what can we do? So if the policy framework becomes paralysed, because the political processes don't allow the education to be looked at elaborately, then how do we move forward?" Sibal said.

While Sibal would like to blame the opposition, four bills including the reform oriented educational tribunal bill, have been held up on account of opposition from Congress members. Resulting in a major effort last year by the minister and HRD officials to reach out to members of the Congress and their allies. However, even these efforts did not yield any result as the parties like the BJP made it clear that they would oppose legislations like the Education Tribunal Bill and the Architects (Amendment) Bill.

BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha Chandan Mitra said, "the BJP is totally opposed to the education tribunal bill. It is an infringement on the rights private educations institutions. This Congress government has a strong centralizing tendency, which evident clearly in the HRD bills. Such centralizing legislations run roughshod over the rights of the states, and are not constitutionally valid."
Sibal has reached out to BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley, and Nitin Gadakari to ensure that the principal opposition party lends its support to important reform bills like the legislation prohibiting unlawful practices in higher education institutes.

The HRD minister sought to impress on members of Parliament that holding up key education bills would impede India's progress. "By 2020, 100 million additional people will be part of the workforce from India only. By 2030 one third of world's workforce will be provided by India. It's going to be demand driven, and they are going to ask what we did," Sibal said.

Sibal has now decided to rework his legislative plans for structural and administrative reforms. Sibal's new strategy includes amending Bills, dropping contentious clauses and frontloading the non-controversial Bills for parliamentary consideration. This, the minister hopes will ensure the passage of education Bills in the post-recess Budget session. To begin with, the minister has decided to push through the non-controversial bills such as the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing (IIITDM), Kancheepuram Bill, 2011, The Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2011 and the National Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2011.

Once Parliament passes these bills, institutes, like the IIITDM, Kancheepuram and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), would have the power to award degrees to their graduating students. These bills having pending after failing to pass muster in the Rajya Sabha in last year's Monsoon Session. Amendments to the Right to Education will be taken up as there is no objection to the special provisions introduced for disabled children or for the specific non-inclusion of madarsas and vedic schools under the ambit of the Act.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), April 3, 2012

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