1.Need to regulate school fees (Live Mint, First post)
2.Indian PM visit to Sri Lanka (Indian Express)
3.It’s not the EVM machine (The Hindu)
1.Need to regulate school fees (Live Mint, First post)
Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of regulating school fees. (GS paper II)
- Across the country, media has been abuzz with stories of the exploitative fees of private schools and the efforts of some state governments to intervene.
- This is a national malady and it needs to be cured. The cure requires that we recognize that education is a quasi-public good that cannot be delivered effectively through market mechanisms.
Case to regulate fees
- Poor governance in education allows concentrated oligopolies to develop. This manifests in many ways, including in the quality of education having no relation to the fees that parents pay. The nexus between bad governance and bad schools crowds out good education.
- We should recognize that the regulation of schools is the domain of state governments. The regulatory mandate must be limited to only the minimal essentials. Regulation need have only two goals. One, that all private and public schools meet standards in basic academic and operational aspects: for example, the number of teachers and their qualifications, classrooms, safety. The other goal should be to protect the public from the exploitative practices of schools.
Some possible solutions
- The states must form an independent, quasi-judicial school regulatory body. Today, the state departments of education are conflicted as they are regulators and also the largest operators of schools. An independent body protected from political and bureaucratic interference will enable efficiency through focus, improve probity by forcing transparency, and increase accountability. Such bodies will not be perfect, but would be a substantial improvement.
- The school regulator must demand that schools be not-for-profit, as required by law. And for substantiating this, annual financial audits, executed with the same rigour as in companies, must be required. Accounting standards need to be developed for schools with the objective of eliminating practices that are often used for skimming money from such not-for-profit entities: for example, “management” cannot be outsourced. Again, this won’t be perfect, because our audit ecosystem is not perfect. But then, we have nothing better.
- A grievance redressal mechanism for parents should be made available, on stability of fees, other financial matters and safety. The quasi-judicial status of the regulator will enable this.
Gujrat model (Way ahead)
- To prevent private schools from charging exorbitant fees in absence of clear laws, the Gujarat government announced to bring a Bill providing for constitution of a Fee Regulatory Committee.
- The bill empowers the state government to constitute four Fee Regulatory Committees for four zones, “for the purpose of determination of fee for admission to any standard or course of study in self financed schools”.
- This committee will be headed by a Chairman, who can be either a retired district and sessions judge or a retired IPS or All India Services officer.
- The committee will have jurisdiction over all the private schools, right from pre-primary to higher secondary private schools affiliated to Gujarat Board or CBSE.
- The fee structure proposed in the bill for primary, secondary and higher secondary school is Rs 15,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 27,000 per year, respectively.
- The committee will also have the powers to initiate inquiry suo moto against any school which is found to be charging excess fees.
- As per the Bill, aggrieved persons can also register their complaints against a private school.
Question– Education apart from being an empowering tool, is also a public good. Hence, there is a strong case for regulating school fees. Critically comment.
2.Indian PM visit to Sri Lanka (Down to Earth)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent visit of PM to Sri Lanka . (GS paper II)
- Prime Minister will embark on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend the biggest Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ as its chief guest.
- The visit is expected to bring various confidence building measure on table along with possibilities on commercial level
- Vesak, the most important day in the Buddhist calendar, marks the commemoration of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away.
- The ‘International Day of Vesak’ celebrations, to be held in Colombo from 12 to 14 May, will include an International Buddhist Conference in which over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries will participate.
- PM has also sought to restore the deeper cultural connect between the two nations as part of his effort to go past the divisive discourse of the last few decades and rebuild mutual trust between Delhi and Colombo.
- Given the subsequent hiccups in the ‘neighbourhood first policy’ or placing a deterioration of ties with Pakistan and strains in India-Nepal ties for instance, India seems to be looking at a new framework of ties with India’s neighbours with the aim of countering Chinese influence.
- PM’s visit to Sri Lanka in two years would hopefully launch a productive new phase in bilateral relations. In his first visit during March 2015, PM promised to end India’s prolonged neglect of the very special relationship with Sri Lanka.
- Previous neglect had huge costs in terms of generating a trust deficit and entrenched negative perceptions of India as a regional bully, insensitive to Lankan nationalism and sovereignty.
- New commercial possibilities in Sri Lanka were highlighted by the expansive MoU on economic cooperation that was signed during Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s visit to Delhi last month. The MoU identified many major projects, including infrastructure projects relating to ports and the energy and transportation sectors. Delhi is trying to change the perception that India does not have the will or the capability to undertake and implement large projects in the neighbourhood.
- Moreover, India has drawn up a plan for long-term economic cooperation with Sri Lanka in the face of increasing Chinese influence in the island nation that New Delhi has traditionally considered within its sphere of influence. The plans include the construction of a gas-based power plant and a solar power plant besides a slew of road and railway projects.
Areas to look for
- There is some political backlash in Lanka against India’s new economic activism. Delhi can only overcome this resistance, part-genuine and part-simulated, through patience and sustained engagement. Above all, Delhi must address the deep sense of nationalist hurt in Colombo that has arisen from India’s intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs over recent decades.
- Although Buddhism was an important part of Indian diplomacy in the 1950s, it is only over the last decade that efforts have been made to revitalise it. Hence more needs to be done in this regard to tap the capitalise better relations on this front.
- Besides, India and Sri Lanka concluded earlier to jointly develop the Trincomalee oil storage tank farm. Under the terms of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord, the two countries have agreed to jointly develop the 99 oil tanks housed in Trincomalee, a relic from the colonial times. At present, Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary Lanka IOC runs 15 out of the 99 storage tanks in Trincomalee. Work should be carried on this front on priority basis to sustain the confidence between two nations
- PM’s second visit to Lanka, focused on the Buddha Purnima celebrations, can lay a very different basis for India’s engagement with Sri Lanka. For too long, Delhi has viewed Sri Lanka as a part of India’s problems domestic or foreign. Colombo was seen either as an adjunct to Delhi’s management of Tamil Nadu politics or a location in the grand contestation with China a pearl on a long string across the Indian Ocean.
Question: What should be the future direction of India with regard to cultivating relations with Sri Lanka in times to come?
3.It’s not the EVM machine (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recent controversies going with EVM (Electronic Voting Machines).(GS paper II)
- Electronic Voting Machines (“EVM”) are being used in Indian General and State Elections to implement electronic voting in part from 1999 elections. EVMs have replaced paper ballots in local, state and general (parliamentary) elections in India.
- Recent political haul is going in country regarding EVM tampering has undermine the sanctity of the electoral process in the democratic country. There were various claims regarding EVM’s tamparability and security which have not been proved.
- Recent allegation had questioned the Election commission; it is trying hard these days to re-establish its credibility, the EC has reiterated that EVMs cannot be tampered; with it has made public the findings of inquiries into specific charges of tampering in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that give a clean chit to the machines.
- The plea was also sought to probe allegations of alleged tampering of EVMs during polls, including the recent Assembly elections in five states. The plea sought examination of the quality, software or malware and hacking effect in the EVMs from a reliable electronic lab and scientist and software expert.
VVPT- a step towards transparency
- VVPAT is a small printer like machine attached to EVM which allows to the voters to verify that their vote has been cast correctly. Once a voter casts his vote, a small paper slip containing the name of candidate and poll symbol is generated from VVPAT machine. The paper slip appears for about 10 seconds. After the voter views the receipt, it automatically goes inside a sealed box attached to the EVM.
- The VVPAT system first introduced during the 2014 general elections by the Election Commission. The system was first largely experimented during Nagaland by-elections in 2013.
Among the recently held elections, VVPAT units were used in all 40 the constituencies of Goa, 4 in Uttarakhand , 20 in Uttar Pradesh, 4 in Manipur and 8 in Punjab.
- VVPAT machines will be used in all polling stations for the general elections in 2019 as the EC has already asked for an additional fund from the government.
- EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.
Question– Restoring confidence in EVM is not just a legal issue but also holds key to restoring confidence in idea of democracy as a whole.Discuss.