- A recent report titled “Primary Education in West Bengal: The Scope for Change” by Pratichi Institute highlights the achievements and failures of primary education in West Bengal
Major Highlights of the Report
- Access to primary education “has increased substantially”
- Pupil-teacher ratio has improved dramatically to 23:1
- Uneven distribution of resources:
- Great variations in pupil-teacher ratio: varies from 14:1 to 44:1. This is primarily due to administrative failure to rationalize the distribution of teachers across government schools.
- Increase in single teacher schools- 3.3% in 2014-15 to 4% in 2015-16
- Lack of government-run-primary school in many villages (847)
- Deficit allocation of fund for midday meals
- Poor academic planning
- Increasing number of private tuitions
- Recently, the Human Resource Development Ministry has granted Institution of Eminence (IoE) status to 6 universities
- Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IISc Bangalore are the three public universities which have been granted the IoE status
- Jio Institute by Reliance Foundation, BITS Pilani, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education are the three private universities which have been granted the status of IoE
- Institute of Eminence Status:
- For the IoE status, Under the Institute of Eminence, 10 private and 10 public universities are to be selected.
- Difference between IoE status Institutions and other Universities
- The selected institutes will be regulated differently from other universities. They will be free from the regulations of AICTE, UGC or Higher Education Commission of India
- These institutions will have full flexibility in determining their curricula and syllabi
- They can admit 30% foreign students with no restriction on fees charged from them
- They can further hire foreign faculty (25% of the total faculty)
- They can enter into collaboration with top 500 global universities without approval of UGC
- The aim is to evolve these into institutions of world class within a reasonable time period
- Greenfield Category:
- The proposed Jio Institute in Maharashtra has been chosen in the Greenfield category
- Institutes under this category will be issued letters of intent for three years within which they have to commence academic operations for the notification declaring them IoE to be issued
- In case of failure, there IoE status can be cancelled
- Diksha Sanyal of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and Professor Rangin P. Tripathy of National Law University, Odhisha, highlight the lacunae in the stage-wise and uniform timeline for lower judicial appointments
- Prevailing Issue:
- Recruitment to the lower judiciary has been under public scrutiny due to its failure to fill 23% of vacancies that persist.
- At present the recruitment process is a subject matter of a PIL filed in the Supreme Court
- Recruitment Timelines:
- In Malik Mazhar vs. U.P. Public Service Commission (2008), The Supreme Court highlighted the importance of a prescribed time-schedule for judicial service examinations
- The Court had laid down stage-wise time lines for lower judicial appointments
- Civil judges (junior division) timeline for appointment is within 321 days
- For district judges (direct recruitment) timeline for appointment is within 183 days
- Note: An examination cycle is calculated from the date of notification to the last date for joining.
- Issues with the timeline:
- Rational behind such a timeline is unclear:
- The SC does not give any adequate justification for determining these timelines. No clear, scientific principle or methodology has been offered for the timelines
- Inaccurate benchmark to measure performance of States:
- It does not consider different sanctioned strengths and State resources in conducting such exams.
- A study by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy explains the issue. States with lesser sanctioned strengths also have lower numbers of applicants. These states tend to have an advantage in adhering to the timeline.
For example: Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra:
- For civil judges, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra have a sanctioned strength of 62 and 1,118, respectively.
- Both the states should finish their recruitment cycles within 321 days.
- However, the study found that while Himachal Pradesh could complete its cycle within an average of 178 days, Maharashtra took 443 days
- Strict adherence to timelines affects judicial aspirants:
- Strict adherence to the timeline makes it impossible for aspiring candidates to appear for examinations in multiple States
- This hampers the career opportunities of candidates who are otherwise eligible for judicial service in multiple States.
- Suggested measures:
- The timelines should be flexible; subjected to modifications based on the administrative and resource capacities of the states
- The Supreme Court should adopt a timeline based on proper data and methodology
- Recently, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has favoured live-streaming of court proceedings. Further, the government has mooted for a separate TV channel for live-streaming court proceedings
- Petitioners have advocated that citizens have the right to information and matters of national importance should be live-streamed. In case live-streaming is not possible, there should be provision for video-recording
- Benefits of live-streaming court proceedings:
- Easy Access: Would help litigants follow the proceedings in their case. People from distant places do not have to travel to Delhi for the hearings
- Would help litigant address their lawyer’s performance
- Would keep a check on lawyer’s conduct inside the courtroom
- Help in ensuring transparency in the administration of the justice
- Precautions to be taken:
- Cases related to national security concerns; matrimonial disputes and rapes should not be live-streamed. Public- viewing of cases of matrimonial disputes and rapes is a violation to the fundamental right to privacy and it might also affect justice
- Agreements with the broadcaster should be on a non-commercial basis so as to discourage profit-making from the arrangement
- Further, there should not be any unauthorised reproduction of the video of the court proceedings
High on Atmospherics
- Vipin Pubby, a Chandigarh-based journalist criticises Punjab government’s approach to tackle drug abuse menace
- In 2017, a Special Task Force (STF) was set up by the Punjab government to curb drug abuse in the state
- The STF claimed to have arrested 15000 drug peddlers and block the entire supply chain of drugs
- However, the growing menace of drug-abuse and the recent deaths in the state has triggered the state government to take up some hasty decisions without proper considerations
- The Punjab government has asked the centre to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 to include death penalty for even first-time offenders
- In 2001, an amendment was introduced in the NDPS Act to allow for death penalty for repeated offenders. However, courts held the provision unconstitutional. The provision was removed by an amendment in 2014
- Further the Punjab government has also announced that all the government employees would be put through dope test
- The Author has criticised these steps taken by the state government to be hasty decisions. The demand for death penalty for even first time offenders seems to an overreaction to the issue.
- The author opines that a dope test for govt. employees is a poorly-targeted measure since it is widely known that most of the drug addicts are unemployed. Further, a dope test cannot establish whether a person is addict or not. It can only confirm the presence in the samples
- The author also highlights the problem of poor handling of drug related cases by the police and prosecution agencies. Also, false drug cases have been on a rise in Punjab
- Measures suggested:
- Extensive survey to understand the extent of the problem
- Properly planned strategy to tackle the problem
- Proactive and preventive measures to target youth
- Primary prevention to identify potential victims through counselling and prevent non-users from starting drug use
- Sensitive handling of the issue
Recently, the government announced that the National Testing Agency (NTA) will conduct JEE and NEET exams twice a year from 2019
- T he Ashok Misra committee set up by the HRD Ministry in 2015 to review the JEE had recommended that an online aptitude test be offered two or more times a year.
- The recent decision conduct both JEE (Main) and NEET twice a year is consistent with the advice.
- It is an important step towards achieving a transparent, accessible and fair testing process based on aptitude and suitability of the student.
Computer-Based test might turn into a barrier for rural students-
- shortcomings due to poor school education system in rural areas
- Might create an additional financial burden on students for taking preparations
- Cost of travelling to testing centre
- Measures to be taken:
- Proper planning and allocation of adequate funds
- Regulation of coaching institutes to curb exploitation of students
- Improving school education for better learning outcomes
- Recently, the Supreme Court has questioned the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community saying that it violates the bodily integrity and privacy of a girl child
- The Supreme Court has condemned the practice of female genital mutilation performed by some communities as a religious practice
- The Chief Justice of India has observed that the practice of genital mutilation is an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenders (POSCO) Act
- Attorney General K.K Venugopal advocated that the practice of female genital mutilation should be punished with 7 years of imprisonment.
- However, advocate appearing for the Dwaoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom stated that circumcision as practiced in the community is not genital mutilation. Further it was an essential part of their religion and protected under the Constitution