Sunday, 16 October 2011

Deemed Universities Need New Lease of Life

Right Angle - S Vaidhyasubramaniam
11 Sep 2011 TNIE

The UGC's new Regulations for Deemed Universities (RDU) are analogous to backdoor nationalisation. The cosmetic dressing of the Board of Management with 'external academic experts' and the unreasonable rules and regulations in the matter of administration, admission and academics make RDU a retrograde step. The Radhakrishnan Commission in 1948-49 encouraged deemed universities (DU), based on a spirit of competence unencumbered by arbitrary rules and regulations. Between 1956 and 2004, 92 institutions were conferred DU status after each underwent rigorous inspections. Between 2004 and 2009, an additional
36, excluding the NITs, were notified as DUs. This period saw an explosive growth in the number of DUs, thanks to then HRD ministry's procedural bypass and lapses. Despite the Supreme Court hearing the Tandon Committee case, no attempt has been made to understand this proliferation. Sister-institutions r
un by the parent DU were included under its ambit. Clear backdoor entry! Shockingly, DU status was also granted with conditions and subject to renewal. Think of conditional driving licences with concessional number of accidents with a hope that the licensee shall learn driving within six months!

The UGC's role in maintaining university education standards is undisputed. However, there seems to be a split agenda-none for the public universities and RDU for deemed universities. Once an institution is declared a DU under Section 3 of the UGC Act, there is no provision in the Act to frame new regulations exclusively for DUs. Assuming but not admitting that power for the UGC to discriminate flows from the Act, there are concerns on RDU's legal alignment with the apex court.

The RDU was recently upheld by the Madras High Court. The critical role of judiciary is to decide issues based on parameters within the boundaries of law as enacted by competent authorities or as interpreted by the SC. A 11-judge bench of the apex court in TMA Pai Foundation (2002) has laid down the law with regard to unaided institutions in the issues of admission, administration and academic autonomy. The SC observed that "the fixing of a rigid fee structure, dictating the formation and composition of a governing body, compulsory nomination of teachers and staff for appointment or nominating students for admissions would be unacceptable restrictions". The Madras HC did not consider this while upholding the RDU.

The high court also hypothesises the idea that non-family members are the torch-bearers of quality while family members, however qualified, are not. It also cites Harvard and Yale which are out of context due to the gross policy-level inequalities between India and US. Worldwide, more than 75 per cent of businesses are owned/managed by families representing' 50-90 per cent of GDP in free market economies. Similarly, India has a large portion of the economy driven by family-owned businesses which constitute 95 per cent of Indian companies. Studies indicate owners are the most interested in a corporation's growth. Likewise in higher education, there can be no one better than promoters to take responsibility than promoters hiding behind a board in which promoter is a minority. The UGC should only prescribe qualifications, and qualified family members can't be branded academic outcastes.

The way forward: Statutory authorities must take individual action against erring DUs and RDU is certainly not the type of action required. To generalise and impose unreasonable restrictions on the functioning of DUs is like throwing the baby with the bathtub. MHRD must understand that there are well-oiled syndicates, senates, etc. and still bad public universities. The governance rules of promoter-less public universities can't
be applied for promoter-led private ones. When m
any DUs are positively contributing in spheres like access to higher education, employment, research, publications, providing corporate talent, etc., MHRD must oxygenate and not strangulate them.

The writer is a Ph.D., GMP (Haruard), lOB Chair Professor of Management & Dean – Planning & Development, SASTRA University

Administering Rural Areas

New IE 13 Sep 11
Yogendra Narain was chief secretary of UP and secretary to the Union government E-mail:

Majority of Indians live in rural areas, but while adequate attention has been paid to the administration of urban areas and the strength and weaknesses of the district administration, not enough analysis has been made of the requirements of a strong rural administration. The introduction of blocks and block development officers in the Fifties and Sixties was the first major modification in the post-British administration. Thereafter, another major change came through the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution. But no thought has been given to strengthening of the administrative structure in rural areas and the need for trained personnel to man this structure.

The administrative architecture set up by the British helped them get their revenues, including land revenue, to run the government. An all powerful district administration perpetuated their rule and they created the Indian Civil Service to man all the posts of district officers' as well senior positions in the government to firmly strengthen their presence in India. The rural administration was largely left untouched except the occasional interventions by governor generals like the permanent settlements, etc, to ensure that the revenues did not stop flowing.

After Independence, India has seen a sea change in the attitudes and policies of governments, with the mandate of improving conditions in rural areas. There has been massive flow of funds to rural areas and government policies have concentrated on eradication of rural poverty, strengthening rural infrastructure, generating rural employment and improving health, education and other services in rural areas. Rural development programmes are being financed by the central and state governments. In fact, no authority today, including the planning commission, has a complete inventory of funds flowing into rural areas.

The district magistrate and collector is an overworked person. He is the coordinator of all rural development programmes but has very little time to monitor their progress. A study reveals that he spends less than 20 per cent of his time to look after the development work. In UP the solution that has been found is to create the post of chief development officer to coordinate all programmes of rural development. If from the !AS cadre, the officer spends less than a year on the job as he swiftly moves up the career ladder. So usually, the CDO is a provincial service officer or promoted from the BDO cadre. Under him work the district development officer and a project director with heads from various departments like agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, panchayat raj, etc. The CDO does not enjoy direct powers over these and it is a difficult job for him to control them. Then there are other departments like the PWD, irrigation, etc, over which the CDO has no control though they receive maximum funds for executing schemes like Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana. Similar is the position of the block development officer who has assistant development officers of various departments working under him, but they report to the line departments and the BDO has limited control over them. In short rural developmental administration is in shambles.

In the revenue administration in rural areas the pivotal institution is the tehsil, which we have in each sub-division headed by a tehsildar, or in some places called mamlatadar. Under the tehsildar, there are naib-tehsildars, supervisor quanungos and lekhpals (who maintain land records of each village). Revenue and other taxes are collected by revenue collectors called amins in north India, Each sub-division is supervised by a sub-divisional officer drawn from the provincial civil service.

This has been a very effective institution right from the British days. The tehsildars and the sub-divisional officers also enjoy magisterial powers and are entrusted with conducting elections. They also settle disputes relating to title possession and demarcation, etc of agricultural lands. They check fair price shops and take action against them, if required. If there are farmers' agitations they are in the front line of the government to deal with them. The revenue administration is the real cutting edge of the government.

To give better administration in rural areas, it is necessary to create a separate cadre of rural administrators who should be mandated only with the task of rural administration. They should be selected on the basis of an all India service examination, like the civil services. The allied rural services could be the rural agricultural service, the rural medical service, the rural revenue service, the rural finance and accounts service and so on. If the panchayat raj administration has to be strengthened in keeping with the spirit of the 73rd amendment then all these services will have to be created with the same
salaries as other all India services and central services. Those recruited for them should be told that they will have work in the rural areas only unlike the present IAS officers, who after working for four or five years in the districts and even less in rural areas, move out to work in the state g
overnment other central government.

From this rural administrative service we should select officers to man the posts of sub-divisional officers, the tehsildars, the block development officers and other generalist officers. The others should be specialised officers to work with panchayat raj institutions. These rural administration officers should man all the posts in rural areas and move out to work with the state government or the central government. Land records should also be maintained by the rural panchayats on the pattern of the municipal boards.

With the strengthening of rural administration the necessity of the villagers running to the district administration will also end. The sooner we implement the concept of rural administrators and make these all India services responsible for implementation of rural development programmes, the better it will be for the majority of our people, who live in rural areas.

What About Breaching People's Privilege? Dirty Tricks Experts Blunder Again.

11 Sep 2011 TNIE

Can the Government of India's dirty tricks department never get it right? It had committed serial blunders while handling the Anna Hazare phenomenon. The Government had been embarrassed all along the way. Finally, after Parliament accepted Hazare's main demands, was there a feeling that wisdom would prevail. But the plotters are at it again. As crudely as ever, they have initiated proceedings against the leading members of the Hazare team on one charge or another. Bhushan, Kejriwal and Bedi have been slapped with breach of Parliamentary privilege. Kejriwal, a former Income Tax official, has been served with a notice on disputed arrears as well.

Even if the charges were all proper and bonafide, commonsense should have told the Government's intriguers, that targeting all three at once was a mug's game. In this case, the charges themselves are quite obviously trumped up, and will strike citizens as such. Instead of discrediting the activists, the dumb move will further discredit the Government.

If Kejriwal broke his service rules, why is action taken only now? If he "amassed crores" through his non-government organisation, why is legal action not taken against him, instead of leaving it to Congress's official 'loose cannon' Digvijay Singh to make yet another allegation out of it. (This is the man who said Suresh Kalmadi was innocent). Clearly the dirtytrickwallahs are engaged in a harassment campaign, an exercise in vindictiveness, at a time when the Government should be trying to create trust, not confrontation. Hazare is right when he says that sending "wrong signals" now can well lead to unrest in the country.

The breach of privilege charge in particular is preposterous and counter-productive. MPs are criticised as a class not just by social activists but by people at large. Politicians are also attacked as a class. It is no use saying that all MPs and all politicians are not bad. Of course they are not. But the fact remains that the collective reputation of politicians and MPs today is at its lowest point since independence. They are seen by the people as a class, and detested as a class.

Parliament must earn fame before it can be defamed. The recent Murdoch case, of illegal phone hacking, gave us an opportunity to see how the British Parliament earns its stature and respect. Members could speak without fear of being stopped by their opponents. Respect to the Chair was paramount. When the Speaker stood up, it was a signal for all members to sit down. Order prevailed at all times.

In our Parliament order is the rarest of rare occurrence. We recently saw Sushma Swaraj, perceived to be a responsible leader, declaring that her party would decide each day whether Parliament should be allowed to function or not. The Speaker's pleas for order are uproariously ignored. The well of the House sees more action than the benches. All this on top of the scandals, be it cash for votes or cash for questions. What privilege are we talking about?

This notion of "elected representatives" is a bit exaggerated these days. We are a country where Manmohan Singh cannot get elected, but Pappu, Yadav can-repeatedly. Besides, this is an inopportune time to talk about elected representatives when some prominent ones are in jail. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda has been going from Tihar to Parliament House to serve the country. The ever-elected representative of Bellary's toiling masses, a man used to ignoring even court summons, is suddenly behind bars.

Rather, this is an opportune time to talk about people's privileges. Every time MPs shout one another down, every time the House is adjourned because of unruly behaviour by members, Parliament is committing breach of privilege of citizens. Intolerance of criticism is itself a breach of democracy. What this misplaced brouhaha in the name of Parliament has proved is that the issue of privilege is, as Aruna Roy put it, "fundamentally flawed". Cleanse the system before talking about privilege.