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Analysing the impact of Covid-19 on children

Coronavirus has severely affected the health of children all over the world, thereby posing great challenges to the government to arrange proper facilities for their development, security and growth. According to UNICEF, over 7,100 children and adolescents died from Covid-19, which is 0.3 per cent of the 2.4 million pandemic-related deaths in 78 countries. Several healthcare experts and doctors believe that the possible third wave of Covid-19 may be devastating and fatal for children.

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ABSTRACT

 This article focuses on how Covid-19 has impacted children. It talks about physical , mental and emotional health issues faced by the children along with several forms of maltreatment that have raised head amidst the crisis, such as child labour , child pornography, violence, child marriage, etc. UNICEF has also shown concern regarding the increasing numbers of these abuses against children. This article also focuses on the struggles faced by some children due to the commencement of online classes in form of lacking adequate facilities to avail the benefits of online classes; some children are depressed due to the monotonous and hectic school schedule , while some are suffering from chronic eye infection due to the increased screen time and so on. Apart from these issues, the article also points out the danger that children are into, who have unfortunately lost both the parents . Some “giroh” are targeting these children to smuggle them and to engage in trafficking in the disguise of adoption. The article also talks about the sufferings and hindrance faced specially by girl children in getting education by being forced to get married in order to overcome the financial crisis faced by the families.

IMPACT OF COVID-19 UPON CHILDREN

“Children are our most valuable resources,” said Herbert Hoover. “Safety and security don’t just happen , they are the result of collective consensus and public investment . we owe our children , the most vulnerable citizens in our society , a life free of violence and fear,” said Nelson Mandela. The upsurge of devastating, fatal and monstrous pandemic of coronavirus or Covid-19 has taken toll on millions of people around the world and its hunt is still continuing. The governments, authorities and non state actors all around the globe are working together, coordinating with each other in order to deal with such a pathetic and pitiful condition. Talking about its victims , one is bound to count or rather include every age group and every section of people. in other words It has affected people regardless of their age, people of every class and section of society, be it rich , poor or middle class. today we are going to analyse the impact of COV- SARS-2 upon the life of children . for the sake of convenience and clarity we will divide the impacts in two broad sections: 1) Direct impact which will cover the health issues faced by children , issues emerging due to the closure of educational institutions or schools, challenges faced by children who have lost both of their parents to Covid, etc. 2) Indirect impact which will cover the issues of invisible abuse , exploitation, psychological trauma, online abuse and cyber bullying, etc.

DIRECT IMPACT HEALTH ISSUE

 Coronavirus has severely affected the health of children all over the world and thereby posing great challenges to the government to arrange proper facilities and essentials for their development, security and growth. According to UNICEF, over 7,100 children and adolescents died from Covid-19, which is 0.3 per cent of the 2.4 million Civid-19 deaths in 78 countries. Though the number may seem less if seen in respect to the adults and aged people who lost their lives, it is being said by the experts and doctors that the third wave of Covid-19 may be devastating and fatal for children . thus if the situation is this terrible when the disease, till now, is said to have spared the children and not shown its full potential , one can only imagine what the scenario will be after the arrival of the third wave of the pandemic. Another cause of concern, apart from the direct infection, that needs to be addressed is of the subsidiary issues arising due to Covid-19. While being busy in tackling the SARS-2 situation, the authorities and governments tend to focus less upon the health and nutrition of the children which has resulted in the spike of cases of the children suffering from malnutrition. Again, according to UNICEF additional 5 to 6 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition. disruption to service may have resulted in 160 million children under 5 years of age missing a crucial dose of Vitamin A. Apart from this , several countries such as Lebanon , is experiencing severe food insecurity and the percentage of people not having enough food rose from 31% in 2018 to 50% in 2020. Apart from the physical health issues, children are also suffering from several psychological or mental health issues. governments across countries have ensured full fledged lockdown or restrictions on movement which to some extent have adversely impacted the mental condition of the children. Children are living monotonous lives and are being trapped in the web of anxiety, depression and other mental issues. They are not being able to enjoy and explore new things and are even becoming lethargic due to lack of physical activity such as playing outdoor games, meeting new people, learning new lessons, etc. They are confined in their houses for over a year and this is negatively impacting their creative minds.

ISSUES EMERGING DUE TO CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS

 Included among all the measures taken by the governments all over the world to fight against the malignant corona virus is the closure of all schools and other educational intitutions. It was a crucial and mandatory step taken by the authorities to deal with the situation , nevertheless one cannot neglect its deep effects upon the lives of the innocent, creative and curious kids . With the schools being closed from more than past one year , there is a great educational gap that has appeared and is now a huge cause of concern. School is a place where children not just receive education but also learn new skills and explore their talent. Furthermore, school is a place where they meet new people, make friends and communicate, play and build themselves as a person . all these opportunities are being denied to the children due to the catastrophic situation posed by the novel corona virus. Now, one may ask, on what ground is it being said that there is an educational gap even when the online classes have taken place of the offline ones. the argument for this is that virtual classes can never be the best substitute for the offline classes as children miss a lot of opportunities and also do not get the environment they could have gotten in their offline classes. Nevertheless no one can suggest to reopen schools as the pandemic is still at its peak and one cannot risk the lives of children at any cost. There is one important subject arising with the advent of online or virtual classes — it’s the issue of inequality. In several developing countries or even in developed countries, a particular section of students, living in far flung and remote areas do not have access to the internet thereby are being devoid of education. They do not have proper facilities, amenities or technology to exploit the opportunities presented to all the students. This is a major aspect upon which one should focus and take some initiatives to find a solution to this problem. Apart from these things children have found a lot of ways to isolate themselves and not to interact with teachers and their fellow students in the online classes by muting themselves and by not taking active part in different contests and activities organised by schools. This has resulted in obstruction in the full growth of their mind.

CHILDREN WHO HAVE LOST BOTH OF THEIR PARENTS

 Recently India witnessed the second wave of novel corona virus which proved fatal to thousands of people . amidst such horrific scenario when India was witnessing deaths after deaths, children were also suffering as many of them lost both of their parents to COVID . the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on June 7,2021 presented the supreme court with a series of grim numbers. According to the report of NCPCR almost 3,621 children lost both parents, 26,176 lost one parent and 274 had been abandoned. It has stemmed into another problem of trafficking , maltreatment and exploitation of number of abandoned and parentless children. People in the name of helping children are circulating fake and illegal adoption messages which has resulted in the growth of rackets associated with illegal practice of child labour and child trafficking. These human trafficking rackets are taking advantage of the situation and are carrying out their malicious projects, leaving these children in a dark and pathetic condition where they would never get a chance to live their life as a normal child. This activity of human trafficking further results in the increase in drug rackets and other illegal practices in the country. It not just ruins the whole life of the victims ( children) but also their children’s, as according to studies the abused children or the children with dark and uneasy childhood can never offer normal condition to their children for growth and development, rather they tend to use violence and abuse even against their own children. However, the government of India is taking some measures to deal with this situation and is also providing financial support to these children to ensure their bright future. Government of India has also warned those who are circulating illegal messages of adoption and also those who are adopting these children illegally.

INDIRECT IMPACT THE INVISIBLE ABUSE

 A new phenomenon in the name of “invisible abuse” has been surfacing all over the world during the pandemic period. As a result of the series of lockdown , trembling economy and raging numbers of unemployment, a sort of mental distress is prevalent in almost every alternate household. Such grave environment is offering no good to impeccable and unblemished children. due to the stress and strain of continuous financial and health issues, parents or relatives tend to abuse or apply violence against children. The world is witnessing global poverty as a result of recession in major economies and according to UNICEF around 725 million children are living in poor or poverty stricken household and an additional 140 million children are projected to be in households living below the poverty line. According to a survey conducted by SAVE THE CHILDREN AND UNICEF, around 45% of children are deprived of atleast one of the basic amenities of lives which includes health, sanitation , education, proper nutritious food, shelter, clean water, etc. Due to this recession and resultant poverty, children are facing material short comings and potential deprivation. Lockdown measures have heightened the tension in the household regarding the job uncertainty , financial issues, health issues and thereby have increased the risk of violence in homes. As the authorities and governments are busy finding solutions to covid and providing requisite materials to deal with it, the child protection services tend to weaken thereby increasing the risk of children being abused. According to UNICEF, 66% of countries reported a disruption in violence against children-related services due to Covid-19.

ONLINE ABUSE OR CYBER BULLYING

One of the important worry zone that is being witnessed recently is the steep rise in the cases of cyber bullying. With the introduction of the online or virtual classes, children are exposed to internet and gradually to the different social platforms at very young age. In this age, there is high tendency that they are even being exposed to violent and vulnerable contents which can damage or at least leave deep impact of their mental and physical health. Cases of child pornography, cyber bullying, and paedophilia has been emerging. Some people are using the inappropriate pictures of children to present inappropriate content such as child pornography. Another aspect of the related issue is that the children are unveiled to ill-suited and inappropriate contents. This can result in a degree of mental impairment. Children are innocent but curious , if they will be exposed to violent and sexual contents that would increase their curiosity resulting in their engagement with inappropriate activities.

THE ISSUES FACED BY GIRL CHILD

Amidst this pandemic , girl child is also going through several challenges. With the schools closed and extending lockdown period, large number of parents are getting their children married, thereby imposing the threat of increase in the numbers of cases of child marriage. During this financial crisis, child marriage is emerging as a way to relieve financial pressure upon the family. These are just few impacts of the emergence of corona virus upon children and there are many more of it that need to be addressed and taken into consideration. Children are our future and hence the shape and look of the new world depends upon them. thus it is necessary to protect them and provide them with all the facilities and amenities necessary for their physical and mental growth and development.

CONCLUSION

 Children particularly might not be the first to come to one’s mind when one thinks about the direct victims of coronavirus, but there is no doubt that they are the biggest victims of this pandemic as it has changed their lives profoundly and impacted not only their physical but also mental health. Taking toll on thousands of lives , this virus is continuously impoverishing several innocent lives and even taking away the very support system of these children — their parents. It has also deeply impacted their studies and behaviour thereby giving these children lifelong scar. Violence in families due to poverty and financial crisis ;due to financial crisis children are even left malnourished thereby reducing there life expectancy; they are exposed to social media and to different abusive and inappropriate content at early age which is affecting their mental health thereby preventing the growth of their minds to its full potential etc are just few of the myriad devastating impacts that this pandemic brought upon these innocent souls.

Children particularly might not be the first to come to one’s mind when one thinks about the direct victims of coronavirus, but there is no doubt that they are the biggest victims of this pandemic as it has changed their lives profoundly and impacted not only their physical but also mental health.

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Policy & Politics

Builder hardware products from India have considerable global demand, says Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash

Tarun Nangia

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Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025: MSME Secretary B B Swain

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Builder Hardware is another performer making India as one of the top 20 suppliers with a 1.2 percent share in the world builder hardware export pie, said Som Parkash, Minister of State of Commerce & Industry

While addressing the Builder Hardware Expo, organised by EEPC India, virtually today, the Minister noted that builder hardware products from India have considerable demand across the continents.

Indian builder hardware product is one of the best performing segments in the Indian engineering goods sector which has been the key driver of merchandise exports from the country.

“Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and the construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025,” said Mr B B Swain, Secretary, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Swain stated that EEPC India with more than 60 per cent of its members representing MSME sector took several initiatives even during pandemic to provide global interaction opportunities to small players in the form of webinars and virtual Expos.

“The Government of India has been proactive to ensure that all the benefits of the MSME schemes reach the intended beneficiaries in time,” said Mr Swain.

EEPC India Chairman Mahesh Desai said that the four-day virtual Expo would provide opportunity to the Indian exhibitors to display an array of over 200 domestic builder hardware products to overseas buyers from nine focus regions and trade blocs.

“The buyers would comprise contractors, builders, building engineers, architects, landscape artists, interior designers, consultants and project management professionals,” he said.

Speaking at the Expo, EEPC India Vice Chairman Arun Kumar Garodia said India belongs to the league of leading builder hardware manufacturing and exporting nations.

“The Government of India has now set a National Mission of merchandise exports to reach US$ 400 billion within this fiscal, US$ 500 billion by FY-24 and US$ 1 trillion by FY-28 by making Indian products the only choice for global buyers,” he said.

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Policy & Politics

MOU SIGNED BETWEEN J&K AND GOVERNMENT OF DUBAI FOR REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT, INDUSTRIAL PARKS, SUPER SPECIALITY HOSPITALS

MoU will give UT a big developmental push: Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Jammu and Kashmir administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Dubai for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, multipurpose towers, logistics, medical college, super specialty hospital and more.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon. This MoU gives out a strong signal to the entire world that the way India is transforming into a global power, Jammu & Kashmir is having a significant role in that as well.

This MoU is a milestone after which the investment will pour in from entire globe and is a big developmental push. Different entities from Dubai have shown keen interest in investment. Development has to be aspired on all fronts and we are on track, he added.

Goyal thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah for their focus and commitment towards the development of UT of Jammu & Kashmir. Recent industrial package of 28,400 Crore rupees is a testimony towards ensured development.

Terming it a momentous occasion for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha said that this development journey will help the Union Territory to scale new heights in Industrialization and sustainable growth.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon.

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India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa: V. Muraleedharan

‘India has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth,’ said V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India

Tarun Nangia

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‘India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa and has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth”, mentioned V Muraleedharan, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India while addressing the Inaugural Session at the 2nd edition of the India Africa Higher Education and Skill Development Summit organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India today.

Muraleedharan elucidated that India is best positioned to partner Africa as we can offer affordable and high-quality education and skill development opportunities and make the young population employable and allow them to participate in growing economies of African countries. Elucidating on the strong Indo-African partnership in the domain of higher education and skill development, the Minister stated that capacity building and providing higher education opportunities with for the socio-economic development of our partner nations is a major element of our Foreign Policy.

India has long standing ties in education with Africa and over 2000 Indian faculty members have been involved in teaching and research activities of Ethiopian nations. Further, defence academies and colleges are being set up in nations like Nigeria and Tanzania. With a view to promote students from African nations to study in India, several initiatives have been undertaken like the Study in INDIA, ITEC programmes, Sir C V Raman Scholarship, collaboration of Department of Science & Technology with the World Bank to develop centres of excellence in African countries and the launch of e-VidyaBharti and e-ArogyaBharti Project, among others.

Dr Sarah Ruto, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education Republic of Kenya, emphasised that Kenya is working towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals with a special focus on select education-based SDG Goals. She mentioned that Kenya has a competency-based curriculum to meet the rising demands for tertiary education and there is focus on alumni network funding as well as partnerships to promote skill development.

Buti Kgwaridi Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science & Innovation, Government of Republic of South Africa informed that a bilateral cooperation treaty is being negotiated in education for exchange of students as well as to share best practices. He added that forums like IBSA and BRICS have also provided opportunities to address the developmental needs of the nations.

Dame Diop, Minister of Employment, Vocational Training, Apprenticeship and Inclusion, Government of Republic of Senegal informed that the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) which harmonises national policies particularly for human capital development and vocational training is a major step towards promoting employability. The Minister commended India for committing 130 million Rupees to Senegal to create science and technology institutes.

Dr Douglas Letsholathebe, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Government of Republic of Botswana highlighted that the commonality of English language based higher education system offers scope for greater cooperation between the countries. The Minister stated that the Botswana Vision 2036 aims at transformation from a resource-based to an all-ingredient knowledge-based economy focussing on education, training, and human resource development systems. Expressing the commitment to the youth, Botswana has joined the Generation Unlimited initiative as a leader thereby, playing a crucial role in forging multisector partnerships across geographies to provide greater access to skilling and livelihood opportunities.

S Kuppuswamy, Co-Chair, CII Africa Committee & Advisor-Group Finance & Special Projects, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said that the Indo-African collaboration has strengthened in the post pandemic era as the nations are collectively focusing on new age learning models and enhancing the role of technology in education. Emphasizing on the strong multilateral cooperation with Africa, it was highlighted that one of the most popular programs, the Study in India commonly called EDCIL offered by Ministry of Education offers around 900 scholarships to African students to study in India and Indian universities are also investing in promoting their services to the African community.

The two day Summit organised in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India will focus on Online education, Study in India and Skills Development programmes. Over 6 ministers from Africa and India participated at the Summit and event saw online registration of 600 delegates from India and Africa.

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Policy & Politics

INDEX NUMBERS OF WHOLESALE PRICE IN INDIA FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021(BASE YEAR: 2011-12)

Tarun Nangia

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Note: P: Provisional, F: Final, * Annual rate of WPI inflation calculated over the corresponding month of previous year

The month over month change in WPI index for the month of September, 2021 (as compared to August, 2021) was 0.07 %. The monthly change in WPI index for last six-month is summarized below:

Annex-I

All India Wholesale Price Indices and Rates of Inflation (Base Year: 2011-12=100) for September, 2021

Annex-II

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

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Policy & Politics

One nation one election: From inception to constitutional/logistical issues

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‘The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”

In the yesteryears, when Late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was injecting the idea that India will awake to life and freedom, he certainly would not have had any idea that the same speech, to the same public and with the same zeal will be delivered by dissecting few of the words and adding spice wrapped in polarized feelings. Those occasions were five yearly festival of Indian democracy- elections where such speeches jumbled every now and then – could be heard and read.

But one could never fathom of a situation where complex electoral processes does not go simultaneously for the centre and state and in fact, takes place at intervals of every few months in the diversified though unified country like India. And the saga of speech would start once again, every second, for months. It took 20 years of independence and 17 years of first general election to break the chain. 1967 was the last time when India had near simultaneous elections.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

Kerala Assembly made debut for the mid-term dissolution and elections were held in the year 1960, unlike for rest of the country which was held in 1962. Nagaland and Pondicherry should also be kept under exceptions because assemblies here were formed only after 1962. Like every beginning has an end, similarly every end has a beginning. The end of simultaneous election had its beginning in 1970 when, on the wishes of Indira Gandhi, there was a premature dissolution of Lok Sabha on December 27, 1970 and mid-term elections were held in February 1971. The next political event was declaration of National Emergency, 1975. General Elections were held in the year 1977 and the newly formed Janta Parivar started to focus on dissolution of assemblies of few states after the 1977 victory. Such attempts, both at centre and state level, were rusting the greased process of simultaneous elections. The 1998 and 1999 dissolution of Lok Sabha acted as a catalyst for such rusting of simultaneous elections and now only three to four states go for elections with the Lok Sabha polls for last few years. Thus, the Election Commission now conducts state elections once or twice every year and so we get to hear the saga of speeches discussed earlier every few months.

The Hurdles in the path

The Representation of People Act, 1951 is relevant to throw light on the legal aspect of the possibility and shortcomings faced by the authorities for conducting simultaneous elections. Section 14 and Section 15 talk about notification for general elections to House of People and State Assembly respectively. These provisions are empowering in nature and hence the Election Commission, by virtue of these provisions, can notify elections keeping a gap of six months from the end of tenure of the house and this gap period has to be strictly adhered to. Usually, the election schedule is announced a few days before the notification is issued so that the individuals and institutions involved in the process gear up. Hence we can surmise that for the present state of affairs regarding elections of different states and for those assemblies ending their tenure in the span of less than six months, simultaneous elections are legally possible. But, this is not the only changes that shall be required.

Our constitution’s basic structure not only includes parliamentary democracy but also federalism. Also, the tenured elected legislatures are equally important to sustain parliamentary democracy. By bringing the scheme of simultaneous elections, tampering of constitutional accountability shall take place. This shall further deteriorate the structure of federalism that we uphold.

As we have a quasi federal state, our President and Governor neither reigns nor governs unlike United States where the President both reigns and governs and England where the King reigns but does not govern. Thus, by bringing simultaneous elections, we shall be indirectly bringing Governor and President at the pedestal to govern and reign, as when the Lok Sabha or the State Assemblies would be dissolved, the President and Governor shall be appointed as head of the executive. This was even suggested as one of the proposals in The Niti Aayog discussion paper, 2017.

The Paper and the Draft Report of the Law Commission in 2018 also suggested to shorten the tenure of few legislative assemblies and to extend the same of the others in order to synchronize the cycles. This would lead to chaos as why would an elected assembly would want a tenure of two years in place of the earlier promised five years. Similarly, it was also proposed to conduct only two sets of election in a time span of five years. This action in itself is anti-democratic as it goes against the right of citizens to elect their leaders at regular intervals.

This anti-democratic action can be curved into a democratic one by bringing the necessary constitutional amendments. In order to sync the tenures and terms, amendments shall be needed in the following Articles of The Constitution of India, 1950

Article 83(Duration of Houses of Parliament) and 172(Duration of State Legislatures) – These article provides for fixed tenure of five years of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly. It shall need to be amended to match the requirements of flexible tenures in case of synchronizing elections.

Article 85(Sessions of Parliament, prorogation and dissolution) and 174(Sessions of the State Legislature, prorogation and dissolution) – These sections empowers the President and governor to dissolve the Lok Sabha and Legislative assembly respectively. it shall need to be amended to include synchronization as a reason to dissolve.

Article 356(Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States) – This article provides for when president or governor can act as head. This shall need to be amended to include manual tampering of tenures so as to create a path to shorten the tenures and also provide for a way to president or governor to act in situations.

In addition to these constitutional issues, there are logistical issues too. The logistical issues which are of major economical value bring with itself the shortage of the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Presently, the complete set of single EVM including the voter-verifiable paper audit trial can be used for different elections taking place at different time and places for so long as is the recommended life of an EVM. One EVM can have the names of 16 candidates at maximum. Hence for those constituencies where candidates are even one more than 16, the second EVM has to be used. As a precautionary measure, few of the EVMs are kept as reserve and they are to be used in case the once installed earlier face issues. The number of polling stations in India is more than one million. Now the calculation has to start from providing every polling station with EVMs, that too double in number in case of simultaneous elections for centre and state. The procurement of such large number of EVMs does not limit the expenditure. Storage and security of the EVMs adds to the expenditure which undoubtedly counts to thousands of crores and this does not adds to decrease in the expenditure as is the view of proponents for simultaneous elections. As far as local body polls are concerned, the polling stations, the superintending authority and the judicial authority for taking cases of local elections are different from those of state or centre elections. Hence such issues only add to the logistical issues already faced by the election commission.

Conclusion

The idea of one nation one election is not alien to India. 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 pave way for the history of simultaneous elections. The synchronization shall definitely bring stability and strengthen nationalism. In long run, it might also help to cut expenditure and speed up development but the immediate expenses seem to be more than the cost benefit analysis. Moreover, the authors are of the opinion that one election might make the country more centralized and lead to tangential behavior towards local issues and regional parties. It might also transform our democracy to a managed democracy like in Russia. It might give the pretence of free and fair elections but the reality shall be far from it.

Thus, it is imperative that electoral reforms are needed but one nation one election is not the correct scheme to embrace under the ambit of electoral reforms.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

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Policy & Politics

MAKING IT HAPPEN: HIGH SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION IN GANJAM

Anil Swarup

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With the sole motto of ‘Desire for excellence in School Education’, the concept of transformation of high schools into Centre of Excellence (CoE) is based on the vision of Chief Minister of Odisha. The school transformation initiative aims to revolutionize the high school education paradigm of Odisha by upgrading the existing school infrastructure at par with the best of the private schools in the country. This has helped provide a highly conducive learning environment for the students from humble background and would also ensure the delivery of best quality education and training.

The major challenge of community participation and ownership was addressed through regular coordination meetings with PRI members, Block Administration, parents, alumni, School Management Committee (SMC), teachers and students. This also helped identify the needs and priorities of the school for imparting quality education. After several rounds of consultations, it was decided to bring about holistic changes in the existing infrastructure of the high school and re-establish it with Smart and Digital Class Rooms, e-Library-cum-Reading Room, Modern Science Laboratory, Hygienic Toilet, Safe & Pure Drinking Water and upgradation of Sports facilities.

After finalizing the above-mentioned priorities, the next challenge was to work out the finances to implement the said work. This is where the ‘Mo School’ initiative of the State Government played the role of a game changer. Under this programme, contributions were to be invited from alumni, donors and organizations for every school and the State Government would provide twice the matching grant against each donation received. For example, if a CSR contribution of Rs. 1 Lakh was received for a particular school, the State Government would provide Rs. 2 Lakhs for the said school and a total amount of Rs. 3 Lakhs would be made available for the development of the school.

In addition to the aforementioned, the local self-governing bodies such as Gram Panchayats and Blocks also earmarked their funds for transforming the local schools which would turn into an asset for capacity building of their children. The overall transformation work was closely monitored by the School Management Committee (SMC) in coordination with Block Technical Team in order to maintain a higher degree of transparency, accountability and timeline.

The main aim was to improve quality of education in high schools by using latest technology, upgrading infrastructure by means of smart class rooms and creation of interactive learning environment with audio-visual facilities. In order to inculcate the practice of reading and to develop soft skills among the students, a well-furnished Library-cum-Reading Room has been setup where students not only develop practice of reading books related to their syllabus but also various informative and motivational books.

To inculcate a sense of scientific temper among students, a modern integrated science laboratory has been setup. To facilitate easy understanding of various science concepts and theories, students will now get a first-hand learning experience by performing various experiments in the laboratory. The modern science laboratory will improve scientific reasoning abilities and practical skills of the students.

In addition to all the above, separate hygienic toilets for boys and girls were also ensured in the high schools. The idea is to ensure that students remain free from infection by developing good sanitation habits. The toilets are fitted with colored & designed tiles and with modern sanitary fittings to minimize wastage of water. Installation of napkin incinerators in girls’ toilet is also ensured to dispose the sanitary napkins in a hygienic way. It is also ensured that the teachers and students use the same toilet so that they take personal interest in maintaining cleanliness & hygiene. Special and dedicated toilet for students with special needs are also made an integral part of the new toilet pattern.

As a top priority, pure and safe drinking water facilities are being ensured in all schools under the ‘Nal Se Jal’ campaign of the State Government. Provision of water purifier is ensured in every high school for safe and pure drinking water. It has also been decided to upgrade the school playground with modern playing equipment in order to nurture young sporting talents.

An additional initiative called ‘Water Bell – The reminder’ has been launched by Ganjam Administration with a vision to inculcate the habit of drinking water at regular intervals among the students so that they stay hydrated and fit. As students spend most of the time in schools, water bell is a reminder for a strategic break for the students during the school hours to take a break and drink water in between the school sessions. Students are also encouraged to carry water bottle to schools

The efforts being made have the potential of transforming high school education in the entire state of Odisha, including Ganjam District . The idea of upgradation of Government high schools driven by 5T principles has not only resulted in the transformation of infrastructure but also developed self-confidence and motivation among students, teachers and parents coming from very humble background in rural areas. This ambitious initiative has become a reality only because of the concerted efforts of various stakeholders, especially the field level functionaries like BDOs, AEs, JEs, SMCs, Teachers, parents, students, etc. The success can be attributed to ‘Team Ganjam’ led by a young and dynamic Vijay Amruta Kulange. This team made it happen. All this could not have been achieved without political support from the top. The beauty of the model is that it is replicable, scalable and sustainable because all the stakeholders are on board.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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