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Policy & Politics

ANALYSING THE ROLE OF UNION TERRITORY AND STATE

In the quasi-federal Indian setup, the Centre and the state are expected to balance their desires and ambitions in such a manner that the unwarranted or uncalled interference by the former within the administration of the latter is disallowed. Within the arena of operation of the states, they are supreme and the interference in the Centre in such matters is ideally unjustified.

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INTRODUCTION

A Federal Constitution is one, where there is a distinction between the Centre and States, such that the former cannot, beyond a certain point, ingress into the areas of the operation of the latter and in case of such a breach, the Judiciary has the authority to decide upon its legitimacy. This suggests that such forms of governments are inherently rigid and may affect governance to a greater extent, especially in cases of ideological clashes between the one’s ruling the States and those holding power at the Centre. To avoid this chaos, the leaders of the Constituent Assembly deliberated extensively on the said topic and asserted the existence of a strong Central Government, which would assure the autonomy of the provinces to a greater extent. This was done, primarily because India, unlike the United States of America, did not involve the “States” coming together and forming the Government, besides the age-old history of the Indian populace for striving for personal liberty of their domains, rather than uniting as one. That is to say, that India could not and did not adopt the principles of Federalism in verbatim, and the learned leaders declared India as a “flexible federalism”:

  1. National or State Emergency.
  2.  Single Judiciary.
  3.  Uniform implementation of fundamental laws in the country
  4.  Common entrance examination for appointment of administrative officers in the country
  5.  Governor, appointed by the Central Government, to merely work in an advisory capacity of the elected state government.

That is to say, India laid the foundation for a both Unitary and a Federal Constitution, where these two factions were mutually exclusive. The characteristic of the Federation was to change, depending upon the situation it was in – normally, it was to remain Federal, or, as is it referred to as today, a Quasi-Federal one, with always, a powerful Centre.

The Indian leaders, wellaware of the need for recognizing this diversity without compromising upon their agenda of establishing a “strong centre”, divided the provinces based on a linguistic and historical basis. And while these identities have strengthened, with time, these Constitutional demarcations, read with the democratic set-up, have paved the path for the possibility of different political parties ruling at the Centre and the State. These divergences have certainly engendered power struggles, affecting the growth and development therein, besides impacting the democratic rights of the citizens. For instance, the Central Government, where the authority managing the affairs of the State is not affiliated with it, is likely to ignore the needs of the State or destabilize it in some way or the other. Breakdown of the constitution machinery governing the state has been resorted to, by the Central Government for ensuring President’s rule in the region. This power has its roots in Article 356 of the Constitution, which can only be exercised when the President is convinced that it is imperative to do so, in the best interests of the citizens of that region – it is not absolute power. In Jammu and Kashmir, for instance, the emergency was declared for 6 years, as against Punjab, where it is believed to have lasted for around 10 years, continuously for 5 years. Such approaches were undertaken, unless there is a real threat, by the Centre to violate not only the nuances of the Indian Federalism but tend to increase the animosity between the political parties of different ideologies.

STATUS OF NATIONAL CAPITAL TERRITORY OF DELHI IN THE QUASI-FEDERATION OF INDIA

Delhi, since time immemorial, has had a mythological and symbolic significance and being the Royal seat of a united India for virtually 800 years before the British dominance, it is not surprising that they chose to shift the capital of the Raj therein, in 1911. Since then, Delhi has continued to be the administrative capital of the region, even today, possessing a sentimental value. Interestingly, however, Delhi itself, also comprises its legislature, the executive and the judiciary -despite being a Union Territory, it enjoys the privileges which are often vested with other states. That is to say, that the National Parliament and the State Legislature, both operate in Delhi – the latter was bestowed with the said privilege through the Delhi Administration Act, 1966.

This certainly makes one wonder about the exact position of Delhi in the Indian Federation. Article 239 ideally permits the same administrator to act independently, since it is primarily a Union territory – this engenders the conflict between the mannerism of interpreting “Delhi”. Herein, it is important to mention that the Supreme Court in Devji Vallabhbhai Tandel and others v. Administrator of Goa, Daman and Diu and Another, went to the extent of declaring that in case of a conflict of opinion between the Governor and the Council of Ministers, the final decision would vest with the Central Government, with which, the latter would be required to be bound by.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court in New Delhi Municipal Corporation v. the State of Punjab, held that the power of Delhi’s Legislature to make powers is limited, especially in matters relating to police, land and public order. Herein, it is important to mention that, Federalism forms an inherent part of the basic structure of the supreme law of the land and therefore, cannot be ideally trampled with by the Central Government, indicating that any attempt to alter Delhi’s existing sovereignty is ideally impermissible.

And therefore, when the Central Government tried interfering immensely in the very operation of the affairs of the Delhi’s Legislature through the Lt. Governor, because it was a Union Territory, the Constituent Bench of the Supreme Court, in Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India and Anr, refused to treat it like any other Union territories or even give it the status of the State. In doing so, it affirmed that “Delhi” was a class within itself, and therefore, the Lt. Governor was under an obligation to merely assist the Legislature. It appears that while defining the separate identity of the National Capital of Delhi, this Court, however, reiterated and implemented the similar principles that guided the Governor’s powers to other states. Upholding the interpretation of Article 239AA, it held that the very purpose for introducing the said provision was to ensure differential treatment for the National Capital. Furthermore, it elaborated that Article 239AA(4), vested the executive power of Delhi vested with its Legislature, affirming that the Lieutenant Governor need not, in a mechanical manner, refer every decision of his Ministers to the President. That is to say, that the Lt. Governor should be apprised with the decisions of the Council of Ministers, but he cannot raise an issue with such undertakings, on every occasion. To present the decision before such Administrator does not, according to the Court, imply the need for taking his or her consent, but, is to keep him updated with the governance of the territory. And any difference of opinion, then, could be resolved through dialogue and discussion, as expected by Rule 49 of the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993, rather than taking the matter to the President directly – this was, according to the Court, likely to uphold the autonomy of Delhi and thus, safeguard the principles of Federalism in India.

In a nutshell, it relied on the relevant provisions of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 for showcasing that the Lt. Governor was expected to only act independently in matters where the matters were outside of the scope of the “legislative competence” of the Delhi Legislature or where he was performing the duties entrusted by the President. In February 2019, however, the same Court, in Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India, held that the Legislature of Delhi had no authority to make laws with regards to Entry 41 of List II of Schedule VII of the Constitution; it also dictated the instances in which the Delhi Legislature and the Centre could dictate terms. And just when the aforesaid matter seemed resolved, the Central Gove r n m e nt e n ac t e d t h e Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, which essentially amended the certain, relevant sections of the Act of 1991. Practically, it declares that “government”, for any law made by the Legislative Assembly suggests “Lt. Governor”, adding that his or her opinion was to be undertaken by the Legislature mandatorily before undertaking any executive action. By amending Section 23 of the Principal Act, it paves the path for the Lt. Governor to reserve bills for the President which “incidentally” cover matters which ideally fall within the purview of the Legislature of Delhi. Besides prohibiting it to make any rules for “enabling” itself, it mandates the Delhi Legislature to take the opinion of Lt. Governor.

According to the Statement and Objects of this new Act, it would ensure the promotion of harmonious relations between the Legislature and the Executive besides demarcating the responsibilities of the elected Government and the Lt. Governor. On the contrary, however, it certainly seems to violate Article 239AA(4), which primarily deems the role of a person in the position of the Lt. Governor to merely aid and assist the elected Government – herein, the former seems to have become the whole and sole ruler, on behalf of the President and hence, the Centre. That is to say, that the elected government, irrespective of its political affiliation, would hereafter become a puppet of the one ruling at the centre, which is against the spirit of Indian democracy. Such an approach is an attack on the federalist structure of India, which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, ideally, cannot be amended to such great lengths.

CONCLUSION WITH EXPECTATIONS

 Ideally, in the Quasi-Federal Indian State, the Centre and the State are expected to balance their desires and ambitions in such a manner, that the unwarranted or uncalled interference by the Centre within the administration of the States is disallowed. Within the arena of operation of the States, they are supreme and the interference in the Centre in such matters is ideally unjustified. However, the aforesaid is purely an attempt to abrogate the existing structure of Indian Federalism besides violating the relevant constitutional autonomy guaranteed to Delhi – besides, it subdues the democratically elected government therein, which cannot be tolerated.

One can certainly draw parallels of this incident with the approach undertaken by the Centre with regards to withdrawing the constitutional autonomy assured to Jammu and Kashmir. Since it has been declared as Union Territory, it is too, subjected to the norms of governance by the Centre and is managed by the Lt. Governor, so appointed by the Centre. Nevertheless, since its inception, it has been under President’s Rule, becoming the finest example of the Central Government exerting its influence directly over the region, unlike Delhi, where it is doing so indirectly and irrationally.

In both these cases, an elected government is virtually being reduced to nothing but a subject of the Centre, thereby making a mockery of the citizens right to vote their candidates to power in this region. This conflicts with the principles of democracy and certainly needs to be rectified at the earliest if the blatant violation of the Constitutional principles is to be avoided.

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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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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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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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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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