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Making things happen: Leverage public-private partnership

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, hailed by the World Bank as ‘a model of good design and implementation with important lessons for other programmes in India’, rode on public-private partnership. The scheme was almost totally funded by the government but the private sector insurance companies competed with public sector companies to provide insurance cover.

Anil Swarup

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The recently announced National Education Policy is being lauded by most of those associated with education. It undoubtedly is a visionary document that takes a comprehensive look at this critical sector. At a conceptual level, the Policy can’t be faulted except perhaps in its inability to appreciate the role of the private sector in school education and the potential of public-private partnership. Unfortunately, the policy expects almost everything to be done by the government, keeping the private sector at a safe distance. ”For-profit” continues to be a dirty word. The policy overlooks the fact that around 50 percent of children go to private schools and the number is increasing by the day. This ‘suspicion’ of anything that is non-government will make the tasks of those that will be responsible for implementation of the policy even more difficult.

 Contrary to the belief of some people, private sector is already playing a big role in the social sector. It is directly participating in government schemes of social transformation and relief. Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), hailed by the World Bank as “a model of good design and implementation with important lessons for other programmes in India”, rode on public-private partnership. The scheme was almost totally funded by the Government but the private sector insurance companies competed with public sector companies to provide insurance cover. Similarly, the private sector hospitals were empanelled along with the public hospitals to provide greater choice to the beneficiary. This healthy competition also improved the quality of delivery in government hospitals. The re-incarnation of RSBY, PMJAY (Prime Minister’s Jan Aarogya Yojana) is also thriving on public-private partnership to benefit millions of poor in the country.

After my stint in the coal sector, when I took over as Secretary, School Education, Government of India I soon discovered “that whereas in the coal sector, mining was underground and mafias operated above it, in the ‘minefield’ of school education it was the other way around. Al the mafias existed underground” (Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant). The Right to Education Act, 2009 that was supposed to improve quality of education had done precious little and one of the primary reason was the ‘suspicion’ of the private sector. This is not to say that they are all angels sitting in the private sector. There are indeed mafias there as well. However, these ‘bad apples’, though dominant, are limited in number. By leveraging the ‘good’ part of this segment and enabling them to expand, these ‘mafias’ can easily be isolated and made redundant.

 At another level the public-private partnership was making a huge difference in the field. As I travelled through the length and breadth of the country, I discovered some amazing models. How Sampark Foundation was transforming school education in interior parts of Chhattisgarh in collaboration with the state government was a revelation. The Akshara Foundation was doing the same under the inspired leadership of its Chairman, Ashok Kamath in Karnataka in sync with Ajay Seth, the then Principal Secretary, Education in Karnataka. Nand Kumar, Principal Secretary, School Education in Maharashtra was instrumental in promoting public-private partnership thereby bringing in qualitative improvement in delivery of education. Kaivalya Foundation, led by two stalwarts, Aditya Natraj and Manmohan, and their committed team were making the best use of a proactive School Education Secretary, Naresh Gangwar to impact quality of education in the state. Delhi’s transformation in school educated can also be attributed to this partnership. There were many more such examples that made me believe that the humungous problems of school cannot be solved by government alone. These initiatives needed to be understood, evaluated, appreciated and replicated. All these and more such initiatives were identified, understood and scaled. The impact was becoming visible as these ‘performing’ NGOs were enabled to expand other domain to other states. The central government was now playing the role of a facilitator. It helped.

The NEP just makes a passing reference to the role of NGOs in the field of school education. For example, one of the chapters in the policy deals with getting the out-of-school children back. The Policy expects teachers to perform this role. If this were to happen, it would have happened long ago. Can the teachers do this job? Should the teachers who already feel burdened be doing this job? Perhaps, no. Is there an alternative? Yes. There are NGOs like Humana People to People already doing a wonderful job in tandem with the state governments. Can these efforts be replicated and scaled? Yes, because they are already being replicated. Scaling would require government support and facilitation. There are many such initiatives that are already happening in the field but for some unknown reason the Policy chooses to be indifferent.

Whether it is health or education, public-private partnership is already playing an important role. For it to become transformational, their role needs to be recognised and appreciated by the policymakers and “decision-takers”. By ignoring them we are missing out on a leverage that is already available and just hope for something to happen. The NEP hopes for 6% of GDP going to education sector. This ‘hope’ was expressed by Dr Kothari a few decades ago. It didn’t happen then. It will not happen now because it is not practically feasible to allocate that amount. The governments just don’t have the money. In fact, they are struggling to pay just the salaries of the teachers. Why can’t we be realistic and accept it? Why can’t we rid ourselves of our dislike for “for profit”? Many private schools are indeed making profits but not showing them as such. How about accepting a fact, allowing ‘profit’ to happen and taxing this profit. This will provide some part for “6%” that the Policy aspires for.

We can’t afford to treat private sector as “pariah” or even be indifferent towards it. Public-private partnership is the way forward even in the social sector. We need to recognize this and promote it.

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

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Top opposition leaders gather at INLD rally to challenge ‘Delhi Sultanate’

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Sharad Pawar, the head of the NCP, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury, and Sukhbir Singh Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, were among the prominent opposition figures that attended the INLD’s large gathering on Sunday in Fatehabad, Haryana.

JDU leader KC Tyagi addressed the crowd and claimed that the Bihar CM has come from Patna to challenge the Delhi Sultanate at a time when eight former Congress CMs had switched to the BJP. He claimed that Kumar has no fear of the ED, the income tax, or any other organisations.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD and a former deputy prime minister, a rally is being conducted.

Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and the head of the RJD, as well as Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena, also showed up at the gathering to demonstrate the unity of the opposition.

The coming together of so many regional satraps is seen as part of efforts to forge opposition unity. Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad are likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the rally to take the process forward.

Veteran socialist leader Tyagi had already declared that the gathering would be historic because it would unite like-minded forces against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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‘Resort bulldozed to erase evidence?’: U’khand girl’s family

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The family of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old Uttarakhand receptionist, refused to cremate her body on Sunday, questioning the postmortem report and the government’s overnight action of bulldozing portions of the resort owned by the prime suspect, Pulkit Arya, the son of now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya. They claimed that this may have destroyed the evidence at the crime scene.

Ankita Bhandari allegedly rejected attempts by Pulkit Arya and two others to force her into prostitution, and as a result, she was killed. The woman’s body,  who was reported missing on September 18, was found in Rishikesh’s Chilla canal on Saturday.

Her brother Ajay Singh Bhandari questioned the resort’s bulldozer activity, speculating that it might be an attempt to destroy evidence.

In the late evening on Friday in Pauri Garhwal, the district administration used a bulldozer to demolish the suspected unlawful construction of the Vanantara resort in Ganga Bhogpur Talla. The building was later set on fire and had its glass windows broken by a group of angry local residents on Saturday.

“I am not satisfied with the provisional postmortem report. Her last rites will not be performed until we get the final detailed report,” said Ankita’s father Virendra Singh Bhandari.

The woman’s funeral was slated to take place on Sunday morning. At the Srinagar Medical College, her body is on display. The family has also urged that the accused be given a speedy trial and executed.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, she had suffered blunt force injuries and drowned to death. Ante-mortem injuries were found on the body, according to the autopsy, which was performed by a team of four doctors from the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh.

“We are making efforts to persuade the family. They have some concerns about the post-mortem report. We are taking every step possible to support the family. However, some things like post-mortem are beyond our control,” said Pauri additional superintendent of police (ASP), Shekhar Chandra Suyal.

According to officials, the final post-mortem report is expected to be released on Monday.

The government’s bulldozer action to destroy the resort has also drawn criticism from the state unit of the Congress party.

Is the government destroying the evidence by ordering the bulldozer action at the resort? Police failed to secure the custody of the accused. The Dhami government’s intention is not pure,” said party’s state chief, Karan Mahara

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Secular Congress leader Aryadan Muhammad dies at 87

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Aryadan Muhammad, an 87-year-old seasoned Congress leader and former minister, passed away on Sunday in a private hospital in Kozhikode, in northern Kerala, according to his family.

He was a tall secular statesman from north Kerala who dominated state politics for more than six decades. He was drawn to politics as a student and later became active in trade union politics. He was chosen to serve as Kozhikode’s district Congress committee’s secretary in 1960, and when Malappuram district was established in 1969, he was chosen to serve as the district Congress committee’s first president (DCC).

He won the Malappuram assembly seat of Nilambur for the first time in 1977, and he won it seven more times. He served as the E K Nayanar government’s minister of forests in 1980, the A K Antony ministry’s minister of tourism in 1995, and the Oommen Chandy administration’s minister of power in 2011. As a secular leader, he frequently engaged in conflict with the Muslim League in the Malappuram district, although they maintained friendly relations for many years. He made significant contributions to reforms in the power and labour sectors. He was connected to Oommen Chandy and Antony, two senior leaders.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, paused his Bharat Jodo Yatra and hurried to Nilambur to pay tribute to the late leader. The chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, also expressed his condolences to the deceased top official. He said, “A secular leader, he was known for his bold positions.”

According to Muhammad’s family, his body will be buried on Monday.

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At UNGA, many nations referred to India, it’s unusual: Jaishankar

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End conflict in Ukraine, return to negotiating table: Jaishankar at UNSC

S. Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, claimed that many nations made reference to India at the United Nations General Assembly this time, which is unusual at the platform and indicates that the United Nations’ changes are in part to blame for India’s increased prominence. Jaishankar said he appreciates the change, which is more than a subtle change, as someone who has attended the UNGA for many years.

“In respect of UN reform, every General Assembly (session) you revisit that issue, but this time something has shifted. You can see that, you can sense that. It was articulated by President Biden. I think you also saw minister Lavrov of Russia to explicitly mention India from the General Assembly podium. A number of countries also actually also referred to India. It is not usual in a General Assembly for presidents and prime ministers or foreign ministers of a country to refer to another country,” Jaishankar said.

But you saw that on a number of occasions vis-a-vis us and to my mind it shows that it had a relevance to the reform of the UN, it reaffirmed that India mattered more and underlined the global Safraidouth relevance that we have,” Jaishankar said.

“We’ve got some tailwind behind us. Now we have to see what we can make of it. I think it’s a welcome development. As someone who’s been coming here for many years, I do believe that it’s more than a subtle shift and I welcome it,” he said.

The support for becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council came from Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia. India and Brazil should be considered for permanent participation in the council, he claimed, as they are key international actors.

Jamaica’s foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith praised India’s vaccine outreach and said while others chose to withhold supplies, India’s vaccine outreach exemplified its principles of equality and mutual benefit. “We are deeply grateful to government, the people of India, led by PM Modi and external affairs minister Jaishankar,” Jamaican foreign minister said.

“From the very onset, India was a reliable partner whose assistance was critical to our pandemic response. India embraced a holistic and outward-looking vaccine diplomacy strategy…Jamaica was able to secure its first life-saving vaccines from India,” the minister said.

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Lalu Yadav criticises Amit Shah for attacking Bihar govt

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A day before he meets Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav on Saturday criticised Home Minister Amit Shah for his attack on the Bihar government coalition and emphasised the need for Opposition unity.

“Amit Shah has utterly lost his mind.  His administration has been overthrown in Bihar. The BJP will also lost in 2024. That is why he is sprinting there (Bihar) and speaking of jungle raaj. What did he do when he was in Gujarat,” Yadav said.

The former chief minister of Bihar said that “Jungle raaj” was present in Gujarat when he was there.

On Sunday evening, Kumar and Yadav will probably meet Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress.

We are making every effort for Opposition unity,” Yadav, who has been battling poor health, said, adding this will the agenda of their meeting.

The Bihar chief minister was slammed by Shah on Friday for allegedly betraying the BJP and attempting to advance his prime ministerial ambitions while “sitting in the laps of Congress and RJD.”

At a rally in Purnea, Shah predicted that the Kumar-Lalu Prasad jodi would be destroyed (soopda saaf) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and that the BJP will win a majority by itself in the state assembly elections the following year.

In response, Yadav said, “Amit Shah bilkul paglaye hue hain” ( Amit Shah is absolutely insane).

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Hollywood star John Cusack supports ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, says solidarity to all anti-fascists

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Hollywood star John Cusack on Saturday showed his support to the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, a campaign to reach out to the general public. Cusack tweeted: “Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking to Kashmir from Kerala.” This was written weeks after the march, which intends to go over 3,500 kilometres across the nation, began.

Expressing his support for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra on Saturday, Hollywood actor Cusack stated that he stands in solidarity with “anti-fascists everywhere.”

Cusack, the leading man in blockbusters like “Serendipity,” “High Fidelity,” “Con Air,” and “2012,” has been outspoken on social media regarding a number of international issues.

Jairam Ramesh, a Congress’s spokesman, shared the post of the Cusack’s tweet.

The actor posted on Twitter that Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking from Kerala by foot to Kashmir. Cusack responded to a user who complimented him for backing Gandhi’s cause by saying, “Yes – solidarity – to all anti fascists everywhere!” The actor has previously offered support to the farmers’ and students’ demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and three agriculture legislation, respectively.

Rahul Gandhi began his march from Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of the nation’s mainland, and he is currently travelling through the southern states. A verbal battle between the BJP and the Congress has been ongoing since the yatra got underway.

Gandhi has often emphasised that the Yatra is a fight against the BJP’s poor leadership. He has brought up concerns including unemployment, inflation, and women’s safety. However, following numerous polling failures over the past few years, the party is also focusing on the 2024 national elections during the mass contact programme.

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