NO COUNTRY FOR WOMEN: WHY BEING A WOMAN IS NOT AN EASY TASK IN INDIA - The Daily Guardian
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NO COUNTRY FOR WOMEN: WHY BEING A WOMAN IS NOT AN EASY TASK IN INDIA

Anushka

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A decade since the gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus shocked India, state spending to combat violence against women and girls is just not adequate. A fund named after the 23-year-old woman who was raped and killed in 2012 is low on resources and under-utilised, found the “Towards Violence Free Lives For Women” report, noting that a rape takes place every 15 minutes in the country of 1.3 billion. During the coronavirus pandemic, Indian women have suffered increased violence, job losses and taken on more unpaid carework. Many women, who have been forced to stay at home due to lockdown measures, have been cut off from support services and have suffered at the hands of abusive partners. Indian government set up the Nirbhaya Fund to “enhance the safety and security of women” after the bus gang rape spotlighted India’s appalling record on gender-based crimes, but gender justice has still not been met. Shakti Mills rape case I’d like to put more light on, On 22 August 2013, less than a year after the furore that followed the gang rape in Delhi, and after the Verma Committee report led to a change in the rape law, a twenty-two-year-old photojournalist and her colleague were accosted by a group of men when they went to take pictures of an abandoned textile mill in Central Mumbai, a stone’s throw away from a busy railway station. The woman was gang-raped while her colleague was beaten up. Luckily for her, even though traumatized—the rapists filmed the act—she had her wits about her. After the rapists walked with her and her colleague to the nearby Mahalakshmi railway station, where they issued dire threats that if they were to report the incident to the police, the videos of the rape would be released on social media, the woman decided to go immediately to the nearest hospital to get a medical examination. Changes in the law after 2013 established that any hospital, private or public, would have to attend to a rape survivor, report to the police and conduct a medical examination. Earlier, only public hospitals could do this. The fact that she was a journalist, that her seniors came immediately to her aid as did other journalists, helped ensure that the police did not delay in moving on the case. The issue that I’m very much concerned about here is that we have been time and again ensured that government and other administrative organs are taking full responsibility for the safety of the women of this country? But where is this safe environment we are talking about, practically is it even existing?

These incidents that I have further talked about will it make it explicitly clear as to why I believe there’s no safety that can be assured to a woman in India and it is absolutely not easy to be a woman in our country anymore. The recent news that has made all of us go cold has taken place in the National Capital itself, 26-year-old woman was stabbed to death by her husband, 40, at a crowded market place in Delhi’s Rohini area on Saturday (April 10) on the suspicion of her having an affair with another person. The man also threatened people as some passers by tried to intervene in the matter and save the woman. The woman was seen lying on a road’s side in a pool of blood. Her husband tried to escape from the spot with the blood stained knife in his hand, but was chased by police. This man had the audacity to stab her 25 times with a knife that too in broad daylight and the more unfortunate and darker side of it is although people were witnessing the incident, nobody came forward to help the woman rather people have been seen recording the entire incident, this brings us to a very simple question, “Is humanity absolutely dead in our country? Is there any mercy left for the girls and women of this country?”. Talking about the awareness amongst the citizens of our country to take a stand in support for the victim, the condition is very pathetic. Where even the media which is eventually called the fourth pillar of democracy is showing no mercy on the victim, what can we expect from the normal public. With reference to this I’d like to mention about a case where worse still, a reporter from some newspaper climbed sixteen floors of a private hospital, where the woman was being treated, to try and get into her room to interview her. She was stopped by the police guarding the floor. What was the necessity of this kind of intrusion into the survivor’s privacy? This has been the tragedy of the Indian media in the twenty-first century. It fails repeatedly to be sensitive to the problems that rape survivors face after they have been sexually assaulted and brutalized. The story of what happens after a rape exposes the fault lines in the implementation of laws and in the working of our criminal justice system. In the Shakti Mills case, the survivor was an informed young woman who also had some support. And yet, what she faced in the process was traumatic. Multiply this account thousands of times over, and you get a sense of the horror that poor and marginalized women go through.

Talking about the very recent case in Jharkhand, The Steel City of Jamshedpur was shook by the recent incident that took place in the area called Kadma where a man killed his wife, his two daughters and their tuition teacher who happens to be a female. From the initial probe it was found that all four were killed with an iron dumbbell. The children we just 11 and 15 years, What could be the reason behind this gruesome brutality? If a woman is not even safe in her own house, where is she expected to go? What is she expected to do if the predator turns out to be someone so close to her, the husband itself? Just as levels of violence against women have risen, lockdowns and other movement restrictions have made it more difficult for survivors to report abuse and seek help.

Talking about the rape culture in India, women are being treated as objects, being beaten up, killed on the roads, being raped, gang raped and what not. To go back to one of the events that happened last year, On September 14, 2020 a 19-year-old Dalit (formerly “Untouchable”) woman was tortured and allegedly gang raped by four upper caste men in Hathras district in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Her body was severely brutalized; her tongue was torn, limbs fractured, and spinal cord damaged. The woman succumbed to her injuries in a hospital in New Delhi a fortnight later. As shocking as the bestiality of the rapists is the abject failure or rather, the reluctance of the Uttar Pradesh police to follow due process. Apparently, police accused the woman of lying, refused to register a rape complaint, and delayed taking the victim to a hospital for treatment. A police official even claimed that no rape took place as semen was not found on the victim’s body. Apparently in a bid to destroy evidence, the victim’s body was swiftly cremated in the dead of the night by the police. Family members were neither allowed to see her body nor to be present at the cremation. Sexual violence against women is pervasive in India. These figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Only a fraction of women who are raped file a complaint. Most victims prefer to remain silent because of the social stigma attached to rape. It is not uncommon for the victim to be blamed or for aspersions to be cast on her character. A single mother who was gang-raped in Kolkata in 2012 was stigmatized as a sex worker. On December 16, 2012 a woman was gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi. The rapists penetrated her with an iron rod, rupturing her intestines. The gruesome violence she was subjected to did not stop people from asking why she was out at night with her boyfriend. Did she invite the sexual assault? Why are questions always posed on the woman or the girl as to what was she wearing when she was raped, what caste is she, with whom was she at that time, why was she out so late at night and what not. Also silencing of victims or witnesses is not uncommon should a victim or her family dare to pursue justice through the courts. A woman who was raped at Unnao in 2018 was burned alive by five men, including her rapists, a year later as she made her way to a court hearing.

Women aren’t safe in India. Pick up a newspaper or randomly switch to any news channel on your television set, there is a good chance you’ll come across yet another case of sexual harassment of a woman, a minor or even an infant. In such times, you expect the people in power to take crucial steps towards women safety or at the least be sensitive while speaking about the horrifying cases that surface every day. Instead, they end up justifying the sexual harassment with their bizarre and clueless explanations while some simply choose to blame the victim. The kind of remarks these so called politicians make on the victim are even more shameful, Days after the victim of the Hathras gang rape passed away, Surendra Singh, a legislator of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly, said that “such incidents [like rape] can be stopped only with sanskar” adding that “it’s the duty of all mothers and fathers to imbibe good values in their daughters and bring them up in cultured environments.” This isn’t the first time a politician has made a foot-in-the-mouth statement. Sexist, misogynist, and insensitive statements go hand in hand with some politicians in our country. It is this mindset that needs to go, Putting the onus on women to prevent sexual violence is not just absurd but dangerous.

“Will you marry her?” asked the Chief Justice of India to a man who is accused of repeatedly raping a minor. The accused stalked the victim on her way to school, gagged and tied her whilst he raped her, threatened to throw acid on her face if she spoke up and continued to rape her several times thereafter. The facts only came to light when she tried to commit suicide and her mother stopped her. She and her mother tried to file a police complaint, but the mother of the accused stopped them promising her son would marry her when she turned 18. It is shocking that the Chief Justice would think it appropriate to offer marriage as a solution to the horrific criminal behaviour without even considering the rights of the girl. However, this is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the system when men in power continue to impose suffocating rules and policies, pronounce misogynistic and sexist statements, totally ignoring the rights of women, treating them as objects. The idea that one needs to marry one’s rapist as though that justifies the act and is the right solution is atrocious. The idea that one needs to register oneself at the police station so that one’s movements can be tracked for one’s safety is equivalent to being voluntarily surveilled and there is no backing down from there on. In a way, we are being asked to give up our rights with regards to freedom of choice and movement in return for protection. What if we choose not to register ourselves or marry a rapist? Does it mean that the State has no responsibility to ensure our safety? Does it mean that we will be blamed should we get trolled, attacked, stalked, assaulted and raped? Curtailing a girl or woman’s freedom in any way, warning girls and women to not go out alone or to dress and behave in a culturally appropriate, male-mandated way cannot prevent sexual violence. Rather, we need to din into boys and men that aggression is not masculinity and being macho is not “cool.” It is only by tackling misogynistic mindsets among men and women and dismantling the patriarchal aspects of the sanskar that some people uphold that sexual violence can be tackled.

Changes in the law after 2013 established that any hospital, private or public, would have to attend to a rape survivor, report to the police, and conduct a medical examination. Earlier, only public hospitals were allowed to do this.

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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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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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