True spirit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 - The Daily Guardian
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Policy & Politics

True spirit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

The article aims to bring to the fore the true meaning and intent behind the legislation (POCSO) and to highlight how the interpretation and reasoning given by the Nagpur Bench of the High Court of Bombay stacks-up on a study of the provisions in question. One could argue that the enactment to ‘protect’ children might have been (mistakenly) interpreted in a manner that ends-up ‘protecting’ the offender—that clearly needs to be looked into. In fact, the Supreme Court has already stayed the judgement in Satish v. State of Maharashtra, after the Attorney General of India brought the said verdict to the notice of the apex court.

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‘The child is a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of its own, who must be helped to find them, to grow into their maturity, into fullness of physical and vital energy and the utmost breath, depth and height of its emotional, intellectual and spiritual being; otherwise, there cannot be a healthy growth of the nation. Now, obviously children need special protection because of their tender age and physique, mental immaturity and incapacity to look after themselves. That is why, there is a growing realisation in every part of the globe that children must be brought up in an atmosphere of love and affection and under the tender care and attention of parents so that they may be able to attain full emotional, intellectual and spiritual stability and maturity and acquire self-confidence and self-respect and a balanced view of life with full appreciation and realisation of the role which they have to play in the nation building process without which the nation cannot develop and attain real prosperity because a large segment of the society would then be left out of the developmental process.” – Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India, (1984) 2 SCC 244.

INTRODUCTION

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 came into force on 14th November, 2012. The intent of the Act is aptly summed-up in its preamble: –

“An Act to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provide for establishment of Special Courts for trial of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Whereas clause (3) of article 15 of the Constitution, inter alia, empowers the State to make special provisions for children; and whereas, the Government of India has acceded on the 11th December, 1992 to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which has prescribed a set of standards to be followed by all State parties in securing the best interests of the child; and whereas it is necessary for the proper development of the child that his or her right to privacy and confidentiality be protected and respected by every person by all means and through all stages of a judicial process involving the child; and whereas it is imperative that the law operates in a manner that the best interest and well-being of the child are regarded as being of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child; and whereas the State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child are required to undertake all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent— the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity; the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials; and whereas sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children are heinous crimes and need to be effectively addressed.”

It is clear from the reading of the preamble that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) is a gender-neutral legislation which aims to protect children from offences that are sexual in nature. Recently, the Act has been at the centre of attention because of back-to-back judgments pronounced by the Nagpur Bench of the High Court of Bombay – Libnus v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 66 (Decided on January 15, 2021) and Satish v. State of Maharashtra, 2021, SCC OnLine Bom 72 (Decided on January 19, 2021). Both the judgments have been vehemently criticized because of their seemingly misplaced reading of the law.

The intent behind this Article is to bring to the fore the true meaning and intent behind the legislation (POCSO) and to highlight how the interpretation and reasoning given by the Nagpur Bench of the High Court of Bombay stacks-up on a study of the provisions in question. One could argue that the enactment to ‘protect’ children might have been (mistakenly) interpreted in a manner that ends-up ‘protecting’ the offender – that clearly needs to be looked-into. In fact, the Supreme Court has already stayed the judgment in Satish v. State of Maharashtra, after the Attorney General of India brought the judgment to the notice of the Apex Court.

LIBNUS V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA, 2021 SCC ONLINE BOM 66 (DECIDED ON JANUARY 15, 2021)

Brief Facts – The informant (mother of the prosecutrix) lodged a report stating therein that on 11/02/2018, she had gone out and upon her return, she noticed the presence of the Accused in her house. She saw the Accused molesting her daughter, aged about five years. She further stated that when she left her house, her two daughters, aged around 3 and 5 years were alone in the house and her husband was out of station. She also stated that the moment she saw a person in her house holding hands of her elder daughter, she shouted, as a result of which her neighbours gathered there. Thereafter, the accused ran away. The informant testified that her daughter informed her that the Accused removed his penis from the pants and asked her to come to the bed for sleeping. The informant also noticed that the zip of the pant of the Accused was open. A case was registered against the Accused for the offences punishable under Sections 354-A (1) (i) and 448 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 8, 10 and 12 read with Section 9(m) and 11(i) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. After investigation, police filed the charge-sheet before the Special POCSO Court, Nagpur. The Special Court framed charge against the Accused for the offences punishable under Sections 354-A(1)(i) and 448 of the IPC and Sections 8, 10 and 12 read with Section 9(m) and 11(i) of the POCSO Act. The Trial Court found the Accused guilty and convicted him accordingly.

The High Court of Bombay quashed and set aside the conviction of the Accused for the offence punishable under Sections 8, 10, and 12 of the POCSO Act. The conviction of the Accused for the offence punishable under Sections 448 and 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC and his sentence was modified to the extent he had already undergone. The Court opined that the acts of holding the hands of the prosecutrix, or opened zip of the pant as has been allegedly witnessed by PW-1, does not fit in the definition of sexual assault.

It would be apposite to reproduce Sections 7, 8, 11, and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012: –

“7. Sexual assault. —Whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault.

8. Punishment for sexual assault. —Whoever, commits sexual assault, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

11. Sexual harassment. —A person is said to commit sexual harassment upon a child when such person with sexual intent, —

(i) utters any word or makes any sound, or makes any gesture or exhibits any object or part of body with the intention that such word or sound shall be heard, or such gesture or object or part of body shall be seen by the child; or

(ii) makes a child exhibit his body or any part of his body so as it is seen by such person or any other person; or

(iii) shows any object to a child in any form or media for pornographic purposes; or

(iv) repeatedly or constantly follows or watches or contacts a child either directly or through electronic, digital or any other means; or

(v) threatens to use, in any form of media, a real or fabricated depiction through electronic, film or digital or any other mode, of any part of the body of the child or the involvement of the child in a sexual act; or

(vi) entices a child for pornographic purposes or gives gratification therefor.

Explanation. —Any question which involves “sexual intent” shall be a question of fact.

12. Punishment for sexual harassment. —Whoever, commits sexual harassment upon a child shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

The High Court was reluctant to notice the wording of the latter part of Section 7 which states ‘any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact’ without penetration is also sexual assault. As it was alleged by the informant that the moment, she saw a person in her house holding hands of her elder daughter, the Court could have assumed physical contact based on the circumstances. It was another matter had the Court found the mother’s version untrustworthy and based the judgment on that. The High Court also failed to take note of the fact that Section 11 (1) was clearly made out as the very act of the Accused unzipping and taking-out his penis attracts S.11 (1) when the Court had not rejected the testimony at all. As the prosecutrix, being of age below twelve years, the conviction was rightly recorded by the Trial Court for the offence of aggravated sexual assault as per Section 9 (m) which states that whoever commits sexual assault on a child below twelve years is said to have committed aggravated sexual assault. In the absence of an observation where the Court found the testimony untrustworthy one wonders how the offences under POCSO are not made-out when the Accused made physical contact, took-out his penis and asked the child to sleep with him – all this after the Accused had entered the home of the child without anyone having invited him to. The facts, circumstances, and the actions of the Accused leave no scope of doubt as to his intentions and the offences are well made-out. It is surprising that the Court makes no mention of the testimony being untrustworthy and yet finds the Accused not guilty.

The High Court has narrowed down the scope of Section 7 and Section 11. Holding a child’s hand with the zip open, removing of penis from the pants, and asking the child to come to the bed for sleeping, clearly fall in the definitions of sexual assault and sexual harassment. If this does not make-out an offence under the POCSO Act (a legislation enacted to protect children from offences that are sexual in nature) – one wonders what will.

SATISH V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA, 2021, SCC ONLINE BOM 72 (DECIDED ON JANUARY 19, 2021)

Brief Facts – On 14.12.2016, the informant (mother of the prosecutrix) lodged a report at police station Gittikhadan, Nagpur. It was alleged that the Accused lured (on the pretext of giving her a guava) the child (a 12-year-old girl) into his house and pressed her breast and attempted to remove her salwar. At that point of time, the informant reached the spot and rescued her daughter. Immediately, she lodged a First Information Report. On the basis of the said FIR, the crime came to be registered for offences punishable under Sections 309, 354, 363, and 342 of the IPC and under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The Special Court found the Accused guilty of the crime registered against him except under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code and passed the judgment of conviction and sentenced him.

The Bombay High Court acquitted the Accused under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted him under the minor offence i.e., u/s 354 of IPC sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year and to pay fine of Rs.500/- and, in default of fine to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one month. The Court held that the act of pressing of breast of the child, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of sexual assault. The Court further observed that it is not the case of the prosecution that the Accused removed her top and pressed her breast. As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e., skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration. Here, the Bombay High Court has set a dangerous precedent and the same clearly goes against the scheme and intent of the Act, besides clearly being an incorrect understanding of the Section itself. It is definitely an extremely narrow view to take and lay down that ‘physical contact’ would not cover within its purview any inappropriate physical contact (like pressing of breast) made without removing the clothes of a Child. Further, keeping the misplaced definition and the extremely narrow view taken by the Court in interpreting ‘physical contact’ aside, the Court clearly seems to have missed the fact that had the Legislature intended to mean ‘physical contact’ to mean ‘physical contact without clothes’ – it would have mentioned so. It is not in the fitness of things and is definitely not right to read into a law, especially in a manner that goes completely against the intent of the Act. In Shiv Shakti Coop. Housing Society v. Swaraj Developers, (2003) 6 SCC 659, the Supreme Court observed:

“It is a well-settled principle in law that the court cannot read anything into a statutory provision which is plain and unambiguous. A statute is an edict of the legislature. The language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of legislative intent.”

The Court did not delve into Section 11 (1) either. Pressing the breasts, attempting to remove the salwar after luring the victim to his home, clearly fall within the ambit of Section 11 (1).

CONCLUSION

The principal objectives of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 are to ‘protect’ children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography, to secure the best interests of the child, and to prevent the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, etc. The two judgments discussed above, unfortunately, do not uphold the objectives of the POCSO Act. Holding a child’s hand with the zip open, removing of penis from the pants, asking the child to come to the bed for sleeping, and pressing of breasts not by skin to skin, etc., are all ingredients of sexual assault but the Bombay High Court by not holding them to fall in the category of sexual assault has paved the way for the perpetrators of crime to use the two judgments as a shield for their crimes. The Supreme Court has already stepped in to prevent the abuse of law by staying one of the judgments and one can only hope that the Hon’ble Supreme Court clarifies the law and supplements the intent behind the enactment. The Supreme Court Collegium has also withdrawn its consent to make the Judge, who authored the two controversial judgments, a permanent judge of the Bombay High Court, for misreading the law, not once but twice. This might also throw open another question – How to best ensure quality of Judges that we deserve.

This is a High Court Judge that we are talking about, permanent or otherwise. The Supreme Court has found the Judge not fit to be made a permanent Judge of the High Court – not because of any other reason, but on the basis of the Judgments pronounced by the Judge in question. That is astounding and throws open a much wider debate.

The Accused opened his zip, took-out his penis, held the girl child’s hands and asked her to sleep with him while another lured a girl child into his house, attempted to remove her salwar, pressed her breasts before he was caught and he was not convicted under an Act meant to protect children against offences that are sexual in nature because it was not established that he pressed her breasts by putting his hands under her shirt – let that sink in.

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Policy & Politics

Indian apparels should target Colombia’s fashion industry: Ambassador Sanjiv Ranjan

B2B meeting held between Indian apparel exporters and Colombian buyers.

Tarun Nangia

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Indian Ambassador to Colombia Sanjiv Ranjan said that there is a huge potential for Indian apparel exporters in Colombia, particularly in its “resilient and innovative” fashion industry with domestic sales of about $7 billion.Speaking at ‘India-Colombia Synergies in Apparel and Textiles’, a virtual B2B meeting organized by Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) and Embassy of India, Bogota, Colombia, on Monday evening, Mr Ranjan said that the readymade garment exports from India were limited to around $21 million in 2019.

“India’s apparel exports to Colombia is just 3% of its global imports. This does not really reflect the strength of what our sector stands for. We have a huge untapped potential in this sector which requires to be explored and utilized by our exporters,” he said.

Highlighting the growing popularity of Indian apparels in Colombia, Ranjan said that the apparel exporters should focus on Colombia’s fashion industry that accounts for 9.4% of the country’s industrial GDP and employs about 600,000 people. The annual household expenditure on fashion in Columbia is roughly 24.3 trillion Columbian peso.

“It is one of the most vibrant sectors of the region. Columbia has a robust network of almost 14,000 companies in the fashion industry, mostly in the small and medium sized categories. Even during the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, clothing accounted for nearly 57% of the total fashion spending followed by jewelry. While the government is trying at its level, the private sector should find out how to contribute to this resilient and innovative sector,” the ambassador said.

Ranjan congratulated AEPC for setting up a virtual exhibition platform to showcase Indian apparels to overseas buyers at a time when physical presence is restricted.

“I am sure that this virtual, 24×7 platform offers more experience at one place, with the flexibility for importers to zoom in and look at the various products on offer. This will go a long way in further energizing our bilateral engagement in the apparel sector,” he said.

AEPC Chairman Dr A Sakthivel informed the attending Colombian brands and buyers that AEPC through its virtual platform will work as a bridge between the Indian apparel exporters and Colombian apparel importers. About 320 apparel exporters have already put up their products for exhibition on the platform, he said.

“On our request, the government has come out with a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manmade fibre (MMF) based garments. We do 85% cotton garments and only 15% MMF garments, while the global apparel demand is exactly the opposite. Very soon we will see a rise in exports of MMF garments from India,” Dr Sakthivel said.

Sudhir Sekhri, Chairman (Export Promotion), AEPC, said, “Of the top 10 apparel imports from India to Colombia, only two are in the MMF category and the rest are cotton garments. Perhaps this is where Bangladesh and Vietnam are scoring ahead of us. This is one area that we are trying to address very quickly along with the help from the government.”

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Policy & Politics

Bad banks for good economy

The government is currently mulling over adopting the ARC/AMC model for bad banks. This entity will be set up to take over the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks and try to resolve them like any other ARC. This will require considerable regulatory overhaul and adequate capitalisation.

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The Government of India has recently announced that India is set to have its first Bad Bank. While the decision is received with great fervor by some, many have shown their worry, if not discontent with the concept of Bad bank.

Bad bank concept dates back to 1988 where Mellon Bank used a bad bank strategy to separate $1.4 billion of bad loans to a subsidiary entity. The concept has made it’s come back with every financial crisis. In the USA, a bad bank was suggested as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to help address the subprime mortgage crisis. Republic of Ireland had its first bank, the National Asset Management Agency in 2009. Spain too established an entity called ‘SAREB’ to which troubled and illiquid assets were transferred. Pandemic has amplified the already existing economic stress and rekindled the debate of efficacy of bad banks for resolving NPA conundrum. Bad banks aids in renewed focus on long-term core operations of the good bank without getting stressed about the troubled assets. Removing troubled assets from the balance sheet infuses more optimism from credit rating agencies, investors, lenders, depositors as well as borrowers. It relieves pressure on capital, enabling the institution to engage in more profitable and growth-oriented business activities and further lending.

There is a case for the institution of bad banks in the present circumstances mainly owing to the size of Gross Non-Performing Assets (GNPA) which is equal to the roughly 27 lakh crore, almost 14% of present GDP. As NPAs rise, Banks need additional capital for provisioning which effectively curtails their lending power. In a country like India where credit growth is very much important to achieve its potential GDP growth, the inability of the Banking sector in lending will hamper its growth to a large extent. Financial Stability Report states that gross NPAs of the banking sector are expected to shoot up to 13.5% of advances by September 2021, from 7.5% in September 2020, under the baseline scenario, as “a multi-speed recovery is struggling to gain traction” amidst the pandemic. The report warned that if the macroeconomic environment worsens into a severe stress scenario, the ratio may escalate to 14.8%. To avoid this, a one -time solution of creating a bad bank to clean the balance sheet of the banks is a welcome step.

BAD BANKS: ONE TIME OR FOR ALL TIME?

Bad banks can be used as one time tool to “clean up” the balance sheet. However, if we use this as a recurring model, it could lead to wrong incentives for the bankers to undertake risky lending and transfer the same to bad banks. It is only an “emergency medicine” and not a “staple diet”. As per current status, bad loans of Rs. 500 crore and above will be eligible for resolution by this entity, with an estimated total corpus of Rs.25 trillion. It will be wise that banks must stress test their portfolios and take a forward looking approach in determining risky assets.

MODELS FOR BAD BANKS

The success and efficacy of bad banks in India would depend on the choice of structure which must be made taking into consideration independence of institution and veracious price discovery.

Choice of model depends on two decision factors. First is to decide whether or not to keep the bad assets on the bank’s balance sheet. Moving assets off the balance sheet is better for investors and counterparties and provides more transparency into the bank’s core operations. But it is more complex and expensive. Second, whether the bad-bank assets will be housed and managed in a banking entity or a special purpose vehicle (SPV). Secondly, whether to house and manage the bad-bank assets in a banking entity or to accomplish the transfer of risk in a less concrete manner.

The government is currently mulling over adopting the ARC/AMC model for bad banks. This entity will be set up to take over the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks and try to resolve them like any other ARC. This will require considerable regulatory overhaul and adequate capitalisation.

For adopting AMC model based bad bank, Acharya suggested two models of bad bank. The first is a private asset management company (PAMC), which is said to be suitable for stressed sectors where the assets are likely to have an economic value in the short run, with moderate levels of debt forgiveness. The second model is the National Asset Management Company (NAMC), which would be necessary for sectors where the problem is not just one of excess capacity but possibly also of economically unviable assets in the short to medium terms.

Further, when a bad loan is sold off to bad banks, it can either focus on recovery or consider it to repackage and monetize it through issue of new securities. If the objective of a bad bank is to recover, it will have to adopt the IBC route and given the attitude of committee of creditors that focuses on upfront payment or less haircut and the efficiency of courts, the recovery will be a herculean task. If the bad bank looks at a longer objective to monetize the bad debt till the recovery happens, it requires a sophisticated debt market that will allow easy sale and purchase of such securities.

FUNDING FOR BAD BANKS

Funding for the bad bank will be the biggest challenge to begin with. The bad bank must be well capitalised. It will obtain a limited amount of capital from reserves allocated to the acquired assets. Currently, there is lack of clarity on the funding of such banks. While the government is unwilling to inject any initial equity in such banks, the role of such banks is also unclear- whether they will just hold the asset on the balance sheet and concentrate on recovery or whether they will raise securities back by these assets. A bad bank is typically funded primarily by selling equity or debt securities. Experience from past crises shows that private investors who experienced significant losses as a result of sizable investments in financial institutions, are reluctant to step forward and invest in troubled institutions. Instead, investment in discrete pools of assets may attract private investors interested in targeted and concentrated ownership with significant control over the new entity. There should be limited regulatory oversight. Whatever the case may be, it will be wise if public sector banks together do not hold more than a 51% stake in the bad bank to allow for more flexibility.

WEIGHING PARTICIPATION OF PSU BANKS

For functioning of bad banks, the bad loans will be required to be sold below the book value. Given that most of the PSU bankers fear CVC, they are less eager to make any concession on the count of their accountability and constantly (and perhaps understandably) avoid taking decisions. This may become a hurdle for the banks. Thus, participation by the PSU banks in bad banks will need to come with greater clarity of role and responsibilities to the bankers. If the bad banks run into the private banking sphere, there will be more freedom for players to take bold and dynamic decisions.

SETTING THE PREMISE RIGHT

There could be a high possibility that the bad bank may recover less than the transfer value of the troubled asset. In such a case, the good bank should be required to make the bad bank whole. For such a solution to be implemented, new accounting guidance would be required permitting such a transfer, notwithstanding the retained interest on such transactions.

There have also been models suggested wherein existing shareholders get to participate in working of bad banks and are given interests in the new bad bank, as well as rights to subscribe for new shares of the good bank. It would be easier to attract private capital to the good bank than to the bad bank, limiting the cost to the government, a key consideration given the scope of the current crisis.

In such a design, losses on the bad bank assets would be borne first by pre-existing shareholders, rather than by new investors. Given that any risk of loss to bad bank debt holders may reduce the ability of financial institutions to borrow in the future, it is suggested that bad banks should not be as highly leveraged.

BAD BANK FOR NEW INDIA

Banking sector in India could not grow to its full potential initially due to over protection and later due to over regulation. Time is right to undo the mistakes of the past and set the policy goal of preventing moral hazard arising from government intervention.

The current government has shown a bold front by eschewing the old protectionist approach and embracing dynamic options for developing the financial market. Whatever its final form, the creation of the Bad Bank may serve as a model and springboard from which creative private investors may partner with financial institutions interested in structures that can be tailored to individual circumstances. However, Bad Banks should not be a source or incentive for careless lending by the banks. There should be a time frame by which bad banks should be dissolved.

While the decision to have a bad bank is good in principle, its success will depend on the way it is executed. Given that execution and quality control is our Achilles heel, it will not be an easy task to ensure success of bad banks on the ground.

Dr Neeti Shikha and Urvashi Shahi work with the Centre for Insolvency & Bankruptcy, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs. Rahul Prakash is Ph.D candidate at University of Texas. Views are Personal.

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Policy & Politics

National Education Policy: Govt aims to save Rs 2 lakh crore spent by Indian students abroad

Tarun Nangia

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There are almost 8 lakh Indian students studying in various foreign universities and spend on an average Rs 2 lakh crores every year in fees and other expenses. The government is taking steps to ensure that quality education and similar facilities are provided in India itself so that these students are retained here, stated Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Government of India. He was speaking at the 14th NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT 2021 – NEP 2020 – ‘Transforming Educational Landscape of the Nation and Carving a Road Map for Implementation’ organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The minister stated that the education ministry is in talks with more than 128 foreign universities on ways to collaborate so that similar facilities can be given to the students here as well. “We have already got more than 50000 student registrations and there are already almost 1000 students involved in research and development in India,” he said.

According to Dr Pokhriyal, the government of India ensured that even during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, none of the students lost an academic year due to the non-accessibility of academic facilities.

“Almost 33 crore students across the country were able to get online education. Even in remote villages, the education institutes ensured that students could get access to their studies through radios and rooftop loudspeakers,” he said.

Speaking on the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the minister explained that till class 5, students would be able to get an education in their mother tongue or the language of their preference. “The Education facilities in India would get a huge boost with the introduction of the NEP. This would also help in the promotion of Local languages for education,” he said.

Dr Pokhriyal also asked the Industry representative to collaborate with educational institutes to help design the curriculum.

“Education is the most important pillar for any economy. Once the industries collaborate with the educational institutes, the curriculum can be designed in a way where the students can also gain industrial experience as a part of their studies,” he informed.

Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology (DST) explains that the education system should be designed as a means of achieving creativity and skill development.

“NEP 2020 aims to achieve that. The education curriculum should be aligned with the needs of the industry. Its objective should be to help in problem-solving of the society,” he said.

According to Prof. Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would also help in building the research capacity of the universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50000 crores to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF). This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Co-Chairman, National Council on Education & Chancellor, Shobhit University explained that the National Education Policy will connect the past with the future with a focus on excelling in the education sector.

“The National Research Fund and the National Technical Research Organization will bring big changes in the research and development ecosystem of the country and will be more inclusive. National Education Policy will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between research and education,” he said.

According to Prof Ashutosh Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would help in building the research capacity of universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50,000 crore to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation. This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

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Policy & Politics

The 21st century belongs to young India, country poised to become R&D capital: Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

Tarun Nangia

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Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Govt of India today said that as universities and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) move towards academic reforms, an ecosystem that is both flexible and innovative is being created. “As we move towards self-reliance, it is important that we rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of education system of India.

Addressing the inaugural of the 16th FICCI Higher Education Summit 2021, organised in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Education and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr Pokhriyal said that “India is poised to become the R&D capital of the world not because of the cost advantage but due to the rich and intelligent human capital that the country is bestowed with.

“Built on the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability, the Minister said that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and a global knowledge superpower,” Dr Pokhrialsaid.

In the next 20-30 years, the energy and talent of young India will be used in the development of the nation and advancing the world. The 21st century belongs to Young India,” he said.

I firmly believe that NEP 2020 has been formulated for the rise of the nation- the nation of ancient world class universities of Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila, among others; the nation that was the ‘VishwaGuru’ (global leader). India has been pioneers in fields of medicine, mathematics and chemistry, yoga. We want India to rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of the education system of India and rise to newer heights as far as education, R&D and innovation is concerned, Dr Pokhrial said.

Further, elaborating on the NEP 2020, the Minister added that the NEP and its implementation has drawn global attention to India. The Cambridge University, in its message of appreciation for the NEP 2020 has said that India, aided by NEP 2020 is set to regain its stature of world leaders in education.

“The NEP will ensure that India can appreciate and utilise the talents of the youth of our country,” he said. Dr Pokhriyal also spoke about the importance of retaining talent in the country. The ministry is trying to curb the brain drain and intends of taking higher education gross enrolment ratio to 50 per cent, he said.

Talking about the importance of the involvement of the private sector, the Minister said that while the government formulates policies, it is up to the private bodies and institutions to implement and execute the same. The government, he said, looks towards a greater private participation in the education sector by planning to convert 30 universities into Institutes of Eminence (IoEs) from the existing 20.

Lauding the FICCI Higher Education Summit, Dr Pokhriyal said that over the years, the summit has evolved into a thought leadership forum and brings together key stakeholders including, policymakers, educationists, industry and students for deliberations and knowledge sharing at both national and international levels.

Padma Vibhushan Dr RA Mashelkar, National Research Professor and Chancellor of Institute of Chemical Technology said that from ‘Right to Education’ we must move to ‘Digital Rights Education’. “This digital disruption will change the fundamentals of the legacy education system; hence, we must take advantage of that. Coupling future of jobs with future of education; a seamless system of linking education, research and innovation and finally borderless multidisciplinary education is the need of the hour,” he said.

Speaking at the inaugural, Mr Uday Shankar, President, FICCI said that the radical changes in the education sector have placed learners at the centre and shifted the focus from teaching to learning through digital modes.

“However, with its 672 million young population, preparing to join the workforce and citizenry for the new order society requires massive disruption and of rethinking the traditional educational model. Jobs will have to be created to gainfully employ 100 million youth who will enter the job market over the next decade,” Mr Shankarsaid.

However, Mr Shankar further said that this challenge is not an easy one. “It requires the best of technology, the best of minds, but it also requires an enabling policy framework that thinks of education very differently,” he added.

Over the years, said Mr Shankar, education has gained interrupted focus of the government and policy interventions. “The NEP 2020 released by the government is a powerful document. It conveys a clear bias for a disruptive change and takes into cognizance the issues of equitability, inclusivity, accessibility, exploratory and experimental- all ingredients required for transforming into Education 4.0 and beyond.

“We should give serious consideration to participation from the private sector into unlocking the real value in education,” he further added.

Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Pro-Chancellor Symbiosis, International University said that it is imperative that all stakeholders work together in these (COVID) times. “The government, universities, teachers, students, and civil societies that will absorb our students need to come together. The NEP 2020 has carved a new path for all of us. The world is watching this transformation of the Indian education system,” she said.

The govt is now in the process of implementing the NEP and this implementation has gained a lot of momentum. “We will see a lot of changes in our education system right from this academic year,” she said.

Dr Sekar Viswanathan, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and VP, VIT University informed that more than 3,000 delegates, including 300+ foreign delegates from 74 countries are participating in the virtual summit. “This conference is an attempt to deliberate upon and understand the system changes that are required to develop a higher education ecosystem that instils resilience, encourages innovation, promotes sustainability, and enables students and workforce to be enterprising to face the disruptive future,” he said.

Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI thanked the Minister for the extensive consultation process that went into framing the NEP. “The consultation processes and the task force that had been created to execute the NEP will successfully engage with the industry,” he said.

FICCI EY Report, ‘Higher Education in India: 2040’, was also released at the event. The report, while defining Education 4.0 in the current context, has highlighted the significant emerging trends within the higher education sector and drawn learnings and highlighted global best practices.

Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Vice Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University; Dr Rajan Saxena, Advisor, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Founder, The Open-Ed Works attended the session.

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Policy & Politics

New Development Financial Institution should balance between infrastructure and development needs

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, said that a Bill would be introduced to set up a DFI and Rs 20,000 crore would be provided to capitalise the institution. ‘The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years’ time,’ she said.

Tarun Nangia

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Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said that the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas.

Former Deputy Governor of the RBI, Rakesh Mohan, on Friday suggested that the proposed new Development Financial Institution (DFI) needs to attract ‘patient capital’ investors as well as leading experts on its board and in top management. Mohan, who was also a former Executive Director at the IMF, made these comments during a webinar organised by the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and India International Centre.

It comes in the backdrop of the Union Budget 2021-2022 recognising the long-term debt financing needs of the infrastructure sector and proposing a “professionally managed” DFI “to act as a provider, enabler and catalyst for infrastructure financing”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, had also said that a Bill will be introduced to set up a DFI and provided Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution. “The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years-time,” she had said. Later, Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda had reportedly said India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited could be subsumed into the new DFI – the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development. The proposed DFI will also play a crucial role in realising the National Infrastructure Pipeline, under which around 7,000 projects have been identified with an estimated Rs 111 lakh crore-worth of investment between 2020 and 2025.

Rakesh Mohan also proposed that the new DFI should be headquartered in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The first CEO or CMD of the proposed DFI should be a person with India’s best interests in mind.

Echoing Mohan, former Deputy Governor of RBI Shyamala Gopinath also said there should be an emphasis on good governance. In addition, there is a need to focus on issues such as contract enforcement and project bankability, she said.

Speaking on the occasion, former Executive Director of IDBI, G. A. Tadas, said the Budget proposal of providing Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution will not be sufficient to finance infrastructure projects to the tune of Rs 111 lakh crore by 2025 and help the country to be a USD 5 trillion economy. The initial capital for the DFI needs to be augmented to at least Rs 50,000-60,000 crore to achieve a portfolio of around Rs 5 lakh crore in the next three years, he added. He said there has to be an emphasis on a robust risk management System.

Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas such as health and other social sectors. Larger number of DFIs can have greater impact, she said, adding that post the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the DFIs have seen a renaissance.

Professor Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS and Professor Milindo Chakrabarti, Visiting Fellow, RIS, also spoke during the programme.

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Policy & Politics

Bank account & property will be seized for violation of GST rule

Bharat vyapar bandh on 26 February on the call of CAIT .

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The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has called for a Bharat Vyapar Bandh on February 26, and the trade organizations in all the states of the country have decided to join the bandh. CAIT has called for a Bharat Vyapar Bandh, against the recent amendments to the GST rules as it is adverse to business and demanding a ban on e-commerce company Amazon immediately.

CAIT National President B C Bhartia & Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said that said that on February 26, “Dharna” will be organized at about 1500 places across the country, including Delhi, to raise traders voice against the unjustified amendments in GST rules and traders across Country will not login GST portal on Bandh day as a mark of protest . They said that most of the leading trade organisations in different states of the Country both at national and state level including Delhi have decided to join the vyapar bandh, while some other organizations will also announce their support by this evening.

Bhartia and Khandelwal told that Bharat Vyapar Bandh of traders will be rational and peaceful across the country. While wholesale and retail markets will remain completely closed, shops selling essential commodities have not been included in the shutdown in view of the need of the citizens of the country. Shops which cater to the needs of people in residential colonies have also been kept out of the bandh. They said that shutting down vyapar even for a day was never the intention of the traders but it is the changed format of GST which has forces us for holding a day long Bandh. GST tax system has become very complex rather than simplified and is completely contradict the original declared vision & purpose of GST implementation, which has now become a never ending cycle of huge compliance’s.Instead of simplifying and rationalizing the tax system, the GST Council is working towards imposing maximum burden of tax on traders, which is grossly undemocratic.

Bhartia and Khandelwal said that after amendment in the current rules, the tax officer has been given unlimited rights to many things because of which now the GST registration of any trader will be in hands of the tax officer and he can cancel it even without giving any notice or opportunity of hearing, he can also seize the traders bank accounts and property, also Input credit of tax paid to traders can be blocked. Such provisions will discourage traders and create many obstacles in doing business.

CAIT Delhi State President Vipin Ahuja & State General Secretary Dev Raj Baweja said that the trade associations connected to scooter parts, electrical goods, medicines, computers and computer accessories, chemical, paint chemicals, bicycles, toys, papers, stationary in Delhi , Iron and Hardware, Sanitary Goods, Iron Trade, Jewelery, Rubber Plastics, FMCG Goods, Cosmetics, Readymade Garment, Wood & Plywood, Building Materials, Grocery, Oil, Spices, Food, Electronics, Mobile, Furnishing Fabric, Gift Items, Photo , General store, tarpaulins, ferro alloys, acrylic, aluminum, metal, machinery, marble, radio and radio parts, cement, file and envelope makers, handloom and handloom fabrics, metal scrap, agricultural implements, in Delhi and all over the Country have declared their support to Bharat Vyapar Bandh.

CAIT national president B.C. Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said that on 26 February “dharna” will be organised at about 1,500 places across the country, including Delhi, to raise traders’ voice against the unjustified amendments in GST rules and traders across the country will not login GST portal on that day as a mark of protest .

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