The Indian university system during its formative years was pretty enthused with a natural desire to compete with itself to get better insights into its strengths as well as shortcomings. Teachers were passionately committed to attaining excellence both in teaching and research. Most of them were reasonably proficient at recognizing the potential of individual students and providing them with differential treatment to ensure that everyone learns at his or her own pace. This initial enthusiasm started experiencing a gradual decline in academic standards with a surge in the number of universities over a period of time. The force of circumstances compelled the University Grants Commission (UGC) to invoke section 12 (ccc) of the UGC Act, 1956 to establish the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in 1994 to bring about qualitative improvement in higher education. Such reform initiatives were launched long ago in the western world and were a bit late in the day for India, but it was worth the effort.
The idea of accreditation was first mooted as long ago as 1784 in a meeting of the Board of Regents that was constituted to oversee educational responsibilities in the city of New York. Since the mandate of the Board was to make necessary recommendations for the introduction of new subjects, providing state-aid and improvement of academic standards, it decided to visit and inspect all educational institutions for the purpose of ascertaining their academic and financial requirements. The Board continued to perform the role of an accrediting body until 1914. Thereafter, the job was taken over by the Association of American Universities which, along with other responsibilities, started accrediting undergraduate programs of its member institutions. The process of accreditation was given a qualitative orientation with the entry of some other key players like the North Central Association and the American Medical Association during the period 1935-48 and the Council of Post-Secondary Accreditation in 1975.
There are many different systems of accreditation across the globe. Germany has more than ten certified agencies that are accrediting management systems and academic programs offered by state-recognized institutions. Greece has a mandatory system of accreditation which is carried out by the government-controlled supervisory body known as the Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency. France has a separate system of accreditation for public and private universities although it is carried out by the Ministry of National Education. Israel has a Council for Higher Education which is responsible for laying down requirements for every degree as well as for accreditation of all universities and colleges. Italy has had a system of accreditation since 1933. There it is the responsibility of three major organizations wherein the norms are jointly laid down by the Regional Coordination Committee and the National University Council which are approved by the Ministry of Education. Some of their professional programs are accredited by independent agencies and associations. Japan has a third-party quality assurance mechanism. There are as many as thirteen accrediting agencies including the Japan University Accreditation Association (JUAA) and Japan Institution for Higher Education Evaluation (JIHEE) that are certified by the government to accredit all tertiary institutions.
England has a Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) which carries out quality assessment reviews with the help of peers. It also acts as a regulator for higher education and thus lays down academic standards in the form of subject-specific benchmark statements. These statements are written and maintained by subject experts for a specific period. The focus of such reviews is on the systems that are placed by individual institutions to ensure quality and excellence in terms of curricular provisions, pedagogical processes and degree requirements. Universities enjoy complete autonomy in determining their own standards for award of degrees and other qualifications. However, they have to align these standards with UK qualifications frameworks. Besides, they have to demonstrate during peer reviews that their performance surpasses the national threshold standards, which are maintained in the form of quality code by the QAA. The accreditation for professional courses is carried out either by statutory councils or by professional bodies.
The United States of America has always been quite serious about stringent educational standards. They have a multilayered system of assessment and accreditation that has undergone many changes during its journey from the earliest time of 1784 to date. There are about half a dozen primary regional accrediting organizations recognized by the US Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). They are carrying out these exercises on a voluntary basis, both at the regional and national levels. Thus an institution in the US can hold multiple accreditations at a time, which is of great value since it qualifies the institution to get state aid on the one hand, and on the other it enables students and parents to make an informed choice about the selection of institution and programs therein. The most striking aspect of US accreditation is that apart from quality assurance, it is also used as a means to protect institutions from any type of external interference.
There was also a keenly felt need to have an accreditation apparatus in India as quality concerns began to emerge due to the haphazard growth of universities and colleges. Since there was a general consensus on this issue among policymakers and the academia, it found its rightful place in the National Education Policy (NEP), 1986 and Program of Action (PoA), 1992. Pursuant to the recommendation of the NEP, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was established in 1994 as an autonomous organization of the UGC. The basic idea behind this initiative was to help individual institutions know their competence as well as shortfalls through a combination of self and peer evaluation, to enable them to overcome their inadequacies in a timely manner. The focus of this exercise has never been on making inter-institutional comparisons.
The NAAC adopted almost a similar strategy to what the accrediting organizations were following in America. There has not been any marked difference between the two insofar as scope of criteria and stages of implementation are concerned. The only difference between the two lies in the number of criteria and the numerical methods used to arrive at the final conclusion. The NAAC has been following almost a no-change strategy since 1999 when it was made mandatory, except for some minor changes like accelerating the pace of processing, ensuring objectivity and transparency, shortening the duration of on-site visits and institutional grading system. Currently, the NAAC has been using an eight-point grading system ranging from “A++”, implying “Accredited” with Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) between 3.76 to 4.00 to “D” implying “Not Accredited” with CGPA of less than 1.50.
When NAAC was established in 1994, it was assumed that universities would participate on a voluntary basis without any constraints of irrevocable commitment, as it would benefit them the most. But somehow, that assumption turned out to be mistaken since most of them showed an ambivalent attitude towards accreditation. After a long wait of five years, accreditation was made mandatory, and all universities were asked to get themselves accredited by the end of December 2000. But despite numerous proactive steps taken by NAAC and incentivization offered by funding organizations, it did not make much difference anyway, as is evident from the analysis of the aggregated data of different cycles of accreditation.
It may be pertinent to mention that analysis of aggregated data has its own significance, despite certain limitations, since it provides trends and relevant insights into the real causes of successes and failures. The aggregated data on accreditation reveal that the response of universities continued to be utterly inexplicable and regressive. It is deeply shocking that out of a total of 982 universities, only 228 universities (23%) have a valid accreditation status. The remaining 754 universities (77%) have either lost their validity period or not gone for a repeat cycle of accreditation or not yet gone even for their first cycle of accreditation. What is even more shocking is that only a fraction (5%) of them (228) has been able to make a cut to the highest grade (A++). It was followed by another 28 with A+, 89 with A, 22 with B++, 23 with B+, 43 with B and as many as 11 with the lowest grade C. It signifies that the number of quality institutions in the country is far too little than needed.
Considering the wide variations amongst various types of universities in terms of their numbers, programs and governance patterns, it is indeed surprising to note that there has been only a marginal difference insofar as procedures for regulatory compliance and gradation of their accreditation status are concerned. It is clear that a large number of universities are found wanting to comply with the provisions of UGC’s mandatory assessment and accreditation regulations. The number of such universities that do not have a valid accreditation status is as high as 87% in State Private Universities, 76% in State Public Universities, 59% in Deemed to be Universities and 52% in Central Universities. It shows a lackadaisical approach towards accreditation on the part of the leaderships of many universities.
It is incredible to note that there are just 12 universities, out of the 228 with valid accreditation status, which have secured the highest grade (A++) in accreditation. Of them, 9 turned out to be Deemed to be Universities, 2 Central Universities and just one State Public University. None of the State Private Universities could make the cut to the top grade. There are 28 universities which have crossed the finish line together to secure the second highest grade (A+). Of them, 13 emerged as Deemed to be Universities, 11 State Public Universities, 3 State Private Universities and just one Central University. Besides, there are as many as 89 universities that have attained the third highest grade (A). Out of them, 46 happened to be State Public, 21 Deemed, 13 Central and 9 State Private Universities. The rest of the 99 universities with valid accreditation status have settled with lower grades ranging from B++ to C.
One of the first things that is noticed from this analysis is that Deemed to be Universities have registered a much better performance than all others, which includes the Central Universities. While this development should cheer many, it should also set off alarm bells amongst the Central and the State systems. Given such inequalities on quality parameters coupled with other constraints, people have horribly limited choices when they are looking for quality institutions.
It is disheartening to note that even those universities that are supposed to be pace-setting and more privileged than others are not doing any better really. Universities need to cultivate a genuine respect and consideration for the system painstakingly designed and nurtured by regulators and wholeheartedly supported by successive governments for perpetual benefits to all stakeholders. If this attitude, that has deceived the system far too long, persists then it is going to severely impact all quality initiatives and that too at a time when accreditation is going to be a defining characteristic of modern Indian higher education.
The author is former Chairman, UGC.
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CHANNI’S AAM AADMI IMAGE PUSHES AAP ON BACKFOOT IN PUNJAB
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is emerging as the most effective politician in the border state and if he manages to assist the Congress in winning next year’s Assembly polls, he would have joined the big league. The simple but astute politician appears to be giving a tough time to his rivals, and to begin with, he has damaged the prospects of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) more than anybody else. Till a few months ago, most of the surveys considered the AAP as the frontrunner in Punjab but it is evident that Arvind Kejriwal is struggling to put the Congress down, and so far, his efforts have not succeeded. Channi because of his humble background and unwavering determination is synonymous with the image of the Aam Aadmi and through his actions, has pre-empted many promises made by Kejriwal and the company. The Delhi CM had first accused Channi of being a `naqli’ Aam Aadmi but his political jibe did not click. Next, he accused Channi of being `naqli Kejriwal’, while alluding to Channi following his party’s agenda which is again proving to be counter-productive. The proof of the pudding is in eating and what Kejriwal was promising to bring to Punjab, Channi has already implemented what he is calling the Congress programme aimed at helping the common citizen of the state.
The power tariff has been brought down by rupees three, arrears of the poor have been waived off, petrol and diesel prices are down by rupees ten, and the sand is now sold for one-fourth the price it was being sold earlier. Kejriwal has claimed that at least 25 Congress MLAs and two MPs were in touch with him, but Channi has hit back by telling the AAP Boss that why would Congress MLAs be looking towards him when his own flock—11 of the 21 MLAs who won on the AAP symbol—have already switched sides. Channi has asserted that how can he be a `naqli’ Kejriwal and taunted the Delhi CM that he cannot become a `naqli’ Channi either and being an outsider to the state, the common citizen could not identify himself or herself with him. The latest attack on the Congress by Kejriwal is that he is attempting to draw a wedge in the top ranks by praising Navjot Singh Sidhu and lashing out at the rest of the leadership. Kejriwal is a master strategist in many ways and knows he has to do something fast if he has to weaken the grand old party. Congress leadership at the Centre is aware of the maverick ways of Sidhu and has also drawn a contingency plan for the poll preparation which could run parallel to what the former Test cricketer is doing.
There is speculation in political circles that Sidhu could jump towards AAP, closer to the polls, thus giving Kejriwal a popular face and adding momentum to his party’s campaign. The logic being given is that Sidhu realizes that with Channi as the head of the government, he has little chance of becoming a Congress Chief Minister in the immediate future. Punjab is turning out to be a battle between Congress and the AAP with the Akali Dal desperately trying to resuscitate itself. Captain Amarinder Singh’s new political party is yet to take off and is heavily dependent on the BJP to both fund and back it. The BJP on its part is watching the unfolding situation very closely and would want to know the list of Amarinder Singh’s candidates before supporting him. This may take time since the Captain would only be able to provide and finalise his list, once Congress declares its own nominees. Those who do not find a berth, would gravitate towards the former CM, which is the belief with which he is moving ahead. There are conjectures in political circles that his wife, Preneet Kaur, and one more Lok Sabha MP from the State may join Amarinder’s party. Preneet has already been served a show-cause notice by the AICC. On his part, Channi is unruffled by what is happening and in a recent interview to a TV news channel, had a dig at the Captain and also the Badals. He said that earlier people would want to know about the working hours of the former CM.
But now they want to know what were the sleeping hours of the current CM while referring to his tight and strenuous work schedule. He said that he has been functioning without an army of advisers, OSDs and PAs, thereby reducing the load on the exchequer while reiterating that he stood for the common citizen and not for the elites like Amarinder and Badals, who had the resources to look after themselves. The former CM had described Channi as a “good boy’’ implying that he was inexperienced. However, Channi has shown far greater political maturity towards the problems confronting the state and their solutions. The political narrative in the border state is changing at a very rapid pace, and for the Congress, which is imploding everywhere else in the country, Channi could very well be a match-winner they have been looking for.
The saga of COP26: Why we should be concerned
It is because of the flawed approach of UNFCCC and IPCC that Combating Climate Change Movement has not gained the required momentum even after 24 years of the Kyoto protocol.
The 26th Climate Change summit, called COP26 (Conference of Parties) started its proceedings on the 31st of October and continued the discussions up to the 12th of November. After a lot of haggling for two weeks, the conference produced the Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP). The media, as a whole, has dubbed the pact as a weak narrative belying the hopes, aspirations, and ambitions of those who are concerned about the catastrophic future of the earth due to the drastic changes in the climate patterns, leading to the triple problems of floods, droughts, and cyclones as a result of global warming. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, calls the deal “A compromise with welcome steps.” Originally, the conference was called upon to deliberate on three main agendas.
1. That all nations must agree to cut down the consumption of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) to reach the status of Net Zero Emissions (NZE) by 2050. US agreed to abide by the directive to reach the NEZ status by 2050. But China and India agreed to achieve this target by 2060 and 2070 respectively.
2. Both UNFCCC ( UN framework convention on climate change) and IPCC ( Inter-governmental panel on climate change) had discovered that the safe value of the rise of global temperatures to prevent or avoid perceptible changes in climate cycle or pattern was 1.5 C and was likely to reach around 2050. This value of temperature rise can be stabilised provided all nations decide to gradually cut down the present level of consumption of fossil fuels to reach the Net Zero Emissions (NZE) status by the year 2050 after switching on to new renewable or non fossil fuels (nuclear or hydrogen fuel) sources of energy. Accordingly, all nations submitted their updated targets to develop alternate sources of energy by 2030 keeping in mind complete achievement of NZEs status by 2050. Indian targets were declared on the floor of the house by the Prime Minister in person.
The annual consumption of these three types of fossil fuels produces 50 billion tonnes of GHGs; Carbon dioxide being the principal component. China produces 31% emissions followed by US(16%) and India(5%).These three countries together produce 52% of the global emissions while 30 top consumer countries (G30) produce 90% of the global emissions. So it would have been much better if UNFCC and IPCC concentrated on G30 countries and leave the rest 165 who hardly consume 10% of the fossil fuels per year. In fact, many countries like Bhutan have already reached the NZE status and some are about to reach it.
The concept of NZEs does not mean that consumption of fossil fuels will be reduced to zero. It only means the following: The total amount of emissions of GHGs (calculated in terms of CO2 equivalent) from fossil fuels is equal to the amount of CO2 absorbed by the forests, crops, carbon sinks, and by new and old technologies of sequestering CO2 to be used for commercial uses.
The basic mistake made by UNFCCC and IPCC is that both did not calculate the values of the two sides of the equation for individual countries of the G30 group. This calculation would have enabled the major emitters to know the extent to which the consumption levels of fossil fuels by the years 2030 and 2050 needs to be reduced. Consequently, the individual nations could expand the forest areas to maintain a higher value of consumption of fossil fuels. The World Energy Outlook report for the year 2021 indicates that nations will have to cut down the 2019 consumption levels of fossil fuels by 50% to achieve the NZE status in 2050. In other words, China and India will have to phase out 50% of their thermal power plants by 2050 and the global consumption of crude oil would be reduced to 50 mbpd. Oil and gas-producing countries are greatly worried about the arrival of this scenario because their prosperity is entirely based on the sale of crude oil and natural gas.
3. In the 2009 climate summit at Copenhagen (COP 15), it was agreed that developed nations would release a sum of $100 billion every year towards the climate-financing fund to enable underdeveloped countries to switch on from fossil fuel energy sources to alternate sources of energy. This fund never arrived from the wallets of the rich nations and the progress of transition of energy from one side to another never picked up. India was at the forefront to take up the cause of the underdeveloped nations to compel rich nations to contribute the arrears of $ 1.0 trillion towards the climate financing fund.
THE AGREEMENT DRAFT
The Glasgow Climate Pact contains the following three features in response to the three principle issues raised above:
1. All nations agreed to focus on sticking to the Paris conference (CP21) goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 C from the preindustrial levels due to global warming caused by GHG emissions. But the draft is totally silent whether countries like China and India are bound to reach NZE status by 2050 or not. Reaching NZEs by 2050 is the soul or essence of the Combating Climate Change Movement (CCCM) and the COP 26.
2. All major emitter countries of GHGs (read G30 countries) will scale up and resubmit their NDCs (nationally determined contributions) or targets for cutting down the consumption levels of fossil fuels for the year 2030 along with pathways to reach NZE status by the year 2050 in COP27 to be held next year in Egypt. India had declared that it would be able to develop 500 GW of renewable or green energy by 2030. No other country had made such an ambitious announcement.
All countries agreed to phase down the unabated coal power and fossil fuel subsidies in line with the coal use by the poor and vulnerable sections of society. The term ‘phase out coal’ was replaced by ‘phase down coal’ at the instance of India, China, and Iran. India considers this change of terms as a great diplomatic victory though the change of terms does not mean much because the NZE targets do not ask for zero consumption of fossil fuels.
3. Only a perfunctory clause was added in respect of the commitment of rich nations to pay the arrears due to the commitment made in COP9 to contribute $100 billion per year towards the climate financing fund. Now the draft says, “The member nations urge the rich nations to start the contribution fresh from now onwards till 2025 and then double the amount of contribution ($200 billion per year) from that year.” The term ‘urge’ instead of a firm direction makes the draft greatly watered down. It is not understood how the underdeveloped countries agreed to accept this clause without a firm assurance from the rich countries even though they are signatories to this draft as they were in 2009.
FLAWS IN THE APPROACH
Both UNFCCC and IPCC, the two main drivers of the Combating Climate Change Movement, have adopted a flawed approach to take the nations towards the goal of Net Zero Emission status by the year 2050. The key points of the flawed approach are enumerated below:
1. UNFCCC and IPCC should have first concentrated their efforts on reducing the consumption of fossil fuels of G30 countries (who presently consume 90% of the fossil fuels), and also hold discussions with them individually, to find out to what extent each country is really in a position to reduce the fossil fuel consumption without jeopardising the economic growth and then fix the NDCs targets for the year 2030. This exercise will greatly avoid the bickerings during the discussion during the next summit.
2. Combustion of fossil fuels presents three problems simultaneously I.e. air pollution, climate change, and depletion of resources. Air pollution has become the most serious problem at the moment. But both UNFCCC and IPCC never talk about this great health hazard. China is burning 11 million tonnes of coal and 14mbpd of oil daily (half of the global consumption) and people are facing very serious health problems in most of her big cities. India too is facing identical problems of air pollution in big cities due to vehicular emissions and Supreme Court is now taking the Delhi government to task. Likewise, depletion of these vital resources will be a big problem to be faced by the next generations. Chinese coal at the present rate of consumption will not last more than 30 years. Likewise, 60 billion tonnes of extractable coal reserves in India will not last more than 70 years. If all three issues are highlighted simultaneously, all nations will show more promptness to reduce the consumption levels.
3. Every country has its limitations in developing renewable resources of energy. Many G30 countries like Japan do not have hydropower potential. European countries do not have enough clear sky days to generate solar power during the five winter months of the year. India has very scarce potential for generating wind energy. Therefore, the two UN bodies should assess the renewable energy potential while fixing the targets.
4. The COP26 agreement only talks about reducing coal consumption whereas combustion of oil produces very obnoxious gases like SO2, NOx, and lead oxide. The major cause of severe air pollution in the cities with concomitant health hazards is vehicular emissions. Therefore, equal stress should be given to replace the existing fleet of cars and small size trucks with electric vehicles and transfer an appreciable part of the freight and passenger load of trucks and buses to the railways.
5. Use of nuclear power and hydrogen fuel can be good substitutes for replacing fossil fuels. But people do not allow the setting up of nuclear power plants after the explosion in a nuclear power plant in Japan. Research on developing hydrogen fuel is still in the embryonic stage. Therefore, G30 countries need a rethink on the use of nuclear power and should provide more funds to the development of hydrogen fuel.
6. 166 countries with very low consumption of fossil fuels discovered and cried out in the conference that real culprits of triggering climate change are 30 countries (G30) who consume 90% of the fossil fuels and release an equal amount of emissions. But the climate change does not limit the climatic upheavals to these G30 countries alone and sweeps the entire world. So they, G166, are suffering because of the brazen and profligate use of fossil fuels consumed by G30 countries to sustain their prosperous economies and leaving very little for future generations. But their genuine cry was heard and yet ignored.
It is because of this flawed approach of UNFCCC and IPCC that Combating Climate Change Movement has not gained the required momentum even after the 24 years of the Kyoto protocol. The pact reached at Glasgow on 14 November is rightly called an agreement better than no agreement. The only achievement of this conference has been to postpone its three main agendas to the next year’s conference (COP27) to be held in Egypt.
The writer is a retired Engineer-in-Chief of Public Health Department Haryana and has had an illustrious career for 34 years. Views expressed are the writer’s personal.
LEADERS REMEMBER AHMED PATEL, SONIA GANDHI’S TROUBLESHOOTER
Ahmed Patel was without any doubt the most powerful functionary of the Congress in this century. On his first death anniversary on Thursday, several top leaders paid tributes to him, recalling his pronounced role during the presidentship of Sonia Gandhi without mentioning that in fact, he was the de facto chief of the grand old party. This is not an exaggeration that he wielded more influence on the central leadership than anyone before him. Some veterans try and compare his understated but exalted position with that of R.K.Dhawan and Makhan Lal Fotedar, but Ahmed Patel had a much larger say in political matters for a considerable long period. His opponents accused him of being responsible for the decline of the Congress and often claimed that Sonia Gandhi had outsourced the party to him for day-to-day affairs and he did what he pleased, sometimes without the knowledge of the High Command. Ahmed’s grip over the organization started loosening once Rahul Gandhi came on to the political scene and though the entire Gandhi family paid homage to him on his anniversary, it was an open secret that Rahul wanted his role to diminish. The astute and perceptive former political secretary realized this and had shifted his strategy to maintain an extremely low profile while getting his way in crucial matters. In the recent past, the appointment of D.K.Shiv Kumar as the Karnataka State president was engineered by him even though Rahul was not in his favour and because the Vokkaliga community to which he belongs is essentially with H.D.Deva Gowda. Shiv Kumar got the job because he had facilitated the stay of Congress MLAs from Gujarat when Ahmed was contesting for a Rajya Sabha seat facing stiff competition from the BJP whose strategy was designed by Amit Shah. Ahmed was victorious and till this day, some questions have been raised on who was responsible for giving him the additional two votes which he required to retain the seat. These are untold stories of politics. Ahmed also played the most significant part when the Maharashtra government was formed after an alliance between the Congress, NCP, and the Shiv Sena. Like most things good or not so good done by him, he never took credit and allowed others to boast about their achievements.
Ahmed’s USP was that enjoyed cordial relations with top leaders of other parties as well and it was not surprising that after his demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allowed his family to occupy his official residence, 23 Willingdon Crescent for as long as they wished. They finally moved out in July. In sharp contrast, the Congress High Command did not hold even a single prayer meeting for him in the national capital, and according to the political buzz conveyed to the family that there was no need for this in the capital since condolence gatherings had taken place in Karnataka, Maharashtra and some other places.
The problem in Congress is that the leadership has not been able to find a suitable replacement for him. There is nobody close to the Gandhis who is accessible and thus in any position to address the grievances of state functionaries and ordinary workers. There is nobody to even speak to established leaders. Thus, this vacuum is hurting the party which should have by this time given greater responsibility to the likes of Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Ahmed Patel like everyone else had his fault lines as well, but no one can doubt that Sonia Gandhi’s dependence on him was absolute and he was perhaps the only one who could get his way through the complicated decision-making process in the party. The erosion of the Congress started during his lifetime but the party is grappling with its worst phase with no one there to oversee the political road map and its implementation.
Gati Shakti: PM Modi’s masterplan for connectivity
Be it Purvanchal Expressway or the upcoming Jewar airport, the ability to coordinate seamlessly with the state government concerned and translate vision into reality has been the high point of PM Modi’s holistic, development-oriented agenda.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gati Shakti, National Master Plan for multi-modal connectivity, heralding a new chapter in governance, on October 13. Gati Shakti, a digital platform, will bring 16 ministries including Railways and Roadways together, for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure projects. It will incorporate the infrastructure schemes of various ministries and State governments like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN, etc. Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, fishing clusters, and agri zones will be covered to improve connectivity & make Indian businesses more competitive. It will also leverage technology extensively including spatial planning tools with ISRO imagery developed by BiSAG-N (Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics). This multi-modal connectivity will provide integrated and seamless connectivity for the movement of people, goods, and services from one mode of transport to another. It will facilitate last-mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reduce travel time for people. In line with the goals of Gati Shakti, Mumbai Port Trust, for instance, is undertaking a slew of projects, seeking harmony between the needs of cargoes and ships on one hand and the needs of the city and citizenry on the other. Gati Shakti project is yet another instance of how cooperative federalism is something that the Modi government is fully committed to.
Needless to add, with the resolve of Aatmnirbhar Bharat, the foundation of India for the next 25 years is being laid stoutly and soundly, by the Central government. People of India, Indian industry, Indian business, Indian manufacturers, and Indian farmers are at the centre of this great campaign of Gati Shakti, which is a people-centric, futuristic, mega initiative. What sets the Modi government apart from erstwhile, lethargic, Congress-led regimes, is the fact that we have not only developed a work culture of completing the projects in time, but efforts are underway to complete projects ahead of time. With the whole-of-government approach, the collective power of the Central government is being channelled into fulfilling these infrastructure-oriented schemes. Gati Shakti is an extension of holistic governance, therefore, in more ways than one.
Over the years, the signage ‘Work In Progress’ became the symbol of lack of trust, with cost and time overruns, being the hallmark of all that was wrong with the decrepit Nehruvian model, that was repeatedly flogged for decades together, by successive Congress regimes. But today’s 21st century India, is leaving behind old systems and practices, that emanated from the “Command Economy” model of Nehru and his dynastic proponents. Today’s mantra under PM Modi is: ‘Work For Progress’.
Wealth for progress, plan for progress, and preference for progress, underline the inclusive approach of the Modi government.
The subject of infrastructure in our country was never a priority for most political parties, for decades together. This, even though it is globally accepted that the creation of quality infrastructure for sustainable development is a time-tested way to create a virtuous cycle of economic activities that create employment on a large scale. Due to the wide gap between macro planning and micro implementation, problems of lack of coordination, lack of advanced information, thinking and working in silos— all these factors led to hampered construction and wastage of government resources and budgets. Gati Shakti project will therefore be a force multiplier and working based on this master plan, will result in optimum utilisation of resources.
The first interstate natural gas pipeline in India was commissioned in 1987. After this, till 2014, i.e. in 27 years, only a 15,000 km long natural gas pipeline was built. Today, work is underway on a war footing for a more than 16,000 km long gas pipeline across the country.This pipeline is slated to be completed in the next 5-6 years. Again, in the 5 years before 2014, only 1900 km of railway lines underwent doubling. In the last 7 years alone, more than 9000 kilometers of railway lines have been doubled. In the 5 years before 2014, only 3000 km of railways were electrified. In the last 7 years alone, more than 24000 kilometers of railway tracks have been electrified. Before 2014, the metro rail was running on only about 250 km of track. Today the metro has been expanded up to 700 km and work is going on in the 1000 km new metro route. In the five years before 2014, only 60 panchayats could be connected with optical fibre. In the last 7 years of the Modi government, we have connected more than 1.5 lakh gram panchayats with optical fibre, in a grand testimony to what resolute political will can achieve.
To increase the income of the farmers and fishermen of the country, infrastructure related to processing is also being expanded rapidly. In 2014, there were only 2 mega Food Parks in the country. Today 19 mega Food Parks are functioning in the country. Now the target is to take their number to more than 40. There were just 5 waterways in 2014, today India has 13 functional waterways. Turnaround time of vessels at the ports has come down to 27 hours from over 41 hours in 2014. The country has realised the pledge of One Nation, One Grid. Today India has 4.25 lakh circuit kilometers of power transmission lines compared to 3 lakh circuit kilometers in 2014.
With the development of quality infrastructure, India can realize the dream of becoming the business capital of the world. PM Gati Shakti will be the driving factor. Just as JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile) trinity revolutionized accessibility of government’s welfare schemes to the people, PM Gati Shakti will do the same in the field of infrastructure. With the Gati Shakti National Master Plan, India’s economic growth will find greater traction through major infrastructure upgrades, that will cut logistics costs and enhance efficiency. Essentially, the Gati Shakti project will be an integrated umbrella of over Rs 111 lakh crore worth of projects, under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) for the period 2021-25. This includes reducing the ratio of logistical costs to GDP that has prevailed at over 14%, before PM Modi took charge, to an aspirational level of sub 8%. Reducing vehicular emissions to meet climate change commitments, curtailing input costs on fuel, a fillip to efficiency in port operations, improvement in cargo handling capacity, and cutting vessel turnaround time, will be the added benefits and byproducts of the ambitious Gati Shakti project. The observations in the Economic Survey for 2020-21 underscore the role of active Centre-State partnerships for infrastructure building. Significant delays to projects can often be traced to hostile land acquisition decisions that alienate communities or violate environmental laws.
It is to the Modi government’s credit that environmental integrity has never been compromised and rehabilitation of affected people has always been given utmost priority. The Jewar airport’s strategic location will create over 1 lakh job opportunities for the young from adjoining areas: Aligarh, Hapur, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, and Bulandshahr.
The airport will be spread over 1334 hectares of land and will have a capacity to serve around 1.2 crore passengers, annually. That number will go up to over 7 crore passengers from 2040 onwards. Job opportunities will come not just from work at the airport but also from allied industries like storage, defence, and food. But beyond all these numbers, what stands out is the fact that the UP government spent Rs 4326 crore on the acquisition of land, rehabilitation, and resettlement. Be it Purvanchal expressway or the upcoming Jewar airport, the ability to coordinate seamlessly with the concerned State government and translate vision into reality has been the high point of PM Modi’s holistic, development-oriented agenda.
The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. Views expressed are the writer’s personal
To increase the income of the farmers and fishermen of the country, infrastructure related to processing is also being expanded rapidly. In 2014, there were only 2 mega food parks in the country. Today 19 mega food parks are functioning in the country. Now the target is to take their number to more than 40. There were just 5 waterways in 2014, today India has 13 functional waterways. Turnaround time of vessels at the ports has come down to 27 hours from over 41 hours in 2014. The country has realised the pledge of ‘One Nation, One Grid’.
NEW EDUCATION POLICY: THE GATEWAY TO VISHWAGURUTVA
“Param Vaibhavam Netumetat Swarashtram…” (I shall strive to take my country to its highest glory). This feeling of supreme glory could not be achieved from the rules or laws borrowed from some foreign power, but from Indian norms, traditions, and historical examples. By changing the policies made during the colonial rule, which aimed only at making Indians the clerks of the British, emphasising on India’s glorious history, society, philosophy, knowledge-science, guru-shishya tradition, Indian languages, Vedic studies, etc. The New Education Policy (NEP) was announced last year. Today, on the completion of one year, the positive effect of this policy is being seen in educational institutions, research institutes, and many institutions related to social life. Many experiments like the translation of technical education books in Indian languages by AICTE, the vision of inter-disciplinaryness, integrated, and comprehensive approach in subjects, and Indian knowledge tradition are being implemented at the ground level. The NEP has also made it clear that the education policy is not only concerned with formal educational institutions but also with all those aspects of social life where the individual influences the society through his conduct and behaviour. Education policies, when only clerks or employees, if they are made to make, their resources are also limited.
The objective of the NEP is to make every person an Indian and India to be a world leader, so its means are not limited to formal educational institutions but apply to wide areas. There is clear evidence in ancient Indian Vedic texts that people from geographical places like Aryavarta, Brahmavarta used to take the initiation of human behaviour and conduct. The then education system, guru-shishya tradition, and environment-friendly education are some of the important facts that are the main dimensions of the education of that time. Even today there is a great need for environment-friendly education. The education policy borrowed from abroad will always force the advocate to wear a black coat (whether the season is summer or winter), environment-friendly education will allow him to groom according to the environment. Borrowed education will become the cause of linguistic slavery, mental slavery, and others, whereas the NEP will allow calling for freedom according to the environment. 5+3+3+4 formula contained in education policy, facilities for health and nutrition along with education, adjustment of skill development in education, experiments like social experience in education and science inherent in Indian knowledge, philosophy, Vedic mathematics, and environmental elements
together will help solve modern problems. The high character model of the teacher will also develop necessary character qualities like character building and personality development, which to date have never been given a place in the old education policies. The dream of Vishwagurutva is not achievable only by formal education. In the areas where education exerts its influence, such a seal of Indianness is necessary in those areas, that clears the filthy stigma of slavery and paves the way for a brighter future.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Tilkamanjhi Bhagalpur University, Bihar.
Fungible: The idea at the centre of the NFT sensation
NFTs could transform the way digital goods are created, consumed, and traded online and Indians are also ready to test waters.
What makes NFTs special is that each one represents something unique, and not interchangeable with anything—in other words, not “fungible”. This is what distinguishes them from cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are fungible—interchangeable—even though they use the same software technology (blockchain technology) as NFTs. NFTs serve as a kind of deed proving ownership for original editions of various digital artefacts—whether works of art, sports collectables or music albums. Even a tweet can be monetised with an NFT.
Once Indian megastars Amitabh Bachchan dropped his NFT collection and Salman Khan announced his partnership with NFT marketplace Bollycoin declaring the imminent launch of his digital assets. Indians are all set to test the NFT waters. With my limited knowledge of digital economics/assets, I sat down glued to my laptop screen surfing the internet for information on the freewheeling world of ‘non-fungible’ tokens. I pondered on the expanded phrase of the three letters — NFT to have an ‘idea or some understanding’ of the nature of the asset — fungible, a Latin term that has come to mean ‘interchangeable’ now helps to define unique digital objects selling for phenomenal prices.
In the three initials that make up the name, the N for “non” and the T for “token” are straightforward enough, but what about that F for “fungible”? Although the word “fungible” looks like “fungus” and its plural “fungi,” I discovered that there’s no etymological connection; “fungus” has a different Latin root. ‘Fungible’ goes back to the Latin word “fungibilis” meaning “useful,” in turn from the verb “fungi” meaning “to perform.” The same root gives us such words as “function” and “perfunctory.”
In English, “fungible” entered legal and financial circles in the 17th century for contracted goods that could be replaced by equivalents without breaking the contract such as a quantity of grain that could be substituted with an equal amount of similar grain.
After hours of surfing, I realised that the latest internet trend around the digital asset is uniting such disparate worlds as art, sports, music, and gaming in an investment frenzy: “NFTs”. It also says that what makes NFTs special is that each one represents something unique, and not interchangeable with anything — in other words, not “fungible”. This is what distinguishes them from cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are fungible — interchangeable — even though they use the same software technology (blockchain technology) as NFTs.
NFTs serve as a kind of deed proving ownership for original editions of various digital artefacts — whether works of art, sports collectables or music albums. Even a tweet can be monetised with an NFT: Twitter founder Jack Dorsey auctioned off his first post to the site for $2.9 million.
The new kind of digital collectable item is stamped with a unique bit of code that serves as a permanent record of its authenticity and is stored on a blockchain, the distributed ledger system that underlies bitcoin/ cryptocurrencies. These collectables can be bought and sold like trading cards, and the nature of blockchain technology means that once a token is created, it can’t be deleted or counterfeited. That makes it useful for artists, musicians, and others who want to create limited edition digital goods.
NFTs in all possibilities could transform the way digital goods are created, consumed, and traded online. Some news organisations have already experimented with selling NFTs, and YouTubers and other online influencers have begun creating their own lines.
Some of the NFT buzzes are shallow hype, no doubt. The cryptocurrency world is full of scammers and get-rich-quick hustlers whose projects often fail. Critics point out that NFTs and other cryptocurrency-related projects require enormous amounts of energy and computing power, making them a growing environmental hazard.
There are also legitimate questions about what, exactly, NFT buyers are getting for their money, and whether these tokens will turn into broken links if the marketplaces and hosting services that store the underlying files disappear.
But there’s something real here that is worth taking seriously. For decades, artists, musicians, and other creators have struggled with the fact that, on the internet, making copies of any digital artefact is trivially easy. Scarcity — the quality that gives offline art its value — was hard to replicate online, because anyone who downloaded a file could copy and paste it an infinite number of times, with no loss in quality.
Block-chain technology changed that by making it possible to stamp digital goods with a cryptographic marker of authenticity and keep a permanent record of its ownership. You can copy the file contained in an NFT, but you can’t fake the digital signature behind it, which gives collectors of rare digital goods some peace of mind. And NFT fans think the technology could be used to keep track of all kinds of goods in the future — titles to houses and cars, business contracts, and wills.
Creators can even attach a royalty agreement to their NFTs, entitling them to a cut of the profits every time their assets are resold.
It’s easy to be sceptical of NFTs. But I’m cautiously optimistic about them, for the simple reason that they represent a new way for creative people to eke out a living on the internet.
For years, traditional media companies have resisted new, internet-based distribution strategies because they viewed them — often correctly — as a threat to their business models. Most things on the internet were free, and things that weren’t free could be easily pirated or copied. If you wanted to get paid for your creations, your best options were to create a paywall, hire an army of lawyers to enforce your copyright or put yourself at the mercy of a licensing service or a huge social media network, which might share some of its advertising revenue with you, if you were lucky or exceptionally good.
Digital subscriptions are one way for creators to take back control of their destinies. NFTs could be another. By making it possible for artists and musicians and the kind to turn individual works into one-of-a-kind digital collectable items, NFTs could erode the economic dominance of social media middlemen and give more power back to the people who are producing creative and interesting things.
The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.
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