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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


Reforms hold the key

Framing and implementing a new education policy (NEP) is a key reform the Narendra Modi government wants to bring in. But it is being delayed on account of opposition resistance and official failings. A fresh NEP is crucial for making the best of the country's 'demographic dividend' and to ensure systematic employment and wealth generation, argues J. Jayaraj

Prakash Javedkar The New Education Policy (NEP) is a big ticket reform that Prime Minister Narendra Modi government wanted to bring in by end- 2015 and get it implemented much before re-seeking people's mandate in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Now it looks like the NEP won't be ready even by end of this year as the Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry is giving multiple extensions to the last date for receiving public responses to the policy inputs put on the ministry website. The newest deadline is September 30. Mr Prakash Javedkar who has now moved in as HRD minister has said that the policy inputs after refinements would be placed in a workshop discussion for members of parliament and then sent to the state chief ministers for their view points before concretising the policy. The government has assured Parliament during the recently concluded monsoon session that the NEP would be arrived at through an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach. And, it is being designed "to meet the changing dynamics of the population's requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its students with the necessary skills and knowledge…"
In fact, much of the Modi government's new policies meant to address the infirmities in the economy and stagnation that crept in during the Manmohan Singh government hinges on the NEP. These include strategies for reaping the benefits of the country's unique 'demographic dividend' and job creation to address the unemployment problem.
Demographic dividend is the opportune advantage of a country's population dynamics when the young and economically productive population emerges the largest segments of the total population. India is at such a stage now.
With the unique demographic advantages and guided efforts, India is poised to position itself among developed economies within the next 10–15 years. This will happen only if India's young and productive work force is adequately educated and appropriately trained in the emerging manufacturing service activities. Without a long term initiative like NEP the productive manpower will rust away.
The Modi government does not want to miss this great opportunity to transform India. It needs the right type of manpower aptly educated and trained to enter new technological areas being opened up under initiatives like 'Make in India', 'Digital India', solar energy enterprises and the like. And the new NEP is a crucial component of that concern.
The government has already set up the Ministry of Skill Development, the nodal authority to train 500 million youth for various employment opportunities by 2020. The training also has to cover skilling the excess manpower in India's farm sector to facilitate their redeployment in manufacturing.
Vested religious interests and leftist elements posing as defenders of secularism have already mounted a strident campaign that the new policy under works would be nothing but an attempt to "saffronize the education sector". While speaking on the NEP in the Rajya Sabha, Congress member and former education minister Kapil Sibal said the government was trying to impose its "ideology" as he asked it to "dump this draft in the dustbin."
They are offended even by the policy input paper referring to the need for a 'value based education system' in the country and acknowledging inspiration from India's ancient knowledge transmission heritage beginning from the Vedas.
Dismissing the saffronization charges, the new HRD minister stated that education ought not be reduced to a BJP versus Congress feud or be subjected to party politics. He said the new policy would help "raise the quality and encourage innovation" through education.

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Jawaharlal Nehru Education reforms in Independent India have a long but tardy history. Country's first education minister Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad rightly advocated a uniform educational system with strong central government authority to address the problems of illiteracy and backwardness. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru overlooked the illiteracy issues but focussed on higher education, culminating in setting up the modern Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Nehru's neglect of the education sector has been famously commented upon by Sam Pitroda, technology advisor to two Prime Ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Pitroda remarked that had Nehru diverted the funds of just one of his mega steel plants to primary school education, illiteracy and abject poverty could have got eradicated in the first two or three Five Year Plans. He said it is sad that it did not happen. The first full-fledged NEP was put in place by Indira Gandhi in 1968 after the Kothari Commission recommendations. The policy called for fulfilling the constitutional stipulation of compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14.
Indira Gandhi's NEP also advocated teaching of Sanskrit to all school going children as it is the mother language to almost all present day Indian languages, and remains the strongest pillar of the country's culture and heritage. Now if the Modi government's NEP mentions Sanskrit, it would be a 'communal' and 'saffron conspiracy' for the secularists. The Rajiv Gandhi government brought in another NEP in May 1986, harping for "special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalise educational opportunity," especially for Indian women and weaker sections.
The new NEP promises to end the discrimination in educational access to the economically and socially deprived groups. The Modi government realizes that the entire potential workforce, including women and weaker religious and caste groups, have to be brought into the production sector through unhindered educational opportunities to reap the full advantages of economic development.
Many points in the new NEP policy inputs seek to pick up on the earlier policy aspects left unimplemented. The raft of measures suggested for the new NEP tries to address the significant shortcomings in the education system. It says, "Though India has made significant progress in terms of enhancing access to and participation in all levels of education, the overall picture of education development in the country is mixed".
The school education sector is in disarray. Rural schools continue to be primitive, often functioning in the open or under the trees. Money sharks dominate in urban school education imparting.
The Indian higher education system is one of the largest in the world. But the quality of universities and colleges and the education they offer are far from satisfactory. The number of highquality institutions is limited. For higher education and professional courses, elites always invariably send their children abroad.