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Crisis in higher education in Punjab; Can Congress Govt. correct Punjab's Education System ?

Chandigarh : The higher education sector of Punjab is in a crisis, and is primarily an outcome of the injudicious policy and perspective of the state government embraced during the economic reforms era. The neo-liberal philosophy, which was adopted in India in 1991, inter alia, pronounces a decline in the role of the government and public spending across the board, and increasing the role of profit-pursuing private actors in every domain. The main developments in higher education in Punjab during this period that led to the crisis are as follows:

Weakening of public subsidisation: Public expenditure on higher education in the state dropped significantly during the neo-liberal period in terms of relative priorities, i.e. (a) as proportion of the net state domestic product (NSDP), (b) as proportion of total budgetary expenditure of the state, (c) proportion allocated to higher education out of total education budget. For instance, the public expenditure on higher education as a proportion of the NSDP has declined from 0.47 per cent in 1991-92 to 0.38 per cent in 2014-15 (as per Ministry of Human Resource data), while it should have been increased to at least 1.5 per cent (as per the recommendations of Kothari Commission and Central Advisory Board of Education). These cuts have far-reaching repercussions in terms of depletion of quantity and quality of human and non-human inputs.

Rapid enlargement of higher education in the private sector, but lacking in quality: As per the recent National Sample Survey (NSS) data, the private players have become the major higher education providers in Punjab (their student share is approximately 71 per cent, and that of government institutions  29 per cent). This suggests that the major expansion of higher education during this period has been in the private sector. The private sector is playing a noteworthy role in plugging the gap between demand for higher education and its decelerating supply by the government. 
Moreover, the average quality of educationbeing delivered to students in the state is exceptionally below par. Not only inadequate faculty, but also inadequately qualified faculty are the main reasons for the low quality in the state. This predicament, although also prevalent in government  institutions, is particularly severe in private ones. As per the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations, an assistant professor should have a masters degree and also cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by the UGC etc. But the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) audit (2017) reveals that 123 assistant professors in two private universities of Punjab are graduates, just as two full-fledged professors in another case.

Cost recovery by enhancing fees and funds: Albeit education in India de jure is a not-for-profit pursuit, private universities and colleges run like business houses, charging exorbitant fees from students. The CAG audit (2017) has, from inspection of private colleges affiliated with Punjabi University, Patiala, found that a large number of them charged fee much in excess of the prescribed fees, violating UGC regulations. Similar is the scenario of the other private colleges. 

The picture in state private universities is further forbidding. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had to recently intervene on the high fee structure (vis-à-vis the government capped level) of a medical university.  Further, under this market-driven dispensation, a swing to market mechanisms in the government institutions through the introduction of self-financing courses has also been witnessed.  
The repercussions of these developments are the inequality of opportunity in access to higher education and the exclusion of the economically disadvantaged sections.  
4Weakening prominence of general courses: There is a tendency in private enterprises to go for course that are commercially most worthwhile. The latest NSS datasets establish that private universities and colleges in the state are predominantly providing education in professional courses. This is leading to the disappearance of some of imperative disciplines of study, viz. humanities and sciences. 

Infringement of rules and regulations: Several deficiencies in the process of establishment of private universities and colleges have also been reported. The CAG audit (2017), on checking the records in the office of the Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Punjab, found that though the sub-committee did not recommend the establishment of certain private universities after their physical inspection, the universities have been established in violation of the rules. The issue of establishment of private universities/colleges without obtaining approval of change of land use (CLU), etc has also been observed.

The prevailing paradigm in Punjab can be summarised as one that identifies higher education as a private good, which suggests that the state government has a short-term perspective with regard to it. 

Thus, it is important to re-introduce the pre-1991 long-term vision, which recognises the crucial role of higher education for socio-economic development of a nation (ie recognises the merit good nature of higher education). This will also lead to a considerable growth in public spending on higher education which will not only lead to quantitative as well as qualitative expansion of the system, but also enhance equity which is particularly lacking in professional education. Moreover, given that the private sector is needed to supplement the public sector, it is important to regulate these institutions by effective apparatuses of authority as well as developing a culture of ethics among these education providers.

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Haryana : INLD, BSP tie up for LS, Assembly polls; Will this alliance change the govt in Haryana ?

Chandigarh : The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) announced a tie-up for next year’s parliamentary and state Assembly elections here.

Abhay Chautala, INLD leader and Leader of Opposition, and Meghraj Singh, incharge of BSP affairs for Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, asserted that the primary aim of the alliance was keep the BJP and Congress out of power.

“The INLD and BSP have resolved that the country needs to be rid of both the BJP and the Congress. While the Congress has been guilty of massive corruption, the BJP had led the country towards violent inter-community and inter-communal conflicts with a view to polarising society,” Abhay alleged.

The two parties were determined to champion the cause of Dalits, farmers and labour classes with a view to providing a credible alternative in the state and forming a Third Front at the Centre, they said. The seat-sharing arrangement would be announced at a later stage, they said.

Meghraj announced that Tek Chand Sharma, lone BSP legislator in the state, had been suspended from the party. Sharma had been extending outside support to the BJP government in the state.

The INLD and the BSP had contested the 1998 Lok Sabha elections in alliance and BSP candidate Aman Nagra had won from Ambala.

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6-year-old raped in UP’s Siddharthnagar; Is UP safe for Girl Childs ?

Siddharthnagar (Uttar Pradesh) : After the gruesome Kathua and Unnao cases shook the nation, another rape case came to the fore on Thursday involving a six-year-old in Uttar Pradesh’s Siddharthnagar.

A six-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a villager in Siddharthnagar area when she stepped out of her house to watch a ‘baraat’ procession.

The accused lured the girl into the fields and raped her. She was found lying unconscious out of the village.

The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested the culprit who executed the act.

This comes amid an outrage over the Kathua and Unnao rape cases that have taken the country by a storm.

An eight-year-old girl was allegedly raped, tortured, drugged, and murdered by eight men in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir in January this year.

The details of the rape-murder revealed by the chargesheet have triggered public and political outrage in various parts of the country, as many are calling for speedy justice in the case.

BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar has been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the alleged rape of 18-year-old-girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.

The victim’s family had also alleged that the accused MLA’s brother, Atul Singh Sengar, along with his companions also raped the girl and thrashed the victim’s father on April 3 for refusing to withdraw the FIR over the same. Later, victim’s father died in the police custody.

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Security up in Pathankot after suspected terrorist movement; Is the country's security key issue ?

Pathankot : Security has been beefed up and search operations are being carried out around the border belt of Punjab, particularly in Pathankot district, following reports of terrorist movement in the vicinity.  

Acting on a tip-off on Thursday morning, the security forces immediately spread out in large numbers and searched various locations in the region.
The ITI building, where the suspects were reportedly spotted, was also thoroughly checked.

Suspicious men stopped a Maruti Alto car belonging to a Maskin Ali late on Sunday night asking for a lift. However, Ali who was with his relatives, suspected that the hitchhikers could be terrorists; hence he left the car and ran away.

Ali later informed Punjab Police about the same after which the search operation was launched on Monday morning.

“Some men claiming to be a part of Army asked me for a lift. I let them in but soon realised they weren’t armymen. As we tried to escape they attacked us, during our tussle they fled with my car. We informed police about this at night (on Sunday) itself,” Ali said.

Talking to ANI, Inspector General Border Zone SPS Parmar said, “There were such inputs since past three to four days that some suspicious movement has been spotted. We reacted accordingly but till now nothing substantial has been found. We are collaborating with other agencies too and the search is on.”
The security has been beefed up and check posts have been alerted.

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HUDA residents protest enhancement charges; Is the issue of enhancement troubling the government ?

Hisar : Wearing black clothes and carrying black flags, residents of different sectors of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) here on Tuesday took out a protest demonstration against enhancement charges being imposed on them.
The residents alleged that the Chief Minister had promised them to organise a meeting of HUDA officials and representatives of the HUDA Residential Welfare Associations (RWAs) to sort out the issue within 15 days.

District RWA president Dalbir Kirmara said that they had met the Chief Minister during his visit to the town on April 2. “Despite the Chief Minister’s assurance to hold a joint meeting on the issue, we have not got any response from HUDA and the state government. We have no option but to intensify our agitation to the state level. It’s a wake-up call for the authorities,” Kirmara said.

Later, ADC AS Maan met the protesters at Dabra Chowk and accepted the memorandum of their demands. The ADC said that the administration would send the demands to the state government for further consideration.

Haryana Sectors’ Confederation convener Yashvir Malik said that they would gherao the residence of HIsar MLA Kamal Gupta on April 19 if the government fails to respond to their demands. He said that they had also called a state-level meeting in Jind on April 19 to chart out further course of action.

Members from Rohtak, Jind, Kaithal, Sirsa, Hisar, Bhiwani, Rewari, Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Bahadurgarh, Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonepat, Karnal, Panipat and Kurukshetra would attend the meeting, he added.

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