Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/logos.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

About Guest Post Takshashila

Author Archive | Guest Post Takshashila

Towards 24×7 Electricity Supply in Andhra Pradesh

The emergence of Andhra Pradesh as a power surplus state is a testament to the cooperation between the Union and State governments.


Image courtesy of The Hindu

By Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

The AP Reorganisation Act – 2014 put the state of Andhra Pradesh at a huge disadvantage with its provisions that favoured more power supply to the state of Telangana. As a result, the state faced a capacity loss of 1,142 megawatts (MW) and an annual energy shortage of 8,700 mega units (MU). After the reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh, the state had a total generation capacity of 8,307 MW (as per power allocation), 6.9% of energy deficit and 17.6% of peak deficit units.

The major thermal power stations (Dr. N. Tata Rao TPS, Rayalaseema TPS, and Simhadri TPS) had coal stocks lower than the specified critical levels, not lasting for more than a day. The finances of the DISCOMS too did not look encouraging. The higher purchase power agreements rate and lower power tariffs led to a debt of Rs. 11,000 crores, and the capital expenditure loans and bond-related liabilities came to about Rs. 3,700 crores to the DISCOMS. The interests on these debts burden the DISCOMS with Rs. 330 crores annually. Lastly, the average per unit price was around Rs. 7.30, burdening both consumers, and the government.

Energy resources

Andhra Pradesh has negligible sources of non-renewable energy. No coal deposits exist, and the crude oil and natural gas reserves are estimated at 13.19 million tonnes and 48.44 billion cubic meters respectively. Though the sources of renewable energy estimated at 54,916MW, look promising, only 2192.6MW of this electricity produced is connected to the grid. Thus, the infrastructure is not available to harness renewable energy to produce electricity for consumption in the state.

Power for All

In addition to the lack of energy resources ailing DISCOMs and the poor state of power sector, the growing energy and peak demand are estimated to be 82,392 MU and 13,436 MW respectively by FY2018–19. Together, these issues presented significant challenges to put the State’s power sector back on track. Without dodging a bullet, both the State and Union governments got to the bottom of the issues, and jointly came up with the “Power for All” initiative to provide reliable 24×7 power to the domestic, industrial and commercial consumers, supply 9 hours per day of electricity to the agricultural consumers, electrification of all unconnected households, augmentation of generation and distribution capacity to meet the projected demand, and keep the transmission and distribution losses to a minimum.

This ambitious “Power for All” initiative requires resolve and a systematic approach from both governments to ensure fuel resources for thermal and gas-based power plants, electrification of all households in the state, and the financial turnaround of the DISCOMs.

The first challenge is to address the unavailability of energy or fuel resources. In the last two years, the coal supply to power plants has significantly improved with the coal stocks’ availability ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months of consumption per power plant. Additionally, coal reserves of approximately 930 million tonnes were allotted to the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The domestic coal suppliers have certain constraints to match the demand of thermal power plants in Andhra Pradesh. Keeping this in mind, Andhra Pradesh is permitted to import coal stocks of 3-5 metric tonnes per annum till 2019. The LNG fuel is available to generate only 500MW of the 2770MW of installed LNG based power plants in the state. These initiatives are taken by the Union to allocate gas in a phased manner to all power plants before 2019.

The second priority is electrification of un-electrified households and strengthening the systems of distribution and transmission networks, and improving the electricity access in rural and urban areas. A sum of Rs. 899.8 crores was sanctioned through the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for rural areas, and Rs. 653.95 crores were sanctioned under Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for urban areas. The funds from IPDS were reserved to establish IT-enabled data, disaster recovery and customer care centres, and improve meter-based billing and efficiency in collections.

The Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) provided benefits of Rs. 4,200 crores during the turnaround period, saving Rs. 330 crores to the DISCOMS annually. Further, the state DISCOMS will enjoy a benefit of Rs. 6,200 crores every year post-turnaround period.

Apart from these, to meet the immediate power requirements, the Union Ministry of Power is providing 525MW of power to Andhra Pradesh from the Central Generating Stations. At the power exchange, average price per unit is less than Rs. 3.00. The Andhra Pradesh government has benefitted by procuring 385MW from the power exchange.

The sustained efforts from both the governments led to 100% electrification in the state, an increase in per capita power consumption to 982 units, reduction of the transmission and distribution losses to 9%, addition of 4,265MW of installed power, and reduction of the energy and peak shortages to nil.

The assistance from the Union Ministry of Power has been valuable in realising 24×7 power supply to all domestic, commercial and industrial consumers in Andhra Pradesh.

[Views in this article belong to the author. It is part of a blog series tracking governance in the reorganised Andhra state]

Revendra is a Bangalore based student of Public Policy and tweets at Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

Comments { 0 }

Colombia’s Path to Peace

REUTERS/John Vizcaino

REUTERS/John Vizcaino

By Swati Sudhakaran

The historic collapse of an almost-historic peace accord

A mere formality gone wrong?

The citizens of Colombia just voted out what could have been an historic peace accord to end the war ravaging their country for the last 50 years. The plebiscite was supposedly just another box to be ticked in the checklist to get the peace accord in action – a fait accompli. The result however, makes one question if the aggressive selling of the plebiscite is what led to its defeat. The dismal voter turnout –less than 37%– and the ‘No’ camp’s victory by a slight martin says a lot about people’s perceptions on the decision making process and its execution in the country.

What was the war about?

The war began as a tussle between the Colombian government and the left wing guerrilla group FARC – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. FARC rose from the remnants of La Violencia period of agrarian rural warfare that gripped Colombia in the 1920s. Although the conflict had its share of socio-political and economic factors, the aim of achieving social justice led the communist FARC to adopt gruesome tactics like drug trafficking and child soldiering, which eventually resulted in their loss of popularity.

The American government, then led by President John. F. Kennedy, established a Peace Corp to counter the civil disturbance in the country. This move became highly counterproductive as ‘volunteers’ of the Corp, who were tasked to help the natives in education and agricultural development, began collaborating with American mafia, leading to a growth of cocaine and narcotics.

The network and the will of FARC soldiers to keep the fight on however has seen significant downfall in recent years. In 2002, the number of FARC soldiers was near 20,000 but recent studies show them to have dwindled down to 6000-7000. Discontent and hope to rejoin the society is high among FARC soldiers who just want to lead ‘normal lives’ again.

REUTERS/Juan B. Diaz

REUTERS/Juan B. Diaz

The Peace Accord

The peace talks began in 2012 in Cuba, between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader and negotiator Timoleon Jiminez. After going back and forth for 4 years, both parties reached consensus in 2016. They finally arrived at a 6-point plan to formalise the ceasefire, which would have confirmed that the weapons possessed by FARC would be “beyond use”.

According to the 297-page agreement, the FARC leaders had agreed to handover their weapons and be monitored by UN inspectors. Additionally, a political party would be formed which would have 10 seats assured in the Congress during the 2018 and 2022 elections.

Amnesty would be granted to FARC members who confessed their crimes i.e. instead of facing prison, they would engage in social work – helping victims, de-mining war zones, repairing damaged infrastructure etc.

So why did the people vote No?

The ‘No’ wasn’t a denial for the peace accord but for the terms under which it was being finalized. The local phrase in trend to comment on the accord was “swallowing toads”. People felt betrayed by the thought that the FARC leaders who committed grave crimes against humanity would not serve any jail time.

Former President Alvaro Uribe, leader of the ‘No’ campaign whose father was slain by the FARC, said that people wanted justice and not impunity for FARC leaders. While his military approach to deal with the rebels was the reason they agreed to the peace talks in the first place, Uribe feels that the present accord is in need of major corrections to serve the interests of citizens.

Social media also played a huge role in yielding influence. Many have blamed it for being a platform of misinformation spreading false stories that the state of Colombia, post the accord, would be much like Venezuela where narco-traffickers work hand in hand with the government or that it would usher in a communist regime in Colombia.

Homophobia and gender insensitivity could also be a reason, as many voters were supposedly against the gender provisions made in the accord, especially the LGBTQ segments. A sub-commission on gender and women issues had submitted its suggestions on reintegration methods of female FARC soldiers into society. Their points had found a place in the accord but the strong opinion circulating in the media was that these issues were not urgent and could be tackled under a separate slab.

The campaigning style of the two camps was a crucial factor. The Santos government actually put forth questions that were biased to the accord and increased pressure by retorting to statements in ads, that those voting No would be supporting the continuation of war.

The No camp could effectively communicate to people, in simple messages about the dangers of the peace accord while the Yes camp could never really portray its benefits. This goes on to show how manipulation works in modern democracy. Under the garb of political assertion of masses, leaders work the questions in a certain way to elicit certain responses.

The Nobel Twist

The announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize just days after the failure of the peace accord is a positive development for Santos. Awarded in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to Colombia, the Nobel provides much needed strength to his cause. The award is also a tribute to the victims of the conflict and to all parties that cooperated in the peace talks. The Nobel Prize also implicitly shows the support of the international community to be with the Santos government.

What Next?

As uncertainty looms over the next course of action for the Colombian government, the FARC-EP has maintained its stance on keeping peace. However, with FARC leaders thinking that they have already given too many concessions, the possibility of them agreeing for jail term for their members seems highly unlikely.

Though the Santos government is quite unpopular now, Santos still has command over the congress and can still garner support with the right strategy. The recent meeting of Uribe and Santos after almost 6 years to discuss the changes in the accord is a major step-up in the process.

Even if the renegotiated peace accord gets voted through by the people, problems for the government won’t stop there. There are numerous issues to be confronted even then such as reintegration of FARC soldiers, some of them children, into society. To make those who have only known a life of violence abide by rules and follow societal norms will be a mammoth task.

But let’s not jump the gun. This time the government must keep aside the haste and arrogance portrayed last time and work on an inclusive accord and democratically fair plebiscite.

Swati Sudhakaran is a student of the Masters in Public Policy Programme, jointly run by the Takshashila Institution and Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Comments { 0 }

How Media is Feeding the Jingo Nationalism

By Dr. Suma Singh

India @70 – as a nation we are celebrating the various facets of the historic seventy years of life as an independent nation. The story however is a mixed bag of hits and misses, tales of indomitable spirit and success which have brought smiles on our faces and tears in times of adversity. But in these seventy years we have also managed to create a media industry which seems to believe it is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Primetime on leading channels has become more of agenda warfare and propaganda. Interspersed with nationalistic jingo, our television anchors have taken up the cause of being the first on the line of control and seem to display raw patriotism more than our defence forces.

Post Uri tragedy, electronic media seems to have decided that war is the best form of revenge and the entire media machinery is devoted to the cause of whipping war frenzy, what with talk of a war-room in South Block. The few sane voices which have appeared on the various shows have been muzzled by the vocal power of the anchors and warmongers. Call for a military reply to the dastardly attack is not taking into consideration the ground reality. We may have one of the largest armed forces in the world but they are bogged down by the chinks in the armour like the outdated and poorly maintained weaponry and a large number of fighter planes and ships that are not serviceable, according to a report in 2014 by IHS Jane, a defence publication. The larger issue is how war may take us back by a couple of years and derail the economic achievements of the last twenty five years.

Another exasperating story on primetime in leading English news channels was the issue of banning Pakistani artists from Indian entertainment industry. The argument was taken to ridiculous extents when a prominent news anchor wondered why the heartthrob of millions across both sides of the border, Fawad Khan, would not tweet to condemn the dastardly attack on the army camp in Uri when he made crores in India. Firstly, can you imagine a Tendulkar or Bachchan Sr. tweeting and condemning any action of the government and defence forces on the ground of humanism?! The backlash they will face will be led by the same electronic media and anchors. Secondly, people to people contact is the need of the hour, more so as it makes us appreciate the common roots the two nations share. If a jihadi factory has emerged in Pakistan it is largely to be blamed at the educational system which has painted all Indians as kafirs and nurtured generations of youth on anti-India propaganda. India should not fall into the same trap and become a nurturing ground for hatred as this will backfire on us given our large minority population.

As Indians, a Uri and Pathankot hurts us but we cannot be swayed by pure emotions and allow media to set the agenda for Government responses and decisions. To quote Albert Einstein “Nationalism is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression” and this seems so apt for the nationalism which electronic media is whipping up today. War makes for good TRPs but at what cost? Electronic Media must behave in a more constrained responsible manner and reasonable voices must be heard out.

Dr. Suma Singh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru

Comments { 2 }

The Lampost Framework: Why India Struggles With the Implementation of (some) Reforms

The ecosystem for implementation of reforms in India is structurally setup to solve acute, visible problems, but not chronic issues that require long-term monitoring.

By Akshay Alladi (@akshayalladi)

In much of our public policy discourse, many Indians are dismissive of state capacity. Much of what is run or managed by the state is shoddy- shabby hospitals, poor schools, crumbling roads and only intermittent power.

However, on closer examination, there are some areas where the Indian state’s performance is not just adequate, but indeed quite spectacular. Conducting elections in a free and fair manner, the eradication of polio through one of the largest public health programs in the world etc. are remarkable achievements.

Consider the case of polio eradication: The campaign was started only in 1995, and the total coverage of the target population was 99.7%! The WHO has now declared India to be totally polio free. Just a decade ago, the universal vaccination coverage in a state like Bihar was only 30%

What explains this seeming paradox?

If you look at it, a pattern emerges of the sorts of reforms the Indian state implements well, and what it doesn’t. The state manages to get several children into school, but fares very poorly on learning outcomes. It has been very successful in the eradication of diseases such as polio, but does badly on delivering healthcare in general. With the Mangalyaan mission it managed to reach Mars at an incredibly low cost, but struggles in delivering high quality science education to a broad mass of people. And as noted by Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen, the Indian state has prevented any famine from occurring in modern India (unlike in China or much of the developing world), but has a very poor track record on malnutrition.

The acute and the chronic

The pattern to note is that the Indian state does relatively well in handling “acute” conditions- that is those that require a specific intervention, for a limited time period, and with a clear, visible goal- which can measured at relatively low cost. The Indian state however struggles with chronic conditions- those that require painstaking management over a longer period of time, and where success is not as readily visible, so considerable cost and effort is required to measure progress.

The reason in some ways is the nature of Indian democracy. In Amartya Sen’s landmark work ”Democracy as Freedom” he asserted ”No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy”, and the reason he adduced was that democratic institutions—regular free and fair elections, independent courts and legislatures, free press and vibrant civil society—are all effective mechanisms of upholding the basic rights of citizens and would prevent a famine by providing effective feedback and pressure on the Government to act.

But why do the same mechanisms then not work in solving problems of a more chronic nature?

The lampost framework

To explain why reforms are difficult to implement in India (as opposed to why they are difficult to formulate and pass) I propose a new model (called the “lampost” framework). This framework  builds off the key concepts of Allison/ Elmore’s models as well as a modified version of Kingdon’s window specific to implementation (see schematic below). To illustrate the framework I use the case of sanitation or open defecation (OD) as an example.


Several initiatives, such as the recent Swachh Bharat, and the earlier Nirmal Bharat and Total Sanitation program (TSP) have sought to eliminate open defecation, but have progressed only on toilet construction, but not on the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) to improve toilet usage. Even now an estimated 600 million Indians defecate in the open, and only 46% of the toilets built in Year 1 of Swachh Bharat are reported to be used.

Explanation based on the framework: Absence of toilets is measurable at low cost, and building toilets is a one time activity addressing an acute issue (shortage of toilets). Hence, both for the media and for the public at large, by bounded rationality there is far greater emphasis on toilet construction and voters are rationally ignorant about toilet usage.

Though the media does highlight non-usage of toilets, such information is anecdotal, just given the high costs of gathering large scale information on toilet usage (a chronic condition). Hence, from a “demand” standpoint  it is easier for agenda setting on toilet construction (which then gets into the window of policy implementation), rather than usage (which is left out of the window).

The “supply” analysis is as follows: As a rational response to the “demand” side, both politicians and the bureaucracy prioritise toilet construction as a visible, measurable win; this is also because the allocation to IEC is lower (in fact it has been reduced to 8% of total funds in Swachh Bharat from an already low 15% earlier).

Given resource constraints the Government also cannot get a new, specialized implementation workforce focused on IEC- e.g., out of 76,108 Swachhata Doots required, only 8890 were recruited, the Communication and Capacity Development Units (CCDUs) that were supposed to implement this did not have dedicated staff, and had multiple objectives (Source: Arghyam Trust).

Hence the ‘bureaucratic actor’ who has multiple objectives, but not the commensurate capacity, rationally deprioritises the part that is less funded, and less measured- i.e., IEC. As an example of this behavior, in Himachal Pradesh IEC was initially prioritised with very good results for toilet usage, but as central allocation (and measurement) became far higher for construction, the bureaucracy prioritised construction, reversing the gains on sanitation.

The top down design of the sanitation program, also gave the line level bureaucracy very little autonomy or say in the policy design (as shown by the Himachal example)- hence from an Organizational Development standpoint the motivation to implement is lowered.

IEC and on-going toilet usage also depends on the last mile of the state- most of whose members are drawn from the same society who share the same prejudices about sanitation and are hence imperfect agents of change in social behaviour.

Finally, the activities of on-going maintenance and monitoring require coordination between multiple agencies. For example to build and maintain running water in the toilets, local officials must cooperate across more than 10 departments to obtain the relevant information, inputs and clearances as well as work with citizens and panchayats. These departments all have different objectives and priorities, and hence implementation for on-going maintenance is much more challenging.

I call this the “lampost” framework after the droll story about the medieval philosopher Nasruddin Hodja; when Hodja lost his keys he famously looked for them only under the lampost even though he likely dropped them elsewhere, because as he reasoned- what is the use of looking for something in the dark where it cannot be seen anyway! Much of the decision making in the Indian policy making is governed by the same principle- which explains the focus on visible wins that will be noted by the media, and hence the people, as opposed to the intervention that is likelier to have impact but is harder to measure.

This framework explains why India is good at solving acute issues/ crises/ one-time goals such as preventing famine (as Amartya Sen showed) or eradicating polio, but bad at implementing policies to address chronic issues that require sustained implementation and monitoring such as sanitation, malnutrition etc.

Akshay works in the e-commerce industry, and was a management consultant serving clients in the financial services and Government spaces. He is also an alumnus of the Takshashila GCPP13 Cohort.

Comments { 0 }

Panacea For Cancer

By Shambhavi Naik

It’s a beautiful morning, where I proceed to unlock my phone to see the various ‘good morning’ messages on my WhatsApp. Amidst a host of forwards, I spot the latest one which tells me about the ‘amazing’ anti-cancer properties of bananas bearing black spots on their skin.

These spots, the message says, contain a protein that can prevent cancers. Now, I usually ignore such forwards, but this message was scientifically illogical at so many levels that I was prompted to reply. But more importantly, it got me thinking of the reason why such forwards make rounds so frequently; against the dread of cancer, any hope of prevention or cure is welcome news indeed. Every few days we come across articles claiming that the panacea for cancer has been discovered. It is true that cutting-edge research is being carried out to find a one-stop cancer treatment, but really, how close are we to it? I started my postgraduate research in cancer in 2006 with the utopian idea of finding the cure (and hopefully, winning the Nobel Prize in the process). After a few years of active research, I realized that the notion of finding an all-out cure for cancer might be impractical.

Instead I was reposed to ask another question: do we really need a pill that would cure all cancers? We are currently spending significant amounts of effort and money trying to figure out this panacea; but is the killing of the last remnants of cancer really so essential to warrant the scope of ongoing studies? A critical point to understand here is that having cancer cells in the body does not mean a person will immediately die. (Equally important is to take into perspective the fact that not having cancer does not make one immortal).

Let us take a practical approach to this: when does a cancer become a problem to the body? Cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells which have lost their ability to correctly function. However, it is only when essential functions start getting affected, that we may realize that something is wrong with the body. Cancer cells are formed in our body nearly everyday, but these get killed or do not grow enough to cause trouble. But only when they start overtaking the healthy cells in the lung, does our breathing get affected.

So the question is, should our research really focus on managing cancer rather than trying highly aggressive methods to kill each and every cancer cell present in the body? At the molecular level, cancer is a fairly complicated disease. Not only is each person’s cancer different, but cells within the same patient’s disease are also not the same. What this simply means is that when we treat a person with one drug, it might not kill all of the cancer cells. Hence, doctors prefer giving patients multiple drugs. A common problem with most drugs is that they cannot distinguish between normal and cancer cells and result in all sorts of side-effects. A way to tackle this issue is to give drugs that would target the underpinning cancer-causing mechanism of the cells.

This approach has yielded promising results and is reforming cancer therapy into a personalized regime where each person’s cancer is mapped and treated correspondingly. A major success story has been Novartis’ Gleevec in the treatment of a certain type of leukemia. But this is not as easy as it seems – finding the cancer-driver is like finding a needle in a hay stack. This is also complicated by the heterogeneity of cancer; that is, not all cells within the cancer will have the same driver. And if this was not enough, the property that makes a cancer really dangerous is its ability to evolve. Cancer cells follow Charles Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” rule to the book and show a capacity to overcome most stresses thrown at them. This explains why a cancer reappears after extensive chemotherapy – some cells adapt to survive the chemotherapy and eventually grow out even in the presence of drugs. Another way to look at this is, what comes out of an aggressive therapy regime is probably a worse cancer than its predecessor. This also feeds into why I think finding the one-stop cure for cancer is impractical. As Dr. Malcolm says, “Life, uh… finds a way”.

But then, the question remains on how do we tackle cancer? In a nutshell, cancer is a genetic disease with strong effects on physiology and social facets of an individual. However, we see that different factions of our healthcare system; the physicians, scientists and social care workers approach this disease as individual groups and rarely engage in crosstalk. For treating such a complex and evolving disease, it is essential that a more holistic approach be implemented. It is particularly important that goals of these groups be aligned: to reiterate, the goal of treatment should be to make the patient cancer-free (preferably and this now works in select types of tumors) but with minimal compromise on their standard of life post-therapy. Simply damaging a patient’s system with a host of drugs to get rid of all cancer cells cannot be a good way forward. The approach should encompass picking up the cancer at an early stage, assessing the cancer pathology and following up post treatment.

The most successful treatment for cancer is surgery, that is, to remove the tumor mass completely before it spreads. For this, it is important to catch the tumor early on – increased access to screening and an awareness of its importance are critical for identifying cancer patients at an early stage. Basic research in cancer has to focus on effective delivery of existing drugs, identifying key cancer drivers and biomarkers which can diagnose cancer before it becomes pathological. An increased co-ordination between doctors and scientists is a pivotal point in delivering expert and efficient cancer treatment. There are multiple options for treating cancer patients currently; what is needed now is a more focused and directed approach. Emphasis needs to be given to create awareness towards development in the cancer field to alleviate fear regarding cancer. A stronger role played by the media to correctly communicate developments of cancer treatments is required to prevent raising false hopes amongst the public.

Coming back to incorrect and misinterpreted information, I will conclude with what is wrong with the banana WhatsApp message. Firstly, if a protein is present in the skin of the banana, it’s not going to get into your tummy by eating the banana. Secondly, if the protein does find its way to your tummy, it will get broken down into its constituent building blocks by enzymes. So, the protein is not going to enter into your blood or reach the cancer cells at all. Thirdly (and most importantly) the protein that the WhatsApp message talks about is in fact known to do both block and cause cancer. This is true of many food products, where contradicting studies show prevention or causation of cancer. Please take these studies with a pinch of salt and let common sense prevail when making lifestyle choices. The take home message here is that instead of waiting for the perfect cure/prevention to arrive, we have to better channelize our existing knowledge to get a more effective regime to prevent and manage cancer.

Shambhavi is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution

Comments { 1 }

Andhra Pradesh: Prosperity through ports

By Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

The pre-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh governments focused extensively on the Hyderabad-centric development of IT, pharmacy and manufacturing sectors, and overlooked the potential offered by the vast 940-kilometer coastline. In 2014, the successor state was left with one major port — Visakhapatnam, and though 14 non-major ports were notified —  only 4 non-major ports — Kakinada (deep and anchorage), Gangavaram, Krishnapatnam and Ravva are operational. The ports were operating at 65% of their total capacity, and their snail-paced expansion coupled with the failure to add the complementary facilities did not provide distinct advantages to tap this sector, and generate immediate revenues.

Coastline and the distribution of Ports in States of India

Coastline and the distribution of Ports in States of India

Cargo handled

In 2013–14, the Vishakhapatnam Port and the non-major ports handled cargo of 59 and 58.94 MT respectively. Based on the cargo handled state-wise, the non-major ports of Andhra Pradesh stood second and the Visakhapatnam port stood fourth in India, together handling 12.25% of (117MT) of the total cargo moved through the sea in India. The total cargo handled by non-major ports from the state was increased to 71.3 and 72.7 MT in FY2014–15 and FY2015–16 respectively. While the current capacity of these non-major ports is 180 MT, over the next few years, the projected 707 MT of total capacity will be added these ports.

Total Cargo handled

Vision to develop economy through the ports

Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog proposed a Shenzhen-style Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ) on the eastern coast near deep-draft ports. Fortunately, the state has three deep draft ports — Vishakhapatnam (16.5 m), Krishnapatnam Port (18.5 m) and Gangavaram Port (20.2 m) — which can attract bulk cargo. If the opportunities are exploited, the cargo movement for ports in Andhra Pradesh is estimated to constitute 10% GSDP by 2024 and 12% GSDP by 2030. The Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) is planning to develop 18 ports — 6 currently operational, 6 under development, and 6 identified, to act as a gateway to East and South East Asian regions, and is envisaging to compete with Singapore as a ‘Logistics Hub’. In addition to handling cargo throughput of over 1000 MT a year, GoAP is working towards developing few ports for ship building and repairs.

To realise this vision, the GoAP passed the Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board Bill that was pending since 2005. After drafting policies, and getting the legislative and cabinet approvals, the focus has shifted on short- and long-term activities to boost quantum of cargo conveyed, and encourage associated sectors to invest and grow in the state. Four of the initiatives pursued by GoAP are worth mentioning.

  • First, connect and improve existing railways and roadways (four lanes and two lanes) to these ports.
  • Second, attract existing domestic manufacturing firms to export from these ports, especially from the neighbouring states of Telangana, and Chhattisgarh, and promote export-oriented domestic industries in the state. Kakinada port, the nearest to Telangana, is poised for growth in petrochemicals sector, and will be benefited from the dry port sanctioned at Bibinagar in Nalgonda district. The Visakhapatnam Port Trust is planning to set up dry ports in Telangana and Chhattisgarh, and the highway between Raipur and Visakhapatnam is being widened to four-lanes.
  • Third, the country is dependent on import of petroleum products, coal, iron ore, fertilizers, and other shipments through containers. Development of refineries, Floating Storage Re-gasification Units (FSRU), LNG terminals, etc., along the Andhra coastline, will facilitate the imports from these ports.
  • Fourth, develop multi-modal connectivity, supply chain and logistics infrastructure for efficient usage of ports. To achieve the same, the GoAP is planning to attract investments of Rs. 84,000 crores for ports and shipping industry in the state. Further, GoAP has promised to help acquire land — own or lease, provide fresh water, and power supply to these investing companies.

These initiatives are in line with the priorities of Sagarmala identified by the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India.

Scenario of ports in Andhra Pradesh. Source: Andhra Pradesh Port’s Department

Seizing the opportunities

The ports in Andhra have the potential to become hubs of transshipment for cargo headed towards Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Government of India is also promoting trade between the states on the East Coast and North-Eastern states through Bangladesh. The ports from Andhra are seizing these opportunities. The Krishnapatnam Port is already facilitating the shipments carrying cotton to Chittagong, whereas the Food Corporation of India has shipped 35,000 tonnes of rice from Visakhapatnam port to Tripura via Bangladesh.

The investments, opportunities, and initiatives will undoubtedly transform the trade and commerce activities on the coastline. It will also create jobs, and contribute significantly to the economy of Andhra Pradesh. However, the economy of ports are tightly coupled with the global economy, and a recession may have debilitating effects on the sector. A small shock was experienced by both ports in Kakinada due to fall in the exports. An optimal composition of imports and exports should be identified, trade activities with stable and growing economies must be promoted, and the government should sponsor research in this sector to keep track of trends, risks, and opportunities. Andhra Pradesh is poised to prosper through the developments of ports.

[Views in this article belong to the author. It is part of a blog series tracking governance in the reorganised Andhra state]

By Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

Comments { 0 }

Why Strong Institutions Matter?

By Abhijit Katikaneni 

Brazil is a country with great disparity and destitution, 21.4% of Brazil’s population lies below the poverty line.[1] Brazil employs an open competitive political system but its effects have not been straightforward. Brazil’s education policy’s efficacy at times has been hampered due to its open competitive political system and the number of allies the governing party houses. Has democracy in Brazil endorsed equity-enhancing reforms in the arena of education? Brazil and its policymakers has worked towards equity enhancing reforms with the creation of institutions such as FUNDEF and has been successful to an extent but inequity in the education policy itself creates inequality and further widens the socioeconomic gap. But with the creation of institutions such as FUNDEF Brazil’s population of 21.4% under poverty line could leave the poverty cycle and embark on a prosperity cycle with the aid of education.[2]

I will be highlighting how education policy has been approached in Brazil and then will look at how political actors over a period of time have approached education policy and the challenges in framing policy they’ve faced and will illustrate why it is of utmost importance to provide quality reforms and not access reforms.

Education policy in Brazil: 
Brazilian policymakers have preferred and focused on providing an increase of services in the education sector, aiming for access reform instead of focusing on equity enhancement through a restructuring of the sector. Public schooling at the primary and secondary levels do not promise a high quality education, Brazilian governments traditionally have not held it to be a central concern. Brazil spends 5.1% of its GNP on education in the aggregate however their achievement outcomes are poor by those standards, spending per student on secondary and primary education ranks below most Latin American countries.[3]

With the help of public policy, schooling can be one platform in which one could reduce inequality and make an impact, it should be central to equity enhancing reforms. Public primary and secondary education needs to hold its own and have a strong foundation, as the beneficiaries of public schooling are the poor people as most upper class and middle class Brazilian opt for private schooling. A good education is essential to escaping the poverty cycle. A close link between education and salary levels in the Latin American nations illustrate this.[4]
Education technocrats and politicians have long tried to improve the education sector in Brazil not only to increase welfare but also to enhance and enable Brazil to compete globally.

President Cardoso’s priority was to provide better schooling. However, there has no been social movement targeted at providing high quality public schooling since democracy had been reinstalled. That might be due to low levels of civil society.[5] In other countries, the middle class stresses the importance of high quality education and presses for it whereas in Brazil the middle class has long left public schooling at primary and secondary levels, the middle class is no more a stakeholder. And whereas parents from low education background make demands about the functioning of the school, they don’t press for reform in education.[6] In any case we would expect Brazil to have improvements in outputs and results due to the fact that politicians still have to appeal to the poor. However this is not the case.

The state has increased funding to all three levels of education: primary, secondary, and tertiary by almost 30% since the late 1980’s.[7] An increase in funding can be seen at federal, state and municipal levels. Brazil’s Human development index improved in 2006 and that was largely down to increased access to education.[8] The focus is levied upon the percentage of children between the ages of 7-14 attending school but the quality of education they receive is not taken into account, which is of prime importance.[9] An issue of access reform versus quality reform, focus needs to be levied upon providing quality reform once the goal of access reform has been achieved.

Political hindrances to Policymaking:  
Apart from an increase in spending, other efforts have been made to develop the quality of basic education. The first of these started with Brazils new democratic regime as President Jose Sarney at the helm. However due to the number of political parties in Brazil, patronage oriented allies are common and each of the allies according to their respective agreements with the party control a particular ministry.[10] The Partido da Frente Liberal (PFL) an ally of Jose Sarney controlled the ministry of education; the ministry was ineffective in the mid to late 1980’s. For instance, the education ministry on the base of project proposals presented was to make transfers to states and municipalities, while suffering from low administrative capacity. But the ministry undermined the quality enhancing value of the program and focused on making political qualifications rather than the looking at the projects comprehensiveness, which was the goal. When the PMDB won 25 out of 26 state governorships in 1986,[11] transfers from the ministry to state governments were reduced considerably while transfers to municipal governments as to where Jose Sarney political allies continued to stay strong were increased by 600%. These are the kind of hindrances policymakers face in shaping policy, the goal is to develop institutions such as FUNDEF to bypass such problems. These problems will remain as they are engrained in politics and policy making but the creation of institutions that are independent will help overcome the problems.

FUNDEF under President Cardoso: 
A team of highly devoted reformers under President Cardoso overlooked some improvement with the inception of FUNDEF (Elementary Education Development and Teacher Valorization Fund). FUNDEF’s success was the chief concern they pursued in education. The program is designed to deliver technical assistance and federal funds to municipalities and poorer regions that do not reach their goal of FUNDEF – clear minimum threshold spending per student which is around three hundred reais in 2000 despite reaching their constitutionally allocated budget spending on Education. Municipalities and States that are better off and which spend above their mandated mark are required to subsidize their counter parts who are not performing well. FUNDEF is the most equity-enhancing program in Brazils education system as two-thirds of the benefits go the North and North east.[12] One important difference between reforms employed by President Sarney and President Cardoso was the ability of the ministerial teams commitment to reform and the backing provided by President Cardoso. The ministerial team moved fast and discreetly in order to keep the program on a low and before the stakeholders could estimate their costs the program was passed within a month with the help of a majority backing President Cardoso. By the time opposition formed it was too late and by the 2000’s the results of the program spoke for themselves.

Inequity in possibly Brazils most equity-enhancing sector: 
Possibly the clearest equity-enhancing reform Brazil could pursue would be to redistribute financing among the three levels of the system (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary). Brazil’s spending on higher education is close to the highest in the world, the country spends 4.7% of its GDP on education, one quarter of it is spent on higher education, which enrolls 2% of all students. [13] On a per capita basis, students in universities enjoy more than 2.5 times funding of primary school students.[14] The state having to burden itself by taking the total bill of public universities hinders equity-enhancing reform. Most public university students are middle class and pay nominal fees.[15]Entry to universities is based upon competitive examinations and students who attend public primary schools and secondary schools are underprepared for these examinations due to a lack of quality education. And that is in part due to states having to bear total bills of public universities. No funding goes towards the betterment of public primary and secondary education because the interest groups with around higher education namely university students, their professors are from the middle and upper classes. They are prepared to mobilize against change and the interest groups with low income are not. Governments fear backlash from student protests is they try to put financial burden on them or try reallocate funding from tertiary education to the other two levels which is arguably more important to get people out of the poverty cycle.
The interest groups who stand to benefit from the status quo remaining are stronger than low-income groups that would actually benefit from vital reform.

I have illustrated above that the only way to bypass or overcome the politics for personal gain or to disrupt the status quo is to build institutions such as FUNDEF that facilitate growth from the bottom to top and form human capital and enable low income groups to get out of the poverty trap and kick start a prosperity cycle to lower the percentage below the poverty line. Brazil also needs to relook its policy on the amount of funding tertiary educations gets as that is only helping the ones who do not really need it. Brazil in order to compete globally, reduce poverty and increase human capital need to invest further in public primary and secondary education via institutions.

Abhijit Katikaneni is a student from the GCPP14 batch. He is currently studying international relations at the University of Rochester.

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_policy_in_Brazil

[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2046.html#br

[2] http://www.campaignforeducation.org/docs/reports/brown/EFA%20Report_Low%20Res%20v2.pdf

[3] Draibe, Sonia. 2004. Federal leverage in decentralized system: Education Reform in Brazil

[4] Stallings, Barbara and Wilson Peres. 2000. Growth, employment, and equity: The impact of the Economic reforms in Latin America and the Carribean. Brookings institution Press.

[5] http://bresserpereira.org.br/papers/2000/97After-elite.pdf

[6] Nelson, Joan. 1999. Reforming health and education. Overseas development Council and Johns Hopkins University press.

[7] World bank. 2004. Brazil: Equitable, Competitive, sustainable: Contributions for Debate. Washington DC: world bank.

[8] http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/BRA.pdf

[9] Gitahy, Ana Carolina, and Rafael Pereira. 2003. http://www.jb.com.br/capa/

[10] Cohon, Adam. 2015. International Relation 225. Lecture Feb 9th. University of Rochester.

[11] http://electionresources.org/br/index_en.html

[12] Moura Castro, Cladio de. 2000. Education: Way Behind but trying to Catch up.

[13] Moura Castro, Cladio de. 2000. Education: Way Behind but trying to Catch up.

[14] Unesco Global education digest 2007.

[15] OECD ( 2004, 2007) – socioeconomic profile of public university students in brazil

Comments { 0 }

How is Reorganised Andhra Pradesh doing on the economic front?

By Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

Soon after the formation of a new state government in July 2014, the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) made a careful assessment of the weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities in the State, and noted that

The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has compounded the problems of the residuary State as it is now not only a revenue deficit State but also without an adequate industrial base as well as physical, social and educational infrastructure. Hence, the plan of the new Government is to generate large scale employment and wealth for the people, create a stable industrial ecosystem for sustainable development and catalyse the agriculture sector by bringing synergy with industry for inclusive growth.

In short, Andhra Pradesh is starting from the scratch for becoming an investments destination. Since then, GoAP came up with attractive policies, promoted the brand Andhra Pradesh, and created a conducive business environment. Further, an ambitious target was set — to create 5000 start-ups and establish 100 technology incubators in the state by 2019, and  bring down the approval time for businesses to an average of 14 days in 2016–17, as compared to an average of 21 days in 2015–16. GoAP is aggressively promoting agro & food processing, life sciences (pharma, bio-tech & medical equipments), textile & apparel, electronics & IT, aerospace & defence, automobiles & auto-components, petroleum, chemicals and fertilizers, energy, mining, and leather sectors.

The efforts of the state government have not all been in vain; the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Govt. of India) ranked Andhra Pradesh second in the ease of doing business index. Few months after this ranking, in March 2016, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) published a State Investment Potential report and ranked Andhra Pradesh third among the 30 states in India. In the report, AP was ranked 18th in demand for electricity, 12th and 14th in rail and road density, 14th on ICT readiness index, and 17th on net annual ground water availability. Though the state is limping on poor infrastructure, it was ranked 2nd in the overall economic performance. On political and governance the state confronts the challenges of the Maoist insurgency, increasing economic offences, political leaders with serious criminal charges, and lack of police strength. Most of these governance limitations stem from the post-bifurcation fiscal and administrative issues which will take few years to improve.

While competing well on political and economic indicators, the human resources are ready, offering a huge potential for growth of the state. The recent India Skills Report — 2016  noted that Andhra Pradesh has the best performers in English skills, logical and numerical ability, and computer skills in the age group of 22–25 years. Andhra Pradesh also has the largest pool of employable male and female candidates, and also those willing to take internships, and interest to work within 0–2 lakhs of annual salary. However, the report observed

Though Andhra Pradesh has lot of available, employable talent the industry presence is not that high.

The lack of opportunities to the skilled personnel is visible.

On the ability to attract the investments, a recent article on Times of India noted that between 1991 and 2014 (prior to the dismemberment), Andhra Pradesh has received 4.67% (41,860/ 8,96,000 crores) of total proposed investments. Since 2014, GoAP signed MoUs worth 6 lakh crores for investments of which only 1% of total promised investments were realised. The GoAP’s version is that 800 firms with 5 lakh crore proposals were received in the last 2 years, of which 417 firms with an outlay of 1.23 lakh crores are work in progress. Officials claim that 25,000 crores of investments in health and education sectors are in the pipeline, and 2,000 crores were disbursed for bailing out sick MSMEs in the state. Further, Andhra Pradesh State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) has recently approved proposals worth Rs 9,200 crore (US$ 1.35 billion). Though the GoAP has been toiling and trying all the tricks, the realised investments are disappointing but not disheartening. These lower levels of realised investments may have three implications.

  • First, the political. The opposition has questioned the accuracy of the information on investments, and demanded the release of a white paper on investments flow into the state. The foreign tours of the Chief Minister and other government officials have been criticised widely, and the credibility of the current dispensation will be at stake if the proposed investments fail to materialise.
  • Second, the credibility of the brand Andhra Pradesh. Despite the 2nd rank on ease of doing business index, the investor-friendly policies, and development and growth-oriented government, the lower levels of the realised investments cast doubts over the potential of the brand Andhra Pradesh and the boastful claims of politicians on the investments.
  • Third, the migration of the skilled labour. The slower pace of realised investments suggests that the industrial formation in the state is low leading to the migration of skilled labour to other states or countries, which is further creating a shortage of manpower for the proposed firms recruit and start the operations in the state.

While not questioning the current strategies of pursuing the national and international investors, the administration should improve the bureaucratic capacity to facilitate the investing businesses to start operations and create the jobs. The enthusiasm shown in signing the MOUs for investments will have an impact only when the strategies are executed to materialise the proposed investments.

[Views in this article belong to the author. It is the first part of a blog series tracking governance in the reorganised Andhra state]

By Revendra (@adj_r_squared)

Comments { 0 }

Beginning an era of hiring subsidies

Hiring subsidies may go a long way in generating employment

By Vijaya Krishnappa (@vijayakrsn)

The government in the union budget of 2016-17 has announced several measures to spur employment growth. One of the policy measures is a Hiring subsidy under which the government would contribute towards EPS (Employee Pension Scheme) for all the new employees enrolling in EPFO for the first three years of their employment with an initial allocation of Rs. 1000 crore. Hiring subsidies are demand side labour market interventions that include providing wage subsidies or reduced social security contributions for the employers of the targeted segment.

Currently for employees in the organised sector whose salary is up to Rs. 15000, it is mandatory to contribute 12% of the basic salary to EPF (Employee Provident Fund). A similar amount is being contributed by employer, which is often reflected as a portion of employee’s total salary. The Employer contribution is divided under two heads- 3.67% under EPF and 8.33% under EPS. So for hiring the new employees now the government will contribute to EPS instead of the employers. This would reduce the overall cost of hiring new employees and promoting employment generation.

With an over-ambitious target of creating 100 million new jobs by 2022, it’s an imperative that subsidy regime fuels growth in new jobs creation. While the businesses are increasingly becoming capital intensive the labour intensity is reducing due to improvement in technology and automation. Several economists including Raghuram Rajan, RBI Governor have recently criticized increased reliance on capital subsidies and have suggested instead focusing policy interventions on employment generation.

According to ILO, the number of people seeking jobs in India is expected to increase to 17.6 million in 2017 from 17.5 million people during 2015 and 2016. While the government has been focusing on skilling millions of people, lack of new jobs has reduced the effectiveness of the efforts. A survey done by labour bureau in 2014 indicates that among the people who got formal training from skill centres the unemployment rate was as high as 14.5%. It’s a priority to bridge this gap as any persistent gaps between demand and supply creates economic distortions and incentivises practices which adversely impact on healthy social norms and on social cohesion. While some of the manufacturing jobs are likely to come to India as the cost manufacturing increases, more needs to be done to grow employment and hiring subsidies go a long way in providing required impetus.

Hiring subsidies are distinct as they focus exclusively on creating jobs. They are extensively and successfully employed across several European countries where the policies are designed both to create new jobs as well as sustaining the employment during economic slowdowns. While providing social security contribution is one of the options, the studies indicate that direct wage subsidies are more attractive to employers than any other mechanisms.

In an ordinary course especially in high growth economies such as India, it is likely that firms hire employees in line with the growth of organisations even without subsidies. Subsidising such an employment would only result in a deadweight loss. So this leaves us with the question of how to target such subsidies. The some of the segments to target can comprise of

  • Sectors, which are growing sub-optimally,
  • Regions which require development and
  • Employees who would otherwise are difficult to be hired, such as disabled, women, unskilled, long term unemployed, etc.

While designing the scheme a transparent and balanced system needs to be put in place to address the accountability and administration issues without red-tapism, as any perceived burden by employers may negatively impact the intended outcomes. While hiring subsidies may be introduced it is essential to dovetail them with skilling initiatives, and address the post job issues such as transportation, child care, etc. Design of subsidy and duration has to be optimally set to avoid any negative effect such as displacing ordinary jobs and it needs to be evaluated objectively so as to correct any deadweight effects.

As labour laws become increasingly flexible the role of Hiring subsidies will be vital in sustaining employment generation. With an increasing literacy, reduction in jobs related to agriculture and the government’s target of skilling 400 million people by 2022, a quantum growth in new jobs is an imperative .Future elections are likely to be fought over job growth and hiring subsidies are likely going to be flagship policy interventions of the governments.

Vijaya Krishnappa is a Management Consultant. He is a GCPP alumnus from the 11th cohort. He tweets @vijayakrsn

Comments { 0 }

Budget 2016-17: Are we on the right track on the education front?

by Kaushiki Sanyal (@kaushu)

The 2016-17 Union Budget has allocated Rs 72,394 crore compared to Rs 68,963 crore for last year, which is about 4.9% increase in the education budget. About 4% of the total budget and 0.5% of the GDP is allocated for education. This is a far cry from the 6% of GDP that had been recommended by the education commission set up in 1966 under the chairmanship of D.S. Kothari. We allocate less than not only developed nations such as the U.S. (5.2%), U.K. (5.8%), Japan (3.8%) and Australia (4.9%), we lag behind Brazil (6.3%), Ghana (8.1%), Indonesia (3.6%) and Pakistan (2.5%).

In the last year’s budget, Rs 42,219 crore and Rs 26,855 crore were allocated for school sector and higher education sector, respectively. In this budget, Rs 43,554 crore (approx 3 per cent increase) is allocated for school education and Rs 28,840 crore (approx 7.3 per cent increase) is allocated for higher education.

While there is slight increase in allocation in absolute terms, the budgetary allocation relative to the total budget and GDP have not changed.

Numbers are only one aspect of the budget and does not tell the whole story.

The new proposals in the Budget regarding education are as follows:

  • Focus on the quality of education: This is to be achieved by (a) increasing the share of allocation under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for this; and (b) 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas will be opened in the remaining uncovered districts over the next two years.

    There is little to criticize these points given the motherhood and apple pie nature of the proposals. But the devil lies in the detail. Pratham’s ASER has been crying itself hoarse every year (since 2005) pointing out the low levels of learning outcomes without much dent in the policies. Would this government take heed and put in place measures to ensure better learning outcomes as well as a regular monitoring system for measuring learning outcomes? A key factor in enhancing quality of education is the quality of teachers. What steps does the government plan to take to provide good quality training for teachers? As suggested by the Seventh Pay Commission, would the increase in pay of teachers be linked with their performance?

  • Make higher educational institutions world class: Ten public and ten private institutions shall be given an enabling regulatory architecture to emerge as world-class teaching and research Institutions. This will enhance affordable access to high quality education for ordinary Indians. A detailed scheme will be formulated.

    The first question that comes to mind – is this too little, too late? At last count, we have 757 universities, 38,056 colleges and 11,922 institutes in the country. Why only 20 institutions should be provided with an enabling regulatory environment? Shouldn’t all educational institutions be provided that? Also, on what basis would these institutes be chosen?

    Second, given that we have the dual challenge of low Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education (23.6%) and many graduates who are unemployable, this seems grossly inadequate as a measure. How do we address the skill-gap problem adequately?

    Third, the nature of the enabling regulatory architecture will be the key to changes in the quality of the institute. Would it allow institutes to hire world class faculty at market salaries? Would it allow institutes to set student fees? What would be the governing structure of these institutes? How would faculty be evaluated? These are key questions that need to be pondered over while framing the policy.

  • Set up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA): HEFA would be set up with an initial capital base of Rs1,000 crores and it would be not-for-profit organization. It would leverage funds from the market and supplement them with donations and CSR funds. These funds will be used to finance improvement in infrastructure in India’s top institutions and will be serviced through internal accruals.

    This is a good idea but it is not clear why the focus is on improving the infrastructure in India’s top institutions. The condition of our state universities where most students attend is abysmal. Instead of focusing only on improving the quality of top universities and institutes, it would make far more overall difference in the quality of education if the government also makes an effort to enhance the infrastructure of state universities.

  • Digital Depository for Certificates: The government proposed to establish a Digital Depository for school leaving certificates, college degrees, academic awards and mark sheets, on the pattern of a Securities Depository. This will help validate their authenticity, safe storage and easy retrieval.

    The National Academic Depository Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 5, 2011 but it had lapsed after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. The Bill had sought to create an electronic depository to maintain database of academic records. If the Modi government can enact this law, it will be a step in the right direction since it will help in detecting fake degrees and mark sheets.

    This lapsed Bill had been referred to the standing committee on HRD which had made some interesting suggestions. At that time, the government was planning to give this task to security depositories. It had even commissioned two pilot studies to check the viability of security depositories undertaking this task. The new government should check these evaluations before taking a decision on who would create the database. The standing committee had also suggested that awards given by foreign boards and professional awards should also be included. Other recommendations pertained to recruitment and training of agents of the depository, the time-limit of the verification process and the adjudication of the offences under the Bill.

What should have included?
To my mind, the government yet again missed the boat on secondary education. This is the crucial link between elementary and higher education in India’s education system. Focused attention needs to be paid to this part of school education to ensure that students are well-equipped to tackle higher education.

Instead of regulating fees in private institutes (and for that matter government institutes), the government needs to provide for easy and low interest (or interest-free) student loans and a large number of scholarships for meritorious students. This would ensure that higher educational institutes are financially viable while ensuring there is equity.

Kaushiki Sanyal is an Independent Policy Consultant. She tweets @kaushu

Comments { 0 }