Economic Policy News And Views March 2010
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Government drafts Bill to replace UGC, AICTE with higher body
The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced draft legislation to create an overarching supervisory body for higher education.
It used to be said that if you cannot commit then form a committee to look into the matter. Somehow, the Government is now increasingly announcing the setting up of regulators and super regulators in areas where it has failed to reform. Higher education is one such area. The proposed draft Bill is in some sense worse than what the current regulatory apparatus is. It is moving towards more centralization rather than less, more homogenization rather than organic development of public universities, allowing for more political inference and hence less autonomy be it in hiring, syllabi setting or appointments.
The proposed bill is quite in contradiction to the recommendations of the Yash Pal Committee recommendations which had stressed that the key reform needed is restoring the autonomy of universities and preventing politicisation of university administration.
It may be quite radical, but our view is that the current system is beyond repair and band aid treatment is not likely to revamp the university system. Thus, it is important that slowly a parallel system of private universities based on best principles of autonomy, pedagogy, funding and research be established. Yes it will initially lead to “cream-skimming” and the public universities may be left with the skim, but this may finally force them to change or perish. Eventually, a State university system co-existing and competing with a private university system will be possible. However, many steps will have to be taken soon in this direction. One such is the passing of the pending foreign university bill and the private university bill.
Genetic Engineering Panel to enforce Bt brinjal ban
The apex Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) decided the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) should be asked to store all the Bt brinjal seeds.
This may be a victory for a few environmental activist groups who will do anything to achieve their objective. This also includes presenting unsubstantiated evidences, twisting of facts and sometimes outright lying. It should not be the case where a jury of public appointees decides such matters of national importance. It is a travesty that environmental concerns that ignore scientific evidence can stifle a second Green Revolution. Indian farmers have reaped the benefits of GM cottonseeds. GM foods are not new: they have existed in North and South America for more than a decade. Moreover, based on extensive study by agricultural research institutes, universities, and expert panels, one of which had been appointed by the Supreme Court, our government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has given the brinjal a clean chit. Ironically, the GEC will be enforcing the ban. Yet, bowing to groups such groups that are committed to opposing GM foods under all circumstances, minister Ramesh has denied our farmers the benefit of the new variety.
NEWS WITH ANNOTATES
Plan for coal regulator on track
The plan for establishing an independent regulator for the coal sector is seemingly on track. The government is positive on appointing the regulator by March 15, 2010.
One more regulator but will mining rights be auctioned or Coal India privatized? If you cannot reform, bring in the regulator mantra!
MNIK was a hype over nothing
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