Every year on March 8, the world observes International Women’s Day… The purpose is to reflect on the progress made by women in different fields…. to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in history… and to call for action to bring about the necessary change towards gender equality… The theme set by the United Nations for International Women’s Day this year is – Think equal, build smart, innovate for change… with a thrust on working towards creating a gender-balanced society. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, it will take more than 200 years for economic gender equality to emerge, and 108 years to completely close the global gender gap across politics, health and education.
Shailaja Chandra, Former Chief Secretary, Delhi,
Sunil Goel, MD, Global Hunt,
Nupur Tiwari, Associate Professor, Centre for Public Policy & Planning , IIPA,
Dr. Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health, GoI.
Anchor – Teena Jha
There’s no one good guide to setting residential solar panels in India. Even so, solar panels have taken off in a big way in many states, and of late, in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. So, based on a hunch, I decided to install solar panels on my rooftop in Delhi in May 2018.
I asked for reliable recommendations and selected two companies based purely on the receptivity of the person answering the phone. Admittedly, I did not undertake any independent diligence. Representatives from only one out of the two short-listed companies turned up. They convinced me that solar was the way to go and fortunately, I had the terrace space to do it. I decided to go ahead without a second thought.
I was told it would take 6-8 weeks from start to finish and was asked to produce just three documents: To show ownership of the property, a no-objection letter from my brother who owns half the house, and the last electricity bill. Thanks to WhatsApp, these were shared immediately with the company.
The project would cost me Rs 45,000 per kW, which came to Rs 3.6 lakh for an 8 kW turnkey job. Inbuilt in the cost was the subsidy that the company would claim directly from the government. With the installation came a 25-year warranty against hardware failure.
I opted to pay an extra Rs 40,000 to have the solar panels erected at a height of 6-8 feet, to leave the terrace free for sitting out and shading plants from the scorching summer heat. The payment was to be made in three instalments: the first on assigning the work, the second after delivery of the equipment, the third after installation of the transformer and getting the all-clear from the electricity company—BSES. Simple enough, I thought and signed the first cheque.
The ensuing months turned out to be long and arduous. The technicians (3-4 people at a time) would descend any time of the week without notice and often work late until 10 pm erecting poles and welding them together. And then for days on end, no one would show up. Phone calls and text messages were not answered.
Finally, after several weeks the erection of the solar panels started. They were fixed on to aluminium poles grouted into the terrace floor with big, brass nuts. Although the base was agreed to be provided by the vendor, in reality, I had to get it done at personal cost.
By July end I was getting anxious. The due date was long over. Six weeks had gone by. I spoke to the manager who was helpful but his first question was whether the company was registered with the Delhi government’s oversight company IPGCL or its counterpart under the ministry of renewable energy sources—MNRE. Frankly, I didn’t know. After several phone calls, I was told that indeed the company had been licensed with the Delhi government, but had been de-licensed.
Where did that leave me? Since I hadn’t checked the credentials of a company, had I lost my money? Had I also installed a junkyard on my roof?
Calls to the Delhi government oversight company confirmed my worst doubts. The company had indeed been blacklisted for some other misconduct. I was asked why hadn’t checked in the first place! Feeling foolish the only way left was to ask a senior officer of the Delhi government to bail me out. Eventually, an official from Indraprastha Power Generation Company (IPGCL) came to see me. He was more reassuring than I expected. He said he would start supervising the completion of the project.
Even this started taking a lot of time. Frustrated, I set up a WhatsApp group with the vendor, the IPGCL official, the BSES manager and the person who had originally provided the list of vendors. Every third day I would start a new conversation. Unexpectedly, crisp, sensible responses actually started coming once the blame game had no escape routes. Things were finally moving.
Some days later, I was overjoyed to see a net-metering all-clear from the BPRL! Fifty-five days later came a bill that said I had generated 800 units of solar power and had consumed 400 units. Indeed I was now a net exporter of electricity!
But fixed charges would stay regardless – these had been raised from Rs 45 per kW to a whopping Rs 175 per kW from April 2018. But that applied to everyone – not just me.
For individual solar net metering aspirants, here is the bottom line. Solar power generation is truly a great way to go! Environmentally safe, user-friendly (once installed) and giving the added advantage of protection against summer heat – it’s a miracle. Only snag: The much touted ‘single window’ is a myth and a lot more ease of doing business (aka co-ordination) is needed before households find it really worth their while.
Shailaja Chandra is a retired civil servant and former secretary in the health ministry
The judgment of the constitutional bench has been greeted with general approval by all political parties and with great euphoria by the Aam Admi Party (AAP). What emanates from three separate judgments delivered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and his two brother judges is, first, a veritable history of the administration of Delhi. The labyrinthine route that was traversed over several decades of administering the Capital has been captured in copious detail. It is hoped that it would bring some sobriety into the grandstanding by a host of actors.
The Supreme Court’s Wednesday verdict has made three very important deviations from the Delhi High Court judgment of August 2016. It has dispelled the idea that the elected government has to wait to implement its decisions until the lieutenant governor (LG) acquiesces. More specifically, the advice given by the council of ministers is binding on the LG. But only as long as the LG does not exercise his constitutional power to differ and refer the matter to the President for a decision. Although it has been emphasised that this power is not to be exercised mechanically, anything that has sensitivity or can cast a financial burden which is beyond the government’s capacity or cause political problems with the Centre or other states will fall in this area. This actually covers a lot of area.
What does all this mean for Delhi’s citizens? First, as long as every decision has been taken within the ambit of the Transaction of Business Rules 1993 ,which mandates informing the LG of decisions taken by the council of ministers or even by an individual minister, implementation of decisions can start without awaiting approvals. But the Rules also have two important sub-chapters which refer to examination and concurrence by the finance and the law departments. This means a host of proposals can be called to question. Just a note of dissent given by the departmental secretary will give a handle to the LG to differ and withhold further action.
That there ought to be discussion, dialogue and a genuine effort to solve problems is inbuilt in the rules, and has been reiterated strongly by the three judgments. For example, embargoes on vehicles converging on Delhi’s roads or placing restrictions on hospitals or educational institutions by the council of ministers would have implications for the governance of the Capital — it belongs to the whole country. So, restrictions cannot be imposed without the LG having had an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons and return the matter for reconsideration. In Delhi’s case, the LG can differ, ask for reconsideration and make a reference to the Centre. Till a decision comes, the LG’s orders would prevail. So, it is not all plain sailing.
Under the Transaction of Business Rules, consultation with the finance and law departments is mandatory and the chief secretary — the secretary of the cabinet — has to ensure that the cabinet note has followed the process very elaborately spelt out in the 1993 rules. These have been alluded to by the apex court at numerous places in the judgments. In other words, getting advisers and consultants to prepare cabinet notes and clearing them with a simple nod will not work. Haranguing officers and imputing motives to them will not result in either compliance or implementation. At the end of the day, the proof of the pudding will be in the delivery of promised services — not in a display of strongman tactics to impress constituencies.
On the face of it, it may seem as though the Delhi government will now have the authority to make laws on all subjects, excluding those which fall directly under the LG’s authority. But that is actually not so. For instance, the Jan Lokpal Bill and the mohalla committee strategy. Both have been points of confrontation, resulting even in the resignation of the chief minister in his first term. Nothing has changed with all the judgments of the Supreme Court. The apex court has reiterated that any law which is repugnant to a law made by Parliament cannot be passed by the legislative assembly. And indeed these bills or concepts would even now run into repugnancy issues and will be negated as Parliament’s laws do not envisage such deviations being made to the existing central acts.
If the spirit of the judgments is to be read, all postings and transfers of officers should return to as it was in the Sheila Dikshit era, with only the postings of principal secretaries needing the acquiescence of the LG because that makes for better management with the Centre which controls the cadre. However the selection and posting of the chief secretary, the home secretary and secretary lands needs the specific approval of the LG as per the Transaction of Business Rules, which have now been accorded a new sanctity.
The judges have explained that the administrator as per rules has to be apprised of each decision taken by a minister or council of ministers and difference of opinion must meet the standards of constitutional trust and morality, the principle of collaborative federalism and constitutional balance. “The element of trust is an imperative between constitutional functionaries” so that their governments “can work in accordance with constitutional norms”.
Last but not least it is curtains for the idea of statehood. As long as Delhi is the national capital, it is everyone’s capital and the voice of non-Delhi citizens have to be heard through the central government acting on the decisions of Parliament. AAP’s hopes were misplaced and should not be resurrected afresh.
The writer is former chief secretary, Delhi.
In an exclusive ground report, India Today tests out how many of the Modi government’s 13 promised AIIMS were actually built. Our team of reporters did a nation-wide reality check and found that many of them existed merely on paper. Was the AIIMS promise just another election jumla? The promise was that there will be an AIIMS in every state but on the ground, the plans have barely materialized. In March this year, the Modi government tweeted that 7 out of the promised 13 AIIMS-like hospitals were “approved”, making it seem like the promises had been delivered but our investigation shows otherwise. When will India get Modi government’s promised AIIMS campuses?
By Shailaja Chandra
Judged by international standards, the quality of higher education in India —a few shining exceptions apart—is unsatisfactory. Recent developments, fortunately,are showing rays of hope.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to observe some of our universities and colleges and the institutions that govern them as a member of the TSR Subramanian New Education Policy drafting committee (2015-16). That the report never surfaced is an old story.
Even so, the shortcomings we observed (then) were disheartening. Degree shop- ping, rote learning, mindless regurgitation—often bolstered by cheating—were the bane of the higher education system. Teachers’ unions held principals to ran- som and students did not care if lectures weren’t held. The magnitude of political interference at the state level was stag- gering and seemed to be ruining the quality of education even in well-en-dowed and established institutions.
Many private universities and colleges, professional or otherwise, have the patronage of influential promoters backed by money power. They have only a commercial mindset and little interest in education. The regulatory environ- ment has been unreliable, waxing and waning with the gravitas and commitment of people at the helm of administration and academics. Complaints about underhand dealings keep surfacing and invariably end in prolonged enquiries and toothless deterrence.
In this backdrop, we were sceptical about the usefulness of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) the HRD ministry launched in September 2015. Measurement using technology is certainly the only answer to eliminating human bias while assessing and evaluating institutions. But who was going to cover the enormous range of institutions and declare results?
But India is full of surprises—in three years, a grading process for ranking both universities and colleges has taken root. NIRF has been ranking institutions within five broad generic parameters—teaching; learning and re- sources; research and professional practice; graduation outcomes; outreach and inclusivity; and perception. Despite many not caring to join the process, a technology-based ranking that covers the General, Engineering, Management and Pharmacy streams of higher education and of the top 100 colleges is easily available at the touch of a button.
Here’s what ranking does. NIRF has ranked Miranda House College in Delhi University first across India for two consecutive years. I asked its principal, Pratibha Jolly, what backed MH’s success. As an alumnus of nearly 55 years’ standing, I had watched a college that was once first among equals lose its shine and slip both in public perception and student preference. But in the last 10 years I could also see the college seizing every opportunity to reclaim its lost glory—academics, sports, library, cultural events, greenery, housekeeping.
“We had to document extensive data to justify our claims,” says MH principal Jolly. “Whatever we put down had to be truthful and verifiable. The best thing has been the journey—just the rigour has taught us how to painstakingly record each facet of every accomplishment. That’s been our biggest achievement, the outcome is secondary.”
Another personal nugget underscores this. As chairman of the governing body of Dyal Singh college for three years, I’d see unions fighting the principal daily. A volley of complaints would ensue if demands for ignoring non-existent attendance and fail marks were refused. Today (many years later), Dyal Singh ranks 25th in the list of top 100 colleges. Says prin- cipal I.S. Bakshi, “Somewhere, the realisation dawned that rank counts.”
At a higher level, and in select universities, educational attainment is largely measured by the impact of published research. The citations earned by Bengaluru’s Indian Insti- tute of Science or Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University run into thousands—justifying their first and third ranking. The challenge now lies in motivating more institutions to value published research and understand the difference between measuring high quality and no quality. The fact that UGC has axed over 4,000 journals from its approved list shows that the truth behind humbug research publishing has begun to be discovered. (Whether some time-honoured journals have also been junked in the process is still to be unravelled.)
The good news about ranking universities and colleges becomes less impressive when one finds that, currently, NIRF’s ranking represents just 11 per cent of UGC-linked universities, there are insurmountable numbers still to be appraised. The country’s 900 universities and 40,000 colleges might take decades to get covered at the current rate of progress. Considering this magnitude, NIRF should only define the ranking methodology, seek applications from credit rating agencies, prescribe application fee and exercise oversight. Otherwise, a commendable initiative will benefit only the cream of higher education institutes.
Dr V.S. Chauhan, who has been involved with NIRF from its inception (and is also a member of UGC), told me something unrelated but no less important. “The number of students going abroad for higher education is more than ever before,” he said. “A very large number of Indian students are easily securing admissions in well-known universities in the UK, USA and, more recently, even in many universities in Europe.
In fact, it is not uncommon that an Indian student has admission offers from more than half-a-dozen universities. The only catch is they have to be fully-paid students with the means to pay for very high tuition fees and living expenses. Clearly, western universities, even the best ones, are now competing to attract fully-paid students; digital technologies have made this process facile both for the universities as well as for the education-seekers. Increasingly,parents are willing to pay high cost of higher education, seeing it as an investment in their children’s future.”
As a fortune f lies out of the country, it begs the question: shouldn’t we be giving Indian parents and children some knowhow before their children join the foreign education bandwagon at such an exorbitant cost? Ought not every educational institution at least be accredited on some broad parameters even before being ranked? India’s accreditation process has taken too long.
Started in 1994, it was initially aimed only at institutions seeking UGC funding. Unravelling data from the website is slow and frustrating. Unless accreditation is made mandatory, the accountability of institutions won’t even begin. Even before ranking, accreditation must become non-negotiable.
The growth in higher education institutes calls for greater oversight. Today, 77 per cent of the colleges are being run in the private sector. While this takes pressure off governments, accountability for maintaining standards is essential. Privately-run universities having very poor infrastructure and highly deficient faculty are a norm.
Even so, comparatively new universities like Shiv Nadar and Jindal and the older Manipal and Venkateshwara (Tirupati) universities are highly rated. The Ashoka University in Sonepat may not have joined the process yet but has earned a good name in a comparatively short span. None of these, though, are anywhere near the IISc, IIMs, IITs and JNU. An emerging silver lining is that a slew of other private universities which were once ridiculed for their hardsell are investing in highly educated faculty, encouraging research and offering scholarships to bright and needy students.
Overall, the heavy domination of arts and general courses is a matter for concern. Enrolment in agricultural and veterinary science courses is less than 1 per cent when the bulk of rural India is engaged in cultivation and cattle rearing. In law, although the national schools at Bengaluru and elsewhere are producing firstrate lawyers, the rounding off that comes with multidisciplinary grounding seems to be missing. It is time that the vertical silos of law, and even of botany and zoology, are replaced by departments equipped to look at real-life problems germane to India and search for local solutions.
Indu Shahani, a former UGC member and eminent educationist, had this to say about improving the sector: “Our education system should move towards being multi-disciplinary and application-oriented, focused towards the changing dynamics of the real world. A great innovation would be to move towards giving a strong foundation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), A (Liberal Arts), ED (Entrepreneurship & Design Thinking). We should educate to develop job creators—along with job-seekers.”
Finally, viewing the big picture, a few positive developments need men- tion. Women’s enrolment in higher education has been phenomenal in the last two decades—almost equalling men’s. Most women, however, join arts courses. A larger number are opting for science, but half of them pursue home science. Also, for women to become economically independent, they must need to acquire financial and legal literacy. To get more girls to pursue science and mathematics, we need adequate women teachers for the subjects.
India’s higher education sector is improving only incrementally, and too slowly. If the government lacks funds, it must facilitate the upgradation of promising institutions, introduce more self-financing courses and encourage paid consultancies through industry-academia linkages. The private sector has begun to invest in establishing research foundations and schools of governance. Once corporate investment in making endowments and establishing university chairs is seen as laudable, the higher education sector will become more sought-after and competitive.
Adam Grant, an American psycho- logy professor, is reported to have said, “The mark of higher education isn’t the knowledge you accumulate in your head—it’s the skills you gain about how you learn.” The real success will come when our policymakers, teachers and students start to understand this.
The writer is a former chief secretary of Delhi and was member of the TSR Subramanian National Education Policy drafting committee
India risks becoming a global health hazard. In February the British daily, The Guardian, published a story describing the extent to which “chickens raised in India have been dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine”. The article relied on a report of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism that claims to be an independent not-for-profit media organisation. It singled out India, even though the Bureau’s findings had also referred to similar antibiotics use in Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, Columbia and Bolivia. The issue raised in the story has serious implications for the health of all citizens, not only chicken-eaters.
Indian chicken producers claim that antibiotics are used only for treating sick birds. But an advertisement they had issued to this effect was met with sharp counter publicity. Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), published an open letter to Sania Mirza, telling her as a national icon, she should not have associated herself with a “misleading, false and libelous advertorial”. According to Bhushan, antibiotics are being “used routinely as a growth promoter”. CSE papers have established how across different districts in the country, chicken litter has been found to be multi-drug resistant. The litter had also made its way to the surrounding agricultural land. This means it carries risks for vegetarians as well.
Plucked, The Truth About Chicken , a 2017 book by Maryn McKenna unravels how chemical fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones made chicken the conduit for not only profit-driven politics in the US but antibiotic resistance as well. It was only after a massive outbreak of food poisoning that the US regulators and consumers have become more vigilant. Now Walmart, the book says, along with some of the world’s biggest fast food chains, have started to move away from chicken loaded with antibiotics. The USFDA now expects adherence to standards adopted by the European Union 12 years ago.
Why is all this important to us? Because resistance blunts the effectiveness of drugs designed to cure or prevent infection. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply rendering ineffectual treatment for serious illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis, even prophylaxis in, say, caesarian deliveries. It hampers recovery in post-operative surgery. Once the bacteria becomes drug resistant, it affects anyone who gets afflicted by it. The resistance snowballs and defies even the strongest drug-based treatment exposing vulnerable populations — infants, children, farm workers and seniors — to incurable sickness.
Colistin is one of the last antibiotic weapons against serious human diseases and but is reportedly being used covertly to increase chicken weight. The Chinese have been using massive quantities of Colistin. This gave rise to a strain called mcr-1, which spread so widely that the Chinese government had to ban Colistin use. But not before people in 30 countries in five continents had eaten those chickens. After being banned in China, Colistin has found a ready market in India and has made its way into the country’s poultry farms.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana account for over 80 per cent of the poultry meat production and half the egg production in the country, followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal, Punjab and Haryana. A 2017 study (the largest so far), published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, covered 18 poultry farms in Punjab and found very high levels of antibiotic resistance in the birds.
Chicken was once a part of food habits of the people in north-western, southern and coastal parts of the country. Today, it has become the favourite of the country’s fast growing urban middle-class. A new culture of eating out has been matched by innumerable quick service restaurants offering mouth-watering chicken dishes. Such restaurants are ubiquitous even in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Most consumers are oblivious to and undeterred by the health hazards of ingesting antibiotics. Meanwhile the industry is growing by some 20 per cent each year — broilers, layers and egg production taken together.
The Chairman of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Ashish Bahuguna, whose writ runs over the food-end (but not the farm-end), informed me about the organisation’s new draft regulations for chicken. These prohibit the use of 19 antibiotics in poultry and also prescribe tolerance limits for 92 other antibiotics and drugs. Currently, the public comments to the draft rules are being examined. In April 2017, the Health Ministry published the National Action Plan to combat microbial resistance. Although it signifies a political commitment to ban the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, there has been little activity on the issue, and it has not attracted commensurate funding. Unless that changes quickly, the report will remain confined to the shelf.
Should India take the path of incremental improvement or should it draw a lesson from the EU, and now the US and China, and stop such use of antibiotics? Other countries are importing herbal animal feeds from India. The effectiveness of these herbal feeds should be studied for Indian conditions. And if these feeds pass the test, Indian farmers should be advised to use them. It is time that the ministries of heath and AYUSH, and the Department of Animal Husbandry show interest in the matter.
As an immediate measure, the government must issue advisories asking poultry farmers to stop the use of Colistin and maintain records of the overall use of all drugs given to poultry. This should become a strict requirement for the poultry industry. FSSAI should publish the new regulations and ensure that enforcement is visible, punishment is a deterrent and public awareness programmes are imaginative.
The poultry businesses’ meat should not be allowed to become the Indian consumer’s poison.
The writer is former chief secretary, Delhi.
Desh Deshantar: निपा : हमारी तैयारी | Nipah Virus: How prepared are we
निपाह वायरस से केरल में अब तक 11 लोगों की मौत हो चुकी है, जबकि 19 पीड़ितों का इलाज जारी है। इस बीच केरल के अलावा चार अन्य राज्यों में भी निपाह को लेकर सावधानी बरतने के लिए एडवाइजरी और अलर्ट जारी किए गए हैं। इनमें जम्मू-कश्मीर, गोवा, राजस्थान, दिल्ली-एनसीआर और तेलंगाना शामिल हैं। केरल सरकार ने लोगों को चार जिलों कोझिकोड, मलापुरम, वायनाड और कन्नूर में नहीं जाने की सलाह दी है। इन चारों जिलों में निपाह का सबसे ज्यादा संक्रमण देखा जा रहा है। उधर, गोवा में भी इस पर नजर रखने के लिए एक टीम बनाई गई है निपा वायरस एक नई उभरती बीमारी है जिसका इन्फेक्शन एक महामारी की तरह फैल रहा है। निपा वायरस के कारण जानवरों और मनुष्यों में खतरनाक इंफेक्शन फैलता है। इस वायरस के कारण मनुष्यों में एन्सेफलाइटिस होता है इसलिए इसे निपा वायरस एन्सेफलाइटिस भी कहा जाता है..डब्ल्यूएचओ के मुताबिक़ इस वायरस से संक्रमित लोगों में मौत की दर 70 फीसदी तक है।सबसे पहले निपा वायरस का पता 1998 में मलेशिया के कमपुंग सुंगई निपा में चला। बाद में इस जगह के नाम पर ही इस वायरस का नाम निपा पड़ा।
Guest : Dr. Gagan MS Malhotra, Senior Physician // Visiting Consultant BLK Hospital, Rajib Dasgupta, Professor, Centre of social Medicine And Community Health Social Sciences, JNU, Aditi Tandon, Special Correspondent, The Tribune, Shailja Chandra, Former Health Secretary, GOI
Anchor – Kavindra Sachan