Only 8 % of Indians go for higher education

Only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education – compared to 20 per cent in China – and the country needs 1,500 new universities in the next seven years to bridge the shortfall of skilled workers, India’s Knowledge Commission has said.

The 82nd annual conference of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) that came to an end here Wednesday saw some such hard truths being spoken about universities in India.

The three-day meet at the Anna University campus discussed the content of the Knowledge Commission policy and the various higher education policies being implemented in India at present.

‘Higher education sets the standards for development,’ said Y.C. Simhadri, AIU president.

A Knowledge Commission report has said that India would need 1,500 new universities in the next seven years.

It also says that only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education. In China, the figure is 20 percent while in developed countries, as much as 70 percent students leaving school go to college.

Nasscom chairman and Cognizant chief N. Lakshmi Narayanan said India may face a shortfall of half a million skilled workers by 2010 if universities do not churn out well-trained students.

‘If India wants to be a knowledge economy, it will need 2.3 million professionals in three years time,’ he added.

‘The need of the hour is to create more research parks in the country and encourage innovation by students,’ he said. He advocated that a statutory body should be given the task of enforcing regulation.

‘A major cause of concern about higher education in India is the regulatory system.’

Pitching for self-regulation, he said: ‘This may well be the time for the country’s academic leaders to evolve a new self-regulatory regime that puts the onus of maintaining standards on the collective wisdom of academicians.’

He also advocated the need to look at opening up the education sector to foreign universities to ensure a steady flow of globalised talent.

Narayanan said that Nasscom is planning to introduce a National Assessment of Competence-Technical (NAC-Tech) that would test the skills of technical graduates from higher education institutions across the country.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education K. Ponmudi, in his opening address, said in many Indian universities, especially the private ones,today ‘we have a situation where the father is the chancellor of the deemed university, one son is the pro-chancellor and another is the vice-chancellor.’

‘Where is the space for scholarly academicians to lead such institutions into latest and relevant research and produce brilliant students?’ he asked.

‘Most vice chancellors give more importance to administrationthan academics,’ the minister charged.

‘You should concentrate more on academics because that alone can help improve the quality of institutions,’ he told the gathering of 150 vice chancellors from Indian universities and delegates from 20 foreign universities, including France and the Netherlands.

‘We only have vice chancellors, whereas we need wise chancellors!’ was his parting shot.

INDIAENEWS.COM From correspondents in Tamil Nadu, India,  Nov 29, 2007

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17 million children in India work out of compulsion

Children’s Day under the shadow of the rape of childhood

We observe November 14, the birthday of the first Prime Minister of India, Chacha Nehru as Children’s Day. But a look at the condition of children in India makes one question the significance of November 14?  Do we really cherish our future citizens?

THE DEFINITION OF a ‘child’ in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are neither child friendly nor child oriented. Here are few figures:

* Less than half of India’s children between the age of six and 14 go to school.
* Only 38 per cent of children below two years are immunized.
* Over 50 per cent children are malnourished.
* One out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
* Of 12 million girls born, one million do not see their first birthday.
* Females are victimized far more than males in their childhood.
* 53 per cent of girls in the age group of five to nine years are illiterate.
* There are two million child commercial sex workers between the age of five and 15 years.
* 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not out of choice.

The child is the future of a nation. But children are a neglected lot in India, which is evident from the distressing statistics of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labour, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.

Trafficking in humans, including children, is a violation of the fundamental rights of human beings. International estimates indicate that at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or are recruited into armed groups. Child labour is, generally speaking, work undertaken by children that harm them or exploit them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education). 40 per cent of India’s population is below 18 years of age. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. These are official figures; activists say that the real number is even larger.

Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the millennium development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations.

Children should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore, and opportunity to grow, both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realising his full potential.

Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society that suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of that fact. Child labour, trafficking are symptoms, not the problem. The problem lies elsewhere and unless the problem itself is addressed, merely addressing the symptoms makes the situation immensely worse for the victim children.

In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remains spread and multiple in nature. There are a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.

Rishabh Srivastava, MeriNews.COM, 13 November 2007, Tuesday

Absent teachers resulting in 22.5 % education funds India

A classroom struggle

Schools be damned. That seems to be the only message that keeps getting hammered with every disheartening report on the status of schooling in India. If last week it was the severe step of having to file FIRs against teachers in the face of a staggering number of cases of abuse of children, a Unesco report has found that 25 per cent of teachers do not bother with attending school. Absent teachers result in a whopping 22.5 per cent of education funds being wasted. Add to this a previous report compiled by the Ministry of Human Resource Department that shows 23,000 schools across India have no teacher, and the picture is frightening. The cataclysmic deterioration in government education services, coupled with corruption and a bureaucratic set-up that dissuades many private players from starting schools has at its crux one issue: the lowering standards of teachers in India.

The bar is so low today that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ (NCPCR) proposal to expand the definition of corporal punishment to cover any form of adverse treatment meted out to schoolchildren is actually welcome. The Delhi High Court banned corporal punishment six years ago. According to the panel, school officials may be jailed for scolding students or calling them ‘stupid’ or ‘mindless’. The commission has also asked parents to fearlessly file FIRs against teachers and officials if their wards are rapped on the knuckles, made to run on the school ground or kneel for hours, beaten with a ruler, pinched and slapped. The restrictions may seem severe, but we can get some perspective once we consider that sexual abuse of minors is one of the most reported crimes today. States have been cavalier in enforcing the ban on corporal punishments, despite the fact that the National Policy on Education’s recommendation of banning physical punishment more than two decades ago.

India’s teacher problem is multi-dimensional. From recruitment to training, from remuneration to accountability, the teaching community has failed schools on most counts. Until teacher reform is addressed in a far more aggressive and scientific manner, there is little hope that the much-flaunted demographic dividend can ever be utilised for a knowledge economy.

August 13, 2007, Hindustan Times

316 million Indian workers get below $ 0.49 (Rs. 20) a day

  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs. 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  • 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to this category of people living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labor households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding*
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

NEW DELHI: An overwhelming 79 per cent of workers in the unorganised sector live with an income of less than Rs. 20 a day, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

A report on “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector,” released by the Commission here on Thursday, says over 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganised sector and work under “utterly deplorable” conditions with “extremely few livelihood options.”
“Poor, vulnerable”

The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of “poor and vulnerable,” who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.

In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77 per cent) had an income below Rs. 20 a day.

Landless

Households of the small and marginal farmers account for 84 per cent and are forced to spend more than they earn and are under debt, while 90 per cent of agricultural labour households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding.

The conditions in the non-agricultural sectors are no better with 21 to 46 per cent of men and 57 to 83 per cent of women being employed as casual workers, who get less than minimum wages.

As per the survey, the latest trends indicate that agriculture is getting feminised with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

The NCEUS attributes the plight of the unorganised workers to a lack of comprehensive and appropriate legislation and the absence of targeted programmes.

Inadequate

Where laws exist, the Commission finds their implementation inadequate. Also, they are seldom focussed on unorganised workers.

Releasing the report, NCEUS Chairman Arjun Sengupta said the panel had recommended a Rs. 45,000-crore action plan for the overall improvement of the unorganised sector.

Aug 10, 2007, Hindu

LEFTYPROF

Untouchables’ left behind in booming nation

DALLIPUR, India — The hip young Indians working inside this country’s multinational call centers have one thing in common: Almost all hail from India’s upper and middle castes, elites in this highly stratified society.

India may be booming, but not for those who occupy the lowest rung of society. The Dalits, once known as untouchables, continue to live in grinding poverty and suffer discrimination in education, jobs, and healthcare. For them, status and often occupation are still predetermined in the womb.

While some Indians had hoped urbanization and growth would crumble ideas about caste, observers say tradition and prejudice have ultimately prevailed.

“There’s talk of a modern India. But the truth is India can’t truly move ahead with caste in place,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer and specialist on India’s caste system. “In all ways, it’s worse than the Jim Crow laws were in the American South because it’s completely sanctioned by religion. Despite so many reforms, the idea of untouchability is still very much a part of Indian life.”

As India’s economy surges, one of the country’s most serious and stubborn challenges is how to combat entrenched caste prejudice. Dalits, along with other “backward” castes, make up the majority of India’s 1.1 billion people, and social scientists worry that these groups are being left behind.

The contrast between the gleaming call centers of rising India and the abject poverty that is the reality for many Dalits is all too obvious in Dallipur, an impoverished village on the outskirts of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state.

Without electricity, paved roads or running water, the hamlet is home to landless Mushars, the lowest social stratum of Dalits, who work as shoe shiners, trash pickers, toilet cleaners, and street sweepers.

Amid the straw and mud villages, two children died of starvation last year — not for lack of food in the area, but as a result of prejudice.

Chandrika, a 24-year-old Dalit mother, recalled carrying her crying 2-year-old son and her weak 20-month-old daughter to a nearby health center. There, she pleaded for a card that would allow her malnourished children to receive free milk.

But before the nurses could examine her children, she was mocked and shooed away by doctors, who told the young mother to go beg in the market.

“They said again and again, ‘We don’t want to see you Dalits here bothering us,’ ” said Chandrika, a thin, dark-skinned woman who wept as she recounted how her children died. “My milk had dried up from stress. There was no work for me. There was no one to hear my plight.”

Local government leaders who came to investigate her children’s deaths insisted that the shy mother and her fellow villagers build a raised concrete stage — Dalits could be addressed by upper castes only from a higher platform, Chandrika and other villagers were told. The 3-foot-tall dais remains in Dallipur today, the only outcome of the investigation.

By virtue of birth, some castes inherit wealth; the Dalits inherit debt.

Caste often determines Indians’ spouses, friends, residence and, most important, occupation — part of a Hindu belief that people inherit their stations in life based on the sins and good deeds of past lives.

Some Indians believe that the spread of capitalism in urban areas has in some ways dissolved caste by creating new occupations and eliminating obsolete ones. For instance, with the growing use of flush toilets in Indian cities, the disposal of human waste, once a job for Dalits, is now done with a simple pull of a lever.

In booming evening bazaars in Mumbai and New Delhi, lower castes sell cellphones, leather tennis shoes, and grooming kits from small shops and curbside pushcarts alongside higher castes, with everyone “in a capitalist rush to make money,” said Prasad, the writer. “A lower-caste businessman may even enjoy an evening cigarette with a higher caste, completely taboo even 50 years ago.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently compared India’s caste system to apartheid in South Africa, calling it not just prejudice but “a blot on humanity.”

Critics say that such statements are simply meant to garner votes from lower castes and that any gains made by Dalits have been marginal.

“India is not a true democracy,” said Anup Srivastava, a researcher with the People’s Vigilance Commission on Human Rights in Varanasi who is investigating complaints filed by Dalits about discrimination among neighbors, in schools, at hospitals and at work. “The country is independent. But the people aren’t. How can there be a democracy when there are still people known as untouchables who face daily discrimination?”

Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Emily Wax, Washington Post July 5, 2007

967 Cases of Atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat

Dalits in Gujarat eclipsed under Modi: Meira

Claiming that the Dalits were “eclipsed” under the present dispensation in Gujarat, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar on Monday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government for the “atrocities” meted out against Dalits and other backward sections of the society.

“The present government in Gujarat has a poor track record in tackling crimes against the backward sections of the society,” Kumar said addressing the day-long ‘jan-mitra shibir’ (conference of party workers) organised by the scheduled caste cell of Congress.

She claimed that Dalits were “eclipsed” in Gujarat at present.

“In the year 2005, there were a total of 967 cases of atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat where many were murdered, raped, burnt and seriously injured,” Kumar told the gathering of party workers who had assembled from different parts of the state.

“This year in just six months, there were a total of 412 cases of atrocities registered against backward classes including Dalits,” she said adding the figures she was quoting were sourced from the Social Justice department of Gujarat.

“In many of these cases FIRs are yet to be registered,” Kumar added

Press Trust of India, Gandhinagar, July 3, 2006

The false pride of the National Human Rights Commission of India

Indians take pride in several issues ranging from democracy to unity in diversity. Most of this “pride speech” is often by India’s middle class and neo-rich that are sometimes completely disconnected from reality. The government and its various agencies often reflect similar pride.

The government of India has spared no venue to boast about itself whenever and wherever it has had a chance. This attitude was reflected in the interventions and representations made by the Indian government’s delegation during the fifth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Quite surprisingly, the interventions made by the representative of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, in the same session were also similar in tone.

The NHRC made oral interventions during the session, much of it praising itself and claiming that it was successful in promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and human values in India. The oral interventions made by its representative was evident that it was serving more as a backbench supporter of the government than a independent agency monitoring human rights in India. It appeared to be the victim of its own false pride.

The NHRC’s intervention at the council was also to show off its pride as an effective, authoritative and independent agency committed to rooting out human rights violations in India. However, to date, its work and that of its state subsidiaries proves contrary to this claim. The NHRC and its state bodies lack precisely two elements–independence and authority.

The government at its convenience and pleasure makes appointments to the NHRC and state human rights commissions. In most state human rights commissions, the appointment of the chairperson is at the whims and fancies of the particular state government. For example, despite legally challenging the appointment of the chairperson of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission on allegations of nepotism and corrupt practices, the person continues to serve the commission.

Regarding effective redress for victims, the human rights commissions at both the national and state level are not considered as replacements for the courts. The role of the commission at all levels, among other duties, is to recommend to the government actions required by the government in cases involving human rights violations. The question is whether the government adheres to these recommendations.

The representation made by the NHRC of India to the U.N. Human Rights Council was as if the government follows all its recommendations. A well-worded statement was made to the council to indicate that the government adheres to the recommendations of the commission and that the commission does have some influence upon the government and its actions and polices pertaining to human rights. Both statements are wrong and highly exaggerated.

The state human rights commissions, as well as the NHRC in India, do not have enough resources for effectively investigating a case brought to its notice. Instead, the commissions usually refer cases to the respective state police to investigate. The commissions function in a make-believe world when the complaint is against the police and expect it to be effectively investigated by the same police department.

The NHRC also made a false claim to the council by saying that “100,000,000 Indian rupees [US$2.47 million] had been recommended and also distributed to the victims or next of kin.” Though the recommendations were true, it lacked compliance. Hundreds of victims have not received any compensation awarded by the commission leaving one to wonder where all the money went. The recommendations of the commission seemingly end in a black hole within the government; they are just not implemented.

If the government fails to comply with the recommendations of the commission, the aggrieved party, which includes the commission, can approach the court where one has to wait decades for the verdict. Consequently, why is a person not able to go straight to the court instead of approaching the commission to save time?

If the commission enjoyed a privileged position with the government of India, as claimed at the U.N. Human Rights Council, why has the government not fulfilled the commission’s request for more resources for investigating cases? If the government had provided the commission with the necessary physical and human resources to function effectively, the victims would have had a better chance for redress from the commission.

What was evident during the U.N. Human Rights Council session was a failed attempt of the NHRC of India to show itself as a body respected by the government and its functionaries, though no one believes that the NHRC as an agency is well respected and fully supported by the Indian government.

Forums like the United Nations with their limited opportunities must be utilized by agencies like the NHRC to present facts, not fiction. This is required because one of the roles of agencies like the NHRC is to provide redress to victims and to make recommendations to the government. However, when agencies like the NHRC reduce themselves to blind supporter’s of the government due to their false pride and acts of self-deceit, what is suppressed is the possibility for victims to make their voice’s heard, and, in the process, human rights suffers.

(Bijo Francis is a human rights lawyer currently working with the Asian Legal Resource Center in Hong Kong. He is responsible for the South Asia desk at the center. Mr. Francis has practiced law for more than a decade and holds an advanced master’s degree in human rights law.)

By BIJO FRANCIS, UPIASIA , HONG KONG, Jun. 19,2007