This is the season of sequential versions with every version built on successful previous ones. We have seen Singham 1, 2 and 3, and more recently, Baahubali 1 and 2. In almost all similar examples, the most recent ones of each is expected to deliver the maximum outcome. Whether it does or not is the entertainment industry’s concern.
On a related parallel, the country’s post-independent growth trajectory was characterised by successive five-year plans. One of my friends used to critically compare the first draft of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-2017) and the twelfth draft of the First Five-Year Plan (1951-1956)—both indicating identical issues. The transformational output that five-year plans are supposed to collectively deliver is now structurally aligned through National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. This Government of India’s policy think tank is to directionally align and suggest a policy roadmap in the interest of the country, nurturing the spirit of cooperative federalism.
In the first of NITI’s three major reports, departing from the five-year plans, the three-year Action Agenda Draft was released recently. This seven-part and 24-chapter draft report is an ambitious effort to kick-start policy reforms within a short span. Many policy reforms have been suggested and limited by the article’s word limit; I present three for immediate implementation through necessary policy reforms by the concerned ministerial departments.
In one of my previous articles a few years ago, I had advocated a strong public-private-partnership (PPP) in school education. The lukewarm response to the existing PPP model has been given the much-needed push in the action agenda through an active role for the private players in the school education to minimise the monstrous burden of many states that face huge financial constraints due to increasing unit cost of education. Progressive and financially-sound private institutions must be selected by the Central and state governments to adopt a cluster of local government schools to create infrastructure from their own sources. Supported by Central/state grants, these universities must transfer the best practices to such schools for a five-year period. This shall ensure that the leadership schools in the revenue districts help other government schools to progress.
The long felt need to oxygenate progressive universities and institutions, freeing them from the regimental framework of antiquated statutory bodies, such as the UGC, AICTE, etc, is a distinguishing differentiator in the agenda report. This graded autonomy policy reform has been knocking the front doors for more than two decades without any response, paving the way for backdoor entrants causing more damage than good. Regulations or policy decisions should identify universities and institutions meeting three criteria. First, figure in global rankings such as Times or QS. Second, secure score of over 3.5 in NAAC accreditation; and third, secure a rank within the top 100 in NIRF 2017 rankings. These institutions must be given full autonomy—academic, administrative and financial—for a minimum five-year period.
The average pass percentage of engineering students is 80 per cent; churning out an annual minimum of two lakh students, who struggle to graduate later within the permitted time period. An exit option by way of BVoc or diploma after fulfilling the academic deficit will be an ideal response to build formal skill capacity in the workforce. This shall ensure that the challenged learners have an alternate career-track for sustainable livelihood. All NAAC-accredited universities (A grade and above) must be empowered to award such diplomas and BVoc degrees.
This hopeful beginning by NITI Aayog awaits quick action through policy reforms immediately and further more in the future.
Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University