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3 ministries quarrel over turf, new bill

The human resources development (HRD), health and law ministries have drafted three versions of the same bill in their battle over regulatory control of higher education.

delhi Updated: Aug 09, 2010 00:44 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The human resources development (HRD), health and law ministries have drafted three versions of the same bill in their battle over regulatory control of higher education.

While the HRD ministry is keen to take over the teaching of medicine and law — currently under the health and law ministries’ jurisdiction — the other two are fighting hard to protect their turf.

The face-off is a major setback to the government’s plan of bringing all streams of higher education — barring agriculture, which stays with the agriculture ministry — under a single regulator.

The Prime Minister’s Office has now been asked to play referee between the ministries.

The health and law ministries drafted their own bill on regulation to counter the HRD ministry’s National Commission for Higher Education and Research bill, which had originally proposed the formation of a single overarching authority for higher education, with much wider powers than the present University Grants Commission.

“The PMO will have to take a final view in the matter,” said a law ministry official. “The views of ministries concerned with certain specialised fields of education cannot be ignored.”

The development is a setback for the HRD ministry, which in June had won the states’ approval to bring in a super regulator. State education ministers had also backed its proposal to bring medical and legal education under a single authority.

The health ministry, which has been on a backfoot following the corruption scandal in the Medical Council of India (MCI) earlier this year, which led to the arrest of MCI chief Ketan Desai, has argued that the original draft of the HRD ministry had left agricultural and medical education out of its ambit – and both exceptions should remain.

With the MCI in disgrace, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad floated the idea of forming a National Council for Human Resource in Health. “It will be a singleover-arching body for the MCI, Dental Council, Ayurveda, nursing and paramedical staff is in the offing," a ministry official said, which of course would control medical education.

In turn, the HRD ministry had cited the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission and the Yashpal committee on higher education to bring all streams of higher education under the regulatory control of a single authority.