The human resource development ministry has hit back at criticism from Prime Ministerial advisor Sam Pitroda over the need for a national higher education survey the government is planning, picking the same platform used by Pitroda.
A day after Pitroda accused the government of wasting time on a higher education survey instead of pursuing reforms, the HRD ministry countered that skipping the survey would force policy planning based on conjecture rather than robust statistics.
Pitroda delivered his scathing remarks on Friday at a conference of over 200 Vice Chancellors of central and state universities organised by the University Grants Commission and the HRD ministry. The HRD ministry delivered its counter punch at the same conference later — but away from the glare of the media.
In a presentation to the VCs, the ministry argued that the national higher education survey — that Pitroda cited as an example of the government wasting time — is critical for the country to prepare its higher education strategy. The survey, the ministry said, was necessary to build a detailed statistical baseline that would show up areas in which the government needs to focus.
"The other option available is to … go by perception instead of robust statistics. Policy interventions and planning ought to be based on robust statistics and not on a set of conjectures, however insightful they may be," the presentation argued.
Pitroda, while dismissing the need for survey on Friday, had asked the VCs to instead fill up a two-page questionnaire he had prepared which he argued was adequate replacement for the HRD ministry’s survey.
As chairman of the National Knowledge Commission — set up by the PM in 2005 — Pitroda had a tense relationship with the HRD ministry under the late Arjun Singh during UPA-1. Pitroda had however publicly not questioned the HRD ministry under Kapil Sibal – till now.
"Five years have gone since we made our recommendations. Nothing has happened. All I see is more talk, more discussions. We do not need more discussions, we need to act," Pitroda had said while addressing the VCs.
Experts however point out that some of the NKC’s recommendations — such as setting up a national knowledge network — have been accepted and are being implement.