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Seeing is believing

Unfortunately, because of past examples, every time we hear the words 'committee' and 'examine' we reach for our groans.

india Updated: May 29, 2006 00:35 IST

What’s common to dam construction without implementing relocation plans for oustees and upping quotas for OBCs in educational institutions without increasing the total number of seats? Answer: pushing such policies without showing much concern for those adversely affected. With the UPA government all set to introduce 27 per cent reservations in higher educational institutes next year, it was left to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make some comforting overtures to those opposed to the quotas. These included a “verbal agreement for a percentage increase in general category seats” and the reassurance that the (rather aptly named) Oversight Committee would “examine ways and means to expand capacities”.

Unfortunately, because of past examples, every time we hear the words ‘committee’ and ‘examine’ we reach for our groans. Clearly, expansion of seats in colleges and universities is much desired -- and much needed. But such broad-based expansion requires more money than is needed to clear the decks for reserving seats. Apart from the required amount for infrastructure upgradation and administrative expenses, the government will also be required to do the obvious: recruit many more teachers. Even as things stand now, getting the qualified faculties in place is a difficult task, with the purse strings tightly held by none other than the HRD Ministry. The bureaucratic mindset of doling out ‘UGC-rate ’ salaries makes quality teachers shy away from teaching in universities and colleges. With expansion supposedly on the cards, this demand for quality teachers will increase many-fold.

The 1964-66 Kothari Commission on Education recommended 6 per cent of the national GDP to be spent on education. With current spending at about 3 per cent, governments down the years have had ready excuses to explain the shortfall. The 1999 Tapas Majumdar Committee Report computed that an average of Rs 13,700 crore per year would be required for ten years to bring all out-of-school children to the formal school system. This recommendation has been ignored. So why on earth should we believe the UPA government when it states that it is “committed to committed to expansion” when there are frustrating precedents to learn from?