Economy
Finance Ministry spikes Gadkari's greening highways initiative
In a blow to the Green Highways Policy of Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, the Finance Ministry has rejected his proposal which mandates that developers invest 1 per cent of their total project cost in a corpus fund for roadside plantations.
 
The fund was expected to hold up to Rs.1,000 crore per year to provide a green canopy along highways.
 
"Social forestry stands allocated to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and not to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways," the Finance Ministry said in a communication to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways while clarifying its decision to reject the proposal.
 
"Also, that a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) is in place at present which has accumulated funds of Rs 38,000 crore already," it said.
 
"As the activities of CAMPA are very closely related to what is being proposed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, establishment of a separate fund may result in overlap of responsibilities, besides unnecessary parking of funds when a large corpus is already available with CAMPA," it added.
 
Besides, CAMPA is administered by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change.
 
The Finance Ministry noted that the government has already introduced a bill in parliament to create a fund in the Public Account and transfer the accumulated funds in this regard.
 
The "Green Highways (plantation, transplantation, beautification and maintenance) Policy, 2015" was released by Gadkari in September last year.
 
"This policy will generate employment opportunities for about five lakh people from rural areas," Gadkari said at the release ceremony here.
 
The Road Transport and Highways Ministry had said the policy envisages greening of highway corridors with participation of farmers, private sector, non government organisations and government institutions.
 
The minister had elaborated that under the policy 1,200 roadside amenities will also be established.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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India's education crisis of its own making
A recent report tabled in parliament that over 100,000 schools in India have just one teacher is an alarming wake-up call for the government and all stakeholders. However, it also offers a genuine opportunity to transform India's archaic education landscape now that a new policy is under discussion.
 
Four significant challenges confront the education system: a rapidly globalising environment driven largely by the internet revolution; a serious supply-demand constraint in terms of larger numbers of potential students and a sharp decline in the availability of teachers; the emergence of changing technologies; and an evolving marketplace that is constantly placing new demands.
 
The government is tasked not only with the right to education of its citizens but, more importantly, the right to quality education. To navigate this terrain requires a dramatic shift in mindsets and the introduction of substantive policy interventions that are innovative, disruptive and immediate.
 
For around a decade, Indians have celebrated the fact that we are a young nation. As per current statistics, around 600 million Indians are under 25. At a time when countries like China, Japan, Australia, Germany and many others are facing the uncertainty that accompanies a rapidly-aging population, India seemed to hold the key as the growth driver through its increasing reservoir of youth. We call this the demographic dividend.
 
But age alone cannot be the sole criteria for India to emerge as the global talent pool. Indeed, unless the population is employable, the demographic dividend can rapidly degenerate into a demographic liability. This requires that the quality of education is as important as the availability of education opportunities.
 
India's education system is facing a real crisis, which is entirely of our own making. Furthermore, the crisis is so severe that only transformational overhauling would address the fundamental structural and systemic constraints it faces.
 
In the prevailing situation in India, education delivery is essentially mechanical where an over-worked and over-stretched system delivers an antiquated product to a customer who is denied the right of choice. This needs to be replaced by one that is dynamic and constantly evolving and, furthermore, specifically created to cater to the needs and requirements of the customer. It is only when the "why" of education policy is understood that the "how" (or strategy) would follow. Such a fundamental shift requires clarity on what education is meant to achieve.
 
The student needs to become the starting point because at the end of the schooling period, she/he would do a job that is yet to be created. This would redefine the role of education because never before in human history have new technologies, changing market needs, rapid globalisation and consumer aspirations continuously and dramatically impacted the external landscape -- in both our social and work sphere.
 
To create the right environment for change, the significant supply constraint and the huge pressure it imposes on infrastructure need to be addressed. This is a three-fold constraint. First, even if India were to succeed in its target of 30 per cent gross enrolment rate by 2020 in the tertiary sector, 100 million qualified students would still not have places at university and, thereby, would be forced to join programmes that they would not have otherwise opted for.
 
The second supply constraint is the acute paucity of qualified teachers. Furthermore, the problem is not restricted to higher education but begins from the primary and secondary schooling stage. This combination creates the dramatic crisis where the infrastructure itself collapses.
 
Improving the functioning of our educational institutions requires that the approach towards education and consequently, its management is comprehensively recast. Without embedding efficiencies in its functioning, there would be no incentive to improve, as is currently the case. How many of our teachers, for instance, go through regular training programmes that enable them to keep up-to-date with the latest literature or teaching techniques? Choice and competition lie at the heart of improved performance.
 
By preventing outside players and platforms from entering the arena, the situation is perpetuated domestically and vested interests create their own dynamics. A rapid increase in the footprint of the delivery platforms by opening up to new partners -- especially world-class international providers and the embrace of technology, through online and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) platforms, including virtual learning -- would dramatically transform the education landscape and immediately impact the supply constraint.
 
None of this would be particularly appealing to the existing players. Indeed, as was the case in the 1990s when India decided to embark on economic reforms, there would be predictable resistance from domestic constituencies which would see it as a threat to their business survival.
 
By 2020, it is also estimated that India would require 1,000 new universities to cater to the galloping demand. China faced a similar situation. Anticipating the significant challenge, the government opted for a massive programme to fund overseas education for its nationals and thereby, short-circuited the creation of new educational institutions. This has proved to be a far more efficient response financially and administratively than the expected process of constructing new universities. In addition, the experience of studying abroad enabled the Chinese to think globally. This has proved to be a game changer.
 
It is this kind of thinking outside the box that will address the crisis that confronts India in the education sector. This is not an either-or-situation -- nothing ever is -- but one where every available resource is channelled into combatting the crisis that has the potential of adversely impacting India's aspirational surge. It also requires acknowledging the urgency that confronts us.
 
History would be unforgiving if the government does not see this significant challenge as an extraordinary opportunity of changing education's DNA. As is often foretold, the future can hold promise only when we dare to seize it.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Should coaches be held responsible for poor showing at Rio Olympics?
As India's chances of getting a medal recede at the Rio Olympics, with only the shuttlers holding out a promise, are the men and women behind the athletes equally responsible for the poor showing?
 
How far are the coaches responsible for the lack of medals at the 31st Olympic Games?
 
"I have no problem in taking responsibility for the loss, and I don't care about my position. In the end only one thing is important, my team," said Roelant Oltmans, chief coach of the Indian men's hockey team.
 
"But the players also have to show initiative and energy. Without that, as we saw here in Rio, the team gets the bad end of the equation," Oltmans told IANS. 
 
India lost 3-1 to Belgium in the quarter-finals.
 
The London Olympics in 2012 had yielded six medals -- two silvers and four bronzes. The lack of a medal in Rio is likely to result in a lot of soul searching in India as the athletes start returning home empty-handed.
 
In general, coaches have a larger than life role in the performance of the athletes. They act like friends, philosophers and guides to the youngsters, steering them away from problems and pointing them towards possible greatness. Often they have to act tough, giving a dressing down to those who step out of line.
 
"I do have to shout at a boxer or two. But that depends on the person. Some people take well to strong criticism. But others wilt. So I have to use different tactics for different people," says chief boxing coach Gurbux Singh Sandhu, who also often dominates the interaction boxers have with the media.
 
"A coach's role is very important, from the first day of training to the ring. In the ring between bouts I just tell them what mistakes they are making and how to use things to their advantage," Sandhu told IANS.
 
Theirs is a reflected glory. Although they remain largely behind the scenes, the role of a coach gets a lot of attention if a player wins a medal. "It's a great feeling when your ward wins," says chief archery coach Dharmendra Kumar. 
 
"You sleep well that night." 
 
But if he or she does badly, it affects the coach as much as the athlete, he said adding that all coaches feel responsible for the loss.
 
Many athletes give high marks to their coaches for their success, although sometimes the nationality of the coach too comes into play. "Indian coaches should be given enough recognition. No one can say they cannot do anything. The contingent in Rio had many foreign coaches, but their teams could not reach the finals. We did. For gymnastics, that's a great achievement," Dipa Karmakar told reporters after having come fourth in the vault event, missing the bronze narrowly.
 
Expectations of the people and the media too weighs heavily on athletes and coaches. "This is the problem of the media. They are not interested in the performance. They just ask why we didn't get gold. You send athletes from a country which doesn't have good training facilities, as they have in Europe and China, and you want a gold?" Abhinav Bindra's coach Heinz Reinkemeier told reporters after the shooter came fourth in the 10m Air Rifle event shootout. 
 
Good performance, he added, was a value on its own and people have to understand that.
 
But shouldn't the athletes be held responsible for the performance? "No point in demoralising them. In shooting I feel responsible and take responsibility. I don't want to take it out on the boys as they have to go for world championships and other competition," National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) President Raninder Singh told reporters after the shooters came out blank.
 
"I think we have to give more attention to the mental aspect of the athletes. I think they were getting overawed by the whole scenario of global champions being their opponents, not only in shooting but most of the other disciplines. We need good psychologists who can talk to them and raise their morale," Raninder told IANS.
 
Coaches, psychologists, physiotherapists and support staff may all be required. But in the end, if athletes fail to click, the age-old question crops up with only the number changing. A country of 1.2 billion and such poor performance at the Olympics?
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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