Citizens' Issues
Government supports non-discriminatory access to Internet: Minister
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Tuesday that the government stands for ensuring "non-discriminatory" access to Internet.
 
"Government stands for ensuring non-discriminatory access to Internet for all citizens of the country," Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha, as a calling attention motion was taken up on net neutrality.
 
"Current debate on net neutrality should be seen from this perspective... while resolving the issue harmoniously and consistently with constitutional principles," he said.
 
The minister added that a final decision on net neutrality will be taken by the government.
 
"Whatever be the outcome of the consultation paper (of TRAI) the decision will be taken by government," he informed the Rajya Sabha.
 
In March, telecom regulator TRAI released a paper inviting comments from users and companies on how over-the-top services should be regulated in the country. It asked stakeholders to send suggestions by April 24 and counter-arguments by May 8.
 
A six-member panel of the department of telecommunications (DoT) is also conducting a study on the issue and is likely to submit its report by mid-May.
 
The minister added: "Internet is one of the finest creations of human mind, it must belong to mankind, not to few".
 
Net neutrality means that governments and Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally - therefore, not charging users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially.

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How state investment leads to poor academic research in India
The state-funded research has now degenerated into a purposeless activity. The rise in the plagiarism cases only proves the point
 
The Delhi Gazette recently produced a video with the title “Academic Dishonesty” capturing an entire market that sells projects, thesis and final dissertations, involving the most reputed institutions of Delhi. This brings to the fore the sorry state of academics/research in India. However, this is not something new. Research in India has been plagued by cases of plagiarism and fake PhDs for quite sometime. In this light, let’s explore the possible causes for this phenomenon.
 
Education in India is fully state-controlled; probably the most regulated sector after agriculture. Since the state decides everything from what you teach, to how much you charge, to how do you grade students, there is very little room left for any innovation in this field. Even as the state’s monopoly continue to ruin the sector, we keep crying for more of its intervention. One can write so much about the ill effects of this on the whole education system, but let’s confine ourselves to PhD research programs in this piece. 
 
"Government should spend more on R&D", "We need to pay our researchers more", we keep hearing these lines all the time - especially during the Budget discussions.  We talk as if there is some innovation vending machine out there, and that if the government puts more money into it, we can draw more innovation. Quality human resource is central to research; but it hardly ever occurs to us to question the kind of research that is even possible with the students produced from our lackluster educational system. This is one of the major reasons why we struggle to get private investment in this field. In addition to the shortage of quality human resource, coercive taxation and the lack of proper Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) protection, scares investors away.
 
Instead of fixing these crucial aspects, and thereby letting the private investments flow into the sector, we take the easy route of demanding the state to invest. The state gladly accepts the ‘responsibility’ by imposing new taxes on us. And we have seen over the years on how the government handles things - as favors, dispensations, subsidies come to the fore, merit and reason takes backseat.
 
While a private organisation investing in research, surveys the market where it should invest so as to get returns, government’s investment decisions are based on immediate political advantages and/or bureaucratic whims and fancies. As a result, they produce low quality researchers who are more concerned about the number of papers published by them (paperwork) and less about coming out with real solutions that could change things on the ground. Hence the state-funded research has now degenerated into a purposeless activity. The rise in the plagiarism cases only proves the claim. Can we imagine a private research organization, after paying the researcher, tolerating plagiarism without extracting any work from him? 
 
One would wonder if not for the research ecosystem controlled by the government that injects laziness, at least for their own sake to compete in the job market later on, the researchers pursuing PhDs should be doing something worthwhile.  But, there is an interesting connection between the falling PhD standards and the government regulations on the teaching staff of graduate colleges. 
 
Regulation boards, in the name of maintaining high-class standards, impose norms on the teaching staff that the colleges recruit. For example, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) prescribes that 1/3rd of the engineering college staff should have a relevant PhD; and a normal student teacher ratio of 1:15. Which means, for every 45 students, a PhD professor is mandatory. Every year, an estimated 15 lakh engineering students graduate through out the country. Which means, the total number of students pursuing engineering at any point of time is 4yrsX15 lakhs =60 lakhs. If you exclude the 1st year students, where only general subjects are taught, we have 45 lakh proper engineering students. So a back of the envelope calculation says that there is a need for one lakh PhD holders in academics alone. That being the demand let us see the supply. 
 
On an average, in the technical arena, we are producing only  1000 PhDs per year. Now observe the huge gap between the artificial demand created by the regulatory board and the supply. Unsurprisingly, this report says 43% of teaching staff in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is lying unfilled and mentions lack of PhDs in the field as one of the major reasons. Correlate this fact with the falling PhD standards. A plagiarized or fake PhD can never get you a job in the industrial and production market where merit prevails. But thanks to the inflated demand for PhDs in the teaching field due to the state regulation, you are guaranteed a job just for carrying a PhD tag; and that to with a high salary, which is again fixed by the state as part of the norms. This should explain why students want to get a PhD by hook or crook.
 
What was the intention behind this regulation? To maintain high standards - and what are they achieving? Exactly the opposite - just like any other government regulation.
 
Imagine if there were no government regulations on recruiting staff and the colleges were open to recruit anyone. Then the colleges could hire knowledgeable, experienced people from the industry who would be able to impart greater practical knowledge to the students. And they also would then become a competition to these researchers. This would force the researchers to look at PhD not simply as a tag, but something to be achieved by exploring and applying subject. This would not only improve the quality of research, but would also enormously improve the quality of teaching. 
 
Instead of exploring any such alternatives to make the sector competitive, the government regulatory boards come up with silly regulations. To curb plagiarism, the University Grants Commission (UGC) made it mandatory for the universities to install software to detect PhD plagiarism. This did nothing but open up a new source of income for those in the thesis and project selling business. They now simply modify the content to make it pass through the mandated software and sell it as a premium service.
 
Without addressing any of the core issues, we keep saying, "pay our researchers more". In fact, paying researchers more in the existing set up would not only waste crores of taxpayers money, but also can seriously distort the job market. For example, if the government pays researchers close to the industry job standards, more students will opt for research. This not only increases the number of good-for-nothing PhDs, but also creates a shortage in the production department. Just like what the NREGA did to the labor market. 
 
(The author can be reached at twitter.com/ravithinkz)
 

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COMMENTS

B. Yerram Raju

2 years ago

It is not the pay alone that promotes purposeful research. Research paper should actually reflect the commitment of the researcher in the subject and the depth of knowledge in the subject. The search buttons are giving the host of outputs used in the research paper as though the student/teacher concerned has actually gone through the paper. In a few Interview Boards I happened to be there for recruiting teachers in Economics, I got blank responses to the questions on Adam Smith, J.M. Keynes, Marshall and Pigou, Paul Samuelson, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, Milton Friedman etc. the need for studying the fundamentals in any subject has taken backseat and therefore, the urge to do purposive research. This is the case with most social science subjects. Fortunately however, it is otherwise in the case of Science Subjects and so are we having Pridhwi and missiles getting global recognition.

mm

2 years ago

It is a Mafia. Your inflate the cost of education so that private mangements can generate black money. One year of empty talk by this governmemrent has not resulted in curbing not even one source which generates black money

Bank Employees and Social Banking
Bank employees and unions will have to recharge themselves to a new set of objectives that would enhance the business of banks on one side and help the society on the other
 
May Day is usually the day to recall the assertion of their rights. For a change, the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) during this 70th year thought of taking the initiative of enjoining social responsibility. Gone are the hard days of militant agitations as means to achieve fair compensation, safety, security and comfort in work places. Workmen and officer representatives are today part of the governance and management of banks. Machines dictate the employees’ ways of working. Discretion has less relevance now than in the past. Technology dictates the employees’ ways of working and management processes. But are the customers, a happier lot? The response is discouraging.
 
Ever since the introduction of banking reforms following the recommendations of Narasimham Committee 1 and 2 and the alignment with the global regulatory architecture through BASEL I, 2 and 3, technology and capital adequacy have become the prime drivers of growth in banking sector.
 
Mobile banking and micro finance institutions (MFIs) moved into the space left by the RRBs, weakened cooperatives, and rural branches of commercial banks. Banking correspondents and customer service points, White ATMs surfaced.  Who should we blame for providing this space excepting the lack of commitment and motivation of staff to align with the objectives of the nationalisation of banks?
 
Several progressive regulatory measures from the RBI – asset reconstruction companies, payments and settlement solutions, safe mobile banking and revisiting the priority sector definitions have all happened during this period. 
 
Success of social banking is a function of trust and banking with a human face. Banks’ business is growing exponentially. Globally inclusive banking has become a great concern. Several economies – with developed nations being no exception – are devising ways to make possible access to banking easy, convenient and cheap. Digital architecture is reshaping the way of banking of the future.
 
Seamless integration with the mobile phones, emails, messages between the banks and customers benefits the banks more than the customers. Massive data is going to be captured through cloud technology. Cyber security is going to be an issue that would haunt the banks continuously. There is a huge opportunity for banks to innovate in this space. 
 
“Being able to take advantage of, or react to, the digital revolution requires banks to behave in ways that they are not quite accustomed to. It requires extremely clear and quick cross-functional collaboration.” Says McKinsey in its November 2014 Report.
 
The demographic profile of bank customers will also undergo sea change. Senior citizens are likely to constitute 20% of population by 2025, demanding far different services from the bank than the present. The youth, that constitute 40% of population, used to working on active social media like the Facebook, Twitter and the like, wanting speed and accuracy of transactions and women demanding different products to suit their multiple chores at family and work.  
 
HM Khan, Deputy Governor of RBI, while inaugurating a Dena Bank’s Self-Service Branch bank exhorted very rightly; “The focus has been on alternative channels and digitisation of banking and move (banking) from assisted to self-service mode… But the fact remains in the Indian context that despite us moving in the Jet-plane age, we have the bullock cart as well. We have different market segments and have to look at the hand behind the machine as well….” He called for handholding of older generation on-branch customers and the new entrants through ‘a blend of software with human touch’. 
 
Managements would be hence forward busy in formulating strategic initiatives to withstand the competition both from domestic and global financial institutions (the presence of global financial institutions on Indian landscape has been doubling up), coping with regulatory compliances, evolving new products and measures to mitigate product and process risks continuously. In other words, managements would focus on risk management and compliance. Risk management should be viewed as a window of opportunity for greater earnings and greater profits than as cost centre.
 
Most of the members of the staff, unlike in the past, are comfortably placed in the work environment. They have negotiated settlements on wages, salaries and perks; they do not have to slog for balancing their daybooks or ledgers. They are the face of the bank. This is precisely the reason for the employees to be socially sensitive. 
 
In the absence of any substantive relationship issues with the managements now, the unions should devote their time in house for service to the customer far more friendly than now. It is time to give back to the society. The employees have to relocate and recharge themselves to a new set of objectives that would enhance the business of the banks on one side and help better reach to the society on the other.
 
Social banking has to be responsible and responsive to small and marginal farmers, leaseholders, micro and small enterprises, small retail shop owners, economically weaker sections and women in bottom-of-pyramid  that require more than banking to succeed in the enterprise they pursue and they look to the banks to help them in that direction. Field visits help the employees to understand the farmer and entrepreneur. The documents tell only ownership story and not the story of his production and marketing. 
 
Mutual understanding builds trust and trust begets trust. Banking in India is built on the Scottish principle of ‘suspect and respect’ and not the reverse. The reversal has to be engineered only through a change in the mindset and cultural shift in understanding the requirements of the 25% of the country that are still poor. The bourgeoning middle class and the elitist can always be cultured into technology and internet banking.
 
Employees have more leisure than most of their predecessors of yesteryears and fewer responsibilities on the home front as well because of nuclear families. If a group of employees can volunteer to adopt a village, visit at least for two days in a month in a picnic mode, enhance the customers’ knowledge of bank and its deposit and loan products, prepare at least one bankable project once in a quarter, 15 lakh viable projects with loyal customer base would turn banking an experience worth the life. This in essence will be the responsible and responsive social banking.
 
(Dr Yerram Raju Behara is a former senior executive of SBI and an economist and risk management specialist. The views expressed in the article are his personal.)

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COMMENTS

SuchindranathAiyerS

2 years ago

Why would Bank employees be any different from the Nation's leadership? Aren't they on the lower rungs of India's Neta-Babu-Cop-Milard-Crony Kleptocracy? ( Computerization has only increased the insouciance and the officers do not even read the screen properly it seems. Recently my ECS mandate for BSNL was bounced for Rs 1,070/- by State Bank of India Jayanagar 2nd Block putting me to enormous inconvenience. I have fixed deposits in excess of 20 Lakhs there and an overdraft limit that I never draw on) This would never have happened during our non-computerized days without there being Hell to pay for the erring officer).

GANESHKUMAR AP

2 years ago

Challenge is to be relevant!

PATTABHI

2 years ago

Dr Yerram Raju. has rightly flagged the opportunities and challenges that face the Bank Employees as Ache Din is being ushered in by the present Govt. I hope the Employees and Unions would now start focussing on social change and on making a difference to the Society with greater purposive involvement.

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