Beyond Money
Sister Lucy Kurien of Maher selected to receive the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2015
The award will be presented to Sister Lucy Kurien by the President of India in a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on 8 March 2016 on the occasion of International Women’s Day
 
Sister Lucy Kurien of Maher has been selected to receive the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2015 for her outstanding contribution to women's empowerment. The children of Maher come from the streets and slums, from begging communities, from parents unable to care for them, from other institutions that have rejected them. They come for short- or long-term stays, and for as long as they live at Maher, they receive schooling, tutoring, excellent nutrition and meditation.
 
Today, Maher operates 36 houses served by a veritable army of loving doctors, social workers, teachers, trustees, business people and volunteers, providing homes for close to 1,200 full-time residents (860 children, 300 women - including 120 mentally ill women and 31 mentally ill or aged and destitute men). Thousands more are reached by Maher’s community outreach programmes such as self-help groups, kindergarten schools, village libraries, street theatre performances and health and education initiatives. All are welcome at Maher—regardless of religion, gender, caste, colour, creed, or social status. Maher was founded by Sister Lucy Kurien in 1997 in Pune district in Maharashtra.
 
The award will be presented to Sister Lucy Kurien by the President of India in a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on 8 March 2016 on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
 
Moneylife magazine has done its little bit to make Maher well known to readers and donors by publishing an article about it in the Beyond Money page of the Issue dated 17 March 2016. You can read it online here.

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Nifty, Sensex headed higher subject to dips – Weekly closing report
Nifty has bounced off long-term support and may head towards 7,700
 
We had mentioned in last week’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex were not yet out of the woods and that a disappointing budget may push the market down again. The budget has disappointed many investors and the Sensex and Nifty briefly touched their 52-week lows during Monday’s trading, when the budget was presented in Parliament by the Finance Minister. However, post-budget, the likely reforms in government policy and the possibility of an interest rate cut from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), along with favourable cues from global market pushed the market indices higher for three days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, the major indices were range-bound and closed marginally higher than Thursday’s close. The weekly trends in the major indices of the Indian stock markets are given in the table below:
 
 
Union Budget announcements, combined with negative Asian cues, and a dip in the rupee value depressed the Indian equity markets during Monday’s trading. During the Union Budget announcements, the Sensex plunged to a fresh 52-week low of 22,494.61. However, recovered somewhat but still closed negative. Similarly, the wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) touched a fresh 52-week low of 6,825.80 points.
 
The Union Budget 2016-17 was tabled in parliament on Monday. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley disclosed the government's spending on the rural sector, infrastructure and agricultural credit. Market analysts observed that many investors were disappointed, as they expected some out-of-box reform measures. The budget did provide some measures, as well as healthy fiscal deficit targets. Roads and infrastructure sector were supported. There were some big negatives like the hike in securities transaction tax and lower bank recapitalisation levels. Big positives include the hike in rural spending and infrastructure sector.
 
Expectations of a rate cut, coupled with budgetary announcements and positive Asian cues, buoyed the Indian equity markets on Tuesday. The BSE market breadth was heavily tilted in favour of bulls -- with 1,903 advances and 573 declines. Initially, the key indices of the Indian equity markets opened on a positive note, in-sync with their Asian peers and expectations of a future rate cut. Short-coverings were triggered by heightened chances of a future rate cut by the RBI.  This pushed the prices higher, as investors expect the Union Budget's fiscal prudence measures will give room to the RBI to further ease its monetary policy. Presenting the Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday announced that the government will adhere to a 3.9% fiscal deficit target. He also set a 3.5% target for the next fiscal. Buying in large caps like ITC, ICICI Bank, Hero MotoCorp and Maruti Suzuki lifted equity markets higher. Even positive macro-data that showed acceleration in India's manufacturing activity in February supported the equity markets upward movement.
 
The bull-run on Indian stock markets continued for the second straight day on Wednesday, with the mood also lifted by the strong showing in other Asian markets and overnight gains in the US and Europe. Analysts said the sentiments were also boosted by signs of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), given that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has decided to adhere to meeting the deficit target of 3.9% for this fiscal, and lowering it to 3.5% for the next year. Sector-wise, the S&P BSE realty index, bankex, finance index and basic materials index were the prominent gainers among indices.
 
On Thursday, the post-budget bull-run continued and the major indices of the Indian stock markets closed nearly 1.5% higher than Wednesday’s close, lifted by the perception that the national budget has some reforms push. Sector-wise, the S&P BSE metal index, capital goods index, industrials index and basic materials index were the prominent gainers among the BSE indices. Global cues from Tokyo and Singapore markets were also favourable. Shares of metal companies were in focus with the Nifty Metal index surging 4.81% on the NSE after LMEX, a gauge of six metals traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME), hit its nearly four-month high on Wednesday. Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL), Vedanta, Tata Steel, Hindalco Industries and NMDC rallied more than 5% each. Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Jindal Saw, JSW Steel, National Aluminium Company (Nalco) and Bhushan Steel were up 2%-3% on the NSE.
 
On Friday, the major indices were range-bound due to insufficient momentum in the bull-run and finally closed marginally higher than Thursday’s close. Sector-wise, the S&P BSE metal index, power index and basic materials index gained on the BSE, while IT index was among the losing indices.

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Primary Education Spending Declines, So Does Quality
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) -- a national programme for universal elementary education -- has seen Rs.1,15,625 crore ($17.7 billion) spent on it over the last five years -- but the quality of learning has declined.
 
For instance, only a fourth of all children in standard III could read a standard II text fluently -- a drop of more than 5 percent over five years, according to the 2014 Annual Status Report on Education (ASER).
 
The SSA received more than half the money (52 percent) in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s school-education allocation in the latest budget, but over the last five years, the SSA budget declined 6 percent -- from Rs.23,873 crore ($4.4 billion) in 2012-13 to Rs.22,500 crore ($3.3 billion) for 2016-17.
 
Education is primarily the responsibility of states, but the central government directly finances 60 percent of education, through programmes such as the SSA. As many as 66 percent of India’s primary school students attend government schools or government-aided schools -- the rest going to costlier private schools.
 
Of the money set aside for the SSA during 2015-16, only 57 percent was released till September 2015, according to an Accountability Initiative report.
 
While presenting his third budget earlier this week, Jaitley said nothing about the quality of education. The quality declines may be correlated with reduced funding, but they may not be caused only by a lack of money.
 
Less than one in five primary school teachers is adequately trained, IndiaSpend reported last year. The consequence is a marked decline in learning ability, in government and private schools.
 
The learning levels in government schools plummeted to a low of 41.1% in 2013 but recovered slightly to 42.2 percent in 2014, as IndiaSpend reported.
 
Similarly, with math, a quarter of children in standard III could not recognise numbers between 10 and 99, a drop of 13 percent over five years.
 
As much as 99 percent new elementary schools have been constructed of the 400,000 sanctioned since the launch of the programme in 2000-01 till September 30, 2015, according to this reply in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) on December 7, 2015.
 
About 23 percent of schools surveyed by Accountability Initiative in 2015-16 needed to build at least one classroom in order to meet Right-to-Education norms. However, only 1 percent of schools received money from SSA during the financial year to construct new classrooms.
 
There are other gaps in the programme. The enrolment of girls has gone up from 48.12 percent in 2009-10 to 48.19 percent in 2014-15 at the elementary level. Many more girls clearly need to be enrolled. As many as 52 percent of boys are enrolled in primary schools.
 
The good news: Dropouts are down, highest in six to 14 age group
 
A 55 percent decline in dropouts was reported in the age group 6-14 years, from 13.46 million in 2005 to 6.1 million in 2013. The annual average primary school dropout rate declined from 6.8 percent in 2009-10 to 4.3 percent in 2013-14.
 
Mid-day meals in schools received Rs 9,700 crore ($1.4 billion), next only to SSA. About 102 million children across India in 2014-15 used the mid-day meal programme, the world’s largest school-feeding scheme.
 
As part of its rural initiatives, over the next two years, the government is also planning to open 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas (New-age schools) in the districts without them.
 
The Navodaya Vidayalaya scheme was launched under the National Policy on Education 1986 to educate the best rural talent. There are 591 Navodaya Vidyalayas across India, according to data tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 7, 2015.
 
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which runs these schools, was allocated Rs.2,471 crore ($400 million) -- an increase of 8 percent over last year.
 
Focus on higher education to strengthen infrastructure, but enrolments are low. The finance minister proposed setting up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an initial capital of Rs.1,000 crore ($146 million) to strengthen infrastructure in higher education.
 
The HEFA will be a not-for-profit organisation, which will use funds from the market and supplement them with donations and corporate social responsibility funds.
 
Higher education-including central and deemed universities-received the most money, Rs.7,997 crore ($1.2 billion), followed by the Indian Institutes of Technology (Rs.4,984 crore) and University Grants Commission (Rs.4,492 crore).
 
About 80 percent students were enrolled in undergraduate programmes, but only 0.3 percent (84,058 students) were enrolled for PhDs in 2012-13, a sign that research is weak and faltering, as IndiaSpend has reported.
 
Only 21 percent of young men and women aged 18 to 23 are enrolled for higher education. India’s enrolment rate in higher education is 18 percent below the global average of 27 percent and low compared to 26 percent in China and 36 percent in Brazil, a 2014 British Council report pointed out.
 
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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