Citizens' Issues
Take immediate action to curb accidents on Expressway: MCCIA to government

With the Maharashtra government, MSRDC and Ideal Road Builders turning a blind eye to curbing accidents on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, MCCIA has reiterated its appeal to the authorities to urgently act upon an accident-prevention campaign

(This the second part of the two-part article by this writer. We had carried the first part yesterday. Click here to read the first part Ideal Road Builders has pocketed nearly Rs1,200 crore from Pune-Mumbai Expressway but what about accident prevention?)

According to news reports, the Pune-Mumbai Expressway has witnessed nearly 20,000 traffic collisions, 2,000 deaths and 8,000 injuries since the last five years or so.  In an analysis conducted by the then principal secretary of the transport department, Ramanath Jha, 56% of the mishaps take place at night and cars account for 54% of the total accidents.

According to the study conducted by the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries (MCCIA), majority of the accidents take place on the following stretches:

Accident Prone Spots

  •   Amrutanjan Point;  
  •   Khandala Exit;  
  •   Straight Road between Kilometre No 50 and 53;
  •   Certain spots in the tunnels;
  • Slope and sharp turns between Taje–Pimploli on the Pune–Khandala stretch; Devale; Oundhe Pul; Kusgaon Pul; Khandala Bypass and Aadoshi Tunnel;
  •   Common stretch of 2km shared by the Expressway and NH 4.  

Other reasons for accidents

  • There are cracks on the Expressway at seven places;
  •   Broken crash barriers;
  • Damaged cats eyes on the centre lines, divider edge line, etc;
  •   Absence of painting on the road dividers;
  •   Damaged radium stripes on crash barriers at many places;
  • Absence of Sign Boards at certain places;
  •   Negligence of RTO and Highway Police in controlling the movement of heavy vehicles resulting in slow movement or break-downs of heavy vehicles as well as use of all three lanes by heavy vehicles especially in the ghat section;
  •   Highway Police, while regulating traffic on the Expressway, overlook such indiscipline / lapses by heavy vehicles resulting in to traffic congestion in the ghat section.

Proposed Solutions:
1.    The stretch near Amrutanjan Bridge is required to be widened and two additional lanes should be provided. Though the Amrutanjan Bridge has been declared as heritage, it is necessary to draw up a plan with the help of modern engineering technology for execution.
2.    Undertake survey of accident-prone spots between Pune and Khandala and highlight these spots with hazardous painting and by making use of modern engineering technology to lessen the gravity of the accidents on these spots.
3.    Carry out repairs at the frontage as well as inside of the tunnels on the Expressway.
4.    Remove or repair cracks at seven places.
5.    Place caution boards indicating accident prone spots to ensure control on speed.
6.    Edge marking, lane marking, centre line as also on divider should be painted.
7.    Repair broken crash barriers and replace damaged or uprooted cats eyes.
8.    Paint thick and broad yellow & white stripes to bring control over excessive speed of the vehicles on the straight road (similar to yellow & white stripes painted at Kivale or red & white stripes painted at Bandra–Worli Sea Link).
9.    Issue instructions to the Highway Police to keep a check on speeding vehicles and increase number of speed guns to implement it effectively.
10.    Regional transport officers should be asked to take stringent action against heavy vehicles carrying load in excess of the prescribed limit and restrict such vehicles from entering the Expressway.
11.    Restrict entry to heavy vehicles from 8.00pm to 6.00am for abnormally long, over-loaded, over-heighted, over-projected, carrying heavy material like machinery, parts of windmills, etc.  Similarly, during day time disallow such vehicles to ply on the Expressway if not accompanied by a pilot vehicle. Such measures are badly required and sufficient care needs to be exercised by regional transport officers and Highway Police.
12.    On the ghat section, reserve 2nd and 3rd lane for heavy vehicles and 1st lane (near the divider) for light vehicles. To maintain the lane discipline, it is essential that the RTO and Highway Police independently implement action plan.
13.    Thirty-two tonne heavy cranes should be deployed permanently near Dasturi for removal of damaged vehicles from the accident spot and subsequently facilitate smooth traffic on the Expressway.
14.    Deploy fully equipped ambulance with trained staff and a doctor to provide immediate and urgent help to the victims.
15.    For monitoring traffic of heavy vehicles on the Expressway, it has become necessary to appoint an RTO inspector between Khalapur Toll Plaza and Talegaon Toll Plaza on Khandala Ghat as well as between Khandala-Lonavla-Malvali-Kamshet-Somatne.

The stretch between Khalapur Toll Plaza and Amrutanjan Bridge falls under the jurisdiction of Thane RTO and beyond Amrutanjan Bridge falls under the jurisdiction of Pune RTO. Therefore, it has become necessary for both RTOs to make special arrangements in their respective areas.

(Please note: The IRB is bound by a contractual agreement with the MSRDC to maintain the Expressway and all the above points prove that it is not doing so. Read the earlier article on the responsibilities of IRB: Mumbai-Pune Expressway toll collected so far: Around Rs1,000 crore. But why is maintenance so shoddy?)

(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at vinitapune@gmail.com.)

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COMMENTS

Rajan Vaswani

6 years ago

Madam... your points are valid, but do note that the drivers also are at fault on the expressway. The drivers in big imported cars are the biggest culprits. They believe they are on an F1 track. See my post. I also wrote this feedback to traffic police of Maharashtra, but nothing has been done at all.
http://invulnerabilities.blogspot.com/20....

Here is one more on how human greed has spoiled the Lonavla ghats that they are a sight for sore eyes. http://invulnerabilities.blogspot.com/20...

REPLY

Vinita

In Reply to Rajan Vaswani 6 years ago

Your observations are right but it is not only imported cars but all kinds of cars - small and big that overspeed. I agree drivers may be at fault most of the time but if there is strict enforcement of speed and traffic rules, there would be lesser mishaps

When chocolate isn’t chocolate anymore...

 In the US, one out of every three or four young children are now obese, and generals from the Armed Forces have represented that stricter controls need to be exercised over packaged foods of this sort. Here in India, we have the world’s largest population of diabetics, and much of it is caused by unhealthy eating

Somewhere in the hubris surrounding the Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) circus, is a small sub-episode, played out for a short while onscreen—but extremely important all the same. It involves the handing over of a basket full of Cadbury products, important because it is not just one of the bigger sponsors, but also because at no stage does the venerable Amitabh Bachchan say anything about them being chocolates or even mentioning the brand.

This discretion is not accidental. Nor does it happen because the advertiser wants less airtime for her buck. The real reason is not shrouded in mystery but like a bad smell it is simply ignored.

Before one moves in-depth into the local Indian scenario with branded ‘chocolates’, it is important to point out that information from the ministry of food processing is still not very clear on the subject. Whether it has to do with cacao, cocoa solids, cocoa butter or any other combination thereof, it appears that the term ‘chocolate’ can be added on to almost anything sold in India, from slabs to bars to barfees to ice-creams and more, without demur—as long as the ingredients mention something to do with some form of cocoa. Sometimes, not even that.

Of course, in another conversation held “off the record”, this correspondent was told by a senior functionary at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that often they follow the US FDA” classifications and standards. That is interesting, because much of the cocoa solids and cocoa butter controversy, in addition to the concept of changing the nomenclature of chemically altered palm oil to give it cocoa butter nomenclature and formulations as well as similarities, started there.

Chatting, separately, with a friend who works on vegetable oil carriers, a specialised sort of sea-going tanker ship which is designed to transport food-grade liquids in bulk across great distances and varying climatic conditions without damaging them, I also came to learn about a palm oil-based product which was now transported in bulk and is being used in lieu of cocoa butter—the main ingredient for most brands of chocolates and chocolate derivatives sold commercially. This sounded interesting—was the ship, then, always afloat in the brilliant aroma of fresh chocolate, certainly something which would match the fresh sea air?

Far from it, I was told—matter of fact, when moving into hotter areas like the Red Sea, the whole ship apparently smelt like cooking oil going bad on a roadside vendors stall off any random highway frying pakodas. Even the heavy oil and diesel fumes were less sickening, as the jokes flowed, after all—add liquor to the stuff in the tanks, and you have a Tia Maria? Food for thought, as we opted for the pink coloured stuff hopefully labelled ‘strawberry’, on the dessert rack.

On the way back home I stopped over at one of those 24x7 convenience stores attached to fuel filling stations, and on a whim and a fancy, asked the attendant to give me a variety of chocolates in the sub-Rs30 range.

With a basket full of ‘chocolates’ from Cadbury's, Nestle, Mars and a couple of other brands, I moved to the check-out counter and re-confirmed from the cashier—these are all chocolates, right? The young man behind the till looked up at me in surprise, then in wonder, and finally took pity and said, ‘of course’—and then added, “Cadbury means chocolate, no?”

How interesting. A story or report is developing, is the thought that went uppermost in my mind as I paid the sizeable bill, there was so much variety. Chocolates are Cadbury, generic, and other brands with similar products in the same shelf are also, thus, chocolates. When I asked the young man why they didn’t have Amul, however, I was told, oh, that’s milk, not chocolate.

But then, Cadbury’s is almost a generic term for chocolates, and asking the sales person at a store for guidance on this is not of much use—anything and everything in the same shelves is, by default, also allegedly chocolate. Somebody will say—the sales person is really not the best person to ask for specific details. Valid point, but who else will you ask at a sales outlet, then? And doesn't that mean something—slightly more lucid labelling, for example?

So now we start with the research part. The retail part has already confused many.

First road-block—you have to buy the stuff. Their websites, full of so much effort and detail for everything else, do not provide full details of what their products are made of. But that’s for the India websites—head for the same product, same company, but European and American websites, and you can get more details than you can handle. Try it. So, take a digital photo of the ‘chocolate’ wrapper, and expand it so that you can read it.

Yes, certainly, the list of ingredients and other important information is provided on the packaging. In an extremely small font size, and with special care to the colours used—what looks like dark blue or black on a purple background, for example. Or golden brown on darker brown... Which makes it almost impossible to read on the packaging, unless you go seeking out magnifying glasses and bright lights—or digitally enhance things.

In some developed countries, it is now a pre-requisite that what is not chocolate is not sold as chocolate. By and large, local variations aside, if it did not have at least 30% by way of cacao, chocolate, cocoa butter or solids, then it could not be called ‘chocolate’. Certain products, like ice-creams claiming to be chocolate or using related words, needed to have a “this is not chocolate” cautionary on the wrappers too.

Next, we start with those popular products which don’t have aspirations towards being called ‘chocolates’, but won’t hesitate in giving themselves airs as well as using confusing buzzwords. Cadbury Oreo, for example, uses the term ‘chocolatey’. What does that mean? If you look closely at the wrapper, you will see that it means that the ‘creme’ part contains refined sugar, vegetable fat and emulsifier. The ‘biscuit’ part, however, does claim to have some cocoa solids—though not enough for even the manufacturers to tell us how much.

Moving on, we take a closer look at the flagship brand from Cadbury, called ‘Dairy Milk’. Gets interesting, because the Rs5 and Rs10 packets containing slabs or éclairs don’t even claim to be chocolates, or have any in them. These are, simply, refined sugar in vegetable fat. But the packaging, font, colours used—even the glasses of white liquid shown that could be milk being poured into the ‘I’ are the same—as with the costlier ‘Dairy Milk’ bar which cost Rs25-Rs30 and more—and have “rich classic milk chocolate” written on them.

Coming up next is something called Galaxy Smooth Milk, manufactured in Dubai, exported and imported by Mars in India—and over-printed with the line “smooth and creamy milk chocolate”, as well as with a strategically placed sticker placed over the ingredients part. This sticker says “no vegetable fat in chocolate”, but when you peel the sticker away carefully, you learn that the non-chocolate part of this product does contain—vegetable oils.

Nestlé’s packaging appears to have their own strategies too. KitKat says that it has crisp wafer fingers covered with ‘chocolayer’. The milk chocolate bar says that they are Swiss chocolate makers since 1904, but the ingredients take you through the usual storyline of going coy about its ingredients—‘nature identical’. Best, of course, is their Milky Bar, sold in the same chocolate shelves—it gives up, doesn’t even claim to have any chocolate in it, and goes into partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Of course, the fonts used and the labelling are deceptively similar to their chocolates, but then, that’s par for the course. 

The ‘chewy’ chocolate bars, they have their own stories—5-Star by Cadbury is “yummy chocolaty”, Bar-One by Nestle is “delicious chocolayer” and Snickers by Mars is “covered in chocolate”. But all of them, without exception, have their share of vegetable fats and oils. Of course, that’s never part of the advertising or marketing strategy. 

Because, simply put, it would not pay to tell buyers the truth. That what they are getting, largely, is chemically altered and modified vegetable oils—especially palm oils. For whatever reason, and one reason is that the process of converting palm oil into cocoa butter brings it very close to the next step where they all end up as industrial plastic sludge, even house flies and blue bottle flies don’t sit on these confectionary item when you unwrap them and put them out on a balcony,

So when and how did cocoa butter morph into something that came out of palm oil? Here’s one of the articles on the subject.

http://www.waset.org/journals/waset/v54/v54-95.pdf

The chemically re-formulated palm oil is just one step away in the world of chemistry from being converted into a form of industrial plastic. Even in this shape, it has many shared properties, for example—flies and other insects won't come near it.

Try it. Get hold of an imported packet of chocolates, sold in Europe or North America. Unwrap them, and put them out on a balcony in plates, along with other plates that have Indian ‘chocolates’ of the sort mentioned as well as cut fruit like bananas. And watch where the flies and other insects head for.

Why don’t the flies head for the Indian ‘chocolates’, the ones with palm oil cocoa butter in them?

If we had to eat sweetened vanaspati mixed with refined sugar, we didn’t need FDI from abroad to come and do it for us, and tell us it was chocolate. Even the worst of local sweet and sweetmeat manufacturers would never have sold us this sort of garbage.

Out there in the US, one out of every three or four young children are now obese, and generals from the Armed Forces have represented that stricter controls need to be exercised over packaged foods of this sort. Here in India, we have the world’s largest population of diabetics, and much of it is caused by unhealthy eating of this sort.

Is it too much to expect from these companies, with their ‘brand values’ and all the rest of it, to be honest about what they are selling?

No wonder Amitabh Bachchan just handed over the package full of Cadbury whatevers. He is now a grandfather, again, and is probably concerned about what that child will eat when she grows up. Certainly not refined sugar in vanaspati.

 

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COMMENTS

Malegiri Das

5 years ago

An eye opening article sir.. thanks to Veeresh Malik and moneylife for bringing to light such excellent really needed information to its readers.

Sanjay

6 years ago

After going this eye-opener, i posted the URL and message asking about the presence of palm oil in Dairy Milk from Cadbury's website. As expected, got no reply from the. No reply from Nestle also.
But noticed one thing lately. Recently saw Dairy Milk (Rs. 5 and Rs. 10 ones) manufactured in November. They changed the ingredients to omit Palm Oil and Cocoa Butter and now include Cocoa Solids.
Don't whether they have made changes in the wrapper or have the actual contents also changed? No way to figure that out.
No perceptible difference in taste.

tesh

6 years ago

Thanks for writing this. It is encouraging to see others becoming aware of the issues the foreign companies are piling on to India. I lived in US for 10 years and struggled to find good food in the world's richest country.

Those countries have made a fortune in turning their GMO tomatoes into corn syrup ketchup and selling it to their own and our kids.

I would ask you to look into other products that they are pushing into the country and spread the word. Horlicks is another culprit, which they push through doctors as medication supplements to formers that cannot afford the price.

I am an entrepreneur and have been studying cocoa and chocolate over the last three years. In India, 100% of "chocolate" is not really that.

It is waxy mixture of sugar, milk powder, emulsifiers and at times vegetable oils with some cocoa powder (often less than 10%) to give it a brown color. It is sad because real chocolate is actually good for your health in small doses. I could go on about this, but basically the mexicans invented chocolate and they still have hot chocolate in litres everyday and live much longer than americans.

It is an issue for someone like myself that has been in R&D in my lab for making real high quality chocolate that would be in-line with or better than swiss chocolates. This is economically not feasible in india because unfortunately my competitors, which is companies like cadburys/nestle/mars, make big bucks by selling wax for the price of real chocolate as the owners of that company don't live in India and probably don't care as much about the health of the population here.

Any suggestions on how I could get to the right audience/consumers to access my product, because as of now I know that it is only a small percentage of India that would appreciate this and make the effort to purchase?

REPLY

malq

In Reply to tesh 6 years ago

Dear Tesh ji,

Thank you for writing in, and your views as well as information from you appreciated.

I would think that there is a reasonably good sized market increasing rapidly for anything that is good in quality in every locality and town and city in India. People across all social and economic levels will seek out good food even if it sold from a hole in the wall.

Small entrepreneurs can save on marketing and logistical costs down-stream, while being able to achieve economies of scale at the purchase and supply chain end due to evolving realities. The internet is another avenue, though inter-state movement of food products like yours would require special handling.

I would only quote the example of entities like Kayani Bakery/Pune as an example. They keep their raw material and product quality at "excellent", keep the prices of their basic items like bread at below market prices, and have only one outlet.

Likewise, Murthy's chocolates in Pune - family run, single outlet, and what they say is what they sell.

http://www.murthys.com/

Good luck with your efforts in India. There is great potential. The MNCs will realise that they can not keep on selling junk, and there is great space for others.

This is just an idea sharing, nothing more, the effort is obviously yours and there is no fixed cookie cutter method to make dough . . . to mix puns and metaphors.

Regards/VM

p k

6 years ago

Dear Mr Malik

thanks for another informative and relevant article from you.
we are brainwashed into drinking coke with lunch or dinner " family fun" highly irresponsible and unethical on the part of those american comapnies.it seems to be the strategy of making a nation of diabetic and heart patients , to sell alopathic medicines.

chocolat is another classic case where anthing and everyhthing goes.
in india everything is almost negotiable.
i have sent the article to my maximum friends.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to p k 6 years ago

Thank you for writing in PK ji, and thank you even more for spreading the word, power of the consumers!!

The corporates get away with this, murder and more, by twisting rules in what they often refer to as "markets". We need to be a "country" and change this.

Regards/VM

Capt S M Divekar

6 years ago

A very informative article. Are you coming for DRACEA dinner, at Willingdon Club Mumbai tomorrow?

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Capt S M Divekar 6 years ago

Dear Capt. Divekar, thank you for writing in, please do spread the word on these products.

Not attenting DRACEA in Mumbai, am based in Delhi.

rgds/VM

RNandakumar

6 years ago

Thank you Mr.Veeresh. This article is yet another proof of MoneyLife's care towards consumers. May your wonderful services continue. I have already forwarded this article to all my family group to caution them with the dangers of fake chocalates.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to RNandakumar 6 years ago

Dear R. NandaKumar ji . . .

Broadly, what one is trying to get some sort of "this is not chocolate" labelling where "choco-xxxx" kind of words are used, eg: choco-bar, chocozoo, choco-layer, choco-latey, choco-milk" etc One can attempt to achieve this by forcing the authorities as well as get the manufacturers to voluntarily adopt this. The biggest culprit here are Cadbury's, where they use the "Dairy Milk" brand to sell various products, from simple sweetened coloured vanspati/hydrogenated oils in bars to proper chocolates - in other words, riding on an international brand to provide us with inferior goods in India.

Thank you for spreading the word.

rgds/VM

Sanjay

6 years ago

Checked the contents of Amul Chocolate today on its pack. It contains cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Is cocoa butter per se harmful? Or is it a poor substitute of cocoa powder? It didn't specify palm oil.
If one loves chocolates, what other options does one have in indian chocs?

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Sanjay 6 years ago

Dear Sanjay, thank you for writing in.

If you go through the relevant rules and subsequent amendments pertaining to the PFA here:-

http://www.jmc.nic.in/forms/pfaact.pdf

you will observe that it clearly states in A-25.3 that:- ""Chocolate means a homogeneous product obtained by an adequate process of
manufacture from a mixture of one or more of the ingredients, namely, cocoa (cacoa) beans, cocoa (cacoa)nib, cocoa (cacoa)mass, cocoa press cake and cocoa dust (cocoa fines/powder), including fat reduced cocoa powder with or without addition of sugars, cocoa butter, milk solids including milk fat and non-prohibited flavouring agents. The chocolates shall not contain any vegetable fat other than cocoa butter.""

Now, the escape valve here is that the method of "converting" palm oil to cocoa butter brings in a grey area, which the FPA tries to cover here:-


A.10.05—COCOA BUTTER means that fat obtained by expression from the nibs of the beans of
Theobroma cocoa L. It shall be free from other oils and fats, mineral oil and added colours.
It shall conform to the following standards:
Percentage of free fatty acids Not more than 1.5 (calculated as oleic acid)
Iodine value 32 to 42Melting point 29 degree C to 34 degree C
Butyro-refractometer reading at 40 degree C 40.9 degree C to 48.degree C
or
Refractive Index at 40 degree C 1.4530 – 1.4580
Saponification value 185 to 20

+++

So far so good.

+++

Now comes the labelling part, where the manufacturers try to disguise the vegatable oil (non-natural-cocoa butter.) But then, they end up giving away the game in other issues. Take a look at, for example, Kit-Kat, and this judgement:-

http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/713360/

""The principal ingredients of the product are wafer, sugar, milk powder, wheat flour, cocoa paste, cocoa butter, hydrogenated vegetable oil and process additives. The process of manufacture is in four parts. The wafer is made out of wheat flour, oil and other such goods. A filling made of praline and other substances is sandwiched between layer of such wafers and waffles. The sandwiched wafers are thereafter coated with chocolate manufactured from the cocoa paste, cocoa butter, sugar, so as to completely cover it. The resultant product is thereafter packed.""

Question:- where did the hydrogenated vegetable oil (vanaspati) go? Answer: it went into the "cocoa paste".

+++

In other cases, the "articficial" cocoa butter chemically obtained from palmoil is passed off as cocoa butter, with again some sleight of hand in the contents.

That's been covered in the main article.

+++

Specifically wrt Amul Chocolates, I have not had the time to get the complete range, but this is what their website says:-

http://www.amul.com/products/chocolate.p...

You will observe that they have "chocolates" and something called "chocozoo". The "chocozoo" range contains hydrogenated veg oils (vanaspati). Just like Cadbury's Dairy Milk (5/- and 10/- bars).

+++

More details soon.

rgds/VM



Sanjay

In Reply to malq 6 years ago

Thanks for the detailed reply. As of now, it looks like one should avoid chocolates containing Palm Oil, hydrogenated veg oils.

malq

In Reply to Sanjay 6 years ago

Thanks for writing in, Sanjay - thing is, that using a loophole, chemically altered palm oil is being imported as "cocoa butter", even though it has not been sourced from cocoa (theobroma) as is required. Once this enters the supply chain, it gets disguised as "cocoa butter", and marking on the side of the package become deceptive. Take a closer look at the 10/- packet of Cadbury's Dairy Milk and the costlier packets - and read their contents carefully.

rgds/VM

sunny

6 years ago

Awesome article. Thanks for this relevant information.I am not surprised that this is happening in a country like ours where corruption is a birth right...

REPLY

malq

In Reply to sunny 6 years ago

Thank you for writing in, Sunny, and please help by spreading the article as well as information.

Regards/VM

sunny

In Reply to malq 6 years ago

Will surely do. Please keep writing such good and informative articles...

Sanjay

6 years ago

Really shocking. Used to always wonder why no one stocks Amul chocolates. Their dark chocolates are real good. Nor are they as costly as Cadbury ones.
Sir you seem to cover really relevant topics, really appreciate your efforts and depth you provide.

malq

6 years ago

And a photograph added here:-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/6387...

Extend Right to Education to anganwadi students as well say experts

RTE provides free and compulsory education for children aged between 6 and 14 years, therefore pre-schools should also be brought under it

In order to ensure better quality of early learning among anganwadi children, educationist and non-governmental organisations says that the Right to Education (RTE), which provides free and compulsory education, should be extended to the pre-school children.

Farida Lambey, educationist and RTE activist says, “According to the Article 45(A) of the directive principles all children below the age of 14 years are entitled for free and compulsory education. There is no outer limit mentioned and hence it is a fundamental right. However, RTE provides for the children between six and 14 years. This is the problem. Pre-schools should be brought under RTE.” Mrs Lambey is also the co-founder of NGO Pratham.

Government’s anganwadi programme, started in 1975 under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), focuses on child’s education and health related programme. Experts say that children have an ability to grasp the concepts quickly and hence RTE will ensure better learning of these children in their primary standards.

Currently, RTE is applicable to the children of the age of six to 14 years, which is from class one to eight. Anganwadi cover children up to the age of four years under ICDS of the ministry of child and women development.

National Advisory Council (NAC), recently, suggested to the ministry of human resource and development (HRD) to extend RTE to anganwadi programme.
“Anganwadi takes care of the pre-schooling for children up to four years. This is the age where there is maximum mental development and child learns concepts such shape, size, colours, easily. ICDS is under the centre government, while RTE is under state. So bringing pre-schooling under RTE will ensure better education for all the children,” says Shobha Murthy, founder of NGO Aarambh, which provides education to children from the slums of Navi Mumbai.

Experts point out that widening RTE to pre-school will also mean increasing the required budget and infrastructure along with human resource. However, some believe that only extending RTE to anganwadi programme will hardly have any impact of child’s learning development. “RTE will not make any difference. The biggest problem is the school drop out rate. Children come to anganwadi for the meal provided to them. Also they undergo informal pre-schooling,” says a child development programme officer from West Bengal.

An official from ministry of HRD says that there was task force which was set up for considering widening RTE to anganwadi programmes. However, a lot of consideration and consultation is required with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Nothing can be said at this juncture, he said.

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