IITs double fee
The Central government has decided to double the fee of Indian Institute of Technology(IITs). The annual tuition fees for undergraduate courses will be increased from Rs. 90,000 to Rs. 2 lakh.
The fee was last revised in 2013 under the UPA government from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 90,000. In 2008, the fee was increased from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000.
The hike has come after a recommendation by an IIT panel. However, there will be a total fee waiver for the differently abled and students belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and weaker sections (approximately 20 percent of the student strength). Students admitted to IITs are guaranteed interest-free loans, and the bankability of the degree means a high approval rate with little or no collateral.
Is the fee hike too steep? – Although the fee hike looks steep prima facie it has to be seen in the light of increasing expenses. Total costs have more than doubled and if the IITs have to retain talent then they have to spend more on teaching and research/development.
How would it help the institute? – The increase of fee would relatively reduce the dependency of the institute on central funding. This will provide greater financial autonomy to the institute for future growth.
How would it help the government? – The increase in fee might not reduce the burden of the government but it will surely ensure that government funding is used to create infrastructure and other facilities. It could also help in government allocating more funds to secondary education to improve the status of education in the country.
What are the other models? – The Australian model of deferred payments is an interesting option. In this, the fees are low for everyone but those who take up employment outside defined national priority areas have to pay additional fees, which make up for the subsidy, over a certain number of years. In the current Indian model, further innovation is possible to reduce the cost of educational loans for all disciplines.
The substantially higher tuition fee, however, is only a third or a fourth of the governmentâ€™s actual expenditure on an undergraduate IIT student. The IITs must aggressively focus on getting endowments, alumni contributions and donations, and increased earnings from consultancy, research and patents if they are serious about financial autonomy.
Source: The Hindu, Economic Times, Live Mint
CIC directs GM data to be made public
The Central Information Commission (CIC), arbitrator on Right To Information requests, has asked the Environment Ministry to make public all the data pertaining to the safety of genetically-modified (GM) mustard, sans proprietary intellectual property data.
The petitioner to the CIC has said that GM seeds arenâ€™t substantially better than existing mustard varieties and that seed developers and biotechnology regulators have colluded to â€œpushâ€ GM mustard. Currently, GM cotton is the only transgenic crop commercially available in farmer fields.
What is the GM mustard? – The GM mustard DMH-11 in question has been developed by Deepak Pental, a geneticist at Delhi University, with support from the National Dairy Development Board and the Department of Biotechnology. The technology, according to Mr. Pental, will contribute to increasing yields of such hybrids by 25% of existing varieties.
Mustard unlike cotton, maize or tomato has no self-hybridising system. This is because its flowers contain both the female (pistil) and male (stamen) reproductive organs, making the plant naturally self-pollinating. To the extent that the egg cells of one plant cannot be fertilized by the pollen discharged from the stamen of another, it restricts the scope for developing hybrids.
Pentalâ€™s team has used a â€œBarnaseâ€ gene isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. It codes for a protein that impairs pollen production and renders the plant into which it has been introduced male-sterile. This male-sterile plant is crossed with a fertile parental line, containing, in turn, another gene, â€œBarstarâ€, from the same bacterium that blocks the action of the â€œBarnaseâ€ gene. The resultant progeny, having both the foreign genes, is a hybrid mustard plant that is not only high-yielding, but also fertile and capable of producing seed/grain (thanks to the â€œBarstarâ€ gene in the second fertile line).
Source: TheHindu, Indian Express
Plan to set minimum wages for contract workers
Labour Ministry has proposed a minimum monthly income of Rs.10,000 for contract workers, evoking strong reactions from the industry. The move will drastically increase the minimum wages of contract labourers from around Rs.6,000 per month that is paid to them in a few sectors at present. According to the plan the employers will need to pay Rs 10,000 as minimum monthly income to contract workers for all kinds of work.
At present, employers give the fixed minimum wages to workers for 45 economic activities, as mentioned in the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
What will be the impact of such a move on workers? – The move will provide greater security to contract workers who are already at the mercy of their contractors. The move is also welcome as contract labourers are more poor than regular workers according to the National Sample Survey data. It will also bring rationalisation in all sectors by not limiting the minimum wages to 45 economic activities as was done previously.
What will be the adverse impact of the move? – The draft rules will impact employment in smaller states. It will take away jobs to bigger cities where the minimum wages are at par with Rs.10,000 per month. It might also promote greater informalisation of labour.
Lunar new year across country
Navratri starts on Â 8th April 2016. This is the first day of the Chaitra month in the Hindu Luni Solar Calendar (the first month of the year). A lunisolar calendar is a calendar in many cultures whose date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. This day also holds importance in other parts of the country.
Traditionally an agrarian society, many Indian festivals revolve around the crops and their life cycle. Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year, is also a harvest festival. The date signifies the end of one season and the beginning of another. The rabi crop has just been harvested and it is time for mangoes to flood the market.
It is not just limited to Maharashtra. In the Deccan region, it is called Ugadi (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) and Yugadi (Karnataka). It is also celebrated as Navreh by Kashmiri Pandits, Cheti Chand by Sindhis and Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba in Manipur.
Source: NDTV, Wikipedia
UN to observe anniversary of BR Ambedkar
The birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution, will be observed on April 13 at the United Nations for the first time with focus on combating inequalities to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
The Permanent Mission of India to the U.N., in association with the Kalpana Saroj Foundation and Foundation For Human Horizon, will commemorate Ambedkarâ€™s 125th birth anniversary at the U.N. headquarters, a day before his date of birth.
What is the relationship between SDG and BR Ambedkarâ€™s Anniversary? – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that combating inequality within and among countries, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth and fostering inclusion are interdependent.
Therefore the vision of Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, to achieve social justice and equality also finds resonance in the core message of the 2030 Agenda.
On the occasion, a panel discussion will be organised on the topic â€œCombating inequalities for the achievement of SDGsâ€ with the objective of raising awareness of the importance of addressing all forms of inequality for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
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