• CU chosen for science network

    KOLKATA, Feb. 11: The department of Radiophysics and Electronics of Calcutta University will function as a networking centre of University Grant Commission (UGC) in Physical Science. The decision was taken at a meeting of the UGC held in New Delhi last week. UGC will provide Rs 5 crore in five years to set up the centre. The ministry of human resources development department (MHRD) had asked the UGC to set up 10 networking centres all over the country to carry out research work in physical science, chemical science, life science, material science and mathematical science.

  • MP lags in millennium development goals

    Madhya Pradesh is far away from achieving the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, if one takes into account a mid-term evaluation report prepared by a voluntary group, Triple 7 Report. The report --- christened as 'Mid-term status of Millennium Development Goals in Madhya Pradesh - A Peoples' report' makes a telling commentary as to what extent the state lags behind on eight development goals as set by the United Nations over seven years back. The UN on September 8, 2000 made a declaration for the millennium which stated that by 2015, eight goals of development vis-a-vas removing extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, empower of women and increasing gender equality, reducing infant mortality, improving health of mothers, fighting against diseases and protection of environment and its development would be achieved. A mid-term evaluation report on these goals in Madhya Pradesh, said that 44.77 lakh families in the state lived below poverty line, while 15.81 lakh families came in the circle of extreme poverty (quoting M P Economic Survey report 2006-07. The report quoting the National Sample Survey organization report, said that poverty in Madhya Pradesh declined from 37.43% to 21.4 per cent, which is far more than decline in poverty at national level from 26.1% to 21.8%. As per the latest report of the union government till July 2007, works towards strengthening livelihood of 1.15 lakh families in Bihar, 2.93 lakh families in Rajasthan, 95000 families in Andhra Pradesh had been undertaken but not families in Madhya Pradesh was getting this benefit. As per the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which provides guarantee for employment of 100 days per year to labourers, the state government as against issuing job cards to 43 lakh families, provided employment to merely 25.48 lakh families. The UN under its second millennium development goals had envisaged to increase enrollment of children in primary schools to 100 per cent by 2015. However, going by the present status of enrollment in Madhya Pradesh, it seemed unlikely that the state will achieve its goal by the given time period. A survey undertaken in 10 districts of the state under M P Shiksha Abhiyan in 2006-07, revealed that that the net enrollment ration of children in primary schools was at 84.5%. The report also said that 32% primary schools in the state had one primary teacher, while in 33.75% primary schools, there was no female teacher at all. The MDGs envisaged to reverse the trend of child mortality under five year by -3rd by 2015 but on this front also, the situation in Madhya Pradesh is far from satisfactory. The infant mortality in state stood at 76/1000 live births. Similarly, 2.4% of the children aged 12-24 years were not immunized against all prevalent diseases. The report also revealed a substantial drop on state government's expenditure on health which declined from 5.1% of the total budget in 2000-01 to 3.4% in 2004-05. The target to bring the infant mortality rate down to 53.14% hardly seems to be achievable. The report quoting National Family Health Survey III, said that the status of malnuitrion in Madhya Pradesh increased by 6.3%, going up to 60.3% the highest in the country. Similarly, the maternal mortality rate in the state stood at 379/1000, one of the highest in the country. As per the millennium development goals, the MMR and IMR in the state are essentially to be reduced to 220/1000 and 62/1000 respectively by 2011. By Krishna K Jha

  • Govt doubles Ladli scheme amount

    The state cabinet on Monday revised the starting amount for the Ladli scheme to Rs 10,000 from the existing 5,000 at the birth of a girl child in a family with an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh. While the move is obviously aimed at wooing Congress's traditional votebank in the slum clusters and unauthorised colonies, the irony is that the rules of the scheme, which is supposed to be effective from January 1, 2008, are yet to be notified three months after the cabinet had given its initial nod to the project. Under the present form of the scheme, every eligible girl child is entitled to Rs 10,000 at the time of birth and then onwards, Rs 5,000 each at the time of admission to classes I, VI, IX, X and XII. The money will be kept as a long term fixed deposit in the name of the child who can encash it when she turns 18 and the money she will thus get in hand will be Rs 1 lakh. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit, after the cabinet meeting said:

  • Jhaskal Model village crying for basic amenities

    Although the State Government has declared some villages as "model village' from time to time its apathy towards them has raised a question mark about the Government's sincerity in making these villages as model villages. Jhaskal village under Satrasal GP in Dhubri district located in the far-western Part of the Indo-Bangla International border is a glaring example of underdevelopment. After 21 years of its declaration as a model village, Jhaskal area is still to see the light of development in communication, healthcare, education power supply, agriculture etc. Situated under Agomani Development block in Golakgani LAC, Jhaskal was formally declared as a model village and its foundation stone was laid on April -11, 1987 by the then Chief Minister of Asom Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. Though the people of the village are largely dependent on agriculture, they are deprived of the modern methods of agriculture including superior quality seeds, manure etc. Even the peasants do not get the right price for their produced goods. The education scenario in the village is also grim. The two ME schools established 22 years ago through public donations are yet to be provincialized by the Government. Great Jhaskal area has four Government LP Schools. These schools lack basic infrastructure like desks and benches. In comparison to students enrolment, there is also shortage of teachers. Three schools are still running with a single teacher each. In the name of healthcare, there is a sub-centre at Jhaskal but its lacks adequate nurse and medicines. As a result, for simple disease, the patients have to rush to Satrasal or Agomani for treatment. Road communication in the area is also very deplorable. In the monsoons due to lack of repair work, the village roads become muddy and waterlogged. Though there was a PWD road through the villages in the past, it was declared as a border road in 1985 at the time of fencing of barbed wire across the Indo-Bangla border resulting in a lot of troubles to the border people. Now, the villagers have to use the road as per the time and permission of the BSF. If not, they have to face action from them. Another grey area of this "model village' is power. The transformer remain out of order in majority of the days in the year making the villagers the worst sufferers. The village is also deprived of potable water. Though a Public health and Engineering scheme was launched at jhaskal Part -1, the people are deprived of its service. After six months of service, the scheme is lying abandoned for 19 to 20 years. It is worth mentioning here that several hundred bighas of lands in the area fall into India's side of the

  • 2.5 cr more children to be covered

    Finance minister P. Chidambaram today gave a brief account of the progress made under the flagship programmes such as Bharat Nirman, which were aimed at boosting development in the rural areas. In his Budget speech, Chidambaram proposed to provide Rs 31,280 crore for Bharat Nirman as against Rs 24,603 crore in 2007-08. The minister said Bharat Nirman had made impressive progress in 2007-08. "At the current pace, on each day of the year, 290 habitations are provided with drinking water and 17 habitations are connected through an all weather road. On each day of the year 52 villages are provided with telephones and 42 villages are electrified. On each day of the year 4,113 rural houses are completed,' he said. The Budget proposed Rs 8,000 crore for the Mid-day Meal Scheme. The Mid-day Meal Scheme would now be extended to upper primary classes in government and government-aided schools in all blocks of the country. This would benefit an additional 2.5 crore children, taking the total number of children covered under the scheme to 13.9 crore. The focus of the Sarv Siksha Abhiyan would shift from access and infrastructure at the primary level to enhancing retention, improving quality of learning and ensuring access to upper primary classes. He said the model school programme, which aims at establishing 6,000 high quality model schools, would start this year and Rs 650 crore had been proposed for the scheme. Navodaya vidyalayas would be established in 20 districts that had a large concentration of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. On the National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme, which was announced last year to enable students to continue their education beyond Class VIII and up to Class XII, he said 1,00,000 scholarships would be awarded and a corpus of Rs 3,000 crore built up in four years. The finance minister said pointing out that India has the opportunity become a knowledge society, he said following the Prime Minister's announcement an IIM had started functioning at Shillong, IISERs had started at Mohali, Pune and Kolkata and an IIIT at Kanchipuram. Referring to the government's promise to establish a central university in the uncovered states, he said 16 central universities would be established in 2008-09.

  • Focus on SSA alone akin to 'fooling ourselves': FM's adviser

    As the UPA government grapples to step up spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP, a commitment made in its governance agenda, a key Finance Ministry official has said accent on primary education will not yield results if not complemented by focus on secondary schooling. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) tantamounts to "fooling ourselves... It (focus) should go to secondary education as well,' Adviser to Finance Minister Shubhashis Gangopadhyay said at a discussion on Budget 2008-09 organised by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability here yesterday. SSA is the government's flagship programme for universalisation of primary education implemented in partnership with states. The UPA, in its National Common Minimum Programme, had pledged to raise spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP and at least spend half this amount on primary and secondary sectors. "Whether it is 6 per cent or 8 per cent or 10 per cent. These are just talking points,' Gangopadhyay said, adding that unless the spending gives the desired results it made no sense to talk about percentage alone. He was responding to a query whether the government should revisit its commitment to spend 6 per cent on education, considering the fact that the country's Gross Domestic Product has grown by a robust 8.8 per cent in the last four years. According to the Economic Survey for 2007-08, the government has made a provision of Rs 10,671 crore for SSA. Raising expenditure on education to 6 per cent of GDP was a goal set in 1948 by the Kothari Commission, and reiterated over and again by the National Policy on Education, but successive governments are yet to fulfil it. "You need to spend a minimum of 8 per cent of GDP for education (considering the GDP expansion),' Economist Jayati Ghosh, who was part of an official committee that looked at spending requirement for education, said. "It is very very clear you need very significant expansion. Forget the percentages,' she said, adding that if any government has to really look at meeting the minimum goal on education sector, it has to double the spending. Panelists at the discussion said spending on education has been declining. During the NDA regime, it was 3.6 per cent of GDP and has fallen to 3 per cent now. According to the Economic Survey 2007-08, the achievements under SSA up to September 30, 2007, include construction of 170,320 school buildings, 713,179 additional classrooms, 172,381 drinking water facilities, construction of 218,075 toilets, supply of free text books to 6.64 crore children and appointment of 810,000 teachers, besides opening of 186,985 (till March 31, 2007) new schools. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in his Budget speech, too had said the focus of SSA will shift from access and infrastructure at the primary level to enhancing retention; improving quality of learning; and ensuring access to upper primary classes. He proposed to increase the total allocation to education sector by 20 per cent from Rs 28,674 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 34,400 crore in 2008-09. Of this, SSA will be provided Rs 13,100 crore.

  • Till the very last rupee

    The budget this year provided 15 per cent higher allocation for health and 20 per cent for education. However, this may not mean that more children will learn to read or write or more doctors will be available at public health centres. In the present context, outlays are supposed to be considered ends in themselves. While higher outlays are welcome, there is an urgent need to measure outcomes, the actual effectiveness of a government scheme. A clear index of deliverables is what will lead to other reforms: rewarding states that are doing it right and implementing mid-course correction in areas where the scheme fails to take off. A paragraph towards the end of this year's budget speech shows that the government is beginning to wake up to this need: "I think we do not pay enough attention to outcomes as we do to outlays; or to physical targets as we do to financial targets; or to quality as we do to quantity. Government therefore proposes to put in place a Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System (CPSMS) that will be implemented as a Plan scheme of the Planning Commission.' It is heartening to see an acknowledgement of a long-felt void. As the government disburses more money, there is an even greater need to track it better, to find out a rupee's worth in intervention A versus B or its performance in different states. For now, one has to depend on a few private NGOs/research institutions who fulfill this need: For example, Pratham, an NGO working in the field of primary education, comes out with an annual survey called ASER that has some startling findings on Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, a Centrally-sponsored programme that aims to put all children into school, even in the remotest parts of India. They found the number of days a teacher is actually teaching in class is abysmally low. They had a percentage for children who are in secondary school but can neither read nor write. There is no government agency that comes up with similar data. India is wasting precious resources if teachers are not found in classrooms after two decades of the existence of this "flagship programme'. The government did make an effort to come out with an "outcome budget' but, according to experts, it was not even worth the paper it was written on. It had never-ending tables with targets achieved in the form of numbers. Drinking water reports had data on the number of taps and villages covered but not the quality, quality and availability of water that is distributed. The outcome budget stops short of measuring important aspects like absenteeism and who is accessing these services created by these schemes. Anyone reading it will be no wiser if she wants to find out where to put the money the next year. Once government has evolved the mechanism of measuring these outcomes, it can take the next step: link performance with outlays for states. Infant mortality rate, extent of immunisation, literacy for women, feeding programmes should be systematically collated to form a clear index. Central share of the scheme's money should be transferred based on the performance of states on this index. The fuzziness on performance has another implication too: the government is not able to under-take mid-course correction. For example, the Supreme Court has asked the government to universalise the Integrated Child Development Programme. With no improvement in malnourishment figures for children, which are higher than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, there is clearly something wrong. The government is starting from scratch in trying to figure out what is going wrong. A fresh committee has been set up to brainstorm, without any data to arrive at clear answers. The number of anganwadis set up each of the last five years, state-wise, is available. But it has no information on whether the anganwadi worker actually comes there, feeds children in the 0-6 age group with supplementary nutrition, takes care of their health and immunisation needs and pays special attention to malnourished children. N.C. Saxena, who is a court-appointed commissioner for monitoring the mid-day meals and the ICDS programme, is a strong votary for measuring outcomes versus outlays. In an article, he goes as far as to suggest action against officers who indulge in bogus reporting of figures. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the number of fully immunised children being reported by the state government was almost 100 per cent in 2002-03. A rapid household survey found only 30 per cent of children to be fully immunised. "Such cases of flagrant over-reporting should not go unpunished,' he says, stressing on the need for independent agencies verifying data for the government and then disseminating it widely. Such steps will need a complete change in bureaucratic mindset. This signal from the finance minister, hopefully, will not go unnoticed if India is serious about inclusive growth.

  • Peta-friendly science syllabus from Board

    Students of class VI will dissect cockroaches and catfish instead of rats, birds and toads during life science experiments. The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education decided to modify the experiments after repeated appeals from the animal rights activists, led by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Peta protested that certain portions in the syllabus encouraged students to do cruel activities against animals. For instance, in order to understand the importance of air, students were asked do experiments like suffocating a guinea pig. In a similar experiment, students were asked not to give water to birds to understand the necessity of water for sustaining life. The Board has informed publishers to omit such experiments. While discussing such topics, examples of common pests like cockroaches and common air breathing fish (catfish) should be cited instead of rats, birds and toads. Mr Swapan Sarkar, Board secretary said letters in this regard have been issued to the publishers more than a month back. "The publishers have to make the necessary changes before the publication of new books for the next academic year.' Peta had approached both Mr Arjun Singh, Union human resource development minister and Mr Partha De, state school education minister to make the necessary changes in the life science syllabus over a year back. The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education had gotten rid of dissection of toads in practical examination of class XI and XII in 2005. Instead students have to distinguish between a male and female cockroach, rohu fish and grasshopper. n SNS

  • Land for SEZ registered: Collector IIN

    Land owners who gave away their lands for SEZ were compensated at the rate of Rs three lakh an acre and family members have been assured jobs on the basis of educational qualifications Around 2,100 acres of land, valued at Rs 63 crore, had been registered for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be set up near Perambalur, district Collector Anil Meshram said. Speaking on the development works in the district, the Collector disclosed that land owners who had given away their lands towards SEZ were compensated at the rate of Rs three lakh an acre. Their family members have also been assured of jobs on the basis of educational qualifications. A total of 298 acres of land has been acquired near Naranamangalam for starting MRF tyre factory. The Cauvery Combined Drinking Water Scheme to facilitate 306 residential units and the town panchayats of Arumbavur and Poolambadi are being implemented at Rs 61 crore. The work would be completed by 2009. Underground drainage scheme for Perambalur municipality is to be implemented by TWAD Board at an ried out at an estimated cost of Rs 5.45 crore, which includes the extension of the main roads in Perambalur town. The department of cooperatives had plans to sanction Rs 41.80 crore as loans. So far, Rs 37.81 crore had been disbursed as agricultural loans. Under the Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy maternity assistance scheme, Rs 5.23 crore had been distributed to 6,322 pregnant women and 129 medical camps were organised under the Varumun Kappom scheme, providing medical facilities to more than 1.5 lakh persons, Collector said. Under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), an allocation of Rs 18.94 crore was set apart for implementing special schemes. School drop outs numbering 177 were re-admitted in schools and fitted into the regular scheme. Regular education for 869 differently-abled students is also under implementation. Under the unemployment assistance scheme, Rs 1.90 crore had been distributed to 11,172 youth. More than 1,400 girls had been benefited under the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar memorial marriage assistance scheme totaling Rs 2.11 crore. estimated cost of Rs 20 crore. Five mega road projects are also being car.

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