Supreme Court’s order of April 28 in
Sankalp Charitable Trust & others
vs Union of India & others
its reiteration on
stunned the medical education stake holders
country-wide, particularly private players, who were
eying big money in the coming admission tests. Each
stake-holder has, naturally, reacted in his own unique
way depending upon the side that he is on. The Apex
Court order, needless to say, was primarily aimed at
alleviating the problems of the students and the prime
beneficiary in the whole episode will, indeed, be the
Damage if any by the Apex Court
order has been fixed by the
promulgation of the Indian Medical Council (Amendment)
Ordinance, 2016 and the Dentists (Amendment) Ordinance,
2016 on May 24.
On May 27 a vacation bench of
Pant and D.Y.
Chandrachud further settled the matter by refusing to entertain a
plea for stay on the two ordinances. Obviously the NEET
is here to stay -- and stay with grace and strength that
The Apex Court has, by a judicial order,
brought order in the chequered medical admission system
– something akin to what Mr Murli Manohar Joshi wanted
to do in higher education when he was the Minister for
Human Resource Development. What is remarkable about the
Apex Cout order is the firmness and promptness with
which it has been delivered and the wisdom with which
the Executive welcomed it.
The SC orders triggered a spate of reactions, some subdued
and grudging, others loud and aggressive while some
preferred to maintain a benign silence. Telangana has
been particularly noisy saying they would challenge the
order citing Article 371 (D) of the constitution, a
privilege provided to Andhra and Telangana. To douse
anger in some states the Union government brought in two
ordinances to provide relief to students in various
Punjab has scrapped its own medical admission test while Haryana and Rajasthan are quiet because medical
admission process is at an incipient stage in the two
states. Uttar Pradesh is grappling with the problem and
the Chief Minister Akhlesh Yadav is too busy with the
Assembly election worry to decide on the issue. Bihar
has decided to accept NEET while West Bengal is going
ahead with its own common admission test. Assam too is
planning out its own test.
end-result at the end of the day is that most
stake-holders will fall in line because they have gauged the
tone and tenor of the Supreme Court order and the fate
of the grudging lamentations made by the Attorney
General post facto. Twenty years of disorder in
medical admissions has come to an end at last.
Is Smriti a proxy?
Smriti Zubin Irani, 38, the youngest minister in the
Modi cabinet has been allocated the Ministry of Human
Resource Development. The move has surprised many
political observers who have given vent to their views
and venom on social media as well as in private gatherings.
Irani, a higher secondary passout,
with a soap entertainer background, was pitted against Rahul Gandhi
in Amethi and, indeed, gave him a tough fight, loosing
by just a few thousand votes. Obviously this does not
qualify her for the august Ministry of Human Resource
Development which was, in the recent past, graced by
giants like Murli Manohar Joshi, Arjun Singh and Kapil
Education experts and political observers are at their
wits end to solve this mind-boggling riddle behind
Modi's ministry-making exercise.
Smriti is a sitting Rajya Sabha member
who was elected
from Gujarat in 2011 and hence doesn't need a
bye-election route to Parliament till 2016. But then
what prompted Narendra Modi to award the high-profile
MHRD portfolio to her?
Is she being used as proxy,
a stop-gap arrangement, till a political heavy-weight
--may be Dr Murli Manohar Joshi -- agrees to step
Awarding a 38-year-old youngster a cabinet rank could
be a part of a win-win political quid pro quo
between Modi and Irani. By this clever move Modi would
get time to subdue as well as cajole Dr Joshi to don the
MHRD which he did over a decade ago. Smriti, in the
bargain, would get a cabinet berth which she could not
have aspired for otherwise. She would, it goes without
saying, move to a minor arena whenever asked to.
Second possibility can be a situation in which the
MHRD is to be administered from the prime minister's
office as was the case during Pallam Raju's tenure in
the MHRD, particularly the fag-end period. In such a
situation it would be worth watching a novice Smriti
Irani chairing the next meeting of the Central Advisory
Board for Education where experienced and aggressive
state education ministers from hostile states like Tamil
Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal et al simply refuse to
toe the Central government line.
The third remote possibility could be that Modi plans
to follow the policy of rigorous administration in basic
and secondary education, giving higher education a
sumptuous dose of autonomy.
Guesswork and political speculations apart one thing
is certain : Smrity Irani is the biggest gainer of the
2014 BJP/Modi wave and Mr Modi, an astute politician
will have to answer many questions for making a
mountain out of a molehill.
History, we must remember, is a ruthless prosecutor.
Parliament did little for Higher Education
The 15th Parliament, the last session of
which concluded on February 21, 2014 did little for
Higher Education. In fact it did little justice to the
country’s parliamentary democracy – which is to say that
the political parties showed little political maturity
to keep the house in order.
The 14th Parliament did pass some bills that
the ruling Congress Party thought, would reform the
higher education system in the country but their
cumulative result has been far from satisfactory. In
retrospective it is prudent to say for sure, that it was
Dr Murli Manohar Joshi’s term in the Ministry of Human
Resource Development that indeed, did some concrete
ground work for country’s human resource development.
His decisions were mature, pragmatic, apolitical and
Arjun Singh, in the UPA 1
government, opened a can of worms – the deemed
university imbroglio, Muslims’ appeasement, OBC
reservation et al that eventually boomeranged on
him. Kapil Sibal who inherited the legacy in the UPA 2
had to bear the brunt of Arjun Singh’s political game
plan. The spectrum scam precipitated a cabinet reshuffle
which brought in M M Pallam Raju, so to say, “a poor
player”, eventually leading to the cul-de-sac in
Looking back to the early days of UPA 2 an enthusiastic
Kapil Sibal announced the 100-day agenda for the HRD
ministry in June 2009. He promised to fast-track radical
reforms in higher education, including a law to check
and punish ‘malpractices’ in higher education
He also proposed setting up of an overarching authority
for higher education and research. The MHRD, under Sibal,
formulated over a dozen bills, most of them aiming at
bringing greater transparency and accountability in the
education sector. Five years after most of the plans
still remain a far-fetched dream.
Then came Pallam Raju. Defining the broad contours of
his policy at the 60th meeting of Central Advisory Board
of Education in Delhi on 8th November, 2012 M M Pallam
Raju promised to toe the legacy line. However, within
days it was obvious, on Akash issue, that Sibal days
were over. Sibal left with 13 MHRD bills stranded in
Parliament – and poor Raju couldn’t muster enough
political backup to see them through. Helpless, as he
was, Raju instead found solace in Telengana politicking,
leaving the ministry to its Secretary Ashok Thakur. The
only bill that Congress bigwigs were interested in to
squeeze through was a bill to set up a Central
university for women in Rae Bareli, the constituency of
Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The riddle of another important bill, to regulate entry
and operation of foreign institutions in the country
which got tenaciously entangled in Parliamentary
rigmarole, was solved by a cue given by Kapil Sibal.
MHRD implemented the spirit of the bill by an executive
order and formulated rules for setting up of foreign
universities’ campuses in the country. The Department of
Industrial Policy and Promotion and Department of
Economic Affairs backed up the move and gave their nod
to the idea. The matter is now, unfortunately, struck up
in the Law ministry.
Technical Education took a stride in UPA 2 but it
brought more pain than pleasure to the stakeholders.
Eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 20
National Institutes of Technology (NITs), seven Indian
Institutes of Management (IIMs), 16 Central universities
and five Indian Institutes of Science Education and
Research (IISERs) were set up. As the bills for Indian
Institutes of Technology, the NITs and the IISERs were
delayed in Parliament many students passed out without
valid degrees which were, fortunately, revalidated later
on. In IISERs the problem reached a gigantic proportion
with numerous protests and hartals by the passing
The smooth conversion of the University of Roorkee to an
eminent IIT and that of BHU-IT to an IIT make a
monumental study in contrast to understand the modus
operandi of the MHRD under Murli Manohar Joshi and
the later entrants – Arjun, Sibal and Pallam Raju.
Similarly take a look at the move to streamline the
entrance/ admission tests in the country. Dr Joshi roped
in the CBSE to organize AIEEE to facilitate admissions
to engineering colleges in the country, leaving the IITs
and the various states to have their own corresponding
state entrance exams. The Congress government clubbed
the AIEEE with the IIT-JEE and made a hash of the two
distinct systems. State entrance exams, they couldn’t
dare to touch.
As for Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), only
time will tell where it will lead us to.
The moral of the story is that the Ministry of Human
Resource Development is too important a field to be left
with the novices like Pallam Raju or the hardboiled,
conceited politicians like Arjun Singh or Kapil Sibal.