Education legislation fall casualty to parliament chaos
Crucial legislative measures aimed at improving the country's educational system are getting sidelined as both houses of parliament witness unruly scenes and are disrupted over different issues. Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju has however not lost hope although just four days are left for the winter session of parliament to end.
"We hope to get the bills passed. They are being listed every day, but the house is getting disrupted," Raju told IANS when asked about the fate of the education bills.
Three bills - on forming an education tribunal, restricting unfair practices in education and establishing a nodal accreditation authority - were listed for debate and passage in the current session. The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2012, providing for setting up two central univesities in Bihar, was listed for introduction and this was done amid din in the Lok Sabha on Nov 26.
A government source said that for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's main agenda during the session - that began Nov 22 and ends Dec 20 - was to push major economic bills and thus the education bills were kept on the back burner.
"It is important to pass some bills to revive the economic situation. That's why only the three most crucial bills were listed for the session. We hope that after the quota bill (set for voting on Monday), the education bills will be taken up along with the other economic bills," the source, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.
Shortly before the session started on Nov 22, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor had said 20 education bills - 11 on higher education and nine on school education - were pending in parliament. Of these only three were listed for passage in this session, apart from the bill that was listed for introduction. But not a single one has been debated in spite of being repeatedly listed.
This was because the first two weeks were mostly spent on the issue of foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.
The opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stalled proceedings in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, forcing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to agree to the demand for a debate with voting. The government eventually carried the day.
The third week saw disruptions in both the houses by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) over the bill on quota in promotions for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Raju, who replaced Kapil Sibal in the Oct 28 cabinet reshuffle, had raised the matter and requested the members to pass the education bills.
"I take this opportunity to urge the members to pass the bill for setting up an education tribunal and another one for an accreditation authority," Raju said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
His comment was however soon countered by BJP member Chandan Mitra, who said the bills were controversial and need to be first discussed.
Among the three bills is the Educational Tribunal Bill, which provides for establishing tribunals at the national and state levels to expedite adjudication of disputes in the education sector. It has been passed by the Lok Sabha but is pending in the upper house where the government does not have a majority.
The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority (NARA) for Higher Educational Institutions Bill provides for setting up a mandatory accreditation authority for educational institutions in order to standardise and avoid malpractices. It was repeatedly listed in the Lok Sabha last week but could not be passed.
The third bill for passage in this session is the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010.
Seeking to protect the interests of students, this bill aims to check malpractices in technical and medical educational institutions. It specifies guidelines under which unfair practices such as charging capitation fees, demanding donations and questionable admission processes could be treated as civil or criminal offences.
"All the bills are crucial, and so are many of those not listed. But we can just wait," an HRD ministry official told IANS.
Pointing to the sorry state of private universities in the country, Raju had informed the Rajya Sabha that the University Grants Commission, which had inspected 53 out of 145 such universities in the country, had found only five in order.
Among other important education bills which were not even listed for passage is the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill that aims to regulate the entry and operation of foreign educational institutions in India.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org