Author: Neeraj Bajpai

The Narendra Modi skippered Central government, during its first two years, received bouquets aplenty but weathered many storms too, on its arduous journey on the track of economic and social  agenda.

 It was fraught  with multi-faceted challenges: two straight droughts, slowdown in the global economy, emergence of zealots, Jat reservation movement in Haryana, a mixed bag of poll verdicts in some state assemblies etc. Sometimes, social tensions loomed large on the development plank but deft  handling of the situation thwarted designs to foment caste and communal tensions. Home Ministry reports said that the new regime has seen less number of riots and communal troubles as compared to the rule of the previous dispensation.

 Fresh from Assam polls victory, Prime Minister said the verdict had proved that people had accepted and endorsed development policies and ideologies of the ruling party at the Centre. The victory of BJP-led alliance in Assam, he said, was as surprising as in Jammu and Kashmir. Results had made it clear that the Central Government’s development ideology and its relentless efforts to improve lives of  people were being appreciated by masses.

 Right from the word “go”, the Prime Minister resorted to a raft of new initiatives: SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries heads presence at the swearing-in ceremony, sudden stopover in Pakistan while returning from Afghanistan, signing of framework agreement with NSCN(IM), Chabahar port pact inking with Iran, ‘Chai par charcha’ with US President Barack Obama on the lawns of Hyderabad House and regular Maan-ki-baat on AIR waves.
Wading through controversies like ‘Award Wapsi’ by eminent litterateurs on allegations of intolerance issue, beef eating row, etc, the government maintained that the law would take its own course and it had nothing to do with such incidents.

Despite being in quagmire of such developments, the government machinery pushed its flagship programmes and statistics were rolled out on latest profile of each programme from time to time at mega events such as’ Make in India’ show in Mumbai, ‘Digital India’ programme in Delhi, Skill development plans at several places ,Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises meets. Though many, not in tune with the current government’s approach, doubt  the figures, officials dared them to check things on the ground.

 The two years tenure had a  mixed bag of minuses and pluses, slippages and successes. Power generation, Make in India and many such plans emerged as focal points and thrust on solar energy drew worldwide attention. Many countries are in talks for installation of renewable energy plants in India amid fast growing LED bulbs culture for energy conservation.

 The  Ministry  of Minority Affairs has made consistent efforts in the last two years to fulfill the agenda set in the manifesto for minorities and achieved them by formulating new schemes/programmes and reorienting the ongoing schemes. Official sources said the focus of the Ministry revolved around the vision and mission “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas”. Going by the national priority, the Ministry has taken many new initiatives to strengthen the efforts towards education of minorities and economic empowerment through Skill Development.

 In the last financial year i.e. 2015-16, the expenditure was more than 20% higher than in 2013-14, which is a significant rise in just two years. Moreover, in 2015-16, for the first time in the history of this Ministry, there was no cut imposed in the earmarked Plan budget at Revised Estimate (RE) Stage and it was maintained at the original level of Budget Estimate (BE) i.e. Rs.3,712.78 crores, they say.
The Ministry spent about 98% of the entire Plan budget in 2015-16. Further, the Government has increased the Plan Budget of the Ministry to Rs 3,800 crores for 2016-17,an increase of more than Rs 168 crores over the 2015-16 expenditure level, which is again a significant rise. Funds to the tune of Rs.2,011.82 crores were released for various scholarship schemes during 2014-15 against Rs.1,739.55 crores during 2013-14. i.e. 15.7% more funds were released by the present Government in the first year of its tenure itself for the educational empowerment of the minorities, the Minority affairs Minister Najma Heptulla says.

On economic empowerment, the educational-cum-livelihood scheme ‘Nai Manzil’’ for madarsa students has been received very well. The World Bank not only gave loan to the tune of US $ 50 million but also recommended it for other countries with similar requirements. This new initiative of the present Government formulated and launched on August 8, last year, aims to benefit the minority youths who do not have a formal school leaving certificate, i.e., those in the category of school dropouts or educated in the community education institutions like the Madarsas, in order to provide them formal education and skills and enable them to seek better employment in the organised sector and thus to equip them for better lives. The Scheme has been approved with the cost of Rs. 650 crores for five years. Fifty per cent funding will come from the World Bank. This is for the first time in the history of minority welfare programmes when the World Bank has agreed to support such a plan.

 Another ambitious initiative, “USTTAD,”(Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/ Crafts for Development) was formally launched last year  at Varanasi. The scheme aims at setting standards of traditional skills, design development, capacity building and updating the traditional skills of master craftsmen and artisans, documentation and preservation. It also aims to engage the trained master craftsmen/artisans in training of minority youths in various specific traditional arts/crafts.

The Ministry has also engaged institutions of national repute namely, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT),National Institute of Design (NID) and the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) for value addition. Last month, the Ministry launched prototypes of four crafts being practiced by the minorities, developed with the help of NIFT and NID, at Varanasi.

 Carrying forward agenda of common workers of all communities, officials say that during the last two years for the benefit of work force, the Government has amended the Bonus Act increasing eligibility limit. It  has also announced interest @ 8.8% to Employees Provident Fund subscribers for the year 2015-16 which is the highest rate of interest for any saving instrument in the country.

 Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, citing various plans, says that the new urban sector initiatives of Prime Minister Awas Yojana (Urban), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart City Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission and Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) have a total investment potential of Rs.18 lakh crore. Of this, an investment of Rs.1,48,093 crore has already been approved. This includes Affordable housing-Rs.43,922 cr, Atal Mission-Rs.20,882 cr, Smart City Mission-Rs.80,789 cr, Swachh Bharat Mission-Rs.2,000 cr and HRIDAY- Rs.500 cr.

 The Union Human Resource Development Ministry remained in the spotlight because of various programmes. A New Education Policy is being drafted after nearly 30 years. MHRD has embarked on an unprecedented collaborative, multi-stakeholder and multi-pronged consultation process. The process has reached out to individuals across the country through over 2.75 lakh direct consultations while also taking online inputs. A Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy has been constituted to examine the outcome documents, recommendations and suggestions received and formulate a draft as well as a Framework for Action.

 A National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) launched on September 29 last year ranks institutions based on objective and verifiable criteria. It has been made available separately for Engineering, management, Pharmaceutical, Architecture, Humanities, Law and for Universities as a whole. The first ranks were declared last month. More than 3,500 institutions have participated in the exercise. Transgenders have  also  been added as a third gender in all schemes of UGC.

The HRD  ministry has launched a Know Your College Portal  to support students who desire to get admission into a college of their choice by mapping colleges and universities in the country. The portal provides details of courses, laboratories, faculty, library, availability of hostels, status of ombudsman and anti ragging facilities in the institutions.

 A total of 51,151colleges imparting 178,126 courses across the country have been listed in the portal out of which 10,329 are Technical Institutions and 40,822 Non Technical. The Kendriya Vidyalaya(KV) Initiatives included a KV Shaala Darpan,an Enterprise Resource Planning platform for 1100+ schools to enhance academic delivery and improving overall quality of education. The details of daily attendance, performance and profile of the students can be seen by the parent, student, teacher, Principal and KVS HQ with simple touch on the keyboard. It brings in uniformity/standardization of implementation of policies, processes and programs and improves overall governance and promote, transparency, efficiency and accountability. The scheme is being implemented in 1,099 Kendriya Vidyalayas. Records of 12 lakh children have already been entered and the verification is under progress.

Under the online admissions, a new initiative to facilitate online registration for the parents seeking admission of their children in Kendriya Vidyalayas has been introduced. Pilot is being done for admissions in Class I in KVs located in Delhi during the session 2016-17.

 To address the teaching gap between school education and engineering entrance as also to enrich the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics at school level, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) launched a project in November, 2014,to provide free online resources to girl students of Class XI and XII for preparation of admission test for the premier engineering colleges in the country.

Girls from families whose annual family income is less than Rs 6 lakh are eligible for this scheme. The special focus of the project is to address the low enrolment ratio of girl students in these prestigious institutions and  enable them to receive special incentives and support so that they can join these institutions and go on to take leadership roles in the future. It aims to support 1,000 selected disadvantaged girls per year. Likewise, with a view to ensure universal access to schools within a reasonable distance of any habitation and without any discrimination, the geographic coordinates of school along with the school information available in Unified-District Information System for Education (UDISE) is being uploaded on the school Geographic Information System web enabled platform.

All States and UTs have conducted GIS mapping and are sharing geographical coordinates of schools with the NIC except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This mapping has been linked to the National School Education Statistics data base to ensure that every school is mapped and is backed by a detailed school report card based on UDISE information. This effort of developing web enabled platform about school information (Spatial and Non Spatial data) will add to the quality of planning and better utilisation of resources available under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan. As per UDISE 2013-14,there are a total of 15,10,407 schools in the country out of which 11,27,748 schools have been mapped as on April 12,2016.

 The Union Home Ministry came in sharp focus for lifting the curtains on files relating to the great revolutionary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. All files relating to Netaji were declassified and sent to the National Archives of India (NAI) for permanent retention. The New Model Prison Manual 2016 was approved. The Ministry also approved the grant of enhanced relief of Rs. 5 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased person who was killed in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots besides initiating steps to set up a Nationwide Emergency Response System (NERS) having ‘112’ as the emergency number which can be dialed from anywhere in the country by anyone to seek police assistance.

 In other major achievements, electronic database of more than 1.2 billion persons was created under National Population Register (NPR). Biometrics captured for 19.99 crore out of total targeted population (5yr +) of 20.72 crore in ten NPR States/UTs allocated to Office of Registrar General of India (ORGI). The Home Ministry initiated major steps such as the launch of New Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) Portal on December 14, last year; liberalisation for National Security Clearance as part of ease-of-doing business policy; signing of MoU with Bangladesh to prevent circulation of fake currency notes; Framework to deal with ISIS problem formulated in consultation with State Governments concerned and the central agencies; considerable decrease in infiltration in J&K (65 in 2014, 33 in 2015 and 18 in 2016(upto April); approval of a package of Rs 2,000 crores to provide additional 3,000 state government jobs to Kashmiri migrants and for construction of 6,000 transit accommodations for them in the Kashmir Valley.

Other initiatives were: Under Special Industry Initiative for J&K “UDAAN”, more than 90 mega selection drives have been held covering all districts of the State; 33% reservation for women in direct recruitment in Non-Gazetted posts from Constable to Sub-Inspector in the Central Armed Police Forces & police forces of all the Union Territories, including Delhi Police; Raising of 3 Mahila Battalions of  Central Reserve Police Force  approved.

*Neeraj Bajpai is Joint Editor, UNI. The views expressed are personal
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