Times of India | 5 days ago | 05-08-2022 | 08:27 am
Nashik: State education commissioner Suraj Mandhare on Thursday said plans were afoot to bring the entire education system — right from children attending schools in rural areas to the office work — online to facilitate decision-making on a real-time basis. Speaking about his plans for the education department, Mandhare said there was a lot of scope for the development of the education system across the state, especially in the peri-urban, semi-urban and rural areas, where students could benefit from the monitoring of their progress and providing better teachers in places where there is a need for an additional push. “With the online system being developed, the administration will be able to monitor the attendance of the teachers and students in the schools in the remote areas and keep a close watch on the pupils' progress in various subjects, just as it is done in Gujarat,” sai the officer, who was the district collector of Nashik. As part of the plan, the students’ progress will be updated on a regular basis and analysed. The education department will assign tasks for certain teachers to make extra efforts required to teach the students lagging in specific subjects. The officer further spoke about the fee-hike related complaints across the state. He said, “The issue of fee hike in schools is serious. Keeping this in mind, some authority should be set up for the schools on the lines of the fees regulatory authority set up for colleges. We are thinking on the same lines.”
DEHRADUN: Based on the Gujarat model, the Uttarakhand education department is planning to develop online review and monitoring centres to improve the system, and make it more transparent and accessible to the public. The decision to develop the centres was announced by education minister, Dhan Singh Rawat, who had recently gone on a Gujarat tour to attend a gathering of education ministers from across the country. "The proposal has been approved by the central government and Rs 5 crore has been allotted for the program. We are in talks with the IT firm that developed the Gujarat model to do the same for Uttarakhand. Once the tender is finalised, we will start working on it," said Rawat. The centralised monitoring system will operate from Dehradun and the department hopes to get it operational in the next six months. Uttarakhand will become the third state in the country to adopt this system after Gujarat and Goa. The online monitoring will start with the school system. Officials said that everything from daily lessons to teacher attendance to numbers of staff vacancies will be available in the system and all department data will go online. "The idea to strengthen the education system further using technology. We have understood the Gujarat model and our core team is working on implementing it here. The department has been instructed to make it operational in the next six months," said the minister. Rawat further said that with the system, an inspection of any educational facility could be carried out in online mode in real time. Additionally, the education ministry is also working on the Sanskrit gram program for which work is being done on identifying appropriate villages in each district. As per the proposal, these Sanskrit Grams would also host literary fests and seminars on the birth anniversaries of famous Sanskrit scholars. Also, over 5 lakh people from identified villages will be taught Sanskrit under the project. "Villages that have a history of Sanskrit or have more people versed with the language will be shortlisted for the project. They will be identified in all 13 districts within a month and then the project will take off," said Rawat.
The recently released IAMAI Kantar, Internet in India, ICUBE 2021 study has some interesting findings on how the country is fast emerging as one of the world’s largest markets for internet-based apps and services. The report was released around the same time India witnessed significant bidding for the 5G spectrum. At the intersection of both of these lies perhaps the world’s most unique digital polity of first-time, non-English internet users who think, act and transact “mobile first”. Their numbers will soon reach a billion as India focuses efforts on expanding rural 4G access and high-speed internet. With anywhere between two to eight hours of daily usage, the Indian internet user is the ideal test case for any platform or app-based service looking to tap a global audience. Little wonder that we have witnessed over the years intense efforts to sway the Indian internet user through borderless activism in the name of “saving the internet”, “online free speech”, and “data surveillance”.With the Narendra Modi-led NDA government withdrawing the earlier proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, the stakes have become even higher for borderless activism seeking to influence how India regulates the internet-based economy.The reasons for the high stakes in internet regulation in India become apparent when one looks at the demographic shift in the country — the statistics revealed by the IAMAI report also underline this shift. As per the UN’s estimates for births in India, the cohort born between 2002 and 2006 is one of the largest, with yearly births having peaked in the country between 2001 and 2002. This makes the cohort of nearly 150 million first-time voters in the 2024 General Elections a sizable and distinct digital constituency. As India’s largest cohort that has been “Digital First” from the cradle, this generation of first-time voters has experienced all the significant digital shifts in their formative years. Having been born around the same time as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, this generation came of age with the touchscreen revolution. Their teen years witnessed an explosive growth in smartphone usage. This is also the generation that had the highest exposure to online education due to Covid-19 vastly increasing their screen time and use of internet tools and services.While the IAMAI report does not reveal much on the age-wise demographic split of the various kinds of internet users, it was interesting to note that online gaming has nearly five times the number of users relative to those using the internet for online education. Internet-based gaming is the mainstay of this cohort with new-age interactive platforms such as Twitch and Discord emerging as hubs of their peer groups. The divide with earlier generations of voters is quite stark as this cohort barely reads newspapers or watches conventional television. While YouTube and WhatsApp are most likely their primary sources of news to them, Facebook and Twitter are already legacy social media platforms belonging to an earlier era. Indicators of this inter-generational schism are already visible the world over with older users of services like Instagram unhappy with the shift towards tik-tok style short videos and algorithmic feeds.The unique digital characteristics of this demographic of first-time voters will require creative approaches for political engagement ahead of the 2024 elections. The Election Commission of India recently announced further liberalisation of the voter registration process with 17-year-olds being able to register a year ahead of being eligible to vote, apart from opening up the voter registration process once every quarter. Creative engagement of this digital-first generation would perhaps require interactive live streaming on platforms like Twitch apart from volunteer engagement efforts through “servers” on Discord. How India approaches digital regulations would be of utmost importance to this cohort. It will necessitate a sustained dialogue on the government’s approach to techno-nationalism as a counter to the borderless activism that has sought to skew digital policy debates in India.India is not alone in its pursuit of techno-nationalism. We are already witnessing a wave of regulatory moves from Indonesia on not just controlling online gaming apps and services but also actively promoting indigenously developed gaming apps. While China requires licences for online games by a dedicated gaming regulator, Indonesia requires formal registration to be compliant with local laws governing what are called “private electronic systems”. From Kenya to Brazil we are also witnessing preemptive actions to insulate the electoral processes of their respective democracies from the spread of viral fake news and disinformation on WhatsApp.While the 2009 elections saw the advent of blogs in the political debate, the 2014 elections were the first time internet streaming played a significant role in disintermediating broadcast media. The 2019 elections were marked by the extensive role played by social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. With the unique demographic characteristics of first-time voters, perhaps the 2024 elections will see algorithms and gaming apps and services play an influential role.From securing semi-conductor supply chains to regulating data flows, techno-nationalism is on the political agenda of western democracies and eastern nations alike. Over the next two years as the government seeks to put in place a comprehensive digital regulatory framework governing data, privacy, apps and algorithms, engaging the first digital generation of new voters on techno-nationalism will be crucial at every step.The writer is former CEO of Prasar Bharati, India’s Public Broadcaster
Written by Ghanshyam Tiwari“Jo party ya parivar nahi balki apne dum par zameen se uththa hai, vo satta-bahattar saal par jakar pradhan mantri banne ka mazboot davedaar ban payega” (the one who rises from the grass roots, not through a family or party, but on his own steam, will, in his seventies, become a strong candidate for prime minister). Nearly 10 years later, I remember these prophetic words by Nitish Kumar, from a dinner event in honour of Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz who was visiting Bihar.In 2010, Bihar was going in for an election that would set a new template for its politics. Nitish Kumar, then widely credited for building a new grammar of developmental politics, was up for re-election. Chandrababu Naidu’s unexpected defeat a few months earlier in Andhra Pradesh was reinforcing the impression that development doesn’t win votes. Nitish was set to belie that story. The visible transformation of law and order alongside the beautiful sight in village after village of girls riding cycles to school and the relentless building of roads laid the foundation for the Nitish-led Bihar model. He led the Centre-state public finance dialogue for Bihar with support from his deputy, the BJP’s Sushil Modi. To his credit, the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, understood the needs of Bihar and respected the mission of Nitish Kumar, even if he was with the NDA. This was a gentleman-statesman era of Indian politics, now fast disappearing.Nitish Kumar won the 2010 assembly election with a thumping majority. At that time, as a student at Harvard University, I led the Bihar Leadership Project which focused on data analytics, developmental messaging, and systematic monitoring of the campaign. The chief minister invited me to return to Bihar after graduating from Harvard to work with him and I readily accepted. Over the next five years, I was assigned key roles in several ambitious missions such as the Harit Bihar Abhiyan and the Special Category Status for Bihar Campaign. Starting 2012, the race for prime ministership in 2014 became an open contest. Nitish vs Modi and Bihar Model vs Gujarat Model became the most engaging conversation in many parts of the country. In reality, Nitish never cast himself in the race. It was his many successes in governance that put the spotlight on him. He shocked the country by breaking the alliance with the BJP in 2013. Powered by unmatched campaign machinery, the BJP and Narendra Modi bulldozed the Nitish model in 2014 with a thumping victory in Bihar. Taking moral responsibility, Nitish resigned as chief minister and announced Jitan Ram Manjhi as his successor. Seeing an opportunity to vanquish Nitish, the BJP played every trick in the book. Manjhi was the first Eknath Shinde but he would not be the last. By all accounts, RCP Singh has turned out to be the latest missionary for the BJP.In 2014, when Nitish Kumar resigned as the CM, I was working as Country Economist for the London School of Economics. I resigned to serve as chief of staff for the ex-CM. In this role, I came face to face with the person behind the image. For example, Nitish moved into a new house that was barely functional — all it had was a telephone. I ordered the modem and a laptop based on the allowance he would get as part of his salary. The e-commerce delivery person was amused to learn that the ex-CM was ordering such products online. I was able to bring Nitish up-to-speed with platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and digital news. In no time, he was able to see the way the BJP had used social media to replace his narrative of development with false propaganda. He decided to set the record straight by conducting a “Sankalp Yatra” across Bihar, where he would play during his speeches the now popular set of audio bytes of false promises made by Narendra Modi that I had collated for him.It is a magnificent achievement that Nitish defeated the BJP not only to reclaim the chief ministership from Manjhi but also build an alliance with Lalu Prasad. Together, they routed the BJP in the 2015 elections. An unrelenting BJP struck back to force Nitish to break the alliance in less than a year, much to the disappointment of all who saw him as a self-made leader who could be prime minister. Notwithstanding this, the BJP’s anger against Nitish did not subside. Chirag Paswan became its instrument to deceptively counter Nitish in the 2020 Bihar elections. Once again, the BJP failed to vanquish Nitish Kumar. As the RCP Singh story unfolds, it is clear that the BJP has not given up.What makes Modi and the BJP nervous about Nitish Kumar? Whether he was an ally or enemy, they made countless deceptive attempts to “finish” Nitish (in the words of a Union minister). Nitish comes from a family of freedom fighters. Unlike Modi, he is neither a multiplier nor a divider of public narratives. His moves are incremental but concrete. Unlike BJP leaders, Nitish is not a religious person. He is a man of wisdom and spirituality. Nitish’s most used line is “jo kahte hain, kar ke dikhaate hain (we do what we say)”. He has a socialist lineage and is unaligned to and unhyped by corporate lobbies, not powered by media and social media propaganda, and uncompromising on communal harmony, political decency and the constitutional framework of the country.At a time when the common man is slipping into poverty, caught in daily debates of communal hatred and anger, and cynical about bullet trains, Nitish Kumar promises a cycle ride of progress with harmony and social justice.(The writer, with the JD(U) from 2010 to 2015, is national spokesperson, Samajwadi Party)
AHMEDABAD: The information commissioners in the state have cited orders of high courts, the Supreme Court, and the Central Information Commission to ban 10 citizens from filing RTIs before certain government departments for life. An analysis by Mahiti Ahikar Gujarat Pehel revealed that the ICs used orders of the Delhi, Madras and Haryana HCs, two orders of the apex court, as well as three CIC orders to ban 10 applicants in the past 18 months. Interestingly, none of the orders cited "ban" citizens from filing RTIs. Banning applicant Amita Mishra, a school teacher from Gandhinagar, the state information commissioner invoked Article 19(2) of the Constitution and found her application hampering, "...the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence." One of the popular orders quoted by a few of the Gujarat information commissioners is a CIC order of H K Bansal versus DoT, where it was noted, "A mentally sound person or a sane senior citizen will not generally engage in the sadistic filing of frivolous RTI applications. It is not known why this senior citizen has targeted this public authority which he served." Another order cited is the Supreme Court order in K K Modi versus K N Modi, where it was held that "it is an abuse of the process of the court and contrary to justice and public policy for a party to re-litigate the same issue." In a CIC order often cited include Mohammed Shakeel Saifi versus Bhai Parmanand Institute of Business Studies, Delhi, where it was noted "It is pathetic to note that the PIO could not ascertain that there was no public interest in this case but appellant has malicious interests in harassing others."
AHMEDABAD: An association of teachers has written to the state chief minister, the education minister and secretary of the education department to take stringent action against teachers who are conducting tuitions privately in the state. The Gujarat Federation of Academic Associations in its letter, which also has a list of 104 teachers who are conducting private tuitions, said these teachers are violating state government rules which clearly prohibit teachers employed by schools from conducting private coaching and running private coaching classes. The list includes the names and addresses of teachers. It has 65 teachers from Mehsana, 21 from Gandhinagar, 11 from Radhanpur, five from Idar and two from Junagadh. The letter says trustees of these schools are aware that these teachers are conducting private coaching but they let them carry on with the violation. The letter alleges that trustees and principals are overlooking this as they are paid a commission from these coaching classes. The letter says these teachers are also forcing students from the schools they teach at to enrol in their coaching classes and lure them using the promise of good grades in the internal exams. The federation threatened that if the government doesn't take action against these teachers, it will launch a peaceful agitation. Prakash Karamchandani, president of the federation, said that in the last two years they made several representations to the education department but no action has been taken so far.