29 June 2015

Foreign Service must remain elitist

As the Indian Foreign Service is already a shadow of its former self, India should not fritter away its strengths by diluting its specialised and professional character

Whether at the time of uncertainty over foreign policy before the Lok Sabha elections, or after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reinvigoration of foreign policy, foreign service reforms have focussed on expansion, lateral entry of officers and general dilution of the service’s elitist character. But no attention is given to the fact that the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is already a shadow of its former self, and does not appeal to civil service aspirants. Most of those who join the IFS are those who did not qualify for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). If IFS has to perform effectively, its elitism should be preserved, its attractiveness enhanced, and it should be brought to the centre of international relations as it was originally intended to be.
Partners in foreign policy

Nobody disputes the academic Amitabh Mattoo’s argument that “India’s foreign policy must be seen as a shared partnership across departments within the government of India, and academia and think tanks outside the traditional corridors of power” (“A new foreign policy agenda”, The Hindu, April 8, 2014). But the answer is not to merge the various partners while destroying the identity of each, but to allow each of them to develop in their own spheres and provide inputs to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). No one seems to suggest that the IAS and Indian Police Service should be expanded through lateral entry to improve their performance. The logic of this argument for the IFS seems to defy the need to preserve a specialised and professional foreign service. IFS, it should be noted, is no less professional or specialised than the other services.
Foreign policy is framed by various departments of the government, academia, think tanks and the media. They should all have their own defined roles in drafting foreign policy and must remain independent of each other. The MEA should not absorb them into a monolithic institution that has no diversity. Think tanks and the media should shape foreign policy from outside rather than from within the government. Is the right remedy to recruit media experts into the IFS in order to get their inputs on foreign policy? Would they fit into the bureaucratic milieu with its hierarchical and political constraints?
The usual lament is that the IFS is smaller (900 officers) than Chinese (4,000) and American (20,000) diplomatic services. This number is insufficient to meet the requirements of our 120 missions and 49 consulates. It is a fact that India started off with more missions than it could manage. It is not easy or politically correct to close down missions once they have begun; India, therefore, maintains them with a skeletal staff in marginal posts. Its larger missions are well-endowed and it does not need to be envious of bigger missions maintained by the U.S. or China. The right mix of need and affordability must determine the numbers. The information revolution should lead to a reduction, rather than an increase, in the number of missions abroad. The size of the service should not by itself detract from the efficiency of diplomacy.
Those who argue for expansion and lateral entry seem unaware of the fact that in most of India’s important missions, the IFS is in a minority, as it is staffed by officers of other Ministries. Many Ministries have preserved positions in the name of specialisation, but most of them are IAS officers, who may have been recruited specifically for assignments abroad. They may not even have gained experience in the concerned Ministries before being posted abroad. When there is such a practice, there should be no need to induct them into the foreign service itself. Moreover, Ministries such as Commerce, Finance, Industry, Environment, Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Space and the Cabinet Secretariat have officers who specialise in various international negotiations. The missions are merely asked to service these delegations; even the heads of mission receive only a courtesy call and a cursory report. These officers function, in effect, as diplomats, and they should be added to the strength of the IFS when functional requirements are taken into account. In other words, we have more diplomats in action internationally than the strength of the IFS indicates.
If officers who claim their seniority on the basis of their services in totally unrelated areas enter the IFS laterally, this would only dilute the service’s quality. Past experience has shown that such entrants do not leave the service after a term or two, but remain to claim higher positions, spending their whole careers in diplomacy. If there is a need to induct officers from outside, the procedures available should be used rather than induct those who had once spurned the IFS. The expectations of advancement in the IFS should not be belied.
The MEA has already begun to recruit more officers every year, and that is the only way that such a specialised service should be expanded. If necessary, there are retired officers with proven ability, to fill the gaps without claiming high positions and salaries.
Reforms needed

The suggestion here is not that reform of the diplomatic service is unnecessary. First, it should be made more attractive so that the best candidates are chosen. Like Jawaharlal Nehru did, the aptitude and readiness of the selected candidates should be ascertained before they are chosen. It is patently wrong to take in officers who qualify without English proficiency. No amount of language training after entry into the service would equip them for the rigours of the work abroad. The recruitment of a large number of doctors and engineers is by no means negative, particularly in the context of the growth of technology. Some of India’s best diplomats have come from the medical profession. But we should not lose sight of the recent trend in management to deploy more graduates of social sciences and humanities. Training should be constantly revamped to equip officers to deal with different regions.
The present practice of posting on an ad hoc basis should cease. Officers should develop expertise in countries and regions. Multilateral postings should not be meant for rotational blessings, but for those who have the talent and experience. Instead of rotating officers so that they retire comfortably, we should give them other incentives to stay in tough assignments. Those in difficult places must be compensated financially. Postings, an art at present, should be made a science, with a clear criteria. There should be no vagaries of political influence or acceptability.
The real shortage of officers is not in missions abroad, but at the headquarters. Many heads of divisions cover whole continents with very little support. Temporary deputation of officers from various disciplines can strengthen the headquarters till we have a sufficient number of IFS officers to return. The style of the present Prime Minister seems to be to rely on a small number of people to work intensively on issues; this method could be developed into a system.
The role and relevance of the policy planning and historical divisions are often exaggerated. Policy planning cannot be done in a vacuum; it is the territorial divisions which can help formulate policy. The historical division should be a service unit, helping policymakers, as it is functioning right now. Nothing prevents the Ministry from drawing on the experience and wisdom of people from other fields, without absorbing them into the Ministry.
Many youngsters who aspire to the IFS have begun to believe that it really does not call the shots in foreign policymaking, as decision-making has passed on to the technical Ministries. They believe that the MEA has been reduced to a post office. Unless this impression is removed by concrete action, real talent cannot be attracted to the Videsh Bhawan. Foreign services are elitist in most countries, and India should not fritter away its strengths by diluting its specialised and professional character.

The promise of freight corridors

The much-delayed project to build the ambitious eastern and western dedicated freight corridors has received a boost with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approving a revised cost estimate for it. At Rs.81,459 crore, the figure is more than double the originally estimated Rs.28,181 crore. The 1,839-km-long eastern corridor will connect Ludhiana in Punjab with Dankuni in West Bengal. It will have two components, a double-track section and a single-track segment, both electrified. It will cut across six States. The eastern corridor will cater to traffic streams including coal, finished steel, cement and fertilizer. The western corridor will cover nearly 1,500 km, connecting the Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai with Dadri, and passing through States such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. A substantial portion of the revised cost will be met by way of debt from multilateral institutions such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank. The equity requirement of the Railways will be around Rs.23,796 crore. Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd., the special purpose vehicle set up by the Railways to implement the project, is keen to complete it by 2017-18. Once the twin-corridor system is in place, it will transform the very profile of the Railways. A host of positive outcomes, such as reduction in transportation costs and stepped-up commercial activity, benefiting a range of core industries, could flow from it. This could in turn have a multiplier effect on the economy.
Poor infrastructure has been a principal worry for Indian industry. More often than not, this has affected its ability to be efficient providers of goods and services. End-consumers have been forced to pay for the collective inefficiency. The twin-corridor project was conceived in 2005 and was approvedby the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2008. The huge cost overruns owing to the time lapse tell their own tale, and reflect the massive challenge facing policy-planners in pushing through a project of this size and magnitude that has inter-State implications. From a slow decision-making process to roadblocks to land acquisition, there are problems aplenty in the way ahead for the project. No doubt, land acquisition is turning out to be a touchy political issue. Prevarication on the decision-making front will hurt the viability of even soundly conceived projects. The Narendra Modi-led government would do well to ensure that the twin-corridor project goes through without any further delay. The key to doing so will lie also in taking along the States concerned.

Needed, a new urban vision

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his flagship Smart Cities Missionproclaiming that governmental intervention in planning the cities would be minimal. He referred to a “bottom-up approach”, but did not emphasise who exactly would benefit from the cities. The approach suggests that India is breaking away from its Anglo-European architectural tradition, promoted by Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1960s with the projection of Chandigarh as a template for urban planners. Nehru’s aim was to create mixed-income cities with easy access to community infrastructure and to institutions such as the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. But Mr. Modi’s urban-planning approach contradicts that view and largely resonates with American-style urbanism. The government is putting the spotlight on smart cities and allowing the business community to lead the development. Let us take an example in the U.S. to figure out who could benefit from the new urban plans in India. In New York City, most of the commercial and residential buildings from uptown to downtown Manhattan are inhabited by the rich who can afford the huge rents. They have installed biometric security systems to keep the ‘unwanted people’ — that is, the poor — at bay. The city government has largely outsourced the public services to private companies, which are replacing the labour force with mechanised technology. As a result, the job market has become saturated. The unskilled workforce is caught up in a low-wage job cycle.
Before pushing India on to a similar American path, Prime Minister Modi must step back and re-think whether his government should invest in smart cities, or rather empower the existing urban centres by means of policies that cater to poor and middle class Indians. For instance, at present almost every Indian city faces sanitation issues due to the absence or inadequacy of drainage networks. The migration of people from rural areas to the urban peripheries continues at a rapid pace, resulting in the mushrooming of slums and unauthorised colonies. According to Census 2011, some 65 million people live in slums. The government’s response to the issue in terms of planning to build affordable housing for them is short-sighted. Smart cities would simply institutionalise the disparity within the cities instead of filling the lacunae. The last decade of urbanisation did change the academic and policy consensus toward urban centres, but ignored the fringes of these centres where those from the poor and the lower-middle class who came in a large influx ended up. In Delhi, the government passed on powers to residents’ welfare associations, which now decide on the choice of basic civic matters — and they always give preference to their own gated communities. Mr. Modi must take a forward-looking stance when it comes to developing urban India. Otherwise, the glossy vision of building smart cities could end up triggering a process of social apartheid.

India - The new global favourite?

India's performance in attracting is in the news. Last week, the or released new data that placed India as the ninth largest recipient of (FDI) in 2014. This was a significant improvement over 2013 when India was ranked as the fifteenth largest recipient of FDI.

In the space of one year, India has raced ahead of about half a dozen countries in attracting more than them. The countries that India has left behind include France, Russia, Spain and Mexico. And the countries that are ahead of India in this list are China, Hong Kong, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Brazil, Canada and Australia. To be in this league should be no mean achievement.

That is not all. There are now reports that India is ranked number one in a new index that judges international investment destinations for their attractiveness to foreign investors. Daniel Altman's Baseline shows that India, at the top of this league, is ahead of China by several notches. Believe it or not, China's rank is 65, compared to 50 for the United States. The logic of the new index is that foreign investors evaluate the potential for increase in the value of their investment and growth. Based on these and some other parameters like corruption and the freedom to repatriate profits, the index shows that India is ahead of the rest.

Whatever may be the credibility or acceptability of such an assessment, both the Unctad listing and the new profitability index bring into sharp focus India's performance on the foreign investment front in the last few years. What do the composition and the source of such foreign investment indicate? Is it an outcome of the new government's investment-friendly policies? Or has the foreign investors' perception of India as an investment destination changed?

Foreign investment data for the last fifteen years show that India's foreign investment flows have seen an interesting trend in this period. They doubled in five years - rising from $4 billion in 2000-01 to $8.9 billion in 2005-06. The rise in the next ten years was even more striking. In 2006-07, foreign investment flows saw the most dramatic spurt as they went up to $22.8 billion and almost doubled in two years to $42 billion in 2008-09.

The global financial downturn made its impact on India's foreign investment flows as they declined to $38 billion and $35 billion in the subsequent two years. But the significant point is that there was no major setback to India's foreign direct investment flows in the following years. Indeed, India continued to attract more foreign direct investments at $47 billion in 2011-12. The years of 2012-13 and 2013-14 saw a dip in these flows to $34 billion and $36 billion, respectively. But last year (2014-15), India's foreign direct investment flows went up again to $45 billion.

But a closer look at these impressive numbers reveals three interesting trends. One, reinvested earnings by foreign investors in their entities in India have accounted for 25-30 per cent of the total foreign direct investment flows. In other words, these investments have not necessarily flown to or resulted in greenfield ventures. Instead, they are largely reinvestments to expand existing capacity. But the impact such reinvested earnings have on the economy as a whole is certainly different when compared to what fresh investments in a new project would have.

This is also a reflection of how setting up new ventures in the country has been problematic compared to expanding existing units. Apart from procedural problems in setting up new ventures, the hurdles created by the new land acquisition and rehabilitation law must have had an impact on the foreign investors' sentiment towards India. Why court trouble and delay if reinvesting your earnings in existing projects to expand capacity is faster and less problematic, they must have argued. And the data may just be bearing that out.

The second interesting trend is that a significant chunk of the total foreign investments has gone to the services sector, which includes banks, insurance ventures and outsourcing units. In the last 15 years, as much as 17 per cent of total foreign equity flows have gone towards the services sector. Policy makers could analyse why the manufacturing sector, whose revival is critical for growth, has so far attracted relatively low foreign investments. Why, for instance, the power sector should get only four per cent of total foreign equity inflows or the automobile sector's share should be only five per cent?

And finally, even though total foreign investments have been rising, India still figures quite low at 89 in the global ranking of countries with foreign investment measured as per cent of their gross domestic product.

Educational re-alignments

Of all the issues on the policy table, is perhaps the domain allowing the smallest margin of error. Decisions taken today will have consequences that persist for decades and cannot be reversed. Universal and high-quality primary education will provide the foundations for all the initiatives related to production, productivity and to achieve success. Its absence will undermine the effectiveness of all these. On this score, the country's record is not great. While almost universal enrolment in primary school is certainly an achievement, it appears to be coming with a significant trade-off in quality. Most importantly, there is a significant drop-off in enrolment in secondary school, suggesting, among other things, inadequate preparation at the primary stage. The last thing the country needs in a globalising and technologically advancing international business environment is a poorly educated workforce.

My colleague and I just co-edited a volume, Accelerating Access to Quality Education*. This brings together, besides an editorial introduction, 16 contributions from a variety of stakeholders in primary education. It also has six "last mile" perspectives: reflections on priorities and challenges from school leaders, teachers and education innovators. It provides a rich mix of insights and action recommendations to address the core objectives of any education policy, which are captured in the title of the volume. The framework bringing these three objectives together aligns closely with the themes that the Ministry of Human Resource Development is focusing on as it builds up to a new education policy.

I cannot capture the range and richness of the recommendations in this column; instead, I want to try and synthesise the perspectives in terms of alignment between the objectives themselves and the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders.

At the first level, clearly, the trade-off between access and quality is a high price to pay. Lowering standards just to increase numbers may seem like a price worth paying in the short term, but, as I argued earlier, the consequences of inferior quality will beset people for a lifetime. The policy objective must be to ensure that expansion of access is accompanied by a host of measures to improve quality and sustain it. And looking at the challenges posed by numbers, there isn't any time to lose. Rapid expansion of capacity can only be done by experimenting with all kinds of delivery mechanisms. Many of these are already being tried in various situations, but typically at a small scale; how to scale or replicate successful models must be a central question in the policy debate.

In achieving these objectives, four broad stakeholder groups need to find alignment around the pivotal stakeholders, the students. These are teachers, parents, the community and the government. A number of perspectives on this critical group are presented in the volume and were discussed at a launch event organised last week. School leaders worry about their ability to motivate teachers to adapt new methods of delivering content and stimulating creativity in a very rigid contractual structure. Teachers find themselves being pulled between conflicting demands from basic teaching and increasing administrative loads from compliance requirements of various programmes. A no-detention policy, while it may have merits, increases the dispersion of capabilities in each class, making it difficult to pay attention to lagging students or mentor promising ones.

There appears to be a compelling case for re-designing leader and teacher training programmes. The basic B Ed syllabus seems not to have been changed for many years, even as there have been so much movement in content, pedagogy and technology. Leaders and teachers equipped with the foundations to deal with this movement are a necessary condition for the alignment between access and quality.

Parents are, obviously, an essential stakeholder group, but are they playing their role as wholly as they need to? The dominant view is that there is inadequate communication between teachers and parents on issues that really matter. There is, of course, a temptation to de-prioritise this particular channel of communication. The majority of students may be first-generation school-goers. Parents essentially see schools as custodians, not to be questioned, whatever they may do. And so on. But if the inadequate participation of parents in the process contributes to a deterioration in quality, ways must be found for more productive engagement. There are promising innovations that can template the interaction between teachers and parents independent of socio-economic conditions. These need to be encouraged in order to allow this critical stakeholder group to play its role to the fullest.

The role of the larger community cannot be questioned, but we need to move from generalities to specifics. A wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been active in exploring alternative delivery mechanisms, many of which show promise on quality criteria. Whether these models can be used to expand access is a question that needs to be answered quickly. Systematically documenting and disseminating experiences, successful and failed, should be a priority for this network. Significantly, NGOs may play a productive role in partnering with public school systems in implementing new methods of both teaching and assessment. Holding public systems to account on the basis of transparent criteria is an important role for the communities that these systems serve.

Finally, there is the role of the government, which could fill a volume by itself. But let me highlight three important considerations in the context of this framework. First, it must create the space to encourage every promising model of delivery to scale up, subject to some clearly defined quality criteria being met. This means both more efficient utilisation of current capacity and legitimising innovative new models. There are outstanding examples of both cost-reducing and pedagogical innovations, which could greatly accelerate access wit quality. These must figure prominently in the choices the central and state governments will make.

Second, it must institutionalise assessment methods that test capabilities across an entire range, which is the irreversible trend globally. Third, many of the changes that are being suggested in relation to the roles and responsibilities of the other stakeholders require government to act, whether it is teacher training or more effective parental involvement. It is necessary to provide broad guidelines, but the temptation to over-engineer the processes must be resisted. Government cannot and should not be a dominant or overbearing partner in this process.

India ranks 143rd on global peace index; Iceland tops list

India ranks 143rd on global peace index; Iceland tops list
Iceland, Denmark and Austria are ranked top three on the index

India ranks a lowly 143rd on a global peace index, lagging way behind the likes of Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh with Iceland emerging as the most peaceful nation in the world.

According to the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace, Iceland, the thinly populated island in the midst of the North Atlantic has retained its place as the most peaceful country in the world. The institute released its Global Peace Index for 2015 recently, which ranks 162 nations around the globe based on factors like the level of violent crime, involvement in conflicts and the degree of militarisation. The nations are given a score on that basis. The more the score, the less peaceful the country is.

India is ranked at 143 on the index with a score of 2.504. The number of casualties from internal conflict also rose in India where a Maoist insurgency stills runs rife. The downgrade in India's score is tempered, however, by an improvement in political stability. The world's second most populous country witnessed an historic election in 2014 as the Bharatiya Janata Party secured India's first one-party majority since the mid-1980s," the report said. Six out of the top 10 most peaceful countries were European, with Denmark and Austria holding the second and third spots.

"Europe maintained its position as the most peaceful region in the world, supported by a lack of domestic and external conflicts," the report said. Pakistan fares badly, ranked at 154, with its score deteriorating on the back of a worsening of its perceptions of criminality, as a result, the country remains second from the bottom in South Asia.

"The country's dire domestic security situation continues to be hampered by the presence of Islamist militant groups. Even though the number of deaths from internal conflict did not worsen significantly over the past twelve months, Pakistan suffered a handful of high-profile incidents -- most notably the separate attacks on Jinnah International Airport and an army-run school in Peshawar," the report said.

Afghanistan remains the most lowly ranked in South Asia at 160.

Bhutan (18), Nepal (62), Bangladesh (84) and Sri Lanka (114) are all ranked above India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

US is also ranked at a lowly 94 scoring badly in terms of militarisation, homicides and fear of violence. China is ranked 124.

Syria and Iraq where the Islamic State terror group has taken over large swathes of land are at the bottom of the table as the least peaceful countries.

No more using fresh water? Panel on Yamuna restoration suggests ban

A slew of measures have been suggested for maintaining the natural "ecological" flow of Yamuna while it passes through the capital.

A committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal has suggested that use of fresh water should be prohibited and made an offence in order to maintain the minimum environmental flow of Yamuna river.
The principal committee, headed by Shashi Shekhar, the Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, was constituted by the green panel on January 13 for implementing the Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalization Plan, 2017.
The tribunal had directed the committee and the Chief Secretaries of all the states through which the river passes, to submit their suggestions on the issue of minimum environmental flow.
The principal committee has suggested a slew of measures to be adopted for maintaining the natural “ecological” flow of Yamuna while it passes through the capital.
The committee has recommended that in all the urban towns situated along the river, the sewage water must be mandatorily treated and supplied for industrial processes, railway and bus cleaning, fire-fighting, city parks, construction activities etc.
“For such purposes use of fresh water should be prohibited and made an offence. This will save significant amount of fresh water which is today diverted from the river and to the extent that such fresh water is saved, e-flow in the river should be further augmented from Hathnikund Barrage, the committee said.
It also advocated setting up of common effluent treatment plant with zero liquid discharge arrangement in industrial clusters located near the banks of the Yamuna.
“These industries, therefore, should be banned from drawing fresh water from the ground water or supply by the municipalities. This will again save huge quantum of fresh water and to that extent additional e-flow from Hathnikund Barrage should be released in the river Yamuna.
“Agricultural practices shall be mandatorily made water efficient in terms of cropping and water use. Use of fresh water from rivers for irrigation purposes shall be discouraged and the use of treated sewage from the urban centres shall be encouraged and rewarded. Current practice of indiscriminate extraction of the ground water to meet cash crop agricultural needs shall also be curtailed by law,” it said.Chemical foam from industrial effluents covers the water surface of the Yamuna.

Rainwater could help Indians save money: NASA data

Rainwater could help Indians save money: NASA data

Rainwater harvesting is not a new concept, but researchers said it is a largely untapped technique in India.

Collecting rainwater for vegetable irrigation could reduce water bills, increase caloric intake and even provide a second source of income for people in India, according to a new study by scientists looking at NASA satellite data.

The study is based on precipitation data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which provided observations of rainfall over the tropics and subtropics from 1997 to 2015.

“India has severe problems getting potable water to all of its residents,” said Dan Stout, research assistant in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Utah.

“We considered collecting water in a relatively small tank, and it’s amazing the effect that doing something that small and simple can have on the Indian people,” Stout said.

Rainwater harvesting is not a new concept, but researchers said it is a largely untapped resource in India.

In the new study, the team examined the possibilities if Indians collected precipitation in cheap 200-gallon tanks that they could easily engineer to fit in densely populated urban areas, such as many of India’s growing cities.

The team analysed satellite data of precipitation in different areas to evaluate the availability of rainwater for direct harvesting.

The team used data sets provided every three hours from 1997 to 2011 to determine how much precipitation, on average, was available for collection and supplementation in each of the six test cities: Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Srinagar.

The team input TRMM data into algorithms that Stout developed to determine the benefit to each of two scenarios: indoor use and outdoor vegetable irrigation.

They estimated each person would require an average of about 35 gallons of water per day. For an average household of five people, demand would be about 178 gallons daily.

Outdoor vegetable irrigation would require less water.

The team calculated irrigation demands for a roughly 215-square-foot garden planted with tomatoes and lettuce.

The team found rainwater harvesting provided for nearly 20 per cent of the average indoor demand overall, though some seasons, such as southern monsoon season, provided more.

Rainwater harvesting provided sufficient water source for vegetable irrigation, which demands less water than indoor use.

While rainwater collection for irrigation resulted in fewer water bill savings, it did provide vitamin—rich food, profit from selling excess vegetables and a significantly shorter payback period for infrastructure, operation and maintenance required for the endeavour.

This can help boost cost savings and increase quality of life in India, researchers said in the study published in the Urban Water Journal.

After a one-year payback period, rainwater harvesting for vegetable irrigation would provide a profit of between 1,548 and 3,261 rupees per year and a total cost savings of between 2,605 and 4,522 rupees per year.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005

     Who is entitled to claim maintenance under the PWDVA?

All categories of persons mentioned under Section 125 of the CrPC are entitled to claim maintenance under this law. This includes the wife, minor children whether legitimate or illegitimate, major children suffering from physical or mental abnormalities or injuries and the mother. Others entitled under their personal laws may also claim.

v     How is the amount for monetary relief to be calculated?

Under Section 20 of the PWDVA- the monetary relief amount has to be adequate, reasonable and fair and consistent with the standard of living to which the
aggrieved woman is accustomed. In calculating the amount of monetary relief the courts will follow the standards prescribed under the law of maintenance.

[Section 23(2) of the HAMA] Court has to consider the following factors while arriving at the amount of monetary relief to be granted:

o       The social status of the couple, this includes the husband's income and standard of living of the couple

o       The reasonable needs of the wife: this includes, at the very minimum, her needs as to food, clothing, residence and medical expenses

o       The value of the wife's property and income, if any

o       The number of persons entitled to maintenance from the husband under the HAMA: this includes, besides the wife, children, her parents and a widowed daughter-in-law.

v     Can an order for monetary relief be a lumpsum amount or does it have to be in monthly instalments?

Whether monetary relief is a monthly payment or in the form of a lump sum one time payment will depend on what the aggrieved woman has asked for and on the discretion of the court. Under the PWDVA either monthly payment or lump sum may be granted under Section 20 (3)

v     If a woman has already obtained an order under Section 125 CrPC or any other suit for maintenance, can she apply under the PWDVA seeking its enforcement?

There is no advantage to seeking the enforcement of a Section 125 order under this law. However, the breach of Section 125 order can be regarded as being economic abuse, and hence 'domestic violence'.

v     What does the proviso to Section 12(2) mean? How will the set off be calculated?

Proviso to Section 12 (2) states that where a decree for any amount as compensation or damages has been passed by any court in favor of the aggrieved person, the amount, if any, paid or payable in pursuance of the order made by the Magistrate under the PWDVA shall be set off against the amount payable under such decree and the decree shall be executable for the balance amount, if any, left after such set off.

After the order is passed, the amount will then be deducted in accordance with the provisions under Section 125 Cr PC or HAMA or any other law.

v     Can a Muslim woman seek an order for monetary relief under the PWDVA?
A Muslim woman who is not divorced can ask for monetary relief under the PWDVA. However, if she is divorced her rights will be determined under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and she will have to go under that law or under Section 125 CrPC. (See Daniel Latifi v Union of India [(2001)7 SCC 740]

A Muslim woman can apply for an order for monetary relief against her son.

v     How will the court ensure that orders for monetary relief and compensation, alternate accommodation are executed when the respondent does not have the means of making the payment?

The Supreme Court in Leelavati v State of Uttar Pradesh (1982 (1) SCC 437) has opined that if a person is healthy and able bodied he must be held to have the means to support his wife, children and parents. The Court may initiate proceedings under Section 125 (3) of the CrPC and cause the Respondent to be arrested, if he does not pay on an order under Section 125.

v     What is the procedure to be followed in cases where an order for monetary relief is not complied with?

Rule 6 (5) provides that all orders under the PWDVA will be enforced the manner laid down under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Rule 10 (e) provides that the Protection Officer, if directed to do so in writing by the Magistrate shall assist the courting enforcement of orders in the proceedings under the Act in the manner directed by the Magistrate, including orders under Section 12, 18,19,20 21,23.

Proceedings for enforcement of orders under the PWDVA may be initiated as provided under Section 125 (3) of the CrPC. Magistrate may issue a warrant for levying the amount due in the manner provided for levying fines and may sentence a person for the whole or any part of the monthly amount or any other amount mentioned in the order granting monetary relief.

In appropriate cases the Court may direct the respondent's employer to pay the aggrieved person directly, under Section 20 (6) of the PWDVA, by attachment of property, etc.

When the Magistrate gives an order for monetary relief coupled with a Protection Order, then non-compliance with the order shall amount to breach under Section 31 of the PWDVA. It is advisable always to ask for a protection order coupled with any other relief.

36. Under Section 20(4) the magistrate is required to send a copy of the order for monetary relief to the police. How will this order be enforced since the police have not been given any power to get the order enforced?

When the order is given to the police, the aggrieved person should also ask for an order directing the police to assist in the enforcement of the order. Even if such a direction is not given, it is necessary to keep a record of the domestic violence with the police so that they have a history of the case and can assist when the necessity arises. If a Protection Order has been given in conjunction with the order for monetary relief, then breach of a protection order is a cognizable offence and a complaint may be lodged with the police under Section 31.


v     Can a woman claim custody over her children under the PWDVA?

Yes, under Section 21 of the PWDVA. It is to be noted that custody orders can be applied for only in addition to applications for protection or other orders. This means that where there is domestic violence and a woman wants a protection order, etc, she can also apply for temporary custody.

The magistrate can give for orders of temporary custody of children only. This will not prevent the other party from going to an appropriate forum and seeking permanent custody or joint custody of the children.

If a matter with regard to custody of children is pending in a court, an application under the PWDVA for temporary custody of children can be made in the same court.

v     How will the court decide on the best interest of a child

At the time of deciding on applications of temporary custody the best interests of the child or the welfare of the child must be kept in mind. In Rosy Jacob v Jacob Chakramakkal, the SC while opining on matters to be considered in appointing a guardian, held that

"In considering what will be the welfare of the minor, the Court shall have regard to the age, sex and religion of the minor, character and capacity of the proposed guardian and his nearness of kin to the minor…"

The welfare of the child is not to be decided on the aspect of material comforts alone. In McGrath (Infants) (1983) 1 Ch 143 quoted with approval in Dhanwanti Joshi v Madhav Unde (1998) 1 SCC 112 it was held that

".. the welfare of the child is not to be measured by money alone nor by physical comfort only. The word 'welfare' must be taken in its widest sense.
The moral and religious welfare must be considered as well as its physical well being. Nor can the ties of affection be disregarded."
Walker v Walker - 6 1981 New Ze Recent Law 257

"Welfare is an all encompassing word. It includes material welfare, both in the sense of adequacy of resources to provide a pleasant home and a comfortable standard of living and in the sense of an adequacy of care to ensure that good health and due personal pride are maintained. However, while material considerations have their place they are secondary matters, understanding care and guidance, the warm and compassionate relationships, that are essential for the full development of the child's own character, personality and talents."


v     How will an order against prohibiting the respondent from communicating with the aggrieved woman be enforced?

If the communication is by phone, a record can be kept and the aggrieved person can be advised to install a caller ID.

If the communication is by e-mail, a record of the same can be kept and produced before the court as evidence. If the respondent visits the aggrieved person at her office or at the residence, the aggrieved person should immediately call the police so that the respondent violating the order can be arrested.

Rule 10 (e): The Protection Officer, if directed to do so in writing by the Magistrate shall assist the courting enforcement of orders in the proceedings under the PWDVA in the manner directed by the Magistrate, including orders under Section 12, 18,19,20 21,23.

The Protection Office should be contacted and informed about the communication made by the respondent so that immediate action can be taken as per procedure under the PWDVA.

A bond to maintain peace (for preventing any further acts of domestic violence) may also be executed under section 19 (4). Police help may also be sought to give protection to the aggrieved woman or aiding her in the enforcement of any order given under this law.

v     What can be done to prevent the breach of a residence order?

The Magistrate order the Respondent to execute a bond for preventing the commission of domestic violence under Section 19 (3) which provides for residence orders. The breach of any order under Section 19 shall then be dealt with in accordance with the procedure set out in Chapter VIII of the CrPC. Hence violations of conditions in the bond may lead to the arrest of the respondent.

Govt launches new schemes to take education in India to newer heights

Setting up of a national digital library, provision of scholarship for differently abled to pursue technical education, connecting institutions of higher education to villages so as to solve the problems of the latter.

            These are but some of the new initiatives that have been taken by the new Government at the Centre headed by Narendra Modi in the area of human resource development over the last one year.

            One year is not a long time in the history of a country. But, going by the slew of measures taken by the Government within this period it seems quite clear that the country could be on the threshold of a sea change in the field of education.

            Even while being aware of the need for fiscal prudence, the Government has launched a long list of new schemes and projects covering the various aspects of human resource development. Interesting, none of the on-going programmes have been sacrificed too.   

            A key feature of the new initiatives is a focussed attempt to utilise the modern tools of information technology in the best possible manner. For instance, a project has been taken up to create a national digital library of ebooks and other e-contents on various subjects and topics and another to set up a platform through which highly qualified faculty of centrally sponsored institutions like IITs, IIMs and central universities would offer online courses free of cost.

            Called Swayam`’, the mass-scale online open course platform would be hosted on a virtual cloud and have provision for the beneficiaries to get certificates following tests at the end of the courses.The digital library, in turn, will be set up by IIT, Kharagpur, and a sum of Rs. 10 crore has already been released to the institute for the purpose.
In addition, technology is being used to identify geographical pockets which fared poorly in terms of education among girls, particularly of those belonging to marginalised sections of society so that corrective measures could be taken. The digital atlas project developed in partnership with UNICEF was launched on March 8 on the occasion of the World Women’s Day.

            Further, a separate portal has been developed by the All India Council for Technical Education to enable prospective students to make informed choices about which colleges to pursue admission in. The searchable database of all accredited colleges in the country provides detailed profiles for each of them. The `Know Your College Portal’ was launched on November 11 and has so far received 1.63 lakh hits.

            The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also taken an initiative to map the entire country on a GIS [Geographic Information System] platform to identify habitations which still do not have elementary and secondary schools. A total of 28 States and Union Territories have so far provided the necessary data and the National Informatics Centre has mapped them on the platform.

            Central Board for Secondary Education [CBSE] has also developed an innovative online self-assessment tool that could be used by schools to look at their performance at an aggregate level as also at the level of each student and compare them with regards to all CBSE schools at various levels. Called ‘`Saransh’’, the tool covers data for 2.02 crore students and 1.5 lakh teachers across 15,000 schools for a period of seven years.

            Apart from initiating schemes to make effective use of the latest tools of technology, the new Government has also come out with new schemes and projects to make the education system sensitive to the needs of the differently abled children and also children with special needs.  

            Among other things, it has launched a scheme called ``Saksham’’ under which differently abled students will be provided with a scholarship of upto Rs. 30,000 per year to pursue diploma and undergraduate level courses in technical institutions approved by All India Council for Technical Education. In all, 1,000 such students would be provided the scholarship every year. They would also be provided with an additional sum of Rs.2,000 per month for 10 months as contingency allowance.

            Likewise, a handbook has been brought out to guide teachers on how to take care of children with special needs. All primary school teachers across the country are to be given the handbook. The aim is to provide for inclusive classrooms.

            The new Government at the Centre has also come out with a special scheme called for Udaan for girl students. It is a mentoring and scholarship scheme to enable meritorious girl students to transit from schools to technical education without much difficulty and also aims to enrich and enhance teaching and learning of mathematics and science at senior secondary school level by providing free online resources for all.

            Pre-loaded tablets with text and video material, a helpline to enable the students to clarify doubts, along with 50 mentoring centres across the country which will have virtual classrooms have been made available.

            The first batch of 950 students was selected by CBSE in November for the scheme. Of them, 307 girls belonged to families with income of less than Rs. one lakh.

            The focus of the project is to address the low enrolment ratio of girl students in prestigious engineering 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.

            Another interesting step is the launching of a mission named after freedom fighter and educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya to build a strong professional cadre of teachers by addressing all the issues related to teachers, teaching, teacher preparation, professional development, curriculum design, design and development of more effective pedagogy and better assessment and evaluation methodologies.

            The Rs. 900 crore schemes were launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the occasion of the Good Governance Day on December 25. An executive committee chaired by HRD Minister, Smriti Irani and a project approval board chaired by Secretary, Higher Education and co-chaired by Secretary-School Education and Literacy to monitor the mission have been established. As part of the scheme, the first inter-University centre for teacher education has been set up by University Grants Commission at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

            The Central Government has also launched a scheme called Unnat Bharat Abhiyan to promote the transfer of technologies from the laboratory to the land. Under the scheme, institutions of higher education would connect with villages in their neighbourhood  and address the various problems faced by them. The scheme would particularly focus on offering solutions for water management, organic farming, renewable energy, infrastructure and livelihood. IIT, Delhi is the coordinating institute.About 130 villages have so far been adopted by IITs, NITs and IISERs across the country under the scheme..

            Besides a new scheme called `Gian`[Global Initiative for Academic Network]  has been launched which will bring world class educators from across the globe to teach in India. Indian American mathematician, Manjul Bhargava, has agreed to spearhead it. Prof. Bhargava is a winner of Fields Medal, which is considered as the highest honour for a mathematician in the world.

            `Gian` is aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India so as to augment the country's existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India's scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.

            Among other things, the Central Government has also launched a scheme called Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan to revive interest in science, mathematics and technology among youth through support for innovative learning based on observations and experimentation. The thrust would be on learning outside the classroom through direct interaction with the environment around the educational institutions.

            Further, a campaign called `Pade Bharat, Badhe Bharat’ has been launched to ensure that learning levels of class I and II students in reading, writing language comprehension and numeracy is at par with the world. The campaign will also seek to ensure that every school provides teaching-learning for 200 days in a year, with 800 instructional hours.

            With year one taking off on such a sound note the expectation is that more benefits will accrue to the cause of education in the coming years thus taking country at a much faster pace towards the goal of a developed nation.  

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