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Political Movements: NON-VIOLENT PROTESTS’ EFFICACY, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 13 January 2021 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 13 January 2021

Political Movements

NON-VIOLENT PROTESTS’ EFFICACY

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

It is a well-known fact that society has become rather explosive and tension-ridden i.e. it is prone to violence in most parts of the Third World. The quest for material prosperity and yearning for more power and wealth, resulting in poverty and squalor along with ever rising inequality and a deep sense of despair and frustration of a major section of the population in these countries, including India, may be considered the major factors that have made the social climate violent. But it is also a fact that non-violent movements have been witnessed and these have successfully raised national concerns.

It is thus quite apparent that political protests have been rampant due to unjust policies adopted by the ruling dispensation and viewed by some as anti-people and an encroachment of their rights. The question that needs to be analysed is whether such protests or movements are non-violent in character. This is most important in the land of Mahatma Gandhi who gave the concept of non-violence and Satyagrah to the world, which succeeded in India gaining independence. The ongoing sustained agitation of farmers, for one, has so far proved the efficacy of non-violent agitation against the brute force of the State. 

Delving into the issue of violence, it may be said to be fundamentally a primitive animal instinct. However, the manifestations of violence have become wider, possibly with the diversification of the urges of man for freedom, for establishing his viewpoint and a sense of belonging. Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar had observed: “Men have been fighting for freedom since the beginning of humanity. Similarly, he has also been striving to get recognition and he gets a sense of exaltation if he is able to contribute to the human achievement. Deprived of this opportunity, he is bound to be rebellious against the social system, which deprives him from this favour”.   

According to Mahatma Gandhi’s definition, violence can be ascribed to exploitation. The centralised bureaucracies, large organisations, monoliths of industry and business all combine together to unleash violence amongst the people. However, the establishment may be passive and concerned with the welfare and well-being of the people and may not have an exploitative tendency; still the concentration of power cannot be beneficial for real development to take place.

Prof. Sugata Dasgupta, a well-known Gandhian scholar, aptly pointed out: “The establishment exploits and since all exploitation hurts, the violence of exploitation too hurts all concerned . . . . In short, the violence of establishment spills blood, as such a dagger or a gun does; the only difference being that this violence is not seen and often unrecognised and unaccounted for.”   

One may recall here the towering leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan and his movement called ‘Total Revolution’ that brought Opposition political parties together on a common platform. This movement connected disparate student movements in Gujarat and Bihar and melded it with the grievances of farmers and workers, thereby giving it a national character. It must be noted that an uplifting political vision does not mean an exact political programme. JP’s ‘Total Revolution’ – a mix of democratic decentralisation and corruption-free governance – was vague enough to attract a broad swath of the population while being inspiring enough to energise people into anti-government action.

Recently, the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, although they were forthright in their ideological challenge to the government, were largely unsuccessful in expanding beyond minority-dominated spaces and, hence, at no point did they threaten the political calculations of the government. In both cases, as experts pointed out, the protests remained confined to their particular constituencies because of an absence of leadership. Thus, it may be stated that the Opposition political parties have singularly failed to capitalise on the government’s failures and the resulting undercurrent of resentment have ceded space to civil society organisations.

However, it has to be agreed that the anti-CAA protests (from December 2019 to February 2020) were a truly democratic upsurge spearheaded by women and students who stepped forward to reclaim the country’s egalitarian essence. The Preamble, the national flag and the national anthem were the overarching symbols of this mass movement. The unexpected solidarity across class and community rattled the government, which attacked anti-CAA protesters as anti-national, fanning anarchy and endangering the rule of law.

One may mention here that draconian laws such as the NSA and the UAPA have been used with devastating effect to stifle dissent. The transformation of the peaceful anti-CAA protests into a ‘secessionist’ movement propagating ‘armed rebellion’, as portrayed in the police charge sheets on the Delhi riots, is Kafkaesque in its distortion.

Most Opposition parties acquiesced to the larger ideological framework of the BJP and are too timid to mount a serious ideological challenge. These recurring protests are an outcome of the contradictions in the ruling party’s system of dominance; yet there is no political leader of JP’s stature who has the skill, credibility and acceptability to convincingly articulate how these contradictions lie into each other, formulate an alternative political vision and build a sustained political movement based on it.

At the same time, the recent sustained protests by the farming community are testimony to the fact that even without a strong personality to lead protest movements, the issues has equal importance. This is well manifest from the farm protests led by peasants from Punjab, Haryana, eastern Uttar Pradesh and also other States where the subject can be considered to have national appeal, as the farmers fear the business groups subverting their interests and livelihood. The movement has managed to get a national character as experts have opined that the government had no constitutional right to legislate on agricultural marketing since it happened to be a State subject.

Political protests and movements are bound to continue in a democratic polity though the ruling dispensation would try to break these peoples’ demands by unethical means, as happened in India during the CAA agitation and now the farmers’ stir.  Moreover, while non-violence is the preferred mode, and this is desirable, these agitations are being handled by a brute police force of the State that very often resorts to violence. 

Therefore though there have many obstacles to democratic functioning, protests have emerged in the country from time to time, and quite successfully, to voice concerns against policy issues. The strength and resilience of the people in India needs to be appreciated as they have organised protests, both at the State level as also nationally in spite of a brutal police force and administration. The blessings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and many others have possibly imbued the masses to fearlessly stand up in protest.  ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Changing Energy Mix: USE OF ALTERNATE FUELS VITAL, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 6 January 2021 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 6 January 2021

Changing Energy Mix

USE OF ALTERNATE FUELS VITAL

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Energy efficiency has been in sharp focus for quite a few years and there have been global pressures on countries to adopt new technologies. Several measures have been taken by India but considering the challenges before the country additional efforts are certainly required. Also to ensure that pollution levels are effectively tackled, strict monitoring by government agencies as also awareness generation at all levels need to be expedited at a faster rate.

On the one hand while experts have repeatedly opined that renewable targets are quite laudable, on the other the area of concern is that fossil fuel generation has been increasing. Some plants are yet to be modernised in tune with technological developments. The lack of control by environmental agencies and/or municipal authorities leads to such plants emitting more fumes and polluting the environment, thereby affecting large sections of population.

The scenario in the transport sector may appear encouraging theoretically with Bharat-VI vehicles being sold presently and sufficient awareness in metros and big cities. But the case is completely different if one travels to small cities through highways. The highly polluting trucks are amply evident, emitting fumes, obviously because these vehicles have not passed pollution checks in a fair and honest manner. On the Indian roads, these vehicles are not penalised by the police as these should be, perhaps of sheer laxity and proper instructions from higher authorities.

Though in recent times, the manufacture of electric vehicles have increased at a rapid pace, promotional campaigns and benefits of  use of such vehicles are not taken up effectively, either by the manufacturer or the government. Even in the metros and big cities, most educated people are not well versed about these e-vehicles and why these need to be used extensively, both for personal benefit as also for the community.

Recently at the launch of electric two-wheelers at Kolkata of a well-known company at its manufacturing facility in Pune, the business head observed that it has inducted state-of-the-art techniques which have made the price of each product cost effective as also safe, lightweight and sturdy. However, he admitted that keeping in view the potential of such vehicles, there is need to make people aware and conscious of the benefits of its use. Meanwhile, the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari informed at a recent meeting that the US electric vehicle major Tesla will start operations in India this year, while Mercedes-Benz was also keen to launch its electric truck in the country. 

Thus, along with increasing use of electric vehicles, use of electric furnaces in industry, use of electric conduction cooktops instead of fuel-based stoves and obviously use of renewables to provide clean power is the need of the day. The need for all-round energy efficiency through the above measures as also usage of LED light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs helps to a greater extent. Besides, we need new consumer incentives such as demand response interventions by utilities distributing electricity.

Experts believe that such transition does not require huge technological breakthroughs; it needs that there is use of energy efficient appliances and mix the renewable power we have. The transition to renewables would obviously save lives and protect us from the looming environmental crisis that is becoming severe with every passing year.

Meanwhile, while renewable targets may be exceeded in the coming two years, there are other encouraging developments that the government has taken. Recently, the Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan planned a $60 billion investment for creating gas infrastructure in the country till 2024 and the share of gas in the energy mix is expected to rise to 15 per cent by 2030 or even earlier. “We are ushering a gas-based economy by increasing the share of natural gas in India’s primary energy mix”, he stated.

In this connection, it may be mentioned there is good news emanating from Asokenagar-1 well in the Bengal basin in 24 Paragana district in West Bengal, 47 km from Kolkata. Oil and gas has been found there which some experts believe is of better quality than the Bombay High. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) had been exploring the State for the past six years, pouring in Rs 3358 crore in the process, and the field appears to have more natural gas reserves than oil. It is understood that three more wells would be drilled here by January 2022. And other than cleaning up environment, it should help increase prosperity and local employment in the State.

Another significant development has been the government’s decision to substitute Rs 8 lakh crore of petroleum products with ethanol made from surplus sugar, rice and corn. According to Union MSME Minister Ntin Gadkari, the Centre is mulling over a policy that can diversify surplus agricultural produce towards the energy and power sector. Such a policy would help reduce imports though production of ethanol on such a large scale would need specialised industrial units which the Centre would have to formulate.

The changing energy mix that has been envisaged in the coming years has to be taken seriously and action plans, encompassing all sectors evolved for the coming five years, say till the year 2025. Whether in industry or in agriculture, whether it is water, air or soil pollution, the approach has to be different. For example, there is need to change from industrial farming to regenerative agriculture and this is being advocated by experts, not just in our country but across the globe.  

The looming environmental crisis with increasing emissions, whose reports from various studies are frequently being aired in India and elsewhere, can only be tackled if energy usage is effectively managed. Moreover, the need to bring about a drastic change through a green outlook is imperative at this stage for achieving a sustainable developmental outlook.

Finally, one may refer to the UN Climate Disaster Report, where global fossil fuel production needs to decline 6 per cent every year for the next decade for a 1.5°C rise in temperatures. Even for a 2°C rise, it needs to keep decreasing 2 per cent year-on-year. An important recommendation has been that the rich countries are expected to support developing countries so that these can leapfrog the fossil fuelled development path taken by developed nations and enter the green path, which is sustainable and ever-lasting. A sustained reality check would aid climate change watch.----INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Budgetary Forecast: UNREALISTIC, CHAOS FEARED, By Shivaji Sarkar, 7 June 2021 Print E-mail

Economic Highlight

New Delhi, 7 June 2021

Budgetary Forecast

  UNREALISTIC, CHAOS FEARED

By Shivaji Sarkar

 

Consumer confidence is at all time low, says the Reserve Bank of India, amid slumping of Indian growth to minus 7.3 per cent in 2020-21, highest jobless rate at 18 per cent and impoverisation of 97 per cent of the population. In its monetary policy meet, the Central bank also lowered 2021-22 growth forecast by 1 per cent to 9.5 per cent from earlier assessments of 10.5 per cent due to  Covid-19 virulent second phase. This one per cent in real terms downsizes a number of activities.

 

The government’s budgetary projections are far off the mark and soberly being called conservative. If Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) provisional deficit estimates are taken into account at Rs 18.21 lakh crore, the GDP projection may come to 9.3 per cent.

 

The impact is reflected in high joblessness at 17.88 per cent, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy  (CMIE) on May 30. It has risen by three per cent from 14.71 per cent a fortnight earlier. Urban labour force participation also came down to 35.69 per cent from 37 per cent and rural around 5 per cent during the fortnight.

 

The lockdowns causing closure of activities are being stated as prime reasons for the grim situation. The unemployment situation may remain high for about six months amid policy uncertainties and knee-jerk localised lockdowns and administrative highhandedness. Employment situation remains critical almost in all industries FMCG, automobile, informal sectors, hospitality and tourism. In Noida, close to Delhi, eateries and restaurant have shut shops permanently as the owners have lost their reserves.

 

Thus, the RBI outlook on consumer confidence is a mere indicator of the stark reality. In gross terms it means consumers do not have cash to buy products even if they are in dire need. The indices touching record lows may indicate a graver situation. Both the Current Situation Index (CSI) and the Future Expectation Index fell to an all-time low of 48.5 and 96.4 in the latest RBI consumer survey.  The figures a year ago were CSI 63.7 and FEI 97.9, when the lockdown was more severe. These are the lowest since 2012. The wariness is because of the feeling of uncertainty about the future.

 

Whether this would mean grimmer future or not is not easy to say. The GDP had contracted 24.4 per cent and 7.4 per cent in the first and second quarters of 2020-21 and grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter. But the second wave of LD has hampered recovery. The eight core sector industries in April 2021 slumped to 126.7 (IIP), the lowest since November 2020. It rose to 149.2 in March 2021 as activities started in construction (14.5 per cent) and manufacturing (6.9 per cent). Most others like labour-intensive activities like hotels, transport, entertainment and communication contracted.  The Nomura India Business Index fell to 60 on May 23 from 99.3 on February 21.

 

The RBI report notes that the values of other indices on non-essential items have worsened and are in the negative. In the prevailing situation RBI has drastically cut quarterly projections. Its revised projections are – 18.5 per cent, 7.9 per cent, 7.2 per cent and 6.6 per cent against those expressed in RBI annual statement – 26.2 per cent, 8.3 per cent, 5.4 per cent and 6.2 per cent. This cuts growth to 9.5 per cent. The situation remains fluid, the numbers have come down but the threat of disruption to normal work remains.

 

Another aspect has been the large unemployment of the tiny daily use goods market reeling under a cash crisis. A large population still is getting food doles though all beneficiaries of last LD are not included. Large numbers of people lost jobs, including in the IT sector, in the first phase of LD, are still without jobs. Many revivals owing to dwindling of savings may not be easy though the government has announced special loan packages of Rs 15000 crore for MSMEs, it is not certain how many would be in a position to avail it.

 

Another critical aspect has been the repeated displacement of labour. As uncertainties about Covid-19 may continue, the industry may continue to have labour shortage. It would affect production.

 

It is also linked to global situation. Union Trade Minister Piyush Goyal has put a target of $ 400 billion export target this year against $ 290 billion last year. But India’s trade deficit touched an eight-month low in May at $ 6.3 billion because of fall in imports due to lack of domestic demand. The May exports remained at $ 32.2 billion but imports contracted to $ 38.5 billion. One reason for import slump is due to rising global prices. The WTO last month said that merchandise trade would continue to increase by 8 per cent, considered a bit more optimistic. The world uncertainty may dent India’s trade.

 

In this situation the rising forex kitty to $ 590 billion may not be as rosy as it looks. The RBI does it by various gold and foreign currency management much to the chagrin of the US as it feels that dollar prices are suppressed. It also needs to be assessed against total external debt, and corporate external commercial borrowings (ECB) and repatriation costs.

 

The rising figures of FDI, not all, are suspect. The IMF says it is being used for routing black money. According to RBI, large percentage of the FDI $ 20110 million came from Mauritius and Singapore and a mere $ 3401 million from the US. It is to be noted that Singapore comprised a mere 0.42 per cent of world economy and the US 24.42 per cent. This is not considered a quality FDI but projects a larger than life picture through virtual inbreeding. It calls for a proper scrutiny of large net-worth groups.

 

Globally, phantom FDI investments amount to an astonishing $15 trillion. India is also a part of it. Such siphoning and rerouting of investments affect the basic economic conditions and increases disparity. Whether this should be linked to increasing hunger and poverty in the country or not is a moot question. It is sometimes believed that 80 crore people are on food dole for this kind of inversion.

 

The lack of consumer confidence and purchasing power emanates from such operations. Ignoring it for long is never desirable. It is a bubble but if it bursts there could be social trouble. Cosmetic promises and doles cannot contain it for long. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Centre-Bengal Row: VENDETTA Vs PROTOCOL, By Insaf, 5 June 2021 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 5 June 2021

Centre-Bengal Row

VENDETTA Vs PROTOCOL

By Insaf

 

‘Political vendetta’ or ‘breach of protocol’, is the latest tug-of-war between Prime Minister Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. This time it has gone beyond petty politics between BJP-ruled and non-BJP States. It has engulfed the country’s bureaucracy leading to a debate wherein a section bats for former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay and the other against him. True to her style, Mamata has hit out at New Delhi’s recalling of Bandyopadhyay and sending him a showcause noticeunder the DMA seeking his explanation for skipping a cyclone review meeting, after he had resigned and become her advisor. The Centre, she said cannot ‘force an officer to join it without the permission of the State government…it’s not the battle of Bandyopadhyay. This is a battle for all bureaucracy. I can’t accept this.” In his reply, former CS has said he was scheduled to visit cyclone-affected areas and was following his CM’s orders. So was he right or wrong? Where does one draw the line? A section of civil servants argue the Centre over-reachedas it is smarting under its recent poll defeat, while others say by not being present to brief the PM,he transgressed professional lines. The rule book is being interpreted differently. What is static is the bitter Modi-Mamata feud. And Didi never misses an opportunity to use it to the hilt and more ferocious. The incident, she says, is a great blunder of the Centre. “They want to bulldoze State government totally. They want to play political vendetta… What do you want, Mr Busy Prime Minister? Mr Mann Ki Baat Prime Minister? You want to finish me? Can you do it? Never and ever…” Guess, protocol and stature demand Modi should ignore the vendetta.

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States’ SOS To Centre

Odisha and Kerala have upped the ante against the Centre’s unfair and discriminatory vaccination policy. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote earlier this week to all CMs urging centralised procurement of vaccines by Union government, rather than by individual States, arguing that while many of us have floated global tenders, vaccine manufacturers are unwilling to get into supply contracts with State governments. Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan too wrote, but only to CMs of 11 non-BJP States urging them to push for the same. In fact, its Assembly went a step further on Wednesday unanimously passing a resolution the Centre ‘make vaccines available free of cost to all States in a time-bound manner.’ Asking States to procure vaccines from open market was “highly objectionable”. Mizoram CM Zoramthanga too joined the chorus citing north eastern States “stressed economic resources”, and asking Centre to procure and distribute vaccines free. West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, slammed ICMR’s claim the entire country would be vaccinated by December as a “hoax”. The BJP, ‘does this type of political propaganda. Before Bihar election, they said people will be vaccinated free, but did nothing after it.’ Will Modi oblige or throw it back in their face -- Centre was willing, States demanded change in policy! In this political opera, where do citizens’ figure? 

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UP’s Introspection

Startling preparations are underway in Uttar Pradesh for ensuing electoral battle in February next. Nervousness within the BJP, both at headquarters and State is palpable. The focus appears to be whether Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath can retain the party’s supremacy, as his handling of the pandemic has put a big question mark. However, party national General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santhosh choose to give a picture that all is well. The two-day meeting held with ministers and other leaders in Lucknow was said to “review social work done by our party leaders” and to plan for the possibility of a third wave. In fact, he wrapped it up giving Yogi full marks saying Covid management in the State was “unparalleled”. Not many are willing to accept this, for since Yogi took over the kursiin2017, this is the first such meeting held by a senior BJP leader with his team. Plus, it takes place in backdrop of some party ministers and MLAs openly voicing concern over mishandling of Covid situation. Recall, the BJP’s poor performance in recent panchayat polls, with rival SP claiming to have given a tough fight. Viewed as semi-final, before the big fight, BJP now gets down to what it’s best at doing. Propaganda: we shall do better in 2022 and go beyond 300-mark! Let’s just say time will tell.

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Himachal Gift To Media!

Himachal Pradesh government has unwittingly helped the fourth estate, journalists across the countryThe issue relates to sedition being used increasingly against journalists and wherein a . On Thursday last, the Supreme Court quashed the sedition case registered against well-known journalist Vinod Duaby the Himachal police following a complaint by a local BJP leader in Shimla last July. Every journalist, said the apex court, “is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment.” In the verdict of 1962 on scope and ambit of sedition in the IPC, while the court upheld section 124A’s validity,it said sedition charges couldn’t be invoked against a citizen for criticism of government actions as it would be in conformity with freedom of speech and expression. Obviously, conveniently forgotten by authorities to browbeat journalists. Dua was charged under sections 124A, 268, 501 and 505  for his 15-minute YouTube show on March 30, after the complainant said Duaaccused Prime Minister Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes!Dua knocked on the apex court’s door and got protection to the extent that police was stopped from taking coercive action till further orders. Insafhails the verdict as it gives hope that intolerant governments’ repeated attempts to stifle press freedom through sedition law shall be halted, finally? Learn from Himachal’s experience. 

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Punjab Cong Blues

Will the Congress high command at least put its house in order in Punjab? The question begs an answer after its party leader Navjot Sidhu, who has consistently been gunning for Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, had a hearing before a three-member AICC committee on Tuesday last. True to his style, after the meeting Sidhu told reporters he came on ‘invitation’ of high command and conveyed ‘the voice of people at the grassroots level in the State… my stand is people’s democratic power that goes to government in form of taxes should go back to the people, in whatever form. I have completely uncovered the truth…” The bitter truth is he has been hitting sixes against Amarinder on Twitter: promises unfulfilled and a quid-pro-quo with Akalis, terming it a 75-25% partnership. Apparently, he’s smarting as Amarinder has thrown his suggestions into the dustbin. These include cash-crunched and debt-ridden Punjab could fill empty coffers if its pilferage to private pockets is checked and the State having three rivers can make millions from sand as well as liquor sales! Enough is enough, must sigh Amarinder. Can he be optimistic? Sidhu’s diatribe must be put an end to. Or will it meet same fate as the infamous Letter of 23, seeking changes in party? February polls are not too far away.

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Bihar’s Novel Plans

Killing two birds with one stone. That’s what Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proposes with his plans to reserve 33% seats to girls in medical and engineering colleges. Clearly, not only will give a further boost to his women vote bank constituency, but the provision in two Bills will put Bihar as the first State to do so. With his government proposing to bring the Bills --  Bihar Engineering Universities Bill and Bihar Medical Education Bill in next Assembly session, Nitish on Wednesday last at a review meeting to give fine tune these, recommended  one-third seats for girls in medical and engineering colleges be reserved, to raise their numbers in technical education. Remember, he has nurtured women voters all these years: reservation of 50% seats for girls in primary and 35% in secondary schools at panchayat level; 35% jobs for women in police and 33% in other government jobs; Rs 50,000 cash incentive to encourage girl graduates to pursue higher education and of course his popular schemes such as bicycles and school uniforms for girls. Guess, this gives further impetus to open engineering colleges in every district and medical colleges in some districts, so that students don’t have to go out of the state for such education. What an idea, Sirji!---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Exams Under Examination: PARIKSHA PE CHARCHA,by Dr. S. Saraswathi, 22 April 2021 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 22 April 2021

Exams Under Examination

Pariksha pe Charcha

Dr. S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

Prime  Minister  Narendra   Modi    urged   students  to  look upon exams as  an  opportunity  and   not   as  an  end of  life’s  dreams.    He was  conducting  the fourth annual interaction session with students –  “Pariksha   pe  Charcha” in  a  new  virtual format   to avoid physical  presence  in view of  the  pandemic.  PM connected  directly  with students, teachers, and  parents     to get  their views on the current examination system   and  associated  matters.   

 

This is part of a movement to create a “stress-free atmosphere”    for  the  young called  the  “Exam Warrior”.    The  objective  is  extremely relevant  in   the context of  growing exam-related problems  and  the  tension  that has gripped children ,  youth,  and  parents as the consumers and teachers  and managers as service providers.  PM has also outlined a new  approach  to education, knowledge, and holistic  development  of students in  the publication  “Exam Warrior”.    He has tried to put   exams  -   a  ritual-like    educational  activity thoroughly upset  under   the  pandemic  -   in proper  perspective.

 

This  movement  dri ven    by  the PM   has the aim of   promoting   an  environment     “where the  unique  individuality  of each  child is celebrated,  encouraged,  and allowed   to express itself fully”.   

 

Exams,   in the course of evolution  of   the  education system,  have become the starting point of education  and  also   the goal post of   education.    Even  pre-KG kid seeking admission   has to appear for an interview  along with his/her parents   before teachers  and  school authorities.  

 

School and college life    is a series of exams of different  levels  of importance.  Entry to various courses  and exit  from  them  after  completion  of the course  are possible  only  through  the gate called exams.   And so  when COVID-19  has  intruded into   school life,  universal worry is not so much about the  interruption  caused  to learning    and acquisition of knowledge as about the interruption  to various  examination  schedules   and  subsequent  entry into  and completion of   various courses, and likely wastage  of months and even years .

 

The  Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has  cancelled Board  examinations  for Class  X  and postponed  Class  XII    examinations  in view of the pandemic  situation getting worse day by day.   It set the precedent to be followed   by  State  Boards sooner or later.

 

States were at different stages of  preparation  for  conducting  Board exams at that time.  Preparation has two sides – physical preparation of making  arrangements  for  observing COVID protocol  strictly  and  for taking immediate action  if any emergency were to arise,  and  mental  preparation of  students to write the exams amidst uncertainty.  In normal years,  students   are provided many revision  sessions , given assignments and  tests so that they get ready to face the final.   All  these  have  fallen flat  with only uncertainty before them as  the reality.  Exam stress   multiplied  enormously  affecting  large sections of the population besides students.

 

In  the  month preceding cancellation/postponement of  CBSE   exams,  state governments have taken varied steps  with regard  to state board  exams  which add to  confusion.

 

“All pass  order”    already    issued  by  the Government  of  Tamil Nadu  cancelling all arrear examinations  has been   declared  an “uninformed political decision”  by  the Madras  High Court directing the State to conduct online  examinations   to those who have arrears to clear.   The Government has to abide by  the  verdict  and has informed the court that  “no  student would be declared passed without  writing an online exam”.  

 

However, practical exams for Class XII students have been commenced  in many States  with  special safety precautions.  Laboratory readiness  to  prevent virus  entry  is more important than student preparation.    CBSE also restored the   full  syllabus  which was curtailed for 2021   for  Classes IX to XII.     Score improvement  examinations ,  which have the  effect of  lessening  exam-related  tension,  are planned to be conducted  in 2021.

 

PM’s  Charcha  has opened the door  for examination reforms.    The vision of making  exams less  stressful  is  sought  to be realized by   new measures  designed  to transform  assessments and focus on  students achieving success through learning outcomes rather than  rote memorization.   It  is termed competency-based  assessment  and   will  be  gradually  introduced.   

 

In   2020, board exams   included competency-based questions.  Their proportion will be increased year after year so as to get a weightage   of  50 to 60%  by  2025. It is intended to equip  students  with employability skills.            

 

The on-going  CBSE plan   for making  exams   less  stressful  includes  introduction of Holistic Progress Cards (HPC)  to provide  students  with information  on their strengths , areas of interest,  and areas of focus to help them  make optimal career choices.   The object is remove the  notion of     exam  as  an end  in itself  and make it  a means for improving   life beyond it.

 

Holistic  Education  started   as a movement in education   by   the    pioneering efforts of   the  South African  military leader,  General  Smutts  (1870-1950)  who was     responsible  for the    creation of  the  Union of South Africa.    Holistic  education  was mostly used to refer to  the  more democratic and humanistic  types  of   alternative  education.  It seeks to   engage  the   learner totally with  mind, body, and spirit.  It  is based on the premise    that  each  person  finds identity, meaning,  and  purpose in life through connections to their   local community, to the  natural world, and to the humanitarian values  such as compassion and  peace.  Thus, education may become a felt   experience useful   throughout    one’s  life.

 

National  Education  Policy in India (2020)  discards traditional modes of  evaluation of students   and opens a more comprehensive and   multi-dimensional approach to student assessments.  It states that  a national assessment body  - the Performance Assessment, Review, and  Analysis of  Knowledge for  Holistic   Development-  (PARAKH) will be established.  This body  will be responsible for  setting standards,  norms  and guidelines for evaluation of  students for  all recognized school   boards.  NEP  requires that teachers have to be prepared for  the  transformation in  the   Assessment     System to be commenced  by  2022-23 academic  session.   

 

In  the new  system, students will be graded on self-awareness,  inter-personal relationships, problem-solving,  and   dealing with stress and  creative skills.  Multiple sources will be used to continually gather information on a student’s development   to   provide  feedback  to support and guide learning.  Students will   clarify  learning   intentions, assess themselves  and  one  another, set goals for improvement,  and  track and communicate their progress.    

 

Redesigned Report Cards will reflect in detail the progress and individuality of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor  domains.  The Report will record  assessment by self,   peer,  and   teacher.  It sounds fantastic, but much depends on keenness and commitment of the three assessors  to produce expected results.

 

The change of the Examination system is described as change from “formative assessment” at the end of a course to “summative assessment” which involves continuous assessment.  School leaving examinations have already been cancelled, postponed or modified across Europe.  But, nowhere is it seen as an opportunity to overhaul the education system.

 

Under Covid compulsion, education is getting linked with technological development long after media, telecommunication, and financial services. But, if online exam were to continue  testing  students’ retention ability like the old system, the change would make no difference to education system.   We want a total transformation of education.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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