India news
May 2008

India news

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SC allows 27% quota for OBCs

The Supreme Court upheld OBC quota in central educational institutions clearing the way for reservation of 27% seats for 'backward' castes over a period of three years from the academic year 2008-09.

However, what would have been unadulterated joy for the OBC leadership which campaigned relentlessly for pushing the frontier of the backward quota to educational institutions has been tempered with the five-judge constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan unanimously deciding to keep the 'creamy layer' out of the purview of the quota, and recommending review of the quota every five years.

The court also said that the quota would not extend beyond graduation courses, in a ruling which created doubts whether reservations could be extended to the prestigious IIMs. This means that while 27% OBC quota could be applied for MBBS and graduation degrees in IITs, it would not be available for postgraduation and other higher courses like PG in medicine and master's courses in IIMs.

The court also tried to balance provisions in the Constitution for affirmative action with the concern that quota should not result in merit being jettisoned altogether. It said that the cut-off marks for OBCs could not be substantially lower than that prescribed for general category candidates. On the creamy layer, the court suggested that the government should include the children of former and present MPs and MLAs to the 'creamy layer' list by amending the 1993 office memorandum issued by the ministry of personnel.

 The court also clarified a confusion regarding applicability of creamy layer criteria to SCs and STs, as was observed in an an earlier judgment. Chief Justice Balakrishnan and Justices Raveendran and Bhandari concurred through their separate judgements that the creamy layer criteria could not have any application to SCs and STs as they were a separate category altogether.

From this year three new IITs at makeshift sites

There is some good news for the 3.2 lakh students who just took the IIT joint entrance exam across the country. There will be three more IITs – in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan taking off this year which will translate into 360 more seats.

IIT-Andhra Pradesh, will operate out of an old Delhi Research and Development (DRDO) ammunition laboratory in Medak while IIT-Bihar and IIT-Rajasthan will work out of rented premises for two years.

IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Delhi have been asked to 'mentor' the new IITs coming up in Bihar and Rajasthan, respectively.

Each of these three new IITs will ultimately have to grow to accommodate a student strength of about 3,000 (approximately 2,000 seats in BTech, 500 in MTech, 400 seats for PhD and 100 for post-doctoral fellows).

Committee to select SC/ST students for study abroad

Madhya Pradesh government has constituted a committee for selecting candidates belonging to backward classes for higher education in foreign countries.

Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary of Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare would be the Chairman of the committee.

Principal Secretaries of Higher Education, Technical Education and Medical Education have been made members of the selection committee while Commissioner Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare would be its Convener. The screening committee would present enlisted application forms before the selection committee.

Five candidates belonging to backward classes would be finally selected from among the applications after interviews.

Reliance Communication launches education portal on mobile phones

In a trail-blazing initiative, Reliance Communications announced the launch of an exclusive educational portal on Reliance Mobile Phones.

This unique portal offers a bouquet of useful information on exam results, college admissions, event calendar of exams, admission deadlines, mock tests and tips for performing well in exams. It also contains the list of top universities, colleges, secondary education boards as well as career options. While the educational portal is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) based service, it also offers SMS alerts on subscription for exam preparation, performance and even tips for de-stressing to enhance performance during exams. The service will be made available to both prepaid and post paid subscribers.

Students and their parents can access exam results available on this educational portal of various Educational Boards instantly on their mobile phones any time, anywhere in India. Over 100 Exam Results are scheduled to be displayed on Reliance Mobile World's application suite 'Exam Results' with Haryana Board's-subject to Haryana Board Policy- is slated for mid April (Reliance Mobile World<Exam Results). RCOM's subscribers can also access the results via SMS.

After IIMs, IITs propose fee hike

With IIMs hiking their fees, the IITs have proposed a similar step to augment their resources.

The students in all the seven IITs are now paying INR 25,000 per annum as fees. It could be increased upto
INR 50,000.

The proposed fee structure, once accepted, will be implemented in the seven IITs. Over 4,000 students take admission to courses in the IITs at Kharagpur, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kanpur, Guwahati and Roorkee every year.

The move to hike the fee comes a few days after the IIMs decided to increase their fees for their two-year post-graduate programmes.

While IIM Ahmedabad has decided to increase the fee from the current INR five lakh for both the years of the course to INR 11.5 lakh, IIM Bangalore would increase its fee to INR nine lakh from INR five lakh.

TNAU introduces online examinations

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) has introduced on-line examinations for first year students.

TNAU conductedthe mid semester on-line examination in all campuses of the University and about 800 students were taking the examinations. The students were provided with Wi-Fi connectivity in their laptops. They could view the question paper only during the time set by the teacher after entering the password as announced in the examination hall. After the examination, the answers would be stored in a separate file and mailed to the mail ID of the teacher concerned for evaluation.

e-Education consists of e-Teaching, e-Learning, e-Communication,
e-Assignment, e-Examination and e-Evaluation. The new global economy poses more complex challenges to workers requiring higher level education, computer literacy, critical thinking, information analysis and synthesizing skills. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based teaching was being implemented in the TNAU, adding, an e-Learning lab had already established in the University.

Higher education to get more accessible

Spiralling prices have disturbed budgets in majority households, but the middle and lower income groups can hope of some relief in the near future at the education front with the Government of India planning to provide subsidy on education loan interest rate.

Prof Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC), told reporters that under the 11th Five Year Plan, GoI has decided to create a Higher Education Loan Guarantee Authority (HELGA), which will come up with various provisions to help students, particularly of the middle and lower income groups, in securing education loans and scholarships for higher and professional education.

The idea is to increase the overall enrollment rate in higher education to 15 % from the existing 10 %. Prof Thorat said, in order, to make higher education more accessible, plans are to disburse scholarships to at least two % of the total students. Further, he said, GOI will itself become guarantor for the student applying for higher education loans and provide subsidy in the rate of interest during the moratorium period. Banks, at present, provide loans without collateral securities up to Rs 7 lakh but for a loan above Rs 7 lakh students have to arrange for guarantors, which in many cases are not available because applicants come from middle or low income groups.

Hold UPSC exams on pattern of GMAT, IIM, says Committee

To check “enormous wastage of time” between advertising vacancies and declaring results, a parliamentary standing committee has recommended that UPSC should consider conducting its examinations on the format adopted for GMAT, IIT and IIM entrance tests.

The Union Public Service Commission conducts various tests for recruitment to government services like civil services, forest service, engineering service and defence services and most of these are annual, conducted in various phases.

“The committee is of the view that this would prevent wastage of resources and time and would ensure transparency and instill greater confidence of candidates in the examination system,” said the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice in its report presented to Rajya Sabha. The panel also favoured increasing the number of UPSC members.

The committee said the state public service commissions also needed to be “toned up” and the personnel ministry should evolve a mechanism to ensure that the state PSCs were free from “shackles of nepotism and favouritism” so that they functioned independently and transparently.

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