Field-Visit-BootCamp

A Visit to Asawarpur

– Rohit Parakh

 

On Day 8 of the BootCamp, there was more excitement than usual amongst the BootCamp delegates for we were going to go the highly awaited field visit. As for most of the delegates (myself included) this was a first-ever exposure to seeing the countryside in Haryana, we were unsure what to expect. We were quite keen to see and assess for ourselves how the current policies and administration served the people in rural Haryana. I was in group number 3 and we were told that we would be going to Asawarpur village which was on the outskirts of Sonepat city (situated right next to the sprawling campus of Rajiv Gandhi Education City). After reaching the village, we were to spend the next few hours in small groups visiting the people to get a ground reality check understanding the situation on the ground.

 

After walking for what seemed forever around the village, we nervously approached a retired man Ishwarchand (name changed) who smilingly welcomed us. Ishwarchand (or Tauji as we referred to him) was a retired man who used to be a farmer. His land was amongst the ones which was taken by the government and used for the Rajiv Gandhi Education City development. We later learnt that there was a 5-yr battle that was fought by the farmers which successfully ensured they received appropriate prices for the land acquisition for the Education city.

 

Tauji told us that there were no medical institutions nearby, the nearest one that he could access was around 12 kms from his house. Tauji had 3 grown up children – 1 worked at a petrol pump, another at a medical store (both of whom lived in Delhi) and the third one didn’t have any job at all. Although we could see that he clearly lived in conditions of deprivation he did not have a BPL card ; Tauji confirmed what we already suspected that getting a BPL card is a curious case of combination involving multiple factors – the 3 C’s caste, connections with the assessors and corruption. He mentioned that most of the Above Poverty Line families would have BPL cards whereas only some of the BPL families would have those cards too. Even then, the officially defined poverty line of Rs 32 a day in rural India left much to be answered to the people.

 

We also spoke to Tejus (name changed), who was the only graduate in the locality and was working in a private firm nearby after having pursued his graduation through a distance learning course. We learnt from Tejus that he sent his kids to a private school at a certain distance, as although there was a government school nearby; the teachers would either not turn up at the school or if they did turn up provide even semi-decent quality of education. Which is why even today (and not unlike most of the other 650,000 villages in the country), students in the Aswarpur who could not afford private education could not get decent quality education.

 

We couldn’t help but wonder as to how the fruits of development in the country being unevenly shared held true even in Aswarpur where we still had people who could not get decent quality primary education in a village right next to the ironically titled Education City which hosted some of the finest education institutions in the country. We also noticed the huge pile of waste in the open gutters right outside Tauji’s house which in addition to serving as a dustbin for him also attracted a lot of flies in the house.

 

After spending a few hours speaking to Tejas, Tauji and a few other villagers we started making our way back to the bus bidding goodbyes feeling grateful for the heartfelt hospitality extended to us and quietly reflected at what we had learnt in the last few hrs. With a million questions and no clear solutions as to what could be done to improve the ground realities in Aswarpur, we certainly had an eye-opener with regards to the magnitude of the task in front of the country. We would without a doubt remember the lessons and experiences from Aswarpur trip as we started taking our first steps on working towards making India a more equitable place.

 

Rohit Parakh currently works in the financial services industry in London in his day-job. He also voluntarily leads the UK Chapter of a Bangalore-based non-profit social enterprise called RangDe. He is also working on Democracy Reforms in South Asia (with ex- Indian Chief Election Commissioner Dr Quraishi). He can be reached out at rohit.2691@gmail.com

BootCamp-quotes

BootCamp in 39 quotes

Compiled by Yash Sharma

 

“It’s not about Make in India, It’s about Making India” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“It’s not the politicians or the bureaucrats, but the Judiciary that is most responsible for this present state of the country.” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“The government without a Result Framework Document is like playing soccer with goal posts” ~ Dr Prajapati Trivedi

“India is a flailing state” ~ Dr Rajeev Gowda

“Spending money has become a measuring tool for progress no matter how much and where the money is going” ~ Shyam Kashyap

“Make in India is a frame of mind. It’s the thinking that requires a change” ~ Manohar Parrikar

“Politics = Poly + Tics” ~ Baijayant Jay Panda

“Politics should be ensuring that the taxpayers money is utilized in the best way possible” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“Change is not about change only, It’s more about what to preserve” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“The gap between the Kathni and Karni is what that matters in Policy making” ~ Dr Prajapati Trivedi

“Full-fledged war is history. The future could be jockeying for resources.” ~ Major General Ajay Chaturvedi

“You aren’t accountable to anyone, teachers or family but to yourself. Make sure your surrounding s are clean in all aspects” ~ Vinod Rai

“Family as an institution is on a decline just like savings” ~ Prof R Vaidyanathan

“Logic and dividends drives policy making, not the prejudices and beliefs” ~ Dr Jayaprakash Narayan

“Shortage of teachers and trainers is not the problem, but how to reach them or get them reach to students” ~ Dilip Chenoy

“Development is not about economic growth. It’s about constant expansion of human capability” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“An econometrics on performance management is a blind man looking for a black cat in a dark room, when the cat is not there but still keeps saying I’ve got it, I’ve got it” ~ Dr Pajapati Trivedi

“Indian Judiciary in a way is incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable.” ~ Dr Jayprakash Narayan

“To make an impact, add a little bit of competence to your commitment” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Integrity, probity, ethics and transparency is needed but most important is the culture of discipline” ~ Vinod Rai

“Leadership is an activity of mobilizing a group and utilizing their resources for societal work” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Empowering means giving some authority to the last mile worker to make decisions but also make sure that no one questions them directly” ~ Dr Devesh Chaturvedi

“Women in UP, Bihar know that they would lose but still stand for elections because they dont want someone else to win” ~ Dr Mudit Kapoor 

“No matter what people say, MPs and Politicians from different part of the country keep this country together” ~ Prem Das Rai

“The input to education system has always been in focus. It’s time the outcome of the same be mapped efficiently” ~ Aziz Gupta

“Leadership is not about having solution to every problem but also having humility to accept that you don’t have the solution” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“The country has draconian dowry laws. Even the burden of proof is on the husband and his family which is not the case even with murder accused” ~ Dr Madhu Kishwar

‘Ask to yourself in 10 years- have you made a difference? If no, why? If yes, how?” ~ Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

“Don’t do anything wrong, but more important is don’t allow anyone else to do wrong through you.” ~ Vinod Rai

“Citizens need to act for good governance, feeling helpless doesn’t bring reforms.” ~ Dr Trilochan Shastry

“We (Sikkim) are normal just like anyone else but we have some extra time to do organic farming” ~ Prem Das Rai

“Leadership is also about giving work back to the people and staying alive” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“Policy making is not pure science, but trial & error. Political entrepreneurship can bring the changes we need.” ~ Dr Shamika Ravi

“We get opportunities. We face failures. But again, that is not the final meaning of life” ~ Hrishikesh Mafatlal

“Women have been the agents of change in Indian democracy with increasing participation & representation” ~ Dr Mudit Kapoor

“It is utter failure of the governance if citizens need to knock the doors of Supreme Court over every issue” ~ Dr Madhu Kishwar

“Leadership is building Coalition with the one who disagrees with you the most and communicating the loss at the rate at which it can be absorbed” ~ Dr R Balasubramaniam

“I don’t care about treating the ill or deceased, all i teach is how to stay Healthy” ~ Ayurveda

‘Don’t hold on to Assumptions, or soon assumptions will start holding on to you.’

 

Yash Sharma was a delegate at Policy BootCamp 2015. He is a 4th year student at BITS Pilani (Goa).

Somya-Bajaj-Policy-BootCamp

21 Days to Deepen Democracy

Somya Bajaj

 

Policy? Check. BootCamp? Check. 21 days? Unsure.

When the post popped on my desktop, I was delighted. A graduate with infinite dreams and a vision for the nation, with an unsatiating corporate job and goal to pursue a PhD in development Economics, needs motivation and a force to propel her dreams. And that is what I perceived Vision India Foundation Policy BootCamp as.

As the popular notion regarding policy studies goes, people around me were sceptical of my decision to quit my job and opt for the workshop. Something inside me said “Go for it” and I listened to Swami Vivekananda’s advice of “if you heart says go, go”.

Today, I can proudly say it is one of the decisions which I will always be proud of. More than anything else, I found myself at the BootCamp. It was not just about meeting the masterminds in the policy making arena, or meeting likeminded people. It was a 21 day exercise which put us through conversations and interactions which left us as better individuals.

Policy making is not laying down a framework for a country. It is a responsibility, an ability to look at the bigger picture with the stakeholders at the focal point and not one’s vested interests. Magic. Yes, that is what an impact a well crafted and inclusively thought of policy can make.

When we speak of changing the world, the intuitive response is, one needs to be at a pedestal, have the power and authority to regulate change. I shared a similar view. The enthusiastic budding development economist in me, wanting to battle the social issues, solve problems in the economy and leave a mark in the society, aspiring to join politics and saw it as the most influential as fastest way to make this change possible. When I realised the power of democracy which almost none of us are exercising.  A nation with so much potential, myriad views, cultural heritage has no reason to be poverty stricken. As Ms. Madhu Kishwar rightly puts it, poverty in India is as unnatural as a river flowing up. What has failed then? The government?

No. We as citizens, in exercising the rights and duties bestowed on us by the constitution. We succumbed to the conditions we were in as normal, we defined development as what the west defined it as. From the 1st to the 16th century, India was leading in growth. Ironically, this exactly was the phase where we did not intentionally put our focus on GDP numbers, rather, took a more holistic view towards development, and a spillover effect of that was the phenomenal growth record, pointed out Dr. Balasubramaniam.

This had a deep impact on me, and subtly taught a very important lesson. We correlate success with complicated processes whereas the answers lie in simplicity. India just has to look within, realise its unique tends, and capitalise on its strengths. We need an Indian model of growth for India, and not imitate other stories. Before we make in India, we need to make India, India.

Vote is the biggest tool of democracy. It hands the power to choose the leaders of the country in the hands of its citizens. Are we exercising this duty with enough cognizance? It is only a handful of people who judge the candidate and vote on the basis of the manifesto. My limited experience and myopic vision hardly realised this issue. Assuming that we vote based on the manifesto; do we demand accountability from the representative to adhere to the promises? Our inaction oftentimes leads to further damage. Thus, dawned an idea upon us on making this manifesto a legal document. It is a work in progress, like many other policy interventions that were brainstormed in the camp.

That precisely is the magic I am referring to. I feel the difference in my outlook. Before I knew it, my focus shifted from merely picking loopholes, to completely analysing the issue, finding its root cause, and proposing a long term sustainable solution.

A nodal point we miss in this entire exercise, is the emotional and mental stability of the policy maker or the intervener itself.  In our limited group of friends we observe many dynamics, imagine being accountable to an entire constituency or even your entire nation. It is a taxing job. The BootCamp sessions focussed on this aspect as well. Today I can confidently write on behalf of all participants saying that we have come out as stronger individuals.

An interaction opportunity with the cabinet ministers was the cherry on top. Having access to, sitting in the same room as people you look up to and aspire to become is nothing short of a dream. Listening to Mr. Piyush Goyal’s plan on renewable energy in India to Mr. Manohar Parrikar on his take on Make in India for Defence, was inspiring in more ways that words can describe.

The first two days of the camp felt very different. Being an economics student, I was constantly barged with numbers and graphs and theories. We spoke about its application, only to realise how the assumptions were a flaw. The reverse approach was taken in the camp. We first discussed the situation, from all perspectives. The profiles of participants were baffling. There were people who had stood for elections, those with 25 years of political experience, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, ethnographers, etc. The points they brought to the table took discussions as closer to reality and enabled to take a holistic view of every topic. Only post finding the root cause did we shift to finding solutions, discussions of which continued into the night. Readers might wonder how productive a sleep deprived, tired mind can be? Passion, motivation and vision can defy these conventional trends. The rigour and passion did not drop for a second. It in fact increased every second.

Yes, I found myself. Today I can stand tall and say who I am. Not by describing myself with my associations with people, but in terms of my strengths, my dreams and my vision. When 21 days can teach what it otherwise takes a lifetime to learn, you know you have made the right choice.

Thank you Vision India Foundation.

 

Somya Bajaj was a delegate at Policy BootCamp 2015. She studied economics at Christ University, Bangalore. The views expressed are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Vision India Foundation.

Anantpur

Digital Classroom: experiences from ground

Chaitanya from Vision India Foundation worked with the Andhra Pradesh Government for implementing a pilot project on Digital Classrooms. The summary below shows his experiences about dealing with such projects.

Objectives

  • Assess the impact of technological interventions (Digital content and tablet-based learning) on learning outcomes, and
  • Assess the challenges in scaling up the project

Tasks

  • 3 schools in Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh were chosen to run a pilot
  • The 3 English-medium schools selected for the pilot were:
    • AP Model School, Garladinne – Government spent close to 3 crores of rupees to set up the school. Infrastructure wise, model schools are conceived to stand on par with well-established private schools. But the usual rant of the teachers is that the students are selected on a lottery basis resulting in a class having students who can’t even read alphabet.
    • Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV), Kurugunta – Anantapur district has over 60 KGBV schools of which 5 have English as the medium of instruction.
    • AP Residential School of Excellence, Kodigenahalli – First government residential school in the country. The present district collector, SP and other people holding high positions studied in this school.
  • Tata Edge is roped in to provide digital content to 6th (Science), 7th (Social) and 8th (Maths) in each of these schools
  • 40 Tablets were provided to students of one school
  • Digital Content as a teaching aid by Tata Edge. Digital content mapped to SCERT has been deployed on local servers across 6th/7th/8th Digital Content includes multimedia content such as Audio/Videos, Simulations and games
  • Tablets provided by Microsoft with Edvelop, a tablet based education platform that will enable teachers to schedule sessions, track assessment and assignments data real-time by students

Stakeholders

  • Tata Edge – Helps teachers deliver quality instruction by introducing interactive multimedia. Teachers can complement their traditional blackboard based teaching with creative illustrations provided by Tata Edge. The content prepared by Tata Edge is synchronized with the textbooks of SCERT. In effect, students are exposed to an effective blend of traditional and technology-based teaching thereby enhancing their comprehension. Conducted teacher training sessions on how to use their platform
  • Microsoft – Provided 41 tablets which have pre-installed Office365 for teachers & students to collaborate. Teachers to be trained for 6 hours through Microsoft Tablet Academy
  • Edutor – Tablet based education platform that will enable teachers to conduct quizzes and track students’ performance real-time.
  • DEO Office – Provides infrastructure support and support the pilot with lesson plan and design of daily quizzes
  • Program Management – One person each is placed at AP Model School and KGBV, who help teachers with technology and other requirements. There’s a Program manager who coordinates with all the stakeholders and run the on-ground operations.

Results

  • Close to 15 percentage-points improvement is recorded for in these 2 schools when the performance in these assessments is compared against their half-yearly marks.
  • Children have shown relatively greater improvement in Social Science and Science.
  • Attendance has improved by 4 percentage points.

Lessons Learnt

Lessons are learnt through dealings with practical problems faced during a task. During the Anantapur pilot, many a problem was faced by the implementers, particularly in the infrastructure and human resource domains.

Infrastructure:

“Infrastructure is the biggest hurdle in the entire project. For the project to take off, the schools need constant internet connectivity. But, most of the government schools are located away from the possibility of an internet connection.”

  1. To have uninterrupted and smooth internet connection for 40 tablets, the minimum speed required is 4 MBPS (can be provided by BSNL Broadband).
  2. The school in Garladinne faced a peculiar problem. Since the school is on the other side of the Railway track, BSNL needed the permission of the Railway division to lay a cable underneath the track. As the railway division takes a long time to grant permission, the implementers decided against it.
  3. In KGBV School, BSNL would charge 89000 INR per year to set up internet. Also, no private player came forward as the schools are located in interior areas and ROI is way too low.
    • Lesson Learnt: Economies of scale are almost always some of the most decisive factors in corporate decision-making. It may be assumed that, probably, the private players would have evinced interest had the number of schools been higher than it is at the moment. This throws open the challenge and the possibility of increasing school concentration within a given area, for pooling of logistics and resources.
  4. Importance of electrical power cannot be emphasized more. All the projectors and computers need constant electricity. This is a far-fetched possibility for the schools in rural areas. The problem is compounded when there is no scheduled power cut. If it follows a schedule, then the planning of the usage of Tata Edge can be planned accordingly.
    • Lesson Learnt: The temporal stability (and hence, predictability) of a systemic, technical problem is indispensable to deal with that problem. Power failure is one such problem. The concerned Ministry and department should take necessary steps to arrest (or, at least control) this problem. Alternative sources can be sought in the form of solar panels and consequent generation of electrical energy, at least in those areas receiving the threshold level of solar energy. A cost-effective solution is to have a small inverter in place just for the room (as opposed to entire school) where Tata Edge is deployed so that the projector and the computer run without a break.

Human Resources:

  • Teacher
  1. The biggest challenge a teacher faces is adapting her/himself to the technological (and methodological) intervention; that is, seamlessly complementing the traditional blackboard teaching with digital content.
    • Lesson Learnt: Teachers are trained for only two days on the Tata Edge applications prior to using it in the classroom. It may be argued that more training time and prior hands-on experience is necessary for teachers. The trainers should focus not only on making the teacher adaptable to the technology, but also on making the technology adaptable to the teacher.
  2. Teachers were initially insecure about tablets as low performance of the students in these would question their efficiency.
    • Lesson Learnt: To eliminate such feelings of insecurity, technology has to be presented and used as an integral and organic component of education (the classroom experience). Hence, performance of students while using tablets and performance of students while using books alone must not be seen as far removed from each other, or antithetical to each other.
  3. In AP Model School, the science teacher is burdened with both High school and Intermediate classes, which makes her inflexible to take up Tata Edge classes sometimes.
    • Lesson Learnt: Efficient division of labour among teachers should be ensured to enhance per batch productivity.  Moreover, specialization should be encouraged among teachers so as to enable them to focus on engaging themselves with only a particular class and its accompanying technological component.

Note:

The general observation is that if the principal is proactive, the project runs smoothly. The proactive principal involves and evokes interest among all the stakeholders – teachers, parents and the DEO office authorities so that the children are benefited the most. Considering this fact, a general counseling and training session should be conducted by a district nodal agency under the purview of the Human Resource Development Ministry, to encourage the school principals to play a proactive role in the implementation of novel methodological and technological interventions in their schools.

  • Intern’s suggestion: The other issue, though not explicitly children-related, is syncing the lesson plan of the teachers with that of the questions pre-loaded onto the tablets. For instance, a teacher taught 2 sub-topics from section 8.1. Now, she conducts a test on the tablets. Since the questions are pre-loaded, children may face questions not particular to what he has been taught but also from other sub-topics. To solve this problem, it is better to have a centralized lesson plan (and also assessments)
  • Student
  1. After implementation began, the dominant complaints about Tata Edge are its limited content and accent of the narrator. Both are valid concerns. The content was not designed for students from rural background and it is natural both face difficulty in understanding the narrator. Also, the standard of English of the question papers (prepared by Edutor) is high relative to that of the students.
    • Lesson Learnt: Content should be customized to meet the requirements of the students keeping in mind their social, linguistic and geographical background. There should be no disjuncture between the frequency of the transmitter of the message and that of its receiver. The issue of the standard of the language used calls for a two-pronged approach: First, enhance the quality of English education imparted to the students; and secondly, to tone down the level of English language used to frame content, until the students have arrived at a higher level of English.

An Invisible Factor: Building a Model Village

Aditya Deshmukh

One of the CWC officers asked, “What are the places we have to visit?” The answer given by volunteer from Hiware Bazar stunned me for a minute. “You can’t see the unity of our village in any of the buildings. We have transformed these barren lands through mere unity. If you want to see any lifeless structures, please visit the tourist places.”

It was typical gaming scenario when I entered the model village. Trees on side of roads, a well-built primary healthcare center, a veterinary clinic, primary as well as secondary school and concrete roads connecting all these was memorizing me the scenario of PC games in which you have to build a town. Cherry upon this sweet cake was the Gram-Sansad building. It was truly full-filing the purpose of increasing the public participation in the democracy, by attractive infrastructure and facilities satisfying the needs of common villager.

hiware-bazaar-panchayat

An eye-catching building of Gram Panchayat

What made Hiware Bazar a model village can also make any village, town or nation a model for all. It’s independent of Geo-political or social boundaries. Someone might argue that money or schemes would bring in the so called ‘development’. Of course, it will be an important factor but money or schemes would not completely assure development. Otherwise, all corporate honchos or political leaders who can arrange money and schemes respectively would have developed their villages into model villages. Unfortunately we have only a few of them.

In discussions with representatives from other villages, a volunteer said, “We both have same schemes. We also get same funding as you, but the approach towards it is different. When you get single rupee from government, you think how much subsidy or how much of it will we get. On the other hand, we start with what problems do we have and how the value of a single rupee can be maximized to solve these problems for whole village. We spend every single penny only after rigorous discussion in Gram Sansad. This increases the effective value of that one rupee.” Point to be noted here is the planning procedure. Problem based expenditure has helped this village in improving the overall life standards.

According to the volunteer, “if we approach development as enforced through different schemes on someone, people will feel alienated. It will be difficult to gain confidence of the villagers and every decision will be seen under suspicion. Contrary to it, we approach development as a tool to solve problems of villagers.”

Another interesting fact that shows unity is that this village has not experienced the Gram-panchayat elections for last 25 years! According to the volunteer, “we don’t say that we are happy because we don’t have elections nor you are unhappy because you have elections. We just manage to keep away the side-effect of elections by doing this. At the same time, we try to maximize our voting for other elections without involving our Sarpanch or any of the post holders in campaigning. Gram-Sabha appeals for the vote and not for the vote to specific candidate. Sarpanch is decided by discussion and so are other Panchayat members. This gives confidence to Panchayat for decision making.”

Finally, I experienced the sequential effects of improvement in water supply. It has started a chain of development. The village has effectively trapped flowing water through small hills, which used to get wasted earlier. Soil as well as water has been conserved due to large number of trenches across the slopes. To realize the effect, we went to 150-200 feet above normal village level and got water in first stroke of hand-pump. This work was done through public participation, another indicator of unity. The man behind this change – the ex-Sarpanch – said, “We could not have managed to do this without the support from people. So, we have to keep public informed about Panchayat’s expenditure and keep them involved in development programs.”

A solar pump plus hand-pump at a prominence inside village boundary

A solar pump plus hand-pump at a prominence inside village boundary

Finally, I concluded my visit with a satisfied heart and full enthusiasm to create another model village.

 

Aditya Deshmukh is a student at BITS Pilani and a campus ambassador for Vision India Foundation. Soon, he will join a Member of Parliament to build a model village in Madhya Pradesh.

lack-of-innovation

Budget Shows Government Lacks Experience in Higher Education and R&D

Dr Anand Bulusu

I think India is not yet ready with innovating technological industry. Hence we don’t have much interest from industries for sponsored research and planned R&D manpower development. Industries mostly import equipment and are satisfied working in that mode. MNCs (especially in Microelectronics) do a lot of R&D, sponsor a lot of PhDs. However, they do it mostly in their home countries since they have familiarity and primary interest there. What is the solution? We must develop tech entrepreneurs in a big way in this country at several levels. It should be small entrepreneurs as well as big corporations (for example, motivate companies such as Tata/Wipro/Reliance to form a big Microelectronics coalition). There should be some tax sops and some special zones or tech parks near IITs/IISc planned to let this happen. Another area is CSR: CSR funds should be made open for sponsored research. At least a part of CSR should be allowed in sponsored research.

The other side is IITs: Funds for old IITs has been cut by 20% and the government is asking IITs to pay enhanced PhD scholarship (the extra cost) through “internal” funds. I think the government should realize that only recently a more than 50% increase in student strength has taken place in old IITs due to government interference in IITs. This is leading to both resource and faculty crunch in a very bad way. The government may not like to give funds without strings. Fine! However, they should give ample money (no cuts in funds!) to IITs with a target. Funds could be revised based on the targets achieved by each IIT in the coming 5 years. However, cutting funds suddenly is not a wise move and shows that the government lacks experience in higher education and R&D domain. The targets could be: How many PhDs do you produce? How many of your MTech and BTech students join PhD program? How many instances of technology transfer to industry would take place in the coming 5 years? How many instances of good socio-technical contribution would be seen in the next 5 years? How many tech start-ups start from your institute in the coming 5 years? etc.

On an average, an IIT faculty spends a much longer time in teaching and evaluation (especially evaluation) compared to faculty members in any premier institute all over the world. He just doesn’t have the kind of time required to do original research; whatever good research happens in IITs is despite and in spite the circumstances and is due to a high individual commitment. Handling such a large number of students just doesn’t allow good research. Good US universities handle many more students. However, they have a good Teaching Assistant (TA) system. Each faculty member is assisted by a team of highly trained TAs. Evaluation is mostly handled by TAs in these US universities. Something must be done to attract young PhDs from US in a big way to IITs. Each IIT should get a Performance Related Incentive (PRI) component in salaries, evaluated separately for each institute based on the 5 year targets achieved by it. In the 7th pay commission, instead of increasing salary, the government should think of increasing it in the form of PRI evaluated separately for each institute.

Dr Bulusu is an associate professor at IIT Roorkee and a member of the advisory board of VIF.

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Attending Budget Session Live in the Parliament

Ashish Singh

As every citizen of India, I always wanted to see our temple of democracy, the Parliament of India. Finally I got the opportunity to visit the parliament on the most awaited budget day of 2015-16, through my regional MP Shri Ganesh Singh ji (MP SATNA).

The big hall of Lok Sabha was same as I had seen in the television. As I entered the hall, I suddenly got so excited on seeing the Hon’ble Prime minister of India sitting very silently on the right corner of first bench. For me as common citizen of India, it is a dream come true to see our Prime Minister at such close vicinity. After sometime our finance minister started reading the union budget for this year. Everyone in the visitor’s lobby became silent and listened to the budget very profoundly.

This budget was very special as government within a nine month proved that it is going in the right direction as Indian economy has turned around dramatically in the last nine months with the real GDP growth expected to accelerate to 7.4% making India the fastest growing economy in the world. I got to see Government in action and witness Parliamentary budget session of 15-16. The first budget of NDA Govt. led by Mr Modi was visionary and will give mileage to the economic growth of the nation. The main focus of the budget was to make our country investment friendly through several policies.

I personally liked the following policies in this budget:

(1) Monetization of Gold: As India is the largest consumer of gold in the world, it is a very good idea to put gold directly into the economy of the nation as the government will release the sovereign gold bond. The bonds will carry a fixed interest rate, and will be redeemable in cash pegged to the face value of gold at the time of maturity. The government will also print gold coins which will carry the face of Ashoka Chakra- a symbol depicting India’s highest peacetime military decoration, which will motivate several people to buy this coin.

(2) Tax Policies: Finally the government has promised efforts on various fronts to implement GST from next year. Direct tax exemptions were not given to the middle class but a wavier by promoting health insurances. Government has planned to give tax benefits through many pension schemes (i.e Atal Pension Yojana etc.) to make the citizens self-dependent after retirement from their job. Increment in service tax is a bitter news for middle class as it will increase the rate of common commodities. On the other hand, deduction in corporate tax for the coming four years will make our nation investment friendly.

(3). MNREGA: There was big buzz in the news that the new government will banish the MNREGA scheme or will deduct its budget. But this government has increased the budget of MNREGA by 5K crores and provides job security for most suppressed BPL people and rural people of the nation. Rural people will have economic security through this temporary work.

(4)Mudra Bank: Setting up of Mudra bank will help in building an entrepreneur friendly environment. It will help to set up more small scale firms or startups which will further create many jobs. In the Mudra Bank, priorities will be given to SC/ST and OBC enterprises. It will put these sections of the society in main stream business world.

(5)Agriculture: India is an agriculture based economy. Our nation’s 62% population is involved in this sector. Hence there was a strong need to boost this sector. The government has taken a positive step to put 8.5 lakh crores for the farmers to take loans from the bank.

(6) Team India vision: It really sounds good that the budget has targeted to provide all basic needs (i.e. housing, drinking water, electricity & sanitation) to all the citizens by 2022, marking 75 years of India’s independence. India will celebrate 2022 as amrut mahotsava. I wish that the government will be able to fulfil this target and make India a developed nation by 2022.

Overall budget was promising. India is a nation which has the largest young population in the whole world. It is a big challenge for this government to provide them jobs and create a business friendly environment. Hopefully this budget will be able to fill the gaps.

Ashish is a 2nd year student at IIT Delhi and a campus ambassador at Vision India Foundation.

Comments on the Union Budget 2015

Shobhit Mathur, Executive Director, VIF

The Union Budget presented on Feb 28th was highly awaited as it was the first full budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi government. It promised to indicate the direction of the Economic Policy from the new government which came to power with a historic mandate.
Though there were no big bang announcements made, the Budget was overall positively accepted by all sections of the society because of a series of practical steps announced. Personally for me, the following 3 provisions stood out:
  1. Monetizing Domestic Gold Stock: Indians hold about 11% of the World’s gold.It is considered as an unproductive asset. The finance minister should be commended for unlocking this potential through the Sovereign Gold Bonds. This will move domestic investments from gold to financial assets.
  2. The JAM Trinity: The budget has not reduced any subsidies but has instead focused on targeting them better and reducing leakages. The JAM (Jan Dhan, Adhaar, Mobile) trinity will help in ensuring that the last person gets the benefit of the subsidies. It was the foresight of the Prime Minister to launch the missing link i.e. Jan Dhan Yojana on the Independence Day and make sure that it is executed well.
  3. Commitment to Cooperative Federalism: The Prime Minister has shown commitment to Cooperative Federalism through the setting up of NITI Aayog, increase in devolution of resources to the states and now committing on April 1st 2016 as the date for the much awaited GST. The service taxes have been moved up accordingly to the eventual rate of GST.
Overall the budget is high on vision, and now the focus shifts to the execution.

 

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100 days: Journey so far

Vision India Foundation was launched on 6th November 2014 by Shri Suresh Prabhu and Dr R Balasubramaniam at IIT Delhi. As we complete 100 days, we want to share our journey so far.

We started as an initiative by alumni and faculty members of different IITs. Now we are represented at 20 different institutes of repute around the world through our campus ambassadors. The ambassadors come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from political science to technology, from economics to business administration. Through the ambassadors, Vision India Foundation engages young passionate individuals in the process of nation-building. We do this through events, fellowships, workshops, discussion groups, and more.

Our fellowships are an opportunity to work with high-impact policy makers. For the fellowships, we are working with a state government, two parliamentarians, an academic, two grassroots organizations and a social enterprise. The projects are spread over six Indian states. They cover varied focus areas like e-governance, rural development, legal reforms, and much more.

In addition to the upcoming projects mentioned above, two people from our team have already started working full-time with Andhra Pradesh government and Vinod Khanna, Hon’ble Member of Parliament Lok Sabha.

We have opened the online applications for our fellowships and motivated people from all over the country are applying. It is indeed a very difficult process to select best from the highly deserving applications that we have received. We are also organizing a summer school in public policy, titled ‘Policy BootCamp’. The details will be available on our website soon. The BootCamp will be an intensive residential program and will be first-of-its-kind in the world.

We thank all our team members, supporters and well-wishers who have encouraged us in this journey. We believe that in the years to come, we will bring some concrete turning-points in the story of India.