Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

31 Jan, 2008

India To Spend Rs 85,000 Crore On Higher Education

According to India’s Ministry of Human Resources Development, the 11th Plan outlay for Higher Education is roughly Rs. 85,000 Cr. an increase of over 9 times over the 10th Plan outlay.

In this dispatch:












[Editor’s Note: In order to prevent any inaccuracy, all numbers in the following are being retained in their original Indian reporting format. One crore is 10,000,000, and one lakh is 100,000. Pls use www.xe.com for conversion]


29 January 2008 — With the endorsement of the 11th Plan document by the National Development Council last month, India is now poised to move into its implementation phase. According to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, the 11th Plan outlay for Higher Education is roughly Rs. 85,000 Cr. which marks an increase of over 9 times (at current prices) over the 10th Plan outlay. Priorities for Higher Education in the 11th Plan are expansion of access (i.e. of institutional infrastructure), equity (i.e. to ensure effective participation of disadvantaged groups, and to correct regional imbalances), improvement of quality, and optimal use of Information & Communication Technology to promote achievement of these objectives. The 11th Plan aims, inter alia, to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio for the 18-24 years age group to at least 15% by the end of the Plan period.

Some of the major initiatives in the 11th Plan:

<> Establishment of 8 new IITs, of which the process for establishing 3 IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan is already underway.

<> Establishment of 7 new IIMs, of which the first, at Shillong, would start functioning from the next academic session.

<> Establishment of 3 new Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research of which one has already started functioning at Mohali and two more would come up soon in Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram. This is over and above the 2 IISERs at Pune & Kolkata which started in the last year of the 10th Plan.

<> Establishment of 16 Central Universities in States which have no Central Univ. at present, (viz., J & K, Punjab, Haryana, HP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Goa), and another 14 Central Universities which would aim to attain world class standards.

<> Establishment of 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology – as far as possible in the Public-Private Partnership mode.

<> Establishment of 370 Colleges in districts where access and participation rates are lower than the national average. Most of these districts also have a concentration of scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and minorities.

<> Establishment of about 600 new Polytechnics in Government and PPP sectors and promotion of at least another 400 Polytechnics in the Private Sector. In particular, a polytechnic would be established in every district not having one at present. This would again benefit particularly those districts with a concentration of SC, ST, and minorities.

<> Establishment of an Indira Gandhi National Tribal University with countrywide jurisdiction to promote study and research into tribal history, economy, society, culture, etc, and into tribal issues, as well as to promote education of Scheduled Tribes.

<> Establishment of Women’s Hostels for Universities, Colleges and Polytechnics on a large scale.

The 11th Plan would also accord priority to promoting research of high quality across the Higher Education system, modernising curricula and evaluation system, enhancing coverage of the accreditation process, and introducing necessary reforms in apex institutions like the UGC and AICTE so as to make them more responsive to current and future challenges and needs.

India has been admitted as a provisional member of the Washington Accord during 2007. With this, Indian students graduating from programmes which are accredited by the National Board of Accreditation of the All India Council for Technical Education will have easier access to education and employment opportunities in member countries of the Accord like USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions was set up by the present Government in 2004 through an Act of Parliament. The Act was also subsequently amended to strengthen this body. The Commission has, over the last 3 years or so, granted certificates of minority status to about 1000 educational institutions. A national level Committee is regularly monitoring minorities’ education and giving valuable inputs into formulation and implementation of the Ministry’s policies and programmes for minority education.

The Government has paid special attention to the educational needs of the North Eastern Region. Every single State of the region now has a Central University (with Assam having two). Besides the existing IIT at Guwahati, an IIM will start functioning this year at Shillong. Also, besides the older NIT at Silchar, an NIT has been established in Tripura and establishment of a third NIT in the region (in Manipur) is under active consideration.



[Editor’s Note: India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January present its leaders with an opportunity to assess the State of the Union. Although they focus on the future, they also keep their eyes firmly on the ground by not denying any of the many challenges involved in trying to turn around the mega-million tonne supertanker known as India. This year’s Republic Day speech by Indian President Mrs Pratibha Patil, the country’s first woman president, is one such example. It will remind Indian readers of their proud heritage and promising future. Non-Indian readers will find interesting insights on the broader historic and socio-political factors shaping the country. Excerpts from the President’s speech:]

The formation of the Republic on 26th January 1950 was the first milestone in our march towards realising the dreams of our people in the aftermath of Independence. The Constitution gave expression to the goals, ideals and values that guided our freedom struggle. It laid the foundations of the structure of governance and committed to secure for all citizens – justice, liberty and equality as well as dignity. The Constitution, since its adoption, has been our astute guide.

Last year, we celebrated 60 years of our independence. It was a historic event. The journey has been long, but we have traveled far. Like any great journey, we have had our moments of triumph and glory as also our share of sorrows and travails. We overcame every obstacle and traversed every hurdle, because we consciously and firmly believed in India – our Motherland, a nation with great civilisational strength, an underlying unity and a promising future. All along we had an abiding faith in the talent and resilience of the people of India. We were inspired during this journey by the values of freedom, tolerance and plurality, which have given to India its defining identity – a country with Unity in Diversity. India, consisting of people with different religions, languages and customs, draws its inherent strength from each and everyone of its diverse units. Today, as a nation and as individual citizens, we must pledge to uphold this spirit of solidarity and respect for the multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of India.

We are the largest democracy in the world and one of the most stable. We have held 14 General elections to Parliament, in which power has been transferred to different political parties and groups according to the mandate of the people. Our vibrant and functioning democracy has won universal applause. Following the Constitutional Amendments in 1992, we introduced democracy at the grassroots level. Today, there are 3.2 million representatives who have been elected from villages, towns and cities.


We are also proud that 1.2 million of these elected representatives are women. This is by far the largest number of elected representatives ever in history, or anywhere in the contemporary world. Democracy has given a voice to all citizens of the country. We owe this to the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters, many of who laid down their lives, in the long and hard struggle for independence. We have a sacred duty to follow the highest traditions of democratic principles and values.

The benefits of the upsurge in the economy, however, have not reached all sections of our population. In all good faith, we cannot look at the future, without first addressing the needs of the under-privileged and the disadvantaged sections of our society, with special emphasis on the empowerment of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections of society. We must ensure that they too should find a place to enjoy the sunshine of the country’s growth and development. Our efforts and our commitment, while pursuing the goal of high growth rates, should be to ensure that all people of our country benefit from it. Our pledge will remain unfulfilled until, as Gandhiji had said – we have wiped every tear in every eye.

The Government has opted for not only faster but also more inclusive growth in the 11th Five Year plan period from 2007 to 2012. This will be important for the overall progress and prosperity of all. The Government also has several flagship programmes like Bharat Nirman, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, the Rural Health Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. These are designed to improve the lives of the people. But their implementation remains a challenge.

A question that we need to ask is how effective are our delivery mechanisms and what are the weaknesses? We have to find the appropriate remedial answers. I believe that people’s participation is key to the effective implementation of programmes and projects. The involvement of local self-government bodies could improve delivery mechanisms as they are closer to implementation levels. The entire Government machinery has to work to fulfill the aspirations of the people. I call upon all concerned to deliver on social welfare schemes in a time bound manner as well as work with accountability and in a transparent manner. When you work for the development of a country it is not merely a job that has to be done but it is a mission that has to be achieved. This should be the spirit in which development work is undertaken.

I have noticed that often there is a lack of awareness among beneficiaries about schemes meant for their welfare and development. This means that they are unable to avail of the benefits meant for them. This situation needs to be rectified through awareness programmes. We need a band of committed social workers and civil society members to spread awareness and to share the onus of implementation by joining hands with the Government.


Corruption is an evil that afflicts our system and we have to eliminate it. Every Rupee meant for development that goes out of the system due to corruption is a Rupee less for our development programmes. The country cannot afford the loss of resources meant for its development. We must strengthen measures for the removal of corruption by bringing about greater transparency.

Speaking at the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949, Baba Sahib Ambedkar stressed that freedom brings responsibility and that after having achieved independence we would have no excuse nor any one else to blame for our failures.

Each one of us is responsible for the progress and the future of India as also each one of us will have to bear blame for the shortcomings and deficiencies. I have often said that Government, civil society, NGOs and every citizen will have to work collectively for the growth of society and for the advancement of the nation. We must recognise that just as we ask for our rights, we have an obligation to perform our duties. Just as Gandhiji led the freedom struggle based on moral values, similarly all social, economic, administrative, political and educational activities should be carried out on the basis of moral values and social justice. Only then will our progress have a more gentle and humane touch.

The country is faced with internal threats from Naxalism and terrorism. Whatever their grievances, those who use guns and subscribe to an extreme ideology, have not chosen the correct path. In a democracy, there is no place for violent methods. Naxalites exploit sentiments of discontentment in the undeveloped parts of the country. The Government is committed to give special attention to the welfare of our tribals and marginal farmers as a part of its policy of seeking inclusive growth. At the same time growth of Naxalism should be handled firmly.


70 percent of our population lives in the rural areas. I am concerned about farmers committing suicide and hope that steps taken by the Government to ameliorate their problems will rectify this situation. The slow growth in the agriculture sector is a matter of concern but I am very hopeful of its potential. The Green Revolution showed that we could through our efforts become self-sufficient in food production and later we replicated this success in milk production as well. Today, once again we need to give agriculture an impetus, to enhance productivity and to make our rural areas, centres of agro-processing and other related industries. We have one of the largest arable land areas in the world and I have no doubt that with better agricultural practices, land management and water management, agriculture will continue to play a pivotal role in the country. In rural areas, the cooperative movement should work in a more forceful and pro-active manner by providing guidance to farmers and becoming more agriculturist-friendly. I appeal to agricultural scientists, experts and all concerned to expeditiously work in the direction of bringing in a Second Green Revolution in the country.

The future of the world will be shaped by advances in Science and Technology and it will increasingly become knowledge-based. Though we have a strong lead in the Information and Communication Technology and bio-technology sectors, we must continue to invest in research and development as also build up our educational institutions. Students should be encouraged to pursue basic sciences. State Governments and educational institutions should make special efforts to attract students to science disciplines. Education is the most important tool for empowering the people of a country. Quest for knowledge has always been a part of the ethos of our country. It is for these reasons that since independence we have consistently sought to build a strong infrastructure for education. As we work towards the goal of universal primary education by 2010, we should also aim to increase enrolment in higher education and technical education. I firmly believe that the light of modern education should touch every person – man and woman, boy and girl. I call on the children and youth of our country to study and acquire knowledge for an enlightened future of India.


Women constitute about half of our population but face a number of challenges. There should be laws for the empowerment and protection of women and most importantly, their effective implementation. We also need to address social evils like child marriage, female foeticide, female infanticide and dowry. I am concerned about the debilitating effect on individuals, families and societies of alcoholism and drug addiction. I would particularly call upon on women and the youth of the country to take up the challenge to eliminate these social evils and work towards changing social attitudes and mindsets.

As development takes place we should not forget that the objective is not merely to create wealth. It should be to build a humane society. We cannot afford to have insular attitudes and be unconcerned about the needs of others. In this context, I would like to mention that persons with disabilities must get benefits and adequate opportunities to live a life of dignity. The Government has recently announced a package of Rs. 1800 crore for providing one lakh jobs per year to persons with disabilities. Society must have a helpful and positive attitude towards the disabled and older citizens.

We must preserve and protect our rich cultural heritage and its values of compassion and harmonious living. In the joy of song and dance, painting and sculpture, literature and poetry we should discover and imbibe the best that has been passed on to us from generation to generation over millennia.

India has always had a vision and a message for the world. From the very beginning of our civilisation we have believed that the world is one and humanity is a single family. India is committed to establish ties of friendship and co-operation with all countries. India’s engagement with the world is intensifying both in the economic and political fields. India is a country that has, and is, contributing to regional and global peace and stability. Today, terrorism constitutes a grave threat to the civilised world. The continuing terrorist attacks are reminders of the need to take collective action. India will continue to work with the international community to create a better world – a world free of terror, poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.



January 25, 2008 — Dr. Ram Puniyani and Setu Charitable Trust have been selected for the National Communal Harmony Awards for the year 2007. The jury, headed by the Vice-President of India, selected Dr. Ram Puniyani in the individual category and Mumbai based Setu Charitable Trust for the organisation category.

Dr. Ram Puniyani, a former Professor at IIT, Mumbai has been spreading the message of peace and amity through lectures, publications, workshops and meetings and by traveling extensively to different parts of the country disseminating messages of secularism, pluralism and communal harmony.

Setu Charitable Trust, Mumbai was established in the year 1994 and is engaged in the rehabilitation of riot victims and their families and more specially, children orphaned by communal, caste and terrorist violence in Mumbai and in other parts of the country. The work of the Setu Charitable Trust in the field of community development, mobilisation and awareness building among the deprived sections of the society, such as, poor women and underprivileged children living in urban slums and rural areas, and rehabilitation of sexually exploited women in Parbhani is well-known.

The National Communal Harmony Awards were instituted in 1996 by the National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), an autonomous organisation set up by Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, for promoting communal harmony and national integration. The award has been instituted with a view to demonstrating due appreciation and recognition by the Union Government of the efforts of individuals and organisations/institutions for promotion of communal harmony and national integration in a sustained manner over a sufficiently long period of time. In addition to a citation, the award carries a cash award of Rs.5.00 lakh and Rs.2.00 lakh for the organisation and individual categories respectively.



January 30, 2008 — The Government today has approved certain changes in the FDI permitted in civil aviation activities, as follows:

<> FDI in Air Transport services would continue to be capped at 49% on the automatic route and 100% for Non-resident Indians (NRI), subject to no direct or indirect participation by foreign airlines. This segment would be reclassified as Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline Sector.

<> FDI up to 74% may be permitted on the automatic route for Non Scheduled airlines, Chartered airlines and Cargo airlines. No direct or indirect participation by foreign airlines would be allowed in non-scheduled airlines and chartered airlines. NRI investment would be allowed up to 100% on the automatic route.

<> FDI up to 74% may be permitted on the automatic route for Ground handling Services subject to sectoral regulations and security clearance. NRI investment would be allowed up to 100% on the automatic route.

<> FDI up to 100% may be permitted on the automatic route for Maintenance and Repair organisations; flying training institutes; technical training institutions; and helicopter services/seaplane services in the aviation sector requiring DGCA approval.



January 29, 2008 — In an overwhelming response, 24 bidders have submitted their bids for the Commercial Operation, Maintenance of Terminal Building, Development and Operation of Cargo Facilities and Cityside Development of the Udaipur Airport in Rajasthan. The Government had invited bids for Commercial Operation, Maintenance of Terminal Building, Development and Operation of Cargo Facilities and Cityside Development of the airport. The last date for submitting bids was 24th January 2008.

The Government has undertaken the modernisation and up gradation of 35 non-metro airports by the year 2010. The cityside development of 25 such airports will be done through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) route in phases – the first of which are Amritsar and Udaipur. While Amritsar Airport received 23 bids, Udaipur Airport has received 24 bids. The applications for Udaipur Airport were opened for evaluation on 28th January 2008.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008 – In a move to facilitate the movement of tourists and public between Guwahati and Tawang, two important cities in North East India, the Union Cabinet today approved the provision of a subsidy to the state government of Arunchal Pradesh for operating an exclusive MI 172 helicopter service between the two cities initially for a period of one year. Continuation of the subsidy beyond one year will be based on a review of operation of this service at the end of first year.

The amount of subsidy i.e. actual cost of operation of helicopter service minus recovery from passengers, would be met on 75:25 basis i.e. 75% by the Govt. of India (Ministry of Home Affairs) and 25% by the State Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh. The overall ceiling of flying hours for the proposed helicopter service in Arunachal Pradesh would be 52 hours per month.



January 28, 2008– The Minister of State of Commerce, Mr Jairam Ramesh will be visiting Maldives from January 29th to 31st as part of his drive to expand trade and investment ties within SAARC. He has already visited Bangladesh and is scheduled to be in Sri Lanka in two weeks time. Interactions with delegations from Pakistani and Bhutan have also taken place. In addition, Mr Ramesh has visited all the important border trade centres in the region including Petrapole, Moreh and Attari/Wagah. The visit assumes significance in light of the forthcoming SAFTA Ministerial meeting in New Delhi on March 1st-2nd, 2008.

Mr Ramesh will also review the working of the Indo-Maldives Trade Agreement of 1981 in light of the changes that have taken place in the economies of both countries. India supplies essential commodities like rice, wheat flour, eggs, potatoes, stones and sand as part of this Agreement. Even though wheat exports from India are banned, as a measure of the importance it attaches to SAARC in general and Maldives in particular, India supplies wheat flour to Maldives.

India accounts for around 10-11% of Maldives imports, next to Singapore and Sri Lanka and is on par with UAE. Exports from India to Maldives are presently in the region of about $ 100 million. Singapore accounts for almost 90% of the FDI into Maldives, followed by Malaysia. Mr Jairam Ramesh’s visit is to explore how India can expand its trade and investment presence in Maldives, a country of great strategic significance to it.

Fisheries is one important area for bilateral cooperation that is proposed to be discussed during Mr Ramesh’s visit. Cooperation in tuna is one specific area that will be discussed now that India has also announced major plans to develop its tuna resources, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. n addition, Maldives has sought India’s assistance to develop it as a trans-shipment and logistics hub because of its strategic location. Maldives has also expressed in expanding the scope of training in IT.



January 30, 2008 — Mr Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, has called for a greater economic engagement between India and Mauritius, when Mr. M.M. Dulloo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Cooperation, Government of Mauritius, met him here today. To strengthen the existing economic ties between the two countries, a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) is under negotiation, and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) is a component of the proposed CECPA, the Minister said.

During 2006-07, India’s total exports to Mauritius was $ 736.53 million as against $ 199.43 million in 2005-06, with the growth rate of 269.31%. The total import stands at $ 14.51 million in 2006-07 as against $ 7.33 million in 2005-06 with a growth of 97.95%. The total trade between the two countries was $ 751.04 million in 2006-07 against $ 206.77 million in 2005-06 with a phenomenal growth of 263.23%.

India has given assistance to Mauritius for its transformation into a knowledge hub in the fields of medicine, engineering, IT and has agreed to give due consideration to proposals for the setting up of centres of excellence in Mauritius in association with quality Indian educational institutions.

The major export items from India to Mauritius include petroleum products, plastic & linoleum products, drugs, pharmaceuticals & fine chemicals, non-ferrous metals and transport equipments. The major import items from Mauritius to India include readymade garments, fabrics, made-ups, man-made & spurn yarn, chemical materials & products etc.



January 26, 2008 — Mr Kamal Nath, Minister for Commerce and Industry has expressed hope that India and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states would set the tone for a greater economic engagement between mature and developed economies for deriving benefits from greater trade and investment opportunities. Launching negotiations for a proposed broad based Trade and Investment Agreement between India and EFTA States in Davos, Switzerland today the Minister expressed satisfaction over the present trade but stated that full potential needs to be exploited.

An India-EFTA Joint Study Group (JSG) was established on 1 December 2006. The JSG was tasked to undertake a comprehensive view of bilateral economic linkages between India and EFTA States (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) and to recommend measures to strengthen the economic engagement. It was also tasked to explore the feasibility of a bilateral broad based trade and investment agreement. The JSG has since met four times and has submitted its report to the Governments of India and EFTA States.

Based on the study of bilateral economic linkages between India and the EFTA States, the JSG concluded that both sides should advance their economic relationship by exploiting the potential for enhancing trade and investment flows. Considering the complementary structure of the economies, the JSG concluded that both sides would significantly benefit from a bilateral broad-based trade and investment agreement. The JSG recommended that the Governments of the EFTA States and India enter into negotiations for such an agreement.

The recommendations of the JSG have been accepted by India and EFTA States. It has been agreed to constitute a Joint Task Force (JTF) comprising officials from India and EFTA States to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the JSG and negotiate the proposed broad based Trade and Investment Agreement between India and EFTA States.



January 25, 2008 — The Government is to implement a health insurance scheme (known as Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yozna) for workers of unorganised sectors and their families living below the poverty line from 1st April 2008. Every year 1.2 crore families of such workers, living below the poverty line, will be covered. In next five year 6 crore families of such workers consisting of around 30 crore family members will be provided the facility.

Inaugurating a National Workshop, the Minister for Labour and Employment, Mr Oscar Fernandes said that under the scheme 75 percent of the insurance premium will be borne by the Central Government and remaining 25 per cent by the State Government to provide free insurance for the workers. The sum insured will be 30,000 per family per annum and members of family will be covered for all hospitalisation expenses, taking care of most common illness with a few common illnesses with as few exceptions as possible. The smart card provided under the scheme will not only enable cashless transactions of all covered ailments, it will be valid for use outside the stats for the welfare of the migrant workers, the Minister said.

Mr Fernandes said the Government is working on schemes to provide social security cover to weavers, handloom workers, fishermen, toddy tappers, leather workers, plantation labour, beedi workers, safai karmcharis and domestic workers etc. and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yozna is one of such scheme, he said. The workshop was attended by the representatives of State Governments, various Central Ministries, insurance companies, World Bank, NIC and other stake holders to chalk out strategy for speedy and effective implementation of the scheme.

Comments are closed.