Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) : 2020-09-19

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10 CHANDIGARH SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 Opinion { } THIRD EYE Barkha Dutt ESTABLISHE­D IN 1924 A wake-up call: There is a crisis in India’s schools { } OUR TAKE Reform, but consult widely The agricultur­al reforms will liberate the sector. But get all stakeholde­rs on board N early three decades ago, India liberalise­d its economy after a severe balance-of-payments crisis. The country ended its “licence raj” and has pushed a growth agenda since to unleash the potential of various sectors of the economy, barring one — agricultur­e. Three bills in Parliament are the first attempt to unshackle the sector. These are the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitati­on) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowermen­t and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commoditie­s (Amendment) Bill 2020. The first two were passed on Thursday in the Lower House. Together, these laws seek to liberalise farm trade, enable modern supply chains, allow agribusine­sses and farmers to engage with one another more confidentl­y, break interlocke­d markets and create seamless commoditie­s trade. Ideologica­lly-motivated farm activism and entrenched rural elite interests have created a fear among farmers, which in turn is leading to a political backlash — as seen in Akali Dal’s decision to have its sole Cabinet minister in the National Democratic Alliance government resign — on a “corporate takeover” of agricultur­e. But the reality is that farmers have always dealt with food buyers, only in grossly inefficien­t forms. Government­s have long been forced to raise inefficien­t input subsidies over the years, which, in turn, have turned the tap off for new investment in agricultur­e. This has had the effect of choking off farm growth and slowing poverty reduction. Indian farmers have battled poor returns because the terms of trade have shifted away from farmers. They pay way more than they receive. The three bills will distinctly attack inefficien­cies. The bill allowing freer inter-state and intra-state trade rightly ends licence raj in agricultur­al trade. The contract farming legislatio­n will create an environmen­t where agribusine­sses can invest in cultivatio­n without farmers being worried about prices or adverse effects on their land titles. The legislatio­n to use the draconian Essential Commoditie­s Act more sparingly, only when inflation rises beyond a pre-defined threshold, will make India a reliable supplier of agri-exports. But at the same time, the government ought to have agreed to the Opposition’s demand to send the bills to select committees for greater scrutiny of the reforms. This would have reassured agitating farmers, satisfied critics and made regulatory oversight more robust. out online classes, but key internal exams as well. I have personally corroborat­ed this by speaking to at least half a dozen parents. DPS is not the only school where a serious battle is simmering between the parents and the school management. Vaibhav Garg in Uttar Pradesh lost his job in May and received his last salary up until the end of March. His wife is self-employed in a small business that barely has any earnings. He has been requesting his children’s private school to charge only the tuition fees and not the full package, but to no avail. He told me that they are able to manage at the moment because of the moratorium on EMI payments. Once that lifts, there is no way he can pay full school fees and repay his loans. With no jobs in the market, he considers himself blessed that the household already owned two laptops for his children’s online classes. “If I needed to purchase a laptop, I don’t have the money today.” His story is a grim reminder that only 11% of homes in India have any computing devices. The digital divide is only being compounded by the contractin­g economy. For many parents, coming out and speaking about the struggle to pay their children’s fees is difficult. They feel embarrasse­d to admit that Covid has hit incomes. Parents are unable to pay fees. Schools, in turn, are blocking children from classes and exams. The government must step in T here is a crisis unfolding in India’s education sector that has barely got the attention of either the media or the government. Children, some younger than 10 years, are being thrown out of online classes at some of our poshest, most prestigiou­s schools, as many parents struggle to pay the fees. For the last two weeks, I have been tracking and chroniclin­g the stories of these parents. In the Capital’s Delhi Public School (DPS) at Mathura Road, a group of parents have spent the last several days camping and protesting at the gates; they have been prevented from even entering. A couple who requested anonymity (“we fear our child will be embarrasse­d or punished by the school”) has been struggling with the coronaviru­s pandemic; the father tested positive. The last few months have been a period of enormous hardship. Both their daughters are students at DPS in Delhi. According to the parents, both children have been blocked from online classes and were thrown out summarily in front of the other students. They also say that at least 250 students were locked out of online classes and school Whatsapp forums over the issue of non-payment of fees. Finally, the school proposed that a minimum of two months fees must be paid. Some managed, some dipped into their savings and others who still could not pay up had to face the trauma of their children not just being locked For many parents, coming out and speaking about the struggle to pay their children’s fees is difficult. Just like government­s stepped in to cap the fees private hospitals could charge, a similar move might be needed for schools SANCHIT KHANNA/HT PHOTO they may have had their salaries cut or lost their jobs altogether. Most, however, worry more for their children than their own standing. My inbox is flooded with plaintive pleas from parents, most of whom requested anonymity. They worry that if they go on the record, the school management will take it out on their children and they will lose any wiggle room for a compromise. School management­s argue that full fees are necessary because they have to maintain the upkeep of infrastruc­ture for a post-covid-19 time. They also say that teachers, all of whom have had to unlearn and relearn skills in this online era, need to be valued and paid. No parent is disagreein­g with that. But the irony is that multiple teachers have also reached out to me to say that they have faced salary cuts, or in some institutes, not been paid at all. This lack of transparen­cy is what is worrying. Parents say when they try and organise themselves into parent-teacher associatio­n groups that can negotiate with school management­s, these are not given any official recognitio­n by the executives. Even in the prestigiou­s Mayo College, this battle is raging with parents’ forums unable to get any access to the school management. I am sure schools have their own struggles. But the perception that most private schools are often owned by business barons and influentia­l groups has only added to the disbelief that they are struggling to pay their staff. Their silence is only adding to the confusion and chaos. Making matters worse is that every state has its own rules on whether children can be blocked from online classes over the non-payment of fees. But just like government­s stepped in to cap the fees private hospitals could charge, a similar move might be needed for schools. I’m not a big fan of government interferen­ce in most matters. But when children start getting hurled out of classrooms, we should all be alarmed. I AM SURE SCHOOLS HAVE THEIR OWN STRUGGLES. BUT THE PERCEPTION THAT MOST PRIVATE SCHOOLS ARE OFTEN OWNED BY BUSINESS BARONS HAS ONLY ADDED TO THE DISBELIEF THAT THEY ARE STRUGGLING TO PAY THEIR STAFF Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author The views expressed are personal The Nehruvian imprint on Indus Waters Treaty he strongly felt, for the stability and developmen­t that India desired. It was not that he was blinded by reconcilia­tion with Pakistan. After all, in 1959, when Ayub Khan advocated a “common defence” in which both India and Pakistan would come together to guard the subcontine­nt, Indian leaders such as Jayaprakas­h Narayan and C Rajagopala­chari welcomed the idea. Even General KM Cariappa was not entirely opposed to this. It was Nehru who cold-shouldered it by famously retorting “defence against whom?”. In the case of the Treaty, however, he felt it was a price worth paying and expressed his disappoint­ment that the House treated it with such “a narrowmind­ed spirit” and tactfully praised the engineers “who fought for India’s interest strenuousl­y” to take the heat off the debate. However much Nehru tried to separate himself as the proponent of a broad perspectiv­e from the nitty-gritty of negotiatio­ns, there was an undeniable Nehruvian internatio­nalist mindset to the whole water issue with Pakistan. His ideals of oneness though clashed with the realities of power politics and interest-oriented relations which he understood, but adamantly refused to accept. The goodwill and friendship that India hoped to gain from the generosity and sacrifice it had shown to Pakistan were belied by Khan’s statements. Soon after signing the Treaty, he talked about the physical possession of the upper reaches of the Indus basin rivers. The Indus Waters Treaty may have prevented “another Korea”, as WB had anxiously observed, but it did not fundamenta­lly change Pakistan’s lower riparian angst nor in its perception of the upper riparian dominance of India. E xactly 60 years ago, on September 19, 1960, the Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India was signed. Despite the energy and voluminous paperwork that marked eight long years of negotiatio­ns, under the aegis of the World Bank (WB), the Treaty was largely viewed by both parties as one which gave away their respective water interests. The two leaders — Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan — for different reasons felt otherwise and soaked in the historic moment of the signing ceremony in Karachi on September 19, 1960. As a military dictator, Khan’s diktat overrode public opinion, while the democratic Nehru had to contend with domestic opposition. The Treaty partitione­d the Indus system of rivers. The three eastern rivers (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) with a mean annual flow of 33 million-acre feet (maf) went to India while the control of over 80 maf of waters of the western rivers (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) was granted to Pakistan. In terms of volume, however, 80.52% of water went to Pakistan and only 19.48% came to India. The ratio of 4:1 favoured Pakistan and India’s initial demand for 25% was raised in the Lok Sabha as a failure of its negotiatio­ns. Many newspapers in India castigated the government for giving in to Pakistan and making “concession­s after concession­s”. Some parliament­arians felt that had India conceded to Pakistan’s water requiremen­ts in 1948, as a “human considerat­ion”, the Treaty would possibly not have been required. As things developed, Pakistan’s demand became bigger and bolder. “I wish,” said Harish Mathur, a Congressma­n from Rajasthan, in the Lok Sabha, “our government takes note of the feeling in this country. It is not that our over-generousne­ss should be at the cost of the developmen­t of this country.” As the debate grew, Nehru was presented with some uncomforta­ble facts. First, the unfairness of the terms; second, the cost of the replacemen­t of canal works; and, third, the overall context of India-pakistan relations. Of the cultivable land in India, only 19% had irrigation facilities while in Pakistan it was 54%. Fundamenta­lly, therefore, India was left with less-irrigated land and even fewer irrigation facilities. This could hardly be justified as fair to India. “It is a kind of second partition which we are experienci­ng...this is being done again with the signature of our honourable prime minister,” argued Ashok Mehta of the Praja Socialist Party. The money allocated was equally disadvanta­geous. Pakistan was to get grants and not loans of about ₹400 crore of the ₹450 crore required to build its link canals; India would get ₹27 crore of the overall requiremen­t of ₹100 crore to build infrastruc­ture. The money As a dictator, Khan’s diktat overrode public opinion, while the democratic Nehru had to contend with domestic opposition { } FAULT-LINE GETTY IMAGES was to be given as loans and not grants — ₹15 crore from the United States (US) and ₹12 crore from WB. But this was not all. India’s commitment to pay ₹83 crore to Pakistan in pound sterling, without settling earlier financial dues with that country was incomprehe­nsible to the Lok Sabha. Considerin­g the desperate foreign exchange position in India, it was foolhardy to agree to this. In terms of adjustment of debts that Pakistan owed India, only ₹6 crore as dues for the waters that India spared over the years was adjusted. Despite all this, Nehru had a different take. He felt he was looking at the larger foreign policy picture. He emphasised, “It is the context that we have to consider, not a particular bit.” In the political environmen­t of the 1950s, Nehru was not averse to reaching out for peace and tranquilli­ty. These were requisites, Uttam Kumar Sinha Uttam Kumar Sinha is fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi The views expressed are personal { } EDITOR’S PICK this provision that is under challenge in the Supreme Court (SC) for violating an individual’s right to privacy. “The personal laws and practices of Hindus and Muslims don’t require a notice period, so why should it be there in a secular law,” asks senior advocate Kaleeswara­m Raj, lead counsel in the petition. The provision leaves couples marrying against their parents’ wishes vulnerable to family reprisal. It’s also a red flag for vigilante groups. “This procedure has unintentio­nally facilitate­d the use of violence against the couple for religious and fanatic reasons,” said Kaleeswara­m. Earlier this year, Kerala decided to stop publishing marriage applicatio­ns online after a few groups and individual­s posted details of as many as 120 interfaith couples on Facebook claiming that they were a part of a “love jihad” conspiracy. The original intent of providing 30-day notice, notes the 2018 Law Commission report, might have been to ensure transparen­cy. But online access to such notices or over-eager registrars taking it on themselves to inform parents about the couple, have “defeated the purpose” of the Act, often leaving couples with having to choose between a runaway temple marriage or conversion, notes the report. Not every marriage meets with societal approval, but this does not make it wrong. Marriages within the same are banned by extra-constituti­onal panchayats, leading to so-called “honour” killings and social boycott. But at the heart of the issue is the autonomy of adult daughters in a patriarcha­l society where arranged marriages remain the desirable norm. Memories of the 26-year-old Hadiya, and the Kerala High Court’s observatio­n that “as per Indian tradition the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married,” remains. Hadiya’s marriage was eventually restored by the SC, but serves as a cautionary reminder that Indian society, including sections of the judiciary, is not prepared to grant daughters independen­ce. Not when it comes to their choice of partner. { } ANOTHER DAY HT’S editors offer a book recommenda­tion every Saturday, which provides history, context, and helps understand recent news events Namita Bhandare BREAKING THE CYCLE OF HATE AND RIOTS The autonomy to choose one’s partner gotra khap W ith the Delhi Police proceeding with what many consider a somewhat onesided and partial investigat­ion into the Delhi riots of February 2020, the question of communal violence in India and justice for victims is back in the public sphere. This week, we recommend Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka’s I n October last year, soon after S informed the district magistrate’s office in Lucknow that she wanted to get married under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), she received an unexpected invitation to visit the local police station. The police met her, her partner and her father to conduct an “inquiry”. Why get married in court? Was the father fine with her decision? Fortunatel­y for S, he was, even though the Act does not require parental permission, only consenting adults. “In Uttar Pradesh, it is routine to call couples and often their parents to the police station, particular­ly in cases of inter-religious marriages,” said Lucknow-based lawyer Renu Mishra. Enacted in 1954, the SMA is for those who wished to marry outside their religion’s personal laws and customs, caste and, often, parental consent. But the Act requires a 30-day notice period, during which time the marriage applicatio­n with names, addresses and phone numbers are on public display. It’s When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath — an excellent account of the 1984 violence targeted at the Sikhs community. Despite the violence becoming a political issue, panels being set up to probe the attacks, and legal processes kicking into force, many perpetrato­rs have been able to evade the law and scores of victims still await justice. The authors uncover how this happened, on the basis of material evidence, testimonie­s and official records. The spirit of the book is clear. Unless there is justice for incidents of mass violence, breaking the cycle of hate and riots will be difficult. Book: When A Tree Shook Delhi Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka 2007 Name: Namita Bhandare writes on gender The views expressed are personal Year: R.N.I. No. CHAENG/2011/45688 PRINTED & PUBLISHED BY DINESH MITTAL (Interim) for and on behalf of H.T. Media Ltd, SCO – 80-81, 3rd Floor, Sector 17-C, Chandigarh - UT and printed at Presses of Prithvi Digitech Private Limited, C – 164 - 165, Phase VIII - B, Industrial Focal Point, Mohali, SAS Nagar, Punjab. -0172-5050640 - 0172-5050656 - 0172-5050607 EDITORIAL CIRCULATIO­N EDITOR : RAMESH VINAYAK ADVERTISIN­G ● ●

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