Dalit atrocities debated in House, but MPs missing Govt may bring down upper age limit for UPSC CBSE to scale down difficulty of ‘tricky’ Class 12 maths paper
5-HOUR DEBATE Proceedings did not attract more than 60-65 MPs at any time
Eight out of every nine parliamentarians on Thursday skipped a crucial Lok Sabha debate on alleged persecution of Dalits, an issue that has sparked a political slugfest between a combined opposition and the BJP-led government at the Centre.
The proceedings, which started behind schedule, did not attract more than 60-65 MPs at any time during the five-hour debate and the attendance rose marginally only when home minister Rajnath Singh spoke on the issue.
The biggest embarrassment for the BJP came when minister of state Arjun Ram Meghwal was absent when his name was announced to address the House. Junior minister for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy tried to defuse the awkward situation as a “chhoti ghatna” (small issue). Almost five minutes into the Opposition’s protests, Meghwal rushed in.
In the 540-member House, the ruling BJP has 280 members excluding the speaker. The opposition parties that had demanded the debate did not fare any better. The debate was held against a backdrop of mounting opposition criticism of the government over what they said was rising incidents of atrocities on Dalits and other lower caste people under the NDA government.
Opposition parties are also trying to pin down the BJP in pollbound states such as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where Dalits form a sizeable chunk of the electorate and could decide the results in many constituencies.
Rajnath Singh, who admitted to atrocities on Dalits, mounted a spirited defense of the government in response to Congress’ chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia’s charge that a “climate of fear” has been created in the country of 20 crore Dalits. “We have to accept the truth that the atrocities against Dalits are going on. We have to stop it and this is a challenge for all of us,” the home minister said.
A government panel called this week for a reduction in the upper age limit of candidates for India’s civil services examination, prodding the NDA administration to ditch a decades-long practice of raising the ceiling under political compulsion.
The government indicated it is likely to accept the recommendation, with Union minister Jitendra Singh asking Lok Sabha on Wednesday to evolve a consensus on reducing the upper-age limit.
“I do not know whether the House is aware that the last cut-off (age) for appearing for civil services today is 47 years, and at 50 years they are eligible for retirement,” the minister of state for personnel told MPs.
“The age went up due to pressure from political sections, not on merit.”
The panel headed by former education secretary BS Baswan submitted its report on Tuesday to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) that conducts the examination.
“A decision will be taken by the government in consultation with the UPSC,” a senior government official told HT. Baswan was unavailable for comment.
Anxious class 12 students and their parents can breathe a little easy. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said it will scale down the difficulty level of the class 12 mathematics question paper next year after an unusually tough exam drove millions of students to tears and hurt their scores.
The board announced on Wednesday evening a revamp of the paper’s pattern, introducing short-answer type questions carrying two marks and reducing the number of controversial higherorder thinking skills (HOTS) questions.
The HOTS questions will now carry only 10 marks and will be split into two sections of four and six marks. Students will also be given more choice.
Teachers welcomed the move, saying the tough HOTS questions were responsible for raising the difficulty level of the paper this year as they carried substantial weightage.
“HOTS questions are tricky and for the past two years, they have been exceptionally tough. It is good that they will be restricted to only 10% now,” a maths teacher at a school in Mumbai’s Santacruz said.
The short-answer type questions will make the paper easier, teachers said. This is the first time that the board has brought in twomark questions. “Shorter questions require less time to solve and will help students in completing the paper on time,” the teacher said.
The CBSE categorised 20% of the paper as easy, 60% as average and 20% as difficult.