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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Saub­hadra Chat­terji and Ku­mar Ut­tam let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Aloke Tikku atikku@hin­dus­tan­times.com Puja Ped­nekar puja.ped­nekar@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

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