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Anurag Behar gives a ‘teaser’ of new education policy & Ashwani Lohani on Air India’s downfall

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A Maharajah in free fall: Why Air India cannot be run as a public sector organisation

Ashwani Lohani | Chairman and Managing Director, Air India
The Times of India

Lohani outlines reasons for the downfall of Air India, a “great” airline, which till a decade-and-half ago evoked a sense of “national pride”, with its Maharajah logo serving as an “apt icon”. He says the “beginning of the decline” coincided with the beginning of government interference in this sector and in the affairs of the airline.

Lohani writes the public sector has been a “victim” of the very people “who curse it in the first place”. Excessive rules, “processes and oversight”, merger with Indian Airlines, a ban on “recruitment” are among the factors that have contributed to the Air India’s decline. He says the government bailout package to tackle Air India’s rising debt only helped it remain afloat, but prevented any scope for addressing the real issues plaguing Air India.

Hindi or English, comparing apples and oranges

D. Shyam Babu | Senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
The Hindu

On the new National Education Policy, Babu says the government’s removal of the clause making Hindi in non-Hindi states mandatory has only averted a “backlash” — controversies will continue unless Part XVII of the Constitution (dealing with the language policy) is amended “in line with the global trend of mother tongue plus English”.

He calls the three-language formula not only “irrational” and “impractical”, but also “unconstitutional”. Babu writes the language policy was originally based on eradicating English from India, but this was impossible given the universality the language gained over time. To replace English with Hindi is like confusing apples and oranges. He says the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu raises an important issue: why should an individual study a third language if he/she is unlikely to use it after finishing school.

Modi won because he delivered on his promises

Arvind Gupta | Eisenhower Innovation Fellow and currently CEO of MyGov
Hindustan Times

Gupta reads the 2019 election mandate as an indication of the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in terms of governance and development. “The key takeaway from the verdict is that governance is here to stay, and identity politics is on its last legs.” Gupta claims key reforms such as demonetisation and Goods and Service Tax have been “instrumental in nudging the economy towards formalisation,” and direct tax compliance.

Other schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana and PM-KISAN have propelled rural people to vote for Modi while the urban India’s vote reflects a “vote for strong macro fundamentals” and “impressive strides in upgradation and development of infrastructure.” He argues that the pan-India support for the prime minister “reinforces the fact that development and governance have been the nucleus of these elections and it bodes well for India.”

Attack The System

Alok Bansal | Director, India Foundation, and adjunct professor at New Delhi Institute of Management
The Indian Express

The 2019 election results indicate that people in India are willing to transcend caste barriers. He argues the caste system has been a “bane” for society that has adversely affected the country’s development. He opposes the idea of caste-based identities altogether. The “most serious indictment” of such a system came from Balasaheb Deoras, a former RSS sarsanghchalak, he writes.

He claims that in the past 70 years, no effort has been made to “dilute” or remove the caste system, and on top of it, steps have been taken in some instances to “perpetuate” this. He suggests the government include a “no caste” category in government forms or even caste-based census for people who choose to not subscribe to their caste identities.

Two key tasks for Sitharaman

Somasekhar Sundaresan | Advocate and independent counsel
Business Standard

As Nirmala Sitharaman takes charge of the finance ministry, two areas – the much lauded Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), and competition law — need serious attention, writes Sundaresan. The much-lauded IBC, marked with “crudities” and inequities, needs to be reformed. It is important to reform the law and its administration cutting across ministries. While a bad loan problem is the finance ministry’s headache, the administration of IBC comes under corporate affairs.

On competition law, Sundaresan says turf battles between regulators are hurting the legislation. He also writes on how various working groups and reform committees are looking into the law. Numerous recommendations will come about and it will be a daunting task for the government to pick and choose the key points.

Caution, infra financing by banks is rising again

Samuel Joseph | Chief General Manager, Exim Bank of India
Rahul Mazumdar | Economist, consultant and columnist
Hindu Business Line

As non-performing asset (NPA) level slides gradually, credit offtake, especially in the infrastructure sector, has picked up. While this is good news, the concern is that the infrastructure sector was primarily responsible for the rise in NPAs, say Joseph and Mazumdar. Credit deployment in the infrastructure sector has grown at eight per cent in 2018-19 against (-) 1.7 per cent in the previous year and within this, more than half has gone to the power sector, which has been saddled with stressed assets.

An alternative funding approach to the sector, in dire need of capital, is the need of the hour. Issuing infrastructure bonds, which could be subscribed to by institutional investors, insurance firms, pension funds, among others, is one such alternative. Re-emphasising development banking — the model followed in several other Asian countries — is crucial.

Glimpses of the much-awaited National Education Policy

Anurag Behar | CEO, Azim Premji Foundation

Many fundamentals of education are normative or are founded in human psychology, says Behar, a member of the committee that drafted the National Education Policy (NEP). He says this article is a “teaser” of the NEP. In the education policy, he writes, high-quality education, through schools and anganwadis, will be provided to those between three and six years of age by 2025.

Students will receive age-appropriate foundational literacy. All Indians aged between 3 and 18 years must be in school and the Right to Education Act will be extended from pre-school to Class XII. The focus will also be on teachers and the teaching system. Vibrant high-quality and equitable public education must be the bedrock of Indian society, he says.

With inputs from Rachel John. 

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