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Teachers in state-run schools now demand paternity leave

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Teachers in state-run schools now demand paternity leave

Teachers have decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike from March 14 to press for their demands

Written by Dipti Singh 

Teachers in government schools across Maharashtra have demanded a provision of paternity leave for them.

In a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra Rajya Shikshak Parishad Union has demanded that male teachers be granted 17 days’ paternity leave. They have submitted a charter of other demands too, and decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike starting from March 14 to press for the demands.
Among the demands put forth by the union, women teachers in the state have said they be given child care leave for 730 days. This facility is provided to Central government teachers. As per Central government rules, child care leave can be taken until the child is 18 years old.
The teachers’ union wants this child care leave to be over and above the maternity leave that is available to all female employees.
Anil Bornare, president of the Maharashtra Rajya Shikshak Parishad Union’s Mumbai region, said, “There are more than 3 lakh teachers in the state who are deprived of child care leave, which is given to Central government teachers. Last year too, we submitted our demand to the CM to start these facilities for state teachers too. We have demanded that women teachers be allowed leaves during the child’s exams or when the child is unwell, until the child attains the age of 18 years. We also wrote that male teachers should get paternity leave.”
Other demands of the union include non-salary grants to aided schools, permanent posts and better wages to shikshan sevaks, implementation of Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, and teachers of night schools and schools for disabled be treated on par with regular school teachers, among others.
“These teachers have highlighted their problems on several occasions. They have even met the school education minister a number of times and have apprised him of the plight of teachers and non-teaching staff. However, the state government has turned a blind eye to the problems. We were left with no other option but to organise a protest to get our voices heard,” said Shivnath Darade, a teacher and member of the BMC’s education committee.
The schools claim that they have to face a lot of problems in the absence of non-salary grants. Government schools have not been paid non-salary grants by the state government since 2008. The grants cover only expenses such as electricity bills, water charges, property taxes and other establishment expenses.

MRSP has already submitted a memorandum to the state education department highlighting their demands.

The association, along with other teachers’ unions, has organised an indefinite chain hunger strike from Monday at Azad Maidan. Unaided schools’ associations and junior college teachers’ associations will also join the protest on Monday.


Govt plans common entrance test for MBBS

Kalyan Ray

Receives backing from MPs and Medical Council of India

With many MBBS doctors lacking in their skills, the Health Ministry plans to introduce a nation-wide common entrance test for undergraduate medical education.

The move would level the playing field for meritorious students, instead of allowing seats to go to the moneyed class through the capitation fee route.

The ministry received the support of a panel of lawmakers, who asked the government to remove roadblocks to start the common medical entrance test so that merit alone and not the ability to pay becomes the criterion for admission to medical colleges.

“We are working on it,” Union Health Minister J P Nadda said. Last month, the Medical Council of India recommended an amendment to the Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act to empower the body to conduct a nationwide common medical entrance test.

“The majority of seats in private medical colleges is allotted for a capitation fee going up to Rs 50 lakh and even more in some colleges despite the fact that the capitation is not legal. This system keeps out the most meritorious but underprivileged students who can pay neither for the seats, nor the high annual fee in private medical colleges,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health said in its report tabled last week.

With poor-quality students entering the medical colleges relying on money power, many fail to acquire the skills that an MBBS graduate should possess.

“Even basic skills like conducting a normal delivery, providing early care for a fracture or suturing a wound are not within the competency of a graduate doctor,” said the panel. The MBBS doctors seek post-graduate training to develop the clinical expertise.

But since India has just about 25,000 PG seats in medicine, compared to 55,000 seats at the UG level, almost 50% students cannot go to the post-graduation. Among them, a large number of MBBS pass-outs either do not have skills or confidence to practise medicine.

The health ministry previously attempted to conduct common entrance test for the UG and PG medical education, but the effort was negated by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, which cancelled two Health Ministry notifications after private medical colleges filed petitions against the move.

The ministry filed a review petition relying on the dissent ruling given by Justice Anil Dave, who differed from Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramjit Sen, who rejected the notifications. The review is still pending.

“If only one examination is conducted and admissions are given on the basis of the result of that examination, in my opinion, unscrupulous and money-minded businessmen operating in the field of education would be constrained to stop their corrupt practices and it would help the deserving students a lot,” Justice Dave wrote in his dissent ruling.

TELEGRAPH, MAR, 14, 2016

Sacred contract: - It is important to view recent debates from a wider perspective

Brijesh D. Jayal

Judging by the high-decibel debates and over-the-top coverage of some recent controversies, it has appeared for some months now that the Indian nation is at war with itself. When high-profile television anchors choose to start a prime-time debate with the words, "I am very angry today", or suave anchors choose to remind viewers that the entire international media are looking at India with considerable concern, clearly the stage is being set for a one-sided debate. The latest in this series is the recent happening in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus that has morphed into a debate on what constitutes nationalism.

As one with little pretence of knowledge of university campus life or indeed of the intellectual world beyond, one was not really qualified to enter this debate. It is, however, the adverse reactions to the observations of the Delhi High Court when granting conditional bail to the president of the JNU students' union - where Justice Pratibha Rani has invoked the sacrifice of the armed forces - that have prompted this piece.

To begin with, so consumed did we get with the issue of intolerance that many a distinguished intellectual chose to return their national awards and a delegation representing writers, artists, scientists and academics called on the president, submitted a memorandum and thereafter issued the statement saying that President Pranab Mukherjee has said that the return of awards by writers and intellectuals was "evidently spontaneous" and a way of protest that has triggered a nation-wide debate on the issue of intolerance. Strangely, not many objected to the slight to national honour with national awards being summarily returned in a pique of spontaneity.

Whether or not this storm in a tea cup resulted in any change in the national tolerance index is difficult to say, but soon the issue appears to have receded into the background, presumably because another one had presented itself in the form of the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar who had been expelled by the University of Hyderabad, where trouble had been brewing amongst political student factions for the past year. His suicide sparked outrage as an example of caste-based discrimination in elite educational institutions. Politicians, not wanting to miss the photo opportunity, descended in hordes, shedding crocodile tears. What they pretended not to know was the information given out by members of the Ambedkar Students' Association of the university that the phenomenon was not new and as many as 12 students belonging to the scheduled castes had taken a similar tragic step since the university came into existence in the early 1970s. But statistics like this, or the one by the blog, Aasra: Helping People in Despair, that quotes health ministry statistics of 16,000 student suicides across the country in the three years before 2013, are of little interest to those who grieve not for the tragedy of Vemula losing his life or of Dalit discrimination, but delight at the political opportunities it affords. The issue finally reached Parliament and was the subject of a debate following which one can predict that nothing is expected to materially change, and, statistically, every 90 minutes a teenager will continue to attempt suicide in the country.

Even before Vemula could fade from national conscience came another golden opportunity in the form of some students in the prestigious JNU choosing to commemorate the hanging of Afzal Guru - during which patently anti-India slogans were raised. One is consciously avoiding the term, 'anti-national', although as a military veteran of 40-years' standing one sees no difference between the two! As it happened, around the same time, a story of another kind was also unfolding and vying for media space. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, who, along with nine other colleagues, had been buried under an avalanche at a Siachen post and presumed dead, was found alive after six days and rushed to the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi - a stone's throw from the prestigious JNU campus - where he battled for life. The sharp contrast between these two stories playing out in the capital, one of selfless courage, sacrifice and human endurance at the alter of national security and the other of an anti-India rant of " Bharat ki barbadi tak jang rahegi" and "Bharat tere tukde honge: Inshah Allah, Inshah Allah" under the umbrella of constitutional freedom of free speech, was hard to miss.

Whether the law-enforcement agencies over-reacted in booking the JNUSU president and others for sedition or whether the anti-India slogans were seditious or not is for the judiciary to decide. The concurrent news of these two happenings, one involving a prestigious and highly treasured institute of higher learning where free thought and speech flow and another of the institution of the armed forces where, under impossible human conditions, individuals are ready to lay down their lives mostly unsung, made comparisons inevitable. Sensibilities of those who genuinely care for the safety, honour and welfare of the country (a military man's uncluttered understanding of what is national interest) could not but have been hurt on learning of the anti-India slogans. But to those starved of a cause after the intolerance and anti-Dalit student issues had been milked dry, the very meaning of nationalism became the next rallying point.

It is perhaps with this sensitivity at the back of her mind that Justice Rani, whilst delivering the Delhi High Court judgment granting interim bail to the JNUSU president, went at some length to delve into the larger national security issues at stake. She mentioned that "it has to be kept in mind by all concerned that they are enjoying this freedom only because our borders are guarded by our armed and paramilitary forces". She also noted that such persons enjoy the freedom to raise such slogans in the comfort of university campus without realizing that they are in this safe environment because our forces are there at the battlefield situated at the highest altitude of the world where even oxygen is so scarce that those who are shouting anti-national slogans holding posters of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat close to their chest honouring their martyrdom, may not even be able to withstand those conditions for an hour. Finally, she cautioned that the "kind of slogans raised may have demoralising effect on the family of those martyrs who returned home in a coffin draped in the Tricolor," and concluded that "thoughts reflected in the slogans raised by some of the students of JNU, who organised and participated in that programme, cannot be claimed to be protected as fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression".

Yet, in keeping with the trend of idolizing the JNUSU president and others under the constitutional umbrella of freedom of speech, these remarks have been roundly criticized by many a distinguished commentator, with some eminent lawyers nitpicking on legal niceties and even terming such comments as bad judgment.

One stakeholder conspicuous by its absence in this entire debate is the institution of the armed forces, not because its members are not seeing, hearing and thinking, but because their conditions of service put limitations on their freedom to speak in public. On their behalf, one can say with some confidence that this one observation by the learned justice has given them solace that at least one vital pillar of our democracy understands their value and cares for their sacrifice.

It is also a safe bet that most of those exercising their freedom to chant about the breaking-up of India are not aware that a majority of military officers are graduates from the National Defence Academy or other military institutes that are constituent institutes of JNU and hold degrees recognized by their own revered university. Although in hindsight, one can venture to say that mercifully this is not through the luxury of living in their campus, but in a more rigorous, frugal and real-world environment.

Since national security rests on the morale and professionalism of our men and women in uniform, and since the above and other associated observations of Justice Rani have drawn widespread criticism, a perspective of this unfortunate episode from their viewpoint merits mention.

Armed forces draw heavily on the trust and support of the civil society that maintains them. They repay this trust through their voluntary commitment to a sacred contract of unlimited liability, the foundations of which are based neither on the laws of the land nor on rules of service, but on mutual trust and moral and ethical conduct on the part of both parties. Lance Naik Koppad and his dead colleagues were merely honouring their part of this sacred contract. Those indulging in anti-India slogans in the campus and their many cheerleaders outside were clearly breaching the moral and ethical part of theirs.

The day the armed forces begin to believe that the society is tolerant of those who idolize convicted terrorists and call for the nation to be broken up, there is every danger of the mutual trust between the society and the armed forces coming under stress or even breaking down to the detriment of this sacred contract. Where does that leave the nation and its security? Justice Rani seems to have cast her vision beyond legal technicalities and seen this issue within the larger canvas of national security at a time of ever worsening international security dynamics where non-State actors are becoming a predominant threat to nations and their people from within. Many others have chosen to miss the point.

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Forc

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