New Delhi: The human resource development (HRD) ministry has scaled down its expectations from the winter session of Parliament and will try pushing through three relatively less contentious pieces of legislation instead of the nearly dozen draft laws waiting for approval.
The three Bills—Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill 2010; the Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010; and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010—will be moved, according to two ministry officials, who declined to be named.
The proposed accreditation law aims to make it mandatory for higher educational institutions, except agricultural institutions, to be accredited to ensure quality.
The tribunal Bill aims to fast-track educational disputes through a dedicated tribunal. The unfair practices Bill proposes to curb practices such as capitation fees, donations and questionable admission processes. These offences can then be treated as civil or criminal offences.
M.M. Pallam Raju, who was appointed as the HRD minister in the latest cabinet reshuffle on 28 October, has been informally meeting several of his colleagues in Parliament, said one of the ministry officials mentioned earlier.
On Wednesday, he is due to meet opposition leaders. “It’s a formal meeting,” the official said. “Other than the procedures, it is expected that they will discuss the education Bills for passage during the winter session.”
As the ministry was completely revamped during the cabinet reshuffle, the view is to move on, the second official said.
The reshuffle saw three new faces in the ministry—Raju as cabinet minister and Jitin Prasada and Shashi Tharoor as his deputies.
“These three Bills are important for the higher education reform but relatively less controversial, and the ministry feels that it can push them through this time,” said the second official.
N.K. Singh, a parliamentarian and former member of the HRD-related standing committee, said education Bills are important but they suffer from two key problems—one, there is a strong centrist bias which curbs the role of the states, and secondly, the bureaucracy plans an excessive role.
The ministry’s latest stand looks “too little, too late”, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, national leader of the education practice at consulting and auditing firm KPMG.
“The more important Bills like NCHER and foreign university Bills need to be pushed through. Instead of just plugging holes, they (the ministry) need to show urgency in reforming higher education to create a pool of human capital not just for India but for the world,” Ramaswamy said.
The other key education legislations that are not being given priority in the parliamentary session that begins on 22 November include the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, the National Academic Depository Bill, 2011, and the National Council of Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill, 2011.
The foreign university law proposes to allow foreign institutions to open independent Indian campuses and give degrees.
The NCHER Bill seeks to merge all higher education regulators such as University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education under one umbrella for better efficiency.