Get Wired 19/6: Degree Wars, Copycat NJAC, MEA to Open Doors to Outsiders, and More

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1. AAP leads counter attack in ‘degree wars’

Ramshankar Katheria. PTI

Ramshankar Katheria. PTI

The Aam Aadmi party has taken the fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party in what are now turning out to be ‘degree wars’ between the political rivals. The AAP has alleged that a minister in BJP’s Goa coalition, Ramkrishna Dhavalikar has wrongfully claimed that he has a B.Sc. The party has demanded his immediate resignation. AAP has also launched an attack on the Union minister of state for HRD, Ramshankar Katheria, claiming that the minister’s earlier appointment as lecturer in Agra’s Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar University was in clear violation of UGC norms. The party claims that the minister had got only 39 per cent in his BA, and had failed to qualify in his national eligibility test (NET). UGC norms require a person to either be a PhD or be NET-qualified  in order to serve as a lecturer.

2. Nariman accuses BJP of simply copying Congress’s NJAC

Leading jurist and one of the lawyers fighting the National Judicial Appointments Committee proposed by the Modi government, Fali S Nariman has accused the BJP of simply copying an NJAC bill made by the Congress, rather than using its own brains. Nariman said that if the government had bothered to review the bill, its contents would have been much better. Nariman was referring to the provision that lets any two members of the NJAC veto the decision of the 6-member body. While defending the collegium system, Nariman also said it needed to be reformed to remedy the system.

3. MEA to hire from outside government

Jai-Shankar-pti_20150301041510The Ministry of External Affairs will soon be advertising for recruitment of people from the private sector to its policy planning division. The policy planning division is the think tank of the ministry, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said. Though there have been lateral hires from the Indian armed forces in the past, this will be the first time that the MEA will be hiring from outside the government, if it follows through on the assurance it gave a parliamentary panel recently. Currently, around 770 officers make up the Indian Foreign Service, all of whom have entered the service through the Union Public Service Commission exam. The numbers are thought to be to low for a country of India’s size.

4. History war claims another scalp

Amid growing disagreements with his BJP-appointed chairperson, member secretary of the Indian Council of Historical Research Gopinath Ravindran has quit his post midway through his term. Ravindran, a historian from Jamia Millia Islamia University, reportedly had growing differences with ICHR chair  Y Sudershan Rao. Rao had created a controversy after his appointment with blog posts in praise of India’s ancient caste system, and Ravindran has allegedly quit due to his discomfort with the “direction the council was taking.”

5. IIMs worried they will lose autonomy

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are worried that the new IIM Bill, 2015 proposed by the government will spell an end to their autonomous functioning. The IIMs fear that the treatment meted out to the directors and chairmen of IITs recently is what is in store for them. The Bill, they fear, has several provisions that seek to appropriate for the government, powers that have previously been held by the institution and its governing bodies and societies. The IIMs are also seeking autonomy over the determination of their fee structure and appointments.

6. CBI starts enquiry against Congress CM in Himachal

VirbhadraSingh_pti1The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, his family, and an LIC agent, Anand Chauhan. The enquiry is into Virbhadra’s disproportionately large income when serving as minister of steel under the erstwhile UPA government. Virbhadra and his family had invested an unexplained amount of Rs. 6.1 crore in insurance policies through Chauhan. The information against Virbhadra will be reviewed and if prima facie allegations are found to be true, the PE will be converted to an FIR. The Congress says the CBI has been activated to deflect attention from the Lalit Modi scandal, a charge the BJP denies.

7. Increase in water cess for industry likely

The Union environment ministry is looking the to increase the cess charged to companies to check excess usage of water, and to encourage the use of treated waste water. The increased cess will be used to increase funding for state pollution control boards (PCBs), and will not affect domestic users. Industrial use comprises 6 per cent of India’s water consumption, and the cess collected between April 2011 and October 2014 was Rs. 815 crore. Environmental activists, however, argue that increasing the cess alone is not enough, and that the PCBs need to function better to solve to issue of water scarcity, while textile industry insiders have said the cess increase likely to be passed on to the end customer.

8. Railways running premium trains at a loss

PTI9_3_2012_000239_1198862gThe Indian Railways is running several of its premium trains such as Durontos, Rajdhanis and Shatabdis at a loss, which usually remain hidden because the Railways does not calculate train-wise profit or loss. A committee on railway restructuring headed by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy has analysed the numbers for 16 such trains across the country and found that 8 of them run at a trip-wise loss. All of the Duronto trains examined had higher running costs than the revenue they were generating.

9. Ad-blocking software growth is warning to media

About 47 per cent of US internet users now use ad-blocking software, and the number is higher among younger users. This trend  has left online news portals worried as most online journalism is based on revenue collected from visual advertisements. While some services are subscription based, and others bypass ad-blocking by running ‘native ads’, analysts believe a further increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software would affect the industry majorly.

10. Indians top migrants Down Under

Indians were the top migrants to Australia during 2013-14, beating China, as over 40,000 Indian migrants settled permanently in the country that year. One in five of all migrants to Australia came from India, leaving behind China, the UK and New Zealand. Migration is one of the leading causes of Australian population growth. The country’s overseas-born population grew by 51.2 per cent between 1996 and 2013. The substantial increase in immigration is also changing Australia’s ethnic make up rapidly.

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