Education and Science under the Modi Regime

In his election speeches nowadays, Modi confines himself to his phantom extra-territorial exploits which, were they to be filmed, could well bear the title “The Most Amazing Superman who Taught the Muslim Pakistan a Lesson”. He has no other option because in every field his performance has been shameful. The only way out according to him is brag continuously without any break or a sense of guilt in the hope that some of his lies will be believed.

Dismal performance in the Field of Education

Consider these bare statistics.

The centre’s budget allocation for education as a percentage of union budget is as follows:
2013-14 4.77% 2014-15 4.61% 2015-16 3.89% 2016-17 3.66% 2017 -1 3.17% 2018 -19 3.48%. Thus in the last five years, education’s share has come down by more than 1% of the budget allocation, though the absolute number of persons who enter the education stream has registered an increase every year in the last five years. As a percentage of the GDP the allocation looks even more dismal. It was 0.71% in 2013-14 n 2018-19 it is 0.45%.
The 2014 election Manifesto of the BJP made a grandiose promise that 6% of the GDP would be spent on education from the public exchequer alone which would be augmented by private spending. It is not even 4% of the budget outlay in 2018-19!
The following are the promises made by the BJP and their actual statuses:

1. The party promised a New Education Policy if it came to power.
Initially the former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian was entrusted with the task of drafting a policy when Smriti Irani was the minister. He submitted his report in 2016, but when Javadekar took over, he appointed another committee under the chairmanship of Kasturirrangan. The report of this committee is yet to be made public. This is what one of the experts – Parth J. Shah, an education economist and head of the Centre for Civil Society -says: “A broader education policy is a need for systemic reform of the sector – in academics, in regulations and in financing. The delay is a sad commentary on the importance that education gets.”
2. The party promised that it would raise the standard of education and research, ‘so that Indian universities get on par with the top global universities and find their place in the global league’.
In 2018, the government selected six institutions for an “Institute of Eminence” tag. These were judged to be universities that have the potential to achieve a high place in international university ranking frameworks within 20 years. The three public institutions would all receive extra government funds. The three private ones selected included the Jio Institute, which is still non-existent. There was a news item recently which speaks about an expert panel from the HRD ministry hauling up the Institute for not adhering to agreed time frames for commitments such as setting up a campus!
3.The party promised that the University Grants Commission would be restructured and transformed into a Higher Education Commission.
The Scroll reports that after several false starts, government drafted a highly controversial bill in 2018 to abolish the University Grants Commission and replace it with Higher Education Commission of India. In the original Bill, the new body was not given the existing one’s funding functions. The ministry was forced to reconsider after public outcry. The bill is yet to be tabled.
4. The government’s budget support to higher educational institutions was lopsided during the UPA’s regime and it remained so during Modi’s regime too. The IITs and NITs gobble up more than 85% of the higher education budget. Thus the elitist approach to education hasn’t changed much in the last five years.

Lacklustre performance in the field of science

In the field of Science, our performance had always been nothing to gloat about and the situation has not changed during Modi’s regime. It is depressingly lack lustre. Take for instance the number of patent applications filed. It increased from 46,904 in 2016 to 47,857 an increase of 957 patent applications in a space of two years which work out to about 0.1% increase. The other statistics is more telling. In the five years between 2012 and 2017 precisely 649 scientists returned to India to pursue science here, which work out roughly to 130 scientists in a year. It must be said however that the R&D funding has steadily increased during the last five years and its effect may be seen in the coming years,if the money is not frittered away as has been done in the past. However even a cursory comparison with China will reveal that we are light years behind our giant neighbour when it comes to science. Each year, the Nature Index publishes tables based on counts of high-quality research outputs. In the latest set of tables, India stands at number 13 with an index of 956.86. China stands at number 2 with an index of 9088.65, which is almost ten times higher than India’s index.

Bizarre claims about the superiority of our ancient science soared during Modi’s regime. He himself spoke eloquently about plastic surgery in ancient India but some of the Hindutva scientists excelled themselves. KJ Krishnan, supposedly an engineer with a degree on renewable energy, who was given space in the Science Congress, claimed that he was superior to Einstein, Hawking, and Newton. He graciously titled the gravitational waves the “Narendra Modi waves”, and a grand gravitational lens in his imagination a “Harsh Vardhan” lens. A Vice Chancellor of the Andhra University, GN Rao, a chemist, was talking about Kauravas being test-tube babies and Ravana having many kinds of sophisticated aircraft.

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