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The Hindu Editorial

5-January-2024

1. Breaking new ground the Kerala way.

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government Policies – Interventions for development in various sectors
The Kerala Urban Commission’s formation and urbanization challenges are significant for UPSC, reflecting policy shifts in urban development.
Context:
  • The formation of the Kerala Urban Commission marks a crucial step in addressing urbanization challenges in the state.
  • With a diverse mandate and expert members, it aims to provide a 25-year roadmap, potentially serving as a model for other highly urbanized states in India.
Overview:
  • After 38 years, a new Urban Commission is formed in Kerala, reminiscent of the National Commission on Urbanisation led by Charles Correa during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.
  • The 74th Constitutional Amendment marked a positive shift in urban development policies, emphasizing private initiative and investment.
Need for Urban Commission:
  • Over 56% of the global population now resides in cities, impacting climate change and leading to various urban challenges.
  • Urbanization has caused spatial and temporal changes, including issues like pollution, housing, water, and sanitation challenges.
  • The process of city development has become a significant driver of capital accumulation. 
Historical Urban Development in India:
  • Nehruvian era (pre-1980s) focused on centralized planning and master plans, but the approach failed as manufacturing, the driving force, declined.
  • The 1990s witnessed the privatization of cities, emphasizing real estate and competitiveness, leading to project-oriented development.
Challenges in Contemporary Urban Development:
  • Piecemeal approaches like Swachh Bharat Mission, AMRUT, HRIDAY, and PMAY have fallen short of desired results.
  • Governance in cities faces challenges, with subjects from the 12th Schedule yet to be transferred, and debates about appointing managers instead of elected officials.
Complex Financial Architecture:
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission recommends grants to cities based on property tax collection performance, linking it to the State’s Goods and Services Tax.
  • The financial architecture reflects over-centralization in city affairs. 
Kerala Urban Commission:
  • Formed in 2024, the commission includes members like M. Sathishkumar, Janaki Nair, and K.T. Ravindran.
  • The 12-month mandate aims to address urbanization challenges in the context of Kerala’s estimated 90% urbanized population.
  • The commission’s role is to develop a 25-year roadmap for urban development.
Significance for Other States:
  • While a national commission was desired, the Kerala Urban Commission can serve as a model for other highly urbanized states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab.
  • The process of establishing and progressing the urban commission in Kerala can offer valuable lessons for other states grappling with high urban populations. 
PYQ: The states in India seem reluctant to empower urban local bodies both functionally as well as financially. Comment. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2023)
Practice Question: In the context of rising urbanization challenges, discuss the significance of the newly formed Kerala Urban Commission and its potential implications for urban development policies in India. (150 words/10 m)

2. Is higher education out of touch with the skill requirements in the job market?

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education  Crucial for UPSC: Examining India’s graduate employability crisis, NEP impact, and systemic issues in higher education for comprehensive understanding. 
Context:
  • India faces a critical challenge in graduate employability, worsened by online learning and pre-existing structural issues in higher education.
  • The National Education Policy’s impact is questioned, emphasizing the need for targeted equity actions and improved quality in vocational training institutions.
Employability Challenges:
  • Reports highlight that less than half of India’s graduates were employable in 2021, with a rising unemployment rate among graduates.
  • Concerns arise over the quality of online education and employability of students graduating during the pandemic.
Impact of Online Learning:
  • Santosh Mehrotra acknowledges that employability issues existed before the online learning trend.
  • Massification of higher education between 2006 and 2018 led to a proliferation of private colleges, affecting education quality.
  • Online education exacerbates the problem, causing learning losses and downsizing of ed-tech companies.
Structural Issues in Higher Education:
  • Unemployment rates among graduates and postgraduates increased significantly between 2012 and 2021, indicating systemic problems.
  • Lack of regulatory capacity for private colleges and insufficient R&D expenditure contribute to the challenges.
Role of Higher Education in Job Creation:
  • Agriculture remains conventional, and the services sector demands high knowledge levels, limiting job options for mainstream graduates.
  • Higher education institutions should focus on creating new knowledge, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
Gender Disparities in Workforce Participation:
  • Reports suggest a higher percentage of employable women graduates than men.
  • India’s low female labour force participation relates to limited job opportunities despite improved education for women.
Assessment of National Education Policy (NEP):
  • The selective implementation of NEP poses challenges, leading to controversies and confusion.
  • NEP’s promise of integrating skills with traditional syllabi faces hurdles, with no substantive change observed on the ground.
Equity and Inclusiveness:
  • NEP lacks specific equity actions, especially concerning marginalized communities like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims.
  • The policy should address social growth equity and inclusiveness strategies tailored to different groups.
Role of Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Polytechnic Colleges:
  • The rapid growth of ITIs and Polytechnic colleges raises concerns about quality.
  • Santosh Mehrotra suggests diverting students toward ITIs and vocational training institutions after Class 10 and 12, emphasizing industry engagement for quality improvement.
Conclusion:
  • The intricate challenges of graduate employability in India underscore the urgent need for systemic reforms in higher education, targeted equity measures, and a comprehensive evaluation of the National Education Policy’s effectiveness.
PYQ: Skill development programmes have succeeded in increasing human resources supply to various sectors. In the context of the statement analyse the linkages between education, skill and employment. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2023)
Practice Question: Discuss the challenges to graduate employability in India, considering the impact of online learning, structural issues in higher education, and the role of the National Education Policy (NEP). (150 words/10 m)

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