Two recent legislative interventions are short-sighted
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has attracted much attention in recent weeks for two reasons. First, it put out for public consultation the draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill, which seeks to replace the University Grants Commission. In response, it received 10,200 suggestions/comments from various stakeholders. Second, the Right to Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 18 and is now before the Rajya Sabha. It seeks to eliminate the no-detention policy and reintroduce testing for Classes V and VIII. However, the draft HECI Bill makes the problem worse through over-centralisation and enhanced political interference. The move to entrust all grant-giving powers to the Ministry can lead to politicisation of grant allocation and more interference by the bureaucracy.
The bill also transgresses the autonomy of higher educational institutions by allowing micromanagement, for instance, on syllabi. The new over-arching body does not involve the States sufficiently and or accommodate the diverse needs of the country. Therefore, instead of this half-hearted measure, the government would have been better off plugging the loopholes in the UGC.