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Court proposes Mudgal panel to probe spot-fixing The Supreme Court on Monday suggested that a committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mukul Mudgal, be constituted to probe spot-fixing in IPL matches involving BCCI president N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunathan Meiyappan. Arundhati , first woman to head SBI Arundhati Bhattacharya, who took over as the new chairperson of the State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday, is the first woman to be appointed to the top job at the country’s largest lender. She succeeds Pratip Chaudhuri who retired on September 30. Need to check organised gangs in rhino poaching: WWF The recent rise in cases of rhinoceros poaching with sophisticated weapons, which suggested involvement of organised crime syndicates, was a serious matter that could have grave implications for the protection of the species, WWF-India said on Monday. Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director, Species and Landscapes, WWF-India said a recent meeting of five countries — Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal — was held in Indonesia’s Bandar Lampung. In the meeting, a common action plan was agreed upon to increase the population of the Asian rhino by at least 3 per cent annually by 2020. As per figures till March 2013, there were only 3,500 rhinos in Asia , officials said. Short end of the stick- MGNREGA, CASE STUDY Though women outnumber men in MGNREGA work in Rajasthan, working conditions are poor and the pay unequal.
Women outnumber men in the MGNREGA work in Rajasthan, accounting for almost 75 per cent of the workforce. When this correspondent reached the site, the glaring deficiencies in the work environment were striking. There was no shelter from the sun or rain, no place to sit and eat meals, no medical aid in sight. They used their bare hands to plant saplings and a bamboo stick to dig the earth. All they get for planting 25 saplings is Rs. 135. Usually, a group of women is assigned work to complete a set target. Misgivings among workers arise because of this. Younger members of a group get the same wages as the older ones who are not equally productive. Again, inability to achieve the target leads to penalty for everyone. Although the Act provides for crèches, drinking water and shade, there was no evidence of such facilities on this worksite. While the government functionary claimed that there was an earthen pot of drinking water and a first-aid kit in the possession of the site supervisor, there was no way to confirm this. What is clear, however, is that women workers have no choice but to relieve themselves in the open behind the bushes. Taking cognisance of these issues, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh clarified that wage payment under MGNREGA for different works is based on out-turn, as per the Schedule of Rates. He said: “One reason for this could be that since most of the MGNREGA work is done in groups, some workers in the group tend to be free riders or slow workers, resulting in group output being less than the expected outcome.” Mr. Ramesh also admitted to the delayed payment problem but pointed out that in the programme’s next phase, intensive focus will be made on reducing these delays by timely measurement of works and through the use of information technology. According to Mr Ramesh, workers’ tools are provided under MGNREGA and sanitation has been a focus area as well. He also believes that some states have been more pro-active than others about putting improvements in place. “Tamil Nadu has developed gender sensitive work tools. Other states have started mobile crèches, the appointment of special groups like elder women or physically challenged persons for providing drinking water and childcare at sites,” he reveals. His ministry has, in fact, documented these good practices for replication and upscaling. The minister is satisfied that since the programme was introduced in 2006, the average number of households that have been provided employment is 50 million, which means 25 per cent of all rural households in India. Take child’s play seriously After a long and painful period of neglect, India promises to devote attention to the issue of preparing all children for primary schooling. The National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy recently approved by the Union Cabinet aims to end the current laissez faire situation that has led to the mushrooming of expensive crèches, play schools, nursery schools and so on that adhere to no particular standard. On the other hand, there is the major public programme, the Integrated Child Development Services with a national footprint, but patchy outcomes. Policies are only as good as the institutional arrangements they make and the devices that they employ to bring about compliance. The ECCE policy will cover 158.7 million children in the 0 to 6 year age group. The government shall, it says, provide universal access for three sub-stages of childhood between ages 0 and 6 to health, nutrition, age-appropriate care, stimulation and early learning in a protective and enabling environment. There is stated intent to raise funding, set standards and monitor progress. So far, in spite of sustained economic growth, there has been no dramatic change in the proportion of undernourished children. It was the same in 2005-06, as measured by the National Family Health Survey-3, as in 1998-99. It is crucial, therefore, for the new policy to look at the allocation of funds carefully, and prevent profit-seeking actors from skimming off what is meant to create better anganwadi centres, provide standard materials for a play-based curriculum and good nutrition. Reliance on private partners to achieve universal access, equity and inclusion would be misplaced.
Discussions between the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the States on the ECCE policy should continue for its success across public, private and voluntary sectors, and to achieve convergence of multiple policies and schemes. That is also vital for the promised regulatory framework to work smoothly. That there are challenges is evident from the finding of the Comptroller and Auditor General: in 13 States, the performance of the ICDS over a five-year period from 2006 in the delivery of supplementary nutrition and pre-school education — two key goals — was depressingly poor. Infrastructure was so weak that 52 per cent of the anganwadi centres had no toilet and 32 per cent no drinking water. The programme has languished in spite of the Supreme Court’s intervention since 2001 to universalise and upgrade the ICDS, showing deplorable lack of commitment across the political spectrum. There are positive elements to the policy, such as prioritising mother tongue or language spoken at home, followed by exposure to oral English and regional languages. It must work to strengthen the national rights-based discourse on child development.
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