The Maharashtra government has backtracked on the issue of reform in the academic structure of 2,600 madrasas of the state due to stiff resistance by Muslim community, as it was going to introduce a ?secular? syllabus in madrasas from the academic year starting June 2006.
Maharashtra State Minority Commission (MSMC) had mooted a proposal to the Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil last month for formation of a board to regulate the activities of the madrasas in the state. It also envisaged introducing English, Hindi, Marathi and computer courses along with the regular religious studies. But Muslim religious leaders opposed the move by saying that the formation of the board will lead to state interference and they will lose control over the madrasas.
By introducing a secular syllabus, the MSMC wanted to remove the popular perception that madrasas are ?extremist? dens as their curriculum is usually weighed in favour of religious education. The madrasas have picked up a negative connotation as in several parts of the world, madrasas have come to be known as breeding grounds of religious extremism.
In state capital Mumbai only, there are about 65 madrasas with more than 3,500 students and 513 maktubs (primary schools imparting knowledge of Muslim religion) with around 10,000 children.
After successfully delaying the implementation of the Foreign Contribution Management Act (FCMA) in the previous regime of the NDA government, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) is now lobbying hard with the UPA government to get stalled the move to enact a law next month to replace the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) with the FCMA. The CBCI, a central body representing Catholic churches in India, is up in arms against the implementation of FCMA as the Centre is supposed to pass the FCMA bill in the coming winter session of Parliament.
The FCRA is an instrument to monitor flow of foreign funds to non-government organisations as church and its organisations also claim to be involved in charity work in the country.
The CBCI is arguing that the new stipulations in the proposed FCMA may give rise to corruption. But today corruption is a general practice in public life but nobody has heard CBCI raising its voice against it. The real fear of the church body is that the new bill empowers regional officials to monitor their activities, as the ?real? work of church bodies in interior and rural areas is religious conversion of Hindus.
The CBCI is also worried about the stipulation that says funds can be discontinued if bodies concerned are involved in political activities. And it is an open secret that church is politically active in north-eastern parts of India and states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Kerala.
UNESCO is going to release a world report titled The rise of knowledge societies. The work is the first in a new series of UNESCO reports, to be published every two years, focusing on subjects at the heart of the organisation'smission such as cultural diversity and sustainable development. The report clearly makes the distinction between knowledge societies and the information societies. While the information societies are based on technological breakthroughs, knowledge societies ?encompass broader social, ethical and political dimensions?. The report focuses in particular on the foundations on which knowledge societies that will optimise sustainable human development are constructed.
The report analyses the increasingly important role played by knowledge in economic growth and advances that it can serve as a new springboard for development in the countries of the South. It also presents a detailed analysis of the factors blocking the access of many countries to the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies, especially the growing digital divide and restrictions on freedom of expression. Finally, the report makes a series of recommendations to improve the situation.
The report comes two weeks ahead of the second phase of the World Summit on Information Societies, which will be held in Tunis from November 16 to 18.
During the CPM-led Left front government regime, West Bengal has left behind not only in terms of industrial progress but also on education front. Today, it has the largest number of out-of-school children and the lowest number of teachers.
According to the latest published figures, of the 73,536 teaching posts sanctioned over the last three years, the state has managed to appoint only 17,018 teachers. West Bengal accounts for nearly nine lakh out-of-school children, whereas the total number of out-of school children across the country is 1.04 crore. Not only this, the drop-out rate in the state is higher than the national average. In 2002-03, the state'sdrop-out rate for elementary school was 68.2 per cent as against the national average of 52.8 per cent. In the case of primary schools, the state'sdrop-out rate is 36.4 per cent as against the national rate of 34.9 per cent. It doesn'tstop here. The state has only managed to utilise 58 per cent of its annual outlay of Rs 878 crore. West Bengal has consistently underspent its annual allocations for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). In 2004-05, of the total of Rs 556 crore released, it managed to spend only Rs 434 crore. While in 2003-04, the state managed to spend only Rs 143 crore out of Rs 222 crore, in 2002-03 the state spent Rs 75 crore out of a total of Rs 148 crore. This points to a slow pace of expenditure, which only means that West Bengal has been unable to meet its targets, resulting in poor teacher-student ratio.