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Unknown consequences haunt HPU again as Govt scraps semester system under RUSA in haste

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HP University RUSA semester system scrapped

The biggest concern is that the varsity would now be giving degrees under four different systems 

Shimla: Once again, unknown consequences haunt the students and faculty at the Himachal Pradesh University and affiliated colleges as the Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj on June 7, 2018, announced a roll-back of semester system to restore the previous system of annual examination.

The teachers and majority of academicians are of the opinion that the varsity had almost settled with the semester system and the errors it had been making. Things were getting smoother with the passage of time. There was no need to shift from the semester system to the previous pattern, they believe.

The Minister supported this decision referring to the recommendations of the special committee the State government had formed to review the RUSA. Internal sources at the varsity and media persons suggested that the original report has warned of negative consequences of this decision. However, the Minister denied it at the conference. 

The biggest concern is that the varsity would now be giving degrees under four different systems – according to previous marks based annual examination systems, the first version of RUSA implemented in 2013, the reformed version in agreement with norms of the University Grants Commission implemented in nationwide institutes in 2016, and under newly announced annual examination system.

The Minister was blank when asked how the varsity/faculty would deal with this mess of conducting examinations under four different patterns and then evaluating them.

He said the varsity would take care of it, and they’ll see how to do it.

Now, the varsity will have to prepare new syllabus just a week ahead of the admissions for the session 2018-19 beginning from June 15.

When the Minister was asked whether the date of the admission would be extended considering the new decision, he said it would be sorted out soon.

It implies the Minister did not do any homework prior to taking this decision.

When asked about the decision, some faculty members of the HPU and experienced educationists Himachal Watcher talked to believed there was no need to do so, and it was done in a haste once again. 

Majority of the faculty and administration of HPU said the decision is more politically motivated than being in the interests of the students.

Further, the strongest reason that could be attributed to this decision was the mounting pressure from the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the opposition as the Bhartiya Janta Party had made a promise to do so in its vision document released for the elections to the HP Legislative Assembly in 2017. 

The Minister was heard repeating that it was a poll-promise of the BJP so the government had to fulfil it. However, he seems to be indifferent to the complexities of again shifting to an older version.

An experienced faculty member unofficially said the Minister or the Committee seems to have ignored the fact that situation was different at the time of its implementation in HP University and colleges affiliated to it back in 2013. 

It was the mess created by faulty and haphazard implementation in Himachal in 2013 due to which RUSA had faced fierce protests from students and faculty. The teachers were over-burdened and had a little knowledge regarding the way a Choice Based Credit System works.

The results were late and full of errors as the faculty struggled to understand and assess grades under the new system. In 2016, 90 percent students were declared fail after the result was out. The varsity had to re-do it after the protests. The results were late during first two years and students even faced problem in enrolling at varsities in other states.

Himachal Watcher had also criticized the poor implementation and the inconvenience the students and faculty were facing due to it. However, RUSA system is not faulty in itself. It has the capacity to create higher education institutes at par with the international institutes if implemented wisely and in a transparent manner. 

The State had implemented it haphazardly. The varsity did not possess sufficient infrastructure, facilities, and faculty for such a sudden shift from marks based annual examination system to RUSA’s Choice Based Credit System with semester wise exams.

Further, at a time when the centre decided to boost the budget allocation under Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) four times than it was in 2013 considering the visible reforms in the higher education, the Himachal Pradesh Government has decided to tamper with it.

The ambitious Centrally Sponsored Scheme had begun with a modest budget of Rs. 500 in 2013, and by March 2018, the government had increased it to Rs. 13,000 crore.

By March 2016, a total of 115 Universities and 1218 colleges had been approved by RUSA Project Approval Body or infrastructure grants. These approvals were accorded to the proposals included in the respective State Higher Education Plans (SHEPs).

It attended to the discrimination India’s education institutes were facing as the government was more inclined towards spending on premier institutes like Indian Institute of Management and Indian Institutes of Technology. The other varsities were burdened with the responsibility to fetch funds through their own resources.

The RUSA, however, was intended to provide financial support to proposals contained in State Higher Education Plan (SHEP) approved by the State Higher Education Councils (SHECs) in order to achieve the objectives of equity, access and quality.

The fund releases were linked with performance and learning-teaching outcomes.

According to IIT Bombay’s independent performance review (of four years) of the scheme done in 2017, the funding linked to reforms has had a visible impact on higher education. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 19.4%, faculty vacancies were at 60%, and the teacher-student ratio was quite poor at 1:24 in 2013 when it was first introduced. In 2018, the GER was reported to be at 25.2%.

The faculty vacancies dropped to 35% as the States lifted the ban on faculty recruitment. The teacher-student ratio is now in better shape at 1:20.

Several universities in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been right-sized, and critical governance reforms such as the formation of the SHEC and merit-based appointments of vice-chancellors in Odisha, Goa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu are visible,

said the review.

There has been an improvement in the number of institutions accredited and their scores. In 2012, 106 State universities and 4,684 colleges were accredited. By 2017, an additional 145 State universities and 5,445 Colleges were accredited

it further said.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Campus Watch

Nauni varsity student to represent India in International Kickboxing championship in Argentina

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Himachali Kickboxer Lokesh Bhanot

Solan: While the youth of Himachal Pradesh is becoming infamous for the sudden surge in drug addiction it is witnessing currently, there are those who are bringing laurels to the State.

Lokesh Bhanot, a local from Solan district and a student of the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni is all set to represent the country in the World Kickboxing Championship to be held at Buenos Aires, Argentina from November 5-10, 2018. The World Kickboxing Federation is organizing the championship, it was informed by the Public Relation Officer of the varsity Suchet Attri.

A fourth-year student of B Sc Forestry at the University’s College of Horticulture and Forestry (COH&F), Neri, Bhanot had bagged a bronze medal in the senior category (90-100 kg) in the National Kickboxing Championship held at Patna in 2016 and a Gold Medal in the 65-75 kg category at the National Championship held at Ghaziabad in 2012-13.

In addition, Bhanot has won several medals at the state and district level championships in different weight categories, said the PRO.

Hailing from Solan, Bhanot had previously represented India in Italy in 2013 where he became a black belt in the sport. In 2017, he was selected to participate in the World Kickboxing Championship in Sudan and Brazil, but could not participate due to his exams.

Not only has Bhanot excelled as a player, but in 2017 also became a World Kickboxing Federation accredited International referee in the sport by clearing the official exam. He is also an accredited national referee.

Bhanot credits his parents, coach and college teachers, and friends for their constant support for his success. The university has also recognized his achievements and awarded him with Outstanding Student and Sportsperson award at the University and College level.

While congratulating Bhanot for bringing laurels to the university and the College, Dr HC Sharma, UHF Vice-Chancellor said that the University has been encouraging sporting activities along with academics.

He added that this achievement will also motivate other students of the university. Dr PC Sharma, Dean of COH&F and faculty also congratulated Bhanot for his sporting achievements.

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Campus Watch

A pack of lies behind Viral Video of Sanjauli College

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Sanjauli college viral video

Shimla: Politics is a science but not for Indian ideological groups. The political parties lay more emphasis on cheap sentimental tricks or false propaganda, especially through the social media. However, the right wing has taken the concept of opportunistic manipulations of facts to a new level.

They have sensed the weakness of the media to fall easily and quickly to sensational news. The media publish hurriedly and it creates a noise in which facts struggle to be seen or heard.

The most recent and quite an ugly example was presented at the Centre of Excellence, Government Degree College Sanjauli.

A video of a quarrel between students appeared on the social media claiming it took place between two student organizations, Student Federation of India (SFI) and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at the Sanjauli College. Within no time, it was on news websites. Some national Hindi dailies also covered it with the same claim.

By Thursday, ABVP claimed that some hostel students were allegedly attacked by students of left-wing ideology. By this statement, ABVP suggested that it was not involved in the clash directly but fought for the suspended students.

As a contrast to this statement, in the video, one student is seen being attacked by a group of about 20-25 students.

The video was not fake, and the brawl did take place inside the campus of the college.

Himachal Watcher had too published a report based on initial reports received from our sources including some media person. They also repeated more or less the same story. One of the dailies said the violence had broken out over the banner of a student organization, which was baseless.

ABVP even held a protest on Thursday to revoke the suspension of the students involved in the brawl. It alleged that some faculty members abused, slapped, kicked, and pushed them out of the office when they tried to reach the Principal to submit a memorandum against the one-sided action.

The ABVP, in its press statement issued on Thursday, called it an ‘aggressive protest’ that compelled the college administration to yield to its demand of revoking the suspension.

About 27 students took part in this ‘aggressive protest’, as shown in the picture below:

ABVP ka ugr pradarshan

About 27 students staging ABVP’s (aggressive) protest

ABVP repeated the same allegations when HW reached its leaders. It said the college took one-sided action against some specific students while the left-wing supporters were spared.

The college revoked the suspension, which the ABVP termed as their victory.

After receiving critical comments from the readers and students, HW today talked to all concerned parties including the Principal, CB Mehta, Shimla Police, the injured student (red shirt), ABVP and SFI leaders.

Except for the ABVP, no one, not even the victim or eyewitnesses, told HW that it was a clash between ABVP and SFI or an assault by SFI on hostelers. The victim himself told HW that the incident had no relation to student politics or student organizations.
It turned out that this victim student who was attacked is a national level volleyball player, who has represented Himachal several times.

On July 31, I was sitting with my friends inside the campus when a group of students tried to assault one of the friends. I was not aware of the pre-existing grudges between these students but I intervened peacefully and tried to protect my friend,

the victim said.

However, I became the fresh target of the group, who thrashed me badly. I was punched and kicked repeatedly until I got back on my feet and retaliated,

he explained.

I was left alone as my friends disappeared from the scene,

he said adding,

I am neither a goon nor do I belong to any student organization. I am mostly occupied by my daily basketball practice. But the video has casted a negetive impression not only on my senior players but anyone who saw it. The media too circulated the video with the pack of lies told to them.

The Principal, when asked about the matter, said,

The brawl was not associated with any of the organizations. Moreover, as the Principle, all of them were only students for me. However, some of the suspended students might have included those associated with ABVP. The protest and the allegations of the ABVP against the faculty members were most likely an effort to revoke the suspension of the students.

When asked about revoking the suspension of the students, he replied,

We did not revoke the suspension of the students due to a pressure from the organization or the protest but after speaking to their parents and receiving written apology regarding the violence,

As per the Police Station, Lakkar Bazaar, where the students were taken for questioning following the brawl, refuted the claim that the two parties decided to compromise. A complaint has been filed against the involved students, the police said.

HW also talked to SFI leaders, who termed it a false propaganda to defame student politics.

SFI has recently begun its protest over the demand of reviving direct elections to the Students Central Association, which were banned in 2014. Prior to the ban, the students always supported and elected SFI as their representative and ABVP had been facing defeat in the elections,

said an SFI leader adding,

It is a deliberate manipulation to defame the student politics, thus, give a reason to prevent the revival of the direct elections to the SCA.

SFI also shared screenshots of a post shared by ABVP on its Facebook page with alleged false information blaming the violence as hooliganism created by SFI. 

Abvp 2

Post shared by ABVP on Facebook

The worst hit of the alleged false propaganda is the victim student, and the media owes him an apology. As per the account given by him, he had just tried to protect his friend and was dragged into this brawl, which was given a political colour.

He was worried that his mother would be in great distress if she came across this video. This is why HW has refrained from mentioning the name of the victim. 

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Shimla based startup to manufacture Nauni varsity’s spinach pasta

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Naun varsity past sold to shimla-based start-up

Solan: Soon people of the country will be able to cherish Pasta, which will not only satisfy their taste buds but also helps to keep them healthy. As part of its technology transfer initiative, the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni has sold its two nutrient-rich pasta variants to ‘La Himalayan’ – a Shimla based startup.

It was informed today by Suchet Attri, the Public Relation Officer, UHF, Nauni. 

He further informed that the two variants- Plain Pasta and Spinach Pasta, score high on the nutrient value as compared to normal pasta. These pasta variants are based on Semolina (Suji), which is easy to digest as compared to pasta based on refined flour (Maida). The spinach variant is rich in Iron and Zinc and will be nutritionally rich besides improving the ability to fight diseases.

The University’s Food Science and Technology Department has developed the two variants of this nutrient-rich pasta under the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Post Harvest Engineering and Technology. Initially, the University carried out a survey where it was found that youngsters were more attracted towards instant foods, which at times lead to digestion-related ailments, Attri said. 

For over six years, the University scientists conducted various research trials, which led to the development of these pasta variants. The department also conducted pilot testing of the products, he said. 

A Shimla based startup, which had approached the university’s Incubator Center for expertise regarding cold storage, showed a keen interest in the two pasta variants.
Dr HC Sharma, UHF Vice-Chancellor said that the University has tied up with a company to manufacture the pasta variants.

The company has already deposited a sum of Rs 1 lakh with the university. For the next one year, the university will supply 20 quintals of pasta while the cost of raw materials will be borne by the company. In addition, it will also pay Rs 10 kg as making charges and Rs 2,000 as machine depreciation charges per month to the university. Thereafter the product will be manufactured by the company.

The company will also undertake the task of packaging and labelling along with nutritional profiling of the products. The university’s name will feature in the product details.

This is a part of the technology transfer initiative through which the technologies developed by the university is made available to the industry for commercial exploitation,

said Dr Sharma.
He added that efforts will be made to transfer more such technologies developed by the university to the people and the industry.

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