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Education board’s back in new avatar to shape policy

Monday 5 July 2004

NEW DELHI, JULY 4. Wipro chief Azim Premji, Jnanpith and Magsaysay award winner Mahasweta Devi, architect Charles Correa and poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar are among 32 nominees who will be part of the 106-member powerful Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) being constituted by HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

The CABE is being revived after 10 long years - the last CABE, somewhat smaller in size, had completed its term in 1994 - and will meet from time to time to advise the Ministry on all aspects of the country’s education policy.

Even in his earlier stint as HRD Minister, Arjun Singh had relied on CABE as part of a consensual approach to administrative decisions in both elementary and higher education.

The Ministry was prepared to make a statement today on the constitution of CABE but held back at the last moment because Parliament is being reconvened for the Budget session tomorrow.

Singh hinted that it will be Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who will make the announcement and disclose details of the CABE on the floor of the House in a day or two.

The HRD Ministry took some time to finalise the names of these 32 nominees. Among them are Azim Premji, whose foundation is trying to bring about quality improvement in government schools in northern Karnataka, literature scholar U R Ananthamurthy, Magsaysay award winner and pioneer in children’s education, Shanta Sinha, and champion of self-employed women’s rights, Ela Bhat.

Some of the names that have been doing the rounds but could not be confirmed were those of JNU professor Zoya Hassan, singer Shubha Mudgal and education researcher Jean Dreze.

According to the CABE structure, there will be quite a few Union Ministers on board. The Information and Broadcasting Minister, Minister for Science and Technology, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Minister for Labour, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment and Minister for Tribal Affairs are expected to be an integral part of the CABE.

There will be four Lok Sabha and two Rajya Sabha members. Also on board would be education ministers of all states and Union Territories. Fourteen chairpersons or other delegates of various organisations functioning under the HRD Ministry will also add to the list of ex-officio members.

Other members will comprise 13 permanent invitees, most of them secretaries of various Central ministries or departments. These permanent invitees also include the HRD Minister himself, the Minister of State for Education and the Education Secretary.

There was talk of reconstituting the CABE in 1997 when former United Front Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda was still in power. But Deve Gowda had considered the more than 100-member body a little too unwieldy and wanted it made a lot more compact. But his government fell a little later after the Congress withdrew support.

Former HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi had dispensed with the CABE and had been planning a different body which might not have been as federally representative as CABE.

Since assuming power, Arjun Singh has been talking about the revival of CABE. That CABE would be reconstituted had also been laid down in the CMP. Even today Singh said while addressing the minority convention that he did not believe that ??any one man could have the final say in any matter’’.

In effect, he was implying that he was all for the consensual approach which he had adopted for solving the IIM problem. There were indications that he thought the CABE forum was necessary to help him reach widely acceptable decisions on policy matters.

Diptosh Majumdar

See online : The Indian Express

P.S.

in The Indian Express, Monday, July 05, 2004.

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