India needs a world class higher education system: Vice President

Bengaluru: The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said that a world-class higher education system was the need of the hour. Addressing students and faculty members of REVA University after inaugurating the State-of-the-art Architecture Block in the campus at Bengaluru today, he said that India’s quest for development would remain unfulfilled if we fail to create opportunities for quality higher education till the last mile.

Pointing out that concerns have been raised over the imbalance between excellence and inclusion, the Vice President called for revamping of higher education system to make more equitable and inclusive.

Shri Naidu said that we have tremendous talent amongst us and we cannot afford to let this talent lie dormant due to lack of avenues for quality education, especially higher education and skill training. He called for putting vulnerable sections of our population, the women, the differently-abled and the economically weak at the center of our strategy to expand higher education.

Observing that rapid industrialization and economic growth would create opportunities for around 250 million skilled workforces by 2030, Shri Naidu asserted that India would emerge as the global supplier of skilled manpower in the coming years.

The Vice President said that despite the progress made from the time of Independence, higher education system in India still suffers from a number of lacunae ranging from inadequate enrolment to quality issues to lack of equity and insufficient infrastructure. Observing that research was the cornerstone of higher education systems world over, the Vice President called upon institutions of high learning to create an environment for students to be innovative and creative.

Saying that advanced research was the way forward for India’s higher education, Shri Naidu called upon colleges and universities to equip their institutions with latest technologies and re-invent the teaching methodology.

The Vice President wanted institutions of higher education to focus on nurturing students with employable skills. He also suggested them to actively promote linkages between academic institutions, the industry, and the government to prepare students to suit the demands of the industry and train them to perform new age jobs.

The Chancellor of REVA University, Dr. P. Shyama Raju, the Vice Chancellor of REVA University, Dr. S.Y. Kulakarni, the Registrar of the University, Dr. M. Dhanamjaya, the Trustees of the University, Shri Bhasker Raju and Umesh Raju and other dignitaries were present at the event.

Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

” I am delighted to be here at REVA today, a campus that is a nucleus of brimming activity, amidst some of the brightest minds of the country.

Your campus is a true manifestation of the strong surge of energy and vigor of a young India.

Let me congratulate Dr Shyama Raju for his dedicated service to the nation in the field of education.

One of the most effective ways to cement a nation’s pathway towards growth and development is through a robust framework for quality professional education, an endeavour that is being taken to fruition by Dr Shyama Raju and his dedicated team.

I am glad to hear that REVA educates a large number of students from rural background. I am sure that REVA and its team of dedicated faculty will offer nothing but the best to every single one of its students.

My dear friends,

I am delighted to inaugurate the Architecture block of REVA University today.

I am told that this campus of REVA is home to 15000 talented students studying in diverse disciplines such as Engineering, Architecture, Management, Commerce, Humanities, Legal Studies and Performing Arts.

I firmly believe that students from varying disciplines should study together and interact with one another as frequently as possible to develop wider perspectives and accommodate contrarian view points.

This is, after all, the era of interdisciplinary studies. Aristotle once said, ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it’.

My dear sisters and brothers,

In ancient India, the ‘Gurukula’ system of education thrived, where students resided in the ashrams or the homes of the Gurus.

The very word ‘Gurukula’ is a combination of two words, ‘Guru’, the master and the ‘kula’, the home. Students were not discriminated against on the basis of caste or creed and every student was involved in the activities of the ashrama.

The Gurukula was a place of acceptance, of harmony and of brotherhood and camaraderie, a safe haven for all those who pursued wisdom.

Your ‘Kula’ or home has been built well, it is now upto the Gurus and the shishyas to ensure that they make the best use of the facilities available here.

Let this abode of wisdom and scholarship become the modern day Gurukula where there is no place for prejudices and where the light of learning will dispel the darkness of all human vices.

My dear young friends,

Today India needs a world class higher education system, a mission that is of paramount importance, especially in the light of the burgeoning youth population in the country.

India has one of the youngest populations in the world and the window of demographic dividend opportunity is available for five decades from 2005-06 to 2055-56, longer than any other country in the world.

India will have the second largest graduate talent pipeline globally by the end of the year 2020. India’s economy is also expected to grow at a fast pace. Rapid industrialization would require a workforce of around 250 million by 2030.

India will certainly emerge as a global supplier of skilled manpower.

We have tremendous talent amongst us. We cannot afford to let this talent lie dormant due to lack of avenues for quality education, especially higher education and skill training.

According to World Bank estimates, India’s higher education system is the world’s third largest in terms of students, next to China and the United States.

Very soon, India will be one of the largest education hubs and learning destinations in the world.

India’s Higher Education sector has witnessed a tremendous growth in the number of Universities, University level Institutions and Colleges since Independence.

But we have a long way to go. Our higher education system still suffers from a number of lacunae ranging from inadequate enrolment to quality issues to lack of equity and insufficient infrastructure.

While it is true that access to quality higher education has improved in the last decade with more IITs, IIMs and Central and State-level universities being established, concerns have been raised about the imbalance between excellence and inclusion.

Let me remind you that our quest for development will remain unfulfilled if we fail to create opportunities for quality higher education till the last mile. Vulnerable sections of our population, the women, the differently-abled and the economically weak should be at the centre of our strategy to expand higher education.

Today, we are in the middle of Industry 4.0. There is widespread disruption due to technology and automation that are changing the nature of jobs and learning and we have to adapt fast to the changing scenario.

We need to create campuses that are integrated with latest technologies, which empower students to innovate and create. India should be a technology leader and not a follower.

New fields such as cyber security, robotics, digital technology, artificial intelligence, data-science, block chain and internet of things have the potential to transform the world. In this context, India must be innovative in approach and work out policies to boost research and optimally tap the demographic potential.

Statistics reveal that there were only 216 researchers per million in 2015. India’s investment in research is 0.62 per cent of its GDP. These numbers are well below global standards.

Research is the cornerstone of higher education systems world over. Advancing research should be the way forward for India’s higher education.

There is also a need to re-invent the teaching methodology in our centers of higher education.

The world is now experimenting with several effective teaching methodologies such as e-learning, simulation and role-playing, problem based learning and blended learning. India must also adopt best practices from all over the world to improve instruction.

There is also a need to train our teachers and equip them with better skill-sets and latest tools to effectively educate students in this era of digital technologies.

Institutions of higher education must also focus on nurturing employable skills.

The new Annual Employability Survey 2019 report by Aspiring Minds reveals that 80% of Indian engineers are unsuited for any job in the knowledge economy and only 2.5% of them possess tech skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that industry requires.

This is a matter of great concern.

Ad-hoc changes and quick fix solutions will not remedy the problem of employability. We have to actively promote linkages between academic institutions, the industry and the government so that we succeed in preparing our graduates to suit the demands of the industry and perform new age jobs.

Students must also be encouraged to undertake internships, live projects and corporate interactions which provide practical insights into how the industry operates and expose them to workplace realities. Current estimates say that less than 40% of our engineering graduates opt for internships.

I am very happy to know that REVA University has its own Industry Interaction Centre.

Quality education in India is still very expensive. Education should not be a business, but must be looked upon as a mission to build a better world.

Institutions of higher education have the potential to become the most crucial change agents in the society. Education is a powerful tool to reduce or eliminate income and wealth disparities.

I would also urge the Indian universities to continually engage and collaborate with world class academic institutions in different parts of the world.

The world is a global village and we have to ensure that we mould global, cosmopolitan citizens who are at ease in any part of the world.

My dear young friends,

I do not, for a second, believe that education is meant solely for employment. Education has a much higher purpose.

Education teaches us values, stimulates our intellect, develops tolerance and encourages us to question the absurd and equips us to contribute to the growth of the human society. True education opens up your mind and trains you to think critically, practically and creatively. It fosters empathy, kindness and humility.

I understand that the School of Architecture at REVA is participating in the Smart City Project. I am sure that your contribution in planning of cities, ensuring sustainability and energy conservation will bring about a paradigm shift in urban planning.

I hope this University continues to provide quality education and remains committed to the pursuit of excellence.

I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors!

[“source=indiaeducationdiary”]

Creativity for change: how these artists remind us that progress must come with a purpose

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale features creative works by 95 artists in 10 locations around the heritage Fort Kochi district, as well as nine satellite venues. See Part Iand Part II of our photo essays, as well as our coverage of the Bangkok Biennale.

From politics to nature, the art works in this photo essay point a way to hope in their own creative manner. For example, some artists go beyond paints and sculptures to show how ropes (Mrinalini Mukherjee) and seashells (Julie Gough) can be used in installations.

Crushed dreams, the sorrow of conflict, and displacement after natural calamities leave deep scars on society (Rula Halawani, Srinagar Biennale, Chittoprasad Bhattachary). Social divides continue to thrive even after the end of the colonial era (BV Suresh). Rising corruption plagues emerging economies, holding back their right to progress. Reckless urban and rural development wreak havoc on habitat and nature.

It takes sensitisation and a demand for justice to dissect and tackle social-political problems. The artists in this photo essay go beyond images of doom and gloom to show that creative solutions can indeed be found, and in a sustainable manner. They raise awareness about the importance of human rights, dignity, identity, inclusion and expression (Zanelle Muholi; the Braille edition of the Biennale brochure).

“Success for an artist comes from the happiness of making a connect with the audience. It comes from sensitising them to the loss of others, and helping them be grateful for what they have,” said painter-photographer Manisha Gera Baswani, in a chat with YourStory.

Her exhibit, titled Postcards from Home, features photographs of Indian and Pakistani artists whose parents moved across the border during partition. Those who have overcome their sense of loss and displacement in a dignified manner are a source of inspiration for the next generation, she explains.

She advises aspiring artists to listen to their heart, and have faith that the impact of their work will eventually emerge. This is particularly important in a time of international tension and domestic conflict, Manisha urges.

Now, what have you done today to pause and take stock of the world around us, and do your bit to create a better place for us all?

[“source=yourstory”]

BRAZIL’S LAUNCH SITE IS IN A GREAT LOCATION, BUT WILL US ROCKET COMPANIES WANT TO USE IT?

On Tuesday, the Trump administration signed a preliminary agreement with Brazil that could one day lead to US rockets launching from the South American country’s coastal spaceport. President Trump praised the idea of using the site, arguing that “because of the location, tremendous amounts of money would be saved.” But while the launch site offers up a few key benefits to US launch providers, it’s possible that these advantages may not be enough to draw all major rocket companies to the area.

The biggest asset of Brazil’s spaceport is its proximity to the equator. The site, known as the Alcântara Launch Center, is located at a latitude of just 2.3 degrees south. For anyone launching a rocket, that’s a juicy spot. There aren’t many options on Earth for launching that close to the equator, and the site would make it much easier for satellite operators to send payloads into an equatorial orbit. Additionally, rockets at the equator get an extra boost in speed, thanks to the Earth’s rotation, which helps rockets save on fuel.

However, the logistics of setting up a new launch site in Brazil could be an issue for some. The larger US rocket companies, such as SpaceX, the United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin, already have multiple options for launching out of the US that are relatively close to the equator. A new site would need a lot of upfront investment in order to create the ground infrastructure in Brazil to support each company’s unique rocket design. It’s a lot of money and work for a small amount of benefit in flights. Plus shipping overseas to Brazil can add an extra layer of time and money that wouldn’t be an issue when launching from the US.

There are some launch providers on the smaller end of the rocket scale that see big opportunities in Brazil. Companies like startup Vector, which are focused solely on launching small satellites, have openly advocated for the chance to launch out of Alcântara. It would allow them to launch missions that they simply cannot do in the United States because of their smaller size. Since the company’s hardware isn’t as big as that of a Falcon 9 or an Atlas V rocket, very little investment is needed to make the launchpad infrastructure. “I think it’s really going to be the domain of the future small rockets that go there,” Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector, tells The Verge.

WHY BRAZIL?

Rockets launching again from Alcântara would reinvigorate what was once a major national resource for Brazil. Numerous sounding rockets took flight from the area throughout the 1990s. But in 2003, a rocket intended for orbit exploded on the site’s launchpad during some ground tests, killing 21 people nearby and leveling the pad’s launch tower. The accident halted Brazil’s efforts to launch two planned satellites, and the country’s space efforts have had difficulty recovering.

Wreckage at the Alcântara Launch Center, following the 2003 explosion.
 Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Since then, Brazil has been looking for international partnerships to bring other countries’ vehicles to Alcântara. The country even courted the Bush administration back in 2000 to bring commercial launches to the site, but those efforts were met with opposition from Brazilian lawmakers. Now, Brazil is trying again. In 2018, the government invited two major US players in aerospace, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to visit Alcântara, according to a report in Reuters. The goal is to offer up a cheaper location than the nearby Guiana Space Centre in South America’s French Guiana where all of Europe’s rockets take flight.

Alcântara boasts a few impressive geographic benefits that are needed for a spaceport. It’s on the coast of Brazil, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east. That’s key for a launch site, as many rockets launch eastward to match the direction of Earth’s orbit. Launching over a large body of water is important for safety, as it reduces the risk of a falling rocket part hitting someone on the ground or damaging someone’s property. It’s the reason why US launches occur in coastal areas, such as Cape Canaveral, Florida, or the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Brazil has a slight advantage over Cape Canaveral, which is located at around 28.5 degrees north. Being near the equator is great for sending satellites into a type of orbit known as a geostationary orbit. This is a path 22,000 miles above the Earth’s equator where satellites are traveling at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation. The result is that satellites basically hover over the same patch of Earth at all times. It’s a perfect spot to deposit a communications satellite or a surveillance probe that needs to look at the same region of the planet at all times.

SpaceX: The Privately Funded Aerospace Company Founded By Elon Musk
A SpaceX Falcon 9 takes off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. 
Photo: NASA / Getty Images

Getting to geostationary orbit from Florida takes a little extra work, though. Rockets must deposit a satellite on a path that’s slightly askew from the equator (at a 28.5-degree tilt), and the satellites then need to change their direction in orbit by burning an onboard engine. That requires fuel, which takes up space on a satellite and influences the vehicle’s design. At a spot like Alcântara or the Guiana Space Center, such a plane change would be minuscule, requiring less fuel.

Additionally, the Earth is actually moving faster at the equator than other points on the planet, which is good news for rockets. The Earth’s equator is its widest section, so it has a long way to travel each time the planet makes a full 24-hour rotation. One spot on the equator has to go a much greater distance than a spot near the poles, for instance. So a rocket launching on the equator gets an extra speed boost, making it easier for the vehicle to reach the extra high velocities needed to achieve orbit. The rocket doesn’t need as much fuel, making launches more efficient and potentially allowing companies to pack in more cargo on a flight.

“You can use a less powerful rocket to launch the same satellite, or you can launch a bigger satellite using the same launch vehicle,” Lakshmi Kantha, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, tells The Verge.

WHO ACTUALLY WANTS TO LAUNCH FROM BRAZIL?

Are all of these benefits enough to lure major US companies to Brazil? It’s not an enormous inconvenience to ship rockets over water. In fact, Arianespace ships its rockets by boat from Europe and Russia to French Guiana. The ULA also ships parts of its Delta IV Heavy by boat, and NASA used to ship the Space Shuttle’s external tank from New Orleans to Florida. “Large ships are used to accommodate oversized hardware,” Dennis Jenkins, an aerospace engineer at the California Science Center who used to work on the Space Shuttle, tells The Verge. “Most large rockets throughout history have been shipped at least partially by sea.”

However, moving by boat is time-consuming and somewhat costly, especially when traveling to Brazil via the Panama Canal. “That, of course, is one of the problems with ships — they’re very slow,” says Jenkins. Having a launch site closer to where a rocket is built does make things more efficient. Recently, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted that the company’s next-generation rocket, the Starship, would be built in Texas and Florida, next door to two of SpaceX’s launch sites. Plus, locations like Texas and Florida are still quite far south, so the performance benefit of moving even farther south isn’t going to be as consequential for US companies, as it would be for Russia or European nations.

Then there’s the cost of outfitting Alcântara to meet a launch provider’s needs. For larger rockets, companies will have to add concrete pads, towers, and fuel storage tanks to the surrounding area to support flights of their vehicles. Creating all of that in the Brazilian jungle, where there is minimal infrastructure in place already, will require a lot of work and investment. Plus, all of this would be in service to booking more missions to geostationary orbit, which is a type of flight that has seen a recent downturn in the market.

A Vector rocket, which stands about 40 feet tall.
 Photo: Vector

SpaceX already told Reuters that it was not interested in building at Alcântara and declined to comment to The Verge. Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which oversee the United Launch Alliance, confirmed they had looked at the site but haven’t made any major plans to invest there yet. “While we have made no concrete plans at this time, the potential for a new launch site is an encouraging development given the global interest in fast and efficient launch opportunities,” a representative for Lockheed Martin said in a statement to The Verge. Boeing declined to comment.

Ultimately, Alcântara may be a better investment for rocket companies that don’t look like SpaceX or ULA, ones that are chasing another market entirely. Companies like Vector are only capable of launching smaller satellites to low Earth orbit, and these types of probes are incapable of changing their directions significantly in space. So if a small satellite operator wants to go into a lower orbit over the equator, they basically have to launch at the equator. “Virtually nobody is launching any rockets to low Earth orbit equatorial orbits,” says Cantrell. “Virtually nobody.” Vector hopes to be one of the first companies to offer that option, claiming that around 10 customers have asked for it.

An extra boost in speed for a small launcher like Vector means much more than for SpaceX or the ULA. It could be the difference between launching 200 pounds and 300 pounds, opening up the company to different types of missions. Plus, the infrastructure and transportation costs for Vector’s smaller rockets are less of an inconvenience. “All we really need there is a concrete pad like we built already in Alaska, and we need permission to launch,” Cantrell says, adding that the company’s rocket can fit inside of an airplane.

Alcântara is nowhere close to being open for the US rocket business yet. The US signed what is known as a technology safeguards agreement with the company, which is the same kind of agreement Bush signed back in 2000. The deal needs to be approved by the Brazilian Congress, and if that happens, there are still a lot of regulatory hurdles to go through. But if it is allowed someday, the site seems much more suited for smaller rockets than bigger ones.

[“source=theverge”]

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has spearheaded moves to loosen campaign finance laws in India, generating criticism that businesses—and foreigners—could potentially wield unprecedented influence over the election starting next month.

The new rules let corporations, including those partly owned by foreign entities, fund elections anonymously. They also permit businesses to bankroll political parties through opaque instruments called electoral bonds and enable shell companies to be conduits for election funding.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes, which Modi’s party has said were designed to at least partially account for undocumented cash long used during India’s elections, may actually make it easier—and legal—for anonymous donors to support political parties. Spending on the election ending May 23 is set to rise 40 percent to 500 billion rupees ($7 billion), according to the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

“It won’t be an exaggeration to say our elections will never be the same again,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, the group’s chairman, who has advised previous Indian governments. “What is this if not the auctioning of our democracy to the highest-paying corporation?”

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising a business-friendly administration that would transform India’s image on the world stage. He remains the favorite for many investors, despite more recently introducing populist policies to boost support in rural India and tightening rules against corporate defaulters.

The biggest innovation in India’s campaign finance laws is the anonymous electoral bond. Despite the name, they bear little resemblance to the promissory notes investors are familiar with: Buyers aren’t paid any interest.

Anyone can buy an electoral bond at the government-owned State Bank of India in denominations ranging from 1,000 rupees to 10 million rupees ($14 to $140,000). Afterward they are delivered to a political party, which can exchange them for cash. They don’t carry the name of the donor and are exempt from tax.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

“Electoral bonds have made political parties completely beholden to unaccounted money, which could even be foreign money or money from dubious sources,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, the former head of India’s top business school and the founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms, a group that researches elections. “Corporate agendas can run the show.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who first announced plans for the electoral bonds in 2017, argued last year that they actually help improve transparency because they are banking instruments and every political party has to disclose how much it received. If full transparency is required, donors would go back to cash, he wrote in a January 2018 Facebook post.

For those in India worried about anonymous money in politics, the process for changing the laws has offered little reassurance that the new measures are an improvement.

System Overhaul

India’s campaign finance overhaul began in 2017, when parliament approved an amendment that made it easier for companies to donate to campaigns, including removing a cap on corporate donations (the maximum used to be 7.5 percent of a company’s average net profits over three years). Now new firms can also donate to political parties, opening the door for shell companies to be set up expressly for the purpose.

Also eliminated were requirements for companies to disclose how much they donated and to which party.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes were introduced in parliament via a money bill, a measure that only needs to be passed by the lower house controlled by Modi’s ruling coalition and not the opposition-led upper house.

A similar tactic was used to pass with little debate rules that changed the definition of a foreign company. Previously, all subsidiaries of international entities were treated as overseas donors and not allowed to make political contributions. Now if a foreign firm has a stake of less than 50 percent in a company operating in India, that unit can fund Indian elections.

While several lawmakers protested the moves, analysts said the amendments will benefit both Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the main opposition Congress party.

“Nobody from the opposition spoke up,” Rao said. “Maybe everybody realizes they stand to gain if they come to power?”

In 2014, the Delhi High Court found both major parties guilty of violating foreign-exchange laws when they accepted a donation from London-based commodities giant Vedanta Resources Plc.

(The suit, filed by a former top bureaucrat and the Association for Democratic Reforms, was against the political entities and Vedanta wasn’t a party. The company didn’t respond to request for comment. The BJP and Congress argued the donations weren’t foreign because the Vedanta units that channelled the money were registered under Indian law.)

The law passed last year changed the definition of a foreign company all the way back to 1976, effectively nullifying the court’s verdict because Vedanta’s overseas parent owned less than 50 percent of the Indian unit.

The government has defended the revisions, saying they were intended to align the definition of “foreign source” with the nation’s foreign direct investment policies, and other laws bar political funding from abroad. GVL Narasimha Rao and Nalin Kohli, representatives of Modi’s BJP, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The latest official data show that Modi’s ruling party won the bulk of financing in the year ended March 2018, both through corporate donations and electoral bonds.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

In 2018, electoral bonds worth about 10.6 billion rupees ($150 million) were purchased, according to data obtained under India’s Right to Information Act by Factly, a data journalism portal in India. About 90 percent were of the highest denomination available, which is out of reach for the average citizen.

India’s rules governing political contributions are looser than other major democracies. In the U.K., companies aren’t directly allowed to make donations to political parties. The U.S. allows unlimited funding through political action committees called super PACs on federal election campaigns, but requires them to disclose the names of donors. Milan Vaishnav, Washington-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who’s edited a book on Indian political funding, said he hasn’t seen an instrument like electoral bonds in any other country.

“In most advanced democracies, transparency is a core principle,” Vaishnav said. “Few advanced democracies legitimize opacity in the way India has done.”

[“source=bloombergquint”]