The first challenge for the new government in Uttar Pradesh
will be the board examinations for class 10th and 12th that begins this week. Scandals around exams
is endemic for the labour surplus states of the Hindi
heartland but it has become even more so in this state with a business turnover estimated at Rs 5,000 crore. Given its potential to embarrass the state administration big time even before the new BJP chief minister has been selected, all district magistrates have been asked to ensure there is no repetition of last year when 57 students and 14 teachers were booked for cheating in some schools of Mathura district that made headlines across the nation.
More, there were graphic visuals of people including parents scaling walls to pass on notes to students inside the centres. The challenge is huge for the new state government to block those as the stakes are high. Uttar Pradesh
accounts for most of India’s demographic bulge. Unlike the states on India’s western seaboard, the state’s strength should be its labour pool. But lack of jobs within the state forces over 4 million of its total population or more than 2 per cent to migrate. Often to get those jobs they need to show some sort of educational qualification. Hence the rush to beat the system where every means including impersonation, mass copying and bribes to teachers become acceptable.
The rush within the education
department to nip it after so many years has become palpable as Prime Minister Narendra Modi too acknowledged this problem at one his election speeches, in Balia. The town has acquired notoriety as the cheating capital with students from even neighbouring states making it their preferred centre to write examinations. Former state principal secretary, SP Singh who leads a campaign to stop copying in exams
in the state, estimates the size of the business at about Rs 5,000 crore. Incidentally, outgoing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had dismissed the scale of the problem, at a rally the day after Modi spoke.
Instead of bijli, sadak and pani (power, roads and water supply), making available jobs within the state and that too without mass cheating at public examinations could be the biggest challenge for the new BJP government.
The lack of jobs force the ablest within the labour population to flee the state; those who stay back claw at the few opportunities, available.
Of the 144 Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) in the state most are in bad shape. Only two of them in Meerut and in Varanasi qualify for upgradation as model institutions. Even these numbers are few when one compares with the 250 odd for Maharashtra or 76 in Punjab which has a seventh of its population.
It is not surprising that just before the model code of conduct kicked in, Modi laid the foundation stone for the first of its kind, Indian Institute of Skills in Kanpur on December 19, last year. The model for the institute is Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education.
Minister for skill development and entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy plans to launch five more such institutes across the country but its obvious why Uttar Pradesh
and particularly Kanpur has got the first stab at it. Around the office of the district magistrate in the city, there are dense alleyways, narrower than the lanes of Varanasi, packed only with lawyers. One enumeration had put their number at close to an astonishing 18,000, many of them with fake degrees as a nationwide survey by the Bar Council of India is throwing up. On display at the same event inaugurated by the prime minister was Kaushal Pradarshini(Skill Exhibition) for the youth including even Drivers’ Training Institutes. The government hopes taxi aggregators will pick up these trainees in large numbers creating an employment stream of approximately 4 lakh over the next 3 years.
Attempting to stop cheating in exams
by putting in a law was one of the reasons an earlier BJP government
lost the elections in 1992. The Samajwadi party government of Mulayam Singh Yadav that came in promptly undid the ‘damage. No wonder, strict rules for frisking of students for the board exams
has gone out from Lucknow including a three layered system of checks. Even local shopkeepers have got drafted in as spies according to some news reports, instructed to send tips to flying squads.
The stakes are much more than the theft of electricity that also bugs the state. A revealing study by Crisil made in January this year shows aggregate commercial and technical losses for Uttar Pradesh
electricity is still above 32 per cent. Under the central government’s Uday scheme it is supposed to come down to 19 per cent by the end of March 2019. That means asking the state’s power distribution companies to move into the rural areas to enforce discipline. Making available power became an acrimonious debating point for the state legislature that is likely to rankle. A recent study by Geneva based, International Institute of Sustainable Development in neighbouring Rajasthan shows tremendous public antipathy to raising of tariffs, in urban and rural areas. If the state government could cut these losses, it might be spared the need to raise tariff again.
The one sweet spot for the state is the scale of projected investment in its roads. There are 60 national highways with total length of 8,483 Kms, out of which 4,529 Kms are with NHAI and 3,143 Kms with State government. The total projected investment by the two governments on roads is projected at Rs. 74,794 crore for the next two years. Despite those impressive numbers, turning the state’s surplus labour into productive capital is what Uttar Pradesh
would need the most, going ahead.