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Indicus Analytics, An Economics Research Firm

Policy News
Volume 2, Issue 3, March 2010


Government drafts Bill to replace UGC, AICTE with higher body

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced draft

legislation to create an overarching supervisory body for higher education.

It used to be said that if you cannot commit then form a committee to look into the
matter. Somehow, the Government is now increasingly announcing the setting up of
regulators and super regulators in areas where it has failed to reform. Higher
education is one such area. The proposed draft Bill is in some sense worse than what
the current regulatory apparatus is. It is moving towards more centralization rather
than less, more homogenization rather than organic development of public
universities, allowing for more political inference and hence less autonomy be it in
hiring, syllabi setting or appointments.
The proposed bill is quite in contradiction to the recommendations of the Yash Pal
Committee recommendations which had stressed that the key reform needed is
restoring the autonomy of universities and preventing politicisation of university
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It may be quite radical, but our view is that the current system is beyond repair and
band aid treatment is not likely to revamp the university system. Thus, it is important
that slowly a parallel system of private universities based on best principles of
autonomy, pedagogy, funding and research be established. Yes it will initially lead to
“cream-skimming” and the public universities may be left with the skim, but this may
finally force them to change or perish. Eventually, a State university system co-
existing and competing with a private university system will be possible. However,
many steps will have to be taken soon in this direction. One such is the passing of the
pending foreign university bill and the private university bill.


Genetic Engineering Panel to enforce Bt brinjal ban

The apex Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) decided the National
Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) should be asked to store all the Bt
brinjal seeds.
This may be a victory for a few environmental activist groups who will do anything to
achieve their objective. This also includes presenting unsubstantiated evidences,
twisting of facts and sometimes outright lying. It should not be the case where a jury
of public appointees decides such matters of national importance. It is a travesty that
environmental concerns that ignore scientific evidence can stifle a second Green
Revolution. Indian farmers have reaped the benefits of GM cottonseeds. GM foods
are not new: they have existed in North and South America for more than a decade.
Moreover, based on extensive study by agricultural research institutes, universities,
and expert panels, one of which had been appointed by the Supreme Court, our
government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has given the brinjal a clean
chit. Ironically, the GEC will be enforcing the ban. Yet, bowing to groups such groups
that are committed to opposing GM foods under all circumstances, minister Ramesh
has denied our farmers the benefit of the new variety.


Plan for coal regulator on track

The plan for establishing an independent regulator for the coal sector is seemingly on
track. The government is positive on appointing the regulator by March 15, 2010.

One more regulator but will mining rights be auctioned or Coal India privatized? If
you cannot reform, bring in the regulator mantra!

MNIK was a hype over nothing
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The film has been mired in controversies right from the day its trailers hit the screens.
Thanks to the Shiv Sena, MNIK got good publicity and also received good reviews.

Media an important democratic institution has failed us immensely in this case at

least. The media hype and the review for the movie were not quite in line with what
the movie had to offer. 5 star reviews etc., goes to show that media reporting may not
be objective. NDTV promoting this movie also had its own share of conflict of

CCI sends query to RBI on prepayment penalty

Competition watchdog CCI has asked RBI if it is planning to give banks any direction
on the practice of charging prepayment penalties on retail loan customers, ahead of its
much-anticipated verdict on the issue.

The CCI has done the right thing, when a banking regulator is in place they should be
given the first right to act. This will avoid jurisdiction conflicts and hence will also
send the right signals and avoid forum shopping.

Security issues to hold up portability

The government has said mobile number portability (MNP), which will allow users to
change operator while retaining the number, will be delayed further due to security

This is a bogey to delay a very important regulation, already it has been delayed by
three years for various reasons.

CERC draft proposes to streamline power pricing

To facilitate integration of electricity markets, enhance open access and competition,

the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has introduced a new

This “nodal” method of pricing brings price as close to the marginal cost of
transporting electricity. This will incentivize transmission investment as well as
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encourage merchant power plants. But a high cross-subsidy surcharge for open access
may still be a dampener.


Watchdog to regulate nano technology soon

Spurred in part by the debate over Bt brinjal, and in part by the controversy raised
abroad by certain products based on nanotechnology, the government is planning to
set up a regulatory board.

NBS Fertilizer Policy causes Cabinet tussle

The new Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy for Fertilizers has caused a tussle
between the Congress and its allies in the cabinet.

CCI may go for pre-merger talks to reduce deal approval time

Competition watchdog CCI has said it is looking at the possibility of introducing pre-
merger consultations with companies to reduce the time taken for mandatory
approvals to mergers and acquisitions.

Panel gives shape to body for monitoring government schemes

The Planning Commission will hold discussions with various government

departments ahead of giving a final shape to the proposed independent evaluation

OilMin for deregulating fuel prices

Unmindful of opposition within the ruling coalition, the petroleum ministry is pushing
for freeing of petrol and diesel prices from government control.

3G auction likely in next FY: telecom min
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India's delayed 3G mobile spectrum auction is likely to happen during the next
financial year beginning in April.

Draft national health Bill pushes debate on health reforms

A draft National Health Bill has helped kick-start the first serious discourse in India
on the way forward in providing universal health care.

Agriculture sector kept out of climate change cuts

India has informed the UN that it will undertake voluntary cuts of its emission
intensity by 20-25 % by 2020 but asserted that it will not be applicable to the
agriculture sector.

Government considers liberalizing merger and acquisition norms

India is looking to recast provisions relating to mergers and acquisitions (M&As) that
require ratification by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Government’s move to relax Copyright Act lacks vision

The government plans to amend a half-a-century old law to allow the conversion of
copyrighted books into the Braille format without any royalty and licence fees.

Government to move bill on foreign universities entry

The government will introduce a bill to allow the entry of foreign universities, a long-
awaited reform that would revamp the country's education system.

TSA's emergency levy is a case fit for Competition Commission, says WISA
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Western India Shippers’ Association (WISA) has reacted to the recent introduction of
Emergency Revenue Charge by the major shipping group TSA.