New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor says it is "frustrating" when crucial bills that shape the country's education policy are not taken up in parliament.
Still, he said, the ministry has not "lost hope" of getting some of the bills passed in the second half of the budget session April 22-May 10. The first leg of the session ended March 22.
"We are very concerned and frustrated," Tharoor told IANS in an interview.
"The education sector is getting affected, but the delay in legislative process and non-functioning of parliament are a major concern," Tharoor added.
According to a senior ministry official, more than 20 education bills are pending for approval. However, for the budget session, only four were listed for consideration and passing, while three bills were listed for introduction.
The bills for consideration and passing include one on forming the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority (NARA), which will make it mandatory for educational institutions to get accreditation.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2010, but is yet to be passed.
The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and University Bill was also introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2010 and continues to be pending for approval. This bill specifies guidelines under which unfair practices such as charging capitation fees, demanding donations, questionable admission processes, etc., could be treated as civil or criminal offences.
The Educational Tribunals Bill, which was also introduced in 2010, is to establish central and state level tribunals for effective and expeditious adjudication of disputes arising in higher education.
A fourth bill, the Architects (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which empowers the central government to establish a Council of Architecture, is also listed for this session.
Tharoor said the ministry is now making efforts to get the bills through in the second half of the session.
"We are trying to get the business done when parliament meets after the recess. The minister (M. M. Pallam Raju) has also talked to parliamentary affairs minister and opposition leaders on this," Tharoor said.
"Let us see what we can do for the second half of the session," he said.
The second leg of the budget session will have 13 working days. Thereafter, there will be in the region of 20 working days in the monsoon (July-August) and winter (November-December) sessions. Next year's budget session will be truncated as the government can only move a vote on account in view of the Lok Sabha elections that are due by May 2014. This means that the government has a little over 50 days to secure passage of the bills introduced in the Lok Sabha as they will otherwise lapse with the dissolution of the house.
Significantly, some major education bills, including one on establishing foreign universities, have not been listed for the present session.
The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, which was introduced in 2010, is meant to regulate the entry and operation of foreign educational institutions in the country.
Another important bill not listed is the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011.
It seeks to establish a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), a general council and a collegium of scholars replacing the Universities Grant Commission, the All India Council for Technical Education and the National Council for Teacher Education.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)