Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Medical students going to USA have to promise to return

In one of the most inexplicable moves ever made by the Union Health Minister, Indians who want to go to USA for higher medical studies will have to sign a bond with the Ministry of Health and honour the document by returning home after finishing their courses. 

USA has, for reasons that I don't know of right now, made it mandatory for students to get a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the Government to enroll in an American Institute. I'll update the blog when I find out the reason. 

Government says that if the students don't come back then they will write to the American government and bar that person from getting a license to practice there. Also it is not clear for how many years the government wants to students to stay in India after they force them back post studies. This apparently is going to stop Brain Drain. 

First of all I don't believe that brain drain is a problem. India has become such a power to reckon with because of the impression that Indians have created and the work Indians have done in foreign countries. It is how we have created out soft power. Also, Indians send a lot of money home. It's almost enviable. There are so many villages in India which have developed only because of the money their erstwhile residents have sent from their foreign locations. 

AIIMS has come out with a stat that is costs around 1.7 crore to produce a single MBBS student. It includes all the expenses and subsidies that the government spends on them. So this move is to apparently get all that money back through taxes. 

India has one doctor for every 1700 citizens. This ratio is very low compared to a lot of other countries. A recent Planning Commission report said that India is short of 6 lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and 2 lakh dental surgeons. I agree that India needs medical professionals but that does not mean you put reins on anyone and everyone you can get your hands on. 

If its just a matter of getting back subsidies so that they can be used to benefit others, then I have a solution to it. Remove the subsidies. Make everyone pay full amount. If the student works in a government hospital (urban or rural) for 10 years, then reimburse the fees. Although the government will have to improve the accountability system in government hospitals for this to be meaningful. 

A relatively easier solution is to allow and incentivise private universities to come up. Stop holding on to the 'noble profession' tag. Private individuals will not be ready to invest if there is no profit motive. If the government can't do its work properly then it should atleast let the private sector give it a try. Checking the quality of teaching in private institutions will be a cause of worry but then government colleges are not in very good shape themselves. 

The government declared the National Rural Health Mission without thinking about where they will get the manpower from and now they are looking for slaves. Disgusting. 

Dear Government,
You are not supposed to control. You are supposed to regulate. Stop coming up with random schemes and messing with development which is going on inspite of you rather than because of you. 
Frustrated Student

Update: Read - Swaminomics: The Fundamental Right to Migrate 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Right to Education: Reservation in Private Unaided Schools

The Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009 is being portrayed as a landmark legislation in the history of the country. I had the privilege of interning with the Principal Secretary of Education for Gujarat. It was around this time that the office was working on Rules to implement RTE in Gujarat. I got the chance to read those Rules before they were actually published for the whole world to see. 

I dislike quite a few things about the RTE Act. Although one such stipulations takes the cake. It is according to me, the most damaging provision in the Act. 

From June 2012, every primary school in Gujarat will have to compulsorily admit 25% students who are from “economically and socially backward” strata of the society. By every primary school, they actually mean ALL of them. Yes, even the private schools which don't take any grant from the government. This will, according to the government, integrate poor students into the main stream. Nobel thought but bad implementation.

The Government will pay fees for these 25% kids. The schools will be reimbursed by the government to the extent of the expenditure incurred by a child in the government school. It means, if the government's per student expenditure per year is Rs 5000/- but the private schools fee is Rs 20,000/- per year, the private school will be paid only Rs 5000/- by the government. Consequently, private schools will recover the difference amount from the remaining 75% of the students! 

Consequently, everyone will try to widen the definition of "economically and socially backward" strata just to abuse the economic benefits attached to it. For, the policy that is “pro-poor” will, like all policies which are “pro-” something; increases that something.

Also, due to the shortage of quality schools in the country, a lot of corporate are opening up schools by themselves. They want to enter into the education sector for the long run. It is both, a service to the society and a money spinner. But with reservations being brought in like this, corporate will be discouraged to enter. Considering India’s need for schools, the government will in no way be able to start and manage the requisite number. Government needs private schools to flourish. In the Education sector, like in any other sector, setting the market free is the key to development.

Instead of trying to bridge the economic divide, government should try and reduce the hurdles which come in the way of setting up new schools. Reduction in red tape, loans and encouragement are the only things required. Government does not need to manage the education sector. It just needs to regulate it.

Education is one sector that was left behind in the 1991 reforms. We have delayed it long enough. The time; is now.

P.S. - For all Acts, Rules, Amendments, Bills, Notifications and Guidelines on the RTE, check this 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How Mediation can benefit the Business Community

Businesses cannot always avoid disputes. They are bound to occur. The Chinese character for conflict ‘冲突’ means both "danger" and "opportunity". There are a lot of ways in which these disputes can be resolved. Litigation is the one that most businesses choose. It is not because it is the most effective, which it is not. It is because that’s the one everyone knows about. Only a few people know about how effective Mediation can be in solving disputes. When a dispute becomes a lawsuit, the parties become adversaries and relationships are destroyed. Mediation helps to preserve ongoing relationships.

Mediation is based on the premise and on the value system which says that parties to a dispute are the ones most capable of resolving that dispute, and that the parties themselves should play the central role in any efforts to work through their own conflicts.

Business Community has a lot to deal with already. Lengthy procedures and wastage of time on petty disputes take away focus from the main objective of the business. Mediation is less disruptive to the business. It requires less preparation time and so less time away from the business than when litigating in court. Time saved from non-business activities creates more time to further the business objectives.

The advantages to the business community in using Mediation as a dispute resolution method are:

  • The first and the most important is definitely the fact that the parties can control the process of dispute resolution. They can make ground rules. This gives them the flexibility to work more comfortably in solving the dispute.
  • Mediation lets the parties control the outcome of the dispute. If you go to court or arbitration, you are leaving the decision to a judge or an arbitrator. The result might be the right decision in law but may not be the best one for your business.
  • Cost of mediation is quite low compared to that of litigation. Lawyers are not compulsorily required and there are no compulsory rules of procedure which have to be complied with by the parties to the dispute. It is a major factor when one or both the parties are relatively cash strapped.
  • Mediating a dispute will allow the parties to deal with real issues. So instead of legal issues, more personal issues can be discussed.
  • It also allows parties to discuss technical issues at length. It might not be possible in a court room considering the shortage of time and lack of expertise of a judge.
  • A business needs to be fast and efficient. A dispute resolution which is also fast and efficient should be chosen. Mediation takes lesser time than litigation and has an higher chance of being successful.
  • One of the major factors that businessmen worry about is confidential information being discussed in open court. Mediation takes care of these confidentiality issues. It’s a private process where only a few members of both sides find out about things. Anything discussed in mediation cannot be used outside because all parties sign a non disclosure agreement. Thus, confidentiality is ensured.
  • Mediation sees to it that relationships are not affected in trying to solve disputes. It is very important for businessmen to see to it that they are on good terms with everyone. No one would like their business to suffer because of some past dispute. Disputes are short lived, businesses go on forever.
  • Parties don’t need to just solve their dispute. They also need to plan for the future. Mediation can sometimes build relationships which can turn out to be fruitful for the future. This is because, during mediation, the discussions are not restricted to just the present but also include the future.

These are just some of the benefits. The list is not exhaustive. Actual benefits may be more and are subjective. The benefit of Mediation over negotiation is that in negotiation, only both the parties are present and there is no one to moderate the discussion. This sometimes leads to acts like shouting, name calling and threatening which jeopardise the dispute resolution.

Mediation process generally has a third party mediator who is not inclined to support any of the parties. His main objective is to see to it that the dispute is resolved in the best way possible. The mediator does not obey to any of the parties, and is a third party, looking at the contraposition from an objective point of view.

Mediation works wonderfully well in real business problems. For example, it can help solve consumer disputes. If the company feels that the consumer’s problem is genuine then they can solve the dispute then and there.

Mediation can also be used to solve contract disputes, service matters and even labour problems. The fact that Mediation can be used in so many different spheres and that too with such high efficiency is amazing. Creative ways of resolving conflict by owners and managers can add to the bottom line of any business whether large or small. Disputes, however small and unimportant, distract and drain the businessman.

Mediation sees to it that all disputes are solved through a collaborative approach so that both the parties are happy and the relationship between them is not strained. Mediation is the first thing that should be tried when there is a dispute. If it fails, you can always go back to litigation and arbitration. The availability of a back up is also one of the big reasons why Mediation should be given a chance at all disputes.

The advantages for businesses in adopting mediation processes, either through outside contracts or internal programs, are multifaceted and immeasurable.

The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.”- Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

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