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China doesn’t reveal if it offered loans to Pakistan

In the light of Pakistan’s need in future as per the mutual agreement, we will continue to help economically and in other sectors.

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Imran Khan XI JINPING

Beijing, Nov 7 : China on Wednesday didn’t reveal if it offered any financial aid to Pakistan after its Prime Minister Imran Khan wrapped up his visit, meant to seek fresh Chinese loans to tide over the country’s economic crisis.

A day after Khan’s four-day China visit ended, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar said that Beijing has offered $6 billion loans Islamabad to resolve country’s economic crisis.

“We had told you about the $12 billion financing gap, of which $6 billion have come from Saudi Arabia, and the rest has come from China. So the immediate balance of payments crisis of Pakistan has ended. I want to make that clear in unequivocal terms that we do not have any balance of payments crisis now,” said Umar, who accompanied Khan to China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not give a clear answer when asked about it.

“Pakistan is China’s all-weather partners. We enjoy a very good relationship. A relationship that has been operating at a high level and we have been offering our assistance to Pakistan in the best of our capacity.” Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

“In the light of Pakistan’s need in future as per the mutual agreement, we will continue to help economically and in other sectors,” Hua added.

During Khan’s visit, China said it would do its best to help its ally Pakistan “tide over” financial difficulties.

Pakistan’s is in a deep economic mess with ever increasing foreign debt. Khan had made the visit to seek fresh Chinese loans after he secured $6 billion from Saudi Arabia.

Hua said that China was satisfied with Khan’s visit during which the two countries agreed to deepen their ties and to complete the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with a stronger commitment.

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India’s higher education system needs drastic changes to address tech-induced challenges

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

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As the world stands on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by a wide range of new technology breakthroughs such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), advanced robotics, Internet of Things IoT), Cloud computing and 3D printing, major changes are expected in the labour market globally.

There will be reduced demand for middle-skilled workers doing repetitive tasks and increased demand for more highly-skilled workers — and also low-skilled workers doing non-routine work. While many developed countries, such as the US and Japan, as also several European economies, are already experiencing this polarisation, the labour market is also hollowing out in many developing countries, although at a rate slower than the developed world.

In the case of India, this polarisation can be seen in the organised manufacturing sector, where the share of high-skilled occupations in total manufacturing employment increased by more than three percentage points, while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased by 6.3 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2011-12. Looking at the impact of technological progress on various manufacturing industries, the capital-intensive industries, such as automobile manufacturers, have a greater probability of adopting advanced automation and robotic technologies, compared to labour-intensive manufacturing industries such as textile, apparel, leather and footwear, and paper manufacturers.

Further, in the services sector, particularly in the IT sector, e-commerce, banking and financial services and health care services, there is a huge potential for automation technologies, which would increase the demand for skilled workers and reduce the demand for middle-skilled workers.

However, in India, over 80 per cent of the working population is engaged in low-skilled jobs in the unorganised sector. These low-skilled workers aspire to join the middle-skilled workforce in the organised sector to raise themselves from poverty. However, the changing nature of work due to technology advancements in the organised sector prevents their upward labour mobility and any improvement in their incomes.

Addressing these challenges requires reforms in India’s higher education system. The institutes of higher learning should shun dated teaching methodologies and redesign the course curriculum by understanding key market transitions amidst the technological advancements. This would enable the country to create a workforce which could be placed in the positions demanded by the companies in the digital era and thus bridge the skill gap in the labour market.

However, looking at the current state of higher education in India, one can see that it is not just the quality of the system which needs to be improved. There is also much to be done in terms of the number of students enrolled in the institutes of higher learning. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in tertiary education in India is 26.9 per cent, which is lower than that of China (48.4 per cent), Indonesia (27.9 per cent) and the Philippines (35.3 per cent), among others.

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

There are also wide variations in the number of colleges for higher education across different states in India, with the lowest number of seven colleges in Bihar for every 0.1 million of eligible population to 51 in Telangana and Karnataka. The top eight states in terms of highest number of colleges are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, which have 28 or more colleges per 0.1 million of the population. The disparity in the distribution of the colleges is also seen across different districts in these states, with the top 50 districts having about 32.6 per cent of the colleges.

In addition to the inequalities existing in the access to institutions for higher education, another issue is that a majority of the students are enrolled in undergraduate level programmes, compared to the Masters and the Doctoral programmes. Moreover, at the undergraduate level, there is a low pass-out rate — out of 2,90,16,350 students enrolled at undergraduate level, only 6,419,639 passed-out in 2017.

It is imperative for the country to address these issues given that the Indian system of higher education faces multiple challenges of low gross enrollment in its colleges and universities, with predominance of students settling on undergraduate studies, along with various socio-economic inequalities existing in access to higher learning. Further, emphasis must be placed on increasing the number of students who pass out of the colleges/universities, along with increasing enrollment numbers.

The technology-induced skill gap which the Indian economy is facing across different sectors is bound to widen with the current higher education system. Change has to be brought from outside the existing constructs. Improvement in the teaching methodology from the traditional lecture courses, accreditation of online courses, along with redesigning the course curriculum to be more industry relevant are some of the ways the technology-led changes in the labour market can be dealt with.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Deepti Mathur, senior researcher at large, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

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What’s fishy at Nehru Memorial? A timeline of its making and unmaking

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Jawaharlal Nehru, widely regarded as the architect of modern India, had deep affection and regard for literature and scholarship. The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) here bears this out, but has been the subject of much controversy during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led dispensation. Critics say that the government is “diluting” Nehrus legacy by changing the character of his memorial whereas the government has maintained that it is only “upgrading” it.

The NMML is housed in Teen Murti Bhavan, located south of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and was designed by Robert Tor Russell. It was built in 1929-30 as part of Edwin Lutyens’ imperial capital and was initially the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief in India. In August 1948, after the departure of the last British Commander-in-Chief, Teen Murti Bhavan became the official residence of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

It remained Nehru’s residence for 16 years until his death in May 1964; and barely six months after his demise, S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India, formally inaugurated the Nehru Memorial Museum in November 1964. Despite several additions and changes on the official website of NMML in recent months, it still acknowledges that the Government of India decided that the Teen Murti House should be dedicated to him (Nehru) and house a museum and a library.

An exclusive library building was constructed a decade later to make it a place of pilgrimage for the Indian masses on the one hand and a premier research centre for intellectual activity on the other. It was inaugurated by V.V. Giri, then President of India, in January 1974. The steady increase in the volume of research material further necessitated the construction of an annexe, which was completed in 1989. The Centre for Contemporary Studies was set up as a new unit of NMML in this building in 1990.

Over the next two decades, the NMML fast emerged as a premier institution of research on Indian history but never before had it faced an unrest comparable to what emerged after the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP at the Centre in 2014.

The turmoil began as early as September 2015 when Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said that the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as the director of NMML during the Manmohan Singh led-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was “unethical and illegal”; this was followed by the latter’s resignation.

Founded as an autonomous institution, the General Council, President and the Vice-President of the NMML are nominated by the central government.

The NMML remained headless for almost a year but saw another controversy when a new director was appointed. Shakti Sinha, who was a private secretary to Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he headed the first BJP-led government at the Centre, was appointed as the new director of NMML in August 2016. Within days, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a member of the executive committee (EC), resigned from his post citing that rules were tweaked to appoint Sinha as the director.

Ironically, the advertisement (in picture) for the post of the director said that the Executive Council of NMML is the “Appointing Authority”, but Mehta alleged that, according to the rules, only a scholar or writer could occupy the top post of NMML whereas the government tweaked it to allow an administrator (Sinha) to apply for it. Mehta maintains that the advertisement was never approved by the Executive Council.

Nonetheless, Sinha’s appointment was the opening of the pandora’s box as controversies continue to surface at India’s premier research institution. On a new section recently added on its website, NMML says that it “reflects the democratic system of India” and “has been tasked by the Government of India to set up a New Museum on Prime Ministers of India”.

Also Read : Denigrating Nehru is like throwing pebbles at a mountain: Shashi Tharoor

This faced intense criticism from Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, in a letter, urged his successor Narendra Modi to “leave the Teen Murti Complex undisturbed as it is” and reminding him that it is “a memorial to our first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. This way we will be respecting both history and heritage”. The Opposition suspected that a plan was underway to change NMML into a Museum of all Prime Ministers of India.

In this context, Sinha, speaking earlier to IANS, said that the motive was to upgrade the NMML. “Even though NMML is not only limited to Nehru in its current form, the upgrade will see a greater representation of all former PMs, including Manmohan Singh,” Sinha had said.

The government said that it was not changing NMML but merely building another museum inside the premises of the Teen Murti estate. Critics hit back saying that the proposed museum could be built anywhere else in the capital, but building it inside the premises of Teen Murti Bhavan would be changing the existing character of NMML.

The government, it turned out, was bent on its purpose. But where is the space for a new museum in Teen Murti estate? Are you going to cut down the trees?

In a surprise move, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, chaired by Sonia Gandhi and housed in the Teen Murti estate, was asked by Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in September to vacate the premises on grounds of “unauthorised occupation”. The letter said that NMML is in “dire need of space” and alleged that the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is occupying the premises “without any authority of law”.

Responding to the notice, N. Balakrishnan, Administrative Secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, refuted its premise and asked that it be withdrawn. The five-page response noted that the premises has been in its occupation since 1967, and has “remained unchallenged and never questioned and has been cemented”.

Even as there was (and is) no clarity over where the proposed museum would be built, the foundation stone for the “Museum of Prime Ministers” was laid on Oct 15 by Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Water access and sanitation shape birth outcomes and earning potential

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Kolkata, Nov 12 (IANS/Mongbay) Spending more time per day fetching water increased Indian women’s risk of delivering a low birth-weight baby, a study has said.

The study, by the University of Iowa College of Public Health and published online in October, highlights the relationship between adverse birth outcomes and sanitation access, domestic water-fetching, crime and gender-based harassment.

Among women without a household water source, two hours was the median time they trekked to collect water, the study reported. It suggests physical and psychosocial stress are possible mechanisms by which water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access affects pre-term births (PTB) and low birth-weight (LBW) among Indian women.

“What we think is most likely is that carrying heavy loads of water requires a lot of calories, and that many women aren’t consuming enough healthy food during pregnancy to sustain the micronutrient needs to grow a healthy baby,” said study co-author Kelly Baker, an assistant professor of occupational and environmental health.

Pregnant women need to consume 300 extra calories per day of nutritious food to give the foetus adequate nutrition. “Recent studies have linked maternal malnutrition to low infant birth weight, and our study is suggesting a mechanism for why pregnant women may be malnourished,” Baker told Mongabay-India.

United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal target 6.1 calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water. In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation.

The State of the World’s Water Report 2018 reveals that in India, nearly 163.1 million people lack access to clean water close to home, despite the country being among world’s most-improved nations for reaching the most people with clean water.

India is reeling under problems of falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, pollution and poor water resource management – challenges that will intensify as climate change contributes to more extreme weather shocks, the report said.

At the same time, India also faces a daunting task to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of bringing neonatal mortality from the current level of 25 to 12 per 1,000 live births and under five mortality rate from 43 to 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The present study contributes to the limited evidence related to environmental causes of PTB and LBW by demonstrating that lack of household WASH infrastructure and social factors, like crime and harassment of women and girls, are risk factors for adverse birth outcomes in women in low- and middle-income countries, the researchers write.

The researchers culled data from the India Human Development Survey. The survey asked women about their drinking water source, walking time to that source, time spent fetching water, sanitation (toilet) access, harassment of women and girls and local crime among other queries.

They examined the effect of pre-birth WASH and social conditions on self-reported PTB status and LBW status for 7,926 women who gave birth between 2004 to 2005 and 2011 to 2012. Of these women, 14.9 percent experienced premature birth and 15.5 percent delivered a low birth weight baby.

Baker goes on to say that one of the most important limitations in their study was reliance upon self-reported behaviours, experiences, and birth outcomes, which may have been prone to response bias. Also, the amount of information collected about WASH and social capital was limited.

Gendered roles of water usage

In November, India restructured its National Rural Drinking Water Programme with a goal to reach 90 percent of rural households with piped water by 2022. As per government data, only 56.3 percent of the rural population has piped water supply.

In India, a ground-water dependent nation, drinking water security of nearly a billion Indians is at potential risk on account of the county’s groundwater crisis. At least 85 percent of the rural population relies on groundwater for their daily drinking water needs and nearly 50 percent of the urban share of water supply is groundwater-based.

Western Sydney University’s Basant Maheshwari who works on sustainable groundwater use and management observed women also make substantial use of groundwater for productive purposes. In most developing countries, like India, the trend is that women are responsible for household water collection and water use and management, including promoting hygiene within the household and community.

On the other hand, men are perceived to be responsible for productive water use and management such as the running of farms or small businesses even though women are very much involved in productive water use as well.

Despite women’s significant role in water use and household management, their needs and uses of water are not often represented in water resource management policies or projects, according to a 2017 study co-authored by Maheshwari which looked at the gendered roles and responsibilities of water usage and collection in two watersheds of rural India.

Analysis of surveys across Meghraj watershed in Gujarat’s Aravalli district and the Dharta watershed in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district revealed that enhanced access to reliable and proximate water supply reduces the time spent by women in collecting water and the proportion of hard labour performed by them.

In addition, freed time may be spent on other income generating activities. Women interviewed indicated improved water access translated as diversified livelihood activities that increase their income earning potential and help strengthen their bargaining position.

The results confirm that a large number of women continue to travel many times a day to collect water for various uses. Women travelled an average of three times in a day for 50-77 minutes per trip to collect drinking water, depending on the season.

The responsibility of collecting water for drinking, domestic and livestock use also means girls are late to school or end up missing school altogether.

Further, the outcome highlighted the need for planners and policy decision makers to recognise the diverse roles that women play in groundwater use and management.

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed are those of Mongabay.com. Feedback: [email protected])

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