NEW DELHI: Having successfully
completed the negotiations on the ‘123 Agreement’ with Washington,
the prime minister has decided to make agriculture, education and power priority
sectors for this year.
Concerned over the recent trend of many
meritorious students failing to get admission in colleges and faced with a
demand for more skilled youth to tap the potential of the employment market, the
prime minister has called a meeting of the full Planning Commission on August 6
to discuss ways to overhaul the higher and vocational education sectors by
pumping in more investment and by modernising infrastructure.
Forming the basis for the discussion will be a committee report,
commissioned by the PMO, which has recommended a Rs 27,000 crore additional
outlay in the Eleventh Plan to achieve these goals. The prime minister will also
call a meeting of the chief ministers to frame the action-plan for implementing
this new education mission across the country.
The prime minister has
also decided to kick-start his visits to various states to take stock of the
implementation of the recent action plan for rejuvenating crisis-torn
agriculture sector, framed by the Centre and chief ministers at a special
conference here. Mr Manmohan Singh’s first visit will be to Hyderabad on
July 31 for a meeting with the Andhra Pradesh chief minister and his cabinet
A high-level central team comprising finance minister P
Chidambaram, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, planning commission deputy
chairman Montek Singh Ahluwallia and as many as 10 secretaries of various
central departments will accompany Mr Singh in his meeting with the top brass of
the Y S Rajashekhara Reddy government.
PMO sources said the decision
to overhaul the higher and vocational education sectors got underway after the
top echelons spotted a disturbing trend of students, even after scoring more
than 90% marks, failing to get seats in colleges for higher education. Adding to
the thrust was the demand by the bodies like CII and FICCI for more skilled
labourers to tap the growing job opportunities in industry, trade and commerce
Looking for a long-term action-plan to address these
challenges, the prime minister constituted a committee — the skilled
development mission — with a mandate to propose credible remedial
measures. Sources said this committee submitted its report to the prime minister
on July 18, with wide-rage recommendations to reinforce the higher and
vocational education sectors.
While calling for a huge financial
investment in these sectors to the tune of Rs 27,000 crore during the Eleventh
Plan, the committee, among other things, has recommended setting up of as many
as 30 new central universities across the country during the next five years,
which sees a major increase both in terms of new colleges and more seats for
The committee has also recommended constitution of a
National Skill Development Authority to oversee the expansion and modernisation
of the vocational education sector where more ITIs and polytechnics, among other
things, will be set up.