Panel raps UPA move to scrap council on distance learning

A parliamentary panel has criticised the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for scrapping the Distance Education Council (DEC) under the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou) and assigning its responsibility to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), saying it was “legally untenable”.

It favoured the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s proposal to bring a bill for setting up a distance education council of India (DECI), noting that there should be a single regulator for distance education, be it general or technical education.

During the UPA regime, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry abolished the DEC, which was functioning under the Ignou, and transferred its work under the UGC and AICTE by an executive order on December 29, 2012, without making necessary amendments in the IGNOU Act, 1985.  

“A faux pas was made by the HRD Ministry by hurriedly repealing the DEC and transferring its work to the UGC by an executive order and the Ignou did not put any kind of formal resistance to this,” the parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation said in its report, tabled in Parliament recently.

In its reply to the committee’s question in February on why a new legislation was not brought to separate the DEC from Ignou, the HRD ministry said it was considered inappropriate at that point as a bill seeking to set up a overarching body on higher education was pending before Parliament.

“A Draft cabinet note and draft bill for setting up the DECI have been prepared. The file is under submission of the Human Resource Development Minister. Upon the approval of the same by the minister, further necessary action, including seeking approval of Cabinet, will be taken,” the ministry told the parliamentary panel on September 23.

Though the committee appreciated the proposal to bring a bill for DECI, it took note of “apparent reluctance” of the HRD Ministry to bring the new legislation. The panel asked the ministry to expedite the process and bring the bill in Parliament “at the earliest.”
It also recommended that the IGNOU Act, 1985 should also be suitably amended to remove the provisions which mandated the open varsity to regulate distance education.
The panel said the ministry should also ensure that the new legislation should not adversely affect the rights and interests of the employees of the erstwhile DEC.

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