Gayadeen Adivasi, 45, center, and other villagers hold up their job cards with no entries for the rural jobs program, known as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the village of Lar Sauryana in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Quota In Education And Jobs A Big Problem, Says PMEAC’s Surjit Bhalla

Reservations in education and jobs are a “big problem”, Surjit Bhalla, part-time member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council said today. He hopes to address the matter after the next general election.

Bhalla made the remarks while replying to a question on the education sector, which he said needed more focus from policy makers, and was more important than reforms on the banking front. He was speaking at an Asia Society event in Mumbai.

Describing the “messed up” public education sector, he said teachers are paid more than what they can command in the market but fail to show up in schools. “We are in an absolute not so glorious mess,” he said, adding that forces of nature will eventually make any government act on this issue in a “straight and aggressive fashion”.

The ruling NDA coalition enjoys an easy majority in the Lok Sabha at present, with BJP alone passing the mid-way mark. The party has won a slew of state polls since then and is hoping for a second term.

Clamour For Rate Cuts

Bhalla, who was appointed to the PMEAC after the panel was formed in September, over three years after the Narendra Modi government came to power, also advocated for a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India notwithstanding the present uptick in growth numbers.

By RBI’s own assessment, the potential growth rate is over 7.5 percent and a surge to 6.3 percent for the second quarter should not prevent the central bank from cutting policy rates, he said. Dismissing inflation as an impediment, Bhalla said the average inflation stood at 3 percent, much below the RBI target of having it at 4 percent.

“We need rate cuts of nearly 2 percentage points going by the target,” Bhalla said, declining to specify the quantum of rate cut he would like to see at Wednesday’s bi-monthly policy review.

He also voiced concerns over what he calls “lack of openness” with monetary policy committee members barred from speaking to the media.

“The RBI has banned the Monitory Policy Committee members from talking to anybody. I can see that there is a frozen period when you do not talk, when they make decisions. But what kind of openness is this? What kind of communication is this that you (media) cannot talk to the MPC members?” he told reporters.

As per RBI rules, members are not allowed to speak seven days prior and after an MPC meeting.