Agricultural Education in India & the role of ICAR

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Kerala High Court set aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS). 

    More about the News

    • The court as listed two specific violations for not accepting the appointment: 
      • The search committee recommended a single name and not a panel of three names; and 
      • In the search committee, the State government included the Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) instead of a nominee of the UGC.
    • Issue:
      • Breaking the equilibrium:
        • Over the past five decades, the ICAR was successful in facilitating agricultural education as a national expert body and without overstepping into the constitutional jurisdiction of the State governments. 
        • The Kerala High Court’s judgment threatens to disrupt this delicate equilibrium maintained over the past five decades. 
      • Jeopardising the uniformity in agricultural education:
        • The judgment also threatens to jeopardise the ICAR’s ongoing efforts to ensure a minimum level of uniformity in agricultural education in the country, including in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors. 
      • Substituting the role of the ICAR:
        • ICAR’s Model Act stipulates the constitution of the search committee for Vice-Chancellors with three members:
          • The Director-General of ICAR; 
          • One nominee of the government; and 
          • One nominee of the Chancellor. 
          • But the Kerala High Court judgment has made the presence of an ICAR representative invalid and necessitates its replacement with a UGC representative.
        • Essentially, the court has sought to substitute the role of the ICAR with the UGC’s regulations.
        • What is at stake is not just the spirit of federalism but also the unique status conferred to agricultural education by the Constitution.

    Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

    • About:
      • It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.
      • It is the largest network of agricultural research and education institutes in the world.
    • Ministry:
      • It is an autonomous organization under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
    • HQ: New Delhi.
    • President of ICAR: 
      • The Union Minister of Agriculture serves as its president.
    • National Agricultural Education Accreditation Board (NAEAB):
      • ICAR provides accreditation to agriculture universities, colleges and programmes, through its accreditation unit, National Agricultural Education Accreditation Board (NAEAB).
      • The accreditation serves only as a badge of quality assurance. 
      • It is not mandatory, is not a form of affiliation or recognition and does not give approval to open an institute or a program.

    Evolution of agricultural education in India

    • Opinions of constituent assembly:
      • Few members in the constituent assembly suggested that the Union government must play a central role in agriculture. 
      • But, T.T. Krishnamachari suggested that “beyond taking certain powers for the purpose of co-ordination, Centre is not capable of handling this vast problem [of agriculture]”.
    • Agricultural Education as a part of State List:
      • Thus, agriculture was included in the List II (State List) in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. 
      • More importantly, agricultural education was detached from the other streams of higher education and attached to the occupied field of agriculture in List II.
        • Education was included in List III (Concurrent List). 
      • Implications of the move:
        • The legal implication of the exclusion of agricultural education from Concurrent List is that agricultural universities have historically been facilitated by the ICAR.
      • DARE:
        • After independence, the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) was set up in 1973 in the Ministry of Agriculture
        • The major functions of DARE were to facilitate agricultural research and education, coordinate between the Centre and the States, and attend to matters related to the ICAR.  
    • Yashpal Committee recommendations:
      • The committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education (Yashpal Committee, 2009) has recommended setting up of a constitutional body – the National Commission for Higher Education and Research.
        • It would be a unified supreme body to regulate all branches of higher education including agricultural education.
      • Presently, regulation of agricultural education is the mandate of 
        • ICAR, 
        • Veterinary Council of India (Veterinary sub-discipline) and 
        • Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (Forestry sub-discipline).

    University Grants Commission (UGC) 

    • About:
      • It is a statutory body set up by the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Government of India in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 
    • Responsibility:
      • It is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education in India. 
      • It provides recognition to universities in India, and disbursements of funds to such recognized universities and colleges. 
    • Headquarter & regional centres:
      • The headquarters are in New Delhi.
      • It has six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.
    • The types of universities regulated by the UGC include:
      • Central universities, or Union universities: 
        • These are established by an act of parliament and are under the purview of the Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Education.
      • State universities: 
        • These are run by the state government of each of the states and territories of India and are usually established by a local legislative assembly act. 
      • Deemed university, or “Deemed to be University”:
        • It is a status of autonomy granted by the Department of Higher Education on the advice of the UGC.
      • Private universities: 
        • These too are approved by the UGC. They can grant degrees but they are not allowed to have off-campus affiliated colleges.

    Source: TH