India's finest education minister, maniish sisodia

Manish journey started as a Radio Jockey (RJ) when he joined a radio broadcast in the early 90’s. After completing his diploma in journalism, Manish began his career as a journalist on All India Radio program “Zero Hour” in 1996. From 1997 to 2005, he worked with Zee News as a news producer and reader. While working with Zee, he once was covering a story in Jammu & Kashmir. It was one of the unfortunate nights when a terrorist attack near by his hotel killed 7 civilians. Later, Manish came to know that there were other journalists staying in the same area and terrorists striked to seek media attention. It was heartbreaking for him. Thereafter, he quit his job. He wanted to find reasons behind such inhuman attacks. This was the beginning of Manish’s journey as an activist.

While working as a journalist and unfolding hidden stories such as Hiware Bazar, Manish came in contact with Arvind and became the first person to register on a web portal launched by Arvind to help others file RTI applications. RTI was a legal weapon used in early 2000s to expose corruption and people like Arvind and Anna Hazare were using it effectively. Manish joined the team and came in contact with Anna. They were touring from one village to another and educating, training people on RTI act and its application process. RTI was becoming a thorn in the sides of corrupt people. To safeguard themselves, they started hitting back at activists. In 2006, a RTI activist trained by Manish and Arvind was killed. Seeking truth, Manish and Arvind went to different parts of India to study the governance model and find the reason behind attacks on RTI activists. In 2006, Manish co-founded “Public Cause Research Foundation” with Arvind Kejriwal and Abhinandan Sekhri. Manish was one of the nine members selected by Aruna Roy to draft RTI Act.

On their quest to study the governance models, Manish visited Abhyudaya Sansthan in Achoti (30km from Raipur, Chhattisgarh) which was working for decades on value based education through their centres in different parts of India. Late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, also visited the Sansthan which introduced courses in IIIT Hyderabad, IIT Kanpur and other institutes in India. Manish stayed in Achoti for 7 days and completed Jeevan Vidya (Way of Living) camp. He found the camp very useful. Manish’s engagement with Sansthan continued and he completed the full course in 2008-09 in Delhi. Jeevan Vidya is a philosophy for healthy life, human values and good governance.

Post 2011 anti-corruption movement, AAP was born and Manish joined politics with the agenda of promoting educational endeavors in India.  Activist turned politician Manish Sisodia is now Delhi’s Education Minister. He also holds portfolios of Tourism, Finance, Planning, Land & Building, Vigilance, Services, Women and Child and Art, Culture & Languages. Instead of all the roadblocks posed by the central govt via LG office, every portfolio made significant achievements in the past 3.5 years. Major accomplishments were made in the education sector. Reforms in Delhi education are now discussed worldwide. A Delhi government school teacher, Murari Jha, writes:

Whenever new ruler comes, they built infrastructure to give message to the society about their values. Looking at history, rulers have built mosque, temple, statues, roads, building etc. Present Delhi govt built school buildings to tell the society what they value

When Manish Sisodia became education minister, he had to start from scratch by looking after the cleaning of school premises and construction of toilet facilities. Delhi government schools were in a very bad condition and were lacking basic infrastructure. Manish and his team developed a yearly plan in phases:

  • Year 1 was focused on building basic infrastructure such as toilets, making school premises clean and engaging with parents and community members
  • Year 2 was focused on improving overall infrastructure such as building new schools and classrooms
  • Year 3 was focused on teacher training programs and developing teaching methods
  • Year 4 is focused on quality of education by introducing new curriculums and organizing Chunauti (improving reading skills), pre-schools (Anganwadi and playschools) and higher education

The different phases did not materialize one after the other as there were some overlaps between independent phases. Here is a list of some key reforms:

  1. Built 21,000 new classrooms (8,000 completed and 13,000 in process) and 84 new schools buildings (54 model schools, 24 new schools, 5 schools of excellence and 1 world school)  
  2. Improved 11,000 anganwadi centres
  3. Built two World Class Skill Centres in collaboration with Singapore
  4. Built swimming pools, gyms and playgrounds in govt school premises
  5. Built libraries and laboratories in schools
  6. Built new polytechnic institutes
  7. Opened Ambedkar University and gave university status to NSIT
  8. Built a new academic block in IIIT Delhi
  9. Started incubation centres at colleges and universities under Delhi government
  10. Activated and empowered school management committees
  11. Organized reading melas and mission buniyaad
  12. Organized cleanliness drives and Mega Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM)
  13. Introduced mentor teacher program
  14. Introduced happiness, cleanliness and entrepreneurship curriculums
  15. Provided international training for school teachers
  16. Improved anganwadi centres and introduced mohalla play schools
  17. Allocated a minimum amount of Rs. 5 lakh as a financial support to each school to be spent by SMC
  18. Increased salary of guest teachers and cleared the path to appoint them as permanent staff
  19. Introduced Swaraj via SMC
  20. Installing CCTV cameras to promote safety and security of students

Above listed reforms in education needed significant financial support and Delhi government dedicated almost ¼th of its capital budget for education. Following is a yearwise education budget of Delhi government.

(Top:) Delhi government’s total expenditure on education (source delhi.gov.in and prsindia.org) (Bottom:) Share of Delhi government expenditure on education (source delhi.gov.in)

Manish Sisodia is also serving as Finance Minister in Delhi Govt. Since AAP took charge in Delhi, capital budget is continuously increasing every year. In 2018, it is more than 1.5 times its value in 2014. This is mainly because of increase in sales tax collection which is the second largest tax source after state GST in Delhi. The govt has seen a record increase in number of businesses registered for VAT. This happened despite the reduced number of tax raids. Govt slashed VAT which encouraged businesses to register themselves with the revenue department and consumers to pay taxes. Initiatives like “Bill Banao Inaam Pao” further inspired consumers to take a receipt. The scheme was launched in early 2016 through an app where users could upload picture of their bills. AAP team also brought a new level of transparency in governance by introducing comprehensive outcome budget. This helped the government to monitor its performance and prioritize the spending of taxpayers’ money.

Yearly capital budget of Delhi government. Actual (audited) figures are not available for the years before 2014-15. Source: delhi.gov.in and prsindia.org

Power tussle and no control over law, land and order (read more) made it difficult for AAP authorities to execute a project smoothly. Anti-Corruption Branch had a good start (read complete list of actions) but it is almost inactive these days. Delhi is slowly becoming a tourist friendly state. Skywalks are being built and single window online clearance system is being introduced to simplify the process of opening restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Art, culture and languages are being promoted by organizing regular events and shows. Offices are being transformed and services are improved one by one. Corruption in government services has seen a decline after Delhi govt started delivering services at doorstep. In order to make Delhi safe for women, Marshals are on duty in DTC buses and GPS, panic button and CCTV cameras are being installed in buses. DCW is working day and night to make sure that women in Delhi are safe and getting justice. Child labourers and beggars are being rescued and admitted to schools.

Following the education reforms in Delhi, Manish Sisodia was awarded the “India’s Finest Education Minister” title. He has visited Finland, USA, Russia, Singapore and other countries representing India and its achievements in the field of education.

(Top Left:) Manish Sisodia keynote address at Harvard Kennedy School during India Conference 2018 (Top Right:) Manish Sisodia address during World Education Conference 2018 in Moscow (Bottom:) Volunteers with Manish Sisodia during a public gathering organized by AAP volunteers in Boston USA

Whether it is about building a nation or earning for livelihood, an individual’s will plays an important role. It makes one fight against man made or natural boundaries. Political will, which can be defined as collective efforts of elected representatives, has manifested itself on a very limited scale post-independence in India. Many countries progressed at a faster pace than India and we can not blame our bad politics for this outcome. Politics is a representation of people. Bad people lead to destructive politics and good ones encourage a constructive system. Indians are usually education-centric. Everyone wants to go to the best school but we are less worried about building a quality school. It requires a good amount of money and good people in politics to establish an effective educational infrastructure.

Delhi is on the right track to build nation via education and it is the vision of Manish Sisodia to make India a “Shikshit Rastra”. Today (Jan 5, 2018) is the birthday of India’s Finest Education Minister. We wish you a Happy Birthday and pray for your long life.

Happy Birthday Manish Sisodia!