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The changing landscape of schools in India – Impact of decline in the population of elementary school-going children: Economic Survey

The recently conducted 2019 economic survey, prepared by Chief Economic Advisor K Subramanian and discussed in Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has put forward the necessity to merge elementary schools to make them feasible. As per statistical projections, the survey suggested an estimated decline in the population of elementary school-going children. It may inevitably have certain important socio-economic consequences. The survey also stated that consolidation of elementary schools is an ‘argument for shifting policy emphasis from quantity towards quality and efficiency of education’.

As reported by the survey, the elementary school-going population of 5-14 age groups is estimated to go down by 18.4 percent over 20 years from 2021 to 2041. It has also been stated that the regions of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka will be affected by this decline in population.The survey stated that the 5-14 age group population, which primarily includes the elementary school-going children, have already been declining over the last few years. It also stated that there will be significant rise in the number of schools per capita across all major states and that the number of elementary schools with less than 50 students has 'increased over the past decade across all major states except Delhi'. Over 40% of elementary schools in states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh have less than 50 students enrolled.

The survey underlined two major factors:
  • The decline in the 5-14 age-group
  • Increase in the number of elementary schools with low student count (<50)
The survey stated that "The 'optimal' school size varies widely according to the terrain and urban clustering, but this sharp increase in the number of elementary schools per capita needs to be carefully studied. The time may soon come in many states to consolidate/merge elementary schools to keep them viable. It recommends that closely located schools (within a radius of 3 KM or less) can be selected, so that there is no major inconvenience in terms of access by the students. "This would also be in line with the experience of other major economies witnessing a decline in elementary school-going population, such as Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Canada, which have implemented policies to merge or close down schools," the Survey states.The four metro cities along with Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, which sees high number of immigrant population from other cities, will see a significant rise in the number of schools. Over the last decade, India’s GDP per capita has increased by almost 78% and owing to this, families are looking for quality education for their children. This is leading to the rise of a large number of schools willing to cater to this affluent.

Source: CEIC Data (www.ceicdata.com) ($1 = 68.80 INR)

More international schools and schools providing ICSE and IB syllabus are expected to emerge. However, this will also increase the competition among such schools and they will be compared to each other in terms of faculty capability, infrastructure, facilities like transport, canteen and child safety norms, while parents decide which school to put their wards in.

Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill: It can change the way India drives

The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill has been in discussion since 2016 to incorporate certain necessary changes in the existing Motor Vehicles Act. In the current year, the amendment proposal has once again been raised and this time, it has been taken to the Parliament. While this Bill is of great significance to the drivers and vehicle owners across the nation, it is equally important for transport providers, corporates/schools with transport service as well as fleet operators. Following the list of some important proposals in the Bill:
  1. Aadhaar is mandatory to get a driver’s license and vehicle registration
  2. Compensation for deaths in hit-and-run cases will be revised from 25000 INR to 2 lacs+ INR
  3. Guardians/vehicle owners will be held responsible in case of a juvenile traffic violation. If they were not aware, then the juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act and the vehicle registration will get cancelled in either scenario.
  4. People offering help to accident victims will have no obligation to reveal their identities to police/medical personnel.
  5. Changes to the existing penalty system (values in INR):
 
CauseExisting PenaltyRevised Penalty
Drunk driving2000+10000+
No license500+5000+
Rash Driving10005000
Over-speeding4001000-2000
Not wearing seatbelt1001000
Talking on phone while driving10005000
 
  1. Vehicles to be altered mandatorily to accommodate specially-abled people

Figure 1:  Road accidents are very common in India; hence stringent laws have to be in place for the safety of the people (Source: The Indian Express -https://indianexpress.com/article/india/road-accidents-in-india-2016-17-deaths-on-roads-every-hour-chennai-and-delhi-most-dangerous-4837832/)

  1. All road users will get compulsory insurance cover for a certain type of accidents by a Motor Vehicle Insurance Fund
  2. Contractors/consultants/civic agencies will be held responsible for any mishaps related to road accidents due to faulty design, poor maintenance or construction.
  3. A time limit of 6 months to be adhered to, regarding compensations related to road accidents
  4. Liability caps are to be removed, which were introduced during the 2016 Bill (10 lacs INR for death and 5 lacs INR for grievous injuries)
  5. Driving license can be renewed up to one year before or after the expiry date, as compared to the existing one-month limit.
  6. Vehicles using substandard components can be recalled by the government and the manufactures can be fined up to Rs. 500 crore INR

How transport automation providers can help

Now, if we look at how transport automation providers can tackle these changes:
  • Most transport solution providers have a drivers’ module integrated with their software, which makes registering their Aadhaar card, driving license and other documents very easy.
  • Moreover, a trigger can be set up such that if the license or validity of some other essential document is about to expire, it will notify both the management admin and the driver.
  • On the other aspects, while it is the sole responsibility of the driver to ensure not to involve in drunk driving, talking on phone while driving, etc., a transport monitoring solution can provide certain details to the transport admin team on cases of over-speeding, accident, rash or zigzag driving (caused due to DUI) in real-time, so they can take immediate action on the same.
  • To elaborate, the affected vehicle will often show up in red on the system if drivers are not following certain rules, or an SOS alert will be sent to the admin team in case of any mishap. This not only ensures the prevention of most accidents but also gives the students/employees a sense of trust and security whenever they are using your transport.
Without a proper transport solution, handling all of these changes together can be troublesome and often get out of hand beyond your control, while as the corporate/school, you may have to pay for the indiscipline behaviours of your transport drivers.

Safetrax, one of India’s leading transport automation solution provider, provides a feature called eSafe, which is a driver behaviour monitoring solution which helps you analyse undesirable driver behaviours such as speeding, swerving, hard braking, etc and eliminate inefficient driving habits, increase safety and keep costs down. It also comes with features like regular reports, dashboard and driver scorecard.

4 hardware challenges every company faces in Employee Transport Management and how to overcome them

GPS (Global Positioning System) works by the process of triangulation of satellites, where differences in the time taken by radio signals to travel between the receiver and each of at least three other visible satellites are calculated to determine the location, speed, and direction of the receiver on earth.Companies, particularly those who look for Hardware-based tracking and management of their fleet for enhanced security for their employees and also to be 100% compliant with local regulations, face a bunch of difficulties that are unique to Hardware-based vehicle tracking.  Listed down below are a few of those challenges and ways to address them.

Backup supply
Traditionally, a GPS tracker's backup power-management system for batteries consisted of multiple ICs (Integrated Circuits), a high-voltage buck regulator, a battery charger, plus a set of discrete components. Hence, earlier tracking systems were not very compact in their form factor. A typical application for a tracking system uses an automotive battery and a single-cell Li-ion battery for storage and backup.The vehicle GPS tracking is a terrific service when operating correctly.  Even if a car gets stolen and taken to get parted out, and in the process the car battery gets disconnected, the GPS tracker backup battery will kick in and the user will be able to communicate with the vehicle and get the exact location. That is why having a GPS tracker with a backup battery is so important. Also, battery power is required, as much as the backup capability to preserve data in case of power loss. Due to the higher automotive system voltages and currents required to charge the battery (typically a single-cell Li-ion), a switch-mode charger is desirable for its higher charging efficiency when compared to a linear battery charging IC, since it generates less heat in the form of power dissipation.The device can be directly connected to the vehicle circuit for power. The internal battery is supposed to use as a backup source when there is no direct battery connected like in the event of theft when wires are disconnected. The average working time of a regular available internal battery is 4-7 hours.  The devices consume less power themselves and thus do not affect the performance of the vehicle battery.  The advantage that the user gets is the ability to access the location and controls, even if the device is disconnected from the main source.

Network connectivity
PS data is a collection of objects whose location changes with time while in motion. We can get the GPS to co-ordinate data in each second to be sent to the server for the precision in tracking. For this, the device should have reliable network connectivity to be able to send accurate location information. The most common practice is to use a data subscription in 2G/4G mobile networks.Most dedicated GPS devices include a mobile data module that uses a standard SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card. This SIM card allows the device to send the location packets, sending emergency SMS (Short Message Service), and read the SMS which comes to the device. This type of SMS can be classified as control SMS or configuration SMS. Using the control SMS, the user can control entire vehicle features like an immobilizer, etc. The main challenge is to get a proper network coverage during the travel in remote areas. Normally the GPS devices come with a SIM slot where we can insert a SIM of our choice. Nowadays the devices have multiple sim card options that switch between each other according to the signal strength providing redundancy and better signal strength at all times.

Water damage
Normally the GPS device is placed over the dashboard in most of the vehicles, to provide maximum sky visibility for greater signal strength. Proper visibility provides GPS access all the time to the device. The challenge here is that whenever the vehicle goes for the water service, there is a chance for the GPS device to get water damaged. Since it is an electronic device even a drop of water can damage the entire board.The only option to overcome this problem is to make the device water resistant. We could get away from this challenge by providing the waterproof casing for the normal devices and the all-new AIS 140 devices are IP 67 (IP 67 means the unit can be dropped into a body of water up to a meter deep for half an hour and it is completely dust resistant).  For old devices, we could overcome this challenge by providing the waterproof casing for the normal devices.

GPS Faulty Tracking
Another rare yet possible issue is when the recording of tracking is faulty, inaccurate, contains "bumps" or "bounces" or “jumps” when a part of tracking data is missing. All these issues are a result of the server receiving bad GPS data from the device – mobile phone or tablet. In all these cases, the server receives location data that does not accurately represent the device location. Bad GPS data can result in missing of live tracking or inaccuracies in the calculation of distance travelled for billing e.g. extra distance recorded or recorded inaccurately, inaccurate elevation values, etc.Reasons and effects of this are quite obvious - the device may have simply lost a connection to GPS satellites and did not record any data; the recorded route shows straight lines ignoring paths or roads on the map. It may also be that the device may have recorded track points that deviate from the intended correct path. GPS devices and satellites communicate with extremely fast signals requiring precise detection and any slight inaccuracy in the signal's reception, or disturbance to the signal itself can translate into a significant error in the reported position. Environmental factors such as dense trees, steep hillsides, tall buildings, basement parking, etc. can adversely impact GPS signal between the device and the satellites.In order to avoid this, we need to use a hi-tech device that can communicate with all available positioning networks – GPS, Glonass, Beidou, and Galileo. The more satellites visible for our device above our head, the more accurate is the positioning. We need to make sure our device is mounted/carried as high up and unobstructed as possible, instead of being buried deep in an inaccessible place. We always must find a compromise between smoothness and accuracy of the recording. We should not set up too short intervals (too much data with a higher risk of deviations). On the other hand, too long intervals would result in an approximation of tracking results.

Which video solution is apt for your School Bus?

While the memory of a school bus being attacked in Gurgaon by an angry mob protesting against a movie release might be lingering in our minds, the visuals that were retrieved from the CCTV camera installed in the bus helped realize how grave the situation was.However, we still hear cases of children being exposed to risk while travelling in school buses even in the presence of lady guard and driver#1While CBSE has issued guidelines#2 to install the cameras in school buses, the ground reality seems to be otherwise#3.Some schools have started installing 1 CCTV camera in their buses at the front to get the fitness certificate from the authorities, which helps them safeguard the school administration from legal non-compliance. However, can we really be assured that for a large vehicle, just 1 CCTV camera in the front will provide a full view of the bus, even till the rear seats? Shouldn’t there be 2 CCTV cameras, 1 in the front and 1 at the back that covers the entire bus and all the seats?The attitude of providing the safety infrastructure only for ‘the sake of legal compliance’, and not with true intent of safeguarding the children seems to be prevalent amongst schools. There are many reasons behind this sad reality though - Lack of available and reliable options, issues in terms of continued performance in a moving vehicle with jerks and temperature fluctuations and cost of initial investment that the school doesn’t recover from the parents.There are mainly 3 kinds of options available in the market, for which we have done a comparison on some important parameters here:Many parents have shown willingness to bear an increase in the bus tariff for their children’s safety in case the school has budgetary issues with financing this additional infrastructure. Also, many schools are recognizing the need for such a solution to be in place and taking proactive steps to ensure that the parents and the school administration have peace of mind while their children are on board their buses.It is high time that that parents sensitize their schools to put in the necessary infrastructure that can deter miscreants and we urge the schools to spread awareness in their fraternity to acknowledge the need. After all, no cost is high cost, when it comes to child safety!
#1 Ghaziabad: Girl ‘sexually harassed’ in school bus, class XI boy gets bail (The Indian Express, 18th Dec 2017)#2 CBSE Circular Subject ‘Safety of school children in school bus)#3 No CCTV cams in most school buses (Times of India, 18th Dec 2017)

Shutting down of 2G Networks – Looming challenges for IOT in Logistics industry

Telecom Service Providers globally have been shutting down 2G networks. Operators in United States, Europe, Japan, Singapore, Australia have shut down 2G networks. With the advent of 5G, some Operators are also shutting down 3G Networks as well. Here’s a region-wise list of countries with 2G switch-off dates.This India-focused article proposes to examine the implications of switching off as well as poor availability of 2G Data services, that is the backbone of over a million vehicles in operation. Several fleet operators have deployed GPS devices in their vehicles and have integrated the data as a critical part of their supply chain for transport of people and goods.The challenges that have increased significantly in the last five years, as India moved rapidly to 4G and the advent of 5G, are detailed below: -
  • We are noticing significant deterioration in the performance of 2G networks especially 2G data being given low priority prevent availability of information in real-time. This is across all Telco providers in India. Even SOS situations, in case of people logistics may not be addressed in real-time. Help may not be available in real-time in vehicles that have GPS and SOS button deployed. Whilst all statutory authorities are making GPS mandatory, none of them seem to worry or address this issue
  • The cost of a 2G Data only plan is presently less than Rs 50 per month. This plan also provides for 100 SMS which are used to communicate with the devices. The cost of a 4G plan (pure data plans are not available) is upwards of Rs 150 per month. In other words, SIM monthly charges are going to go up by 300%.
    • Do not expect the SIM costs to go down as all the TELCO have bought their licenses at huge cost and have to make a reasonable return on their capital.
  • The cost of a plain vanilla 2G GPS tracker manufactured in India is around Rs 2,000/- per device (local manufacturers such as Autocop). Imported Chinese Devices are available around Rs 2500 and High-quality devices from China and Israel are available at over Rs 3200. Thanks to the rapid dollar rise against the rupees, the costs are expected to go up by 15% soon.
    • Against the above, the cost of 4G/Wifi GPS trackers are upwards of Rs. 10,000 /- per device. We expect the costs to increase by 300% on account of this. The high cost of these devices increase instances of theft of these devices
  • Exposure to huge risks including criminal in nature if SIM cards are misused by drivers for illegal activities. We have experienced several times drivers taking the SIM card out of GPS devices only to realize the data rates are unusable for them to enjoy unlimited high bandwidth at the cost of fleet owners/device service providers. 4G SIM cards are extremely valuable and is liquid currency for the drivers. With stringent cyber laws, Fleet owners run the risk of being booked for various offences if the driver watches inappropriate child videos by stealing the SIM. It would be arduous for the owners to prove their innocence and get out of the mess. SIM locking will become mandatory to protect the interest of the SIM Card owners.
  • Several discussions can be found on Phone Vs GPS and using the driver phone as a primary IOT device for Location Based Services. This works very well when the Phone is the source of income for the driver and not otherwise when it is a part of the process that monitors his own performance. Most importantly, a mobile phone provides 100s of other services that we do not need for IOT logistics and hence power consumption in the vehicle can be managed exceptionally well when the need to manage vehicles on 24/7 basis even when they are not in use.
Summing up, we can expect a 200% increase in vehicle tracking costs in the near future, if we need reliable, real-time IOT data from moving vehicles.

ETS Outsourcing Dilemma – Should you outsource entirely or select specialists for different parts of the Solution

Companies are on the constant look out for opportunities to improve efficiency across all functions and save costs across all items of expenditure. The costs of transporting employees range from ₹ 3000 to ₹ 9000 per employee per month, based on different types of vehicles and company policies. Agreements with fleet providers also provide for cost escalations due to fuel and with the current diesel price at ₹ 73 per litre the rates are bound to go up.A company that transport 1000 employees in individual cars is likely to spend around $1.5mn a year on transport costs.Most companies, by now, have understood the benefits of implementing a robust transport automation system. In addition to improving the quality of commute for their employees, reducing commuting time and enhancing the safety during travel, Companies can also obtain insights for optimizing routes, rationalize use of different types of vehicles provided by the fleet operators and automate and streamline billing. Transport automation systems also ensure implementation of fairness across multiple vendors based on their SLAs and ensures 100% transparency in operations in additions to meeting all regulations and addressing safety of employees.However, while choosing the type of “outsourcing” model, there are many options available in the market today. Some companies prefer to outsource end-to-end fleet operations (fleet, personnel, automation) while the others prefer to have different vendors providing fleet, automation software, BGV services and Escort Security.Organizations who choose an end-to-end service provider do so as they do not find adequate management bandwidth or lack specialized skills required for transport management. They also believe that this is not core to their business and are willing to sacrifice various benefits by choosing “convenience” over “operational efficiency”.On the other hand, there are discerning companies who are obsessed with Operational efficiency and will leave no stone unturned to get the best transport management solution for their employees. They are conscious of the conflict of interest between these vendors and do not want to take chances by selecting one vendor to provide all these services. Thus, these companies meticulously identify “horses for courses” who specialize in providing fleet, transport automation software, BGV services and Escort Security.As a result, these companies benefit from the following advantages: -We are noticing recently that large facility service providers with ‘risk management competencies’ such as JLL, ISS, CBRE are providing end to end transport in partnership with Fleet vendors and technology partners such as MoveInSync, Routematic and Safetrax. With large capital and managerial resource pools behind them they are well positioned to capitalize and grab market share with large companies.Some Technology providers such as MoveInSync as well as Routematic are also offering end-to-end transportation services and it will be interesting to observe how these offerings perform after a couple of years given the fact these startups have constraints in capital and resources. Technology providers offering end-to-end transportation can result in conflict of interest and may require third party audits on routing and size of vehicles from time to time.Pureplay SaaS technology companies will have to live with the fact that the technology stack in the costs of transportation are not likely to exceed 2 to 4 percent of the total transportation costs and hence the revenue market opportunities are likely to be small, not attractive to be funded by VC firms. Such companies may have to expand their markets vertically and horizontally via different offerings. There is also no scope for these players to compete with Ola or Uber as the B2C market is likely to be dominated by these two players.The choice of outsourcing model is a strategic decision and is entirely dependent on a combination of factors such as an organization’s risk appetite, cost consciousness and availability of management bandwidth. Thus, companies based on their sizes and needs are expected to choose an integrated provider to provide end-to-end transport management with SLAs and risk management or deal with all the individual providers of services for better control and cost efficiency.