Category Archives: Campus Events

Lecture on Social Policy by Professor Robert Walker

Public Policy Occasional Lecture Series on Social Policy by Professor Robert Walker

SOUMYA GUPTA

Robert Walker, a Professor Emeritus and Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College visited the National Law School India University for a special guest lecture on ‘Research Methodologies and Social Policy’. He shared his experiences carrying out scientific research for governmental and private bodies.

Professor Walker has worked with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) in the past, and has contributed to the field of Social Policy since April 2006. He also formerly taught at the University of Nottingham. In addition, he has served extensively as a Research Affiliate at the National Poverty Centre, University of Michigan and also as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was a Member of the statutory UK Social Security Advisory Committee for 10 years until 2012 and chaired the Academic Advisory Committee during the design and launch of the ESRC UK Household Longitudinal Study. He is currently a member of the Expert Advisory Group for the evaluation of Universal Credit. His career is an inspiration to many researchers and students to conduct high quality research for informing the political process and improving policy. He undertakes research relevant to the development of welfare policies in Britain and other countries, and engages in dialogue with policymakers who support research to bring about positive change. His particular research interests include poverty, social exclusion, children’s aspirations and employment instability.

In his lecture at NLSIU, he began by saying, “Do not believe all that I say,” ushering the urge in students to be curious, question things and accept ideas after rigorous research. He talked about the controversial Brexit policy, the use of cash transfers within the anti-poverty policy domain, and the differences in research methods between the Global North and Global South over the past decade. He shared insights on the new strategy to anti-poverty efforts in the Global South, which reflect a contemporary neo-liberal agenda and have seen success in Latin America. A comparative, qualitative study led by Prof. Walker moved across five settings – two in the Global North (Norway, the UK) and three in the South (China, India, and South Korea). Prof. Walker went on to share some real-life obstacles and probable solutions to qualitative and quantitative research problems.

While talking about a range of interesting and efficiency-related aspects of a welfare state, it was also discussed how the nature of an organization which initiates the research matters a lot. The session however, was rightly aimed at showcasing how a ‘productive’ or ‘efficient’ research is to be carried out and what tools are available to a researcher. (A productive research is the one which carries adequate evidences and supports the analysis, on which a policy can be devised or a law can be enacted.)

He cited examples from his research paper, which reflected targeted policy analysis and interviewed recipients in the settings under investigation. Specific focus is placed on the potential for measures to shame or heighten the dignity of recipients. He wanted to convey how claimants who are already vulnerable may undermine the efficacy of the measure offered.

The discussion revolved around topics from incentivizing research participation to dealing with bureaucracy in a government initiated public policy research. One of the MPP students also went on to ask, “Should a researcher keep his emotions, first hand-experiences at bay or can he use his policy approach paper to give a certain direction for the desired policy.” A debate emerged as it is seen that most of the time a policy paper or research survey does not result in the construction of a policy as recommended. In the end, a researcher has a limited say in the making of a policy which can have a significant impact on public welfare.

(Soumya Gupta is pursuing the Master’s Programme in Public Policy at National Law School of India University and is in the 2017-2019 batch. She can be reached at soumyagupta@nls.ac.in)

 

A recap of Regulatory Governance Workshops

MPP 2016-18

 

In the third trimester, MPP participants were divided into six groups, each of which explored the regulatory landscape and challenges in a particular sector. The six sectors chosen were Electricity, Water, Banking, Health, Higher Education and Media. Students analysed regulatory institutions, policy instruments and their implementation and the roles politics and business played in creating the regulatory regimes. They further examined conversations around whether the state was too activist and stifling free enterprise or retreating from its responsibilities. Each group led a half-day workshop in which external facilitators were invited to discuss their experiences working in the sector and outline the most pressing policy challenges that exist today. This format for the course was novel and highly engaging and the class is deeply grateful to the CSSEIP and course facilitator, Pradeep Ramavath.

Electricity Workshop

In the first workshop, participants examined regulatory challenges in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity along with Mr. M.R. Srinivasa Murthy, IAS (Retd) Chairman, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC). They outlined the central and state agencies with a role to play and discussed the growing role of private players. Due to the natural monopoly and moral hazards at work, national policies can only go so far towards managing a central power grid. For his part, Mr. Murthy emphasized the Government objective of 24×7 power supply and looked into our current installed capacity, with a special turn towards utilizing ‘stranded capacity’. Moreover, access to electricity can be highly inequitable between regions depending on installed capacity and also what the dominant source is (i.e. during times of drought, areas that rely on hydropower experience load shedding). Given the financial difficulties faced by DISCOMS, the participants also discussed the UDAY scheme and how it has begun to revitalize the power sector value chain. Participants focused on international agreements to develop cleaner and more environment friendly energy sources, the Draft National Renewable Energy Act 2015 and two regulatory instruments in India to promote renewable energy – Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Renewable Power Obligations (RPOs). They concluded by highlighting the legal status and market position for RECs and RPOs as well as what can be done to make them more competitive.

Water Workshop

For the second, the students worked with water activist S Vishwanath from Biome Environmental trust to arrange a field visit to Jakkur Lake. The lake is maintained by a local citizen’s group, Jala Poshan, which took responsibility for maintaining it from the BDA and has adopted an Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) approach that recognizes diverse values of the lake from economic, ecological, sanitation and public health, recreational, etc. They engage as many stakeholders as possible in identifying its problems, liaising with government agencies and sustaining Jakkur lake as a local asset that recharges ground water. Given the overlapping urban development and public utility mandates exercised by various bodies (such as the BDA, BBMP, BWSSB, Lake Development Authority, etc.), local governance becomes crucial to keep watch and ensure necessary functions are being carried out. During the visit, participants also observed how the lakes in the region are connected in a chain and how effluents and algae that enter into one of them leads to environmental hazards such as the flames in Bellandur Lake. The students then led Vishwanath Sir in a discussion with the class which touched on the tangled bureaucracies that regulate water and sewage, political disputes over water, the conflict between water as a productive resource and as a human right and the technical and economic costs of using water in a sustainable manner.

Banking Workshop

The third workshop focused on reforms in the banking sector and was coordinated by Mr. Mohan Mani. After an orientation on the history of banking laws in India, participants examined the implementation of Basel norms and their role in the post-liberalisation banking scenario. They looked at the divergent goals of private banks and public banks in the context of India’s history of bank nationalisation and reviewed the lack of a clear policy to manage non-performing assets. The group also discussed how the role of a regulator is simultaneously played by the RBI and the Finance Ministry, which has a detrimental impact on the nation’s macroeconomic policies. The presentation was followed by a lecture by Mr. C. H. Venkatachalan, who outlined the major achievements and current demands of the All India Bank Employees Federation (AIBEF). The workshop was also attended by other guests from the Karnataka Pradesh Bank Employees’ Federation.

Health Workshop

In the fourth workshop, the class discussed the state of public and private health and the lack of regulatory body in the health sector. The students worked with Dr. Akhila Vasan and Vijaya Kumar Seethappa from Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali, an NGO which fights for health rights, dignity and well-being of all citizens, with a focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities. In the past few years, the NGO has been in direct discussions with the state government of Karnataka and has advocated to the control of unabated privatisation of the health services in the state. The students and the resource persons used a narrative style of presentation, which was filled with discussions, case studies and anecdotes in order to emphasise the detrimental effects of the withdrawal of the state from the health sector in the post-liberalisation era and the subsequent mushrooming of the private health care which, presently, is largely unregulated. The privatisation of health care has also led to increasing cost of access to healthcare which a has led to large portion of the population being excluded from provision of quality healthcare. A few legislations like Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act 2007, Clinical Establishments Act 2010 and West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act 2017 were analysed and discussed in depth. The scenario of having health services replaced by the health insurance also was discussed in the session.

In continuation to the workshop, students in this group attended a public meeting on proposed amendments to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act, 2007, which helped them better understand the regulatory challenges faced in the health sector.

Higher Education Workshop

In the fifth workshop, regulation within the higher education sector was examined with the help of Prof. Sudha Rao and Dr. Chetan Singhai from NAAC. Higher education is an extremely diverse field which serves a wide range of institutions, courses and students and the sector has been growing steadily in India. Participants argued that norms must be set in place that ensure institutes of higher education have a clear mission, are accountable to their students and adequately prepare them for jobs in their field. The main focus of the workshop was on how quality can and should be assessed in such a context, questioning whether standardisation is a worthwhile goal or it can stifle innovation and progress. They discussed the parallel roles played by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in measuring quality and closely reviewed how these are subjectively measured through self-assessments and peer team visits. As both the guests, Prof Rao and Prof Singhai work closely with NAAC, they shared their experiences on the campus visits and participating in delegations to observe how other countries assess quality in their higher education sphere. The workshop concluded by studying the politicization of ‘quality’ in India as neither the state nor the market is fully equipped to determine the goals of higher education.

Media Workshop

In the final workshop, participants looked at regulation of the media sector along with Mr. Krishnaprasad (current Member of Press Council of India) and Mr Ravindra Kumar (MD and Editor of “The Statesman”, former President of Indian Newspaper Society). Participants began by highlighting the corporate incentive to get into media, which leads to creation of monopolies by mainstream media businesses. While this is a trend that has been taken to the extreme in the US, the Indian media still has a healthy degree of competition especially including Hindi and regional language media. Students discussed horizontal and vertical ‘cross-media ownership’ through print, online, television and radio as well as DTH and streaming or broadband services and looked at contemporary issues including the influence of TRPs and advertising, role of social media in spreading fake news and political biases of certain journalists. There was particular interest in the social and political role media could play in what is increasingly being described as a “post truth society” and where regulation could induce media houses to be more responsible and where it restricted the freedom of the press. Both Mr. Kumar S and Ms. Anitha spoke about their personal experiences as print journalists in the Kannada press and what inspired them to take up the profession in the first place. The session ended with Mr. Ravindra Kumar joining in via videoconference to add his insights on the contemporary scenario of ‘media divergence’ or segmentation in the market and take questions.

This post was compiled by the NLSIU MPP PR Team comprising of Aastha Maggu, Kalidoss Nanditha, Rohith CH, Smita Mutt and Trisrota Dutta.

Lecture on Accountability Reforms in India by Prashant Bhushan

SATTVIKA ASHOK

Noted activist and lawyer, Prashant Bhushan delivered an engaging lecture on the 9th of April at National Law School of India, University on ‘Accountability reforms through laws, institutions, and social movements’. Mr Bhushan has been closely associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform and the conceptualisation of the Jan Lokpal as a product of the India Against Corruption movement. According to Mr Bhushan, due to the absence of a strong citizen lobby, public policy in India has been serving vested commercial interests. 

Commenting on the realms of Public Interest Litigation and human rights, Mr Bhushan stressed the need for transparency, accountability and time bound delivery of service in the functioning of government institutions. To ensure so, the importance of grievance redressal by an appellate authority, independent of the government at both the Central and State level is critical. As a result, people’s groups have demanded the reintroduction of the ‘Right of Citizens for Time bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011‘ which had lapsed earlier in the assembly. Mr Bhushan also discussed the existing legal framework under the Right to Information Act, 2005 to access information under the control of public authorities. While the legal provision for seeking information has been revolutionary, proactive disclosure has been largely missing. In addition, the Central Information Commission set up under the RTI Act was perceived to be incompetent where appointments have been based on political considerations without transparency. The Central Vigilance Commission, an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption, reported that corruption complaints against various government departments jumped by a whopping 67 percent in 2016 over the previous year. (India 2017) The CVC that has a supervisory jurisdiction over the Central Bureau of Investigation has been criticised for its lack of effectiveness and investigative machinery. Therefore, Mr Bhushan believed there is a need for strong robust institutions, reforms, and laws to maintain transparency in governance, including the most important institution, the judiciary.  

Prashant Bhushan is also known for his association in the public interest domain with Transparency International, People’s Union for Civil Liberties and his stance the withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir and other areas. When asked what keeps him going, he replied, “when there is a huge injustice, you cannot close your eyes and walk away.” Given the role of media in politics today, where the mainstream media is showing signs of fascism, on asked whether a movement like Indian Against Corruption is possible, while Mr Bhushan agrees that citizen activism is harder, the new media and social media are increasingly able to capture the voice of the public.

References:

India, Press Trust of, ed. 2017. 67% jump in corruption complaints; railways tops: CVC. New Delhi, April 13.

Image source:

Image Reference: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/krishna-remark-prashant-bhushan-apologises-says-unintentionally-hurt-sentiments-of-many/

(Sattvika is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at sattvikaashok@nls.ac.in )

A conspiracy of silence deliberations of the consultation on POCSO

APOORVA S

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 recognises the need to create a sensitive and vigilant legal regime to protect children who are the victims of sexual assault, however, its implementation has been patchy and relied on a vast and uncoordinated network of actors who bear responsibility towards the victims.

The Centre for Child and the Law (CCL) in National Law School of India University recently conducted a two-day consultation on the law which looked at how its provisions were being carried out within the Indian court system and whether the rights and interests of children were truly being protected. The participants were stakeholders drawn from various spheres of policy making such as the researchers, journalists, advocates and judges of city civil courts, Members of Parliament, few representatives of NCPCR, Joint Secretary of Women and Child Development Ministry, CWC Chairperson, social workers, police and public prosecutors. They discussed various facets of the legal regime including perspectives from the judiciary on POCSO, recommendations based on empirical studies, implementation and bottlenecks in the Act, intersectionality and vulnerability to child sexual abuse, efforts of National Commission and State Commission for Protection Child Rights, rehabilitation and shelter homes, studies on best practices and expectations of lawyers from each other while discharging the role of defense, prosecutor, or the lawyer of the victim.

Recently, Kripa Alva, the Chairperson of the Child Rights body in Karnataka (Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights or KSCPCR) who was also present at the consultation, reprimanded the print and social media for violating Section 23 of the POCSO Act. This provision specifies that no reports shall disclose the identity of a child, including name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child. Such action would attract a minimum of six months of imprisonment. This onslaught came after the public in Bangalore protested in the streets to demand a complete investigation and filing of the charge sheet within 30 days, recording the statement of the sexually abused minor victim at the playschool within next four days in front of a magistrate and charging the school management under Section 16 of the POCSO Act.

The deliberations of the consultation on POCSO highlighted how disorganised activities of the police, courts and the prosecutors can amplify the mental agony of the child rather than acting in tandem to bring about justice. Sexual abuse can scar the psyche of the affected child for life and possibly lead to suicidal tendencies. In many cases, the offender is a family member or a known acquaintance. A better understanding of the overlapping vulnerabilities that put children in danger is needed as well as broader awareness of child protection laws and more stringent implementation of Child Protection policy in schools. The lack of awareness coupled with institutional apathy is a deadly combination. There is also an inbuilt ‘conspiracy of silence’, accepted as a norm, that may be seen from the families of economically weaker backgrounds. The rape of tribal children and Dalit children are often handled in a discriminatory fashion. The victims are antagonised, denied fair trial and dignity, and carry the risk of character assessment if the offender hails from an influential background. One of the critical reasons for the conspiracy of silence is the courtroom ordeal the victim dreads to face. Hence, the conviction rate itself is dismally low.  It is strongly expressed that the weakest link in the chain of the judicial trial is the role of the prosecutor who needs to be trained in child specific issues in bringing the evidence to the court. Sensitization of Sakshi guidelines, protection of the child from the perpetrator, the creation of a child-friendly environment, the presence of psychologists during the pre-trial and trial, frequent breaks during the trial are yet to be enacted. Convergence of laws and holding the enforcement authorities accountable is the most important recommendation of the POCSO consultation.

The state of Goa has implemented the Criminal Justice Victim Assistance Unit, wherein a victim appearing at the center as a witness of a murder, crime, sexual abuse or verbal abuse, etc is immediately provided with Social Legal Support and Counseling as well as Medical Examination and Statement Documentation in front of an advocate. The VAU in Goa is not financially supported by the government but is the result of the higher Court’s intervention that led to its creation.

The consultation, therefore, emphasised the need for such VAU’s in every State, strengthening the role of District Trauma team with all the support staff and enforcing the NALSA Scheme that provides for a child welfare person at every police station. Most importantly, the anarchism of media must be put in check. The Media must be encouraged to act as a responsible platform for mass sensitization and sustained social responsibility. The victims that POCSO caters to are among the most vulnerable members of society and we must ensure the system works to deliver the justice they deserve.

(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at apoorvas@nls.ac.in)

The Religion of kindness

APOORVA S

We are often confronted with questions like ‘What will save the world? What is the purpose of life? What is the source of happiness? Which Dharma to follow? What will seal our fate as humanity is outreaching its own limitations in the Twenty-first century?’

The words of the Dalai Lama invoke us into understanding the pursuit of happiness, secular ethics of compassion and forgiveness, and religious harmony for inner and world peace!

dalailama

His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore on 15th December 2016.

Most of us know of The Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader who is the face of the non-violent struggle in Tibet for democracy and sovereignty. It was surprising to also see his humorous side, accompanied by a charming smile and mesmerising humility. According to him, kindness is a religion to be followed as a way of life by one and all. He said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”. He spoke of profound values in a simple language and the need for benevolence in our daily lives.  He made it possible for us to be in sync with him throughout and in no time we had become very fond of him.

While narrating the history of Buddhism in Tibet, he acknowledged India for its long history of the religious harmony existing alongside diversity in custom, tradition and language. He reasoned that occasional disturbances are inevitable. Therefore, we must work hard to build unity wherever we go and embody universal human values.

dalai-lama

The Nalanda tradition of Buddha Dharma of India which reached Tibet in the eighth century permits a great deal of investigation and experimentation. It is not followed as a blind faith but rather invites both scholars and followers to ponder over its principles in a scientific manner and either accept or reject them. For this reason, the studies of the monks in the disciplines like psychology, cosmology and physics are welcomed all over the world for its merit in observing rigorous thinking and the art of embodying questioning in their practices. The Buddhist meditation technique of Vipassana, meaning analytical meditation, focuses on inquiry and the need to suppress one’s sense of anger and attachment.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama proposed that the real purpose of life is happiness and the world is in misery today because we give too much emphasis on narrow-minded, superficial differences. He expressed his concern for the current trend in suicides, saying that the modern education system is missing the values and consciousness which are crucial for learning, rather it has induced more anxiety and stress. We must not lose hope, but have a better understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, which is an effective remedy to the problems.

In the political sphere, Dalai Lama pressed that the protection of Tibet and its Buddhist culture is crucial. In 2011, he voluntarily retired from his political role within Tibet, transforming a tradition of four centuries in favour of a more democratic system. In his interaction with National Law School students, when questioned about the principle of non-interference in the affairs of the country, he said that one must always choose a middle path. This is based on the philosophy that we are all human beings, who cannot be blind to the reality nor can we act beyond reason. It is for the same reason that he supports Marxism, as it is concerned with redistribution of wealth but disapproves what Lenin believed in. He issued a call for the youth of the Twenty-first Century to be united in the face of a global crisis which is confronted with a rapid pace of moral decadence like never before. Rising intolerance, attacks on innocents, the spread of greed, money and weapon need to be combated by a resurgence of kindness and virtue – a philosophy of humanism which shall unite, rather than divide us. He ended the note with a strong message saying that the Twenty-first Century should be a peaceful century where violence should be replaced by discussion and exchange, thus leading to a Century of Dialogue!

(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at apoorvas@nls.ac.in)