The Hindu Editorial Analysis
14 March 2020

1) Dominion over territory: On UTs and Lieutenant Governors


  • CONTEXT:
  • Division Bench of the Madras High Court gave a verdict on the respective roles of the elected regime in Puducherry and the Administrator appointed by the President.
  • It underscores both the inherent potential for conflict in the governance scheme for Union Territories and the manner in which it can be resolved.
  • Verdict shows both potential for conflict and its resolution lie in the constitutional scheme.
  • JUDGEMENT:
  • The Bench has done well to say that its role is not to lay down who has residual control, whether it is the Council of Ministers or the Administrator.
    • But to stress the existing legal framework under which their powers are defined.
  • The Bench has set aside a single judge’s 2019 order that the Lieutenant-Governor should not interfere in the day-to-day administration of Puducherry.
  • To this extent, it is a shot in the arm for L-G Kiran Bedi, but it also contains a note of caution against the Centre going beyond its constitutional limitations.
  • INTERESTING FACET:
  • An interesting facet of the case is both- last year’s judgment by Justice R. Mahadevan, and the one overruling it by a Bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad.
  • It relies on the exposition of the law by the Supreme Court in relation to the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • The apex court had emphasised on the need for constitutional morality and constitutional trust among high dignitaries, implying that Lt. Governors and Chief Ministers must work in unison as far as possible.
  • In the event of an unresolved difference of opinion, the L-G should refer it to the President for a decision.
  • The main ground on which the single judge’s verdict has been set aside is that it was based on an inappropriate parallel sought to be drawn between a ‘Union Territory’ and a ‘State’.
  • If the matter goes on appeal to the Supreme Court, it may be worth examining whether the single judge relied solely on this parallel.
  • QUESTION:
  • Much of his verdict drew upon the spirit of the Supreme Court’s views on the conflict between the Chief Minister and L-G of Delhi.
  • Whether the precedent on the limits of the Delhi L-G’s powers would apply to the Puducherry Administrator was a question that was raised even then.
  • After all, it is acknowledged that the status of NCT is sui generis.
  • However, the elements of conflict and discord are common to Union Territories with elected legislatures.
  • Hence, the principle that constitutional functionaries should avoid daily clashes, with the Centre using its primacy to resolve disputes, does commend itself.
  • In that sense, the single judge was not wrong in holding that the
  • WAY FORWARD:
  • Administrator is bound by the “aid and advice” clause, and that the power to refer any matter to the President should not mean “every matter”.
  • The main issue remains whether the notion of representative government should get greater credence even in a territory designated as belonging to the Union.

 

2) Temples of critical thinking and debate


  • CONTEXT:
  • In the recent subject-wise ranking of world universities by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Indian institutions improved with 26 departments or schools placed in the top 100 of their respective disciplines.
  • Science, technology and business studies were the fields in which our universities showed their mettle.

  • FREEDOM OF UNIVERSITIES:
  • While this is a reason to celebrate, not even a single Indian university features in the QS ranking of the world’s top 150 in overall parameters.
  • The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) of Bombay and Delhi are at the 152nd and 182nd places in the overall rankings, while IISc Bangalore appears at the 184th position.
  • There is much for India to learn from those who are miles ahead of us.
  • QS’s top 10 in overall terms include-
    • five American universities (MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Caltech and Chicago),
    • four British universities (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College) and
    • one Swiss university (ETH Zurich).
  • All the five American names in this list are private universities.
  • The British and Swiss institutions are public universities which have nonetheless enjoyed significant autonomy from governmental control over decades.
  • One common factor behind the success of the topmost universities is the freedom with which they operate.
  • CENTRES OF INNOVATIONS:
  • They have been major centres of innovation in teaching and research thanks to independence from bureaucratic or corporate meddling and political intervention by parties of the day.
  • They could remain centres of extraordinary excellence in a sustained way by according primacy to matters of the mind, i.e. intellectual ideas and solutions to problems, and avoiding becoming hostage to dogmatic thought.
  • PLURALISTIC CENTRES:
  • All the great universities of the world are ideologically pluralistic, with a mix of right, left and centre among their faculty and students.
  • There is no institutional line or official position on any issue.
  • Professors and students are free to choose whatever opinion they prefer. No one is penalised for holding a pro- or anti- view on social, economic, political, cultural or scientific matters.
  • The top universities are also excellent at attracting and retaining talent. They hire professors very selectively, based on outstanding scholarly abilities.
  • They reject a large number of candidates for admission as students, and admit only the brightest and the most meritorious.
  • This ruthless streak comes at the expense of social inclusion and access considerations.
    • But some institutions must be allowed to generate knowledge as an end in itself so that they reach the summit of intellectual endeavour.
  • INCENTIVISE PUBLICATION:
  • Top universities incentivise publication and citation of research in an unforgivingly rigorous way.
  • If an Assistant Professor does not produce brilliant publications in the most reputed journals of her field, she may lose her job and not get tenured as an Associate Professor.
  • By insisting on tough standards which are never lowered or relaxed, these universities promote a meritocratic culture as a habit.
  • Big universities also inculcate critical thinking, debating and writing abilities in their students.
  • They encourage students to look at issues through interdisciplinary lenses and to challenge their own professors.
  • They award grades to students who are argumentative and who question conventional wisdom in the classroom and in assignments.
  • This type of interactive pedagogy produces champion graduates who have a reputation for cutting-edge skills and knowledge in the job market compared to peers from second- or third-tier universities.
  • The world’s best universities are known for involving their own alumni in governance and reforms.
  • SUPER-SMART FINANCIAL MANAGERS:
  • Top global universities are also super-smart financial managers.
  • Many of them, especially the U.S. universities, have sophisticated alumni offices through which they raise funding, which can exceed the revenue from student tuition fees.
  • By 2019, the total endowment of Harvard was worth $40 billion, which is made up of over 13,000 individual funds.
  • Harvard invests this money in a variety of financial instruments and generates phenomenal income from it.
  • Since the top Anglo-American universities go back centuries, it is arguable whether such type of elite institutions can be quickly and easily replicated outside the U.S. and the U.K.
  • These big universities are products of historical circumstances which relied on private philanthropy, colonial plunder or governmental subsidies to reach the level they are at today.
  • THE CHINA EXAMPLE:
  • Still, a muscular push from the government of China with massive state funding has propelled Chinese universities into the top tiers in barely two decades.
  • In the QS world rankings on overall basis, Tsinghua University is ranked number 16, Peking University is at 22, Fudan University is at 40, and Zhejiang University is at 54. This is a miraculous leap forward.
  • In India, the government is cash-strapped and lacks the kind of resources which the Chinese state have deployed to pump-prime Chinese universities
    • Our only viable path to world class universities are in the form of enlightened private philanthropy and borrowing best practices from established iconic universities.
  • Avoiding politicisation, ideological rigidity and nepotism, and freeing our universities from excessive interference and over-regulation, are prerequisites for success.
  • Most importantly, our universities must have the drive to excel and compete with Chinese or Western universities.
  • Insularity and self-congratulatory frog-in-the-well attitudes have held us back for long.
  • Ingrained mediocrity and laid-back culture which result in inadequate training of students in theories and methodologies have to be overcome.
  • A nationalistic passion for India to be recognised as a top educational hub must underpin the strategies and activities of our universities.
  • INSTITUTES OF EMINENCE:
  • The government’s decision to identify 20 Institutes of Eminence (IOEs) which will get maximum autonomy from bureaucracy in order to climb up the world rankings is a step in the right direction.
  • The selected IOEs must innovate with new degree programmes, expanded variety of faculty members and digital learning platforms.
  • WAY FORWARD:
  • India has miles to go in higher education.
  • Unlike in authoritarian and top-down China, there is little likelihood of a meteoric breakout of multiple Indian universities into the top 100 of the worlds at a rapid clip.
  • To be among the best in the world, Indian universities must be freed from excessive interference and politicisation.
  • India’s democratic and contested character renders change evolutionary and cumulative.
  • Still, with long-term vision and selfless leadership, our universities can eventually make it.

 

3) The ambit and the limits of ‘diaspora diplomacy’


  • CONTEXT:
  • Joint rallies by U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad last month and at Houston last September were unique for their concept and for their crowd sizes.
  • IT was also for the promise they held out to the leaders themselves: of audiences that would blend support for Mr. Trump with that for Mr. Modi politically.
  • BEYOND BILATERAL RELATIONS:
  • As a result, speaking beyond bilateral relations, both leaders paid tribute to the three million people of Indian origin who are American citizens, who will vote in elections this year.
  • In Ahmedabad, Mr. Trump referred to Indian Americans as “truly spectacular people”.
  • In Houston, Mr. Modi said the 2016 election of Mr. Trump, who had used the slogan “Abki Baar Trump Sarkar” during his campaign, had “lit up millions of faces with joy”.
  • Mr. Modi’s recall of the slogan sent a not-so-subtle message ahead of the upcoming U.S. presidential poll, where Mr. Trump is seeking re-election.
  • The result of both rallies and the speeches was a heady concoction for both politicians, seeing the Indian diaspora not just as a part of India’s “soft power”, but a fully transferable political vote bank as well.

  • PITCHING TO BOTH AUDIENCES:
  • Mr. Modi has also brought this dual effect into play in several diaspora rallies worldwide.
  • At each of them, he has spoken of initiatives taken by his government for Indians, and also those for the diaspora, pitching to both audiences at one time.
  • In Israel, for example, Mr. Modi spent much of his speech on talking about his agricultural programmes, which was meant for domestic audiences watching his speech on television.
    • And then announced the start of a direct Air India flight to Tel Aviv, to big cheers from his live audience.
  • The government has also frequently blurred the line between Indian expatriates and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) in describing India’s strength abroad. In March 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs raised the issue of attacks on Indians strongly with the U.S. government, after three incidents of suspected hate crimes.
  • Only one of the three was an Indian citizen, the rest were Americans of Indian extraction. This is an important distinction from the past.
  • TRANSFERABILITY OF VOTES:
  • India has the world’s largest diaspora, about 17.5 million and receives the highest remittance of $78.6 billion from Indians living abroad (Global Migration Report 2020).
  • Members of the diaspora, often seen as more “successful” and therefore more influential, can have a big impact on their relatives back home, and this makes for a potent combination for any politician.
  • Mr. Modi’s joint rallies with
    • former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron;
    • former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper;
    • israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • all included this promise, and saw those leaders make campaign pitches to the Indian community that Mr. Modi had gathered, even as Mr. Modi’s popularity with his voters back home benefited from their presence at his rallies.
  • However, the promise of the diaspora’s dual power is based on certain faulty premises.
    • and it is necessary and timely that the government re-analyses the benefits accrued from the diaspora’s political presence through a more realistic lens.
  • To start with, the transferability of votes has not yet been proven conclusively. Six months after the April 2015 rally, Mr. Harper lost general elections in Canada.
  • Mr. Cameron lost the referendum on Brexit and resigned seven months after the November 2015 rally, and Mr. Netanyahu has had to face re-elections after failing to secure a majority in any of the three polls that followed his July 2017 joint rally with Mr. Modi in Tel Aviv.
  • One obvious reason is that the Indian community isn’t large enough to make a difference in the voting patterns in any of these countries.
  • The second is that the population that comes out for the rallies doesn’t represent the entire diaspora.
  • Take the case of U.K. general elections last December, where the Boris Johnson-led Conservative party sought to wrest the support of the traditionally Labour-leaning British-Indian community, and even featured Mr. Modi in its campaign advertisements.
  • The results, which gave the Conservatives a massive win, didn’t however make the case for transfer of votes.
  • A report on the 30 constituencies in the U.K. where ‘Asians’ (a majority of whom are of Indian origin) constitute more than a quarter of the voting population showed that Labour won 29 of the 30 seats, the same that it had also won in 2017 elections, and while its vote share dropped, that mirrored its average losses across the U.K.
  • US ELECTION:
  • In the upcoming U.S. election, it remains to be seen whether the Trump outreaches at Houston and Ahmedabad bring in a haul of new Indian-American voters, but the statistics are daunting.
  • In the 2016 election, 77% of Indian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton while just 16% voted for Mr. Trump.
  • The second issue is that politically active members of the Indian diaspora don’t necessarily support the Indian government’s actions.
    • and often, because they are of Indian origin, hold the government in New Delhi to higher standards than they do others.
  • The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson for Asia, Ami Bera, voiced his concerns quite plainly about Kashmir and the CAA during a visit to India last month, for example, saying that the India that he “loved” was “democratic and secular”.
  • The sponsor of the U.S. House resolution on Kashmir (HR745) Pramila Jayapal; co-chair of U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s campaign Ro Khanna; and former presidential contender Kamala Harris, have all been openly critical of the government’s actions.
  • The conclusion for the government is that it cannot own only that part of the diaspora that supports its decisions, and must celebrate the fact that members of the Indian diaspora, from both sides of the political divide, are successful and influential.
  • INTEREST AND ‘INTERFERENCE’:
  • Third, the government must ensure that its focus on the diaspora doesn’t become a factor in its bilateral relations.
  • While it is perfectly legitimate and laudable to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian citizens in different parts of the world, as the Modi government has done, it must tread more lightly on issues that concern foreign citizens of Indian origin.
  • Addressing the Lok Sabha in 1957, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said about the diaspora, “We want to have no vested interests at the expense of the population of those countries…if they adopt the nationality of that country we have no concern with them.
  • There may be sentimental concerns but politically they cease to be Indian nationals.” (A reply to debate on foreign policy in Lok Sabha; September 2, 1957).
  • Subsequent governments have distanced themselves from this rather cold-blooded view and warmed up to the diaspora, but none have raised the concerns of the diaspora with foreign governments, on visas and other issues, like the present one has.
  • The introduction of India’s internal politics into this equation is another new angle, one that led the British Foreign Office to remonstrate with India about interference last December.
  • A tweet, subsequently deleted by an office bearer of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party last month, that threatened to “play a role” in U.S. elections in response to criticism from Mr. Sanders, was also a troubling symptom of this.
  • Politically affiliated Indian diaspora chapters are now also playing old India-Pakistan fault-lines amongst immigrants, which in the past were fuelled by Pakistani agencies.
  • In California primaries this month, local “Hindu-American” groups protested against Democratic candidates like Ro Khanna for joining the Congressional Pakistan caucus and for criticising New Delhi’s actions. (Mr. Khanna won the primary).
  • WAY FORWARD:
  • Finally, the government must consider the impact that policies conflating the PIOs with Indian citizens could have on the diaspora itself.
  • Most immigrant Indian communities have been marked by their ability to assimilate into the countries they now live in.
  • It is necessary for New Delhi to look at the political choices of Indian migrants abroad through a more realistic lens.
  • Much of that comes from a desire to be treated as equal citizens, not as immigrants.
    • A few also have bad memories of anti-immigrant sentiments in the 1960s and 1970s in Europe and the U.S., when they were targeted and accused of “divided loyalties”.
  • Laying claim to their kinship and culture and taking pride in their success is one thing.
  • It would be a mistake to lay claim to their politics, however.