The Hindu Editorial Analysis
21 September 2021

1. Tackling hate speech| As there are no laws on hate speech as such, India needs a political and pedagogical solution to the menace

  • Page 7/OPED
  • GS 1: Society - Communalism

Context: Recently, a speech by a Bishop of Pala belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala has coined the term ‘narcotic jihad’. He accused a few Muslim groups of giving Catholic girls narcotics or wooing them with the aim of religious conversion or of taking them to terrorist camps abroad. This has created strong reactions & a debate on Hate speech.

 

Understanding hate speech - concepts & definitions:

    • Basic Criteria of threatening Peace & Tranquality: Liberal democracies prohibit some types of speech on grounds that they are ‘injurious’.

      • In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the U.S. Supreme Court held that their Constitution does not protect “insulting or ‘fighting’ words — those which, by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” This is the core principle behind hate speech prohibition.

      • Importance of this criteria: It is based on the dignity and equality of individuals. Every person is entitled to basic human dignity and decent treatment.

    • Against Substantive Equality: Bhikhu Parekh, a British academic, said: “(Hate speech) views members of the target group as an enemy within, refuses to accept them as legitimate and equal members of society, lowers their social standing, and... subverts the very basis of a shared life. It creates barriers of mistrust and hostility between individuals and groups, plants fears, obstructs normal relations..., and... exercises a corrosive influence on the conduct of collective life.”

    • Against Liberty: In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India (2014), the Supreme Court of India quoted from the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Saskatchewan v. Whatcott (2013). It said that hate speech “impacts a protected group’s ability to respond to the substantive ideas under debate, thereby placing a serious barrier to their full participation in our democracy.”

 

The Indian legal position

    • Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): It prohibits “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”.

      • It is the communitarian element that makes the law still relevant, while the sedition law has become dangerous and obsolete.

    • In the Constitution: In India, hate speech is not defined under the Constitution or in the penal statutes. There is no specific legislation on it.

 

Problem:

    • Misuse: The law, in contemporary politics, suffers from disuse and misuse.

    • Implementation: at the operational level, i.e., how the law is implemented and enforced. On the one hand, it may ignore some remarks against the minority and on the other, vague references against the majoritarian agenda are often charged under this provision.

    • Difficult to design a new lawIt is not easy to design an accurate anti-hate speech law, due to its inherent potential for misuse.

    • A Challenging Trend: The Kerala incident, unfortunately, is not an isolated one. In a national scenario where hate has become an ideology and its impact on society is fatal, we need to think about countering it with political and jurisprudential means.

 

Way Forward:

    • This is why we need a political and pedagogical solution to the menace.

    • The Constitution’s ideas of equality, liberty and fraternity must be made topics of continuing public education.

    • Government must also take a secular stand based on the rule of law and educate the masses.

Expected Question: What is hate speech? What steps should government take to control it? (150 words)

 

2. ‘Fund and faculty’ count in higher education rankings| The new edition of the National Institutional Ranking Framework highlights the huge gap between the best and the rest

  • Page 6/Editorial
  • GS 2: Education

Context: The sixth edition of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for higher education was released by the Union Minister of Education on September 9 , 2021.

 

Ranking may offer many advantages:

    • Its signalling effect may help students, faculty, and prospective employer, respectively, to help them choose institutions for admission.

    • Help other universities to form partnerships.

    • To enhance chances for securing research funding, and target campuses for hirings.

    • It may promote competition among institutions, which in turn leads to an overall improvement in their quality.

    • Ranking leads to privileges such as getting autonomy, power to offer open and distance mode programmes, and permission to enter into collaboration with foreign universities.

    • To identify areas of improvement and then proactively to work to overcome those deficiencies and thus ensure quality and promote excellence. This would mitigate the huge difference that presently exists between the best and the rest of the Higher Education Institutions. Basis of metrics

 

Two fold Functions of a Good university:

    • Universities ought to offer quality dissemination of knowledge, skill and application orientation, but to attain excellence.

    • They must make a seminal contribution in research, publications, patents and innovations.

 

Mechanism of Ranking: Since performance of universities cannot be measured by a single indicator, they are assessed, and ranked on a metric of measures.

    • Research - Most important indicator: Most rankings give considerable weightage to research output, quality and impact thereof. The ARWU ranks universities solely on the basis of their research performance whereas THE and QS, respectively, accord 60% and 20% weightage to research. Following the trend, NIRF accords 30% weightage to Research Performance and Professional Practices (RPP).

      • This, in turn, is measured through the combined metric of publications (PU, 35%), combined metric of quality of publications (QP, 35%), IPR and patent (IPR, 15%) and Footprint of Projects and Professional Practice (FPPP, 15%).

    • On salaries and research: NIRF does not disclose data on the total number of teachers but amongst a few statistics that it reports includes the total expenditure on salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff bunched together and the total number of PhD students enrolled in each of the ranked universities.

      • Using the above two as proxy for the size of a university in terms of the faculty members and research staff, they were transposed against the Research and Professional Practice (RPP) ranks grouped in 10 categories.

 

 A very disquieting trend in Research -

    • The NIRF 2020 ranking reveals that the best university in the country scored 92.16% on research performance.

    • The score drastically declined to 60.52% for the 10th best university.

    • Going further down, the 20th and the 50th best universities, respectively, scored 50.32% and 28.69%.

    • In the case of the 100th best university, the RPP declined to as low as 4.35%. It is not difficult to guess the state of affairs of the remaining 935 universities in the country.

 

Trend in Salaries: The data disclose in no uncertain terms that on an average, the higher the expenditure on salaries of the staff, the higher is the ranking of the university. For example:

    • the average annual expenditure on salaries for the top 10 universities works out to be ₹391.72 crore.

    • As against this, the universities ranked between 41-50 were found to be spending only ₹119.64 crore on salaries.

    • Expectedly, those ranked at the bottom between 91-100, spent only ₹79.26 crore. So is the case with regard to the research scholars.

    • Data discerns that the top 10 universities in NIRF had an average of 2,627 research scholars, whereas those ranked between 41-50 had only 1,036 PhD students on the rolls.

    • Reinforcing the trend, the universities ranked in the bottom 10 had no more than 165 research scholars. The larger the number of research scholars, the higher the ranks of the universities in terms of RPP. What was already known intuitively is now proven by the data.

 

Conclusion:

    • The fund and the faculty, the two most neglected areas, are critical not only for research performance but also for the overall ranking, as the two bear a high degree of positive correlation.

    • No nation can afford a few ‘islands of excellence surrounded by the sea of mediocrity’, condemning them to eternal inferiority.

    • Improvement: Expenditure must be improved on education to 6% of GDP to support research and implementation of National Education Policy 2020.

Expected Question: There is a big disparity among the higher educational institutions in India. Enumerating the reasons behind this trend , propose solutions to improve this. (250 Words)