The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.
1. Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius
- The recent judgment of the International Court of Justice concerning the separation of the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius is examined for its legal impact.
- Despite its limitations, this judgment, in the current global atmosphere of protectionism, hyper-nationalism, and fast-diminishing faith in international institutions, has some positive highlights.
- Mauritius and its dependent islands (one of which was the Chagos Archipelago) used to be a colony of the UK till 1968.
- The United States (US), in its deliberations with UK expressed its interest to establish a military communication facility on Diego Garcia, the principal island of the Chagos Archipelago.
- This led to discussions between the UK and the representatives of the colony of Mauritius on the question of the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius
- There was an agreement signed between the UK and representatives of Mauritius wherein Mauritian representatives agreed in principle to the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago for a huge sum of money.
- Another condition was that the archipelago would be returned to Mauritius when the need for the military facilities on the islands disappeared.
- In November 1965, a colony, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) consisting of the Chagos Archipelago, was established by the UK.
- The US and the UK concluded an agreement for the establishment of a military base by the US on the Chagos Archipelago which also led to the deportation of the inhabitants of Chagos (Chagossians) who were also prevented from returning.
- The BIOT commissioner enacted an Immigration Ordinance, which made it unlawful for any person to enter or remain in the Chagos Archipelago without a permit.
- Till date, these Chagossians remain scattered in several countries, including the UK. Owing to the laws of the UK and judicial decisions rendered by its courts, they are not allowed to return to the Chagos Archipelago.
- In 2017, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a resolution (Resolution 71/292) requesting an advisory opinion from the International court of justice regarding two questions
- Was the process of decolonization of Mauritius lawfully completed following the separation of the Chagos Archipelago?
- What are the consequences under international law arising from the continued administration by UK and issues with the resettlement on the Chagos Archipelago of its nationals, in particular those of Chagossian origin
- It first delved into identifying the applicable law pertaining to self-determination for the period between 1965 and 1968.
- Turning to the inquiry as to whether the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius was carried out in accordance with international law, the court considered the circumstances in which the colony of Mauritius agreed in principle to such a detachment.
- It found that this detachment was not based on the free and genuine expression of the will of the people concerned.
- The ICJ determined that detachment of the Chagos Archipelago and incorporation into a new colony, called BIOT was unlawful
- Thus process of decolonisation of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when Mauritius achieved independence in 1968.
- On the second question of consequences arising from the continued administration by UK of Chagos, the court only pointed towards the obligation of the UK to bring an end to its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as swiftly as possible.
Other underpinnings of the judgment
- In the court’s view, it is not possible to talk of an international agreement, when one of the parties to it, Mauritius, which is said to have ceded the territory to the UK, was under the authority of the latter.
- Although the Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties does not recognise “unequal treaties” as a special legal category, reflection and practice relating to this concept have influenced the development of international law.
- The contribution of the discourse on unequal treaties is that it made international legal scholarship more sensitive to the discrepancy between formal equality and substantial political and economic inequality.
- The court’s opinion in the long run is jurisprudentially significant as it ultimately highlights the unequal bargaining positions of the states in the international order.
- For a just world order, it is important to consider the essence of this argument wherein the court seems to be saying that if the parties are not on equal footing then an agreement cannot be held valid.
- On this issue, the court opined that the issue of resettlement on the Chagos Archipelago is an issue relating to the protection of the human rights of those concerned which should have been addressed by the General Assembly during the completion of the decolonisation of Mauritius.
- A more proactive approach could have been adopted. For instance, Judge Trindade in his separate opinion contends that the Chagossians deserve reparations for the hardships they have been made to suffer.
- Notwithstanding all the limitations of the judgment, in this global atmosphere of protectionism, hyper-nationalism and dwindling faith in international institutions, this advisory opinion has come as a silver lining.
- Although ICJ’s advisory opinion does not create a law and just declares itent, it is expected from the UK, which despite its non-participation, has a responsibility to take necessary actions in compliance with international law, both in letter and spirit.
2. A Game of Gestures
After the long-drawn-out parliamentary election, the country barely had time to decide on how to characterise the election outcome, when a controversy erupted over a positive reference to the old three-language formula in the draft national policy on education.
What is the three language formula?
- It is commonly understood that the three languages referred to are Hindi, English and the regional language of the respective States.
- The three-language formula, includes
- The study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi-speaking States.
- In the ‘non-Hindi speaking States’, Hindi should be studied along with the regional language and English.
Background of Hindi imposition
- The State has been traditionally opposed to any attempt to introduce Hindi as a compulsory language of learning or administration.
- The origin of the linguistic row, however, goes back to the debate on official language. In the Constituent Assembly, Hindi was voted as the official language by a single vote.
- However, it added that English would continue to be used as an associate official language for 15 years.
- The Official Languages Act came into effect on the expiry of this 15-year period in 1965. This was the background in which the anti-Hindi agitation took place.
- However, as early as in 1959, Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in Parliament that English would continue to be in use as long as non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.
Origin of three-language formula
- Three language idea was first brought into the domain of policy drafting by the Education Commission (1964–66), chaired by D S Kothari.
- The commission’s report says that the three-language formula was devised by the Central Advisory Board of Education in 1956
- A simplified form of the suggested formula was approved by the Conference of Chief Ministers in 1961.
- The commission pointed out that the driving force for the three language formula were more political and social, than educational.
Disadvantages of the three language formula:
- Struggle to balance educational considerations with political compulsions.
- Implementation of the three-language formula has led to several difficulties and it has not been very successful.
- Heavy language load in the school curriculum.
- The lack of motivation for the study of an additional modern Indian language in the Hindi speaking areas
- The resistance to the study of Hindi in the non-Hindi speaking areas
- Heavy cost and effort involved in providing for the teaching of second and third languages for five to six years (from Class VI to Class X or XI)
- As far as the third language is concerned, the students in many areas have gained very little because of the unreal situation in which most of them studied it.
- Three languages at the elementary stage will interfere considerably with the development of the child’s mastery over his mother tongue and with his intellectual growth.
- In the immediate future, therefore, the greatest emphasis should be placed on the learning of one’s own language, and the study of additional languages has to be kept at a minimum
- A swelling private sector riding on the wave of parental disenchantment with government schools.
- The urge to educate the child in the English medium.
- The acute shortage of teachers and institutionalised vulnerability in the appointment of teachers, and the vastly commercialised training of teachers
- In the past, during the times of Kothari commission, we had a state centric frame of reference and political compulsions needed to be accepted and negotiated, but market compulsions were marginal
- Market pressures are at the centre stage now while political compulsions are important mainly as gestures to get the attention of the media and the public.
- Far from being a matter of substance, the promotion of Hindi is mere posturing.
- By mentioning the role of Hindi in the three-language formula, the new policy draft offered a token of continued faith in an early model of nationalism.
- When objections arose, a quick denial of any intention to impose Hindi was rearticulated as per the old negotiated settlement.
- Successive official statements on language-related issues in education have criticised the growing popular preference for English medium education from the earliest stage.
- The current draft does the same, recommending that mother tongue or home language should be the medium “when possible.”
3. A Dithering Higher Education Policy
- In the field of higher education, the intent and the practices of the central government in the last five years seem to be in contradiction with the recently drafted National Education Policy (NEP), 2019, prepared by the Kasturirangan Committee.
- Contradictions between new draft NEP and government
- The government has promoted privatisation and market-friendly practices such as increased competition, ranking, self-financing and market loans in the past years.
- The draft NEP on the contrary, recommends the most ideal ecosystem of higher education, financed by the government.
- The current education policy was framed in 1986 and revised in 1992, which is why there was a need to review it and bring in necessary changes.
- As per the report, the policy has been framed with a 20-year-vision.
- Initially, the former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian-headed panel was entrusted with the task of drafting the new NEP. The committee submitted its report in 2016.
- However, the government set up the Kasturirangan committee in 2017 after a new HRD minister took charge and asked it to take inputs from the earlier report.
Difference between two reports
- There have been differences between the two committee reports.
- For instance, whereas the Subramanian Committee noted that primacy should be given to the mother tongue as the medium of instruction.
- Kasturirangan Committee seeks the implementation of three language formula, raising fear of imposition of Hindi as a third language in all non-Hindi-speaking states.
- Upon opposition from the southern states, a clarification was issued by the MHRD that this is only a draft version of the policy, and that there will be flexibility in the three language formula.
Changing the architecture of universities
- It states that the national goal of higher education is to provide education to meet the requirements of the 21st century.
- Made possible through the architecture of multidisciplinary universities and colleges imparting liberal education, and training the minds of students both in the logical and affective domain.
- All affiliating universities, it says, should be restructured into a system of research universities, teaching universities and comprehensive multidisciplinary colleges having degree-granting powers.
- It is necessary to then have all technical and professional colleges, vocational education and open and distance learning systems to be integrated within these multidisciplinary universities and colleges.
- Hence a specialised university or private and deemed universities have no place within this architecture.
Proposal of single regulatory body
- The draft NEP also notes that there is a multiplicity of regulatory bodies whose functions overlap.
- Thus, it also recommends a restructuring of these into a single regulatory body, the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA).
- It will be responsible for the standard setting of higher education—be it general education or specialised fields like engineering, law, education, medicine, etc.
- Hence all regulatory bodies in technical or professional fields will be restricted to the standard setting role of respective professions only, rather than a standard setting of higher education.
Role of Governance
- The four functions of governance—standard setting, regulation, funding and accreditation of all higher education institutions (HEIs), be it general or professional—will be conducted by an independent body.
- Accreditation of all higher education institutions (HEIs) be it general or professional—Will be conducted by an independent bodies that is,
- The Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) NHERA,
- University Grants Commission (UGC) in a transformed role as the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) and
- A revamped National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)
- The National Higher Education Qualification Framework shall be developed by the General Education Council (GEC).
- The RSA, headed by the Prime Minister, will be the highest body responsible for giving overall direction to higher education.
Other features in New draft policy
- The draft also suggested is the establishment of the National Research Foundation, for the promotion of research.
- Another innovative feature of the policy is to start Mission Nalanda which will ensure that there are at least 100 Type 1 and 500 Type 2 HEIs functioning vibrantly by 2030, ensuring equity in regional distribution.
- Mission Takshashila will strive to establish at least one high quality HEI in or close to every district of India, with two or three such HEIs in districts with larger populations, each with residential facilities for students.
- Faculty recruitment and promotion should be rigorous and will be ensured at the level of the institution, with a provision of motivational input and merit-based career management.
- Another innovative suggestion is the working out of an Institutional Development Plan and a Faculty Development Plan for transforming institutions.
- Without going into the cost analysis of all the restructuring agenda, it is hoped by the NEP that there will be an increase of 10% in the public expenditure on education.
- Public and private institutions will be treated at par and there will be no private colleges whether education, engineering or medicine, etc, as a single discipline university or college.
Shortcomings of the draft policy
- The blueprint for higher education provided by the draft NEP sounds good as an idea. However, it may fall short in practical rationality.
- First, the abolition of the affiliating system, rather than its reform, is not a practical suggestion. Doing this as stipulated by the NEP, may entail huge costs,
- Second, the idea of NHERA as the standard setting of all higher education, general as well as all technical and professional disciplines will also run into inter-ministerial conflict of opinions.
- Third, the idea of the RSA as the highest body, and a similar Rajya Shiksha Aayog, as the highest body in the state, may come into conflict with the autonomous role envisaged for the institutions of higher education
- Fourth, the draft NEP tends to ignore the historicity of the development of institutions of higher education. The mofussil colleges serving the rural people will have to be closed down, with the coming up of few multidisciplinary universities and colleges
- Fifth, making it all happen through the financing for higher education as envisaged in the blueprint is perhaps the most impractical aspect, judging by the past pattern of public expenditure.
- Sixth, the political role of a university or college has been ignored. There are vested interests which may defy the ideal functioning of the university.
- Seventh, the role of state governments in agreeing to the blueprint of higher education as envisaged in the NEP will be crucial.
Why implementation draft policy is sceptical
- The reason that one feels so sceptical about the NEP is that government decisions that have been guiding the direction of higher education are opposite to what is envisaged in the draft NEP.
- Whereas the government in the past has promoted competition through the National Institutional Ranking Framework, NPE only mentions ranking thrice in a different context.
- Further, there seems to be no real intent of the government, be it at the centre or in states, to address the shortage of teachers.
- The draft NEP is serious about addressing the shortage of teachers and introducing a robust faculty development plan.
- The real intent of the government is to have world-class universities. NEP talks of research universities, which may develop into world-class later. The real practice has been to continue the single discipline colleges and universities, particularly promoted by private players.
- NEP talks of multidiscipline universities and colleges. It means that all such previous technical, medical, agricultural or petroleum universities will have to become multidisciplinary.
- Last, but not the least, universities must serve the public purpose. The public purpose will be served when knowledge generation and dissemination serves the public.
- It means that universities must connect to the people and their problems. The real connect will be achieved when all sections of society get opportunities to reach the corridors of higher education
- And when the knowledge gained and potential cultivated is used to solve the problems of people. Not only that, these must strengthen the roots of democracy.
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