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The Hindu Editorial

30-November-2023

1. A better model

Topic: GS2- Constitution Body

Context: The ECI must act independently as the arbiter of election code breaches

Model Code of Conduct:

  • The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that parties and governments are expected to follow during election campaigning is well ­meaning, but not easy to enforce. 
  • The MCC is largely dependent on the cooperation of parties and governments and the vigilance of the Election Commission of India (ECI). 
  • Some of its clauses are declarations of intent, such as maintaining the “purity of the election process”. 

ECI and Action:

  • In recent days, the ECI has wielded the MCC against the Assam Chief Minister Him nta Biswa Sarma of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and its Delhi unit president; Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi; Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and his son and cabinet colleague K.T. Rama Rao following alleged violations of various kinds.
  • In a more consequential move, the ECI has withdrawn its perm ssion for the Telangana government to credit cash to farmers under the Rythu Bandhu scheme ahead of voting on November 30. 
  • The ECI found statements made by State Fin nce Minister T. Harish Rao to be in violation of the MCC. 
  • But curiously, the Congress government in Karnataka has been served notice for issuing advertisements that might influence voters in Telangana.
  • The Gandhis were served notices for using allegedly derogatory words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi based on the BJP complaints. 

Issues with ECI:

  • This catalogue of ECI actions might give an appearance of even­handedness, but issues that it did not address too require attention. 
  • Congress complaints against Mr. Modi a d Home Minister Amit Shah, for charges comparable if not more serious than those against Opposition leaders, have been ignored. 
  • The ECI has not responded to a Congress complaint that the Enforcement Directorate tried to t lt the scale in Chhattisgarh by making a public accusation against Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, in the midst of elections, that he had received kickbacks from a fugitive. 
  • The merits of this case apart, weaponisation of investigations  y central or State agencies for political purposes during an election can be an unfair interference. 
  • It is doubtful that the ECI has p oven itself up to the task and demonstrated its capacity to act fairly and objectively. 
  • In this context, a government move to legislate  he supremacy of the executive in the appointment of the members of the ECI is worrisome. 
  • Under the proposed scheme, the ruling party at the Centre will solely control the composition of the ECI. That is not good news for free and fair elections in India.

2. Women’s political empowerment — more talk, less action

Topic: GS2- Vulnerable section

Context: Women reservation in politics

Case for presentation:

  • In any country, the political empowerment of women is generally possible with two routes — the first is to reserve seats for women in legislature by means of legislation and the second is to have provision for quotas for women candidates within political parties while nominating candidates.
  • There are examples for both that have been adopted in various countries, in turn helping women’s political empowerment.
  • Neighbouring Nepal, Banglade h and Pakistan have opted for the legislative route and are faring better in terms of representation of women in their legislatures. 
  • For example, in Pakistan, 17% seats are reserved for women in its national assembly; Bangladesh has reserved 50 out of 350 seats in its Jatiya Sangsad and Nepal has reserved 33% of the total seats for women. 
  • Statistics show that there is an improvement in the number of women legislators being elected crossing the percentage of seats reserved for women which is a sign of women’s political empowerment in one way or the other.

The world and India

  • There are many countries where there are no laws mandating quotas for women, but political parties are required to give a certain percentage of tickets to women candidates. 
  • Australia (38%), Canada (31%), South Africa (45%), and Sweden (46%) have no legislatively ­backed quotas in their Parliament, yet most of these countries have more than 30% women in their respective Parliaments. 
  • This is clear evidence that quo a is not the only route for women’s political representation. 
  • There is another route of reservation within parties while giving tickets, which is equally effective for women’s political representation.
  • The debate about women’ polit cal representation has been going on in India for long; in fact the Bill reserving 33% seats for women was passed in the Upper House on March 9, 2010 but could not be passed in the Lower House as the United Progressive Alliance Government (UPA) was not in the majority. 
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party­ led National Democratic Alliance government has chosen the quota route for the political empowerment of women by enacting the Constitution (One Hundred and Sixth Amendment) Act of 2023. 
  • It is considered a milestone in terms of women empowerment (reserving by law 33% seats in State Assemblies and Parliament). 
  • It is important to note that the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with a huge majority, only two Members opposing the Bill.

Assembly elections this year:

  • An analysis of the pattern of ticket distribution for these Assembly elections suggests that political parties have hardly made any effort to give more tickets to women candidates even as a sign of gesture. 
  • An analysis of the number of tickets given by both national and regional political parties to women candidates suggests that in Madhya Pradesh, for the House of 230 seats both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress fielded 24 and 27 women candidates, respectively, in the 2018 election. 
  • After passing the reservation Bill just before the elections, they have fielded women in 28 and 30 seats, respectively. 
  • In Telangana, out of 119 seats, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, formerly known as Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the Congress and the BJP have fielded 10, eight and four women candidates in the 2018 elections; in the current elections, the numbers were 10, 11 and 12, respectively. 
  • In all the five States, no political party has reached even the 15% mark in giving tickets to women candidates — far less than the mandated 33%. 
  • It is obvious that political parties are more interested in viewing women as voters than encouraging and empowering them as legislators.
  • In the 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party had reserved 40% of seats for women which was a bold and innovative move in the Indian political arena. 
  • The TMC’s tickets to 46 women candidates, resulted in 32 candidates winning.

Discouraging signal:

  • The initiative of enacting the women reservation Act, 2023 is a commendable move by the parliamentarians of the day. 
  • But, due to its linkage with the new delimitation which will be done after 2026, we can say that the law looks good only on paper. 
  • In spite of not having any law, regional parties such as the TMC have fielded candidates successfully and won electoral battles.
  • The question arises: what has hindered the national and other regional parties in showing commitment towards women empowerment by increasing the number of their women contestants during these Assembly elections?
  • Not having an adequate number of tickets to women candidates even after a law has been enacted (though it will come into effect by 2029) does not send out a positive signal about political commitment to ensure women’s political empowerment.

3. How universities and industry can collaborate

Topic: GS2- Education

Context: Collaboration between industry and academia

Constrains in collaboration:

  • It is well known that collaborations between industry and academia can be mutually beneficial. However, most Indian higher education institutions (HEIs) have not focused on such collaborations or on intellectual property (IP) and technology transfers.
  • While universities conduct and encourage basic research, many of them do not capitalise on the same research by commercialising their IP; they miss out on likely gains from patents, licensing, or start-­up companies.
  • Determining and managing impediments to collaborations between industry and academia requires a multi­pronged approach.
  • The hurdles First, HEIs and industry can only collaborate if they evolve shared goals. 
  • HEIs predominantly seek to educate students and conduct research. 
  • They often focus on creating theoretical knowledge. On the other hand, industries are profit­driven and pursue practical applications of knowledge to enhance productivity and innovation. 
  • They may require a clear articulation of the applicability of academic research. An industrial company might be sceptical about funding a research project if it believes that the outcomes do not translate into prompt saleable applications. 
  • But HEIs may feel uneasy about the short­ term focus of industrial projects. 

Way forward:

  • To resolve these issues, the two parties must engage in an open dialogue, develop a flexible attitude, and find common ground where theoretical knowledge and practical applications can coexist.
  • Second, there are cultural differences between how HEIs and industrial partners approach the issue of collaboration. Let us say an HEI is collaborating with an industrial partner (a renewable energy company) on a research project associated with sustainable energy. 
  • When researchers at the HEI scrutinise the data furnished by the company, they may find that it needs more academic rigour and theoretical profoundness. 
  • Consequently, they might suppose that the data is of restricted use for publishing in a prestigious academic journal. Conversely, the company will focus more on practical outcomes.
  • It may not have the time or expertise to have theoretical discussions since its immediate concern is to implement solutions in the real world by improving processes or by devising new products. 
  • So, both sides must find a middle path to bridge this cultural gap. HEI researchers could refine their findings into practical recommendations that the industrial partner can understand and implement, while the industrial partner could provide more context to the data.
  • Third, Indian HEIs must establish good communication channels with the industry. If a research team from a university is partnering with a pharmaceutical company, it needs to be acquainted with the industry’s regulatory processes. 
  • Training programmes could be implemented so that researchers and industry professionals get familiar with the other’s language and expectations.
  • Fourth, Indian HEIs must focus on building trust. Let us suppose a university and a tech company are collaborating to develop a new software application. 
  • A professor may be an expert in developing algorithms, but the industrial partner may want solutions that can be implemented in real ­world products. 
  • Both parties can work out a mutually agreeable IP arrangement to address this. Such an arrangement will also help alleviate certain fears. 
  • For instance, the university might agree to fast­ track the development of a prototype software application that the company can use and refine for commercial purposes. 
  • But the industrial partner may fear that the university researchers will publish the research results without considering the commercial implications of their research. 
  • To overcome this, the university and the industrial partner can sign non­disclosure agreements to ensure that sensitive information shared during collaboration remains confidential. 
  • Both parties can also agree on which results may be earmarked for academic publications and which may be kept confidential or jointly published. 
  • Clear agreements ensure transparency and help build trust.

Types of collaborations:

  • Colleges or universities with minimal research facilities can focus on short­ term collaborations with local manufacturing companies facing technical problems in their production line that need a quick resolution. 
  • A team of students and faculty members from a college can provide a tangible solution that benefits the industry and brings returns to the college.
  • On the other hand, universities with good research facilities and faculty expertise can partner with an industry for long ­term research collaborations that aim to develop cutting ­edge technologies. 
  • The additional benefit of such long ­term collaborations is that students can work as interns on research projects. 
  • They will then learn to handle deadlines, navigate failures, and collaborate with colleagues in the industry.
  • HEIs and industries should, therefore, work on developing a symbiotic relationship. 
  • Industries in specific domains should collaborate with research groups across different universities in the same domain to keep themselves abreast of new research developments. 
  • All this will become easier if government funding agencies announce suitable research grants and call for joint project proposals from HEIs and industry partners. 
  • There should also be critical annual reviews by a team of experts appointed by the funding agency to examine the deliverables promised by the stakeholders.

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