Economic and Political Weekly

Table of content:-

  • Minefields in Investment Relations 
  • Education Budget Lacks Imagination
  • Meta-narrative of the North East
  • ‘Development’ and ‘Modernity’ in the Global South
  • India Badly Needs Public Health Education


Minefields in Investment Relations


  • When economic reforms were announced in India in 1991, the country’s foreign investment policy was also liberalised.
  • In 1993, the Government of India (GoI) developed a model bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPA) to encourage prospective investors from foreign countries.
  • It was based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Draft Convention on the Protection of Foreign Property, 1967.
  • BIPA is a form of bilateral investment treaties (BITs). From 1994 to 2013, India has signed 83 BIPAs with countries around the world.

What is BIT?

  • bilateral investment treaty(BIT) is an agreement establishing the terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state. This type of investment is called foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • BITs are established through trade pacts. A nineteenth-century forerunner of the BIT is the friendship, commerce, and navigation treaty (FCN).
  • Most BITs grant investments made by an investor of one Contracting State in the territory of the other a number of guarantees, which typically include fair and equitable treatment, protection from expropriation, free transfer of means and full protection and security.
  • The distinctive feature of many BITs is that they allow for an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, whereby an investor whose rights under the BIT have been violated could have recourse to international arbitration, often under the auspices of the ICSID(International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes), rather than suing the host State in its own courts.This process is called investor-state dispute settlement.
  • The world’s first BIT was signed on November 25, 1959 between Pakistan and Germany.
  • There are currently more than 2500 BITs in force, involving most countries in the world.

In the context of India

  • India has signed 83 bilateral trade and promotion agreements, of which 72 are in force currently. {this number is of June 2016 and keeps changing}
  • The recently released draft of 2015 is based on 260th report of Law Commission of India on the Draft Model Indian Bilateral Treaty (Model Draft).
  • India’s first BIT was signed with UK in 1994.
  • India has suffered loss / defeat in BIT related disputes in White Industries Case. Cairn Energy has also dragged India in another case related to India-UK BIPA.

Why is the government intent to review BITs now?

  • In March 2013, the government was going to review India’s BIPAs. This was partly due to a number of cases filed against India by foreign investors under the BIPAs.
  • These investment treaty arbitrations (ITAs) led to the review of India’s BITs by the government.
  • No new BIPAs were to be signed by India until the review process was over.
  • Only one exception was made for the India–United Arab Emirates (UAE) BIPA, which was signed in December 2013

White Industries Case

The 2003 model served as a template for negotiation between India and other countries for quite a few years.

  • However, in 2011, India faced a tough issue associated with the BITs. India’s Coal India Ltd had entered into a long term agreement with White Industries, an Australian mining company for the supply of equipment to and the development of a coal mine near Piparwar in Bihar.
  • However, a dispute arose on bonus and penalty payments as well as to the quality of the extracted coal.
  • The ICC Tribunal found India guilty of violating the India-Australia bilateral investment treaty (BIT) and awarded  USD 4.08 million to White Industries in May 2002. This was the first known investment treaty ruling against India. As it is a common practice regarding the investment-treaty disputes, the award was kept confidential.
  • Similarly, the Cairn Energy had also initiated international arbitration under India-UK Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPA), wherein it has sought USD 5.6 billion in compensation from India.
  • These type of cases have far reaching consequences, and the need was felt to make required changes in BIT drafts. Government of India took step to renovate the text of its 2003 Model.
  • Thus, the new draft has been put in place with objective of ensuring a safe and secure environment for foreign investors as well as Indian parties.

Recent developments

  • The Narendra Modi government put out a draft model text for the Indian BIT in March 2015, and in August, Prime Minister Modi visited the UAE.
  • In the same month, the Law Commission (2015) of India gave its comments on the model text for BITs.
  • The union cabinet cleared the model text in December 2015.
  • The revised model text was to be the basis for revision of existing BIPAs as well as for negotiating future BITs and investor provisions in foreign trade agreements (FTAs).

Why special exception was made for India–UAE BIPA?

  • It was signed the India–UAE BIPA on 12 December 2013, months after when the government expressed intent to review the policy.
  • The India–UAE BIPA was agreed to at a time when India was transitioning from its 2003 model.
  • Nevertheless, the agreement was reached with an intent to create favourable conditions for fostering more investment by the investors of UAE in India and vice versa.
  • Since the UAE investors in India have run into rough weather in the past, it was looking for future protection for its investors.
  • UAE’s telecom major Etisalat lost whatever little business it had in India as a result of the Supreme Court decisions in the 2G (second generation) telecom spectrum scam. The company had to wrap up operations after the Court cancelled its 15 licences in 2012.
  • Etisalat had acquired 45% of Swan Telecom, renaming the joint venture as Etisalat DB. Etisalat later sued its Indian partners for fraud.
  • There was no India–UAE BIPA in place at the time, or else the company may perhaps have sued the GoI.
  • The BIPA came into force on 21 August 2014.

Dispute and claims being made

  • In December 2016, Ras Al-Khaimah Investment Authority sent an arbitration notice to the Prime Minister’s office in India; three ministries of the central government—mines, external affairs and environment; and the state Government of Andhra Pradesh (Inter-ministerial Group Meeting 2017).
  • It made a $44.71 million arbitration claim, seeking to recover the cost of its investment in Anrak Alumimium Limited, a company set up in India to process bauxite.
  • India–UAE BIPA of 2013 allows for disputes between the two parties to be submitted to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which was set up by the UN General Assembly in 1966.
  • Interestingly, India hosted the 50th anniversary celebrations of UNCITRAL in November 2016.
  • According to the arbitration rules of UNCITRAL, parties have to appoint their arbitrators within 60 days.
  • The UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration came into effect on 1 April 2014 (UNCITRAL 2014).
  • The rules on transparency are applicable to BITs that came into force after 1 April 2014, such as the India–UAE BIPA.

Why the dispute arose?

  • The present dispute arose due to the decisions of the GoAP with respect to bauxite mining, which directly affected the operations of Anrak.
  • The India–UAE BIPA makes it clear that any measure taken by “the Central and/or the state governments while exercising their executive powers in accordance with the Constitution of India”can be an underlying cause for a dispute. Such a situation can result in demands for relief and compensation by investors.
  • The GoAP entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Government of Ras Al-Khaimah (GoRAK), one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, on 14 February 2007.
  • The MoU was for a collaboration to set up an alumina plant and aluminium smelter in AP.
  • The state-owned Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) was to supply bauxite to Anrak’s refinery at Rachapalle in the Makavarapalem mandal of Andhra Pradesh.
  • APMDC was to take all the necessary forest and environmental clearances from the central government before supply of bauxite ore to Anrak.
  • APMDC was to mine bauxite in 1,212 hectares of forestland in the Visakhapatnam Agency areas, which were allotted to Anrak to source the raw material for the refinery. These areas fall under the category of “reserved forest.”
  • In 2008, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gave the requisite environmental clearance for production of bauxite ore from four blocks in Jerrela village.
  • While the Stage I clearance was granted and the Stage II clearance was awaited, there were concerns raised by the tribal population in these areas.
  • In 2011, the MoEF set up a four-member committee to examine this issue in the Visakhapatnam district in AP.
  • While the committee recognised that mining would “conflict with conservation,” yet in its report in 2013 it held that “(t)he vicious cycle of poverty leading to ecological degradation and in turn more poverty will be broken only through development in the area” (Report of Committee on Bauxite Mining in Visakhapatnam 2013).
  • However, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs wanted a cancellation of the mining leases.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India undertook an audit of public sector undertakings (PSU) for the year ended March 2013 (CAG Report 2013), and APMDC, wholly owned by the GOAP, came under scrutiny as well.
  • The CAG concluded that the bauxite deposits were grossly undervalued.
  • There are those who also point out that APMDC, a near defunct PSU, was shown as a legal owner of mines to actually circumvent a Supreme Court order that prohibits private companies from mining on tribal lands.
  • Local protests against the mining of bauxite grew in the now divided state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • In October 2015, there were media reports that Maoists had abducted three members of the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
  • In April 2016, the state cabinet cancelled the approval for bauxite supply to Anrak (GoAP 2016).
  • The cancellation led to the UAE investor raising the claim under the India–UAE BIPA.

Dispute in Domestic Courts

  • In April 2016, Anrak filed a case in the Andhra Pradesh High Court against the government decision. Apart from the GoAP, the APMDC; the secretary, union Ministry of Mines; and the State Bank of India were impleaded as respondents.
  • The main prayer to the court in Anrak’s petition is to issue an appropriate order, direction or writ, more particularly one in the nature of Writ of Mandamus declaring impugned order passed as illegal, arbitrary, violative of fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 300(A) of the Constitution of India.
  • Given the fact that the UAE investor has filed for arbitration, the inter-ministerial group in India set up to deal with the matter will need to agree if the “fork-in-the-road” clauses in the India–UAE BIPA can be invoked.
  • Such clauses in BITs require investors to choose one of the options for dispute settlement to the exclusion of the others.
  • Article 5 of the BIPA clearly states that once the investor has submitted the disputes under any of the procedures (ICSID/UNCITRAL/competent domestic court of the host government) that choice shall be final and binding on the investor. Anrak has filed cases before a court in India and has also asked for arbitration.
  • The secretary of mines had suggested in the inter-ministerial group that other bauxite bearing areas available in AP which may be processed for grant to APMDC may be used for supply of bauxite to Anrak and to explore ways of settling the dispute without prejudice.

Issue of mining on tribal lands

  • The state of Andhra Pradesh has previously faced legal challenge by tribals on the leasing of lands in the Borra Reserved Forest Area and neighbouring villages to private companies for mining purposes.
  • This is what led to the Samata v State of AP and Others (1997) case in the Supreme Court of India.
  • In a historic judgment therein, the court had cancelled the mining leases in Scheduled Areas.
  • Two out of the three-judge bench had held that the grant of mining leases to non-tribals, companies and partnerships, etc, is void, unconstitutional and inoperative.
  • The prohibition was, however, not extended to state instrumentalities like APMDC.
  • BITs are typically blind to the concerns of local population. But there are also governments that have been pushed to provide protection for their indigenous peoples and local communities in their BITs.
  • For instance, in Canada’s BIT with Venezuela (1982) there is express mention that the rights and preferences provided to aboriginal peoples can be lawfully denied to investors.

Impact on federalism

  • This case also points to the complicated centre–state relations in investor protection.
  • The central government negotiates BITs with foreign governments. The difficult task of clearing the way for the foreign investors to operate on the ground is left to the state governments.
  • Ironically, despite the UAE dispute, in October 2016, Andhra Pradesh was ranked first amongst states in India in ease of doing business. This was based on the implementation of the World Bank and GOI’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion’s 340-point Business Reforms Action Plan (DIPP 2016).
  • Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu led a delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos 2017 to woo more investors.
  • BITs pose many challenges in investor–state relations and test the country’s centre–state relations.

Way forward

  • Locally, the tribal population itself is divided on the matter.
  • The matter has certainly not been settled vis-à-vis the tribals, irrespective of how the governments will now chose to deal with the foreign investor involved in the ITA.
  • Not mining the areas is not considered an option, given the reality of the BIPA. ITAs can often pre-empt any other policy options to be thought of.
  • Moreover, making a state’s mineral wealth available to commercial enterprises set up by foreign investment is seen by many as necessary for development.
  • But investor rights have to be balanced with the government’s right to regulate.
  • At the heart of the matter is the freedom of governments to take decisions, particularly those in public interest, on social and ecological considerations.

Education Budget Lacks Imagination


  • The education sector has not benefited from any major announcements or allocation in the budget this year.
  • In last year’s budget, “Education, skill development and job creation” as a category was outlined as one of the distinct “pillars” that will transform India.
  • This year education, skill development and job creation is presented merely as a proposal for the “youth.”

Different budgetary process

  • In terms of budgetary processes, the fourth budget of the present government is a departure from the previous year’s budget in many ways.
  • Unlike the conventional last working day of February, the Union Budget 2017–18 was presented on 1 February 2017.
  • This time there was a merger of the plan and non-plan expenditures, and the rail budget was also presented alongside the main budget.

Budgetary allocations for education

  • In 2017–18 (budget estimates (BE)), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been allocated `79,686 crore, 38% of which is allocated to the Department of School Education and Literacy, and 62% to the Department of Higher Education.
  • Over time, the distribution of the MHRD’s budget shows clear signs of a reprioritisation towards higher education.
  • Although, the budgetary provision for the sector has shown a 10% increase in 2017–18, the budgetary allocation when compared to the gross domestic product (GDP), has decreased from 0.48% in 2016–17 (BE) to 0.47% in 2017–18 (BE).
  • The share of education in the total union budget remains stagnant at 3.7%, the same as it was in 2016–17 (BE).

Primary education missing

  • 2017–18 Budget speech overlooked discussing the financing of the “Right to Education” (RTE) and elementary education, despite widely shared concerns on low-learning levels and the need for further improvement.
  • The recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2016 pointed out that after the passage of the RTE Act, the learning levels of children going to government schools actually deteriorated.
  • Last year, the budget speech focused on the universal primary education with an emphasis on “quality education,” as the next big step forward.
  • However, this year, the only proposal in the union budget aimed at improving the quality of school education is the introduction of a system for measuring the annual learning outcomes.

Quality primary education!

  • First, there is an ongoing debate about how measurements of learning outcomes, alone, will improve quality.
  • Second, the budget speech is not the appropriate platform for such a proposal. It should be left to a well thought-out education policy.
  • Nonetheless, from the budgetary allocation, it is difficult to gauge how this meagre announcement would be translated into reality.
  • In fact, many of the promises made in the 2016–17 Budget for the education sector do not get substantial resource support in this budget.
  • For example, the promise to set up 62Navodaya Vidyalayas in uncovered districts has been supported only by an additional allocation of `229 crore, whereas the unit cost for construction of a standard Navodaya Vidyalaya is estimated by the MHRD to be `16.89 crore for first phase alone.

Secondary Education

  • The only announcement mentioned regarding secondary education is about an “Innovation Fund” to encourage local innovation to ensure universal access, gender parity and quality improvement with a focus on information and communication technology enabled, learning transformation.

Quality of secondary education

  • Over time, the Government of India has moved its focus from inputs towards outcomes; however, there is little effort to identify the indicators that will improve such outcomes.
  • The government has not yet been able to fulfil basic requirements like school infrastructure and an adequate and professionally qualified teaching staff, both of which are prerequisites for quality education.
  • Despite the lack of trained teachers, spending on teacher’s training is constantly being neglected by the union government.
  • A sum of `480 crore has been allocated in this year’s budget, towards strengthening Teacher Training Institutions, as was in 2016–17 (BE).
  • The allocation for language teachers has increased from `25 crore in 2016–17 (BE) to `125 crore in 2017–18 (BE). At the same time, the School Assessment Programme has witnessed a budget cut from `5 crore to `0.67 crore.
  • However, this programme has a limited scale and is currently operational only in a few states.
  • The budget for theRashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has increased from `3,700 crore to `3,830 crore, only a meagre increase of 3.5%.

Commitment to RTE?

  • With the enactment of the RTE Act, 2009, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been the main vehicle for implementing the RTE.
  • SSA is also the most substantive resource for paying teacher salaries, the salaries of part-time instructors and for paying for teachers’ training.
  • This year, the SSA has received an allocation of `23,500 crore, 62% of this amount is to be financed through an education cess (Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh), 32% through the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS), and 6% through externally aided projects.
  • As compared to last year’s allocation, there has been an increase of `1,000 crore in the SSA budget of the union government.
  • However, the SSA is severely under-funded if we compare the allocations made—in the annual work plan and the budgets for the last five years—with what the MHRD committed to allocate to the states, as part of the centre’s share towards the SSA.
  • For example, in the financial year, 2016–17, against an approval of `46,702 crore, the MHRD allocated only `22,500 crore as part of the centre’s share for SSA, which is not even 50% of the approved outlay.
  • This clearly indicates that the Ministry of Finance has not been able to fulfil the commitments made by the MHRD, and hence the MHRD is failing to keep its commitments to states.

Higher Education

  • In 2017–18 (BE), `33,330 crore has been allocated to the Department of Higher Education, which is 15.6% higher than the allocation under the 2016–17 Budget.
  • This increase in allocation is on account of a higher budgetary provision for technical education over general education.
  • The budgetary allocation for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has witnessed an increase of 80% from 2016–17 (BE).
  • The cabinet has approved the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) Bill, 2017, making the IIMs, institutions of national importance. This has been reflected in a sharp increase in the budgetary allocation for supporting and setting up new IIMs in 2017–18 (BE).
  • However, the Rashtriya UchchatarShiksha Abhiyan(RUSA), which was designed to provide strategic funding to state higher educational institutions and was brought under the ambit of National Education Mission (NEM) in the last financial year, received no attention in this budget.
  • The scheme has received a total allocation of `1,300 crore, as was in the previous year. The allocation towards “improvement in salary scale of university and college teachers” has also witnessed a cut from `1,237 crore in 2016–17 (BE) to `700 crore in 2017–18 (BE).
  • The Finance Minister has proposed to “establish a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions” and his budget speech also proposed to reform the University Grants Commission (UGC).

An Inclusive Education Budget?

  • The Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–17) focuses on inclusive education as a process that strengthens the capacity of the education system, to reach out to all learners.
  • The first step in this process is reducing inequalities, so that every section of society seeking an education is given equal access to one, especially primary and secondary education.
  • In this process of inclusion, special focus should be on socially and economically exploited groups like Dalits and Adivasis, groups that are marginalised like children with special needs, educationally backward minorities and young girl children.
  • Besides the MHRD, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA), the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MOMA) and the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) are some of the nodal ministries, responsible for the education of children from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minority communities respectively.


  • The MHRD has increased its allocation for the development of education schemes in the North East from 4.9% in 2016–17 (BE) to 7.9% in 2017–18 (BE).

National Means Cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme

  • As recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, the union government has increased its allocation for the National Means Cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme, from `35 crore in 2016–17 (BE) to `282 crore in 2017–18 (BE).

Gender- based

  • The budget allocation towards the National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education has witnessed a sevenfold increase in this year’s budget as compared to the 2016–17 (BE).
  • The budget for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign, under the MWCDhas increased from `100 crore to `200 crore in 2017–18 (BE).
  • However, given that the programme has been extended to an additional 61 districts in 2016, this budgetary increase may not be enough.
  • Further, only 43% of the expenditure has been incurred, as against the total allocation made in 2016–17 (RE), indicating the underperformance of the scheme.


  • The MHRD budget for education schemes, for madrasas and minorities, remained unchanged at `120 crore.

Dalits and Tribals

  • There is a substantial decrease in the budgetary allocation for the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The budget for “Pre-Matric Scholarships for Scheduled Caste” students has gone down, from `495 crore in 2016–17 (BE) to `45 crore in 2017–18 (BE).
  • The overall budget of Ministry of tribal affairs, in charge of tribal education, has decreased from `1,660 crore in 2016–17 (RE) to `1,635 crore in 2017–18 (BE).


  • The union government’s budgetary spending on education accounts for a smaller share than state governments’ total budgetary spending on education.
  • A continuous decrease in the union government’s share of education expenditure shifts the responsibility more towards state governments.
  • However, given the present state of education, with major disparities across states, this incremental budgeting by the union government towards education does not offer any solution to the existing issues and challenges facing students and the education sector.
  • It is, therefore, imperative for the government to step up public investment in education, paying adequate attention to the quality quotient

Metanarrative of the North East


  • India’s North East, for too long, has remained an area of darkness.
  • Its multitude of diverse and distinct ethnic nationalities, who have felt no sense of kinship or identification with the “mainland,” has posed one of the strongest challenges to post-independent India in its task of nation-building.

Why it has been difficult to include in nation-building?

  • There have been valuable treatises of British officers during their forays into these “uncharted wild lands.
  • But still there has been an acute paucity of literature that would have enabled us to understand as to what has shaped the identity, psychology and aspirations of the communities here.
  • It left the question unanswered as why the north-east is steeped in turbulence and unrest since independence.

Plugging the deficit of historical data

  • Recording te facts of their history, connecting the linkages of the past to the present, providing context to this sensitive relationship, and the understanding of the way forward has been a long-felt need.
  • The emergence of scholars and writers, particularly from within this region, who can explain their crises with academic rigour, and first-hand insight, is vital to this quest.

Recent book

  • Pradip Phanjoubam’s book, The Northeast Question: Conflicts and Frontiers, makes an important contribution in helping us piece together the jigsaw of the North East, with its many complex strands.
  • He is the editor of a prominent Manipuri daily newspaper, Imphal Free Press.
  • His book is based on extensive research of official documents of the British Raj, and works of historians, researchers and academics from within the North East as well as nationally and internationally.

What are the basic facts to know beforehand to understand the north-east?

  • An understanding of the modern-day turmoil engulfing the North East requires unpacking of its past, especially its tryst with modernity introduced by British colonialism.
  • Insurgency and tribal feuds is not the only lens to know this region. In fact, it could retard our understanding of unresolved nationalities and their cultures of protest.
  • There is a metanarrative of geography and colonial history, underlining how present-day rebellions are caused by a fundamental sense of difference to the idea of Indian nationalism on the one hand, and a knee-jerk response to the insensitivity of the early, insecure, independent Indian state administration on the other.

Geopolitics of Conflict

  • It should be appreciated at the outset that geopolitics is a primary determinant of conflict everywhere, including in the North East.
  • Hence, the region’s geography—the mountains, rivers and valleys—is closely intertwined with the world view of the societies it encompasses, predicating security perceptions and, consequently, conflicts.
  • The catchment areas in the hills and mountains nurture the fertile valleys.
  • Any attempt to disrupt this integral geography will be viewed as an existential or civilisational threat by those at the receiving end.
  • James Scott’s understanding of conflict in the Zomian theatre was similar.
  • He asserted that Zomia encompasses the mountainous massif of hills and valleys that runs across South East Asia and South West China, including North East India.

Hills vs Valleys

  • It was this peculiar friction between the hills and the valleys that featured in the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys of Assam province, which ultimately morphed into politics that led to the breaking away of the major hill districts and, ultimately, statehood for Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In Manipur, the hill and valley people have been locked in serious conflict over the integrity of their land, following the demand for a “Greater Nagaland,” which seeks amalgamation of all-Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Political unrest and deadly frictions have inevitably followed.
  • Just as Kashmir is vital to the Indus Valley, Arunachal Pradesh, from which all the tributaries of the Brahmaputra originate, is vital to the North East and Bangladesh.

Dams intensify the conflict

  • The building of dams (157 are currently coming up in the North East, 96 of which are in Arunachal Pradesh) is a factor agitating the valley communities further downstream.
  • Vociferous protests have also come from Bangladesh, which fear the impact of these dams on their survival needs.
  • It also explains China’s aggressive claims over Arunachal Pradesh’s territory, going beyond coveting territory to controlling the rivers and mountain passes into the North East, the road to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, and access to the trade routes of the oil-rich Arab and African countries.

History of British Raj

  • The quest for answers as to how geopolitical conflict evolved goes to the history of the British Raj, when it entered the North East in 1826, and before that to the Ahom, who ruled over the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam from 1228 to 1826.
  • They too faced these contradictions of geopolitics and evolved ways of dealing with it, thereby shaping the idea of the North East and what has influenced its being.
  • Initially, the British Raj chose the path of least involvement and administrative cost by treating the North East as a buffer zone against the advancement of European powers.
  • It sought to secure the defence of its colony by developing infrastructure that laid the foundations for the heavy militarisation of the North East.
  • The Assam Rifles can be traced in the history of how the Cachar Levy and Jorhat Militia evolved.

Controlling the lives of people in the north east

  • The British confined their active administrative presence to the revenue-generating tea, timber and rubber plantation and coal mining areas in the plains and foothills,
  • Meanwhile they asserted a loose administrative presence to register their overlordship.
  • They separated the revenue-earning administered areas in the plains from the non-revenue-yielding, unadministered areas in the hills, with the creation of the Inner Line permit, institutionalised by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 (the first law they promulgated on entry into Assam).
  • This later evolved into the Government of India (GoI) Act, 1919, and then the GoI Act, 1935, which first clubbed these regions as “Backward Tracts” left unadministered.
  • These were subsequently recategorised as Excluded Areas (which included present-day Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and the North Cachar Hills) and Partially Excluded Areas (which included Garo Hills, Mikir Hills and parts of Khasi and Jaintia Hills).

Segregation of Areas

  • These laws were also meant to curb land-grabs in the hills by the tea planters, which had become a cause of friction between the tribes and the administration.
  • Such segregation, of areas under state intervention and administration and those that were not, was, however, to have far-reaching consequences on conflict over land entitlement, encouragement of migrant labour from outside the region, and tensions over control of resources.
  • It resulted in massive bursts of social strife and genocidal conflict that continues to remain the subtext in the political instability of this area even today.
  • The tribes living in the non-revenue-generating, loosely administered tribal hill tracts are part of a Zomia belt that runs across South East Asia and South West China, containing 100 million people of diverse ethnic and linguistic variety.
  • They constitute the largest remaining region of the world whose people have long been kept outside the purview of nation states.
  • While some attribute their rebellions to backwardness and statelessness, Scott, who believed they repelled state interventions and sought to remain backward by choice. Presumably this was related to their respect for a different value system and way of life from that of the “mainstream.”
  • In dealing with the unruly hill tribes (the Zomians tended to raid the plantations in the plains, mainly out of their need for agricultural sustenance from land that they traditionally considered to be their own), the British took a leaf from the earlier Ahom administrators.

What Ahom did?

  • The Ahom had managed to separate hill and valley spaces by devising a mechanism of conflict resolution through shared sovereignty and overall suzerainty.
  • The Ahom had initially taken out punitive expeditions to recalcitrant hill villages and had extracted reparations, but soon became wary of the effort, time and expense involved in this.
  • They bought peace by allowing the hill chiefs to levy an annual tribute, a percentage of the crop yield from nearby villages in the adjoining plains, through a system known as posa.
  • While remaining the masters of the hills and plains, the Ahom rulers allowed the hill chiefs a degree of local sovereignty, while extracting from them a promise that they would refrain from violent raids, looting and slave-taking.

How the British managed?

  • With the British effort mainly geared towards militarisation of the North East and the need to protect its revenue interest in Assam, their administrative and development efforts were not geared to the aspirations of local communities for their own advancement.
  • In an effort to buy peace, avoid the extra expense and administrative burden of extending their laws into the wild hills, they allowed the tribal chiefs to continue with the Ahom system of posa and, later, cynically sought to arm-twist the hill communities into submission with the encouragement of indolence and ease, thereby retarding their growth.

Contemporary significance of the history

  • Much of the North East problem is essentially an outcome of non-state peoples waking up to the new reality of the state, and acquiring their own nationalist aspirations.
  • The answer lies in peace that is won, as demonstrated by the Ahom.
  • The solution was not in drawing rigid segregating lines between the hills and the plains, the law and non-law, revenue and no revenue areas.
  • There was need to acknowledge and understand the issues, not in any legalist and administrative terms alone, but as an existential predicament in which all players have to face and live together, in the spirit of mutual accommodation, adjustment and respect of each other’s compulsions, limitations and conveniences.

Intersection of the North-East with the neighbours

  • It needs appreciation how the histories of Tibet, China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh intersect with the North East and shaped events there provides a wide-angle lens to view Indian history.
  • But the understanding of the north-east has traditionally been dominated by the vision of “nationalist historiography.”
  • That 98% of the North East’s borders touch Tibet/China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, is a powerful justification for such exploration that has long been overlooked.

Tragedy of partition

  • Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts, which were part of Assam (then a province of Bengal) were lost to India at the time of partition and were included in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
  • Such history explains the present explosive equation between the dominant languages (Assamese and Bengali) and religious (Hindu and Muslim) groups in Assam.

How the British manipulated new identities

  • British brought different linguistic nationalities into the same colonial administrative units.
  • Their rivalry came to the fore when educated Bengali-speaking populations, encouraged by the British to immigrate to Assam, came to dominate the largely agrarian Assamese-speaking populations in the contest for political power.
  • At the time of Indian independence, the situation got volatile and dangerous, for while in the rest of India the rivalry effectively transitioned to a clash of religious nationalisms, here, the old linguistic rivalries lingered.


  • The makings of the disputed northern border with China was a consequence of disconnect in vision and divergent interests between the Raj authorities in India and the India office in London on what constituted the interest of the British colony.
  • It touches on how the Cold War between Tsarist Russia and the British Empire in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, often referred to as the Great Game, profoundly influenced the shape and psychology of the North East.
  • The British creation of the Inner and Outer Lines in the North East also sowed the seeds of confusion, with the Inner Line being mistakenly taken as the international boundary.
  • India’s 1962 war with China is a part of that legacy.

Way forward

  • The overall Indian character is westward looking. This is particularly evident in its search for historical roots.
  • This reluctance to look East, inherent in the overall Indian character, should explain to a good extent why the North East has remained India’s area of darkness for so long.
  • India should therefore delve seriously into the historical distinctness of the north-east.

‘Development’ and ‘Modernity’ in the Global South


  • The terms “development” and “modernity” have been used widely and diversely during the past several decades, and continue to be evoked extensively in the present time.
  • Development is projected as the path to modernity, a unique and inevitably desirable state for all human societies.
  • Notwithstanding their worldwide uses and academic research on them, these terms do not yet carry any clear and universally accepted meaning.
  • Scholars, politicians, media persons, corporate leaders, civil society activists, etc, have all used these terms in diverse contexts to suit their own priorities and/or interests.
  • In particular, modernity has been analysed in the context of art, history, the social sciences, etc.

Relation between development and modernity

  • The ideological span of the many subjective and unexplained descriptions of development and modernity extends from the radical left to the neo-liberals.
  • These diverse descriptions have been the subject of rich and extensive literature, which have acquired a deep cultural–political status.
  • The horizons of the global South are extended from the usual limits of ex-colonial, non-European peoples to include poor populations in industrially developed countries.
  • There is a relationship between development, modernity, and the frontier knowledge of the sciences and modern technology.
  • Advancement in scientific knowledge and modernity needs to also further, and not hinder, human dignity and security.

Defining Development

  • Noted economists Mahbub ul Haq (1996) and Amartya Sen worked on salvaging development from narrow and solely quantitative descriptions captured in a single numerical parameter, the gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Rajni Kothari (1974) suggested a more political definition of development that propounds an alternative structure for the world order and democracy.
  • Haq and Sen’s initiative to delineate a broader concept called “human development” and an associated measure named Human Development Index (HDI) were based on expanding the scope of quantification to include important additional parameters related to the impact of socio-economic changes on the quality of human life in general.
  • Notwithstanding such efforts, there has not been any fundamental change in the exclusive domination of GDP or economic growth in the perception of what constitutes development.
  • The Human Development Report: The Way Ahead gives a description of the various initiatives that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 2016) will continue to work on in the future to enhance the usefulness of the exercise of including new parameters in estimating the HDI.
  • There is a need for strengthening the standing of the HDI.

How market is burgeoning?

  • In the era of economic liberalisation in the global South, the lead role of the state in promoting human well-being has been replaced by the market as a catalyst of economic growth and a harbinger of development and modernity.
  • Discourses on the meaning and desirability of development have spanned from finding alternative paths to an economic growth-based conception of development and traditional concepts by including qualitative parameters of human needs and aspirations.
  • The concept of economic growth as development that leads to modernity has spread widely in the public mind, particularly in the global South.
  • Supported by extensive media campaigns, the luxurious lifestyles and consumption patterns of the economically better-off classes (a product of economic growth) have successfully been projected as modernity, as something that is “desirable” for all human beings.
  • A general slowdown in the intellectual processes driving holistic and more widely acceptable forms of desirable human futures has meant an increasing acceptance of the GDP-based quantitative notion of development among the people in the global South.
  • With support ranging from local political leaders to the global media, such a notion has only reinforced this public perception.
  • This means higher individual incomes, availability of newer consumer items, greater material comforts, enhanced levels of resource and energy consumption, etc.
  • Issues of inclusion, human dignity and ecological stability are not part of such a perception.

Criticism of growth-oriented development

  • The assessment of development has been made mainly in terms of its impact, from the social, economic, political, and cultural viewpoints. This may be called the study of forward linkages of development to human societies.
  • Extensive literature exists on this subject in diverse social science subjects like economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, etc.
  • The grip of GDP on the perception of development has been strong enough to ward off the questions that emerged after the global economic meltdown of 2008, or the physical limits to growth.
  • Many eminent thinkers and leaders of the global South, such as M K Gandhi and Mao Tse-tung, had been critical of narrow Western techno-economic perceptions of modernity.
  • Rabindranath Tagore wrote extensively on the need for non-Western perceptions of modernity. These thoughts made great but short-lived impressions in their respective countries.
  • With the advancement of economic liberalisation, Western modernity has become the aspiration of a large number of common people. The articulation and practice of a diverse modernity is yet to emerge.
  • Most discourses on modernity were not connected with the emerging roles at the frontiers of science and modern technology in providing newer products in the market, and the power of the market in shaping public aspirations to own these.
  • The lack of comprehensive environmental assessments and the marginalisation of the negative social impacts of development activities have spawned strong and popular movements against development projects.
  • These include agitations against river valley projects, land acquisition for industries, diversion of water flows, etc. These movements have invariably been portrayed as against development, and hence, accepted to be against public interest and modernity.
  • Nevertheless, such movements mostly expose serious gaps in the formulation of projects. Over decades, such movements have now consolidated as a global de-growth movement.

Impact of Science and Technology on development discourse

  • The next section aims to focus on the linkages between frontiers in the sciences and marketed products of modern technologies. These are considered as the backward linkages of development and as having strong influences on what gets projected as modernity.
  • Limited research on this subject constitutes an important gap in the work of social activists, academics, public policy researchers, grass roots political leaders, etc.
  • As a result, the public perception that new products in the market alone can deliver development, which alone can lead to modernity, has got stronger with time, something that is often termed by critics as “growth fundamentalism.”
  • In the present context, there is a significant disconnect between frontier-level scientific knowledge and common people.
  • Frontiers in science are largely protected by property rights and are not available in the public domain. However, as and when scientific knowledge gets used in the production of modern technologies and new products for the market, they become available in all parts of the globalised world.
  • Science has grown in an unprecedented manner in the last several decades and exerts great influence in the shaping of human futures, socially and individually.
  • This linkage will surely continue and grow in the coming centuries.
  • Studies on the relations of human societies with advances in the frontiers of scientific knowledge have emerged in the industrially advanced countries, initially along the lines of political analysis.
  • In the course of time, an interdisciplinary field of study named “Science, Technology and Modernity” emerged.
  • The relationship between science, technology and modernity in the global South has been quite strong in the era of economic liberalisation and globalisation. However, this has not been an object of much systematic research.

How modernity evolved in the global south?

  • The multiplicity of modernity is not a unique path guided by the Western concept of the term.
  • In the global South, public perceptions of modernity had initially evolved with a postcolonial inclination towards economic growth for human well-being. In that period, there were attempts to define modernity in diverse forms, especially in art, literature, etc.
  • With time and the advance of globalisation, such efforts gave way to the singular perception that slowly brought an end to modernity-based thought processes.
  • In recent years in the global South, with post-liberalisation economic growth, modernity got linked with what can be called the modernity of “consumption.” This form of modernity is spreading rapidly in the global South.
  • The almost spontaneous growth of a consumption pattern promoted by the rapidly expanding network of malls in cities of the global South is an important case. There was no great public opinion asking for the establishment of malls.
  • They came up in large numbers as a result of someone investing, and the upper middle class and the rich have already accepted the related consumption culture as “modernity.”

Open Society, Guarded Science

  • Common people in the global South may have little to do with or access to the goings-on at the frontiers of science.
  • As knowledge has grown in the industrialised parts of the world, the frontier knowledge of science has increasingly been subjected to a protected intellectual property regime.
  • In a globalised world, not all knowledge generated is used commercially.
  • The market brings commercial products of technologies based on that part of the knowledge which is released for open use.
  • The process of economic growth gets crucial support from the consumption-based concept of modernity which plays a much wider role in shaping human societies today.
  • Scholars in the global South have not sufficiently addressed issues relating to science, technology and consumption.
  • The result has been that a singular perceptual trinity of science, technology and market, has got distinguished as modernity.

Missing Link of STS

  • In the public imagination of the global South, modernity evokes images of being served by the frontiers of sciences, modern technologies, and a lifestyle of comfort and material abundance.
  • Such a process is not linear and the frontier knowledge in sciences, left to itself, will have a stronger linkage with human societies and its governance. It is here that the missing link of STS perspective would prove increasingly useful.
  • The connection of the creation of frontier knowledge and marketing of products based even partly on that knowledge is not simple and direct.
  • Frontier knowledge of science is now produced with high levels of confidentiality, due to strategic or business interests.
  • At what stage and time would the frontier knowledge be released for use in market production depends on many factors, not necessarily connected with the market prospects of the products.
  • The public access to internet is a good example.

Manipulation of science for strategic purposes

  • The internet was originally developed, in the 1960s, as a defence communication facility for the United States in the era of Cold War.
  • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the technology was not needed for strategic purposes and was released for public access in the 1990s. It was a strategic decision.
  • It was not market forces that spurred internet accessibility to people all over the world and revolutionised civilian communication.
  • The internet in today’s world is probably the first indicator of modernity for global human societies.
  • Popular belief that developments in new technologies will always promote human well-being and offer an affluent economic future for all humans is questionable.
  • For example, artificial intelligence and robotics, left to the market, would promote marginalisation of humans on a large scale.
  • Genetic engineering and biotechnology, in addition to making parts of the human body available off the shelves in the market, is expected to soon duplicate humans themselves by cloning.
  • With humans reaching beyond earth, the emergence of a planetary civilisation can be a reality.
  • Application of such technologies is going to radically alter the self-image of human beings and the traditional meaning of human rights. The power of frontier science and technology could impact the ideas of freedom and democratic governance of human societies, as we understand them today.
  • The implications of the recent advances in science and technology are far wider and deeper than what these were in the period of the industrial revolution, when science and democracy evolved collaboratively.
  • For human societies today, developments at the frontiers of science and technology have become a crucial policy issue.
  • The question on how much of the frontier knowledge of sciences and modern technologies need to be in the public domain has become a critical issue in governance (for instance, the debates on genetically modified foods).


  • In the present era, human societies are quickly nearing that critical civilisational crossroad where a vigorous discussion is needed on the forms of desirable human futures in the era of rapid and potent advancements in frontier science knowledge and modern technologies.
  • If human societies do not consciously address that task, it will be taken up in proxy by the techno-scientific drivers of the global market.
  • In such a case, a pre-fabricated human future, designed by quantifiable indicators like the GDP, will replace conscious human choices.
  • The crucial qualitative aspects, on which human dignity and civilisations or ecological stability of the natural environment are based, run the risk of being marginalised in that process.
  • This is why the social, historical, political, cultural and other dimensions of frontier sciences and modern technologies, with their subtle links to what gets projected as development and modernity, gains serious importance.

India Badly Needs Public Health Education


  • India’s remarkable economic growth is often being praised, but is also reminded that economic progress is not balanced given the slow pace of improvements in public health indicators.
  • Sustainable economic growth requires robust policies that improves the population’s health and raises productivity levels across the nation.
  • Since 1993, the World Bank has considered investments in health as a vital factor to promote economic growth and not as, previously considered, a burden on economic progress.

Significance of public health

  • Public health is a part of the foundations of any modern society that values human life and health, and seeks sustainable economic and social growth.
  • The achievements of public health in preventing disease and early death, affect hundreds of millions of humans each year.
  • Sadly, India lags severely behind in terms of achieving these benefits, due to weaknesses in policies, investment and education for a strong public health workforce.

Challenges before India

  • India faces very grim challenges in improving its public health statistics, including indicators of poor maternal and child mortality and morbidity, a high level of preventable infectious diseases, rising trends of chronic diseases such as diabetes, strokes, coronary heart disease, along with serious health system related issues.
  • India’s public health workforce infrastructure is inadequate, in terms of numbers and quality, to tackle its current and future public healthcare issues where a deficiency of trained public health professionals remains a primary concern.

Need of Public Health Workforce

  • A public health workforce requires people, who have qualifications in public health education, to occupy positions exclusively or substantially focused on population health.
  • Public health professionals play a central role in ensuring the appropriate management of all aspects of the healthcare system: from logistics and facility management, to finances, and the monitoring of healthcare status and healthcare interventions.
  • As of 2011, a total of 23 institutions in India offered a master of public health (MPH) degree, and some institutions have launched diploma programmes in public health related disciplines.
  • As a response to India’s public health needs, in 2006, under the banner of the Public Health Foundation of India, various institutes under the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) were established in select states of India.
  • IIPHs have introduced many programmes in the area of public health, including postgraduate diplomas, a MPH degree and an integrated Master-Doctoral programme.
  • In addition, some state health departments have also taken the initiative to establish public health schools, for example, the Institute of Public Health, Kalyani (IPHK) was established in 2015 by the West Bengal government (Government of West Bengal 2015).
  • However, until now, none of these institutes have taken the initiative to introduce a Bachelors (degree) programme in public health.

Changes required in health education

  • Thus there is a need of change in healthcare education priorities, in order to have an optimum number of public health professionals in India.
  • In part, this change should adopt the relatively new trends in Europe and the United States (US), promoting public health undergraduate degree programmes within existing universities or colleges on a broad scale.
  • The government at the national and state levels, led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, should institute policies and incentives that promote bachelors degree programmes.
  • The government must also mandate that attending such degree programmes is a prerequisite for occupying positions in the ministry, and field service systems across the nation.

Steps taken before and after India’s independence

  • The importance of an undergraduate degree course in public health education started even before India’s independence in 1947, when the report of the Health Survey and Development Committee (formed in 1943), chaired by Joseph Bhore, emphasised the inadequate teaching of preventive medicine and public health in medical students’ undergraduate training.
  • Nearly 70 years later, the quality of public health professionals produced in India is still questionable and the deficiency of qualified professionals aggravates the situation.
  • It is worth mentioning that with generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation, in December 1932 the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health was established in Kolkata—it is the oldest school of public health in Southeast Asia.
  • Around the same time, some of the world’s most renowned schools of public health such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, in the US, were also founded with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Unfortunately, public health training remains neglected in India.
  • Thus, it is not surprising that, globally, the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health ranks poorly when compared to its contemporaries, such as the Schools of Public Health at Harvard or Johns Hopkins universities in the US.
  • After the Bhore Committee’s report, the Government of India in 1977 launched the Reorientation of Medical Education (ROME) scheme across the country, which had limited success in training medical graduates for rural services.
  • Both the Expert Committee on Public Health Systems, formed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 1996, and the Voluntary Health Association of India’s (VHAI) Independent Commission on Health in India 1997, recommended the strengthening of public health training, and the VHAI stressed on the need to open new schools of public health.
  • The Calcutta Declaration on Public Health was adopted in 1999 at the Regional Conference on Public Health in South-east Asia in the 21st century.
  • The declaration called for mandating competent background education and relevant expertise, for persons working in public health systems.
  • It also emphasised the need to strengthen and reform public health education, training and research institutes, as supported through the networking of institutions and the use of information technology in human-resources development
  • However, none of these reports recommended introducing an undergraduate degree in public health, and the reasons behind not doing so remain unclear.


  • Local colleges and universities should be supported financially and encouraged to develop undergraduate degree programmes in public health, especially in poorer states.
  • This will ensure that the needs and requirements of a public health professional workforce in India are fulfilled.
  • Bachelors level training for healthcare promotion and public health managers is vital to the infrastructure development of essential services, such as environmental health, road and workplace safety, immunisation, nutrition and tropical disease control.
  • Such programmes, like preventable morbidity and mortality, are required in developing countries that face various inequities and the growing needs of an ageing population.
  • Given the current need for an adequately trained public health workforce cadre in India, developing public health undergraduate degrees should be prioritised over introducing more MPH programmes, although both are needed.

Lessons from worldwide experiences

  • Universities in the US and Europe are rapidly broadening public health education, through bachelors degree programmes and the development of schools of public health.
  • In India, a multidisciplinary workforce is badly needed in order to promote a proactive environment for public health education, research, advocacy and services, that meet international accreditation standards
  • The Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health are actively promoting an undergraduate education in public health, including for other professions such as social work, law and general arts degree programmes.
  • The Bologna Declaration of 1999 (European Ministers of Education 1999) called for the reorganisation of higher education in Europe.

Way Forward

  • Although introducing public health undergraduate degree programmes is vital for progress in public health, in India the main focus thus far has been on master’s degree training for physicians.
  • Progress even in this field will require the establishment of international standards of accreditation.
  • In India, there is no single uniform, overarching, body or council, responsible for public health education in the country as a whole
  • Persons from both medical and non-medical backgrounds can enrol into a public health degree programme, but the Medical Council of India (MCI) is the statutory body responsible for establishing and maintaining uniform standards of medical education, that is offered at the medical college level only.
  • Public health training at non-medical colleges or universities comes under the purview of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) or the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • What can motivate suitable aspirants to pursue either a specialised degree in public health (for example, a Bachelors of Public Health), or opt for public health as one of their undergraduate degree subjects.
  • There is no doubt that India desperately needs a large increase in its public health workforce with suitable professional education.
  • More adequately trained public health professionals could be produced if the candidates are oriented towards it in the undergraduate degree level.
  • This includes upgrading the current public health workforce with technical level diplomas, as well as attracting new, young and highly motivated candidates.
  • But absorption into the network of the public health professionals remains a daunting challenge.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with industry leaders, non-governmental organisations, and public health research institutes can promote this initiative, by requiring candidates who compete for local and national leadership positions to have a suitable public health education degree.
  • India must find a way to promote undergraduate degrees in public health education so as to expand the qualified workforce and in order to be successful in meeting the health challenges of this rapidly developing nation.
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