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4th November – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Uncivil proposal, Law of prejudice
  2. Academia and the free will

Uncivil Proposal, Law of prejudice

Context: That the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and now ministers in Karnataka are considering a law against what they call “love jihad” smacks of dangerous over-reach and a paranoia about inter-personal relations that has no place in a democracy.

Relevance:

GS Paper 1: Salient features of Indian Society; communalism

GS Paper 2: Historical underpinnings & evolution; Features, amendments, significant provisions, basic structure; Comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with other countries.

Mains questions:

  1. The astounding proposal by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to enact a law to curb what they call ‘love jihad’ reeks of a vicious mix of patriarchy and communalism. Comment. 15 marks
  2. The Constitution, which allows every citizen the freedom to marry any person she chooses, and the liberty to follow any faith. Discuss the statement in context of religious conversion in India. 15 marks

Dimensions of the articles:

  • What is love jihad?
  • Why do the state governments want to enact the law to curb it?
  • Issue of Religious Conversion in India.
  • The Supreme Court’s judgement regarding a person’s right to choose a religion.
  • Way forward

What is love jihad?

The term “love jihad” was first mentioned in around 2007 in Kerala and neighbouring Karnataka state, but it became part of the public discourse in 2009. Jihad, also called Romeo Jihad, is an unsubstantiated campaign defined as an activity under which Muslim men target women belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.

The latest debate on “Love Jihad” follows on from two separate incidents that have received national attention in the past month.

  • One was the alleged murder of a 21-year-old Hindu woman in Faridabad, near Delhi, by a man who – her family say – was stalking her and tried more than once to abduct her. Three people have been arrested over the crime, including the accused shooter, a Muslim man.
  • The second case was that of an advertisement by popular Indian Jewellery brand Tanishq featuring an interfaith couple. It showed a baby shower organised for the Hindu bride by her Muslim in-laws. 

Why do the state governments want to enact the law to curb it?

  • The state government argued that it is duty of state to protect the dignity of women from the men, by concealing their identities and operating secretly.
  • The UP government referred to a recent order of the Allahabad High Court which said religious conversion for the sake of marriage is unacceptable. The court in its order observed that conversion “just for the purpose of marriage”, and where the religious belief of the party involved is not a factor, is unacceptable.

Issue of Religious Conversion in India:

  • Indian constitution in its Part III (Articles 25 to 28) endorses the freedom of religion in India (for Indian citizens and anyone who resides in India) along with specified limitations. However, the term religion is nowhere defined in the Indian Constitution but it has been given expansive content by way of judicial pronouncements.
  • Although Indian position on the freedom of religion entails limited & permissible interference of the state in religious matters, various state governments (Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha etc.) have enacted anti-conversion laws with the purported aim of preventing conversions brought about by coercion or inducements. Such laws have been a subject of intense criticism and have been alleged as infringing on one’s right to freedom of religion.
  • What further compounds the issue is the absence of any explicit right to convert in the provisions relating to the concerned fundamental right in the Constitution. Court judgements in various cases have brought a certain crucial understanding on the matter of conversion in the country in light of freedom of religion and the individual’s right to choice.

The Supreme Court’s judgement regarding a person’s right to choose a religion:

The Supreme Court in the case of Hadiya, a 26-year-old Homeopathy student gave followings observations:

  • Right to Choice: Freedom of faith is essential to individual’s autonomy. Choosing a faith is the substratum of individuality without which the right of choice becomes a shadow.
  • Liberty: Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe, are at the core of constitutional liberty and the Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics.
  • Identity: Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners.
  • Constitutional Protection: Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere.
  • The Supreme Court held that Right to choose religion and marry is an intrinsic part of meaningful existence. Neither the State nor “patriarchal supremacy” can interfere in person’s decision.

The judgement reinvigorates freedom of religion and freedom of conscience which has been recognized under the international law under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognizing fact that the entire humanity enjoys certain alienable rights. India is also a signatory of the same.

Way forward

It is important to understand that right to freedom of religion would be illusory if one were not permitted to change it, of course without any coercion or allurement. All the major international instruments explicitly mention the right to conversion as implicit in the right to freedom of religion. Even solicitation has been held lawful in USA and any ordinances or orders passed to ban such soliciting have been quashed by the courts. The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of religion but it does not explicitly mention right to conversion. There may not be a fundamental right to religious conversion (as held in Stanislaus case) but it certainly is a right to convert one’s religion if there are no elements of fraud, coercion and allurement.

Background:

1: Constitutional provisions Regarding Right to Freedom of Religion:

  • Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  • Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.
  • Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.
  • Article 28: This Article mandates that No religious instruction would be imparted in the state funded educational institutions.

2: The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with marriage registration in case both husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or, where they have converted into any of these religions.
  • It is to be noted that Hindu Marriage Act deals with only marriage registration that has already been solemnized.

3: The Special Marriage Act, 1954:

  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 lay down the procedure for both solemnization and registration of marriage, where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs.
  • It is the duty of the judiciary to ensure that the rights of both the husband and wife are protection.
  • In case this union between the husband and wife breaks, it should be determined that if this break-up was a result of actions of any of the parties or not.

Academia and the free will

Context: India has scored considerably low in the international Academic Freedom Index (AFI) with a score of 0.352, which is closely followed by Saudi Arabia (0.278) and Libya (0.238).

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Social Sector & Social Services (health, education, human resources – issues in development, management);

Mains questions:

  1. The quality of higher education in India requires major improvements to make it internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help improve the quality of higher and technical education in the country? Discuss. 15 marks
  2. India’s dismal score on the Academic Freedom Index reflects the issues plaguing the country’s education system. Examine. 15 marks

Dimensions of the article

  • Objectives of higher education in India
  • Current status of Higher education in India
  • Constraints related to higher education
  • Measures taken by the government to improve the Higher education
  • Way forward

Objectives of higher education in India

  • Increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education from 25 per cent in 2016-17 to 35 per cent by 2022-23.
  • Make higher education more inclusive for the most vulnerable groups.
  • Adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework and have multiple highly reputed accreditation agencies for facilitating the process.
  • Create an enabling ecosystem to enhance the spirit of research and innovation.
  • Improve employability of students completing their higher education.

Current status of Higher education in India

  • The private sector accounts for a large share of  institutions, managing 36.2 per cent of universities, 77.8 per cent of colleges and 76 per cent of standalone institutions in 2016-17.
  • India’s higher education GER (calculated for the age group, 18-23 years) increased from 11.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 25.2 per cent in 2016-17. However, we lag behind the world average of 33 percent.
  • GER is 26.0 per cent for males and 24.5 per cent for females.
  • The GERs for scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), other backward castes (OBCs) and minorities have been increasing, these are still below the overall average in most cases.
  • India’s expenditure on higher education as a percentage of its total budget has remained largely stagnant, hovering around an average 1.47% over 12 years to 2018-19.
  • Funding for universities is also inconsistent with demand:  Among public universities, around 97% of students study in state universities, but 57.5% of the government’s higher education budget goes to central universities and premier institutes like IITs and IIMs.
  • Indian universities have consistently ranked low in global university rankings: Not a single Indian university has ranked in the top 200, as per the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 and only five institutes made it to the top 500.
NIT' Aayog 
Figure 24.1 : Gross enrolment ratio in higher education, 2016-17 
30% 
25% 
15% 
10% 
5% 
Male 
Female 
ST 
India 
Source: All India Survey on Higher Education, 2016-17

Constraints regarding India’s Higher Education System:

  • Fragmentation of the higher education system: Over 40% of all colleges run only a single programme, far from the multidisciplinary style of higher education that will be required in the 21st century. Over 20% of colleges have enrolment below 100, while only 4% of colleges have enrolment over 3000.
  • Too many silos; too much early specialisation and streaming of students into disciplines: India’s higher education has developed rigid boundaries of disciplines and fields, along with a narrow view of what constitutes education.
  • Lack of teacher and institutional autonomy: The lack of teacher autonomy has led to a severe lack of faculty motivation and scope for innovation.
  • Inadequate mechanisms for career management and progression of faculty and institutional leaders: The system of selection, tenure, promotion, salary increases, and other recognition and vertical mobility of faculty and institutional leaders is not based on merit but tends to be either seniority based or arbitrary. This has had the negative effect of severely disincentivising quality and innovation at all levels.
  • Outdated curriculum results in a mismatch between education and job market requirements, dampens students’ creativity and hampers the development of their analytical abilities.
  • There is no policy framework for participation of foreign universities in higher education.
  • There is no overarching funding body to promote and encourage research and innovation.

Measures taken by the government to improve the Higher education

  • Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 202: Qualitatively upgrade the research and academic infrastructure in India to global best standards by 2022. Make India into an education hub by making available high-quality research infrastructure in Indian higher educational institutions.
  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) has been tasked to mobilise Rs. 1,00,000 crores for this initiative. As per this initiative, the scope of institutions to be funded through HEFA has been enlarged to encompass School Education and Medical Education institutions, apart from Higher Education.
  • UGC’s Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF): LOCF guidelines, issued by UGC in 2018, aims to specify what graduates are expected to know, understand and be able to do at the end of their programme of study. This is to make student active learner and teacher a good facilitator.
  • Graded Autonomy to Universities & Colleges: 3-tiered graded autonomy regulatory system has been initiated, with the categorization based on accreditation scores. Category I and Category II universities will have significant autonomy to conduct examinations, prescribe evaluation systems and even announce results.
  • Global Initiative for Academics Network (GIAN): The programme seeks to invite distinguished academicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, experts from premier institutions from across the world, to teach in the higher educational institutions in India.
  • All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE): The main objectives of the survey are to- identify & capture all the institutions of higher learning in the country; and collect the data from all the higher education institutions on various aspects of higher education.
  • National Institutional Rankings Framework was developed in 2015. The rankings are published annually since 2016. It outlines a methodology to rank educational institutions across the country based on five broad parameters:
    • Teaching, learning and resources;
    • Research and professional practice;
    • Graduation outcomes;
    • Outreach and inclusivity;
    • Perception

Way forward

1: Regulatory and governance reforms:

  • Restructure or merge different higher education regulators (UGC, AICTE, NCTE etc.) to ensure effective coordination.
  • Amend UGC Act to give legislative backing to regulatory structure.
  • Allow foreign institutions to operate joint degree programmes with Indian institutions. o Link University grants to performance.
  • Select Vice-Chancellors of universities through a transparent & objective process.

2: Curriculum Design:

  • Set minimum standards in curriculum to serve as benchmark for institutions at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Update curriculum & pedagogy with feedback from domain experts, faculty, students, industry, and alumni.
  • Integrate seamlessly skills/vocational training with higher education.
  • Encourage internships by students in undergraduate courses and make it mandatory in professional courses to give practical orientation to higher education.

3: Accreditation Framework:

  • All higher education institutions must be accredited compulsorily & regularly, by agencies, empanelled through a transparent, high quality process. Public information material brought out by these institutions must prominently display the accreditation status and grade.

4: Creating ‘world class universities’:

  • 20 universities – 10 each from the public and private sector – are being selected as ‘Institutions of Eminence’, to help them attain world-class standards of teaching and research. A graded mechanism to ensure additional funds flow to top public universities should be developed, as in China & Singapore.

5: Performance-linked funding and incentives:

  • All central universities should develop strategic plans for getting into the top 500 of global universities rankings in the next 10 years. Funding to these institutions should be linked to performance and outcomes through the MHRD and newly constituted Higher Education Funding Agency.
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October 2022
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