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Preparing the Fields for Genetically Modified Crops in India

Tarini Sudhakar, Manickam Valliappan, and Prashant Narang |
August 26, 2022

By 2050, the world will need to produce 60-70% more food than what it is already producing to feed an anticipated population of 9.3 billion people. A large proportion of this demand is expected to come from the developing world. With India’s population set to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, its annual domestic food production must increase to 333 million tonnes against the current level of 252 million tonnes. But the farming-as-usual approach would significantly reduce natural resources. High-yielding, pest-resistant genetically modified (GM) crops are often put forth as one of the tools to solve prospective food shortages in a changing environment.



Quality of Science & Technology Policy

Bhavya Mehta |
August 25, 2022

Science and Technology (S&T) policies of a country alter how individuals & entities of the science, technology, and innovation ecosystem interact with each other and determine how resources are to be allocated to serve the best interest of the public. This toolkit aims to provide a suited guideline for policymakers and others who wish to assess the quality of science and technology policies of a country holistically. This toolkit takes into account several metrics that help identify characteristics of a sound S&T policy. Metrics like Collaboration, Resources & Research, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Environment & Sustainability establish the outcomes and effectiveness of this policy, whereas metrics like Transparency, Accountability & Administration help in assessing the clarity and impact of the policy. 



Enabling Research through Research Management

Bhavya Mehta and Ishita Puri |
August 25, 2022

The field of research management (RM) has emerged as a tool to create an enabling research environment within universities, where researchers can get support, including but not limited to management of their research grant, getting legal and technology transfer-related advice and finding ways of increasing the impact of their research and innovation. In this report, we discuss some of the current conceptual challenges related to RM and look into the details of the current scenario and future potential of RM in India. This report has emerged from the study of cases in India and around the world, coupled with one-on-one interactions with some of the leading professionals engaged in providing RM services at Indian higher educational institutions (HEIs). Some of the key findings that emerged from this study include the evolving RM priorities of Indian HEIs and the lack of a defined career trajectory for RM professionals engaged in providing the service. We discuss in detail the current and potential role of various stakeholders in the RM system. A dedicated chapter on the role of markets highlights the current lack of involvement of the private sector and the potential it has to transform research management in India—as a service provider, a contributor, and a beneficiary. The way forward for research universities without any current RM mechanism has also been discussed in detail.


Improving the Quality of Laws in India: A Qualitative and Quantitative Approach

Prashant Narang and Jayana Bedi |
August 10, 2022

Laws and regulations impact the social and economic well-being, and freedom of members of society. They alter how individuals interact and trade with each other. While all laws and regulations alter behaviour and impact stakeholders, a good regulation maximises social welfare while minimising the cost and extent of intervention (CUTS International n.d).                        

A cost-benefit analysis alone is insufficient to assess the quality of a law or regulation. This is, in part, because it is not possible to know all the costs and benefits associated with a specific regulation. Further, while known costs and benefits can be calculated, there will be costs and benefits that are impossible to predict ex-ante (Bastiat 1850). Added to this, is the knowledge problem (Hayek 1945). All the relevant data will never be available to any one individual since this knowledge and data is distributed among individual actors.    

To tackle this challenge, we have developed a two-fold method to assess the quality of a law. First, we propose using a 3-part Quality of Laws Toolkit that reviews laws on three safeguards: Representation, Rights, and Resources safeguards. Representation safeguards ensure that the interests of stakeholders and the general public are reflected in a law. Rights safeguards check whether a law protects the rights of individuals. Resources safeguards assess the impact of a law on stakeholders’ incentives and the administrative burden it imposes. Second, we use Mercatus Center’s RegData to quantify different aspects of a law: volume, restriction, and complexity.            

This compendium has three parts. The first part elaborates on the 3Rs of the Toolkit and presents the question-set under each. The second part provides guidance on using the Toolkit by applying the ‘Rights’ safeguards to all state school education laws. The third part elaborates on the quantitative methodology and applies it to all national laws in India. 



Model Service Delivery Act

Sriram Prasad, Sharan Bhavnani, Astha Pandey, and Prashant Narang |
August 10, 2022

The concept of Citizens Charters were introduced in 1997 across various levels of government, in both the Union and States. However, these charters remained ineffective due to their voluntary nature. The improvements in technology and internet penetration in India made for a fertile situation legislatie on timely delivery of services, including those delivered electronically. The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 and the the Electronic Delivery of Services Bill, 2011 attempted to achieve these goals. However, the Bills lapsed along with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014. In the absence of a national legal framework, individual States enacted laws to fill the void in the legal framework. These individual State laws are plagued by various challenges such as lack of uniformity across States, outdated processes, failure to acknowledge the advancement in technologies and ICT applications, etc.   

This Model Bill aims to institutionalise mechanisms in governance to ensure that citizens and businesses in the State get access to speedy, simple, clear, transparent, efficient, accountable, fair, equitable, and time bound delivery of public services. It incorporates best practices to ensure ease of doing business and ease of access to such public services. In establishing the Nodal Agency and providing it with statutory guidance, the Bill seeks to establish governance methods which ensure removal of process and documentation redundancies, access to deemed approvals, and accountable assessment of public authorities. The mechanisms established through this Bill would synergise the State’s efforts in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.      


Mapping the Education Landscape of India

Ashana Mathur and Prashant Narang |
August 8, 2022

India is home to over 26.5 crore students belonging to different regions, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds (National University of Educational Planning and Administration 2022). Every year, as more students enrol in one of the 15 lakh schools across the country, India’s educational landscape develops and becomes more intricate. This report aims to provide a snapshot of the diverse array of schools in the country.

Schools can be broadly classified into two categories, based on management: public schools and private schools. The administration of the former rests with the government and the latter with private education providers. This report captures the differences between the two categories in terms of the number of schools, their enrolment rates, infrastructure capacity, availability of basic amenities, and the strength of their teaching staff. The insights outlined in this report are based on the 2020-21 Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) database. UDISE is a comprehensive database, which collates information at the district level, and sources data directly from schools (National University of Educational Planning and Administration 2022).

After giving an overview of the education sector in India, the report discusses the learning outcomes of students from public and private schools. The report documents the extensive research on this subject to illustrate the importance of moving from an inputs-focused approach to one based on learning outcomes when determining the quality of education the schools provide. Further, the report highlights the regulatory barriers in the existing framework which may stifle the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation in the education

The report also sheds light on the emerging trends in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and elaborates on a relatively understudied sub-set of private schools known as Budget Private Schools (BPS). While the UDISE data is a widely used and highly accessible source of information on the education sector, it is not without limitations. The last section of the report lists a few limitations of the UDISE data.


Setting up the Sentinel: Agency Design of the Law Commission of India

Jayana Bedi and Prashant Narang |
August 8, 2022

The Law Commission is an advisory body to the Government of India. It is constituted every three years through an executive order to conduct legal research, suggest law reform, and recommend improvements in administration of justice. So far, the Law Commission has submitted 277 reports (Press Information Bureau 2020). 

The Commission worked as a statutory body during the British regime under the Charter Act of 1833. This body was also constituted in 1853, 1861, and 1879 (Legislative Department, n.d.). The Government of India revived the practice of appointing Law Commissions in 1951, however, the Commission started as a non-statutory body and remains so. Unlike other commissions in India, the Law Commission has no fixed composition, eligibility criteria, and functions. The Terms of Reference are specified afresh each time it is constituted. Other national commissions like the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women have a parliamentary charter and are permanent bodies. 

News reports document issues Law Commission (Shrivastava 2015). These include:

  • limited capacity and dynamism;
  • problems in the structure, composition and functional autonomy of the Commission;
  • and inadequate funding.

However, there is no systematic study on the challenges with the Commission’s institutional design and the bearing this has on its functioning. 

This policy brief attempts to address this gap by reviewing the Law Commission’s present structure, highlighting areas of improvement, and proposing a way forward to reengineer the institution. The brief follows a two-pronged approach. First, it records the experiences of various stakeholders and experts to identify key challenges in the working of the Commission. We study its structure, independence, research approach, and resource availability. Second, we present some best practices in agency design by drawing from the structure of independent bodies/commissions in India and other countries. Based on these learnings, we propose recommendations on how to redesign the Law Commission. 

Our proposed reform of the Law Commission aims at making it a more robust body capable of reviewing laws and institutionalising quality checks.




Visual Summary

A Teary Tale of Onion Exports

Shashwat Raut and Arjun Krishnan |
July 28, 2022

Onions are a very important crop for both Indian farmers and consumers. Whenever there are price fluctuations in the market, the Government changes the rules on the trade of onions. In 2020 alone, the trading status of onions was changed 7 times, i.e. the government would ban the exports of onions and then relax it. This distorts the market and disincentivises investments in trade infrastructure like warehousing. Two Acts, the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) and the Foreign Trade (Development Regulation) Act (FTDR) empower the government to limit warehousing capacity and regulate the trade of commodities.

This set of case studies looks at the plight of onion farmers across three markets in the Nashik region of Maharashtra. Maharashtra is one of the most important onion-growing regions in India. Maharashtra ranks first in Onion production with a share of 28.32%.