Be Inspired By Tsinghua’s Success
China’s Tsinghua University is on track to producing the most cited papers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in the next five years, overtaking MIT, which for years has had this honour. Today, the top 1% of the most cited papers in STEM are produced by universities in the US and China. While Indian science and engineering graduates have achieved much, when it comes to research citations, India is nowhere in the reckoning. This must change, as the path to prosperity lies in the creation and ownership of knowledge.
Tsinghua’s rise has been facilitated by the Chinese government’s Projects 211 and 985, which preferentially funded 155 of a total of 2,553 institutions in the country. Rather than follow the Chinese model, which focused on STEM to the exclusion of the social sciences and humanities, India must promote broad-based research excellence. Research and published works must form an important factor in professional advancement. Not only should researchers and faculty be encouraged to publish in peer-reviewed international journals but Indian institutions must create more publishing opportunities for relatively junior faculty and researchers by starting quality peer-reviewed journals.
Workload must be more rationally allocated, to create the space faculty need for research. Industry must be weaned off the belief that all the technology they need can be bought/licensed off the shelf or knocked off. Collaboration is central to improving research and publication output. Cross-institution, subject- or issue-centred networks would widen the net beyond higher education institutions to laboratories, private facilities and think tanks. The advantage of English in higher education must be leveraged. Increased interaction between academic research and policymaking would be another driver of research improvement. Knowledge creation and ownership are central to progress. If India is serious about sustained growth and development, it must turn its focus on improving the output of new knowledge from its educational institutions.
Governors Must Not Thwart Democracy
Jammu & Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to dissolve the state assembly on November 21 is condemnable. His diktat came within minutes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference and Congress together staking claim to form a government. The J&K government has been in limbo after an alliance between the PDP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) collapsed in June this year. Malik claims his action was driven by apprehensions of horse-trading among legislators.
It is beyond the governor’s brief to thwart an elected House’s prerogative to form a government, and his prejudices and preferences should not interfere with democracy. If one government falls, what should follow next is convening the House to elect a leader. If such a leader emerges with majority support, that person should be sworn in as the next chief minister. If no such figure emerges, the House should be dissolved and a new House elected as soon as possible. The office of the governor has traditionally been misused by the party ruling the Centre, which gets to appoint the governors, to shape local politics to its advantage.
This should cease. The turmoil in Srinagar mirrors the crisis that overwhelmed Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh through 2015-16, in Goa and Manipur in 2017, and in Meghalaya earlier this year. In all cases, Congress had emerged the single-largest party, but the government helped instal a BJP government. Congress has played this game in the past, when it ruled the Centre. To preserve democracy, governors must have no agency other than facilitation in forming governments after the people have chosen their representatives. Floor tests, not whims of Raj Bhavans, are the only way to settle claims to power.