This February, Indian Liberals, our online archive of libertarian thought histories in India, brought together academics, thought leaders and scholars, for a day-long conference on the relevance of the Swatantra Party and the future of liberal politics in India. Hosted in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the conference consisted of three gripping panels with eminent speakers such as Vasanthi Srinivasan (author of ‘Gandhi's Conscience Keeper: C. Rajagopalachari and Indian Politics’), Gurcharan Das, (author of ‘India Unbound’), R Jagannathan (Editorial Director, Swarajya), amongst other academics and thought leaders The drew an engaged audience of 350, including young scholars, students , lawyers, academics, journalists, and political commentators.
The day-long conference also marked the launch of 27,000 original and previously unpublished papers of the Swatantra Party that had been procured by Centre for Civil Society, as part of the Indian Liberals project. An exhibition of these papers was curated and the documents were handed over to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi for preservation and to make them accessible for the generations of scholars to come.
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In a big win for bamboo-based livelihoods in India and for us at CCS, President Ram Nath Kovind has cleared an ordinance amending the Indian Forest Act 1927. With the amendment, non-forest bamboo is now classified as ‘grass’ and can be freely produced and transported. This heralds an opening up of markets for communities directly dependent on bamboo-based livelihoods.
The classification of bamboo as a tree had made the resource inaccessible to the economically disadvantaged forest-dwelling and rural communities, and thwarted bamboo-based livelihoods. CCS had consistently campaigned for reforms in bamboo regulations in India since 2009, through its ‘Bamboo is not a Tree’ campaign, presenting regulatory reform recommendations to 13 key central ministries.
While the ordinance presents a major breakthrough in enabling market opportunities for bamboo-based livelihoods, it continues to be marred by the over-lapping and confounding legislations of the newly amended Indian Forest Act and Forest Rights Act (2006). Bamboo grown within forest limits, for instance, remains vulnerable to continuing state control. Following the ordinance and recognising its limits, CCS has stepped up its campaign to advocate for community rights for the sustainable management of bamboos.
CCS is the proud winner of Atlas Network's LIFE Award for its three-year Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise Policy Reform (LIFE) program. The award recognises our efforts for sustainable free market solutions, and for policy reforms that foster freer, and more inclusive markets in India.
In order to reform the education landscape in India, CCS has advocated for public involvement to expand the platform for dialogue and break the arbitrary control exercised by the State. As part of this initiative we are now organising ‘Parents Forum for Student Education’ to strengthen parental voice in policy-making and create a foundation for parent-led activism. Our first Forum was organised in Hastsal (Delhi) with parent-leader representatives and amalgamated their diverses experiences with schooling, their understanding of student requirements, and challenges under the current system.
As part of our ‘Repeal of Laws’ initiative we launched a campaign on the Aircraft Act of 1934, highlighting its inconsistency, redundancy and arbitrariness in regulating all ‘flying machines’ including balloons and kites. To raise awareness about this issue, on the festival of Makar Sankrant, we orchestrated a campaign in partnership with five law schools (Maharashtra National Law University, Symbiosis Law School Noida, Hidayatullah National Law University, National Law School of India University, and National Academy of Legal Studies & Research). We mass mailed to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation appealing for a review and repeal of the Act. An article titled ‘Did You Know That Flying A Kite Could Land You In Jail?’ was published on our blog Spontaneous Order as well as a video on the ‘Lawbreakers of India’ on CCSIndiaTV. Our efforts also resulted in 7 citations in national and regional dailies including Aaj Tak and Amar Ujala.
Parth Shah, President, CCS, was invited by the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) to host a webinar on the theme of ‘Transforming Low-Cost Private Education in India through Innovative Solutions and Policy Reforms’ alongside Ashish Karamchandani, Managing Director, FSG Advisory. With 52 participants from across South Asia, the webinar led to a vibrant dialogue on the scope and relevance of innovations in budget-private schools in India.
This month the focus of the discussion was on ‘Transforming Low-Cost Private Education in India through Innovative Solutions and Policy Reforms’. With 52 participants, the webinar led to a vibrant dialogue on the scope and relevance of innovations in budget-private schools in India. It highlighted the scope for conceptualising, piloting and implementing cost-effective learning solutions through organisations such as the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) that act as a common platform for multiple stakeholders in education. The Webinar allowed for an exchange of insights on the challenges of effective advocacy in the current scenario to improve learning outcomes through innovation.
Azadi.me, CCS’ hindi liberal portal, released the Hindi translation of ‘The Law’ by Frédéric Bastiat at the Constitution Club of India. Originally published in 1850 as ‘La Loi’, the work remains ever more relevant today, putting forth a poignant critique of the excesses of governmental intervention, and the inevitable perversion of law that a surplus state may lead to. Translated and edited by Avinash Chandra, Editor of Azadi.me, Bastiat’s pivotal ideas on life, liberty and private property have been made accessible to the large Hindi readership in India and abroad.
The launch of the book was followed by a panel discussion on Society, Law and Media' with eminent speakers including Shivanand Dwivedi, Fellow, SPMRF; Anurag Punetha, Senior Anchor, Lok Sabha TV; Dr. Alok Puranik, Associate Professor, Delhi University; and Ratnesh Mishra, Resident Editor, Rashtriya Sahara. The dialogue was centered around Bastiat’s political theories and their relevance in modern-day democracies. As Ratnesh Mishra remarked, ‘Any law that is made must take into account issues of individuality, liberty & protection of property rights. Further, more laws do not necessarily translate to more justice. It is imperative that we remain mindful of this.’
Access the digital edition of the book here.
Through our ‘CCS on Campus’ initiative, we reach out to young students and future leaders across the country by way of policy dialogues conducted by members of our eminent faculty. During the 2-3 hour sessions, we encourage students to contest and debate learned presumptions on modern political and socio-economic concerns of the nation. This January we successfully instigated 310 students to explore the foundations of a free, prosperous, and just society.
Parth Shah (Founder President, CCS) and Geeta Gauri (Former Member of the Competition Commission of India) steered a group of 130 students to ‘unpack’ the 1991 reforms for liberalisation of the Indian economy. Christopher Lingle (Visiting Professor of Economics, Universidad Francisco Marroquín) urged students at Symbiosis Law School Noida to examine the principles of legislation and public policy and how they are confined by the ‘Rule of Law’. His second session at Amity University focused on ‘Emerging Market Economies, Public Policy Reform and Development in Asia’. At the Government Law College Mumbai, Vivek Dehejia (Associate Professor of Economics, Carleton University) engaged aspiring lawyers on the concerns of implementing ‘Cooperative Federalism in an Unequal India’.
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This January we took our flagship course in public policy to Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, reaching out to 152 young leaders Early on in the month, in collaboration with the India Fellow Social Leadership Program, we organised sessions for the fellows at the beautiful location of Sanskriti Kendra.70 participants engaged with our faculty over two cold weekends in Delhi. In collaboration with Indian School of Business Hyderabad, 22 young minds explored the principles of public policy through dialogues and activities. We wrapped up this month with 32 spirited participants at the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai.
Our programs offered interactive sessions diverse themes including Property Rights for the Poor, New Public Management, the Indian Policy Process, Politics of Public Policy, Stakeholder Mapping in Education, Environmental Challenges and more. Our eminent faculty this month included Ajay Shah, Professor, National Institute for Public Finance and Policy; Barun Mitra, Founder and Director of the Liberty Institute; Chakshu Roy, Head of Outreach, PRS Legislative Research among others.
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