Bio-piracy and traditional knowledge: Is IPR protecting it or trading in it? - The Daily Guardian
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Bio-piracy and traditional knowledge: Is IPR protecting it or trading in it?

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Intellectual Property Rights require being creative. But what is creativity, and can it encompass within it the dimensions of life?

With time priorities are shifting from social need to potential return on investment, and this has served as the principal criterion for commercially guided research. If this continues, there will be a period the rivulets of knowledge(s), and learning will be forgotten and become extinct.

COMPREHENDING BIO-PIRACY

Bio-piracy is the act of financially abusing normal happening biochemical or hereditary processes, by getting licenses that limit its future use while neglecting reasonable compensation to the communities from whom it originates. The term is in vogue for explaining the situation where indigenous knowledge of nature is being used by others without furnishing due acknowledgment to the holders of the same. It is associated with intellectual property rights and is concerned with traditional knowledge or know-how of the local communities enclosed by the biodiversity.

The problem of bio-piracy has broader international implications that has made it an urgent issue for all countries. Bio-piracy as a threat to biodiversity is a result of the IPR regime and the conflicting interests of the two groups i.e., Transnational companies and natural diversity that has posed challenges upon the Western assumption on the propriety of patents. The conflict has also presented the problem of misunderstandings and disagreements of the developing countries with Western patent laws. Bio-piracy disputes are several, and most of the episodes suggest that bio-piracy patents are contrary to the wishes of indigenous communities who are inclined to keep certain erudition sacred.

The seed of the earth: Can we claim?

“Life is not an invention” when Vandana Shiva wrote this phrase she meant to convey to the market that it cannot apply for the patent claiming they created a new life.

Over the last two decades, IPRs and particularly patents have covered a large field of activities. The corporations have successfully influenced patent laws to acquire the ownership of life and control over the survival essentials like seeds and medicine, and other life forms. Such ownership is criticized by authors for being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. IPRs have been expanded to cover the living systems and organisms in the fake garb of ‘innovation’ and ‘invention’. Such distortions are compositions of big corporations dealing in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and agribusiness, etc.

With time corporations have acquired controlling powers to dominate the diversity of life on the earth and are influencing people’s indigenous knowledge by proposing and implementing new property rights. There are cases around the globe and particularly in India where corporations have robbed people out of their knowledge and have registered the products of the same in their names. There is no innovation in these cases; instead, they are instruments of monopoly over life itself. Life forms are now redefined as ‘machines and manufacture’ snatching the integrity and self-organization that life held. A new epidemic of bio-piracy has been unleashed by the involvement in the piracy and patenting of traditional knowledge.

Patents on life embed creativity intrinsic to the living systems under which happens the reproduction and exists the freedom of self-organization. Patents going beyond, engird the internal ranges of the figures of plants, animals, and women. They are capturing free locutions by converting publicly kindled information into private property. IPRs that are supposed to reward and stimulate creativity concerning life-forms are in turn stifling the creativity fundamental to the social production of knowledge. The world has moved generations to replace the ideology of terra mater with that of terra nullius (empty lands been expanded to empty lives).

THE MODEL OF IPR: AN INSTRUMENT TO CONTROL THE COMMONS

Biodiversity is a social and cultural issue, and the biological resources exist under the common property systems governed by the principles of justice and sustainability. IPR regime on the other hand sees value as a creation of commercial exploitation. They deny the creativity in nature; while parallel to it they indeed use the creativity, knowledge, and intelligence of the commons. The regime does not recognize creativity but emphasis the protection of capital investment and tends to own the knowledge, products, and processes emerging from it. Thus, systematically alienating the knowledge and resources from the first custodians and patrons leading to the creation of monopoly with the multi-national companies.

Via this trend, biodiversity is turned from a local common into a girdled private property. This enclosure is being universalized by the TRIPs treaty. However, as it is considered by some critics like Dr. Vandana Shiva that

“the CBD along with GATT (TRIPS) are a prescription for a monoculture of knowledge since these instruments are being used to universalize the U.S. Patent regime worldwide, which inevitably lead to an intellectual and cultural impoverishment by displacing other ways of knowing, other objectives for knowledge creation, and other modes of knowledge sharing”.

There are two restrictions that the international agreement poses, one of them is exclusions of knowledge, innovations, and ideas possessed by the “intellectual commons” i.e., the local communities belonging to the diverse biological resources from the category of common rights. The next restriction that IPRs introduce is that an idea or understanding is eligible for recognition only when its use yields profits, a mere value in the minds of its users to meet the social needs does not place them on the paddle for recognition. According to Article 27.1, an IPR sanction requires innovation to be that which is able of industrial application. The result of such criterion is the exclusion of all the other sectors that innovate and produce in the mode other than industry.

Fundamental to the privatization of information and biodiversity is the devaluation of local awareness, the relocation of nearby rights, and all the while, the production of restraining monopoly rights to biodiversity use through the case of novelty. Some tendencies enclose the issue of knowledge, one among them is the paradigm of mechanistic reductionism which is the root cause for the negative ecological and health implications. This western concept of reductionism purports that non-Western systems of knowledge are old and inimical when in reality they are to be adapted as they respect life and not take it as a material commodity. On the flip side, precisely when original systems of knowledge could come into their own, the GATT is utilizing IPRs to fortify the syndication of Western frameworks and is depreciating indigenous frameworks, even while misusing them for setting up IPR monopolies. IPRs lend support in the systematic privatization of biodiversity and the intellectual commons and “Bio-prospecting” is the expression employed to explain this new model of the enclosure.

Bio-prospecting is the exploration of commercially worth biochemical and genetic resources. The simile is plagiarized from the prospecting for oil or gold. Biodiversity is fast becoming the green oil and green gold for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, the metaphor suggests that the value and use of biodiversity lie with the prospector, when it is held by local indigenous communities. The metaphor denies the fact that biodiversity was not buried and unused before it was being prospected. Unlike gold and oil, it did not lie beneath the earth; on the contrary, the local communities knew its value and use long before prospecting.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

TRIPS is encroaching on the Common Property Rights to biodiversity and biodiversity-related knowledge because the entire design of TRIPS is to proffer individuals and corporations the monopoly rights as stated in the 1988 industry paper, “Basic Framework for GATT Provisions on Intellectual Property,” coauthored by IPC, Keidanren, and UNICE:

“Because national intellectual property protection systems differ, intellectual property right owners spend a disproportionate amount of time and resources to acquire and defend rights. These owners also find that the exercise of intellectual property rights is encumbered by laws and regulations limiting market access or the ability to repatriate profits”.

The TRIPS agreement by letting monopolistic charge or control on life-forms has posed severe repercussions for biodiversity preservation and the environment. Article 27 (3) (b) of the agreement states:

Members may exclude from patentability plants and animals other than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, Members shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof. The provisions of this subparagraph shall be reviewed four years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement.

The developing countries were always in threat when it came to TRIPS, the Indian Minister of Trade and Commerce Shri Murasoli Maran in a forum on “Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy in the 21st Century,” at Geneva in 2000 expressed his fear of how “the industrialized countries are using TRIPS as a tool to prevent developing countries having used reversed engineering and other methods of imitative innovation during their process of industrialization”.

The practical implementation of TRIPS and other IPR related laws is mocked by the torch-bearing North or Western corner of the globe. Surmounted dominions were treated as people less when patents of the 15th and 16th centuries were granted. People were naturalized into “our subjects.” Today, we remain to be the subjects of the Western power markets and the growing trends of protection for profit generation. The regime has shifted the interest of commons to the private right thus, supporting the private right over the empty seeds of life. As understood by Dr. Vandana Shiva TRIPS is hence a tool for the privatization of the learned commons and for de-intellectualization of civic society as the mind has become a corporate monopoly. Surely, our planet deserves a fairer deal.

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Policy & Politics

Making it Happen: Genome Valley, the biotech hub of India

The story of the Genome Valley began two decades ago in a sleepy village of Shameerpet Mandal called Turkapally, about 30 km from Hyderabad. An intrepid NRI scientist Dr Krishna Ella decided to return to India and set up his biotech industry (Bharat Biotech) in 1996, little realising then that his would be the anchor industry in the global biotech hub.

Anil Swarup

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A world class life science cluster in the outskirts of Hyderabad would have gone unnoticed but for COVID. This is the place where, led by Bharat Biotech, 4 out of 6 home grown vaccines are being developed (some already developed and being manufactured). Genome valley has about a third of world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity and is bound to play a major role in the months to come to control the pandemic. All this did not happen overnight.

The story of the Genome Valley began two decades ago in a sleepy village of Shameerpet mandal called Turkapally, about 30 kms from Hyderabad. An intrepid NRI scientist Dr Krishna Ella decided to return to India and set up his biotech industry (Bharat Biotech) in 1996, little realizing then that his would be the anchor industry in the global biotech hub.

It was around this time that an IAS Officer, B P Acharya made a fortuitous entry into the scene in his capacity as Secretary, Industries and Commerce. Despite being a trifle apprehensive, he gave his best shot. Meanwhile, the ICICI Knowledge Park, the first R&D park of the country, had come up in May 2000, near Bharat Biotech and about 150 acres of Government land was earmarked next to it to develop as Biotech park on the new-fangled Public- Private partnership mode. Draft biotech policy of the State was ready and Ernst & Young was chosen as Consultants to guide the State in this sector. A biotech advisory committee headed by eminent scientist Dr D Balasubramanian (former Director, CCMB) was also set up to ensure industry- academia-government interface.

For the next 4-5 years, team Genome Valley, led by B P Acharya worked as men (and women) possessed to build up the cluster bit by bit, brick by brick.

The first task was to get the Biotech policy of the State finalized. Utkarsh and Vishal of E&Y helped immensely to finalize the document called “Beyond Tomorrow” (BT) that provided the basis to attract investments to the State in this sector. This sowed the seeds of the Genome Valley Project. Competition came from Karnataka. The Project was road-showed at BIO, San Diego. World renowned personalities in bio-tech like Dr Clause Plate of Germany and Dr Robert Naismith of the USA became its supporters.

The team was quick to realize that promotion without actual development on ground won’t take them far. Hence, each of the elements that could make the cluster viable was considered. The first step was to finalize the developer of the Biotech park under the PPP mode. Shapoorji Pallonji (SP), then headed by Cyrus Mistry, came around after several rounds of discussions. They finally agreed to build, operate and market what was known then as SP biotech park over 150 acres allotted to them adjacent to the ICICI Knowledge Park (now called IKP).

As this was the first of its kind Biotech cluster in India, attempt was made to bench mark it against the best in the world. Research Triangle Park in North Carolina was visited in 2002. By this time, the first of the allottees in Biotech Park started their manufacturing units.

These included the one set up by Dr Ella’s Bharat Biotech in what was to become a vibrant Life Sciences cluster in a few years. But there were issues like water supply, pollution control, fire station, cafeteria, housing etc, that had to be addressed. The whole area was declared as pollution free zone to make it suitable for Life science sector. Fortunately, B P Acharya utilized his subsequent assignment (MD, HMWS&SB) in 2004-5. It enabled him to complete the project to draw water from a distance of about 20 kms (Alwal reservoir of Water Board). A felt need of the cluster was met. This paved the way for its growth and expansion in the years to come. Meanwhile, it was felt necessary to hold a regular event to show case Genome Valley. That is how Bio Asia (which has grown to be one the major global shows over the years) and FABA (Federation of Asian Biotech Associations) were born.

Soon the area allotted for biotech park was fully occupied and there was a need to plan for its expansion. When Acharya came back to Industry sector again in 2005, this time as MD, APIIC, he could earmark 100 acres of land next to ICICI KP in Lalgadi Malakpet , as Biotech Park Phase 2 ( partly notified as SEZ) and later 150 acres in the nearby village of Karkapatla for Phase 3. This is now fully occupied and search is on for identifying land for the next phase.

In Phase 2, a major vaccine manufacturing facility was set up by Biological E. This is now collaborating with Johnson & Johnson for their Covid vaccine. In Phase 3, Indian Immunologicals has also set up a major vaccine manufacturing unit and is also involved with another Covid vaccine candidate. In Phase 2, 100 acres were allotted by State government to ICMR for setting up the National Animal Research Facility (NARF), the largest of its kind in India, that will be a big boon for the Biopharma industry for pre-clinical trials etc.

Thus, over the last two decades, the Genome Valley has emerged as a truly global life sciences hub, the only one its kind in India. Today it hosts over 300 companies, including major international players. It provides employment to over 20,000 persons, either directly or indirectly.

It is indeed a proud moment for all those involved in this venture since its inception. The initiative taken almost a couple of decades ago is in the forefront of the battle against the pandemic. The story of the Genome Valley is also an example of building a viable ecosystem for a successful industrial cluster. It entailed careful planning and implementing each of the elements essential for its growth and meticulously placing bits and pieces of this big jigsaw puzzle together. B P Acharya and his committed team demonstrated that officers can make-it-happen

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

The first task was to get the biotech policy of the state finalised. Utkarsh and Vishal of E&Y helped immensely to finalise the document called “Beyond Tomorrow” that provided the basis to attract investments to the state in this sector. This sowed the seeds of the Genome Valley Project. Competition came from Karnataka. The project was road-showed at BIO, San Diego. World-renowned personalities in biotech like Dr Clause Plate of Germany and Dr Robert Naismith of the US became its supporters.

The whole area was declared pollution-free zone to make it suitable for the life science sector. Fortunately, B P Acharya utilised his subsequent assignment (MD, HMWS&SB) in 2004-5. It enabled him to complete the project to draw water from a distance of about 20 km (Alwal reservoir of Water Board).

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Policy & Politics

Indian apparels should target Colombia’s fashion industry: Ambassador Sanjiv Ranjan

B2B meeting held between Indian apparel exporters and Colombian buyers.

Tarun Nangia

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Indian Ambassador to Colombia Sanjiv Ranjan said that there is a huge potential for Indian apparel exporters in Colombia, particularly in its “resilient and innovative” fashion industry with domestic sales of about $7 billion.Speaking at ‘India-Colombia Synergies in Apparel and Textiles’, a virtual B2B meeting organized by Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) and Embassy of India, Bogota, Colombia, on Monday evening, Mr Ranjan said that the readymade garment exports from India were limited to around $21 million in 2019.

“India’s apparel exports to Colombia is just 3% of its global imports. This does not really reflect the strength of what our sector stands for. We have a huge untapped potential in this sector which requires to be explored and utilized by our exporters,” he said.

Highlighting the growing popularity of Indian apparels in Colombia, Ranjan said that the apparel exporters should focus on Colombia’s fashion industry that accounts for 9.4% of the country’s industrial GDP and employs about 600,000 people. The annual household expenditure on fashion in Columbia is roughly 24.3 trillion Columbian peso.

“It is one of the most vibrant sectors of the region. Columbia has a robust network of almost 14,000 companies in the fashion industry, mostly in the small and medium sized categories. Even during the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, clothing accounted for nearly 57% of the total fashion spending followed by jewelry. While the government is trying at its level, the private sector should find out how to contribute to this resilient and innovative sector,” the ambassador said.

Ranjan congratulated AEPC for setting up a virtual exhibition platform to showcase Indian apparels to overseas buyers at a time when physical presence is restricted.

“I am sure that this virtual, 24×7 platform offers more experience at one place, with the flexibility for importers to zoom in and look at the various products on offer. This will go a long way in further energizing our bilateral engagement in the apparel sector,” he said.

AEPC Chairman Dr A Sakthivel informed the attending Colombian brands and buyers that AEPC through its virtual platform will work as a bridge between the Indian apparel exporters and Colombian apparel importers. About 320 apparel exporters have already put up their products for exhibition on the platform, he said.

“On our request, the government has come out with a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manmade fibre (MMF) based garments. We do 85% cotton garments and only 15% MMF garments, while the global apparel demand is exactly the opposite. Very soon we will see a rise in exports of MMF garments from India,” Dr Sakthivel said.

Sudhir Sekhri, Chairman (Export Promotion), AEPC, said, “Of the top 10 apparel imports from India to Colombia, only two are in the MMF category and the rest are cotton garments. Perhaps this is where Bangladesh and Vietnam are scoring ahead of us. This is one area that we are trying to address very quickly along with the help from the government.”

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Policy & Politics

Bad banks for good economy

The government is currently mulling over adopting the ARC/AMC model for bad banks. This entity will be set up to take over the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks and try to resolve them like any other ARC. This will require considerable regulatory overhaul and adequate capitalisation.

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The Government of India has recently announced that India is set to have its first Bad Bank. While the decision is received with great fervor by some, many have shown their worry, if not discontent with the concept of Bad bank.

Bad bank concept dates back to 1988 where Mellon Bank used a bad bank strategy to separate $1.4 billion of bad loans to a subsidiary entity. The concept has made it’s come back with every financial crisis. In the USA, a bad bank was suggested as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to help address the subprime mortgage crisis. Republic of Ireland had its first bank, the National Asset Management Agency in 2009. Spain too established an entity called ‘SAREB’ to which troubled and illiquid assets were transferred. Pandemic has amplified the already existing economic stress and rekindled the debate of efficacy of bad banks for resolving NPA conundrum. Bad banks aids in renewed focus on long-term core operations of the good bank without getting stressed about the troubled assets. Removing troubled assets from the balance sheet infuses more optimism from credit rating agencies, investors, lenders, depositors as well as borrowers. It relieves pressure on capital, enabling the institution to engage in more profitable and growth-oriented business activities and further lending.

There is a case for the institution of bad banks in the present circumstances mainly owing to the size of Gross Non-Performing Assets (GNPA) which is equal to the roughly 27 lakh crore, almost 14% of present GDP. As NPAs rise, Banks need additional capital for provisioning which effectively curtails their lending power. In a country like India where credit growth is very much important to achieve its potential GDP growth, the inability of the Banking sector in lending will hamper its growth to a large extent. Financial Stability Report states that gross NPAs of the banking sector are expected to shoot up to 13.5% of advances by September 2021, from 7.5% in September 2020, under the baseline scenario, as “a multi-speed recovery is struggling to gain traction” amidst the pandemic. The report warned that if the macroeconomic environment worsens into a severe stress scenario, the ratio may escalate to 14.8%. To avoid this, a one -time solution of creating a bad bank to clean the balance sheet of the banks is a welcome step.

BAD BANKS: ONE TIME OR FOR ALL TIME?

Bad banks can be used as one time tool to “clean up” the balance sheet. However, if we use this as a recurring model, it could lead to wrong incentives for the bankers to undertake risky lending and transfer the same to bad banks. It is only an “emergency medicine” and not a “staple diet”. As per current status, bad loans of Rs. 500 crore and above will be eligible for resolution by this entity, with an estimated total corpus of Rs.25 trillion. It will be wise that banks must stress test their portfolios and take a forward looking approach in determining risky assets.

MODELS FOR BAD BANKS

The success and efficacy of bad banks in India would depend on the choice of structure which must be made taking into consideration independence of institution and veracious price discovery.

Choice of model depends on two decision factors. First is to decide whether or not to keep the bad assets on the bank’s balance sheet. Moving assets off the balance sheet is better for investors and counterparties and provides more transparency into the bank’s core operations. But it is more complex and expensive. Second, whether the bad-bank assets will be housed and managed in a banking entity or a special purpose vehicle (SPV). Secondly, whether to house and manage the bad-bank assets in a banking entity or to accomplish the transfer of risk in a less concrete manner.

The government is currently mulling over adopting the ARC/AMC model for bad banks. This entity will be set up to take over the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks and try to resolve them like any other ARC. This will require considerable regulatory overhaul and adequate capitalisation.

For adopting AMC model based bad bank, Acharya suggested two models of bad bank. The first is a private asset management company (PAMC), which is said to be suitable for stressed sectors where the assets are likely to have an economic value in the short run, with moderate levels of debt forgiveness. The second model is the National Asset Management Company (NAMC), which would be necessary for sectors where the problem is not just one of excess capacity but possibly also of economically unviable assets in the short to medium terms.

Further, when a bad loan is sold off to bad banks, it can either focus on recovery or consider it to repackage and monetize it through issue of new securities. If the objective of a bad bank is to recover, it will have to adopt the IBC route and given the attitude of committee of creditors that focuses on upfront payment or less haircut and the efficiency of courts, the recovery will be a herculean task. If the bad bank looks at a longer objective to monetize the bad debt till the recovery happens, it requires a sophisticated debt market that will allow easy sale and purchase of such securities.

FUNDING FOR BAD BANKS

Funding for the bad bank will be the biggest challenge to begin with. The bad bank must be well capitalised. It will obtain a limited amount of capital from reserves allocated to the acquired assets. Currently, there is lack of clarity on the funding of such banks. While the government is unwilling to inject any initial equity in such banks, the role of such banks is also unclear- whether they will just hold the asset on the balance sheet and concentrate on recovery or whether they will raise securities back by these assets. A bad bank is typically funded primarily by selling equity or debt securities. Experience from past crises shows that private investors who experienced significant losses as a result of sizable investments in financial institutions, are reluctant to step forward and invest in troubled institutions. Instead, investment in discrete pools of assets may attract private investors interested in targeted and concentrated ownership with significant control over the new entity. There should be limited regulatory oversight. Whatever the case may be, it will be wise if public sector banks together do not hold more than a 51% stake in the bad bank to allow for more flexibility.

WEIGHING PARTICIPATION OF PSU BANKS

For functioning of bad banks, the bad loans will be required to be sold below the book value. Given that most of the PSU bankers fear CVC, they are less eager to make any concession on the count of their accountability and constantly (and perhaps understandably) avoid taking decisions. This may become a hurdle for the banks. Thus, participation by the PSU banks in bad banks will need to come with greater clarity of role and responsibilities to the bankers. If the bad banks run into the private banking sphere, there will be more freedom for players to take bold and dynamic decisions.

SETTING THE PREMISE RIGHT

There could be a high possibility that the bad bank may recover less than the transfer value of the troubled asset. In such a case, the good bank should be required to make the bad bank whole. For such a solution to be implemented, new accounting guidance would be required permitting such a transfer, notwithstanding the retained interest on such transactions.

There have also been models suggested wherein existing shareholders get to participate in working of bad banks and are given interests in the new bad bank, as well as rights to subscribe for new shares of the good bank. It would be easier to attract private capital to the good bank than to the bad bank, limiting the cost to the government, a key consideration given the scope of the current crisis.

In such a design, losses on the bad bank assets would be borne first by pre-existing shareholders, rather than by new investors. Given that any risk of loss to bad bank debt holders may reduce the ability of financial institutions to borrow in the future, it is suggested that bad banks should not be as highly leveraged.

BAD BANK FOR NEW INDIA

Banking sector in India could not grow to its full potential initially due to over protection and later due to over regulation. Time is right to undo the mistakes of the past and set the policy goal of preventing moral hazard arising from government intervention.

The current government has shown a bold front by eschewing the old protectionist approach and embracing dynamic options for developing the financial market. Whatever its final form, the creation of the Bad Bank may serve as a model and springboard from which creative private investors may partner with financial institutions interested in structures that can be tailored to individual circumstances. However, Bad Banks should not be a source or incentive for careless lending by the banks. There should be a time frame by which bad banks should be dissolved.

While the decision to have a bad bank is good in principle, its success will depend on the way it is executed. Given that execution and quality control is our Achilles heel, it will not be an easy task to ensure success of bad banks on the ground.

Dr Neeti Shikha and Urvashi Shahi work with the Centre for Insolvency & Bankruptcy, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs. Rahul Prakash is Ph.D candidate at University of Texas. Views are Personal.

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Policy & Politics

National Education Policy: Govt aims to save Rs 2 lakh crore spent by Indian students abroad

Tarun Nangia

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There are almost 8 lakh Indian students studying in various foreign universities and spend on an average Rs 2 lakh crores every year in fees and other expenses. The government is taking steps to ensure that quality education and similar facilities are provided in India itself so that these students are retained here, stated Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Government of India. He was speaking at the 14th NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT 2021 – NEP 2020 – ‘Transforming Educational Landscape of the Nation and Carving a Road Map for Implementation’ organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The minister stated that the education ministry is in talks with more than 128 foreign universities on ways to collaborate so that similar facilities can be given to the students here as well. “We have already got more than 50000 student registrations and there are already almost 1000 students involved in research and development in India,” he said.

According to Dr Pokhriyal, the government of India ensured that even during the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, none of the students lost an academic year due to the non-accessibility of academic facilities.

“Almost 33 crore students across the country were able to get online education. Even in remote villages, the education institutes ensured that students could get access to their studies through radios and rooftop loudspeakers,” he said.

Speaking on the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the minister explained that till class 5, students would be able to get an education in their mother tongue or the language of their preference. “The Education facilities in India would get a huge boost with the introduction of the NEP. This would also help in the promotion of Local languages for education,” he said.

Dr Pokhriyal also asked the Industry representative to collaborate with educational institutes to help design the curriculum.

“Education is the most important pillar for any economy. Once the industries collaborate with the educational institutes, the curriculum can be designed in a way where the students can also gain industrial experience as a part of their studies,” he informed.

Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology (DST) explains that the education system should be designed as a means of achieving creativity and skill development.

“NEP 2020 aims to achieve that. The education curriculum should be aligned with the needs of the industry. Its objective should be to help in problem-solving of the society,” he said.

According to Prof. Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would also help in building the research capacity of the universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50000 crores to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF). This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Co-Chairman, National Council on Education & Chancellor, Shobhit University explained that the National Education Policy will connect the past with the future with a focus on excelling in the education sector.

“The National Research Fund and the National Technical Research Organization will bring big changes in the research and development ecosystem of the country and will be more inclusive. National Education Policy will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between research and education,” he said.

According to Prof Ashutosh Sharma, setting up of the National Research Foundation would help in building the research capacity of universities and colleges in the country. “The government has also earmarked a huge budget of Rs 50,000 crore to spend over the period of 5 years for the creation of the National Research Foundation. This in turn will help in funding the research in the range of disciplines right from science and technology to humanities,” he added.

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The 21st century belongs to young India, country poised to become R&D capital: Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

Tarun Nangia

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Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Minister of Education, Govt of India today said that as universities and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) move towards academic reforms, an ecosystem that is both flexible and innovative is being created. “As we move towards self-reliance, it is important that we rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of education system of India.

Addressing the inaugural of the 16th FICCI Higher Education Summit 2021, organised in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Education and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr Pokhriyal said that “India is poised to become the R&D capital of the world not because of the cost advantage but due to the rich and intelligent human capital that the country is bestowed with.

“Built on the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability, the Minister said that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and a global knowledge superpower,” Dr Pokhrialsaid.

In the next 20-30 years, the energy and talent of young India will be used in the development of the nation and advancing the world. The 21st century belongs to Young India,” he said.

I firmly believe that NEP 2020 has been formulated for the rise of the nation- the nation of ancient world class universities of Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila, among others; the nation that was the ‘VishwaGuru’ (global leader). India has been pioneers in fields of medicine, mathematics and chemistry, yoga. We want India to rediscover the ancient knowledge and tradition of the education system of India and rise to newer heights as far as education, R&D and innovation is concerned, Dr Pokhrial said.

Further, elaborating on the NEP 2020, the Minister added that the NEP and its implementation has drawn global attention to India. The Cambridge University, in its message of appreciation for the NEP 2020 has said that India, aided by NEP 2020 is set to regain its stature of world leaders in education.

“The NEP will ensure that India can appreciate and utilise the talents of the youth of our country,” he said. Dr Pokhriyal also spoke about the importance of retaining talent in the country. The ministry is trying to curb the brain drain and intends of taking higher education gross enrolment ratio to 50 per cent, he said.

Talking about the importance of the involvement of the private sector, the Minister said that while the government formulates policies, it is up to the private bodies and institutions to implement and execute the same. The government, he said, looks towards a greater private participation in the education sector by planning to convert 30 universities into Institutes of Eminence (IoEs) from the existing 20.

Lauding the FICCI Higher Education Summit, Dr Pokhriyal said that over the years, the summit has evolved into a thought leadership forum and brings together key stakeholders including, policymakers, educationists, industry and students for deliberations and knowledge sharing at both national and international levels.

Padma Vibhushan Dr RA Mashelkar, National Research Professor and Chancellor of Institute of Chemical Technology said that from ‘Right to Education’ we must move to ‘Digital Rights Education’. “This digital disruption will change the fundamentals of the legacy education system; hence, we must take advantage of that. Coupling future of jobs with future of education; a seamless system of linking education, research and innovation and finally borderless multidisciplinary education is the need of the hour,” he said.

Speaking at the inaugural, Mr Uday Shankar, President, FICCI said that the radical changes in the education sector have placed learners at the centre and shifted the focus from teaching to learning through digital modes.

“However, with its 672 million young population, preparing to join the workforce and citizenry for the new order society requires massive disruption and of rethinking the traditional educational model. Jobs will have to be created to gainfully employ 100 million youth who will enter the job market over the next decade,” Mr Shankarsaid.

However, Mr Shankar further said that this challenge is not an easy one. “It requires the best of technology, the best of minds, but it also requires an enabling policy framework that thinks of education very differently,” he added.

Over the years, said Mr Shankar, education has gained interrupted focus of the government and policy interventions. “The NEP 2020 released by the government is a powerful document. It conveys a clear bias for a disruptive change and takes into cognizance the issues of equitability, inclusivity, accessibility, exploratory and experimental- all ingredients required for transforming into Education 4.0 and beyond.

“We should give serious consideration to participation from the private sector into unlocking the real value in education,” he further added.

Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Pro-Chancellor Symbiosis, International University said that it is imperative that all stakeholders work together in these (COVID) times. “The government, universities, teachers, students, and civil societies that will absorb our students need to come together. The NEP 2020 has carved a new path for all of us. The world is watching this transformation of the Indian education system,” she said.

The govt is now in the process of implementing the NEP and this implementation has gained a lot of momentum. “We will see a lot of changes in our education system right from this academic year,” she said.

Dr Sekar Viswanathan, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and VP, VIT University informed that more than 3,000 delegates, including 300+ foreign delegates from 74 countries are participating in the virtual summit. “This conference is an attempt to deliberate upon and understand the system changes that are required to develop a higher education ecosystem that instils resilience, encourages innovation, promotes sustainability, and enables students and workforce to be enterprising to face the disruptive future,” he said.

Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI thanked the Minister for the extensive consultation process that went into framing the NEP. “The consultation processes and the task force that had been created to execute the NEP will successfully engage with the industry,” he said.

FICCI EY Report, ‘Higher Education in India: 2040’, was also released at the event. The report, while defining Education 4.0 in the current context, has highlighted the significant emerging trends within the higher education sector and drawn learnings and highlighted global best practices.

Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Vice Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University; Dr Rajan Saxena, Advisor, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Founder, The Open-Ed Works attended the session.

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Policy & Politics

New Development Financial Institution should balance between infrastructure and development needs

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, said that a Bill would be introduced to set up a DFI and Rs 20,000 crore would be provided to capitalise the institution. ‘The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years’ time,’ she said.

Tarun Nangia

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Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said that the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas.

Former Deputy Governor of the RBI, Rakesh Mohan, on Friday suggested that the proposed new Development Financial Institution (DFI) needs to attract ‘patient capital’ investors as well as leading experts on its board and in top management. Mohan, who was also a former Executive Director at the IMF, made these comments during a webinar organised by the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and India International Centre.

It comes in the backdrop of the Union Budget 2021-2022 recognising the long-term debt financing needs of the infrastructure sector and proposing a “professionally managed” DFI “to act as a provider, enabler and catalyst for infrastructure financing”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, had also said that a Bill will be introduced to set up a DFI and provided Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution. “The ambition is to have a lending portfolio of at least Rs 5 lakh crore for this DFI in three years-time,” she had said. Later, Financial Services Secretary Debasish Panda had reportedly said India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited could be subsumed into the new DFI – the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development. The proposed DFI will also play a crucial role in realising the National Infrastructure Pipeline, under which around 7,000 projects have been identified with an estimated Rs 111 lakh crore-worth of investment between 2020 and 2025.

Rakesh Mohan also proposed that the new DFI should be headquartered in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The first CEO or CMD of the proposed DFI should be a person with India’s best interests in mind.

Echoing Mohan, former Deputy Governor of RBI Shyamala Gopinath also said there should be an emphasis on good governance. In addition, there is a need to focus on issues such as contract enforcement and project bankability, she said.

Speaking on the occasion, former Executive Director of IDBI, G. A. Tadas, said the Budget proposal of providing Rs 20,000 crore to capitalise the institution will not be sufficient to finance infrastructure projects to the tune of Rs 111 lakh crore by 2025 and help the country to be a USD 5 trillion economy. The initial capital for the DFI needs to be augmented to at least Rs 50,000-60,000 crore to achieve a portfolio of around Rs 5 lakh crore in the next three years, he added. He said there has to be an emphasis on a robust risk management System.

Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones, Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, said the focus on DFIs now is on helping countries to achieve ‘green growth’, promote innovation, provide counter-cyclical finance not just to the infrastructure sector but also crucial areas such as health and other social sectors. Larger number of DFIs can have greater impact, she said, adding that post the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the DFIs have seen a renaissance.

Professor Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS and Professor Milindo Chakrabarti, Visiting Fellow, RIS, also spoke during the programme.

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