Daily Current Affairs – 10th March, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Fishermen issue and right to fish
India and Sri Lanka are traditional neighbors and have a shred history. Though different countries since long ethnic bonds have been deep. Fishing and fishermen issues have been reason for long drawn conflict and will create disputes of wide range. Sri Lanka’s fishermen want to assert their right over their own territorial waters, hindered by Indian trawlers.
- Every time an Indian fisherman is injured or killed in Sri Lankan waters, the endless squabbles of the political parties are set aside and a noisy wall of solidarity immediately goes up against Sri Lankan trigger-happiness.
- On the other hand, when a Bangladeshi cattle smuggler is killed, it hardly gets even a squeak out of mainstream media.
But here is what happens at the beginning of every month and something that is not publicized.
- The Sri Lankan Navy Headquarters sends out a consolidated report on Indian fishing craft in Sri Lankan waters.
- The report for February this year was sent on March 2. It went to, among others, the Director Naval Operations (Indian) as well as the Director Operations, Indian Coast Guard.
- It is also usually marked to the High Commission of India in Colombo and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India, who no doubt forwards it to the people he deals with.
- The information is quite extensive.
- In February, the Sri Lankans noticed approximately 835 fishing trawlers/dhows they said were engaged in bottom trawling/poaching.
- They were sighted in 29 locations well within Sri Lankan territorial waters, closer to the shores of Mullaitivu, Point Pedro, Talaimannar, Vetthlaikeni, Kakerathivu as well as the Delft Islands.
- In the annexures, in four columns, there are details such as the time when the trawlers were noticed ingressing.
- On February 6, off Delft there were 50 trawlers. On some days the Sri Lankans detect hundreds.
- This has been going on for years. On February 19, 2011, for instance, they detected 700. A copy of this, with the registration of the trawlers, finds its way to the Fisheries Department of Tamil Nadu.
- They probably maintain the list of registered boats. What happens to this list when it gets there?
- An educated guess is that it is thrown into the dustbin as Sri Lanka does not get to hear of what we do with the information.
Ease of crossing:
One could cross the Palk Straits in less than three hours.
- Though there are no markers, it is easy enough to know when you are in their waters: every mobile phone comes with a GPS.
- At the beginning of the decade, there were 60,000 fishing vessels for 591 fishing villages strung out along Tamil Nadu’s 1,076 km coastline.
- It is not clear how many of them have GPS. According to Sri Lankan estimates, a significant portion of this number has been regularly detected in Sri Lankan waters. Some are seized and the fishermen arrested.
Different judging parameters:
- In This year, in these three months, the figures are 14 boats and 85 fishermen arrested. While the fishermen will be eventually released, the boats will be held back. If they release the boats, they are likely to be found fishing again.
- Since the civil war ended, some of the dynamics have changed. Sri Lankan fishermen want to assert the right over their territorial waters.
- If New Delhi can erect fences many hundred kilometres long on both the eastern and western borders and institute shooting as a deterrent policy, why apply another yardstick when it comes to a much smaller neighbour?
The issue has been long pending and viable solutions have to be drawn which is both scientifically sound and acceptable at the ground level on both sides. Fishing is a livelihood issue and hence needs due consultations rather than only diplomatic solutions. The issue can have international ramifications as India seeks a place in the global high table.
Connecting the dots:
- Fisherman issue between India and Sri Lanka is long standing. Elaborate on the criticality of the issue and the possible solutions to the same. Establish if a third party intervention can help?
The degradation of Indian universities through politics
- In past 12 months, several instances in India have been noticed, ignited by right wing students’ political union, where harassment, intimidation or violence have been used to stifle independent voices.
- There have been constant reports of events being cancelled, invitations being withdrawn and disruptions of meetings. Sometimes, university administrations have taken action against the organizers, after the event, as seen in Jodhpur in January.
- What has been starkly visible is that the intimidation by this student outfit has increased with increase in its affiliated party coming to power to states and centre. In such episodes, university administrations have been silent spectators or have acted against those targeted by this student union.
Respecting the diversity
- The Universities are a medium of knowledge and learning, of experimenting and innovating, of discussing and debating and of supporting and opposing.
- Yet today, Indian universities are witnessing threat to their importance due to excess interference of politics in education.
- This negates the essential concept of universities as autonomous spaces, where freedom of expression, exploration of ideas and advancement of knowledge are an integral part of the learning process.
- With such diversity everywhere in the country, universities are no different from it. There are bound to be difference in opinion and beliefs and ideologies. But they must be addressed to interaction and discussion, with open minds to allow others to express.
- There should be respect even amongst opposition as everyone has been given equal right to express. However, of late, more of contempt is observed between groups having different affiliations.
- The student union associated with right wing has now started to make strict self-boundaries- either students are with them or against them. And worse, it have started terming dissenters as ‘anti—national’. To silence others and dominate the campuses with hooliganism is no way student politics should function.
- Universities and student politics go a long way back, almost five decades ago.
- In late 1960s, state governments began to interfere in state universities. For some, it was about dispensing patronage and exercising power in appointments of vice-chancellors (VCs), faculty and non-teaching staff. For others, it was about extending the political influence of ruling parties.
- During such period, unions of students, teachers and employees became tools in political battles. Campuses were turned into spheres of influence for political parties.
- Provincial politics also played a role, with an implicit rejection of national elites and an explicit focus on regional identities.
- Even in those times, political parties and leaders were uncomfortable with independent voices and critical evaluation that could come from universities.
- Later, the central governments also started interfering in Universities. The turning point was in 1977 which marked the end of the era of majority governments and one-party rule. Several coalitions were short-lived and there were regime changes after almost every general election. These political changes saw national universities emerging as arenas for political contests as well as spheres of influence towards a political ideology.
- With passage of time, the political interference in universities became more intrusive. Micromanagement by governments became widespread and interventions were purposive and partisan.
- The decline of public universities in India has been an inevitable consequence of this process.
- It began with old universities of Allahabad, Lucknow and Patna new universities like Baroda and Rajasthan. These universities are nowhere compared to what they were in 1980s.
- The next set of universities to be progressively damaged were oldest national universities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras—established more than 150 years ago. Their drop in quality has been extremely alarming.
- However, DU and JNU are still better, not because they are better, but because the others declined so rapidly. If the environment of campuses continue to be same as today, they are soon expected to lose their value too.
- But here, only political interference cannot be blamed for their downfall. Even the quality leadership at universities as communities has declined rapidly. Partly because, partisan appointment of VCs who in favour of ruling party and partly because most VCs simply do not have the courage and the integrity to stand up to governments. Same goes with professors and students who either become a part of same- party ideology groups or turn a blind eye towards events and focus on academics.
- Such compromises are self-destructive as acts of omission which destroys the essence of universities as medium of freedom of having thoughts, ideas, beliefs and also expressing them.
- It gets easily forgotten that it takes years and decades to build institutions but much less time to damage them. The short term actions often have long term consequences and thus it gets difficult to revive them.
Understanding the real role of universities
- What the political class and ruling elite have made of today’s universities is disheartening because of their lack of understanding of the critical role of universities in society and democracy.
- Universities are not only about campuses or classrooms where students are taught, have to pass exams, obtain degrees, and become employable.
- Universities are a medium for students to learn from outside the classroom that makes them good citizens of society. Focus on research which will make them more knowledgeable and learned and not only ‘degree-seekers’.
- The faculty have a role in society, apart from their commitments in teaching, as intellectuals who can provide an independent, credible, voice in evaluating governments, parliament, legislatures, or the judiciary, as guardians of society.
- It is the faculty from whom the students will be able to identify their further cause in life and decide their path.
- This role together of teacher and student is an important one in a political democracy to further it.
IASbaba’s views- Let universities breathe autonomy
The political parties have a double standard when dealing with universities- the same political parties when in government invoke public interest and when in opposition wax eloquent about autonomy and freedom for universities.