Law, Economics and Public Policy

Session Report
Jiyan Roytalukdar

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Law, Economics and Public Policy” was held on June 16, 2023 by Prof. Mukul Asher, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI; Former Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National university of Singapore.

The session was hosted by Swetha Shanker, a research intern at IMPRI. The session was chaired by Professor Vibhuti Patel, former professor at Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies,  School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is now a Visiting Distinguished Professor at IMPRI. 

While welcoming the panelists in her opening chair remarks, Dr Patel spoke about the Day 2 sessions and elaborated on the discussions held so far.

She introduced the day’s panelist Dr Mukul Asher, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI and former professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National university of Singapore. 

Session By Prof. Mukul Asher

While beginning, Dr. Asher emphasized on the duties along with the rights. He said the Constitution, as a whole set of duties which the citizens must fulfil and to keep insisting on rights without corresponding duties and responsibilities does not give the kind of results that everybody desires. He said that Law, Economics and Public Policy are three different sub-disciplines and to link them has become all the more vital – given the kind of complexities, the rise of digital economy, the new technological progress, the change in geo-politics of friendly sharing rather than broad globalization and all other changes along with ambition of India’s Amrit kaal where it wants to become a much more developed country by 2047.  

 He said nobody likes a rising power. India is a rising power and lots of people would want to pull it down inside and outside. He dwelt on the term ‘Oikophobia’ which stands for aversion to home environment or an abnormal fear of one’s home and also a tendency to criticise or reject one’s own culture and praise other cultures. He stressed that these attributes be avoided to become competent at Public Policy. 

While throwing light on the excessive delay in providing justice by the Indian judiciary, Dr Asher provided some thought-provoking statistics.

Indian courts will be eternally incapable of delivering mature judgments unless they start deciding on first principles instead of deliberating upon and delivering judgments on specific instances. 

Around 44 million pending cases are there, 300,000 + undertrials, endless dates and elusive justice. At this rate, it will take 300+ years to resolve all cases. I

He questioned in this age of Insta, why are India’s courts going slow? Who is responsible and How can this be fixed? 

And he said law if studied in one’s own language will provide one a better perspective. So if one is a legal activist, the law and legal procedure should read the guidelines in their languages and not in English alone.

He quoted Dr. Bibek Debroy, an economist and chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India, who has said “We need to modernise the laws. We have to be proud to have our laws that are useful for our context and change them as our context changes.” 

Dr. Asher also spoke about the statistical illiteracy in Public Policy, saying it is highly discouraging. Across many countries the unscientific use of data is usually to justify prior beliefs based one random observations. But actually one needs an analytical framework and then reasonable data, which is then analysed  along with empirical evidence, new ones and then conclusions and then one should provide opinions that too in the area of expertise. 

Also dwelling on the drawbacks of social media, he said social media gives opinions without facts. One of the responsibilities is to use social media responsibly, constructively for problem solving and not for creating tension.

He also said accounting is critical in economics and one should know how the numbers are adding up and being put together. In India’s judicial system, how much weight is given to economic costs. Information monitoring and organisational arrangements for checks and balances are important. According to Dr Asher, contextualisation of economic reasoning and also how political economy has to respond to feedback is important. 

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Asher said economic literacy is essential for all stakeholders involved in the judicial process. And lack of economic literacy is costly as India moves INR 400 trillion towards (USD 5 trillion) economy, lack of economic literacy will affect economic growth and welfare of the average household.

India’s GDP at current prices  in the year 2022-23 is estimated to attain a level of Rs 272 trillion as against Rs 234 trillion in 2021-22, showing a growth rate of 16.1 %. At this rate using rule of 72 (72 divided by the growth rate) India’s GDP will double to 545 trillion by 2028-29, well above USD 5 trillion. 

Economic growth is imperative for national security, so judicial processes should not unduly impinge on it. 

The Interactive Session

During the interactive session moderated by Dr. Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow IMPRI; Advocate, Author, and Researcher, Gender and Human Rights, she revisited the powerful poem by feminist Kamla Bhasin, “kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hain.” 

She also made us look at some interesting but worrying numbers about wealth distribution in India. The top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. At least 73% of the wealth generated went to the richest 1% while 67 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth. India is estimated to produce 70 new millionaires everyday. 

Dr. Nigam also cited an OXFAM report on  “Inequality Kills” that revealed that the pandemic has set gender parity back from 99 years to 135 years. Women collectively lost IN 59.11 lakh crore (USD 800 billion) in earnings in 2020,with 1.3 crore fewer women in work now than in 2019.

Youtube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme:

Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship: Policy Initiatives and Role of Indian Judiciary



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