mannkal, 19 February 2013
What do you imagine when you hear the word squirrel? I don’t know about you, but I see a bushy tailed vegan, delicately nibbling on forest nuts and berries. If you are like me, then I’m afraid you have been terribly misled. Every day over the past 5 weeks, India never failed to surprise me; but seeing a cute (or so I thought) furry rodent jump and snatch a dead mouse and carry it up the tree definitely took the cake. But perhaps this is a phenomenon unique to India? I saw a few more animals in shapes and forms that were not particularly welcoming to the eyes and heart of a tired traveller but that is how my last day in Delhi started. The rest of my Sunday was filled with much more pleasant discoveries and I had the chance to visit the three Baolis (stepwells), which were on top of my to see list. Unfortunately Delhi comes to a halt when it rains because of the mud so I was unable to visit Old Delhi and the Red Fort but I was able to fit in some last minute gift shopping and found the best shop for Jalebi.
I am writing my final entry back home and the streets almost seem too quiet now; When I hailed down a taxi today I half expected the cars behind me to honk their horns but alas, they just waited patiently. It’s quite surreal to think that I was in Delhi 24 hours ago because it really is like a different world. I miss it already and am planning to go out for Indian food tomorrow night!
Agrasen Ki Baoli (Stepwell)
During the week I was busy working on my article for the Street Vendor Bill that I mentioned last week. The Bill was introduced in the last session of Parliament to provide street vendors social security and livelihood rights. Despite the good intentions, the Bill empowers local authorities to evict and confiscate vendor goods on account of public nuisance, public obstruction or for any other public purpose. The conditions on which authorities can evict a vendor are so vague that the Bill leaves scope for the possibility of misuse and arbitrary exercise of power. Eviction and confiscation only hinders them from making a living and does not solve the problem of recidivism. Vendors play an important role in the urban economy because they provide employment for themselves and small-scale producers as well as benefiting consumers with cheaper alternatives. So it is always the low income households that have the most at stake when these policies are directed against vendors.
Street Fruit Vendor
The people I met at CPPR Winter School, Asia Liberty Forum and CCS exposed me to so many different issues and perspectives that I would not have even considered before. Thank you Ron Manners and Mannkal for organizing this amazing experience. It was definitely not an easy task getting to India but I have learnt so much more than I thought possible in 5 weeks and I hope that others will not be discouraged by the all the red tape. Hopefully India will move to at least the top 100 in the Economic Freedom ranking in the near future!
mannkal, 11 February 2013
It’s Sunday evening again – the weeks have been flying past and now I only have one week left in India.
I had the opportunity to do a lot of sightseeing this past week, including a long day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The drive took six hours each way, as our bus did not have a pass to go on the new expressway. It was tiring but a worthwhile experience; I have seen countless photos like these, but standing there facing it was really quite amazing.
I have settled in at the Centre for Civil Society and everyone has been very kind and keen to help me learn as much as I can. I have been researching the proposed Street Vendors Bill in India, which aims to regulate the street vendors in public areas. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there are ten million street vendors in India and most of them are pushed into the informal sector due to the license ceilings. The proposed Bill is the first step that will safeguard their basic rights but it legally endorses eviction and confiscation of goods, which could result to harassment of vendors due to misuse. So far I have been looking at street vendor laws and confiscation cases in other countries. This week I will continue to research on this topic and work on an article to build upon the recommendations offered by CCS.
mannkal, 11 February 2013
Hello everyone, it has been another exciting week in India.
Winter School concluded with our research presentations and a lecture by Tom Palmer who had joined us for the valedictory dinner. After long nights working with my group, we finally finished our paper five minutes before we were to get up to present in front of the CPPR faculty members and Tom. There were several limitations to our research including the fact that we only had one day to collect our data, which meant that we were only able to collect data from one college and we had to use convenience/purposive sampling instead of a more random method. There needs to be further research to provide policy recommendations but from our qualitative research it was clear that the college needs to implement a reporting mechanism and take conscious steps to nurture a culture of openness and sensitivity toward gender issues. At the city level there needs to be greater awareness amongst bus drivers and conductors given that many girls face issues while travelling on bus to campus.
The last week of winter school was definitely the most exciting. Apart from Tom’s lecture, we had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Seshadri an activist lawyer who taught us the legal aspects of policy, and a presentation by Mr Sahadevan who showed us how film and other media can be used as part of public policy.
We had one free day so I visited Fort Cochi and saw some beautiful Portuguese and Dutch architecture, spice markets and the Chinese fishnets. Friday morning we left for Delhi; The fog delayed my flight for thirty minutes, which isn’t bad for those who are familiar with this Delhi fog/smog.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the very first Asia Liberty Forum. It was truly inspiring to hear about the recent projects and developments of think tanks across Asia and it has definitely been the highlight of my trip so far. I have learnt a lot from the conference but one of the main things that I haven taken away from the forum is the importance of communication; being able to write policy reports is great, but researchers must be innovative in order to reach a wider audience. Matthew Sinclair from The TaxPayers’ Alliance showed us how they used beer mats and point of purchase displays to get people to really think about the less visible taxes that hike up the price of goods. All in all it was a fantastic experience and if there is an opportunity for future Mannkal Scholars to attend, I could not recommend it more. It was a great weekend and a shame that it was only for two days. It was made more memorable by being able to attend it with all the friends that I had made at Winter School who had become more like family the past three weeks.
The forum ended with a toast to freedom by one of the Winter School participants and now my very good friend, Minshuai Ding. He is from the Transition Institute in Beijing and was involved with helping Chen Guangcheng escape. His speech was touching and quite a contrast from the Ding that I was used to seeing. He was the comedian of our research group and so I was surprised to see this side of him. He said that every moment in India is sweet as he is temporarily free from the threat of fear and that it is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you. His speech was the perfect ending for the forum and it was sad to say goodbye to him and the rest of the participants.
For the next two weeks I will be interning at the Centre for Civil Society, a think tank devoted to education and livelihood reform. I look forward to learning more about their school choice program and the Jeevika Campaign, which tackles the restrictive regulations on street entrepreneurs.
mannkal, 11 February 2013
It’s official! I’m in love with India. The wonderful people at CPPR organized a houseboat tour of the Kerala backwaters. The name is quite unappealing I admit, but the place is absolutely beautiful. The backwaters is a network of palm lined canals, rivers and lakes and are traditionally used by the locals for transport and fishing. We moored up several times along the way to get our daily fix of coconut water, my first taste of palm wine and a Keralan lunch cooked on board by the crew. It was a dreamy, relaxing day and a great way to unwind after a busy second week.
Last week I briefly mentioned that I would be going to the field to conduct surveys on campus safety. On Tuesday my group went to a nearby college and surveyed 100 students and interviewed a couple of teachers, a counselor and several students. Throughout the day we encountered issues with the language barrier, sampling, our survey design, and the whole experience proved just how difficult research is. Luckily our student guides were extremely helpful in finding classes and translating some of the interviews for us. The campus is beautiful with a lake view and although I did not get to see them, they have emus!
The surveys and interviews revealed a few disturbing trends; there appears to be a general underreporting of harassment and a quarter of those surveyed indicated that women are responsible when they are harassed. We had the opportunity to speak to one of the school counselors; it was her view that the Delhi woman put herself in that danger because she took the risk of going out at night. Another shocking response was that she believed western influences are confusing the students on how much freedom they are allowed to have; Of course these views are not representative of the population and we found that most of the students participated in some type of protest after the Delhi incident. It does however make me appreciate the struggles of previous generations that enable me live with the freedom that I have in Australia today.
On a lighter note, it seems that we have come to Kerala at the right time – other than my elephant ride last Sunday, I have seen elephants on four other occasions. There have been festivals everyday for the past two weeks that I have been here and on Friday we went to a temple festival where we saw the number one elephant of Kerala. We bumped into one of the lecturers at the festival who explained that there are competitions to decide which elephant carries the Thidambu (the golden headdress in the pictures).
Wednesday will be the last day of the Winter School and we are heading to Delhi on Friday for the Asia Liberty Forum. We have two nights to finish writing our group research paper so it’s going to be a very busy week!
mannkal, 4 February 2013
The Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) and the Asia Centre for Enterprise (ACE) facilitate a month long training program for interns and professionals looking to learn more about public policy research methods from researchers around the Asia region. The Summer School Program enables aspiring policy researchers to gain essential skills and knowledge to help them conduct sound research in policy, covering areas such as:
- General aspects of research methodology
- Research analysis strategies
- Communication skills
- The importance of legal sources in formulating public policy; and
- Market-oriented research and New Public Management
In 2013, Mannkal Scholar Emma Rowe was awarded a Mannkal Scholarship to attend the ACE-CPPR Program. To read more about her experiences, please see below.
mannkal, 31 January 2013
By Emma Roe
Hello and welcome to my five week journey in the land of the idols. I finally arrived in Cochin last Saturday after some minor luggage issues at the airport, a six hour stopover in Delhi and an interesting taxi ride. Everyone seems to drive with one finger on the horn and as if laws of nature do not apply to them; families balance on scooters and auto rickshaws zip around just missing pedestrians. It has taken a while but after my seventeen hour bus trip today, I think that I have gotten used to the chaotic sounds on the road.
Cochin is a major port city on the west coast of India and is known as the Queen of Arabian Sea. It was the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries and was the first of the European colonies. I am here attending a three week course on public policy research methods organized by the Centre for Public Policy Research in association with Asia Centre for Enterprise and supported by the Atlas Foundation.
Mr. T.P Sreenivasan, the Vice Chairman of Kerala Higher Education and Former Ambassador of India delivered the keynote speech at the opening ceremony. He outlined the major concerns in India today, which included the India-Pakistan border disputes, the challenges from China and internal issues such as corruption and violence against women. Dr. Alexander Lennon of The Washington Quarterly was able to provide us with some more insight in the “Real China Challenge” at the CPPR Quarterly Lecture Series on Thursday. According to Dr. Lennon, the challenge of China for the rest of the world is the uncertainty surrounding the four transitions the country is going through; the departure from its peaceful rise strategy; its departure from the state controlled economic model; the Yuan as the new global currency; and the goals of the new government.
Today was our first (and probably our last) day off and so we decided to go to Munnar for the day. We left at 6am and got back to the hotel at 11pm; it is about a five hour drive each way but it was worth it! We saw monkeys, elephants, endless hills of tea plantations and last but not least – supporters of The Communist Party of India!
This week I am looking forward to going to the field to collect data for our group research paper. We aim to investigate the factors that contribute to safety perception of university students on campus.