Professor Alasdair Roberts, Director at the School of Public Policy and Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Umass Amherst) delivered an engaging session on public policy at the JK Lakshmipat University (JKLU) on Tuesday.
Titled "Can Government Do Anything Right?", the session was based on his 2018-book (which goes by the same name) and touched upon critical aspects of public policy while addressing concerns about the failures of governments in the United States and India. A visiting faculty at the JK Lakshmipat University, Prof Roberts called for greater public participation and transparency in policymaking.
During the session, Roberts talked about the importance of public policy to build societies that thrive, are prosperous, inclusive, where personal security is preserved, where human rights are ensured and people have access to basic services like good education, healthcare, economic security, clean water, clean air - 'a society which is a good place to live'.
Talking about the challenges facing India's public policy, Prof Roberts raised questions on dealing with rapid urbanisation, roadblocks in creating liveable infrastructure, industrialisation, skill development to address employability issues and preparing people for economic transformation.
He emphasized on the need for maintaining transparency and ensuring people have access to policies in a timely manner in a format that they understand.
"India and the US are going through moments of "strategic shift" when old ideas about how to govern are challenged and replaced. Both countries have problems in common. They are both super-states - countries with very large and diverse populations and territory. The challenge is to find ways to maintain national unity while respecting diversity and human rights, and preserving the flexibility to respond to new threats in a timely way," said Prof Roberts, while drawing a parallel between India and the United States.
"We see many common challenges and there is potential to learn from each other. Both countries are large democracies and the big challenge in this century will be to show that democracy is a good and an effective way of governing because we have, for e.g., an alternate model like China - an authoritarian system which thinks it has the right way to govern. The big challenge in the coming days would be to decide 'Who is right?' - is it the democratic model or the authoritarian model," added Roberts.
"And while you can involve a billion people (all at once) in policymaking, devolution is very important where you give states more power to make decisions. If you let people make decisions at the community level then it's easier for people to participate in the decision-making process. That is also why education is very important so that people know how to access information, use the information and participate in the process," he further added.
The session sought to discuss the role, impact and challenges of Public Policy in India and steps that could be taken to create a conducive environment and address issues like employment and slow economic growth witnessed in the country.
"Engagements like the one today give students first-hand experience and the opportunity to interact with renowned faculties from around the world, which may otherwise be a distant reality. We are trying to break those norms and bring about a transformation in the way we deliver quality education to our students, differently but with more efficacy," said Prof Asheesh Gupta, Pro Vice-Chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University.
"Partnerships we have established with the industry, as well as institutions like UMass Amherst, are a part of this long-term strategy. We are hopeful these will go a long way in establishing our unique proposition to students and help us stand out as one of the most innovative universities in India and a preferred choice for higher education," added Gupta
Roberts' visit is part of the University's ongoing efforts to provide its students with an exposure that goes beyond the normal and provides them with opportunities to interact and engage with the best of faculty from India and around the world.
JKLU recently partnered with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst underlining their commitment to bring the best in higher education, research and opportunities from around the world to students in India.
The collaboration envisages building pathways for students to get a full master's degree in areas like Data Analytics, Applied Economics and Public Policy from UMass Amherst along with a degree from JKLU, upon completion of the required coursework while studying in India and the US.
"We are very excited to be in this partnership with JKLU so that we can work together in preparing the next generation of leaders, the way they work in the government, in civil society organizations, the private sector with the general ambition of crafting policies that serves the people of India," added Roberts.
Released in 2018, Roberts' in his book 'Can Government Do Anything Right?' dwells upon the efforts and the efficacy of governments in the western world to address policy challenges they face.
The book is an ideal vehicle for challenging students to look beyond current events and to reflect upon the role of government in addressing some of our society's biggest challenges over a broad arc of history. A day earlier, Roberts counselled students from the Institute of Management on career prospects and job opportunities in the Public Policy space.
"If you're interested in Public Policy and Governance, the most exciting place to be in the world is India because it is such a dynamic and growing society in the process of such momentous changes and the choices that are made by the government today are going to be critical in determining how well people live tomorrow. Public Policy is all about is making sure the government is taking the right steps to promote a thriving society," concluded Roberts.
The session was attended by Prof Asheesh Gupta, Pro Vice-Chancellor, JKLU, Dr RL Raina, Vice-Chancellor, JKLU, Senior Visiting Faculty, Prof MH Bala Subrahmanya, Former Chairman, Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Sciences, Dr Rajendra Padture, Dean of Faculty of Arts, University of Rajasthan, Dr Tulika Gupta, Director of Indian Institute of Crafts and Design and Prof Amit Jain, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Amity University Jaipur among others.
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