All posts by Lokniti

‘Public Policy’ as an academic discipline emerged to promise to the world a multidisciplinary approach to conceptualizing some of the world’s most pressing problems and to understand the ramifications of government action and inactions, which colors and affects the lives and experiences of people and communities the world over. The discipline of ‘public policy’ however is at a nascent stage in its developmental trajectory in India. To further the cause of adding to the academic discourse on ‘public policy’ in the country, this blog aims to provide a platform where public policy concerns can be discussed and deliberated by participants of the public policy programme at the National Law School of India University, for the benefit of readers across the world, who can access the most pertinent policy issues facing policy makers in India. The blog aims at encouraging discussions pertinent to policymaking and this include five broad themes – ‘Education and Employment’, ‘Environment and Energy’, ‘Food Security and Poverty’, Governance and Development, and International trade and Affairs. While this blog would primarily deal with ‘public policy’ at a theoretical and conceptual level, which has a universal appeal, this blog will overwhelmingly explore public policy issues pertinent to policy discourses in India and from an Indian perspective.

Diminishing Ratnas in India




After attaining independence in the year 1947, it was all left to the national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and a few others, to frame an economic roadmap for the development of India. Nehru, who is undisputedly the architect of the economy after independence, always advocated industrialisation of the economy.

Even though agriculture was given importance in the initial few five-year plans, the Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR) of 1956 changed it and induction of public sector units was advocated. Hence, Nehru decided to incorporate a number of PSUs (Public Sector Units) in order to provide employment and economic growth with the major sectors of the economy mainly held by the government until 1991.

Why are we taking the particular time frame of 1991? The answer to that would be that the process of privatisation in India was a result of a worldwide movement towards privatisation as a result of Reagan-Thatcher policy of minimal State control on the economy. The fall of USSR was inferred as a big defeat of socialism and also of the policy of increased State control on the economic drivers in the form of PSUs. This article tries to look at the political and the economic dimension of the policy of privatisation and how each passing government since 1991 has dealt with it.

The year 1991-92: Budget speech by Chandra Shekhar government (1990-91)

The initial stage of privatisation was started in the year 1991-92 by the Chandra Shekhar government. Chandra Shekhar Singh joined politics through Praja Socialist Party and has always been an avid advocate of socialism. In a desperate attempt to fill up the government coffers during his term, the economic condition then made privatisation inevitable. Therefore, a socialist PM like Chandra Shekhar had to announce the first string of privatisation of several public manufacturing units.

The year 1991-96: PV Narasimha Rao government (1991-96)

After the fall of the Chandra Shekhar government, the general election which followed it saw INC (Indian National Congress) winning most seats. It formed a minority government, with PV Narasimha Rao being elected as the PM. Rao’s policy from the start itself saw a major shift from the mixed economy of Nehru to a market driven one.

Then in the historic financial budget by then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced the privatisation of PSEs, but with a few changes from the earlier Industrial Statement. There was a cap of twenty per cent imposed to the extent of disinvestment and the umbrella of investors was also restricted to only mutual funds and other institutional investors.

The year 1996-1998: United Front Government

The United Front Alliance headed by Janata Dal party was a self-proclaimed socialist party. So, under the United Front government, led by HD Deve Gowda and then later by IK Gujral, and with the support of other left-leaning parties like CPI (M), privatisation took a big hit. The left parties have a few apprehensions about the process of privatisation as they feel that the transfer of ownership and management rights to private players would lead to a monopolisation of market, and instead of competition in the market it would lead to concentration of market power. As a result of the concentration of market power, there would be an inefficient allocation of resources and this would result in a concentration of wealth and increase in inequality.

Total amount of privatisation during the period: Rs 1289.67 Crores

The year 1998-2004: BJP led NDA Government

The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government was a pro-free market government. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed Yashwant Sinha as the Finance Minister. Mr Yashwant Sinha, a former IAS officer and a former Janata Party member, took several decisions to open up the markets. He is credited with opening up the telecommunication sector, and deregulation of petrochemicals.

It was considered a radical move by the political analysts then. It was proposed that the government share in almost all the Public Sector Enterprises be transferred. Major privatisation processes were undertaken during this time. VSNL was totally privatised and it led to the opening up of the telecommunication sector. The strategic sale of BALCO, a PSU which was a profit-making manufacturing unit, created several controversies. The sale of BALCO to Vedanta resources was questioned and protested by the employees and the anti-privatisation groups. In a challenge to the sale of a profitable PSU, BALCO to Sterlite, the Supreme Court in December 2002 handed down a landmark verdict against opponents of privatisation. The court legitimised the privatisation procedures and refused to second-guess the government with respect to its privatisation policy.

The major string of privatisation happened after the budget presented by Jaswant Singh for the year 2003-2004. A staggering amount of Rs 15,547.41 Crores was raised as a result of privatisation, an amount way higher than previous years.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 33,655.59 Crores

The year 2004-2009: UPA-I

In the general elections of 2004, INC was the single largest party with 145 seats. INC in alliance with other parties mostly left-leaning parties managed to form an alliance under the umbrella name of UPA (United Progressive Alliance). The second biggest party in the alliance was the Communist Party of India (Marxist). This was more of a Centre-Left alliance. Due to this alliance, many watershed schemes like MNREGA and acts like RTI were passed. The left-leaning policies had an impact on privatisation.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 8515.94 Crores

The year 2009-2014: UPA II

The exit of CPI (M) in 2008 saw a UPA-II in 2009 with INC winning 206 votes, and the major coalition party being DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). This era saw a lot of privatisation happening and this also had the uncovering of many scams. 2G spectrum scam revealed the deep-rooted nepotism and corruption which ran in the government. The coal allocation scam later revealed the absence of fair allocation of the nation’s resources. CAG found a lot of misappropriations and irregularity in the auctioning of nation’s resources, including the public sector units.

Total amount of privatisation in this period: Rs 99,367.46 Crores

The year 2014-present: NDA government

BJP won the 2014 general elections with a thumping majority. BJP single-handedly won 282 seats and the coalition of NDA won 335 seats in total. Narendra Modi was elected as the leader of BJP. Modi, as evident from the policies he implemented as the Gujarat CM is pro-business and pro-market. As soon as they were elected, the NDA government discontinued the Planning Commission which was the backbone of the mixed planning economy and was replaced with NITI (National Institution for Transformation of India) Aayog. NITI Aayog is headed by the Prime Minister as its Chairman, with Arvind Panagaria (from Chicago University, a big proponent of Neo-Liberalism) as its Vice-Chairman. Arvind Subramanian is appointed as the Chief Economic advisor of India, who also is pro-market.

Total amount of privatisation in this period (2 years): Rs 59,680.33 Crores


The incorporation of Public Sector Enterprises was done with several objectives like providing employment, equitable development across all the regions and for the sustainable growth of the industrial sector in India. After the introduction of the economic reforms of 1991, the privatisation process got underway. Pre-economic reform, the government’s believed that the Public Sector Enterprises comprise and form the pillars of the economy and the government’s believed that it was of vital importance that PSEs be managed and controlled by the government. We could see that the INC only cautiously privatised after the economic reforms. But the same party, which claims to be pro-poor and one with a political alignment of centre-left, went ahead with outright privatisation of the PSEs in the late 2000s and early 2010s. This was clearly the result of the political parties’ shift towards neo-liberalism after the 1991 economic reforms. The process of privatisation has come under the scrutiny of CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) and many financial irregularities were found in the CAG’s reports. Many instances of crony capitalism being practised were also seen, with the CAG reports stating instances of undervaluation and sale of PSUs which were performing well and were making a good margin of profits. The NDA which had publicly promoted privatisation in the year 1998 maintained its stance on it after coming back to power in 2014. The BJP led NDA has been the biggest implementers of privatisation and the principle of neo-liberalism which supports minimal governmental interference in the economy is clearly seen in their regime. The process of privatisation is a necessary step in the development of a nation and its economy, but it can turn out to be against the interests of the public when it is done without fairness and by pandering to vested interests.

(Rohith is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Bhattacharya, Dipankar. 1999. “Political Economy of Reforms in India”. Economic And Political Weekly 34 (23): 1408-1410.

Chandrashekar, C.P. 2014. “An Obsession To Sell”. Frontline.

“Government On A “Selling Spree” Of Profit-Making PSUs: CPI (M)”. 2016. The Financial Express.

“Home Page – DIPAM”. 2016. Dipam.Gov.In.

Makhija, Anil. 2006. “Privatisation In India”. Economic And Political Weekly41 (20): 1947-1949.

Mathur, B.P. 2006. “Audit Reports On Disinvestment”. Economic And Political Weekly 41 (50): 5114-5118.

Mohan, T. T. Ram. 2005. Privatisation In India. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

R. Iyer, Ramaswamy. 1988. “The Privatisation Argument”. Economic And Political Weekly 23 (11): 554-555



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Village, Politics and Reminiscence


Pramit Pritam Jena, is a student of Public Policy from the batch 2016 who worked in the tribal village of Purulia, West Bengal with PRADAN. From the experience during his fieldwork, he brings to the light the daily life of people, empowerment of women collectives, sustainability of Self Help Groups and their way forward.

pano_20161023_120549Life in the tribal villages of Purulia (a district of West Bengal) is rustic and peaceful. At around 4:30 – 5 am, adults and children rise from slumber and set about their daily routine. The break of dawn sets into motion the typical village cacophony – cows mooing, hens cackling, and vessels clanging. The men depart for the farms, while the women form serpentine queues near the tubewell with pots and pitchers. This routine is consistently followed, which perhaps, creates a cultural divide from the urban areas.


Water shortage is palpable, as is reinforced by the fact that Purulia is a notified drought-prone area. As agriculture is the chief source of subsistence, delayed monsoons set life in disarray. A deferred sowing of paddy leads to a late and poor harvest. Water harvesting structures have made life easier after the monsoons end, but the consolation only lasts till the smaller to medium sized ponds dry up in March/April. However, the villagers relate stories of the 1970s, when, in contrast, most villages had no source of drinking water. There is a visible change in villages where PRADAN has been working, according to the testimony of the rural folk. Government line departments are apparently not very effective as Project Implementing Agency. This could be attributed to the shortage of technical staff and bureaucratic lethargy. It is evident that PRADAN as an NGO is capable of fulfilling financial and physical targets, as well as establishing an emotional connect with the community.


It is without a doubt that there is a contention between the local politicians and our host organisation. One of the members of an SHG, in the local MLA’s native village, recounted one incident when a PRADAN professional was apprehended by local leaders. Hundreds of women in the SHG federation rushed to the spot in support of the former. The matter was resolved once the MLA of the constituency intervened and took the perpetrators to task. Corruption is deep rooted, beginning from the highest levels of government, and percolating down to the panchayat. Funds for development work are sheared off in piecemeals as they are handed down the hierarchy, and a reduced amount reaches the works phase. Moreover, the beneficiaries are selected in a biased manner. The favourites of politicians and office holders remain at the receiving end, while the deserving look on.

However, project implementation through SHGs has brought about a paradigmatic shift in the story of local self-governance. Members assert that every penny is accounted for since the transactions are carried out through transparent SHG, Gram Sabha and Aam Sabha meetings. The quality and time periods of project completion have also improved. One begins to wonder whether the key to development lies not only in the Government policy making, but in the extent to which we have been successful in tapping the potential of an organised, mobilised and empowered rural community, especially women collectives.img_20161026_120153

The sustainability of SHGs to effect change is directly linked to their financial sustainability and rate of growth and maturation. Any external policy intervention to SHGs should bear this issue in mind. It is vitally important that both government and NGOs work to bear all the costs in mind of interventions to make them sustainable otherwise the SHGs will be overburdened and destined to fail. Government regulations could help manage this risk and increase the emphasis on sustainability of SHGs. There are key areas of SHG financial management that need to be improved such as internal controls, accounting, management stewardship, organisational efficiency and others. If the government were to enact policy that would regulate the quality of SHGs and tied this to their eligibility for SHG-Bank Linkage, then this would help bring about a more measured and responsible growth to the movement. Both for SHGs and SHG federations, there is a need to aspire to attain standards following the best practices. As the SHG federations are emerging as community owned microfinance institutions, there is a need for significant investment in providing institution building support. These SHG federations being bodies like corporations which are registered under an appropriate legal form must comply with the prudential and legal norms. There is a need for a well-developed third-party rating system for SHG federations before they are linked with financial institutions to act as an intermediary as they handle a large volume of funds from the bank linkage and also undertake savings from their members.

img_20161021_165450There is a need for establishing a computerised Management Information System (MIS) for SHGs and SHG federations to monitor their performance on a regular basis. SHG federations must be able to publish their annual reports and share those with all their members. A suitable marketing channel has to be developed at panchayat level by state agencies. Formation of such agencies can be inculcated into programme guidelines. The cost shall be borne by the State Government. SHGs need to be encouraged to upgrade into cooperatives. In advanced stages, these groups are capable of inducing change to domestic problems due to the presence of a corpus fund, skilled manpower and experience. Finally, the role of NGOs has been critical in achieving the vision of SHG led development. Using them as facilitators in SHG formation and guidance has to be made compulsory in programme guidelines as government line departments are unable to realise quantitative and qualitative targets due to multiple responsibilities in respective portfolios. The SHG model has to be supported through fortifying support of Government policy and guidelines in order to reach fruition.

(Pramit Pritam Jena can be reached at

Forest Rights Act: Ten years later

Apoorva Srinivas, Devika Singh, Dwijaraj Bhattacharya, Smita Mutt,  Trisrota Dutta

MPP 2016-2018

December 18th, 2006 witnessed the historic passage of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Almost a decade later there is only a tiny portion of the vast forest land of India which has been brought under its purview. The tribal population all over India still face an ongoing struggle on a daily basis but with considerable support from civil society groups and Government officials, they have been partially successful in acquiring their rights under the act. We take this opportunity to share a glimpse of their lives which we observed during our fieldwork visit.


This village Panchayat (or Rachabanda in Telegu), in Andhra Pradesh meeting, to discuss Rehabilitation & Resettlement package they will receive if the Polavaram Dam project goes through. The package being offered to them is as per the 2013 Act and not the updated version they are entitled to, causing them a loss of nearly Rs. 6,00,000. The project has forced the villagers to understand Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 and Forest Rights Act 2006 – all laws that rely on vigilant and aware Gram Panchayats to protect local interests.

                In a corner of Rajasthan, this is the state of the government primary school. It has been running for approximately four years and at present, 52 stud
img_3528ents study under this shelter.
A local man is willing to donate the land it currently stands on but due to errors in his application filing, it was immediately rejected. He had originally filed an individual rights claim (as laid out in 3(1) of the Act) instead of a community development claim (as given in 3(2)).  Despite the ambitious promise of the Act, a lack of understanding of its details prevents many communities on Scheduled lands from receiving their basic rights, in this case, primary education.

                  The Nayakheda village in Achalpur block of Melghat in Maharashtra is one of the model villages in the area. The Gram Sabha with help from non-governmental organisations like KHOJ has successfully acquired its rights under the Forest Rights Act. The villagers have also established their rights over the vast forest land and taken it upon themselves to protect, conserve and reforest the area. It is the present generation which has made a rigorous effort to restore their forest and agricultural land, stopped migration and hence built a stable village economy.

                    In the Western Ghats of Karnataka, the seven forest dependent tribes of Kodagu district are the Jenu Kuruba, Betta Kuruba, Panjari Yerava, Pani Yerava, Malekudiya, Soligas and Marathi / Naiks.

Image source: CORD

The socio-political and economic disparities can be explained due to the gaps in the implementation of Forest Rights Act, along with the lack of transparency and accountability of the Forest bureaucracy. Characterised by the colonial mindset of administration and solitary decision-making authority, the forest wealth and lives of the tribals has been under rigid surveillance by the forest department. The struggle for rights has been an ongoing saga but has gathered momentum in the form of civil society organisations which are playing an instrumental role in advocacy and campaigning for implementation of Forest Rights Act. Kodagu is also famous for the Nagarhole Park which is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, declared as the thirty-seventh Tiger reserve under ‘Project Tiger’ in 1999. Coorg Organization for Rural Development (CORD), an NGO has documented several case studies regarding the violation of rights and skewed rehabilitation arising from such conservation regimes.

Our fieldwork participation helped us see that the experience of the Forest Rights Act is varied, with different regions facing specific challenges. Despite this, many of India’s forest dwelling communities retain deep connections with the forest and can protect them more effectively than a distant bureaucracy.
The Forest Rights Act recognises this wisdom and the benefits of a ‘democratic forest’, but it needs sustaining commitment and cooperation in order to succeed.

The Religion of kindness




His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama delivered a lecture at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore on 15th December 2016.


We are often confronted with questions like ‘What will save the world? What is the purpose of life? What is the source of happiness? Which Dharma to follow? What will seal our fate as humanity is outreaching its own limitations in the Twenty-first century?’

The words of the Dalai Lama invoke us into understanding the pursuit of happiness, secular ethics of compassion and forgiveness, and religious harmony for inner and world peace!

Most of us know of The Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader who is the face of the non-violent struggle in Tibet for democracy and sovereignty. It was surprising to also see his humorous side, accompanied by a charming smile and mesmerising humility. According to him, kindness is a religion to be followed as a way of life by one and all. He said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”. He spoke of profound values in a simple language and the need for benevolence in our daily lives.  He made it possible for us to be in sync with him throughout and in no time we had become very fond of him.

While narrating the history of Buddhism in Tibet, he acknowledged India for its long history of the religious harmony existing alongside diversity in custom, tradition and language. He reasoned that occasional disturbances are inevitable. Therefore, we must work hard to build unity wherever we go and embody universal human values.


The Nalanda tradition of Buddha Dharma of India which reached Tibet in the eighth century permits a great deal of investigation and experimentation. It is not followed as a blind faith but rather invites both scholars and followers to ponder over its principles in a scientific manner and either accept or reject them. For this reason, the studies of the monks in the disciplines like psychology, cosmology and physics are welcomed all over the world for its merit in observing rigorous thinking and the art of embodying questioning in their practices. The Buddhist meditation technique of Vipassana, meaning analytical meditation, focuses on inquiry and the need to suppress one’s sense of anger and attachment.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama proposed that the real purpose of life is happiness and the world is in misery today because we give too much emphasis on narrow-minded, superficial differences. He expressed his concern for the current trend in suicides, saying that the modern education system is missing the values and consciousness which are crucial for learning, rather it has induced more anxiety and stress. We must not lose hope, but have a better understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, which is an effective remedy to the problems.

In the political sphere, Dalai Lama pressed that the protection of Tibet and its Buddhist culture is crucial. In 2011, he voluntarily retired from his political role within Tibet, transforming a tradition of four centuries in favour of a more democratic system. In his interaction with National Law School students, when questioned about the principle of non-interference in the affairs of the country, he said that one must always choose a middle path. This is based on the philosophy that we are all human beings, who cannot be blind to the reality nor can we act beyond reason. It is for the same reason that he supports Marxism, as it is concerned with redistribution of wealth but disapproves what Lenin believed in. He issued a call for the youth of the Twenty-first Century to be united in the face of a global crisis which is confronted with a rapid pace of moral decadence like never before. Rising intolerance, attacks on innocents, the spread of greed, money and weapon need to be combated by a resurgence of kindness and virtue – a philosophy of humanism which shall unite, rather than divide us. He ended the note with a strong message saying that the Twenty-first Century should be a peaceful century where violence should be replaced by discussion and exchange, thus leading to a Century of Dialogue!

(Apoorva is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at


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Apoorva Srinivas, Devika Singh, Dwijaraj Bhattacharya, Smita Mutt,  Trisrota Dutta

MPP 2016-2018

An intrinsic component of a Public Policy program is an experience of the ground reality. In order to comprehend the actual workings of a policy initiative or government scheme, the batch of 2016-18 engaged in three weeks of fieldwork. Different groups of nascent policy analysts spread across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and West Bengal and worked on a range of policy issues. We spent three weeks in villages, drinking water out of wells, cooking our own food, living with limited infrastructure, facing the lack of water and electricity connectivity, realising that a very prominent section of the Indian population still lives without the basic technology we take for granted. The social, economic and political reality of these areas is harsh. Life is tough. The mainstay of our work was an analysis of the implementation process of policies and barriers to effective implementation. We worked with the Forest Rights Act, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, Juvenile Justice, Child Development and Protection, Rural Development, Tribal Development, Women’s Health and Education, Child Education and Child Rights, RTI and the Rehabilitation of displaced and tribal communities.

In a meeting with Jharkhand State Livelihood Mission team, Pradan

We were linked with NGO’s established in these different areas, who have been working with the people for at least twenty years in bridging the gap between government policy, government officials and the people. Some of our partner NGO’s were CORD (Karnataka), MKSS, Seva Mandir and URMUL (Rajasthan), PRADAN (West Bengal and Jharkhand), Khoj (Maharashtra) and Samata (Andhra Pradesh). We engaged with the local people, children and women, Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, government school officials, Ward members, the Panchayat, police officials, and of course, the organisation workers.

It has been an enriching and eye-opening experience, one that will ground all our future endeavours. Accounts of personal engagement and learning will soon grace the walls of LOKNITI, so stay tuned to know more about the India no one talks about.



Sharada S. is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16  at the National Law School of India University.


Sharada is presently a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition.

Tell us more about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I have a background in Electrical and Electronics engineering. As an undergraduate student, I developed a passion for parliamentary debating and enjoyed reading outside of engineering more than engineering-related academic papers. Furthermore, I was most fascinated by nanotechnology and embedded systems and research in these fields were highly technical career tracks that had relatively fewer and narrower options within the country. I always wanted to work where I could have a more direct connect with public issues. Debating was instrumental in shaping my perspective and sharpened my interest in philosophy and politics. I did not, however, want to dwell in the realm of theory, and public policy bridged the gap between the realms of abstract theorising and real world action. Before I pursued the Master’s course here, I did Takshashila Institution’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy, which helped me solidify my intent in pursuing a career in this discipline.

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after Masters in Public Policy?

Different parts of the programme allowed me to hone my career choices. I love how NLS has been the level of support for experimentation with new areas of interest, and the flexibility and accommodation for my wide range of extra-curricular pursuits (including at least a dozen parliamentary debates, two Internet governance fellowships and a summer school).

Fieldwork was the first step in a transformative journey. The stories of the people made a lasting impact. I met a deeply influential woman whose name is Rekha. She’s a 21-year-old, with a blind mother and a 2-year-old son, who divorced her alcoholic and abusive husband and decided to take her life into her own hands.

She wanted to talk to me about scholarships so she could go to college. Despite social censure from her village, she was determined to be a teacher, and I was able to help her to access government scholarship sites. It was the first time that the power of the Internet struck me, I realised how it can improve educational outcomes for those less privileged. Since then I have wanted to work to proliferate its access to communities. I met so many Muslim communities where girls were not allowed to study beyond fifth grade, but nearly all of these people used phones of some kind. I couldn’t think of ways to change the structures that subjugate them, but I did think that making information accessible could help drastically. I don’t know if I can negotiate with patriarchs and leaders who wouldn’t give me a time of the day because I had a loud voice and an uncovered head. But these kids, they all loved seeing things on my phone or my laptop and were so genuinely inquisitive and quick on the uptake with technology. It made me believe that policies towards internet access and programmes are more effective than top-down laws that made education compulsory. I went to “schools” which had 1 teacher for 300 students and kids who were “educated till tenth” but couldn’t string four words to a sentence in English. I now worry whether we have the capacity or the manpower to change education systems without a drastic infusion of technology.

My research methods class in the third trimester afforded me the opportunity to present preliminary ideas on Internet policy, and receive incredible feedback from Professor Jayaram and my classmates, which shaped the course of my dissertation significantly. It teaches you how to go from a problem statement to a hypothesis to an overview of various methods to test that hypothesis and how and where to use them – and I use this at my workplace, in determining the scope of my study at times, or in deciding whether to pursue a new research paper idea at other times.

I also applied to the European summer school on Internet Governance in this trimester. I applied because I didn’t have many resources in India to learn about Internet governance. I went to Meissen in Germany for the summer school in July. It was a week long summer school, with 15 hour work days. Every expert that did a session covered a new area. I learned about cyber-security, GTLDs, ICANN, IANA transition and Internet rights. Nearly every area of Internet policy was taught by those at the forefront of policy making and negotiation in the global arena.

I came back equipped with knowledge and spent time researching what I wanted to do on my next break and working on my proposal

In September last year, I applied for the Amazon Fellowship for the Internet Governance Forum. The fellowship covers a trip to the IGF and has a requirement of research output based on the IGF. I was one among the four that were accepted and was immensely grateful for the opportunity.

At the IGF, I attended panels on zero rating, the subject of my Master’s dissertation. I asked questions of experts and briefed myself with ongoing research. I conducted interviews with stakeholders, attended networking events and gained a lot of knowledge on a contemporary subject area in Internet policy.

Of course, the internship and dissertation mattered immensely, but I answer that below separately.

Present nature of work at the current organisation?

I’m a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. I work on a project called 1 World Connected, which looks at innovative ways of connecting the unconnected ( We catalogue case studies of all last-mile connectivity initiatives that are underway across the world. I conduct interviews with stakeholders to develop case studies, engage with governments and ministries, present my work at conferences, write routine reports for our supporters, and liaise with a public affairs and media team to improve outreach of our project’s work.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organisation?

I would look for candidates with strong writing and communication skills, good quantitative analytical abilities, and a demonstrated interest in Internet policy issues. Knowledge of networks and telecom engineering would be very useful. The work I do relies on self-starters and highly motivated individuals that can be creative, so I guess that’s something I’d look for.

What role do internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

I’d applied for the GPPi, Berlin internship while doing my fellowship, and was screened by a three-step process. Work at GPPi is as rewarding as you make it to be. We have a library and multiple IdeaLabs that are internal discussions to brainstorm ideas. A day at work ideally involves a research task, and freedom to structure your day a little around your own personal research interests. The first month was primarily cyber security capacity building, the latter half was primarily encryption policies. It fed into their ongoing research projects as well as a dialogue program that they were organising over the course of 2016.

At the internship, I got to do a wide range of things. From writing brief research memos to making presentations to preparing questions for panel discussions, to just brainstorming ideas for pitches, to sitting through meetings to take minutes and meeting newer ones. That’s what I liked about it because every day was a challenge in something new.

I wrote my dissertation in the realm of Internet policy as well, which was useful while having a conversation with my professor on my current research project. I think the emphasis on the dissertation is more if you intend to get into a more research-oriented field, and less if you’re applying for traditional corporate positions.

Any concluding thoughts?

Take initiative. I think the thing that goes unsaid in a lot of these conversations is the fact that personal drive and initiative play an immense role in deriving value out of the MPP. You will not find a more conducive environment or a more supportive staff for your research endeavours.


Sharada can be reached at,





Deepa K. S. is a student of Masters Programme in Public Policy from the batch of 2014-16 at the National Law School of India University.

Deepa is a writer, researcher, playwright and a poet. She is also an active blogger. She has published in the Anthology of Short Stories and Poems by the British Council, Voices Israel and has contributed to Kritya, Muse India, Word Riot, Reading Hour, Indian Literature, Vayavya, Dialogue, Auto Didact, Cyclamens and Swords and Voicesnet Poetry. Her first book of poetry, ‘Turning Thirty and Other Poems’ was published by Authorspress, New Delhi, in October 2016.

Tell us about your life before NLSIU. Why did you choose to pursue Public Policy?

I did my Bachelor’s in Biology, Master’s in English Literature and was working as the Editor of an art and culture magazine that I had founded along with an extremely enterprising team. The magazine was called ‘Dialogue’ and it was supported by writers, photographers and artists from India and France. I was based out of the Indian office in Puducherry. While I was writing and editing articles, India’s development was always an issue of central interest which elicited artistic and political responses. The need to make sense of the problems facing the country was compelling. That was when I came across the call for applications for this new course on Public Policy that was offered by National Law School. I applied without a second thought- this was exactly the kind of multidisciplinary course that I was looking for.

How did your experience at NLSIU help you find the career of your choice after a Masters in Public Policy?

I always wanted to get back to school and finish my studies while I was working with my magazine. My heart was in academics when I was writing and editing. I joined the Public Policy course with the intention of moving towards research and teaching. NLS helped me move towards my goal in three distinct ways: The course curriculum and teaching involved research subjects with the dissertation as a core component. We had research methods, mathematical modelling for policy analysis besides courses in economics, political science, law and of course, public policy. I had ample time to study and further develop my writing skills as well as the application of research methods. The teachers were inspiring and the debates and discussions in class were the best part of it. I have a lot to thank my batch mates for! Secondly, there was a component of field research where I spent a month looking at how a policy worked on the ground. This experience brought me closer to reality, teaching me the practical side of a policy as it was alive and experienced by people. There is a lot of difference between policy as a text and policy as a lived experience. Finally, NLS was one place where I could be a dreamer and not be faulted for it – the teachers and especially my batch mates brought in a lot of commitment and idealism to work. I had the most inspiring team at school…

I have been accepted as a research scholar at the University of Cambridge. NLS was the most important step that has helped me reach so far.

What is the nature of work at the current organisation you are working for?

I am currently working with South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE). It is an organisation that allows for a platform of politics by the civil society, policy advocates and academics from eight South Asian countries. The core focus of the organisation is to bring out the experience of development in South Asia through the voice of its people. SAAPE does it uniquely by bringing out a people’s report of development in South Asia once in three years. I am presently a part of the editorial team that is bringing out the SAAPE report 2016.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new MPP graduate(s) from NLSIU to this organisation?

A person who aspires to work with SAAPE should have a deep commitment to issues of development, genuine interest in narratives of the South Asian people and respect for democratic means of expressing them. There is plenty of opportunities to learn and grow with a dedicated team of campaigners, activists and academics.

What role do internship and dissertation have in securing the career of your choice?

I wanted to go for research in public policy with a specialisation in development. For this, I had to get training in oral and written communication, introduction to thinkers and intellectuals in the field of my choice and exposure to the academic setting of deep solitude punctuated by debates and discussions with a supervisor. I received this twice over during the course of work!  My internship was with Prof G. Raghuram of IIM Ahmedabad was both intense and exciting. The internship resulted in a working paper where we traced the policy process of GST that is still relevant in India today. The second experience was during my dissertation that I worked under Prof Sony Pellissery where I examined land policy and its politics in India which is also coming out as a publication by this year end.

Any concluding thoughts?

If I could talk to the current and prospective students of MPP, I would like to tell them that academics is an exciting field to pursue after their coursework. Unfortunately, the best among us are not taking up research for a varied number of reasons. In a country like India, there are a lot of issues to be understood contextually in the policy realm; it is a nascent field and there is a lot to explore. We have a great opportunity here to bring the issues from India from an Indian point of understanding and through the prism of public policy. The best of minds have an exciting discipline waiting for them. Academic work is long and a lot of hard work is required to read, write and understand but what is life without a challenge? In what other fields can you keep thinking and contributing ideas that make a difference to this world that you live in? So I would tell the future students of MPP- let’s bring academics back to business! 



Deepa can be reached at,



Energy Policy Research and Advocacy in India




“The path to the sustainable energy sources will be long but the world cannot resist the transition”, said Barack Obama in his interview on sustainable development. The National Law University of India has had the privilege to host Prof. Ashok Sreenivas Senior Research Fellow at Prayas (Energy Group), Kothrud, Pune, to deliver a guest lecture on Energy Policy Research and Advocacy in India.

Prof. Ashok has covered extensively on the cause of geopolitical conflicts, the importance of coal industry and the correlation between per capita energy consumption and HDI during the lecture. With heavy investments, long lead times and Social & Environmental implications, it is evident that the energy sector is picking up its momentum across the globe.

What is interesting to know is that while 1/4th of the country’s population uses modern energy, 18 crore households still use natural resources for their livelihood. Thus, he emphasised on the dire need of policy innovation and intervention to understand and solve this energy poverty and demystify the sector.

“The new challenges for policy makers is combining crafts and skills that are tangible and involves multidisciplinary approach”, said Prof. Ashok. As interesting and challenging as the sector is, one of the toughest questions facing traditional energy companies is that the world is moving towards a low-carbon economy while India, as a developing nation, depends heavily on the coal industry for its commercial energy. With loud and clear signals from climate agreements, the focus is on renewable energy and building alternate energy storage capacity and investments in smart power grids. If the coal industry is a harbinger, to survive in the coming decades, is it essential that energy sector re-invents itself or shift away from fossil fuel industry to adapt to a low-carbon world?

(Nanditha Kalidoss is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at


We invite you to participate in the conference panel on the ‘Interface of Law and Public Policy’ at the 3rd Conference of International Public Policy Association at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the National University of Singapore from 28th June to 30th June 2017. The panel focuses on the differences in Public Policy orientation between countries following “Liberal Constitution” and “Transformative Constitution”.

Western liberal democratic traditions were largely influenced by the Enlightenment era and the rise of capitalist processes. Thus, their constitutions have historically emphasised negative rights with the role of the Judiciary being limited to the adjudication of private interests.

In the global south, most countries have a legacy of colonialism. For them, the process of mobilisation against colonial forces and the process of making the constitution were intertwined. They developed constitutions that were ‘transformative’ in nature, placing emphasis on the protection of public interest in policy areas such as education, health, food security, access to land and water, corruption, etc. Judiciaries in the global south have been empowered to play an active role in directing public policy agendas, thus building a significant interface between law and public policy.

Papers highlighting the intricate relationship between Law and Public Policy along lines of the questions given below (for suggestive purposes only) are welcome.

  • What are the similarities and differences in the orientation towards the concept of justice from the discipline of Law and Public Policy?
  • Is there any evidence for policy convergence among nation-states due to the work of International agencies, multi-lateral and bilateral agreements?
  • What are sub-domains of Law (e.g. administrative law, planning law, regulatory law) that have shown high intersectionality with the questions of Public Policy?

Abstracts of 500 words must be submitted before 15th January 2017 for the panel T02P06 (under the theme Comparative Public Policy) at

For further information and details on related issues visit:


Trajectory of Land Reforms in J&K and its Outcomes

Tushar Gupta


Land reforms in Jammu & Kashmir did not prove to be effective in addressing poverty mitigation and the removal of inequality emerging from land ownership. The reforms ended up becoming little more than a political gimmick. The analysis in this paper has been divided into three trajectories and development within each has been elaborated. The paper attempts to analyse the geopolitical situation at the national and international level and its relation to land reforms in the state. The impact of the Separatist movement on state economy in light of the land reforms has also been addressed.

A. Background

A1. National Land Reform Debate

The National land reform debate was based on the assumption that if the land is redistributed it will lead to more equity and alleviate poverty which emerged from landlessness (Besley, 2000). The debate followed from the pre-independence debates in All India Congress Committee (AICC).

A2. Land Reform Trajectory in J&K
A2.1. Pre 1947

Land was part of common property resource before the 12th century in J&K. With the end of the 12th century came monarchy in the state, meaning land was thus owned by the successive kings or the state. The state-owned land was termed as “Khalsa”. King was the supreme authority and land was allotted to the peasants on request after a payment of fixed rent. The remaining land was with army chiefs, subedars and taluqdars (Bhat, 2000).

 With the beginning of the 19th century, rulers tried to marginalise the landed autocracy and dealt directly with the cultivator.  This effort was thwarted by the powerful chieftains, leading to the creation of Jagirs, Munafiqs, Mukarraries.

Post 19th century with the British coming into the picture of modern India, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu signed the “Treaty of Amritsar” with them and paid a sum of Rs 75 lakh (Nanak Shahi) for purchasing the state of J&K.  Now the ownership of the land vested with the Maharaja of Jammu. Residents of the Kashmir valley were called “Assamis” who had to pay besides land revenue, Malikaana in recognition of his being the owner of the land. The state-appointed the exploitative land agents called “kardars” who dealt directly with the peasants.

The exploitative process continued till the entry of Sheikh Abdullah who fought for the rights of Assamis. In 1931 Abdullah started a movement against the Raja for recognition of the land rights with popular support of the masses. Raja was thus forced to set up a Commission under Englishman BJ Glancy to look into the matter.  The main suggestion of the report was to transfer land to the cultivators who were till then tenants at the will of government-owned lands (Galancy, 1933). The success of the movement comes from the point that the then PM of J&K Colonel Colvin asked for the acceptance of the recommendations.

A2.2. Post 1947

1947 called for the need to look into the land reform question again. Though the recommendations of the Glancy commission were accepted, the jaghirdars and chakdars who till then had the status of tenants-at-will acquired vast areas of land by exploiting the poor villagers. They manipulated the poor farmers and accumulated a lot of lands. The condition of farmers in J&K was still of a “serf” in the medieval world. Sheikh Abdullah came in with the demand of reorganisation of agriculture on modern lines to raise the consciousness of these peasants so that the society could shift from medieval to modern.

Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession in 1947 and Sheikh Abdullah became the PM of the state in 1948. He was determined to abolish landed aristocracy along the lines of his “New Kashmir manifesto (1944)” which was a blueprint for a futuristic welfare state. He came up with the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 to supplement the success achieved in 1931 and to undo the ills of the system. This act provided for the ceiling on property at 22.75 acres (182 kanals), surplus land to be transferred to the tiller without payment, fixation of the ceiling at 160 kanals and land in possession of no one, to be taken by the state (Saxena, 2007).

Enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 led to the dispossession of 4.5 lakh acres of land which was concentrated in only 9000 landowners (Aslam, 1977). To further reinforce the reform process and focus on the tiller, the Government of J&K set up a Land Commission in 1963. The report of the commission formed the basis of the J&K Agrarian Reform Act of 1972. This Act ended the rights in the land of those who personally never cultivated, and also reduced the ceiling limit to 12.5 acres which ended the Tenant-Landlord relationship completely. It was not in consonance with some landlords who depended heavily on income from the land and wanted to cultivate personally but couldn’t. Hence the act was replaced by the Reforms Act 1976 which fixed a ceiling of 12.5 standard acres including orchards with certain conditions. It kept the option for the petty landlord to resume for his personal cultivation on that fraction of his holdings which is equal to the fraction of that produce which he was recovering as rent from the tenant.

Table: Land Transferred to the Tillers in J&K from 1951-52 to 1980-85

Sl. no. Year No of Tillers Land transferred (in Acres) No of beneficiaries
1 1951-52 30,418 92,927 2,98,922
2 1952-53 50,189 66,755 1,70,165
3 1953-54 32,260 36,915 1,15,831
4 1980-85 3,08,000 1,06,000 5,38,000
Total 4,20,867 3,02,301 11,22,918

Source: Rekhi, 1993

A2.3. Post 2000

“The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act” was enacted by the government in 2001. This Act, commonly known as the Roshni Act aimed at generating Rs. 25,000 crore by transferring ownership rights of ‘Nazool land’ or in other words, state land. The idea was to sell the state land at market rates to the people who had illegally encroached upon it. The idea, however, couldn’t be carried forward due to political reasons. Later in 2007, the Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Congress government with an eye on 2008 assembly elections reformed the bill which now provided free ownership of 16.6 lakh kanals, land worth Rs. 20,000 crores targeting 19 lakh cultivators. Land occupying farmers were to pay a nominal fee of Rs 100 per kanal to get the land transferred in their name. The land was given at a rate of 10 percent of the existing market rate. However, the land was also given for residential and commercial use under the act which led to various irregularities. The irregularities and the Roshni Scam have been discussed separately in section-D of the paper.

B. Geopolitics of J&K and its Impact on land Reform

Korbel (1954) brings about the basic reason for exhaustive land reforms in J&K. According to him, these reforms were introduced to counter the demand of plebiscite made by Pakistan. Hence ending the feudal aristocracy and giving land to the landless at that particular point of time would ensure winning the hearts of the people of Kashmir. The question attached is, why, the elite responsible for the implementation of reforms in the state chose India over Pakistan? He answers the question by saying that the elite was sure of the fact that their radical agenda of bringing about reorganisation in the agricultural structure will not be possible in feudal Pakistan.

Ankit (2010) brings about the transition of the Kashmir issue from a regional conflict to a national question to an international concern. The year 1948 was crucial in changing the entire nature of J&K. Indirectly both the superpowers during the cold war era were interested in the Kashmir question. Americans wanted to control the Kashmir area indirectly to tackle the Soviet Union and their control from Turkey to Tibet. The Soviet Union never wanted to let go of the area as it would then act as a standstill to the spread of Communism down towards South East Asia. This argument explains the international importance the area got. The question was thus never of development but of geopolitical influence. Hence the State got entangled between national, regional and international questions and land reforms were never capitalised.

B1. Role of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah [Divergence of J&K’s Land Reform Approach from National Approach]

As brought about by Korbel (1954), the idea of land reform in Kashmir was to deviate from the demand of plebiscite by Pakistan. From his argument, I infer that there was Indian National machinery involved during the process. Motilal Nehru, father of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was himself from Kashmir. Pt. Nehru knew all about the political dynamics in the state. The man of the moment who could implement the cause was Sheikh Abdullah himself. Prasad (2014) talks about the bent of mind people had during that time, ‘people were neither pro-Pakistan nor pro-India they were just pro Shiekh because of his untiring implementation of radical agrarian reforms’. The sole legal reason why land reforms were successful was a special status J&K enjoyed under Article 370.

Nehru-Abdullah Agreement was signed in July 1952 which is also known as the Delhi agreement after his speech in the Lok Sabha on 26 June 1952 which confirmed that “the residuary powers of legislation” (on matters not mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List), which Article 248 and Entry 97 (Union List) confer on the Union, will not apply to Kashmir. This addresses the question of the role played by Nehru and Sheikh in the implementation of the land reform.

One major point where Sheikh’s role is seen of critical importance is that the protest against the land reform in the state came only from the Dogra ruler and people. Surprisingly Kashmiri pandits who formed just 5 percent of the population of Kashmir but had 30 percent of the land with them never protested.  Pandits were suppressed by giving them 10 percent reservation in the administrative jobs (Rai, 2004).

Addressing the question of how the land reforms in J&K were different from that in the nation was in terms of the question of Article 370. Article 370 gave the state of J&K interim provision of not granting fundamental rights to the citizens in order to bring about the vision of New Kashmir Manifesto. Hence when Benami transfers and locking of property in courtrooms was taking place in the rest of the country, Kashmir land reforms became a success story. “The success of the Act of 1950 can be very well appreciated from the fact that out of 9.5 lakh acres of land distributed throughout the country till 1970, about half (i e, 4.5 lakh acres) was distributed in J&K alone” (Verma, 1994).

B2. Water Treaties

Alleviation of poverty was one of the main aims of land reform at the national level. Land reforms were of drastic success in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. One state which was comparable to that of J&K was Kerala. The human development index figure of 2007-08 Kerala is at 0.790 while J&K lags behind at 0.529. Two main reasons why the first phase of land reforms in the state couldn’t take off are political issues of the occupation of land and restrictions on the use of state water use (Government of Jammu & Kashmir, 2006).

One of the main factors to supplement the land reforms and to achieve its goal of poverty alleviation is the creation of necessary infrastructure, for example, irrigation which requires water. By signing Indus water treaty in 1960 with Pakistan, India could use only 20 percent water of the Indus basin. Most of this water is used for irrigation in Punjab and its agricultural production is a hit. Here there was a compromise on the Nehruvian and Sheikh vision of land reform in J&K and the international pressure. All the three rivers which drain the state of J&K (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) were handed over in the treaty and the states right as Upper Riparian party were not protected as the treaty places a restriction on both the use of water for irrigation and for harnessing power. According to the treaty, the flow of water cannot be interrupted or reduced by building a reservoir (Navlakha, 2007).

The first phase of the land reform would have had an altogether different impact had the Indus Treaty not been signed and some amount of political willpower been shown.

B3. Role of Separatist Movements

The Separatist movement was a result of chaos and confusion. Poverty and Landlessness which land reforms were to address, when couldn’t be taken care of, manifested itself in the movement. Masses with no education were mobilised by the elite in a different direction altogether and thus the debate shifted from land reforms and development. Post-1987 which was the start of the separatist movement in Kashmir, people on call resorted to the politics of boycotting elections, which was undemocratic as in a democracy elections are regarded as one of the main steps towards social change. The entire idea of land reforms which is to increase self-sufficiency and efficiency somehow got lost. Chapter V (Planning Commission of India, 2014) on state finances tells that the state government for the year 2000-01 had a revenue deficit of Rs. 961 crore which is an increase of 77 percent over previous year. The chapter clearly states that the state has suffered a lot financially during the years of turmoil and revenue collecting authorities were unable to work efficiently. The state has really never recovered from the damage to the infrastructure and lack of investment post movement. The data shows the financial condition of J&K post movement period:

Year Total Income Total Expenditure Revenue Expenditure Revenue Surplus/Deficit Fiscal Surplus/Deficit
1996-97 3226 4180 3129 +94 -954
1997-98 4646 5147 4191 +451 -501
1998-99 4513 5567 4909 -400 -1054
1999-2000 5519 6857 6055 -541 -1338
2000-01 5674 7547 6621 -961 -1873

Source: Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2001-2002

The movement addressed the cause of secession from the Indian state and never focussed on the development agenda and capitalisation of land reforms. Now people have realised that the democratic process is the only way forward to address social problems. Chowdhary & Rao (2006) bring about the shift from the politics of ‘Boycott of election’ to ‘Bring change with the election’ by supplementing it with the voter turnout. They bank on the people’s urge to go back to the normal situation and their desire to exercise choice.

C. Marginalisation of Social needs and Social Reality

The marginalisation between the needs and reality post-2000 as pre-1947 and post-1947 have been addressed to in different sections of the paper. Roshni bill which formed one of the major land reform policies post-2000 was supposed to streamline the land holdings, empower the farmers and regulate land mafias but the picture looked different when CAG came up with irregularities in the scheme. On 24th January 2015, the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) filed a FIR against several officers of the revenue department for their involvement in the irregularities committed under Roshni scam. According to CAG performance report (Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2013) after approving the transfer of lands measuring 3,48,160 kanals only Rs.76.24 crore has been realised against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore. Scam figuring in a land reform scheme being mooted as pro-poor and farmer clearly bring about the paralysis our political machinery is going through. Roshni scam has shown that there is a clear divergence of social reality from social needs in the state of J&K.

D. Conclusion

Land reform did not achieve its goal. It got hijacked by International bindings at the first stage, national politics at the second and state politics at the third stage. Every successive state government found it difficult to match development planning with social reality because of various personal benefits attached. It is up to the people of the state to realise what is happening and elect their representatives sensibly. Good representation in the assembly can only put forth the cause and thus reduce the gap between social needs and social reality.

(Tushar Gupta is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


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Bhat, M. (2000). “Land Distribution in Rural Jammu and Kashmir: An inter-temporal Analysis. In Pushpendra, & B. Sinha, Land Reforms in India: An Unfinished Agenda (pp. 139-169). New Delhi: Sage Publications.

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