In 2010, the Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship was conceptualised by PRS Legislative Research, creating a unique platform for young Indians to engage with policy making at the national level. The Fellowship, a first of its kind in India, provides an opportunity for youth passionate about public policy to work with a Member of Parliament. Launched in collaboration with the Constitution Club of India, the Fellowship began with 12 Fellows and has now grown to include more than 40 young men and women from across India working with MPs from across political parties.
The bulk of the Fellow’s work focuses on Parliament. On average, Parliament passes 60 Bills a year. These Bills, covering a wide range of issues from food security to criminal laws, represent the government’s policy choices. Informed debates on legislation are therefore critical. Parliamentarians also use the floor of the House to discuss and debate urgent matters of public interest. The LAMP Fellowship provides young Indians with the opportunity to do legislative work through a 11-month professional engagement with an MP. Fellows are exposed to critical issues in public policy through which they will acquire knowledge about policy, parliament and governance structures, develop analytical abilities and hone leadership skills.
The Fellow typically supports an MP by providing research inputs for: policy and legislative debates, parliamentary Questions, standing committee meetings, and framing private members’ Bills. Beyond Parliament, MPs have to focus on their constituency; LAMP fellows may work on issues at the constituency level. Many Fellows in the current cohort have also had a chance to visit the parliamentary constituencies, often travelling with the MP to meet district officials and engage with constituents. Visits usually include a trip to the site of a centrally-sponsored scheme, engaging with public health officials, or attending panchayat meetings. Some Fellows also assist their MPs with media-related work like drafting press releases and preparing research for public appearances.
The LAMP Fellowship is enriched by various workshops, seminars and discussions providing greater exposure to public policy. The current cohort have already engaged with experts like former Director General, CAG Amitabh Mukhopadhyay; social activists Reetika Khera and Harsh Mander; policy practitioners Nitin Pai of The Takshashila Institution, Laveesh Bhandari of Indicus Analytics and former Chairman of TRAI Nripendra Misra; and leading JNU academic, Niraja Gopal Jayal.
"At LAMP, there is no 'typical' day at work. Each day comes with new tasks, new challenges. My work for my MP has forced me out of my comfort zone to explore and understand an array of subjects." - Kavya Iyengar, LAMP Fellow 2012-13
Fellows also get the opportunity to interact with organisations from various sectors like Google India, UNHCR and BCG. For instance, this year’s Fellows participated in the iPolicy workshop for young leaders, organised by the Centre for Civil Society. Last year, the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad hosted LAMP Fellows for a 3-day residential leadership development workshop, led by professors and guest speakers, including former RBI Governor, Dr. YV Reddy.
The LAMP Fellowship provides policy exposure but also guarantees a truly distinctive year: no two LAMP Fellows have the same experience. Every MP will have different research demands; LAMP Fellows have to be flexible, self-motivated and hungry to learn. Work can be challenging but also hugely rewarding. Previous Fellows have used the Fellowship as a launch pad, pursuing further studies at top Universities like Yale, John Hopkins, and Oxford and embarking on careers in political consulting, public relations and think tanks. Some Fellows have even continued to support the work of parliamentarians, pursuing their area of interest like media, policy and constituency development projects.
India’s vibrant democracy is constantly confronted by complex, urgent and important challenges. The Fellowship provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to understand these challenges and, perhaps, even help overcome them. Be a part of the solution, be a LAMP Fellow.
The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 is listed for passage in Rajya Sabha today. It was passed by Lok Sabha last week. The Bill creates a regulatory framework for anti-doping rule violations in sports. It was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports, and some of their recommendations have been incorporated in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha.
Doping is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance. Across the world, doping is regulated and monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is an independent international agency established in 1999. WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise, and coordinate anti-doping regulations across all sports and countries. It does so by ensuring proper implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) and its standards. In this blog post, we discuss the need of the framework proposed by the Bill, and give insights from the discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha.
Doping in India
Recently, two Indian athletes failed the doping test and are facing provisional suspension. In the past also, Indian athletes have been found in violation of anti-doping rules. In 2019, according to WADA, most of the doping rule violations were committed by athletes from Russia (19%), followed by Italy (18%), and India (17%). Most of the doping rule violations were committed in bodybuilding (22%), followed by athletics (18%), cycling (14%), and weightlifting (13%). In order to curb doping in sports, WADA requires all countries to have a framework regulating anti-doping activities managed by their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations.
Currently, doping in India is regulated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which was established in 2009 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. One issue with the existing framework is that the anti-doping rules are not backed by a legislation and are getting challenged in courts. Further, NADA is imposing sanctions on athletes without a statutory backing. Taking into account such instances, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2021) had recommended that the Department of Sports bring in an anti-doping legislation. Other countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan have enacted legislations to regulate anti-doping activities.
Framework proposed by the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021
The Bill seeks to constitute NADA as a statutory body headed by a Director General appointed by the central government. Functions of the Agency include planning, implementing and monitoring anti-doping activities, and investigating anti-doping rule violations. A National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will be set up for determining consequences of anti-doping rule violations. This panel will consist of legal experts, medical practitioners, and retired athletes. Further, the Board will constitute an Appeal Panel to hear appeals against decisions of the Disciplinary Panel. Athletes found in violation of anti-doping rules may be subject to: (i) disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, (ii) ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, (iii) financial sanctions, and (iv) other consequences as may be prescribed. Consequences for team sports will be specified by regulations.
Initially, the Bill did not have provisions for protected athletes but after the Standing Committee’s recommendation, provisions for such athletes have been included in the Bill. Protected persons will be specified by the central government. As per the WADA Code, a protected person is someone: (i) below the age of 16, or (ii) below the age of 18 and has not participated in any international competition in an open category, or (iii) lacks legal capacity as per their country’s legal framework
Issues and discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha
During the discussion on the Bill, members highlighted several issues. We discuss these below-
Independence of NADA
One of the issues highlighted was the independence of the Director General of NADA. WADA requires National Doping Organisations to be independent in their functioning as they may experience external pressure from their governments and national sports bodies which could compromise their decisions. First, under the Bill, the qualifications of the Director General are not specified and are left to be notified through Rules. Second, the central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity or “such other ground”. Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of NADA.
Privacy of athletes
NADA will have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as: (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples). MPs expressed concerns about maintaining the privacy of athletes. The Union Sports Minister in his response, assured the House that all international privacy standards will be followed during collection and sharing of data. Data will be shared with only relevant authorities.
Under the Bill, NADA will collect and use personal data of athletes in accordance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information. It is one of the eight ‘mandatory’ standards of the World Anti-Doping Code. One of the amendments moved by the Union Sports Minister removed the provision relating to compliance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.
Establishing more testing laboratories across states
Currently India has one National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL). MPs raised the demand to establish testing laboratories across states to increase testing capacity. The Minister responded by saying that if required in the future, the government will establish more testing laboratories across states. Further, in order to increase testing capacity, private labs may also be set up. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) also emphasised the need to open more dope testing laboratories, preferably one in each state, to cater to the need of the country and become a leader in the South East Asia region in the areas of anti-doping science and education.
In August, 2019 a six-month suspension was imposed on NDTL for not complying with International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) by WADA. The suspension was extended for another six months in July, 2020 due to non-conformity with ISL. The second suspension was to remain in effect until the Laboratory complies with ISL. However, the suspension was extended for another six months in January, 2021 as COVID-19 impacted WADA’s ability to conduct an on-site assessment of the Laboratory. In December, 2021 WADA reinstated the accreditation of NDTL.
Several athletes in India are not aware about the anti-doping rules and the prohibited substances. Due to lack of awareness, they end up consuming prohibited substances through supplements. MPs highlighted the need to conduct more awareness campaigns around anti-doping. The Minister informed the House that in the past one year, NADA has conducted about 100 hybrid workshops relating to awareness on anti-doping. The Bill will enable NADA to conduct more awareness campaigns and research in anti-doping. Further, the central government is working with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to test dietary supplements consumed by athletes.
While examining the Bill, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) recommended several measures to improve and strengthen the antidoping ecosystem in the country. These measures include: (i) enforcing regulatory action towards labelling and use of ‘dope-free’ certified supplements, and (ii) mandating ‘dope-free’ certification by independent bodies for supplements consumed by athletes.