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.
On June 13, 2022, the West Bengal government passed a Bill to replace the Governor with the Chief Minister, as the Chancellor of 31 state public universities (such as Calcutta University, Jadavpur University). As per the All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20), state public universities provide higher education to almost 85% of all students enrolled in higher education in India. In this blog, we discuss the role of the Governor in state public universities.
What is the role of the Chancellor in public universities?
State public universities are established through laws passed by state legislatures. In most laws the Governor has been designated as the Chancellor of these universities. The Chancellor functions as the head of public universities, and appoints the Vice-Chancellor of the university. Further, the Chancellor can declare invalid, any university proceeding which is not as per existing laws. In some states (such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Jharkhand), the Chancellor has the power to conduct inspections in the university. The Chancellor also presides over the convocation of the university, and confirms proposals for conferring honorary degrees. This is different in Telangana, where the Chancellor is appointed by the state government.
The Chancellor presides over the meetings of various university bodies (such as the Court/Senate of the university). The Court/Senate decides on matters of general policy related to the development of the university, such as: (i) establishing new university departments, (ii) conferring and withdrawing degrees and titles, and (iii) instituting fellowships.
The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 designates the Chief Minister of West Bengal as the Chancellor of the 31 public universities in the state. Further, the Chief Minister (instead of the Governor) will be the head of these universities, and preside over the meetings of university bodies (such as Court/Senate).
Does the Governor have discretion in his capacity as Chancellor?
In 1997, the Supreme Court held that the Governor was not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, while discharging duties of a separate statutory office (such as the Chancellor).
The Sarkaria and Puunchi Commission also dealt with the role of the Governor in educational institutions. Both Commissions concurred that while discharging statutory functions, the Governor is not legally bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, it may be advantageous for the Governor to consult the concerned Minister. The Sarkaria Commission recommended that state legislatures should avoid conferring statutory powers on the Governor, which were not envisaged by the Constitution. The Puunchi Commission observed that the role of Governor as the Chancellor may expose the office to controversies or public criticism. Hence, the role of the Governor should be restricted to constitutional provisions only. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 also mentions this recommendation given by the Puunchi Commission.
Recently, some states have taken steps to reduce the oversight of the Governor in state public universities. In April 2022, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed two Bills, to transfer the power of appointing the Vice-Chancellor (in public universities) from the Governor, to the state government. As of June 8, 2022, these Bills have not received the Governor’s assent.
In 2021, Maharashtra amended the process to appoint the Vice Chancellor of state public universities. Prior to the amendment, a Search Committee forwarded a panel of at least five names to the Chancellor (who is the Governor). The Chancellor could then appoint one of the persons from the suggested panel as Vice-Chancellor, or ask for a fresh panel of names to be recommended. The 2021 amendment mandated the Search Committee to first forward the panel of names to the state government, which would recommend a panel of two names (from the original panel) to the Chancellor. The Chancellor must appoint one of the two names from the panel as Vice-Chancellor within thirty days. As per the amendment, the Chancellor has no option of asking for a fresh panel of names to be recommended.