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.
In the last few years, several states have enacted laws to curb cheating in examinations, especially those for recruitment in public service commissions. According to news reports, incidents of cheating and paper leaks have occurred on several occasions in Uttarakhand, including during the panchayat development officer exams in 2016, and the Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission exams in 2021. The Uttarakhand Public Service Commission papers were also leaked in January 2023. The most recent cheating incidents led to protests and unrest in Uttarakhand. Following this, on February 11, 2023, the state promulgated an Ordinance to bar and penalise the use of unfair means in public examinations. The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Bill replacing the Ordinance in March 2023. There have been multiple reports of candidates being arrested and debarred for cheating in public examinations for posts such as forest guard and secretariat guard after the ordinance’s introduction. Similar instances of cheating have also been noted in other states. As per news reports, since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold a single recruitment exam without reported paper leaks. In February 2023, the Gujarat Assembly also passed a law to penalise cheating in public examinations. Other states such as Rajasthan (Act passed in 2022), Uttar Pradesh (Act passed in 1998) and Andhra Pradesh (Act passed in 1997) also have similar laws. In this blog, we compare anti-cheating laws across some states (see Table 1), and discuss some issues to consider.
Typical provisions of anti-cheating laws
Anti-cheating laws across states generally contain provisions that penalise the use of unfair means by examinees and other groups in public examinations such as those conducted by state public sector commission examinations and higher secondary education boards. Broadly, unfair means is defined to include the use of unauthorised help and the unauthorised use of written material by candidates. These laws also prohibit individuals responsible for conducting examinations from disclosing any information they acquire in this role. The more recent laws, such as the Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan ones, also include the impersonation of candidates and the leaking of exam papers within the definition of unfair means. Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh prohibit the use of electronic aids. Maximum prison sentences for using such unfair means range from three months in Uttar Pradesh, to seven years in Andhra Pradesh.
Issues to consider
The Gujarat and Uttarakhand anti-cheating Acts have relatively stringent provisions for cheating. The Uttarakhand Act has a fixed 3-year prison sentence for examinees caught cheating or using unfair means (for the first offence). Since the Act does not distinguish between the different types of unfair means used, an examinee could serve a sentence disproportionate to the offence committed. In most other states, the maximum imprisonment term for such offences is three years. Andhra Pradesh has a minimum imprisonment term of three years. However, all these states allow for a range with respect to the penalty, that is, the judge can decide on the imprisonment term (within the specified limits) depending on the manner of cheating and the implications of such cheating. Table 1 below compares the penalties for certain offences across eight states.
The Uttarakhand Act has a provision that debars the examinee from state competitive examinations for two to five years upon the filing of the chargesheet, rather than upon conviction. Thus, an examinee could be deprived of giving the examination even if they were innocent but being prosecuted under the law. This could compromise the presumption of innocence for accused candidates. The Gujarat and Rajasthan laws also debar candidates from sitting in specified examinations for two years, but only upon conviction.
These laws also vary in scope across states. In Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, the laws only apply to competitive examinations for recruitment in a state department (such as a Public Commission). In the other six states examined, these laws also apply to examinations held by educational institutions for granting educational qualifications such as diplomas and degrees. For example, in Gujarat, exams conducted by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board are also covered under the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2023. The question is whether it is appropriate to have similar punishments for exams in educational institutions and exams for recruitment in government jobs, given the difference in stakes between them.
Sources: The Rajasthan Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2022; the Uttar Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 1998; the Chhattisgarh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2008; the Orissa Conduct of Examinations Act, 1988; the Andhra Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair means) Act, 1997; the Jharkhand Conduct of Examinations Act, 2001, the Uttarakhand Competitive Examination (Measures for Prevention and Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2023, the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Methods) Act, 2023; PRS.