Interdisciplinary and critical thinking is the need of the time for better Migration Governance

Published Date:   Friday, May 10, 2024

The Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), in collaboration with O. P. Jindal Global University, organized a programme of book launch and discussion on "Development Outlook of Education and Migration: An Indian Perspective, Essays in Honour of Binod Khadria" on May 7, 2024, at the India International Centre Annexe, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. The event attracted an audience of engaged intellectuals, including young scholars from various institutions, distinguished teachers across disciplines, many of whom were former students of Professor Binod Khadria, President of GRFDT, as well as his peers, colleagues, and other notable scholars.

After welcoming the speakers to the platform, the discussion began with remarks from the book's editors, who shared their journey of translating their ideas and research on migration, education, and development into the book. They dedicated this work to honour Professor Binod Khadria, their teacher and mentor at JNU, whose teachings emphasized critical thinking, challenging ideas, and fostering an environment of open discourse. Dr. Basant Potnuru spoke on the life and times of Professor Khadria in the context of the field of economics of education and how his works created a niche for the subject of international migration in it. While Dr. Parveen Kumar elaborated on the increasing trends of both international and internal migration, Dr. Narender Thakur emphasized upon the interconnectedness between these and development, more so the underdevelopment in India, driven by the challenging economic and social contradictions of the present times.

Following this, the esteemed panellists of the evening, including Professor Balveer Arora, Professor Meenakshi Thapan, Professor Sudarshan Ramaswamy, and Professor Arun Kumar, joined Professor Binod Khadria in launching the book, amidst applause from the audience and online panellists, along with the editors and convener of the GRFDT. Professor Binod Khadria, in his remarks, recounted the unique teacher-student relationship fostered by the JNU community, and the legacy of his own teacher Late Professor Tapas Majumdar that he passed on to his own students, culminating into the conception of the idea of the said book his students laboured to put together in his honour. His words evoked nostalgia about the vibrant and rigorous academic culture that JNU stood for, serving as an intermediary between students, teachers and their families who collectively felt the place was their home.

Chairing the event was Professor Balveer Arora, the founder Chairman of the Centre for Multilevel Federalism at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. As a colleague and friend of the panellists, he orchestrated the proceedings, introducing and inviting the eminent speakers to share their views for discussion.

Miss Paddy Siynaga Knudsen participated in the discussion online from Germany. As a Zambian development economist and Vice President of GRFDT, she coordinates the African non-state actors’ platform on GFMD and GCM. Knudsen shed light on the dilemmas of governance in international migration, highlighting some of the topics discussed in the book, viz., the various facets of international migration, historical and contemporary migration narratives, and the challenges of global migration governance, particularly amidst increasing hostility towards refugees and migrants in the West. She also quoted from Professor Wei Li’s Foreword in the book about the term “Equitable Adversary Analysis” that Professor Khadria had coined for a desirable tool he prescribed for dealing with international migration in multilateral negotiations.

Dr. S. Irudaya Rajan, the chair of the International Institute of Migration and Development India and the chair of the World bank initiated KNOMAD working group on internal migration in urbanisation was joining the discussion from the Online panel but due to unfortunate technical issues could not participate in the discussion for an eagerly awaiting audience.

Prof. Meenakshi Thapan is currently the Director of the Rishi Valley Education Centre, under the aegis of the Krishnamurti Foundation India, in rural Andhra Pradesh and a former professor and head of Sociology at University of Delhi has worked on women in migration in Asia.  As the OUP series editor of education and society in South Asia, she congratulated the authors and the editors for coming up with a well-researched volume and talked about her insights on the sociological chapters from the book. She spoke about gender education and international migration, and about the gap in the present discourse on the psychological impact of migration on women and children.

Professor Ramaswamy, the professor and dean of the Jindal School of Governance and Public Policy at O. P.  Jindal Global University, who had served in the Ford foundation South Asia office in New Delhi and as the UNDP senior economist, reflected on interdisciplinary research, teaching and policy for human development at institutions addressing education, migration and development. Through the example of the infamous crisis of internal migrants during the pandemic in India due to abrupt policy decisions and mismanagement, he emphasized the portability of human rights across borders and the generation of consensus amongst multiple stakeholders to be essential for efficient public policy and good governance. He gave insights on themes such as migrant demography and host of other problems affecting not just refugees such as Rohingyas, but also undermining India's goals for economic, and sustainable developmental.

Professor Arun Kumar, who was a Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair Professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and planning, JNU and the Malcolm Adiseshiah Chair Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences, explained in simple terms the economic distress that the world has been facing in present times. He spoke on the distorted rhetoric of welfarism, and redistribution being used by politicians for self-gains, and misinterpreted as posing a threat to the Indian economy. He pointed at the various unfavourable economic policies of the present government to be responsible for not only social and economic inequality but the inequities in the country reaching the highest levels of all times.

The presentations were followed by an open house discussion in which the audience comprising senior scholars as well as younger researchers participated and reflected with their observations on the ideas discussed in the book and commented upon by the speakers. Professor Wei Li, commenting online from the Arizona State University, USA particularly mentioned the trinity of dynamic conflicts of interests that Professor Khadria had stylized as those of “age, wage and vintage” between the global north destination countries and global south origin countries of migrants. The chair, Prof. Balveer Arora gave the closing remarks by reiterating that India’s federalism gives more reasons to initiate pioneering works and collaboration on migration and public policy. He advocated for the formation of nodal agencies working specifically on internal migration and to focus on data driven interventions in public policy to manage the challenges of global migration and its impact on people. He stressed their crucial urgency in a federal democracy like India where dichotomies in the centre-state and inter-state interdependence have got marginalised to the bottom.

At the end, a vote of thanks was proposed by Dr Vijay Soni, acknowledging the organisers of the event, the panellists, the speakers, Springer Nature the publisher of the book, the technical and hospitality staff of the IIC, and above all the participants, both in-person and online for sparing their time and thoughts in making the event rich and memorable. 

A Report by Shrestha Chopra, [email protected]

Shrestha Chopra holds an M.Phil. in Comparative Indian Literature from Delhi University, with areas of interest in Post-Colonial Literature, Indian Diasporic Literature, Bhasha literature, Feminism in literature, interdisciplinary studies with special focus on digital humanities, and the narratives of liminal communities and individuals.


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