Desi Talk – that’s all you need to know 4 VIEWPOINT March 17, 2023 Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of the authors and Parikh Worldwide Media does not officially endorse, and is not responsible or liable for them. Reimagining International Education: Australia’s India Opportunity J ason Clare, Australian education minister, is in India March 1-3 for bilateral discussions with his counter- part to explore how collaboration in the internation- al education space may be further invigorated. His visit would be followed by a series of Australian ministe- rial visits and that of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to sign the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agree- ment or FTA. Only a week ago, India’s foreign and defence ministers were in Australia for bilateral discussions and in a couple of months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit Australia in connection with the Quad Sum- mit. Given the extraordinary pace at which the relationship has deepened and intensified, it would be fair to say that it could well emerge as a defining pillar in the Indo-Pacif- ic architecture. In a deeply fragmented global order and prevailing uncertainty, this calls for future-focused stra- tegic thinking, where collective aspirations are achieved through collaborative interventions. Take international education, for instance, where there is a critical need for a change in approach. This is easier said than done. The past seven decades, for instance, have seen a strong outflow of Indian students wishing to pursue higher education abroad. The majority stayed on, became foreign citizens, and successfully pursued pro- fessional careers. Today, several head global companies, hold prominent positions as doctors or lawyers or other professionals, many are elected to parliament, and, in a few countries, even rose to the high office of president or prime minister. While Australia is a late starter for Indian students seeking to study abroad, it has quickly developed strong brand recall and is, today, a highly sought-after destina- tion. In 2021, Australia is estimated to have earned A$27 billion from the international student vertical. It bears recalling that this was a sharp drop in revenue thanks to the pandemic-related travel restrictions and health pro- tocols. In 2022 and 2023, pent-up demand is estimated to significantly enhance revenue from international educa- tion. Consequently, Australian educational providers are strategizing on how they might significantly increase the international student intake. Narrative needs to change This overbearing numbers-driven outlook has, so far, defined policy on international education. However, if India-Australia relations are to reflect a genuine partner- ship, the narrative needs to shift from transactional to transformational. This requires that the very purpose behind international education is dramatically rethought and altered. It is, in fact, the need of the hour that global efforts pursue global good and see it as a global aspiration. Glob- al challenges, like natural disasters, the pandemic and the spread of disease, climate change, sustainable develop- ment, poverty and inequity, cyber security, human rights violations, threats to democratic governance, to name a few, have demonstrated that these can be meaningfully addressed only through collective effort and aspiration. During the pandemic, India’s role as the manufactur- ing hub for vaccines is a good example, as indeed is the global response to the humanitarian disaster following the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Now that Australia has firmly positioned itself as a provider of top-quality education with a high employabil- ity quotient, it is time to add relationship-building to its storytelling. This requires partnering with government, industry and reputed Indian educational institutions to address the developmental aspirations of its people, such as providing capacity-building programmes to enable the transition from didactic to experiential learning, address- ing the public health challenges and shortfall, enhanc- ing capabilities in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and deep learning, creating strong cyber security platforms, partnering on policy interventions and programme implementation on issues, such as climate change, solar electrification and renewables, pollution, water resourc- es, to highlight a few. This transition from numbers only to a more compre- hensive relationship would complement policies enhanc- ing student inflow to Australian universities. In other words, relationship-building and a numbers strategy can coexist. The third stage of transition is to expand the policy to encompass the Indo-Pacific. Indeed, it would be plausible to suggest that international education and research should meaningfully find a place in the Quad dialogue. The author, a former Indian diplomat, works in international education. In 2022, he was appointed as Honorary Member to the Order of Australia, Views are personal. -South Asia Monitor By Amb Amit Dasgupta (retd) Bandra The New Shantytown ? T ruth be told, till pandemic hit, India’s maximum city was chaotic but definitely a working one. It was within the Covid-19 lockdown, that things went awry. Rules, in this period, seemed applicable only for the obedient. Law enforcement was reluctant and sporadic. Thus the city plummeted from a path of all round development to one with terribly low standards of traffic, tolerance, sound pollution and aversion for everything civilised. Not to mention the flurry of infrastructure construction that brought torrents of dust clouds. Experiencing this difficult state of Bombay, now Mumbai, demands a visit to Bandra, the queen of suburbs. Driv- ing into the very wide road leading to BANDRA STATION from theWestern Express Highway is a nightmare. Disre- gard for law narrows the approach making it barely motor-able. Three-wheelers, cars and bikes vie for space between pedes- trians who never take to sidewalks owing to offices of lawyers, marriage bureaus, chaiwallahs, lemonade stalls , vadapav and every other imaginable vendor spill- ing over this common space. Snaking thru these challenges and the defiant ghost riders if some of us were to actually venture to the east of Bandra station, rising from the haze were Storeys of mushrooming tenements which have no reason to be there. Giving the Brazil- ian favelas a haughty run for the medals of infamy, these multi-storeyed precari- ous slums are the gaudy aberration to the towering reputation of Bandra . Both the west and east of Bandra station area is of unspeakable ugliness despite the architectural beauty of the railway station building. BUT THE EAST takes the prize for these abnormalities start immediately as one reaches the office of the city’s slum rehabilitation Chief Officer. Onward from this gentleman’s office structure, as we take a right turn, begins the impossibly stacked rooms like disfigured lego pieces. Beharampada it is called. Needless to mention this ghetto has all the vile hap- penings expected in a community devoid of policing. Living like starved animals being transported, this is the EVERYDAY lifestyle of thousands of humans. NO sanitation or sewage system, non existent social amenity, no health evaluation and no hope. Behrampada’s existence here is al- together an accomplished humiliation for administration because it possibly stands on the flood plains of river Mithi. This land was holdings area for the rising sea and river confluence. Had police and civic administration been allowed to do their jobs, this settlement, size of a town would neither have further expanded vertically not on to the public spaces and mangroves of the city. Every sheet of tin and bag of mortar used to build this shantytown was brought here right under the noses of the big boys of Bombay. At stones’ throw away from there are the homes of the celebrity packs of India – high octane movie stars and business pro- fessionals. If the stone were to veer south it could well land into theWorli, home to many ministers and politicians . Just 500 meters behind at Kalanagar signal in Bandra East is home of the only tiger in this city knew, ( as the moniker goes.) Alarming as it is, though the multi levels of slum were built during covid, shanty town of Bandra had already come up at unbridled pace during the re- gimes of Congress in the state assembly with overarching powers over the civic administration. Shiv Sena ruled the civic administration in partnership with BJP. At that time Congress and Shiv Sena at logger heads with each other, reigned the politi- cal spectrum of Bombay. But now the new gentlemen wielding power are from BJP and ShivSena. The latter sans its founder family the Thackeray clan, and former, sans the respected sachems like Advani and Vajpayee. Over last 6 months, while politics of the city swayed dramatically bringing unprecedented outcomes, Bandra never got cleaned up nor did many parts of the city with sights equally calamitous. So the difficult question is, will the wrongs be set right ? Because, the scale of repair needed is huge … the high density of popula- tion in Behrampada has led to unbridled hawking on sidewalks of the Linking road and SV road. How else will slum dwellers earn ? And then the Bandstand and Carter Road is chock a block beyond its holding capacity, how else will the humans of Beh- rambapada breath some fresh air ? Long since the moral thread of India’s famed city tightened in a bid to accom- modate rising population, a fuzzy blizzard of lawlessness has gripped it. The trouble is not the migrant workers but the eager- ness of city planners and dwellers to look away from the terrible sites housing their cheap labour. The need to keep the odd job man within city limits comes from unwillingness of the city residents to pay minimum wages , which was unavoidable had they been settled in extended sub- urbs. Shantytown Behrampada, relieves the rich people of the city from paying for transport to their workers. The admin- istration is relieved from the need to buy land and erect affordable housing and provide public transport infrastructure. By creating shantytowns, hitherto non development zones can be officially re- claimed through dubious Slum Rehabili- tation Programs. The developer roped in will make a killing allegedly sharing booty with politicians and bureaucrats. Must ad- mit that to a degree the nefarious process is quite democratic as the encroachers too make a bundle and get legal apartments. Politicians get a bonus by creating bogus list of eligible beneficiaries who in turn will re-elect them to legislatures. But can this nexus and resultant putrid outcomes be allowed to progress unbri- dled ? How much of Mumbai will actually resemble a developed modern city de- pends on the BJP’s determination to bring back the glory of law and order. The city has just been released from the unyielding clutches of an old guard but is politi- cally adrift and many pray it peacefully transfers into the grip of liberal younger, educated lot. But will the new order find the spine to speak about the bad ways of the past ? Free speech, I hear, is increas- ingly a risky enterprise ! By C Anand Velayudhan Photos:C AnandVelayudhan,ITV Gold Behrampada , View from slum Rehabilitation Office side.