Rightful resistance in India

By Lisa Day

Rightful resistance is a form of peaceful protest against the state, by popular contention, in which citizens make use of their own state’s law and judicial system to legitimately challenge rights violations by the government itself. Although rightful resistance tends to be seen as a Chinese social and legal phenomenon, these forms of protest can also be seen in other parts of the world where governments have failed to deliver their own promises. A particular case in India, which involved rightful resisters fighting for basic infrastructure to be provided in all government-run schools, was legitimized and eventually implemented by the success of resisters framing their protest around India’s Right to Education Act.

India’s Right to Education Act involves the governmental obligation to ensure that all children have access to free and compulsory education. The Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation (ECPF) had been fighting for a legislation which would ensure that governments must provide basic infrastructure in schools. These included properly functioning and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls and appropriate drinking water facilities. Around 800,000 schools were concerned to have improper infrastructure. The ECPF argued that because of this parents would not allow their children to attend these schools if they were without basic toilet and water facilities. Therefore they contended, “The right to education cannot be enjoyed unless basic infrastructure is provided by the state”. Eventually the court issued an interim order stating: "it is imperative that all schools must provide toilet facilities. Empirical researches have indicated that wherever toilet facilities are not provided in schools, parents do not send their children (particularly girls) to schools. It clearly violates the right to free and compulsory education of children guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution”. By 2012 it was issued that all state governments must provide “toilet facilities for boys and girls, drinking water facilities, sufficient classrooms, appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff etcetera”.

The judgement passed shows a successful use of rightful resistance. This movement was employed to actively seek the attention of the Indian authorities in order to legitimize a set of specific infrastructural requirements in schools. Therefore ensuring that all children would now rightfully have access to education.

The Scottish referendum and the UK general election

By Lisa Day

The 2015 UK General Election revealed that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) took 50% of the vote within the Scottish Borders, which is up by 30 points from 2010. Labour, on the other hand, dropped 17.7 points from 2010. The SNP completely obliterated the Labour Party out of Scotland by gaining 56 out of the 59 seats. The causes behind the SNP’s victorious outcome, which has been hailed as a "historical watershed", may be down to the particular sequencing and timing of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum.

According to Pierson, the “timing and sequence of particular events or processes can matter a great deal. Settings where event A precedes event B will generate different outcomes than ones where that ordering is reversed.” As mentioned above the main difference between this election and the last is that a Scottish Independence Referendum was held just before the 2015 vote. Although the SNP ended up 'losing' the referendum with a majority vote of “No” to independence, the Labour Party seems to have lost Scotland altogether. The referendum campaign seems to have left the SNP stronger than ever. “Indeed, the SNP is no longer just a party, it is a movement — and one boasting, per capita, more than twice as many members as the three main unionist parties combined.” Since the referendum the nationalist party gained 1/50 of all adult Scots in members. It is clearly evident that this huge increase in members and support for the SNP triggered such a historical victory for the party.

In addition, the SNP can also be seen as a party filling up political space - a particular feature of sequencing that involves a first mover advantage. “Labour’s hegemony in Scotland needed an opposition and the SNP was happy to fill that void.”

The timing of the Scottish Independence Referendum appears to have materialized the SNP’s election victory within the Scottish borders whilst the party also acted with a first mover advantage by providing the Scots with an alternative, optimistic and conceivable future. 

Colonialism

By Lisa Day

A week ahead from an African leaders summit in 2014, Barak Obama stated: “Africa should stop blaming history for its economic problems”.  He continued on by dismissing the idea that slavery and colonialism, imposed by the west, were the root cause for poverty and under-development in Africa. Is this statement fair? Can colonialism truly be blamed for Africa’s economic misfortune?

In “The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation”, Acemoglu and Robinson argue that the main causes for the inequality of wealth across countries are differences among institutions and property rights. They then propose that differences in GDP per capita across colonized countries are caused by differences in the mortality rates of the settlers. The theory states that settler mortality rates affected the feasibility of creating settlements; settlements then affected the early institutions that were imposed and the early institutions affected the current institutions. The graph shown below plots GDP per capita against settler mortality rates:

Source: Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, "The  colonial origins  of  comparative development : An empirical investigation"

Source: Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, "The colonial origins of comparative development: An empirical investigation"

The relationship between the two variables suggests that as settler mortality rate increases; GDP per capita decreases. They argue that lower settler mortality rates allowed a large amount of settlers to create good institutions that persist today.

There is one country however that doesn’t appear to follow the trend as strongly as the others, Ethiopia. Ethiopia along with Liberia were the only two African countries that were not colonized. You could therefore assume that Ethiopia has a lower GDP per capita today than expected because it was not imposed with good institutions from colonization. In addition, if colonization were the main cause of modern poverty you would expect Ethiopia and Liberia to be the wealthiest of the African nations. However this is not the case as Liberia and Ethiopia are the 4th and 7th poorest countries in the world respectively.

It is undeniable that the scars of colonialism persist today. However we cannot truly blame colonialism for the current poverty in Africa alone.