The India Collaboration Thrives With a Spring Faculty Exchange
October 28, 2011
As noted in the Fall/Winter 2010 Advocate, last summer Dean Robert Klonoff and Professor Susan Mandiberg launched the India Collaboration with memoranda of understanding with three of the top national law schools in India. This spring Lewis & Clark’s Ed Brunet (Henry J. Casey Professor of Law), Craig Johnston ’85 (professor of law and clinical director of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center), and Lin Harmon ’91 (former director of international LL.M. and visitor programs and former associate director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program) went to India to participate in conferences and consolidate connections with two of our partner schools.
The Lewis & Clark group arrived in time for the festival of Holi, one of the more raucous religious holidays in India, during which celebrants splash each other with colored water or powders and sometimes become covered from head to toe in a rainbow of dyes. Forewarned, Harmon, Johnston, and Johnston’s son Dan ventured forth in the very early morning hours to make their way as uneventfully as possible by private cab to Agra, where they visited the Taj Mahal. Thanks to the quick reflexes of the clever tour operator, they narrowly escaped getting soaked with colors at a toll station, although a celebrant who had reveled a bit too much did crash his motorbike into the cab on the way home. Brunet received a dousing from an upper-story window as he was enjoying an otherwise peaceful walk in the gardens of his hotel.
The next day the delegation went to the National Law University in Delhi to meet with Vice Chancellor Ranbir Singh, who holds a position equivalent to the dean of the law school, and environmental law professor Krishna Deva Rao. All joined in a discussion about an international conference to be jointly organized by Lewis & Clark and the National Law University. The December 2012 conference—Environmental Law and Sustainable Development: Challenges and Best Practices—will invite experts from all over the world to participate and is expected to draw an audience from throughout Southeast Asia.
The Lewis & Clark group then traveled to Bangalore, where they spent several days at the National Law School of India University, located on a beautifully landscaped campus in a quiet part of the rapidly growing city. The campus was abuzz with classes and national conferences that week. Vice Chancellor R. Venkata Rao and environmental law professors and conference organizers M.K. Ramesh and Sairam Bhat provided a warm welcome.
Brunet and Harmon each taught a session of Sairam Bhat’s inaugural Environmental Dispute Resolution course as part of the faculty exchange begun last fall when Bhat traveled to Lewis & Clark to speak on the U.S. lawsuits arising from the Bhopal disaster. As is traditional in the Indian national law schools, Bhat is developing this new course so that it can be replicated at other national law schools.
Johnston, Brunet, and Harmon also spoke at a national conference—Professional and Academic Endeavours in Accessing Justice: U.S. and Indian Experiences. Law professors and environmental activists from around India provided fascinating insights into the problems of a developing country in providing adequate justice to its citizens, before turning over the floor to the Americans for their ideas. Camaron Vallepalli ’03, who lives in India with her family, and Nawneet Vibhaw LL.M. ’10, who holds a position at the new Chanayaka National Law School in Patna, also attended the conference.
At the end of the week in Bangalore, Johnston and Harmon attended the first day of a conference—Emerging Jurisprudence of Genetic Engineering: Food, Farming, and Biosafety—billed as the first such gathering in Indian history. The conference table included judges, law professors, and activists and the room was overflowing with farm families from south India. Eleven representative farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu testified (mostly through translators) about their negative experiences with Monsanto’s Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton on their farms as three judges from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala and the chief justice of Orissa high court listened and asked questions. It became apparent to the Lewis & Clark group that they were observers in a unique alternative forum for people of very modest means who otherwise might never get an opportunity to speak directly to judges. The insights the testimony gave into the difficult lives of small-lot farmers in India trying to cope with the new world of genetically modified seeds were both educational and sobering.
All three members of the Lewis & Clark delegation reported that they enjoyed their experiences in India immensely and are looking forward to further collaborative ventures with their new colleagues in India. Among other benefits from the trip, they now have promising new contacts for potential externships for students who want to spend a summer or semester doing meaningful environmental or business work in India.