(My take was published in the 'Talk Point' segment of The Print)
Scholarship and research need rational approach and critical thinking. They carry a context and are conducted within predefined parameters. The methodology used in research is decided upon by the researcher and her/his supervisor after conducting a pre-research study and assessments.
Given the fact that our resources are limited and our socio-economic problems are numerous, what is needed in higher educational institutes is a framework for research topics. This is more important in social sciences as focused research can go a long way in finding lasting solutions to our critical national problems.
In the field of sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) among others have done a tremendous job at establishing a strong precedence and clear trajectory of research on indigenous subjects of contemporary and national importance. What the ministry has issued is an advisory to public-funded institutions and it is well within its rights to do so.
It is wrong to assume that topics of ‘national priority’ are inimical to research. In fact, this sort of a framework is bound to make our research landscape far more dynamic, productive and relevant than it is today. Of course, it is another matter entirely if the objections to this move stem from the very use of the word ‘national’ in academics.