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Report on Indian Polity at Crossroads
Keerat Kaur | 24 Mar 2009

Event held at SIMC Pune on 17th March 2009

A seminar on the condition of Politics in India was held at the Lavale campus of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC) on 17th March 2009. The seminar was part of a series of seminars conjointly being held by SIMC and FLAME School of Communication. While SIMC hosted the seminar on ‘Indian Polity at Crossroads’, FLAME School of Communication would carry on the torch by holding seminars over the next three days on the topics of Fighting Terrorism, the Danger of Global warming and the Effects of Global Recession and the way forward on each respective day. By holding seminars on relevant topics, the two institutes are bringing together a plethora of experts with diverse opinions that will speak to an audience of media professionals under training, thereby adding new dimensions to their ideologies and thought process.

The event was conducted by two senior Masters of Mass Communication students Shripriya and Swati pursuing Journalism from SIMC. The event brought together media and communication students from both the institutes who attentively listened to the various speakers who highlighted the working of the Indian Polity, its defects and also offered various solutions to counteract the problems. Several examples were given and discussed. The most interesting part of the event was the Question and Answer round that followed each speaker’s address. The audience bombarded the panel with intelligent and thought provoking questions. The seminar was moderated by Prof. Ujjwal Kumar Chowdhury, Dean Symbiosis International University and Director, SIMC. The event was also attended by Prof. Achyut Vaze, Dean, FLAME School of Communication.

The day began with an opening address by Prof. Chowdhury who promised the audience that by the end of the seminar each member of the audience would have a better idea about the internal mechanics of Indian Politics and would be enlightened on issues that have left them confounded for years. This prophecy did not prove completely wrong. The session began with an eloquent introduction of each speaker by the compere- Shripriya.

The first speaker was Mr. Irfaan Engineer, Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution who talked at length about the First Post System in voting. As solutions to the problems being faced the New Generation Voter, he suggested the introduction of at least 50% votes per candidate as a mandatory rule for election as well as the option of no votes if the voter is not satisfied with the candidates. He also spoke about the KHAM formula applied by candidates while campaigning which refers to appeasing the Khatri, Harijan, Aadivasi and Muslim community. “Muslims are perceived as vote banks”, said the noted academician who has delivered lectures at several worldwide platforms. He ended with a note of optimism asking the youth to be more involved in the politics of the country.

He was followed by noted National Award winning actor Atul Kulkarni who began by saying that the General Elections are around the corner and “Everyone must vote”. He spoke about the role of education in building great leaders and how education is ignored by most politicians in their agenda. “I am not in favour of introducing a system of no vote since I believe that we must elect leaders even if it means choosing between the bad and the worse”.

He also brought out the issue of regional parties being elected to Parliament who have a local and myopic agenda. “Elite complacency and nonvoting by the urban classes has allowed goons to enter politics which has led to further lawlessness”. He also expressed the opinion that coalitions reduce stability. In answer to a question from the audience regarding the stability of coalitions, Prof. Chowdhury said, “You should oppose fractured mandates rather than coalitions”. Kulkarni left the dais after admitting that the enlightening discussions had actually made him change his stance on certain issues, indicating towards the success of the forum.

The next speaker was Col. M. Gupta Roy, a retired Army Officer who is now an expert on Defence studies. He shared his experiences in Sri Lanka during 1987 and spoke how it is difficult to manage human relations when it comes to sensitive issues dealing with the operations of the army. Citing an anecdote, he spoke of how a friend had raided a supposed LTTE hideout in Jaffna and found the house inhabited my women including a 9 year old girl. Letting his defences down, he decided to skip checking the house. “He was gunned down by the 9 year old the moment he turned his back to leave”, said the visibly affected retired colonel. He distinguished terrorism into 5 different heads- Religious, National, Political, Economic, Social and Nuclear. Speaking about Religious terrorism, he said, “Savarkar and Jinnah were atheists but created political ideology and were also communal. In fact, Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a Muslim State not an Islamic state. Similarly, Savarkar relished beef being a Hindu. Yet his ideology was communal.” While referring to Economic terrorism, he gave examples of the Harshad Mehta scam and the recent Satyam scam.

After a short break for lunch, the session resumed with Prof. Jose George, Head of Department, Political Science, Mumbai University. The highly knowledgeable academician began by announcing that nobody is neutral. “We all have our leanings and I openly state that I support the Left”. He also said that Feudalism was abolished and capitalism was brought in Europe in the early 18th century with young industrial labour and exploiting them. This recent trend of capitalism can now be seen in Japan and Korea. “Lack of implementation of land reforms has been one of the biggest failures of the Post Independence Indian Democracy.” Communism, according to him, can be divided into Moderate, Extreme and Separatist.

The last speaker for the day was Arun Bhatia, an Independent Candidate contesting the Pune elections. The articulate speaker caught the attention of the entire audience with his witticism and the conviction with which he spoke. The man of 26 transfers, as he is called, repeated a conversation  that he had with a young Canadian journalist after which he said that he realised that the youth of India has become immune to social problems like poverty. “The Indian youth talks about everything from movies to books to clothes but you will never find them discussing the all pervasive poverty that surrounds them”.  He also spoke of corruption and how the youth has to make a conscious effort to root out evils and not wait for someone else to set an example. He answered the questions put forward to him by the audience with delight and zest. The speaker seemed at one point to lock horns with a fellow speaker which highlights the fact that Indian Polity indeed stands at crossroads today as in a country as vast as India, one cannot help but have diverse opinions.

The event ended with Prof. Chowdhury summarising the points discussed throughout the day and giving the audience food for thought. A vote of thanks was delivered by the compere bringing the day to an official close.