The annual policy visit to the parliament, one of the unique initiatives undertaken by the SLC, IIT Madras, has gained immense popularity among insti students since its inception in 2016 and this year was no different. Find reports of 2016 and 2017 visits here and here respectively. As a consequence, this year’s visit had a stringent application process put in place. The contingent got the opportunity to meet eminent personalities in the public policy domain, bureaucrats and media and learn from the horse’s mouth! Abhishek Kelkar, a member of the contingent, provides excerpts from these conversations of the student representatives with various renowned personalities:

 

    To Delhi in its freezing December temperatures arrived 55 delegates from IIT Madras aiming to gain insights in the working of the government, policy making, governance and democracy. The visit promised a power packed week with workshops, lectures, tete-a-tetes delivered by multitudes of stalwarts, all aligned to imbibe a sense of responsibility and passion towards public policy into the delegates.  

Meeting with Gajendra Singh Shekhawat-Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

   Gajendra Singh Shekhawat entered the national political scene from Jodhpur after his stint in student politics in college as a Master of Arts & Philosophy. Known for his active participation on Quora, this dynamic personality put forth a lot of innovative ideas as the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. Over his tenure Mr. Shekhawat worked on initiatives that try to establish the synergy between central and state policies. He stressed on the importance of value maximization over quantity maximization for the welfare of farmers. He recalled an instance of how extensive agricultural outreach helped his kin by shifting focus from flora to selling Ashwagandhaherbs and roots as stimulants for energy drinks. He emphasized on the importance of approaching problems with such innovative solutions.

    The importance of agricultural outreach through capacity building for rural India, implementation of technology through biotechnological innovations and identifying the right international markets for India’s agricultural produce are a few undertakings of the Ministry imbibed by Mr. Shekhawat. His office is open to internships; interested students can visit their website and obtain more details.

Meeting with Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu-Honourable Vice-President of India

   Mr. Venkaiah Naidu addressed the student delegates on a multitudes of topics. He insisted on the importance of good governance and talked of improving the efficiency of Rajya Sabha and briefed the students on the Anti-Defection Law which has improved the discipline and enhanced punctuality of the Parliament in the recent past. He also focused on the functioning of the parliamentary Standing committee.

  While speaking about the future of India, he stressed on the need to interact with rural India to understand and address their problems. In his own words, “we cannot live in isolation and look for consolation.” Politics, he claimed, is one of the mainstreams ways to harbinger large scale change. But, according to him, the 4 “C”s that every politician should possess are character, calibre, capacity and conduct. However, they are being replaced these days by case, community, criminality and cash. He as well urged all the students to focus on the importance of education in the form of knowledge acquisition, enlightenment, empowerment and employment.

Talk with Sanjeev Sanyal-Principal Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance

  Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal is the Principal Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance who after a long and illustrious career in corporate finance, Mr. Sanyal decided to dive into bureaucracy. He famously believes in a novel chaos theory approach to economics over more conventional systems of thinking. It is from this approach that he bases his claim that recessions are as much a part of a country’s economic cycle as booms and that policy makers should keep the same in consideration. Interestingly, he states that we can only prepare for failures and not avoid them altogether because an economy works in a feedback loop and it is illogical to be rigid about it.

  According to him, the responsibility of the government is to dampen the extremes rather than fighting the feedback loops in an economy. The planning, in the form of public policies is vital not to enforce an order but to roadmap such extremes. He also voiced his views regarding the recent insolvency and bankruptcy code. His ideas can be found detailed in his book The Ocean of Churn.

Conversation with Dinesh Trivedi-Former Union Minister for Railways

  An MBA graduate, trained pilot, entrepreneur, sitar player and a connoisseur of Indian classical music, Mr. Trivedi shot into the limelight when he asked the Honourable Supreme Court of India to make the Vohra report on the criminalization of politics in India public. This petition led to the foundation of the Right To Information movement. He remembers, one of the major reasons for this petition was the lack of monitoring, commitment and expertise from the system. But he believes that India is changing for the better. It is the century of knowledge, he said, and we as Indians ought to learn from past mistakes. He recommended that the youth in India read the Constituent Assembly debates and the Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru.

Conference on Soft Power

  This conference provided an interesting approach to the common place ideas of development and public policy. With soft power defined as the ability and expertise to lead the world through art, culture, policy and education, the conference focused on India as a thought leader in education and philanthropy. The aim of all the discussions was to bring together academicians, practitioners, experts, policy makers and diplomats to deliberate and discuss the soft power of India. Now, more than ever, the speakers claimed, is the ideal time to imbibe the Indic educational methodologies to bring in educational reforms to achieve grass root transformations.

Meeting with Jual Oram- Minister of Tribal Affairs

  Mr. Jual Oram holds a unique position as the Minister of Tribal Affairs. He also happens to hold the post for the first time when it was instituted by the Government of Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The office of Mr. Oram has successfully built 676 new schools in tribal areas across India and has undertaken initiatives like the tribal supply produce through the impetus of the tribal research institute. He believes in using the positions as a means for the upliftment of the tribal communities through their culture and diversity. With this vision in view, the ministry has established Ekalavya schools in India.

Conversation with Shobhit Mathur-Executive Director, Vision India Foundation

  A workshop by Mr. Mathur from the Vision India Foundation exposed students to the great potential of careers in policy making. He asked students to address pertinent questions about themselves and encouraged them to identify the nature of the problems they want to solve and finally identify the paths to solve them. A decision framework useful in this regard was introduced. He also encouraged students to go through an Ikigai exercise to find their reason for being.

This was followed by a case study in policy analysis of the RTE policy. The major steps involved in the analysis are

  1.      Verify, define and detail the problem
  2.      Establish evaluation criterion
  3.      Identify alternative policies
  4.      Evaluate alternative policies
  5.      Display and distinguish among alternative policies
  6.      Monitoring and implementing the policies

The complete details of the policy analysis case study can be found here.

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