The Student Legislative Council’s delegation went on the Annual Parliament Trip from 9th to 13th December 2019. The delegation consisted of 64 students from all streams and programmes of the institute coming together, united in their enthusiasm for development, policy-making, economics, and management. The SLC organizes this annual trip and chooses delegates on the basis of an application, followed by an interview. Some delegates are from the SLC itself.
The trip has various objectives. The delegates get the opportunity to visit the Parliament and observe the live proceedings, and to meet MPs, policymakers, economists, and social activists.
By organizing the annual Parliament Trip, the SLC aims to broaden the students’ minds on governance and policy-making, thus providing a platform for sharing ideas and solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing our country.
And So It Begins
The delegates reached the national capital on the morning of December 9, while the city was slowly moving into its infamous cold winter. Of course, the notorious and highly discussed Delhi smog was present to welcome us. However, it could not bother us as we had so many places to see and people to meet!
On the first day, we received an incredible talk by Mr Subham Kumar, an IIT Delhi graduate, co-founder of Rashtram School of Public Policy and Director of Vision India Foundation. With lots of charm and story-telling, he shared his experiences in starting the Vision India Foundation, which aims to bring together bright minds who want to reform the country and solve its problems through public policy and various institutional frameworks.
Next, the delegates got a chance to meet Ms Shamika Ravi, who is a former member of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council. When it comes to learning about the Indian Economy, she is the best person to ask as she has done extensive work in her field. She is also the research director of Brookings India, which conducts policy-relevant research and analysis. A significant take away from her session was that a good policy is not just limited to the smartness of ideas, but something that must serve the longer perspective of the economy as well as the society.
The Highlight – Parliament Visit
And the most exciting event of the whole trip came – visiting the Parliament of the world’s largest democracy. It was indeed an experience of a lifetime. When writing about the Parliament one can’t miss out on the tedious security check one has to go through. There was a total of five security checks. The Indian Parliament is, of course, a magnificent building with majestic statues and gardens, all maintained very well. It is unfortunate that they won’t let one carry a camera or a smartphone.
The time allotted to the delegates had been shifted to another two hours and as a result, they got to visit the Parliament museum. Parliament museum, in my opinion, is the epitome of “Indian-ness.” You could see the representation of all the Indian states and cultures. They hold a variety of valuables like gifts from other countries, things that have symbolic significance to the Indian national movement, and statues. One artefact that stands out among all the articles gets a special mention and that’s a tiny rock. This was a rock from the moon gifted to India by the US government. Everyone stood there and marvelled at it like a bunch of middle school students on tour. Finally, everyone was let inside the Lok Sabha.
Inside the Parliament Gallery, one is expected to sit straight and is not allowed to sit with the legs crossed, talk to their neighbour, sneeze loudly or even yawn. Even though sitting in that prescribed form for half an hour is a struggle, the feeling is great and worth it. I, for one, felt immense pleasure sitting there in the gallery and watch the proceedings live.
The next place on the itinerary was Sarvodaya Co-Ed School. Have you ever heard about a Government school that has a swimming pool and a 3D printer? Well, this school under the Delhi government could easily be the personal favourite thing about the trip for many of the delegates. A total of 1100 students study here, most of them from lower-income families. This school is a classic example of how government investment in education can actually bring economically weaker sections forward.
Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings
On the third day, we got an appointment with Mr Suresh Pujari – MP of Bargarh constituency of Odisha. Mr Pujari was energetic and pleasant in nature, and he did not seem to mind the odd time when we all barged into Odisha Niwas. He was also the first parliamentarian we got a chance to meet. The chat was fun and informative. He talked to us about how young people can take part in Politics and contribute to the welfare of our country. He also discussed Indian history, culture, and current affairs.
On the fourth day, we met Mr Adil Zainulbhai, who is an IIT Bombay alumnus and retired Chairman of McKinsey India. He is currently the Chairman of the Quality Council of India, which is a non-profit autonomous movement in India by involving all stakeholders emphasizing on quality standards in all spheres of activities, which primarily aims for promoting and protecting interests of the nation and its citizens.
The second half of the 4th day was spent at the Centre for Civil Society, which is a think-tank based in New Delhi. The meeting was with Mr Parth J. Shah, who has conducted seminars with the previous Parliament trip delegation. I urge all the social change and public policy enthusiasts to check out Mr Shah and his works.
He talked about how public policies are a powerful medium in bringing change. The talk covered various aspects of public policies like the soundness, desirability, and functionality of public policy.
We also got an appointment with Mr Prasanna Acharya, another MP, at the last minute. Mr Acharya is an MP in Rajya Sabha, who is from the Biju Janata Dal party in Odisha. He has worked for the welfare of the farmers in Odisha and we discussed with us all the possible hurdles that could be preventing farmers of rural India from climbing the ladders of social and economic betterment. Mr Acharya also talked about the importance of leadership skills, drawing examples from leaders like Kejriwal, Gandhi, and student leader Kanhaiya Kumar.
The next morning, we had an appointment with Mr Sitharam Yechuri. We were asked to come to the CPI(M)’s Central Party office called A.K Gopalan Bhawan. The central theme of his session was the constitutional crisis the country is facing. He emphasized the significance of students’ union and how we should all use it to gain our rights and to battle inequality that is deeply rooted. He covered topics like nationalism, farmers’ issues, undemocratic practices, the Indian economy and the privatisation of the public sector. Mr Yechuri also recalled his revolutionary days during the national emergency when he was the students union president of JNU. This was one session where almost all the delegates had a question to ask and all of it was from a wide variety of issues.
In Conclusion, Even the Best Things Come to an End
We had an afternoon session that day at the Indian Institute of Dalit studies, which studies about social exclusion and marginality. The session was conducted by economist Mr Sukhadeo Thorat, who was the former Chairman of the University Grants Commission.
He gave a brief account of what the institute does and how they are working to make sure that the marginalised communities are included in the mainstream society and they are not forgotten during while society changes.
We had a conducive discussion on the topic of reservation. Mr Thorat discussed with us the power of education and how it works as a tool to bring SC/SC communities towards social progress.
We had our last meeting at the Constitutional Club of India with Mr Ramchandra Kuntia, who is the General Secretary of Indian National Congress in-charge of Telangana. His primary focus was on labour issues and rights. He discussed various aspects of it, and the discussion was very insightful as it was a topic that we haven’t covered in all our other sessions.
The SLC parliament trip was one fun and prolific experience. The organization requires lots of effort, and the Speaker of student legislative Council has tried his best to make sure that everything is taken care of, including accommodation, travel, and conferences. The five-day trip was a great experience for all of us as we learned new things, met some amazing people, got exposed to new ideas, and, most importantly, widened our minds.