November 07, 2011

Takshashila Shala
Vamshi Krishna Amancha

Who the hell are these people? What do they think of themselves? What is it that they want to achieve? Why is it that it is so important for them to achieve that they gave up their high paying government jobs and took this path? What is it that drives these people and what is it that gives them hope that they will be successful? Or are they at least thinking about the probability of success and how long it would take for them to see the results of their efforts?

These are the questions that stormed my mind when I entered Takshashila Shala on 6th Nov, 2011 at IIT Madras, Research Park. To give a brief introduction, Takshashila shala is a group of think tank people, who organize seminars and round table conferences around the country, invite distinguished people in their own fields to speak and educate the people in public policy making. They believe that change can come through better policy making and those policy makers have to be educated.
This is the day’s schedule. There will be talks going on in three rooms and you can chose whichever talk you want to attend. Each talk is of 40 min (20min talk + 20 min Q&A). Five minutes break to move to other room. Talk begins at the gong of the bell and ends with another gong of the bell, no matter what.

The first speaker whose talk I attended was Mr. Raj cherubal. He is a social activist from Chennai. He contested in recent counselor elections in Chennai and lost. His talk mainly contested of his experiences during the elections. There was not even a speck of disappointment for losing the election. But his joy lies in realizing that there are people out there who want better governance. As governance doesn’t affect the old people much, they were demanding money, while the youth who knew about him, took the whole responsibility of campaigning. His campaign team consists of a lawyer, an IT professional, a marketing strategist, etc.. He did a door to door campaign which the contestants from major parties cant even dream of doing for the fear of facing rejections. Also I met two more people who contested for MLA representing Loksatta party (called as Makkal Sakthi). They were very young. They truly represent the idea of youth into politics. One of them is 28 yrs old while the other is even young and recently married. While they both lost in elections, they reasoned saying they took a very late decision to contest in elections and didn’t have enough time to interact with people. Both of them were part of anti-corruption movement in Chennai.
Mr. Raj Cherubal’s lecture began with a very thought provoking question. If you want to join politics, where do you start from? What is the starting point? Also he says that there is a very high market for young intellectual people in parties who realized that only these youth can win elections for them in the future. So, if you want to join politics join a party is what he said.

Next, I attended a lecture titled “righting copyrights” by Mr. Pranesh from Bangalore who works on copyright policies for a software company. He stated some astonishing facts about copyrights. However bad u sing a song, even in a bathroom you are still violating copyrights law. A mere click on “share” button on facebook, a mere re-tweet is a violation of copyright laws. I put my point saying that our civilization would not have reached so far, our tradition and culture would not have carried down for a long time if we bothered about copyrights. Whatever knowledge my father, grandfather, etc impart me is not their own, so they are violating copyright law, it at all there was a law. He agrees and moves further into the topic. Even if we are publishing something giving due credit to author either in an article, a book or merely sharing some one’s status message on facebook you are still breaking the law. Bell rang and the lecture has to be stopped.

I met him at the end of the day and had a small discussion. He concluded saying, “Stop thinking to live a life without violating copyrights law. You just cant. Its better that copyright law be restriced to some areas only.”

Next is a lecture on India’s problems with Sri Lanka. As the speaker Mr. Suryanarayan worked for the fisheris department he restricted his talk to fishery problem between India and Sri Lanka. He mentioned some facts which no one in Tamilnadu, including fishermen and politician would agree. Talk began with narrating a recent prosecution of a tamil Fishermen in a court somewhere near Cochin. Then he explained the historical perspective of the issue and came to the present problem. The problem is this. There is a border line in the sea between Sri Lanka and India. No fishermen are allowed to cross the border. Crossing the line is treated as civil offence and they will be prosecuted by the court. For some reasons, fishing is banned in Sri Lanka. While in India trolls are used which destroyed the entire ecology of ocean and there are no more fish. Despite many requests and warnings by Indian authorities, Indian fishermen began to venture into Sri Lankan sea. They even went so deep into the Sri Lankan territory that coastline of Sri Lanka is visible to their naked eye from their ship. Then Sri Lanka resumed fishery. Now Tamilian fishermen began to cut the fish nets of Sri Lankan fishermen. They didn’t protest. The problem actually began now. Sri Lankan army mistook the Tamilian fishermen for LTTE, began to shoot them and dump their fish into sea. They are not ready to take the risk of arresting these people and enquiring whether they are fishermen or LTTE. This angered the Indian government. But the Sri Lankan government presented the satellite pictures of Indian fishermen crossing the border and entering Sri Lankan territory.

A thought provoking question was raised during the trial of a fisherman. When asked which country he belongs to, he replied that he belongs to sea. He has relatives in Tamilnadu, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Maldives. So which country does he actually belong to? He has no idea about the concept of passport. The reason for treating him as Sri Lankan fisherman is that the ship which carried him was registered under Sri Lankan government.

Next talk was by Mr. Kanchan Gupta, a journalist from Allahabad. He talked on why laws alone cannot work to remove corruption. He began with Gandhi’s violation of salt law with Dandi march. Discussion went on and an idea of second republic discussed. I am entirely new to this idea and have to know more about it. It kind of seemed like substituting a new system in place of present system of governance. Kind of a second republic. Most of the people, including the speaker is in favour of this idea, but he strongly believes that it can never happen, even if there is a provision in constitution for this.

Next was lunch . 65 bucks for south Indian meal, which cant even fit in any corner of your stomach. I remembered Andhra mess.

First talk I attended in afternoon was my Mr. Gautam John. He works for a NGO. He has done lot of research and experiments on how to improve quality of primary education in government schools. He came to a conclusion that contract teachers and incentives for teachers are the only way to improve the quality of primary education.
Then was a talk by Mr. Vijayanand from loksatta(makkal sakthi) party on his experiences in political engagement. He was a businessman in USA. He gave up the business, came to India and joined Makkal Sakthi party. He spoke about his activies in the party and the response of people from different parts of Tanilnadu. He introduced to the two youngsters who contested in elections in Chennai and lost about whom I mentioned earlier. After the talk , I met these people and enquired about the fate of Anna Library. They said that they have filed a case in court and the court has issued stay order in converting Anna library to hospital. Then has a small discussion about RTI issues, as they had a lot of experience in sector.
Talk by Mr. Sameer Wagle was on private equity and entrepreneurship. He gave some suggestions regarding decision making in choosing a company to invest, when to withdraw, when to put up the company for public listing etc..

Final talk of the day I attended was by Mr. B. Raman. I entered the talk 2 mins late so I wasn’t sure of his qualifications. He should have been retired from a very high position in the security division of India. His talk was different. He did not encourage Q&A session. He said it would waste time in answering silly questions. So he spent the entire 40 mins on the talk. He came up with an disappointing fact. Every security failure in the country is because of Intelligence failure but not because of smartness of terrorists. He says we don’t have advanced technology, don’t have enough resources, no necessary finance, and more importantly the recruitment process is not providing the best people. He urged for a change in recruitment process, but it was never achieved. He spoke about the glory of intelligence in their ability to look 30 years ahead and make strategies. The success of formation of Bangladesh was given to Intelligence who saw cultural, geographical, economic differences between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. This helped in formulating in an idea to separate to nations. Also he gave the credit to Indian intelligence which along with Russia helped Americans to win in Afganistan.

All talks were ended by 5:40pm. I had some interaction with Mr. Pranesh regarding copyrights and also with Nitin Pai, the brain behind this entire concept of Takshashila. He said, at present they are concentrating on conducting these talks to educate people, to bring cutting edge discussions among people on strategic affairs and policy making. They are offering a 12 week course on public policy making, starting from January first week. Its an online course. First batch begins in January 2012. In the long run, they are planning to establish a university which educates people on the policy making.

Party at Bike & Barrel. After a brain storming day, I expected to relax there. But to my disappointment, I didn’t find even one person from fairer sex on a Sunday night at a pub. I came back to campus with a friend, Rajender from Nellore, working at converges in Hyderabad. He said something that I couldn’t argue anymore. He said,
“Don’t hate people who try to discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, creed, location. They are just ignorant fools who can’t understand that these things are of no value. Be human. Show some sympathy”

At the end of the day I felt it is a very long run, but someone has to run. And these people have begun the run. Takshashila shala deserves the name.
P.S: I have put my flowing memories and thoughts on the paper. So there might be chances of typo errors or wrongly framed sentences. Please ignore them.

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