5th October, 2012
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts (SSLA), in collaboration with Dr. Dileep Padgaonkar (RK Laxman Chair, Symbiosis International University) in its endeavour to stimulate and foster meaningful debate on issues relating to the current Indian scenario, has launched a series of public lectures titled ‘Between the Lines: Interpreting India’. These lectures, open to anybody inclined to be a part of the growing Indian social consciousness, are conducted by eminent speakers from around the country. One speaker will be invited each month, with the topics ranging from the political to the psychological.
The first of these lectures was taken by Dr. Zoya Hasan, whose astute abilities as a political analyst has illuminated our national debates for decades. Dr. Hasan is Professor of Political Science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and has held several prestigious scholarly posts at universities worldwide. After her lecture, Dr. Hasan was joined on stage by Dr. Suhash Palshikar, Professor of Political Science at the Pune University.
In her lecture, titled ‘Democracy and the Politics of Equality in India’, Dr. Hasan highlighted the tensions that exist in our democracy, why they exist and what we can do to correct them. While acknowledging the immense success of the Indian democratic story, Dr. Hasan urged that we tackle the growing inequalities head on and not ignore them or brush them aside, to be dealt with by the way. She succinctly stated the inequalities in the social, political and economic spheres, maintaining that any system of political economy which leads to a widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots must be looked into, investigated and seriously reconsidered.
In her discussion with Dr. Palshikar, She spoke insightfully on the various economic reforms announced by the UPA II government in the past couple of weeks and stated emphatically that the stress on growth, with the sacrifice on material equality is not the way forward. The government must take on welfare responsibilities, she held, and not merely look to boost growth to strengthen its fiscal health.
Among reforms in the political sphere, Dr. Hasan strongly urged for a fresh look at the electoral process and a need to rectify the political inequalities brought about because of the exorbitant sums required to successfully run an electoral campaign. She argued that state funding of elections will address this issue and should be adopted if we’re to get past these impediments.
The session ended with a dynamic question and answer session with the students and other audience members present from the various Symbiosis institutes and the general public. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Padgaonkar, whose brain child this lecture series is, poignantly reminded those present of the apt setting in which the lecture and discussion had taken place. Pune, and specifically the areas close to the Symbiosis Senapati Bapat road campus has for over a hundred years been host to various important debates and socio-political thinkers, including Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Maharshi Karve and R.D. Dandekar.