January 7, 2019

India Ideas Conclave 2018 – Citizens’ Manifesto: Churn of Ideas

As narrated in the Bhagwata Puranathe Cosmic Ocean was churned in order to obtain amrita – the nectar of immortal life, similarly the fifth India Ideas Conclave hosted by India Foundation on 26 – 28 October, 2018, led to a churning of ideas and ideals of the Indian intelligentsia from varied walks of life to obtain a Citizen’s Manifesto, a manifesto of the people, put forth by the people, and created for the people.

The theme for India Ideas Conclave 2018, Citizen’s Manifesto aspired to represent the shared vision of people and produce a blueprint of policies and aims that the citizens’ of the nation envision for themselves in our democratic framework. The quintessence of the summit was highlighted in the 1st Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture on ‘Indian Democracy – Maturity and Challenges’ by Shri Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Government of India.

In its 5th year, India Ideas Conclave, a flagship event of India Foundation moved away from its traditional home base of Goa to the politically charged arena of New Delhi. This three-day mega event witnessed a profusion of intellectuals, thinkers and executors, pervading a wide range of Indian society who gathered to discuss and deliberate on the chosen themes of national unity, inclusive economic prosperity, social equilibrium, accountable governance, and global aspirations of Indian citizens.

Day 1 – October 26, 2018


The inaugural session of the conclave was addressed by Shri Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Government of India; Shri Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, former Prime Minister, Nepal; and Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Shri ShauryaDoval, Member of Board of Governors, India Foundation, delivered the vote of thanks.

Shri Suresh Prabhu, in his welcome address, hoped that the three-day mega event would generate an ocean of ideas on how our democracy should function and how ideas on our polity should be generated and implemented. Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh, spoke on Gandhi’s belief of the ideal lives in Indian villages and compared it to Carlin Ross’s book ‘The Leaderless Revolution’ where the British writer said that technology and education will create an enlightened society which will empower ordinary people to assume power and change politics of the 21st century. He observed that India Foundation’s India Ideas Conclave is a step forward in the same direction of discourse and consensus building. Shri Pushpa Kamal Dahal, former Prime Minister of Nepal, noted that when it comes to generation and dissemination of ideas, the region of South Asia undoubtedly commands a unique place in the world map. He said that a forum like the India Ideas Conclave is in keeping with the same tradition of idea generation.


The Special Keynote Address was delivered by Shri Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi, Sarkaryavah, RSS. In his fluid speech delivered in Hindi, he explored the roots of tolerant India. At the very core of the Indian way of life, he said, is the parivarbhavna, and it is this culture of familial existence that inculcates the value of compromise in individuals. This values of compassion and compromise deeply ingrained in us makes us a tolerant society and India a secular nation. He emphasized that the idea of dharma in individuals is the basis of a society and karma is the kendrakinduor the central point of Dharma. Both must be wed to each other to create a fulfilling life.

For the year 2018, the four categories of Swarajya Awards were given to four extraordinaire Indians who went beyond their call of duty to serve the Indian society in their own distinct ways. Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa was awarded the Dr.Syama Prasad Mukherjee Award for employing his excellent management skills to India’s defense forces and ushering a new age for the Indian armed forces in his term as the country’s defense minister (received by his representatives). Dr V. AnanthaNageswaran, Dean of IFMR Business School, KREA University was awarded the Dr. B R Shenoy Award for his significant contributions towards ideas to find the right balance for a sustainable economy. Bestselling author Amish Tripathi was awarded the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award. His books have given a bold subtext to ancient Indian texts, revered through the ages. He remains a unique link between India’s cultural past and a fast-evolving present. Shri LobsangPhuntsok, founder of Jhamse Gatsal Children’s Community was conferred the Sree Narayan Guru Award for his relentless efforts in changing lives of India’s future generations in one of the most far flung regions of India.

The celebrated Indian poet Shri Kumar Vishwas delivered the evening performance. His satirical performance on contemporary Indian life displayed his genius in poetry and humor, and also his command over the languages of Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit.

Day 2 – October 27, 2018



The moderator of the session, Shri Prafulla Ketkar, Editor, Organiser, said that people’s aspirations have evolved from electricity, roads and water to health, education, caste and regional aspirations and the Delhi-based media must give up their agendas to keep up with the citizens’ aspirations. Panelist Shri Sehzad Poonawala, political activist, Indian National Congress, noted how social media has democratized the media ecosystem in India today and Ms. Malavika Avinash, joint spokesperson, BJP Karnataka, commented on the disconnect of English media channels with regional issues of India. In-charge of the BJP IT Cell, Shri Amit Malviya, spoke on how the media becomes a stakeholder in governance because it is responsible for carrying the feedback from grassroots to the legislature. Ms. Marya Shakil, political editor of the CNN News 18, spoke on how media’s responsibility isnot consensus building, but bringing in diverse views and the executive editor of programming, AAJ TAK, Ms. Shweta Singh, explained how journalism can never be bad – it is either good journalists or bad journalists.


Shri Ashok Malik, press secretary to the President of India, moderated the session. Shri Pavan K Varma, National General Secretary, JDU said that the unity in India is based on the common civilizational legacy. He observed that there remains conflict between tradition and law, and only in the course of resolving the conflicts will the nation evolve. Shri Sajjad Lone, MLA, Jammu and Kashmir, spoke on how the idea of Indianness and nationalism is an evolving concept. Shri Baijayant Jay Panda, former MP, said, if we are unable to provide jobs to the tens of millions of our people and we are unable to gainfully engage large section of Indians then national unity will be at serious threat. On the agenda for national unity, Shri Naresh Gujaral, MP said that it is imperative that the forces or individuals who question the diversity of India or whose actions create a sense of fear in the minds of our minorities must be dealt with firmly, irrespective of the office they occupy, the position that they hold or the party that they belong to.


Delivering the First Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeee Memorial Lecture, on the theme ‘Indian Democracy – Maturity and Challenges’, Shri Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Government of India paid rich tributes to Shri Vajpayee saying that he is one of the tallest leaders in post-independence India. He said, “Probably one of the greatest orators that India has seen. A product of parliamentary democracy, a man who always measured his words, a man who had the capacity to place national interest higher than his own party interest. And of course, an excellent poet who used the facility of language that he possessed to pierce and penetrate every point that he wanted to make. His era spread through generations. And decade after decade, millions of Indians would throng at various places only to hear him.” He said that but for contribution of Vajpayee in creation of

an alternative ideological pole in Indian politics, India’s parliamentary democracy would have been incomplete. Shri Jaitley also spoke on the challenges of Indian polity including achieving faster growth, eliminating terrorism and corruption. He also spoke on secularism and separation of powers under the Indian constitution.



Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Railways and Coal, Government of India, in his key-note address, spoke of government’s initiatives to make India’s economic growth a more inclusive phenomenon. From the Jan DhanYojna, which successfully managed to make financial services accessible to the Indian masses to the AADHAR scheme of providing unique identification to the last man in line, the last few years have witnessed a plethora of government led reforms aiming at equitable development in India. The moderator of the discussion on inclusive economic prosperity was Shri ShauryaDoval. One of the panelistsDr. Ila Patnaik, Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, addressed the needs of the demographic dividend to get access to capital, to finance and execute their ideas. Shri V. AnanthaNageswaran, Dean, IFMR Business School, KREA University, emphasized on the access to credit and working capital for medium and small businesses and the farm sector. Shri Satish Marathe, part-time Director, Reserve Bank of India and patron ofSahkari Bank, spoke of the need for financial literacy in the country; and Ms. Shamika Ravi, Member of the

Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and Director of Research at Brookings India, suggested that the human capital should be at the center of any policy to make it a success.


Shri Sanjay Paswan, Member of Legislative Council, Bihar, in his key-note address, spoke on the caste conundrum and identity doctrine playing pivotal role in social engineering and political maneuvering. He said that sectional identity has totally tarnished the image of larger identity in India and so it becomes essential to mitigate such dogmatic deficit for maintaining balance and ensuring social equilibrium in Indian society. The moderator of the session Raghavan Jagannathan, Editorial Director of Swarajya Magazine, intermediated an interactive session between the participants and the speaker wherein the significance of women empowerment and representation in society was discussed in the context to achieving the said equilibrium.
Shri Makarand Paranjape, Director of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, said that as a political society we should move from reservation to respect and recognition because non-recognition and disrespect creates a lot of social disharmony; and Shri Raja Shekhar Vundru, Principal Secretary of Women & Child Development Department, Government of Haryana, discussed how reform movements have long been a part of Indian history with the bhakti movement and anti-sati campaign as prominent examples.


In this session, Shri Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of UP was in conversation with Shri Swapan Dasgupta, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha on agenda for good governance.

Shri Yogi Adityanath said that dialogue is the biggest strength of democracy and the India Ideas Conclave reinforces this into reality. He observed that the biggest rule of governance is adherence to the principles of democracy, in which government without any discrimination manifests its policies to all classes in society. The Chief Minister said that the first step to good governance and development should be social security in the state which works on the model of protection for all and appeasement for none without any discrimination on the lines of caste and religion. Further, he underscored the importance of technology in making the government system transparent and accountable and therefore checking corruption in the state. Providing example of good governance, he mentioned the ‘One District One Product’ initiative undertaken by the Uttar Pradesh government that advances the Gandhian thought of self-reliance and skill development. In his concluding remarks, he invited everyone to Uttar Pradesh for the spiritual celebration of our national heritage in the Kumbh Mela 2019.


Shri S. Prasannarajan, Editor of Open Magazine moderated the session on citizens’ agenda and judiciary with eminent panelists Justice Permod Kohli, former Judge of Supreme Court and P.S. Narasimha, Additional Solicitor General. Justice Permod Kohli addressed the question of judiciary encroaching onto the powers enjoyed by the other two pillars of governance. He explained how the Indian Constitution clearly defines the powers of the three structures of governance in India and said that the purpose of separation of powers is to keep checks and balances on each other. Shri P.S. Narasimha focused on the three key words of the Indian Constitution – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Shri Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor to Government of India, chaired the session that featured panelists Shri Priyang Pandey, Political Advisor to Chief Minister of Nagaland and Fellow, India Foundation; Shri Guru Prakash, Assistant Professor at Patna University and Fellow, India Foundation; Shri Devi Dayal Gautam, Assistant Private Secretary to Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India; Ms. Advaita Kala, Author and Screenwriter; Shri Abhinav Prakash Singh, Assistant Professor at University of Delhi; Shri Vikram Sampath, author and Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library; and Ms. Shefali Mishra, senior strategy and public policy professional. The ingenious forum discoursed upon the contemporary role of judiciary, significance of history and campus politics in India.

Day 3 – October 28, 2018


The moderator of the session, Shri Rahul Pandita, author and journalist, commenced the discussion with the critical assessment of the relevance of the fancy terms of inclusive growth and trickle down economy, in contextual reality of deaths due to hunger in the country. On the meta theme of professionals in governance, the panelists presented their views and experiences. Shri Gaurav Goel, Founder and CEO of Samagra, spoke on the working domains for professionals. Ms. Rwitwika Bhattacharya, Founder CEO of Swaniti Initiative, outlined the fundamental difference in the Indian and western democracies wherein the focus of the former is on public service delivery while the latter is on policy making. Shri Rajat Sethi, Advisor to Chief Minister of Manipur and Fellow, India Foundation, attributed the failure of the state to address deep-seated social issues to the sense of adhocism in policy making mired by the bureaucratic interests. Shri TarunCherukuri, co-founder of Indus Action discussed the role of professionals in governance to bridge the gap between the citizen who is actually entitled to the right and the government who wants to realize the spirit of this right.


The keynote speaker, Shri Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Government of India, said that in a constitutional democracy the politics of accountability should be viewed from the lens of the citizens. He elaborated this vision by basing the sustenance of democratic principles on the delivery of goods and services to all the citizens of the country irrespective of caste, class, religion or gender. The minister further remarked that the maxim of SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas is inspired from the very agenda for politics of accountability.

Shri A. Surya Prakash, Chairman of Prasar Bharti, moderated the interactive session with the panelists. Ms. Geetha Kothapalli, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, observed that a combined effort of legislature, executive and judiciary is the only way to endure accountability. Shri Jayaprakash Narayan, founder & General Secretary, Foundation for Democratic Reforms, questioned the accountability of bureaucracy in the backdrop of the feudal sense of power and plunder of resources prevalent today. Ms. Manisha Priyam, political analyst, presented an optimistic view by referring to India as the world’s greatest democracy not just because of the largest number of voters present but because here democracy has a local effect of accountability to it.


Shri G Parthasarathy, former ambassador and Chancellor, Central University of Jammu, spoke on his understanding of India as a civilizational state and not a nation state because the global aspirations of India transcend beyond economic and military power to developing an understanding in the world so as to embraces its diversity. Shri Sanjaya Baru, author and journalist, proposed that today the investment in education is becoming the foundation stone for development and so India needs to pursue human development in order to fulfill its global aspirations. Shri Amish Tripathi said that people rally around a dream, a narrative, a story that inspires greatness and hence India should play to its strengths; for example, reviving the power of the pagan culture that can be traditional and liberal simultaneously. Shri S Jaishankar, former Foreign Secretary, Government of India, observed that in an increasingly nationalistic world it is critical that we lead the world right, hence stepping up and taking responsibilities becomes an important part of aspirations.


The keynote speaker, Shri Satyapal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Government of India, said, peace is natural and conflict is a disturbance, a removal from the natural. He mentioned that in our rituals, we chant Shanti Shanti Shanti – thrice because the foremost objective of man is to have peace – individual, societal and global. The minister further said that security, prosperity, inclusivity, charity, dignity, and divinity in society will lead to the restoration of peace. Following this address, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of The Print, Shri Shekhar Gupta, introduced four strategic points that are non-negotiable for India – India’s current borders should not shrink; India’s pre-eminence in the immediate region should be maintained and this region should keep on increasing; globally India’s position should keep rising; India’s control of its strategic assets which is the nuclear weapon, modes of delivery should be under no threat and also advance with time. Shri Vikram Sood, former Secretary in Cabinet Secretariat spoke of the paradox of the world order where peace will be possible only with the capacity to make war with military self-sufficiency. He further elaborated on how the global arms and security industry cashes on the vulnerabilities of nations. Shri Arvind Gupta, Director of Vivekananda International Foundation spoke of the primary drivers of instability – climate change, geopolitical power equations, and inequality in globalization. He indicated that the analysis of disharmony is limited and hence the discipline of peace and conflict studies should be encouraged.

In the valedictory address, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (IC) for Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India said, “Great ideas give rise to beneficial social, economic, political movements.” He further stated how powerful ideas result in great institutions and developments. He remined, that in 2020, India will be celebrating 70 years of the adoption of the Constitution of India; in 2022, India will be celebrating 75 years of independence; India is today the world’s largest democracy and the fastest growing economy.
The minister observed that those who contributed to the evolution of the idea of India – Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, and DeenDayal Upadhyay saw this development coming. He remarked, “In fact, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, they echoed the work of these great men who hadsought sarvodaya through antodaya, or leaving no one behind in the race to progress. That to me is the new idea of India.”

(This report is carried in the print edition of January-February 2019 issue of India Foundation Journal.)


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