A Rich and Rewarding Experience

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What became the biggest takeaway from the Parliamentarian Youth Conclave was the insight into our immensely complex country and the issues it faces

We are, of course, delighted with the grand success of the Parliamentarian Youth Conclave. It was a Sunday, and we had been keeping our fingers crossed about how many people would come… but what a turnout! The largest banquet hall in town was packed. There was buzz from the time of registration of the delegates itself, which was a happy beginning. But what amazed me more was that despite being a full day at the Conclave, with just a 30-minute lunch break in between, the crowd did not seem to have had enough of it. A good majority who were there from the morning had stayed back till the end.

We had been preparing for the event for a long time. Initially it was to be held in early February, in fact. But the date clashed with the elections in five states, and most of our guests had their respective political duties and could not find time. But I must say that though elections are over, the guests still had their work, and yet, they turned out in full strength. This just shows the respect and affection that Parliamentarian has earned over the past two years of our existence.

I do not want to try the readers’ patience by saying who all came and what they said. That is all over this edition of the magazine. What I want to underscore is that it was a very rich experience. The issues we had drawn up were ours, but the depth of the discussions was the result of the in-depth knowledge of the speakers on their respective subjects. The sweep of the talks was majestic. And despite the fact that the moderators were not out there to wax over issues, none of the speakers flinched at hard questions, and they all answered upfront.

What emerged in the end is a beautiful and complex tapestry of India’s current realities, from unsporting sports federations who are unrepentant; to women’s empowerment not making much headway; to an education system which needs urgent addressing; the need to empower non-government organisations like Sulabh International to handle sanitation across the country; or to enhance the power situation; the burning issues of the country were discussed in all earnest.

As I sat through the sessions, two of which I moderated, I was wondering at how vast a country we have, how complex the issues and could not fail to admire those who had the onerous task of getting it all done. It is easy to slam the politicians, but only when you meet them in person and have good discussions do you get to understand them.

Ours is not a country that can be easily understood. Just one small example, and things will be clear: if all the speakers were to speak in their mother tongues instead of in Hindi, and if members of the audience were to ask the questions in theirs, the Conclave would have turned into the Tower of Babel. The cultures of different communities are so distinct that no two communities have the same perspective on where the toilet should be in their homes. This issue came up during Latur reconstruction. Mind you, please do not think of those staying in big cities, where cultures have got somewhat homogenised. Rural India is a completely different ballgame. We dealt with many a critical issue at the Conclave, no doubt. But as far as I am concerned, and I am sure my colleagues and many others will agree, this was the biggest takeaway from the event.

It is but natural that we have decided to carry the discussions at all the sessions unabridged in this edition. That is seven hours of recording that we have used in the following pages.

I am sure there could have been some glitches in the course of the event. But we would like to say everyone improves with time and maturity. Do stay with us!

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