Schedule – Day 1
09:00-10:00 First Keynote
10:00-12:00 Education (panel topics below)
Liberal Arts and Conservative Societies:
- Should Indian colleges embrace the liberal arts?
In light of the massive popularity and success of four-year liberal arts colleges in the US, should India take another look at its rigid, focused, career-oriented college system?
How have recent attempts to bring liberal arts into the country, through programmes such as DU’s four year program and new colleges such as the Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities fared in today’s India?
- No Smart-boards vs. No Students
How do we bridge the gap in public and private primary education?
Even as private primary schools become more technical and more expensive, the state of government-run primary schools continues to stagnate: a 2013 Annual Status of Education Report revealed that 53% of Class V students could not read a Class II-level text. How do we respond to the devastating problem of deficient primary education? Can the government effectuate change through programmes such as Tamil Nadu’s midday meal scheme, do we need a more active non-profit sector through NGOs such as Pratham and Teach for India, or does the future lie in disruptive public-private partnerships?
- Quitting College to become a Billionaire
Does India do enough to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in its colleges?
Inspired by visions of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley (or simply looking to turn their world-changing ideas into reality), college students across the country are becoming more entrepreneurial and more innovative, creating start-ups and starting businesses. Is our unwillingness to take risks holding innovation back? How do we create and stimulate a start-up culture in our collegesi?
- Passing Exams, Failing Life
Is the Indian exam-oriented evaluation system broken? With a population of 1.2 billion, evaluating students in schools becomes more and more about ranking and weeding people out, as opposed to identifying and building on students’ strengths. Does the CBSE’s struggle with Continuous, Comprehensive Evaluation mean that India’s exam-oriented system is the only option we have, given resource and time constraints? How do we get students to understand, enjoy and question the things they are learning, as opposed to memorizing endless lists for a test?
- The Long Road to School
What can we do to increase accessibility and quality of schools in rural India?
Children in rural India face unique challenges in getting to school: they face the tantalizing alternative of earning a living for their family by working on the farm, the schools dotting the landscape are inaccessible and often unhygienic, without functioning toilets or drinking water. What policy initiatives can we take to tackle these hard problems?
13:00-15:00 Politics (panel topics below)
- One Country, Two Choices?
Is a non-BJP, non-Congress government ever going to be feasible?
More than 60 years after Independence, two political parties continue to dominate the national political sphere. Is it possible for regional parties to ever come together and serve as a feasible Third Front? Where would a third party stand on the political spectrum? Given the historic defeat that the Congress suffered in 2014 and hope around the Aam Admi Party, what does the future look like for non-Congress, non-BJP hopefuls?
- Politicians and the People
How can the Indian government be made more accessible?
Politics in India desperately needs more transparency in order to ensure that citizens remain involved in democratic workings, that politicians are held accountable and wasteful bureaucracy is eliminated. How can we move towards a more transparent system? Can non-political government employees also be more accessible than they are today?
- Dealing with the Neighbours
Should India play a more active geopolitical role in the Indian subcontinent?
Throughout history, large countries have tried to expand their economic, political and military ties with neighbouring countries in a bid to create independent spheres of influence. In contrast, India’s ties with its neighbours are minimal, despite being the largest country in the region in economic and military terms. What can India do to increase trade and expand ties with other countries in the subcontinent? Should it continue with its doctrine of non-interference, or should it play a more assertive role in the region? How does India’s attitude affect terrorism, democracy and expansionism in other countries?
- Talking Politics
How can political discourse in India be improved?
Speeches by politicians campaigning before elections are chock-full of ad hominem attacks and accusations, advertisement campaigns and interviews repeat superficial stock phrases and news channels prefer shouting matches over meaningful discussion of politics. Given that deep, policy-based discourse about politics is necessary in developing public opinion, how can discussion and debate in and about politics be taken to a higher level? Are US-like policy-based debates between representatives of political parties feasible to create greater awareness of differences between political parties? What can the media do to probe and question politicians’ claims while still allowing for intelligible discussion?
- Hello, World
What role should India play on the world stage?
India’s policy of non-alignment has historically meant that it has punched below its weight internationally. Can India ever aspire to be a world power while still receiving aid from other countries, while still attempting to be as non-interventionist as possible? Should India try to form closer ties with other developing countries to collectively champion their interests? Going ahead, what should India’s ideal foreign policy look like?
15:00- 16:00 Tea Break
16:00-18:00 Culture (panel topics below)
- Moving Beyond Munni:/Munni, Misogyny and the Movies
How can the Indian film industry embrace social responsibility?
Given the popularity of Bollywood movies conveying meaningful messages, such as the commentary on education in 3 Idiots, should the entertainment industry pay more attention to the messages in the movies? How could such changes be incorporated into entertainment without making it didactic? Does skewed female representation and item numbers contribute to the rape culture? How can the film industry be used as a tool for social improvement, given its massive popularity and reach?
- Curating India’s History
How can India preserve its unique cultural heritage in the 21st century?
For a young democracy, India has millennia of incredible history. Nonetheless, maintaining monuments and preserving works of art, literature, and other forms of creativity and expression requires financial investment and a knowledgeable and dedicated staff. Where does preserving elements of our history fall in our priorities as a nation? What are other non-traditional ways to maintain traditional arts? In the spirit of entrepreneurial growth, are there more markets that can be explored while harnessing the skills of traditional artists?
- Words Will Never Hurt Me
When can censorship and limits on free speech be justified in India?
In a country as diverse as India, it is naturally necessary to accept and respect different belief systems, traditions and lifestyles. But does this necessity give the government the power to restrict freedom of speech and expression? What makes statements issued offensive, dangerous, or problematic enough for them to be censored? And what do events like the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s controversial book on Hinduism, violence in the wake of comments on social media and the ensuing comments and actions of politicians and bureaucratic officials portend for the future of free expression in India?
- Not All Fun and Games
Should India host international sporting events?
India, as a developing country, faces myriad problems demanding our attention and resources. Should India direct attention and funds to sports when the money can be used for more pressing problems such as poverty? Within sports, does the disparity between the popularity of cricket and other sports reflect our preferences as Indians, or should the government attempt to popularize other sports by hosting events such as the FIFA Under-17 Football World Cup? How do we navigate bureaucratic delays, corruption and lack of infrastructure to successfully host events that we want to?
- More Artists or More Dentists?
Are the arts a viable career choice in India?
A career as a professional artist— whether as a musician, a dancer, a painter or a writer—is popularly believed to be a risky and monetarily unstable option. What is it really like? Should parents encourage their kids to take up arts as a career? What can we do to increase the viability of arts, to ensure that we continue to pass on these arts?
18:00- 19:00 Second Keynote
Schedule – Day 2
09:00-10:00 First Keynote
10:00-12:00 Society (panel topics below)
- We’ve Got 377 Problems, And The Law Is One
What does the future hold for the Indian LGBTQ community?
While the LGBTQ community celebrated the Supreme Court decision recognizing important rights for transgenders, there is much to be done in terms of acceptance and respect for LGBTQ people in Indian society. The law still stands as a barrier, with laws such as Section 377 forcing the community to live in fear and secrecy. How do we reconcile the criminalization of homosexuality with the commitment to providing equality before the law to all citizens, as well as the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity?
- Unifying Diversity
How can India combat racial, ethnic and religious divisions in society?
History texts often cite the struggle for freedom against the British and the rise of large-scale transportation systems as overriding factors contributing to a sentiment of Indian nationalism. However, with more publicized incidents of racial discrimination against northeast Indians, religious discrimination and the ever-present ‘north Indian – south Indian’ stereotypes, it is worth asking: what is the essence of being an Indian? With the religious, racial, and linguistic diversity that we possess, can we truly craft an inclusive, unique Indian identity? In other words, how can we overcome the diversity that we possess and encourage meaningful dialogue between different groups?
- Yes, Ma’am!
What are the challenges facing successful professional women in India?
Whether in politics, sports, entrepreneurship or law, the number of women in top positions continues be far lower than their proportion of the population. What formal and hidden barriers do women face, especially in positions of power? Are reservations and quotas likely to help increase representation? How can we as a society ensure that we benefit from the talents of one half of the population?
- Courting the Law
Should Indian social movements attempt to use the legislature or the courts to advance their cause?
Every time a movement in society seeks a change in law, they have a choice—they can either try to fight cases in the courts and affect change through the judiciary, or they can try placing pressure on politicians to enact laws. LGBTQ organizations such as the Naz Foundation have gained success in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that forced the government to recognize the transgender population; yet failed to overturn Section 377. On the other hand, well-orchestrated, large social movements such as ‘India Against Corruption’ have also demonstrated their efficacy in directly pressurizing the parliament into taking action. Which is a more democratic and successful method of achieving change?
- Reservation and Regression
Should socio-economic affirmative action replace identity-based affirmative action?
A long history of oppression as well as well as continued disadvantages have been argued to justify caste-, religion- and gender-based reservations in Indian institutions. But who do these reservations really benefit? Does an alternative system of reservations based on economic status better serve to uplift the condition of the least advantaged in society?
12:00- 13:00 Lunch
13:00-15:00 Economics (panel topics below)
- A Tale of Two Indias
How can India tackle income inequality?
India is a country of opposites, with multimillion dollar mansions and congested, overpopulated slums occupying the same neighbourhood. What causes this exponential income inequality in India and how can the Indian government tackle it? Is there an opportunity cost to reducing income inequality? Many academics suggest that a zero income inequality comes with its own set of problems—should tackling economic inequality be a priority at all?
- The Economics of Rural India
What are the problems facing rural India today?
According to the census, nearly 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas—yet discussion about infrastructure, job opportunities and governance in these regions is massively deficient. How can better supply chains, physical infrastructure and financial institutions improve life in rural India? What can the government do to incentivize development and improvement in rural regions? Can agriculture be modernized and developed, or does India’s economic future lie in other sectors of the economy?
- Sovereign, Socialist Republic
Has India’s socialist fixation held the country back?
Immediately after independence, it was decided that the country would follow broadly socialist ideals, with the government leading the commanding heights of the economy. Is India’s economy still fundamentally socialist, or have we moved onto a far more capitalist system? Can problems such as corruption and crony capitalism be traced back to this move? Have socialism and redistribution succeeded in their basic goal of improving the life of the average Indian?
- Red Tape and Regulation
What can India do incentivize business?
India ranks 134th in the “Ease of Doing Business” rankings compiled annually by the World Bank. Dense bureaucracy, endless red tape and anachronistic laws all contribute to a business environment that ranks among the least conducive for entrepreneurship. How can India improve the ease of doing business, encourage foreign investment and foster start-ups? Can necessary regulation be balanced with easy business opportunities in the Indian context?
- Jumping Ahead
Which sector of the economy shows the most promise in India?
India is widely considered to have sprung from an agricultural economy to a service-based one, whereas many other countries such as South Korea and China have placed significant emphasis on their manufacturing sector. Has India’s jump hurt its economic prospects? Going forward, what can India do to develop all three of its sectors, and which one should government policy choose to emphasise?
Tea Break and Career Fair
15:30- 17:00 Above and beyond (panel topics below)
- Profiting from Non-Profits
How do NGOs and the government interact in tackling India’s issues?
As the Indian government struggles to deal with the myriad problems facing Indian society today, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charity workers have done an impressive job of trying to fill in the gaps. Which issues are NGOs most effective at tackling, and how can the government incentivize the creation of such organizations? What role do international organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or Amnesty International play in the Indian scenario? Should India still accept developmental and humanitarian aid, and how can funds best be channelled to the most effective NGOs?
- 1.2 Billion and Growing
How can India tackle and leverage its rapidly growing population?
India is on track to become the world’s most populous country. Is this population an asset, that allows us to compete with cheap labour on the international market? How do leverage this population growth, to ensure productive employment and economic growth? Simultaneously, how do we deal with the growing pressure on resources, increasing crime and environmental issues that arise as a result of a population explosion?
- Science and Society
What should India do to improve science and research in the country?
An IIT grad founded SUN Microsystems, a graduate from the Manipal Institute of Technology is the CEO of Microsoft and the science and technology departments of the world’s top universities are full of Indians. How can India create an academic environment that combats brain drain, encourages research and incentivizes scientific development? What kinds of research does India require the most going ahead? How can scientific development and modernization be balanced with traditional practices and ways of living?
- Ayurveda and Antibiotics
How can India meet the healthcare needs of its citizens?
India’s healthcare system is underfunded, overburdened and inaccessible for large sections of its population. Can private healthcare ever be accessible to people living in poverty and in rural regions? Are alternative medicine and innovative technologies possible solutions? What lessons do India’s successes in generic medicine and surrogacy hold for other sectors of healthcare?
17:00- 19:00 Case Competition
19:00- 20:00 Closing Keynote and Signing of Pledge