Saturday, February 10, 2018


Yesterday I was the speaker of an opening session at a Two day National Conference on Sustainability by Economics, History, Politics and Public Administration Departments of St. Mira’s College for Girls, Pune. The Conference had Anupam Saraph as the Key-note speaker and it couldn’t have been better. Saraph Sir set the standard of the conference very high at the outset by his candid and upfront discourse that touched upon every possible aspect of sustainability and public policy making. Although many of his statements were debatable and would not be seen in good light by armies of ‘India Today’ by and large, it doesn’t deprive any of it for their merit and logical outlook.

The Four Principles our Constitution’s Preamble is based upon – Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – were emphasized by him throughout his speech as well as in his response to the questions from the audience and his not having a AADHAR card himself proved his standpoint and grit for his belief and position! He went on to invite the audience to visit tool developed to facilitate and send an email to elected representatives of your constituency about any AADHAR inconveniences and issues, in response to a question about it.

Although the Synopsis of the Key-note would be a good idea, I will not dare to do that for two reasons – I might look like a journalist who uses his reporting liberty to twist the statements and facts of a speaker and secondly, I may not be eloquent enough to do justice to what the speaker said, intended and meant. However I must mention three things here that I thought I learnt, or at least looked at from a different perspective in new light and wish that all the young girls in the audience took it to their heart, for these are the citizens of nation that will decide the fate of this largest democracy of the world that would be youngest of the earth by 2020, statistic says!

Citing the reference of ‘(The New) Confessions of an Economic Hitman’, Saraph Sir presented a critic view of so-called development yet maintained not to look like an anti-development protestor activist! Seemingly an anti-Make-in-India perspective, he managed to further the agenda of protecting the environment from pollution and made a commendable effort to bring out the contradictions in the schemes of Make-in-India vis-à-vis Swachh Bharat.

The theory of sovereignty to Common Purposes like an open market where the traders meet to exchange their commodities in excess reminded me of my all-time favourite movie ‘The Green Beautiful’ and I was enlightened with the meanings of Government and Governance and their expected functions as the facilitator of the Public Interest ONLY and not assuming the role of an Agent of Development as there is no agreed or concrete definition of the concept ‘Development’, it being highly subjective.

The best part was concerning the ‘Growth’. Any natural organism has a specific cycle of life governing its ‘Growth’ and beyond a certain point no organic entity ‘outgrows’, be it a human or a tree! If the cells in a body cross the potential of their growth and start multiplying uncontrollably, it is called Cancer – a terminal disease that is out of reach for even the most advanced diagnostics to be detected at early stage or for any remedial science on the planet to cure completely. That’s the reason a ‘successfully’ treated Cancer patient is termed as Disease-free temporarily, not in the pink of health as before.

If unprecedented and rampant growth of any sector or any factor is promised, it is inviting Cancer – is the warning every conscientious, sensible and sensitive human should mind well and it would be desirable to also bear in mind that everything is a trade and you can get something that you don’t have only by trading something that you have! And that’s where the two fundamental questions I keep on advocating come into the picture – ‘Is it worth it?’ and if yes, ‘At the cost of what?’

With such an ideal opening that any conference would desire, followed by open interaction between the Speaker and the audience, I was little bit nervous to follow the suit. And to add to my nervousness, Murphy’s Law took its toll and despite my preparation as usual to counter any situation that might arise, I had to borrow the college laptop for audio-visual elements in my presentation to be effective. However the embedded movie clips in my presentation refused to play with the flow and had to be played independently by temporarily exiting the PowerPoint show, changing the projection and getting back to resume the show by reversing the sequence. So the principle lesson of the session was, henceforth go for a HDMI cable to connect all the audio-visual interfaces of the laptop to the projector in one go!

I represented ‘Shivaji Trail’ once again and I designed and developed my presentation under the main theme of ‘Historical Legacies – Contexts of Public Policy’ to present Shivaji Trail’s endavor of Fort Restoration with an apt title – ‘Restoring Heritage – Dynamics of Preservation’ and I started with... 

“All the subject themes and topics of the conference are too vast to fit in a single 40 minutes session but that is the format of such conferences nobody could get a concession for and I will try my best to present the topic within that timeframe. Being a Student of Architecture, I have inherited the philosophy of ‘Form follows function’ from my mentors and being a Project Management Professional; I prefer experiential ‘hands-on’ learning and hence would take a pragmatic approach than academic. In simple words, I am not here to argue on who or what’s at fault instead I would present what we have done and how it could be seen from a policy making perspective. I can assure you that in the next 40 minutes you would be introduced to many interesting facts that you would love to ponder and act on later.

Historical Legacies are about places and structures – that are tangible as well as people and cultures – that are intangible. And Public Policy and Governance encompasses almost everything including making of a public policy and its implementation. For the purpose of this session of the conference we will discuss only Forts – particularly forts of Maharashtra with reference to Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as the ‘Historical Legacy’ and our experiments with Fort Restoration drives, followed by a quick overview of CSR Act and its provisions.”

After giving a brief account of Shivaji Trail’s journey and need-based initiatives in progress, CSR perspective was presented in a jiffy and then I described a Sample CSR Project of Heritage Restoration. I concluded my presentation with the words, “These are just few outcomes of Single Phase of the whole Restoration Drive and the DPR will take a holistic perspective of the Economic, Environmental, Political and Social aspects of the entire activity to prove that ‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts!’”

Mukund Utpat, my old pal accompanied me for this conference and caught the action on camera and I would prefer not to thank him out of sheer formality but I must admit that I feel indebted for the evening that we had together with another good old friend Sanjay Lahoti to discuss a new project for Shivaji Trail and if you watch this place regularly, you will find the details about it eventually! By the way, it is not the Durg Pooja on Sunday, 25 February 2018 that is set to make history once again...

At the end of the day, although a content feeling of missions accomplished and milestones achieved kept lingering in our minds, we missed the man-of-the-mission Milind in our midst as he was outstation, TIM as he is not with us anymore and the realization and responsibility of answering the call of the captain left us thinking over the ‘Good Night’!

Stay tuned... It’s really a long Way to go!

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