Pune: Symbiosis Law School, Pune, a constituent of Symbiosis International University, Pune, and Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), Pune, jointly organized, the Late Shri B.G. Deshmukh Memorial Lecture, 2016 on the topic-“Two Ideas of India” at SVC Auditorium, Viman Nagar, Pune on the 23rd August.
This Annual Public Lecture Series has been instituted in the honor of Late Shri B. G. Deshmukh, IAS, Former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. The basic objective behind the launch of this Annual Public Lecture Series is to explore and enlighten the youth and public on the challenges in governance in India.
The program began with lighting of the lamp. This was followed by garlanding of Late Shri B. G. Deshmukh’s photograph by the dignitaries on the dais.
Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, Fulbright Scholar, Director, SLS, Pune, Dean, Faculty of Law, SIU, in her welcome address spoke about the significance of good governance. She said that SLS has a knowledge partnership with PCGT, an NGO, offering beyond class room learning. She said that the need of the hour is not just to ignite the passion for debate, but to reform the entire system for good.
Addressing the gathering, Dr. Rajani Gupte, Vice Chancellor, SIU said that the rural-urban divide is not only seen in India, but also in international sphere. She urged that it is essential to reap the demographic dividend in order to achieve social harmony.
Padma Bhushan Dr. S.B. Mujumdar, Chancellor, SIU, in his address expressed his admiration for the literary talents of Dr. Mehta. Calling him a ‘one-man university’, Dr. Mujumdar praised his enlightening and erudite articles.
Mr. Atanu Chatterjee, Member, Advisory Board, PCGT, Pune Chapter, introduced PCGT and the Public Memorial Lecture. He threw light on the mission of PCGT which is to promote transparency in governance. He concluded by stressing upon the significance of bringing into light relevant issues in the sphere of public governance.
Air Marshal Anil Trikha, Member, PCGT, Pune Chapter, threw light on Late Shri B.G. Deshmukh’s life and apprised the audience on how Mr. Deshmukh tirelessly worked for the creation of transparency and accountability in various administrative activities of government.
This was followed by the felicitation of Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President, Centre for Policy Research by Padma Bhushan Dr. S.B. Mujumdar andHon. Justice Mohan Peiris, Former Chief Justice & Attorney General, Sri Lankaby Dr. Shashikala Gurpur.
Introducing the theme and keynote speaker Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Mr. S. C. Nagpal, Chairman, PCGT, Pune Chaptertold the audience that Mr. Mehta, a graduate from Oxford in Philosophy, Economics and Politics and a Ph.D. from Harvard hastaught in the NYU Law School, Harvard University and authored a number of books on the Indian Political Economy.
Dr. Bhanu Mehta in his Key Note Address spoke about the fault lines emerging in contemporary India and highlighted the need to diagnose the conceptual underpinnings of the same. His essential argument about the duality of ideas in India lay between India as a federation of communities, and India as a zone of freedom. Dr. Mehta exhorted the audience to dissolve the boundaries between the urban and rural parts of the country. Talking about the ideological conflict that exists in India, Mr. Mehta stated that while some say the conflict is between a secular and a communist ideology but the tension in reality exists within us as individuals. Therefore, a contest between majoritarian views of democracy and constitutional views of democracy leads to several other questions including the conflict between diversity and secularity, religion and secularism and so on and so forth. Dr. Mehta stated that such tensions do not capture the moral constitutional issue at stake. He also said that the country’s talk about civilisation and diversity has reached a dead-end. “However, if we evoke the question of diversity alone, it ushers questions about the moral boundaries of this diversity”, he said.
Dr. Mehta relooked the traditional elements of toleration and said that people’s beliefs were not a subject of debate since a gamut of social practices demonstrated that we were tolerant as long as the society stood in place. Thus, the greatest boost to the social mobility era stemmed from the desire to breach boundaries of identity.
Dr. Mehta urged that a society that has been historically subjected to deep violence and injustice, will have to take into account axes around which people are subjected to injustice in order to remedy the same.
Dr. Mehta also spoke of the proliferation of people’s identities. He stated that when identities become publically actionable facts, the problem for toleration arises. Further, he elucidated that the traditional conceptualisation based on segmentation would not work well for the 21st century. “To defend liberalism in India, simple and intuitive thought is the need of the hour. If you let a seamless flow of freedom run through, all conflicts will flow out by themselves”, he said. Thus, though a balance of power conception is a necessary ingredient of justice, a balance of representation is indeed the fundamental cornerstone.
Dr. Mehta concluded his address by insisting on the need for a new structure of laws that instead of protecting our sentiments, bolsters the spirit of freedom and defends equality. He encouraged law students to take up the challenge of going through constitutional provisions and Fundamental Right judgments and rewrite the same if freedom was the cornerstone and not an identity.
This was followed by an enlightening Question Answer session felicitated by Lt. Gen. Ashok Kapur, (Retd), Member, Advisory Board, PCGT, Pune Chapter and answered by the Chief Guest, Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
The programme came to an end with the vote of thanks delivered byDr. Bindu Ronald, Deputy Director, SLS, Pune.
The programme was given a fitting conclusion with the singing of the national anthem.
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