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- Society | The Stephanian Forum
The Stephanian Forum SOCIETY "Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both" -C. Wright Mills Maria Charles Nov 28, 2021 The Power of Harmless Flattery Flattery is a word with a bad reputation, often considered in a negative context. But is it always that bad? Allen Mathew Sep 25, 2021 Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: What is it and how you probably have it. It’s pretty darn dark outside, and raining; I’m in my room, with the fan running and the tube light switched on... Jane Eliza Cyriac Sep 15, 2021 The Impact of COVID-19: Refugees. According to reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every 2 seconds. Drona Sharma Sep 7, 2021 We are Grateful Dear Corona Warriors, greetings on behalf of your anxious yet grateful human family. Renee Jose Nov 8, 2020 We Need To Talk! The increasing dialogues on mental wellness, in lieu of the rising numbers of suicide cases among the youth, has urged many of us to... Jasjeev Singh Sahni Sep 30, 2020 From Desks to Desktops: The Virus’s Undoing of Education The biography of education in India foretells a constant state of flux in the medium of teaching. From the slate-chalk, the blackboard-chalk Aishwarya Mukhopadhyay Sep 25, 2017 Surviving in a Post-Truth World: Shoma Chaudhury on the needs of the times Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Vrinda Sharma Aug 13, 2017 Freedom of Expression and Netiquette Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Shreemayi Samujjwala Jul 30, 2017 Unfetter those words now, shall we? Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... The Stephanian Forum Sep 23, 2016 Comedy is a blood-sport I live to see times when a comedy show that means no harm to any individual, religion, god or the society as a whole, is crucified. To... Pragya Jat Oct 15, 2015 On Secularism and a Happy Co-Existence. Secularism, a term as intrinsic to my understanding of India as electoral competition. But, apparently for some in the current political... The Stephanian Forum Sep 19, 2015 Of gendered spaces and absolute equality. An interview of The SUS President for the year, Aina Singh. The interview team comprises Rishi Bryan (IInd English), Urvi Khaitan (IInd... Vikram Grewal Aug 17, 2015 FIFA 16: Snowballing Feminism into Football. Ignoring the ‘fratricidal’ FIFA wars over Sepp Blatter, the officials at EA Sports gave the masses something unprecedented earlier this... Soumyajit Kar Jul 28, 2015 How much of feminism do we understand? “She feels good when they split all expenses, but also when he buys her flowers. Inside the modern feminist lies an archaic desire.”... Prerna Geeta Manian Jan 10, 2015 Following a Religion- A Façade? “You are a black stain on Hinduism if you love a Muslim man.” “I won’t let you marry a Muslim.” “Muslims are terrorists.” While studying... Soumyajit Kar Dec 16, 2014 Gender and the Epics “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” — Joseph Conrad Hinduism is probably the...
- Politics | The Stephanian Forum
The Stephanian Forum POLITICS "Politics can be a good thing when we bring people to the table to sit down, work together, compromise and get things done for the common good." -Bill Gindlesperger Shilpa Mariam Joseph Apr 18, 2021 India’s Political Landscape is Ideologically Bereft Around the world, right-wing populism is on the rise. Since the mid-2010s, we’ve seen one election after another ending in the victory of... Mariam George Nov 18, 2020 Surface-Level Activism When the very same people who chose to stay quiet during Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate death become overnight ambassadors of mental... Diya Maria Abraham Oct 4, 2020 Dissent, But Make It 2020 Taking dissent online is not a new phenomenon. It has been used by activists in countries where governments are ‘repressitarian’- meaning The Stephanian Forum Jan 19, 2020 Protests: A Plea for Justice or an opposition propaganda? The Stephanian Forum delves into the significance of protests through a cogitative analysis of history. It is a widely held belief that... Debanjan Das Oct 22, 2019 Over-efficiency of Parliament: A dangerous precedent? By Debanjan Das, 1st History. The recently concluded parliamentary session was indeed an eventful one. It was for the first time that the... Devak Namdhari Nov 24, 2018 The Angry Hanuman Devak delves into the history, cultural ties, and the significance of what at first glance seems like an illustration with no political... Gulhaider Zaidi Sep 28, 2018 Brexit: A Convoluted Step Towards Economic Prosperity or Jeopardy? As Prime Minister May and the Conservative Party scramble through the cumbersome Brexit process, it is vital to assess the economic... Eshaa Jain Sep 20, 2018 06.09.2018 One of our editors reflects on the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court, taking a significant step towards the vision of a more equal... Suchintan Das Aug 31, 2018 The Illusion of Democracy In his first article for the Forum, Suchintan reflects on the nature of the world’s largest democracy and questions its deeply rooted... Shreya Mary Abraham Aug 19, 2018 A National Disaster, But the Nation Does Not Seem to Notice Kerala’s picturesque landscape dotted with 44 rivers, 30 tributaries, 42 dams and 1500 km of backwater canals has been ravaged by the... Jaspreet Kalra Aug 18, 2018 Monsoon Session of Parliament: Few Bills, Protests and a No-Trust Vote One of our readers, Jaspreet, pulls back the curtains on the monsoon session of the parliament and looks past the theatrics of the 18... Sehaj Bhatti Jul 20, 2018 Cracks in an Age-Old Alliance: Gauging the Trump-NATO Summit With the two-day summit in Brussels now in the rearview mirror, it is all but clear, that even close allies have lost their patience with... Arshad Muhammed Aug 27, 2017 The Politics of Language Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Aishwarya Mukhopadhyay Aug 6, 2017 When Despotism gets garbed in Democracy Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Archit Jain Jan 17, 2017 Shocking: Ugly Pillow Fight Delays Winter Session of Parliament Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Pragya Jat Oct 15, 2015 On Secularism and a Happy Co-Existence. Secularism, a term as intrinsic to my understanding of India as electoral competition. But, apparently for some in the current political... Arunansh B. Goswami Jul 28, 2015 Politics of Economic Security in Contemporary India Upon an analysis of economic security missions in contemporary India, I was made aware of their various manifestations. In accordance... Urvi Khaitan Jul 15, 2015 Should We Be Upbeat About Ufa? By Urvi Khaitan, IInd History The eyes of the Indian media were drawn more towards the meeting between Modi and Nawaz Sharif, Prime... The Stephanian Forum Feb 9, 2015 The Battle for Delhi By Aniket Baksy - Economics III, Divya Murugesan - Economics III, Prashant Kumar - Economics III and Usman Zafar - B.A. Programme I... Pratishtha Mamgain Jan 25, 2015 Hong Kong – Time For Change? By Pratishtha Mamgain, II year Economics Since September 2014, Hong Kong has witnessed unprecedented widespread protests that reiterate... Roy Joseph Jan 17, 2015 Velvet Glove, but Iron Fist? By Roy Joseph, Economics (Hons.) IIIrd year The Indian Armed forces have protected the frontiers of the country valiantly and... Divya Murugesan Dec 26, 2014 Fighting Bullets with Pens and Ballots On numerous accounts, the popular saying “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” has been proven right, but not as accurately and... Urvi Khaitan Dec 16, 2014 Truths and half truths – A session with Natwar Singh Truth is a dangerous thing, and revealing it to the world, even more so. As a first year in my first month of College, the last thing I... Pallavi Rachel George Dec 16, 2014 Unapologetically Political With Natwar Singh “If I were to change three things in the way the Congress ran the government, I would say a) there should be no corruption b) there... Michelle Cherian Dec 16, 2014 Taxing Tobacco Troubles Prime Minister Modi’s Budget was appreciated for many reasons, one among them being the hike in the prices of cigarettes and other... Pratishtha Mamgain Dec 16, 2014 A golden chance for Myanmar? “Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an... Michelle Cherian Dec 16, 2014 AFSPA: Uncompromising or compromised upon? Close to six decades have passed since Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the tiranga atop the Red Fort signifying India’s tryst with its...
- Stephania | The Stephanian Forum
The Stephanian Forum STEPHANIA To the outside world, Stephen's still remains a mystery. The red brick walls refuse to divulge its secrets and people have their own opinions of this institution. But what does it truly mean to be a Stephanian? What is the true spirit of Stephania? Team Stephania (2020-21) Apr 25, 2021 The trials and triumphs of virtual college: A Stephanian Experience As COVID strikes again, the fear of spending yet another year at home was creeping in. Stephen's still remains a mystery to a majority of th The Stephanian Forum Feb 13, 2020 Bon Appetit It was just another day when First Years were rushing to make it to the Morning Assembly on time, birds were chirping and 8;30 a.m.... The Stephanian Forum Sep 22, 2019 Political Participation in College This study was conducted by our First Year contributors, namely Abhinandan Kaul (I BAP), Debanjan Das (I History), Shagun Tyagi (I... The Stephanian Forum Sep 11, 2019 Of the times of Losing Faith and the need of Breaking the Silence A candid conversation with the SUS President (2019-20), Raman Mohora The interview was conducted on September 3, 2019, by Siddharth... Suchintan Das Aug 20, 2019 The Abuse of History and Making of the Anti-Nation By Suchintan Das, 2nd History The University of Delhi, which is no stranger to controversies, has recently found itself at the centre of... The Stephanian Forum Oct 5, 2017 In conversation with the President Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... Nitish Vasav Sep 15, 2017 Ad Dei Collegium Disclaimer: The Stephanian Forum does not take any institutional position on its content and would like to inform readers that the views,... The Stephanian Forum May 19, 2016 Burning humanity: an appeal. The temperature in Delhi, as I write this, is quite unusual. A molten effervescenve is in the air. Seems like humanity is burning,... Ishita Blest Dec 15, 2015 Onam 2015: a celebration of diversity One can be found whining about the alienation on the part of certain groups in St. Stephens college, and about how cliquey communities... The Stephanian Forum Sep 19, 2015 Of gendered spaces and absolute equality. An interview of The SUS President for the year, Aina Singh. The interview team comprises Rishi Bryan (IInd English), Urvi Khaitan (IInd... Rishi Bryan Sep 15, 2015 Being a Stephanian and not being one. When one writes about St. Stephen’s college these days, one has to do so with extreme caution lest one treads deep into controversial... Urvi Khaitan Dec 16, 2014 Truths and half truths – A session with Natwar Singh Truth is a dangerous thing, and revealing it to the world, even more so. As a first year in my first month of College, the last thing I... Pallavi Rachel George Dec 16, 2014 Unapologetically Political With Natwar Singh “If I were to change three things in the way the Congress ran the government, I would say a) there should be no corruption b) there...
- Semester Snapshots
THE PLANNING FORUM ORIENTATION The Planning Forum’s orientation on August 24, 2023, inaugurated a new year of events for the society by acquainting individuals passionate about Public Policy and Policy-making with the core essence of the society. It started with the introduction of the various events that the Forum holds, like the Alumni Talks, Policy Conclave, Policy Arena, SMUN, Chatrashala, and the like, to familiarise them with the society and its events. They were introduced to the Stephanian Forum, a Planning Forum initiative that offers a creative space and platform for individuals who are eager to express their thoughts and find a voice. Finally, the entertaining trivia round at the end heightened the overall enjoyment as the first years answered questions about the college for a chance to win the chocolate sticks. LECTURE SESSION BY SHRUTI LAKHTAKIA In the digital realm, within the virtual auditorium of the internet, an online lecture emerged as a beacon of knowledge and inspiration. The speaker, Shruti Lakhtakia, an economist at the World Bank and a DPhil in Public policy candidate at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, materialised on screens like a digital sage, ready to embark on a journey of enlightenment. The event aptly themed Academia and Policy: a two-way exchange transported attendees into a fairy tale. As the lecture began, the pixels on the screen danced in harmony with the speaker’s words, casting a spell that transcended the boundaries of physical space. The event commenced with a keynote address of invitee by Yakov George, a member of the Economics Society of St.Stephen’s College. The lecture talk by the speaker emphasised the crucial role of academia in providing evidence-based research to inform policy decisions. She also discussed how academia plays a pivotal role in offering comprehensive research, data and expert opinions to guide effective policy-making. Examples were shared of successful collaborations where academic research influenced policy decisions at local, national and international levels. Collaborations with IDB and IMF were presented. The speaker’s voice, a river of wisdom, flowed with the cadence of a seasoned storyteller, drawing in the virtual audience. With each word, she painted vivid mental landscapes, forging connections across the digital expense. Numerous questions were asked on the diversity of academia and the equitability of crime research in academia. As the lecture reached its zenith, the screen seemed to expand, enveloping the audience in a digital crescendo of inspiration. The knowledge imparted was not confined to the virtual world; it ignited a spark within each participant. The lecture ended with a thank you note by Drishty of the Economics Society who described the lecture as enriching and thought-provoking. And as the lecture concluded, the digital sage bid farewell leaving a trail of luminous insights in their wake. The online lecture, a digital symphony of intellect and imagination, had transformed the screens into gateways to enlightenment, a testament to the boundless power of human curiosity in the digital age THE INAUGURAL LECTURE To raise the bar of excellence of a country even higher the economy contributes a major role and what connects them all strongly is Globalisation. The global economy is innately tied to trade; it allows countries around the world to obtain any resource they may want, whether or not it is produced on the home front. This availability of resources is facilitated through trade. During times of peace, it is beneficial in a global economy, to see other nations succeed. On the other hand, during times of unrest, dependence on outside nations, in a global economy, may seem scary. Due to globalisation and other factors, it is impossible for large industrialised nations to exit the global economy unscathed. Addressing these major issues, the Planning forum at St Stephen's College hosted an interactive session on the 13th of October, 2023 with Mr Auguste Tano kouamé who briefed the audience on the topic "Navigating troubled waters: The Global Economy and India" and gave invaluable insights through his achievements and experiences. He is the World Bank’s Country Director for India and a national of Côte d’Ivoire. He most recently served as the World Bank’s Country Director for the Republic of Türkiye and a Director in the World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group. He also held positions as a Practice Manager in the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Practice of the World Bank, first in Latin America and Caribbean countries and then in the Middle East and North Africa regions. Mr Kouame talked about the substantial decrease in growth of economies in the world and drew a clear picture of the global economy and how it was affected by the pandemic but despite the headwind, India sailed its ship rather smoothly and persevered in the run of development and growth. These enriching thoughts and ideas made the audience more cognizant about the contributions they need to put into making India reach heights unimaginable THE TREASURE HUNT On the sunny afternoon of September 21ST, 2023, Planning Forum Treasure Hunt unfolded on the sprawling SCR lawns. This unique event combined the thrill of a treasure hunt with exploring policy-related themes. Participants eagerly embraced the challenge, demonstrating their enthusiasm for learning and community engagement. Treasure hunts have a timeless appeal, fostering creativity, teamwork, and an innate sense of adventure. The Planning Forum Treasure Hunt sought to channel this spirit, offering participants a day of fun. Through this Treasure Hunt, we aimed to challenge participants with a series of mind-bending puzzles and riddles and to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for all attendees. The college grounds offered a perfect setting for exploration and adventure, with various nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered. The Treasure Hunt saw participation from students across courses. This diversity added a rich layer to the event, fostering interdisciplinary interactions and creating lasting memories for all involved. The Hunt was a resounding success, achieving its objectives and leaving a lasting impact on the college community. Participants bonded over shared challenges, fostering a sense of camaraderie and belonging, which is what matters at the end of the day. CHATRASHALA Held on Sunday, the 3rd of December, Chatrashala proved to be an exceptionally heartwarming occasion. The Planning Forum warmly welcomed children onto the campus to spend a day engaging with and educating them. During self-introductions, we encountered young individuals like Abhinav, expressing the desire to become a chef as they grow older. Abhinav shared tales of crafting chai for grandparents and revealed a steadfast refusal to cook for sisters deemed too mean. This blend of passion in the kitchen and resilience against injustice promises to shape dynamic personalities during their early educational years. Encountering young girls aspiring to become sportspersons underscored the evolving dynamics of youth education, irrespective of gender. The ability of children to dream diversely and ambitiously, unencumbered by limitations, marks a positive shift in youth education. Among the myriad ambitions expressed, from engineers to teachers to doctors, a notable enthusiasm for cricket emerged among many, boys and girls alike. This was attributed to the formation of a cricket team inspiring pride in its multiple victories. Engaging in various games with the children revealed the spirited and energetic nature inherent to kids. Laughter echoed as we participated in activities such as barf aur panni, football, and the hanky game, turning into a nostalgic journey through our own childhood memories. The drawing session, where children and volunteers gathered enthusiastically to depict everything from Doraemon to grape vines and amusing incidents from the event, was a heartwarming reminder of our childhood artistic endeavours. The drawings, each reflecting the unique and vibrant aspects of the children's personalities, contributed to an innocent and heartening atmosphere. As everyone immersed themselves in the art, the session became a showcase of creativity eagerly shared to please.At the end, all children received certificates and chocolates, expressing gratitude for the delightful time they provided and acknowledging their endearing qualities. We remain appreciative of their lively presence, offering a welcome distraction from impending exams and creating one of our most memorable days.
- Education, Elections and Expectations: Student Elections as a Case Study in Psephology
Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed are those of the author/authors’ and are not indicative of views held by The Stephanian Forum and its team. What if we told you that any student election contested anywhere makes for a very interesting case study in democracy and psephology? But before we go on to talk about how, let’s take a trip down the corridors of history and look at another watershed moment. Imagine yourself standing at the turn of an era. India is independent. You have a nearly blank slate. You are the leader of a newly independent India, and the first general elections are around the corner. You have an important decision to make, a decision that will be significant in so many ways, a decision that will decide the trajectory that this new nation will take, a decision that will put down the values and principles that will shape its future: the simple decision of who should have the right to vote. Today, it may strike you as a pretty straightforward question - why, shouldn’t every adult citizen have the right to vote – Universal Adult Franchise – yada yada! It fits so naturally in our vision of democracy that anything otherwise seems unthinkable, even counterintuitive. But seventy-five years ago, this answer was not as clear as it is today. Although it comprised only a small group, there were people who doubted the merit of granting everyone the right to vote. “A future and more enlightened age will view with astonishment the absurd farce of recording the votes of millions of illiterate people.” These words were said by Penderel Moon on the occasion of India’s first general elections. Moon was an ex-Indian Civil Service official and a scholar from Oxford. Another editor from Madras, C.R. Srinivasan, around the same time, called these elections “the biggest gamble in the history of democracy”. Unsurprisingly, there were resonating voices along the same lines coming from the west too. These concerns were but natural, since only 16% of India’s adult population was literate back then. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since. Today, the literacy rate stands at 68% and 84% in rural and urban areas respectively. A pertinent question at the heart of this debate is this - how much of a difference, and what kind of difference, does education make when it comes to voting patterns?. The question at the heart of this article is an even more radical one - does education even make a difference to voting patterns at all? You may ask: what does this academic debate of political science have to do with an “apolitical” college such as St. Stephen’s? Well, we would say - everything in this world! This is a good time to brood over this thought-provoking question since only last month the college ran its annual Student Union elections. SUS elections or any other student body elections hold important lessons to answer this question. College elections are one space where we find a 100% literacy rate. Everybody who attends college has a high school education or equivalent. Everybody is educated in subjects like civics, history, political science and sociology, not to mention basic literacy and numeracy. Everyone is deemed to be a rational agent, capable of making their own pragmatic choices by virtue of their education. Especially when it comes to a college like Stephen’s, the so-called “chosen ones” are supposedly “the brightest minds” in the country. Therefore, rationally speaking, it would be fair to expect that the quality of student elections in educational institutions should be much, much better than the quality of, say, India’s general elections. Well, first, what does “quality” of elections mean? Let’s try to define that in concrete terms. It seems the idea of quality boils down, broadly, to four factors. 1. Quality of issues on which elections are fought 2. The way campaigning is done 3. The way the electorate votes 4. Voter turnout Mind you, these factors are not exhaustive in any sense, but seek to give a wide picture. An easy example would be the common assumption that an electorate consisting of more illiterate voters will be more likely to get divided on issues of identity: religious, geographical, caste, gender, etc; whereas, a literate electorate should vote regardless of allegiances made on these lines. Representation, of course, is always a yes-yes, but voting simply because somebody comes from your identity group, or vote-bank politics for that matter, is presumably e a tendency of voters who are turning a blind eye to other more important factors, such as the promises and policies the candidates are proposing, their motivations to contest, their political choices, etc. Well, does that ring a bell? Isn’t that what happens year after year in our student elections? Students’ choices stemming from personal biases, allegiances to identity, stereotypes, and falling for lofty promises - it visibly keeps happening. It seems educated voters get as conveniently polarized as uneducated voters. There seems to be unsaid rules of contesting student elections, whether SUS or DUSU. It’s as if the cards are laid, and one has to play one’s best hand with them. What are these cards? One can make some intelligent guesses. Regionalism is one. Caste is another. Ideology is yet another. A lot of times, the candidates do not want to play on the lines of these easy routes, but they (have to) end up doing so because of reasons beyond their control. Oh, that seems too much food for thought to chew, doesn’t it? Let’s get some fresh air and move out of the Rudra gate. The road leads to Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station. It’s the month of August and September. You are stuck in a traffic jam. It seems the jam extends from the inner depths of Kamla Nagar all the way to Vishwavidyala and GTB metro stations. Desperate, uncomfortable, sweaty and stinky, biting your lips in a traffic jam in an e-rickshaw, looking at your watch time and again, you cannot miss the road having been turned white with the pamphlets and cards of DUSU contestants. The sky is hidden behind the banners and hoardings with the same blue or red text on white backgrounds. The blandness of these pamphlets and hoardings is conspicuous - they do not carry anything, anything, but the name of the candidate, bordered by the repeating name of the party they belong to. No slogan, no promises, no agenda - not even a photo - just the name printed in a font as large as possible. Come on, you wonder, at least they could have someone even the least bit Canva-savvy to edit this banner. A little more colour would have done no harm. Yet, one cannot forget these names that leave an indelible imprint in one’s mind for a long time. Even blank text, when presented with loudness, has such an impressionable effect, it seems! You cannot help but compare these sights with any Indian election you must have witnessed - local to state to national. There lie stark differences as well as similarities. While both employ large crowds to display power, use money (read: big budgets) and muscle (read: Fortuners, Audis and Thars), and make hefty promises, there are marked differences in the way the campaigns work - the way messages are put across, agenda are set and, well, placards are designed. These thought-trails leave you disappointed. One expects more from student elections. It’s difficult to define what the “more” is, but it should at least be some rungs higher than the quality of elections we see today. Disappointed, as you return to college where there is a conspicuous lack of such cards and pamphlets, you are left with unsettling questions to deal with. Ooh, back at Stephen’s too, you sense election fever in the air. The stage of the college hall is set for the Open court! The Student Union Society is electing its President! This year, 813 junior members cast their vote in the election for the college President. The voter turnout - at about 60% - was not very different from last year. Interestingly, the voter turnout in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 stood at 67%. In the first elections of 1952, when literacy stood at 18%, the turnout was a whopping 55%. Voter turnout is a good indicator of people’s faith in the election system, interest in democratic practices, and a will to participate. It comes as a surprise that, at least in this case study, literacy has no impact on the voter turnout. If anything, the turnout of literate people is less than that of the turnout of a less educated general population. One can come up with several explanations for educated people ending up not voting: 1. Students, even though educated in science, math and languages, find phenomena like elections complex, and therefore stay at a distance; or 2. Students, even though literate, do not understand the value of public participation in democratic processes; or 3. Students, although literate and valuing participation, still choose not to vote because of a lack of faith in the election system or its outcomes. What we won’t attempt to do here is try to analyse which of these possible explanations hold more or less water. A fun task for you, the reader, could be to discuss among yourselves the possible reasons for the non-relation between education and turnout. Another noticeable pattern is the drop in the number of votes from the first year to third year. While the high vote share by first years is understandable since this is often their first serious voting out of school (before they go on to get their Voter ID cards), the fervour and enthusiasm in general reduces as one enters the second and subsequently the third year. Not to forget - 58 invalid votes! That is a surprisingly high number. We checked with the student volunteers who witnessed vote-counting, and we found that most of the invalid votes were deemed so because of silly errors - putting tick marks instead of preferences, writing preferences in a way that makes it ambiguous, etc. In the past, there have been instances wherein students used the ballot to register their protests in unique ways. Some write stuff, some write other names, and the like. While a NOTA option on the ballot would be one way to officially allow such a space to protest, the twin problems of a) students not showing up on the D-day, and b) students not knowing how to vote, leaves room for thought. We close this discussion where we began it: Do we not expect more from student politics? Shouldn’t educated voters behave differently? A bunch of educated youngsters are expected to do a much better job when it comes to elections of their own bodies. When there is a rise up on the literacy ladder, it seems contradictory to drop low on the ladder of electoral quality. Our observations so far show a picture which is not just inconsistent with this rationale, but rather the opposite. It is important to keep asking whether there are visible differences that mark a distinction between student elections and their real-world counterparts, and whether said paradox exists. When all is said and done, an institution and its systems are only as strong as the values of their practitioners. Democracy, more than an electoral system, is a system of values. Any institution crafted from democratic principles will hold strong as long as the spirit remains intact. That spirit may and may not come from the electorate’s education - which then becomes secondary. The spirit is more important. And that spirit draws from you, reader. What you believe. What you value. And what you uphold.
- An Interview with Mr. N.K. Singh
Mr. N.K. Singh, a distinguished Indian politician, renowned economist, and former IAS officer, presently serving as the Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission of India, engaged in an insightful conversation with the council members of The Planning Forum in the year 2021. This exclusive interview delves into his multifaceted career, spanning diplomacy, public service, politics, and economic policy, offering profound perspectives on various aspects of his journey. In this interview, Mr. N.K. Singh reflected on the changes in college over the years. He noted that while certain aspects like the identity of college buildings and hostels remain constant, admission cutoff marks have risen significantly due to increased competition. Furthermore, he highlighted the change in preferred academic disciplines, with economics now being highly sought after compared to his time when history and political science were favourites. Regarding the philosophy prevalent in campus, he mentioned that during his time, informality and congeniality between faculty and students were valued, fostering a unique atmosphere at St. Stephen's College. Shifting to his role as President of the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), Mr. Singh discussed the need to address contemporary challenges such as global warming and climate change. He emphasised the importance of embracing technology and integrating various disciplines into one common format, as well as being adaptable. In particular, he pointed out how the pandemic had served to highlight the need for improved health infrastructure, and also how agricultural practices require continuous adaptation to changing consumer preferences and environmental concerns. When asked about criticisms of international organisations favouring developed countries, Mr. N.K. Singh acknowledged the historical biases in these organisations and stressed the need to restructure them to better reflect current global economic dynamics. Mr. N.K. Singh then mentioned that he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1964 after teaching at St. Stephen's College. He started his career in this field in the Indian Foreign Service, but switched to the Indian Administrative Service later. His decision to enter politics stemmed from his desire to gain an alternate perspective on India's governance. He noted the distinct views from the executive and legislative ends and felt it was an alluring and challenging experience. His role in the Rajya Sabha also provided him with firsthand insight into parliamentary proceedings, going beyond merely observing them. He mentioned that seeing policy changes from the inside was a valuable experience. He expressed gratitude for being offered a seat in the Rajya Sabha by the then-Chief Minister. When asked how his bureaucratic experience contributed to his political career, Mr. N.K. Singh stated that it provided a holistic view of policy-making. His role as Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission showed him the legislative processes required for policy implementation. His parliamentary experience allowed him to understand the implications of policy changes that might necessitate legislation. He highlighted the significance of parliamentary committees like the Public Accounts Committee and how, as Revenue Secretary, he had testified before such committees, creating a full-circle experience when he became a member of the Public Accounts Committee. During the interview, when asked if he sees himself standing for election in the future, Mr. N.K. Singh categorically denied any such possibility. He explained that he has had a diverse range of experiences in diplomatic assignments, state and central government roles, the Prime Minister's office, and his position as the Chairman of the Finance Commission. He deemed these experiences sufficient for one lifetime. Additionally, he revealed his current plans, which include writing two books—one compiling his recent lectures and the other focusing on federalism and fiscal federalism, subjects that have always intrigued him. Regarding his role as Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, Mr. N.K. Singh acknowledged that they faced several significant challenges. He highlighted the complexity of implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the associated issues such as determining state revenues under the new taxation system. He also mentioned the challenge of using the 2011 census data for resource allocation, which led to a controversy, particularly related to states with differing demographic management performance. He explained how they balanced considerations of equity, efficiency, and performance in their decision-making, emphasising that the Finance Commission's role involves a delicate balancing act. In response to our interviewers' questions about his experience as a member of the Planning Commission and his views on its dissolution and the unification of planned and unplanned expenditure, Mr. N.K. Singh explained that he believed the distinction between planned and unplanned expenditure had outlived its purpose since the Planning Commission's inception. He discussed how the Planning Commission was created shortly after India's independence, focusing on the model of socialism and the importance of public sector-led development due to the nascent state of private capital and entrepreneurial skills. Despite calls for restructuring the Planning Commission, this did not happen. He continued to discuss the non-statutory nature of the Planning Commission and its function as an extra-constitutional authority, taking on roles that overlapped with the Finance Commission. Successive finance commissions raised concerns about this overlap, and the decision to abolish the Planning Commission in 2014 was welcomed as long overdue. He mentioned the possibility of a different transition model, such as a restructured Niti Aayog or an entity like the Centre State Council. In response to the interviewers' question about his college days and the impact of St. Stephen's College on his life, he expressed his sadness at the current generation's inability to fully experience their college due to the pandemic. He acknowledged the importance of prioritising lives and public health over such experiences and highlighted that similar situations were affecting students worldwide. He emphasised the value of friendships, informal interactions, and unique experiences that college life brings, and expressed hope that the current students would soon get a taste of this for themselves. He felt confident that they would make up for the lost experiences as soon as the pandemic subsides. He also shared his own involvement in the college's activities, such as his membership in the Criterion and Shakespeare Society, and encouraged students to acquaint themselves with both the institutional and experiential aspects of St. Stephen's. The interviewers expressed their gratitude to Mr. N.K. Singh for his time, and he reciprocated by expressing his appreciation for the thoughtful questions, thereby marking the end of an enriching and illumination dialogue with one of Stephen's finest.