Back to resources

Charcha 2021 Plenary: Samaaj, Sarkaar and Bazaar for India’s Development

Civil Society | Active Citizenship | Accountability & Transparency | Aug 13, 2021

This plenary sessions focusses on the role of the three pillars – government, business and civil society in enabling India’s development, the major challenges faced by each, the key points of intersection, and how the collaboration between Samaaj, Sarkar and Bazaar can be strengthened.

Transcript:

0:00:00.0 Nappina Sampath: Good afternoon and a warm welcome again to those of you who are joining us now. We’re sorry for the delay for a few minutes, we had some technological issues. Welcome to the first [0:00:14.3] ____ today, titled Samaj, Sarkar and Bazaar for India’s Development. Our speakers for this session are Ms. Rohini Nilekani, Mr. Amitabh Kant and Ms. Renu Karnad. The distinguished speakers will discuss the role of the three pillars of government, business and civil society in enabling India’s Development. This panel discussion for 45 minutes will be moderated by Ms. Sunanda Jayaseelan. It is a pleasure to have you here, Sunanda, to moderate the session. Before you introduce the esteemed panelists and commence the session, I’d like to take a minute to introduce you please.

0:00:58.5 NS: Ms. Sunanda Jayaseelan is senior producer and anchor of a daily show called Leaders of Tomorrow on ET Now, which talks to MSMEs and entrepreneurs. She leads a team of young reporters and producers. She has 13 years of experience in television journalism and has worked with NDTV Profit before moving to Network18 and then Bloomberg Television Group. Over to you, Sunanda.

0:01:23.0 Sunanda Jayaseelan: Thank you very much for that, Nappina, and thank you very much to our panelists and everyone who’s logged in today. We’re talking big picture issues and topics, we’re talking about the Samaj, Sarkar and Bazaar for India’s Development. Not easy topics, but we have luminaries on today’s plenary joining us to help us understand really what the way forward is looking like. Before I request for opening remarks from each of our three panelists, I want to take a quick minute to introduce them. They, of course, they need no introduction. They’re people who are in the public eye, everyone knows our panelists but regardless, let me just very briefly introduce them.

0:02:06.8 SJ: First up, we have Mr. Amitabh Kant joining us. He is presently the CEO of NITI Aayog. He is a member of the Indian Administrative Service, author of Branding India: An Incredible Story. Mr. Kant has been a key driver of Make in India, Startup India, Incredible India and God’s Own Country Initiative. Thank you for taking the time to join us, Mr. Kant.

0:02:26.0 SJ: We also have on today’s plenary, Ms. Renu Sud Karnad, she is the Managing Director of HDFC. She holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Delhi. She’s a Parvin Fellow, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, US of A. And last, but definitely not the least, we also have Rohini Nilekani. She is the founder chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation she’s set up for sustainable water and sanitation across India. She’s the founder chairperson of Pratham Books, a not-for-profit children’s publisher that has reached millions of children during her tenure. She is also the co-founder and director of EkStep, a non-profit education platform. Welcome to all three, all of our panelists today, thank you so much once again for joining us, for what’s going to be a very exciting discussion. Before though we get into that and before we take some questions from our audience, I’d love to get opening remarks from the three of you, starting with you, Mr. Kant. Sir, you’re muted, sir.

0:03:31.6 Renu Sud Karnad: You’re muted, Amitabh. Still muted. Can’t hear you.

0:03:51.0 SJ: We can’t hear you.

0:03:51.7 Amitabh Kant: Yeah, can you hear me now?

0:03:51.8 RK: Yes.

0:03:51.9 SJ: Yes, sir.

0:03:52.6 AK: Okay, thanks. Sorry, for this. The idea of a golden triangle of government, markets and civil society is not a new concept. Over the years, the consensus has evolved around the fact that neither the unregulated markets nor a Sarkar that tries to do everything is desirable for achieving the ends of social justice. I think this issue has been underlined before that we need a new revolving consensus that is stable and [0:04:29.5] ____ society… And it is…

[background conversation]

0:04:31.8 AK: And achieve true synergy between all the three elements, as all three need to work together to address the challenging development issues. The government has been attempting to achieve convergence of action between all relevant stakeholders and that has been the key guiding force in starting out our development trajectory. When we talk of business aligning with government, we often speak of PPP. Indeed, PPP is very important for us and I would say that only those projects taken under this mould would succeed and are socially desirable, where all these three Ps are completely are aligned to harness synergy of each other. In my views, often Samaj, Sarkar and Bazaar are perceived as having conflicting motivations and herein lies the essence of this concept. Sarkar, Bazaar are in a way, subsets of the Samaj and without this crucial third pillar, both Sarkar and Bazaar would face a crisis.

0:05:44.1 SJ: Yeah.

0:05:44.8 AK: Therefore understanding the needs of Samaj should be our first order of business. It is around these needs that the objective of Sarkar and Bazaar ought to be aligned. Sarkar and Bazaar ought to be tools that Samaj can make use of to achieve outcomes which all three pillars desire.

0:06:04.6 SJ: Sure.

0:06:05.1 AK: I would just mention that NITI Aayog is implementing the Aspirational Districts Programme, which identifies the aspiration of the Samaj. These are the most backward districts of India, we call them the aspirational districts. Here we use the business principle which is robust monitoring and a sense of competition to rapidly transform the district, and we use data, real-time data, where you put rankings of the districts in public domain and we’ve seen a radical transformation. The similar exercise we’ve done in terms of publishing rankings of states for sustainable development goals. We have developed an index on water, innovation, health, school, all these are really about putting all these aspects of government performance in public domain.

0:07:03.6 AK: Since this is a platform relating to nudging the behaviour, I would like to state that we in NITI Aayog are fully convinced of the need for behavioural change in a very targeted manner and to usher in a paradigm of behaviourally-informed policy-making in India. These are a few words I would like to speak at this stage and I would carry this forward during the course of the panel discussion.

0:07:27.3 SJ: Sure. Thank you for that, Mr. Kant. Ms. Karnad, I’d like to come to you next, and would love to get your opening remarks as well. Ma’am, you’re muted.

0:07:45.8 RK: I come from the housing sector. And in the housing sector, you have Sarkar and Samaj, and of course, somewhere, we make the Bazaar for it. So, I think it’s very apt, what the topic for today is very interesting. And as you know, housing is one of the most basic needs of humans and which is something that we acquire a house once in a lifetime. And what the house does for society, I think is most important. Not only it gives you shelter and security, but I think one of the biggest outcomes of home ownership really is that, the lumpen element, the trouble-makers never create problems where they live. The problems are always created in another location. And therefore, this housing for all that we are all trying in this country to get to, I think is going to be one of the best outcomes of whatever the government is trying to do.

0:08:42.0 RK: We have something like, by 2030, we are talking about 600 million Indians living in cities. This is going to go up, Sunanda from a 32% to a 44.5%. There are various challenges, challenges of land shortage, strain on infrastructure, health, water, and sanitation, but I think the biggest challenge is going to be housing. The estimates, the Government of India estimates we’d have something like 18.76 million, primarily in the EWS and the LIG section.

0:09:17.3 RK: But actually, if you ask me, Sunanda, it’s much more, because there are people… We still live in joint families. We still have people who are really living in some of the rural areas, where the homes that they live in… There is a house there, but it is not the house that we think we would want to live in. And so, the numbers would most probably be a lot more than that. I think the government has done a lot, but as you said, as we started in the beginning, we need the Sarkar, which is the government’s impetus. We need financial institutions, which are really the… In a way, the Bazaar. And of course, we need technology, and I think one of the things that you need in all this Samaj, Sarkar and Bazaar is the use of technology, and how to get some of these services at the cheapest possible way to the consumers and to the consumers who today are… Let’s face it, India is still a developing country. We have a whole lot of people who are near or just about the poverty line.

0:10:21.1 RK: And how to make all these services get to them easily? I think as far as the government is concerned, as far as home owners, the CLSS scheme, and I don’t know how many people know about that, I think is one of the most pioneering schemes that we’ve seen in this sector, where people with certain incomes and certain levels of income throughout the country are able to get a subsidy, and this subsidy is not a small subsidy. It is close to two and a half lakhs. And you can get a subsidy to buy your own home. This has triggered off such an interest that we, in HDFC itself, just us, have done something like two and a half lakh borrowers have been benefited by it. I’m sure if you add on what State Bank and the others have done… So, this was a classic example how Sarkar came in along and what they did was they used financial institutions, they did not do it on their own, because doing it on their own would have been impossible. So, they used the modem of financial institutions, and I think one of the most important things that they did was getting private sector into it, not just public sector. Because private sector is driven by different goals. Right? So, I think the success of it was that.

0:11:34.7 RK: That is one of the best things, and I just hope and pray, and I can see Mr. Kant on the panel with me here, that please extend this scheme. I think this scheme has done the best for housing than many of the other schemes that have happened, and this is a request to you, sir. I think we’ve also got tax… They’ve also increased tax deductions. Today, if you buy a house which is in the affordable segment, in the segment that we’re all trying to work with, it has been extended for a year. I think it’ll be much nicer if this stayed on for a longer time. I am not in favour of subsidies. I know subsidies are not the way to work, but there is a point in time in an economy or in a segment, that these subsidies give it a quick start. And I think that is something that has been very good.

0:12:23.2 RK: For developers, what had happened was, you were seeing, Sunanda, all across homes that have been built, people have invested money, the middle income has invested money, the low income has invested money, the projects are not reaching their logical end. So, there was a fund that was set up, a 25,000 crore fund, which is called the SWAMIH fund, and it has worked well. We are seeing projects move. But I think the need of the hour today is to have, I think, five such funds, that if you really can make the affordable housing segment move and let people be able to buy these homes, I think is going to be a huge game changer. The government, I think, has done a lot even for developers, in terms of a deduction of 100% on profits, if these are derived from the affordable housing segment of construction. Stamp duty is another thing, where if the government looked at it and across the states, I do understand that it is a state subject and it is not a central subject.

0:13:29.0 RK: But if together the states… And right now, when we are talking about Sarkar, we are all talking about the state ki Sarkar, instead of central government ki Sarkar nahi. [0:13:39.5] ____ Toh Maharashtra ne bahot achchi tarah dikhaya tha… The Maharashtra Pilot Programme they did, where they reduced stamp duties, of course, they did it across the board, but I think if they reduced stamp duties for the affordable segment, which is what we are trying to address most times, I think is really again going to go in a long way.

0:13:58.8 RK: And I think the loss to the state exchequer or the loss… Because of this low stamp duty, I’m sure will be made up by volumes. I think so this is another thing, if we can get together, the Sarkar piece of it can too. I think one of the best things that happened in the last… With the pandemic is the time given by the government in changing regulations to allow people who were stressed and who actually lost businesses, who had people walking out on them in terms of the migrant labour, etcetera. Giving them time and making financial institutions like us and the banks, giving us time to allow us to give them time to sort of recoup and recover.

0:14:47.1 RK: So there were two or three things that they did, one was a moratorium that they gave for six months, and if you don’t pay, you are not going to be a non-performing loan with your lender, which was great even for lenders, right? So I think that was a great step that they did. They also talked about restructuring your loan once, which also went the wrong way in helping people during the pandemic area, because if you go back and look at the pandemic, of course, the travel and the tourism sector was hurt, but I think most hurt were the MSMEs and the small businesses. So I think some of these things may need to be carried on further.

0:15:21.2 RK: We have a deadline till the end of the year, so I would say that would be another solution. And the last but not least Sunanda, I think most important to stitch all three of this us together is technology. And I think it’s… To have a brick and mortar sort of a setup… Take for example in my business and to go and reach 2000 locations, is very difficult. It costs money, scaling is not easy, returns are not going to be easy. Our country is so large, challenges are so much there. I think the whole system of… They started this whole technology framework, basically started with the Jan Dhan Yojana, we started, right? People getting bank accounts, I think that was a start.

0:16:08.6 SJ: Sure.

0:16:09.3 RK: That now which we’re talking about this open credit enabling network, I have to read it so I don’t get it wrong. And the account aggregators that we are seeing, I think these are going to go a long way for institutions like us, for getting housing loans to people in areas where we don’t have an office, where we just have a representative, it is really going to go a long way. I think and most important is, it’s going to reduce costs, it’s going to… You make us more efficient. It’s going to… The transparencies that sometimes are lacking in some of the businesses that which we do, those problems will be solved. So I think it’s a great initiative. Thank you for inviting me. These were just some of the views that I had.

0:16:54.5 SJ: Thank you very much for that, Renu. I will come back to you on some of those points that you’ve made, but I want to give Rohini a chance to give us her opening comments as well. Rohini? Rohini, are you able to hear us? Okay. We’re gonna come back to Ms. Nilekani, if she’s able to hear us and give her the chance for her opening comments as well, but before that, I have a couple of questions and maybe Mr. Kant, I could come to you first, sir, and really discuss the…

0:17:32.8 RK: There’s an echo.

0:17:34.9 SJ: Are you able to hear us, Ms. Nilekani?

0:17:39.8 RK: Actually, Sunanda, that was me, Renu. I’m just saying, there is an echo.

0:17:47.8 SJ: Sure, sure. Is this better?

0:17:51.2 RK: But carry on.

0:17:53.0 SJ: Sure, sure. Mr. Kant, this question is to you, sir. And I really want to ask you, what can be done to enable good ideas and innovations to scale when it comes to the government system, really? Samaj and Bazaar, they of course, they have a role when it comes to helping Sarkar and we really started today’s plenary by talking about how each of these three pillars need to co-exist; while there is definitely friction, they need to work together to ensure development and developmental goals, but how can we then ensure that ideas and innovations are really coming together when it comes to government and government systems, and addressing the Sarkar pillar, really? Sir, you’re on mute.

0:18:42.0 AK: The government is all about constantly trying to innovate for the people whom it’s selling and without the innovation, it’s not possible to make a radical change. And it’s important that the aspirations of the people is what Sarkar looks at. And Sarkar focuses more on basic necessities, but Bazaar accommodates the ambitions of the common people. However, my view is that we do not function in silos and it’s very important that Sarkar and Bazaar and Samaj all work together.

0:19:31.0 AK: But two very important points. One is that constantly, we need to innovate, constantly we need to ensure that the benefits reach the common people in government and therefore, government has to constantly innovate in terms of technology. And I think technology has to be the big level jumper and this is across the board, and the way digitalisation has been pushed by government across sectors, starting from the JAM Trinity spreading it to UPI and ensuring that every individual has a bank account, every individual has a mobile. I worked for many years in the fisheries sector of Kerala, and there the challenge was to transform the lives of traditional fishermen. We were able to provide them new outboard motors to go much further into the sea, give them new crafts, give them new nets, but opening their bank accounts was a nightmare, it used to take us seven to eight months chasing bank managers. So today, you are able to open a bank account… In a minute using your biometric. So it’s the transformations, since the time I worked two decades back at the fisheries sector till now is from eight months to one minute. That has been the transformation.

0:20:58.4 AK: If you look at digitisation across government, many people do not know this, but 99% of the people pay income tax online, it’s all digital. Many of us transact business, make all our payments digitally, using our mobiles and UPI, which started just about four years back, it does more transaction in four years than what AmEx does which started…

0:21:25.3 Rohini Nilekani: Can you hear me now?

0:21:26.8 NS: Which started four decades back and therefore…

0:21:30.0 RN: Can you hear me?

0:21:32.4 SJ: Yes, Ms. Nilekani, we can hear you, ma’am.

0:21:33.9 RN: I’m so sorry to interrupt you, Amitabh, I just wanted know if I’m even there on the show. Please continue your lovely comments.

0:21:39.5 AK: No, Rohini. Rohini, I’ll stop here because I think it’s more important that you get the first opportunity, we can hear you now, you speak and I’ll come back again.

0:21:51.2 RN: Thank you. Thank you.

0:21:52.5 AK: I think the first opportunity should go to you.

0:21:55.4 RN: Thank you so much. I’m so sorry for all this lack of camera business, but in a way, it’s good, I wanted to say that the Samaj sector needs to be loudly heard, so even if we are not seen, I think the main point is that, how do we get the Samaj sector to be heard, both by Bazaar and by Sarkar loud and clear? Because the opening remarks I was going to make is, as we have seen through this pandemic, the first responders have been from the citizen sector, and at the end of it, whether it’s Mr. Amitabh Kant, who’s sitting in the government or Ms. Renu Karnad, who’s sitting in the corporate sector, all of us are citizens first, and we all strive in our own ways to make our good society, to make India, Bharat into a good society.

0:22:47.0 RN: So, for me, in this continuum of Samaj, Bazaar and Sarkar, I’ve always said since I began this work, that Samaj is really the first sector obviously, and it is for Samaj to do better, that we have the Sarkar and the Bazaar, and therefore eventually there have to be systems of accountability in the Samaj, so that the Sarkar is actually working on behalf of the Samaj, the Bazaar is working on behalf of the Samaj. Somehow in these last… In this whole century, I would say, that has turned topsy-turvy and somehow, we must set, restore the balance. There is absolutely no doubt that we need the Sarkar and the Bazaar, we cannot do without them, but how can we reduce the friction to collaborate between these three sectors? Those were the kind of opening remarks that I want to make. Do you want me to continue, Sunanda, or do you want to continue the conversation you were having before I tried all my technical issues to be resolved?

[laughter]

0:23:51.7 SJ: Thank you very much, Rohini, for your opening comments. I have some questions based on what you’ve just told us, but I want to pick up one thing that you said, speaking of the pandemic and the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic, and pose a question to Renu, if I may.

0:24:08.9 RN: Sure.

0:24:09.5 SJ: So Renu, We were talking very briefly about migrant labourers in India at the start of the pandemic, according to the MHA, we had about four crore migrant labourers, a lot of them of course, have now started coming back to the job that they unfortunately had to leave and go back home from, they are often called the invisible [0:24:25.7] ____, how do banking institutions and how does Bazaar ensure that this section of the population is not being left out, is being integrated into Samaj?

0:24:40.5 RK: So I think… Again, I think we learned it the hard way. I think the owners of companies and developers in the sector I work in realised that they were not doing enough and what we are seeing now is, particularly in the construction industry, builders, etcetera, when they’re even working on projects, there is an element they’re working in the cost for welfare of the worker, the worker who’s coming in and who’s going to be on-site. But I think again here, the Sarkar can come in to do things much [0:25:20.8] ____.

0:25:23.0 RK: If you are most of the people, migrant workers, which are coming in, are single, they are at least mostly single men, and if they’re single women, they normally are working at homes. But we’re talking about now the migrant labour, so if some accommodation like that comes through, which needs to be looked after or not, I mean taken over on rent by the factories around, like if you look at Gurgaon or wherever these industry units are, I think something like that is the need of the hour, and have a system by which in that area, whoever is there, they take it on rent and it’s set up by… It could be a government housing corporation, but as I said, it’s not always makes sense to put everything on the government. Enough of private sector will be waiting to do something like that, but having making sure that there are controls also in terms of what costs. Let’s face it, any business guy eventually is going to cost it in, into whatever his costing is, but the point is to make it available. Along with that, some at least basic health…

0:26:33.1 RK: Health coverage… I won’t even say coverage, but availability of a dispensary or availability of somewhere they can go without having to wait for hours in a government hospital. I think something like that, Sunanda, if it works out, it’s going to give a lot of confidence to people to come out. Even… I’m told now, even families don’t want to let their children or their young people come out because they’re worried. But they also know that if they don’t come into the cities, they’re not going to have food to eat. So, I think that’s sort of a… Worked together… The insurance program that the government started, worked well. You did see some of the people who actually bought that insurance, get the benefit of it. But honestly, Amitabh, if something like what you did in the Jan Dhan Yojana, where actually, you made it mandatory for banks to actually go and open these accounts, and I have to admit it, at that point in time, a lot of the banks were skeptical, “How are we going to open this account? It’s going to be a zero balance account.” Everybody was looking at that bottom line. They realised later, six months into it, that there was always some money in those accounts. The accounts were not completely zero. So, I think, even on this health insurance piece, some sort of mandatory-ness, if they put into the system as part of labour… Looking after the labour, will actually go a long way.

0:27:55.9 SJ: Sure.

0:27:56.2 RK: I think that will make, Sunanda, people want to come back.

0:27:59.7 SJ: Okay. Mr. Kant, I would love for you to respond to the points that Renu has made and also respond to something that Rohini said. And she made a very interesting point that during the pandemic, first responders were ordinary citizens, were members of civil society. What lessons perhaps have we learned, as part of how the Sarkar and Samaj were working together or perhaps should learn? Because at the end of the day to achieve any kind of development, there has to be less friction and more working together between these three pillars.

0:28:34.0 AK: So, firstly, what about what Rohini said, and I entirely agree with her, that Samaj has to be the first order of business.

0:28:46.3 SJ: Sure.

0:28:46.7 AK: It is around the needs of Samaj that the objectives of Sarkar and Bazaar ought to be aligned. Sarkar and Bazaar have to be the tools the Samaj can make use of to achieve outcomes which we desire. And that was the objective. And to Renu’s point, about opening these bank accounts, today in government, we are transferring over crore amounts to the people of India, in over 520 schemes, straight into the bank accounts of the beneficiary. When I had started my career, this money used to be transferred from central government to state governments and then to the panchayats and there used to be huge amount of leakage. So, what has been done is really about using technology to leapfrog… And look at the new Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, which is an integral part of Ayushman Bharat, where we provided insurance, health insurance to 500 million Indians, which is more than the population of the entire USA and Mexico put together.

0:30:08.1 AK: 500 million Indians health insured digitally. Any Indian can travel from Tamil Nadu to Bihar, can travel, it’s cashless, paperless, and you can carry it. And similarly, the whole attempt has been that how do you make life easy for the citizens of India? And one of the things we’ve tried to do is to focus on ease of doing business, where India jumped up 79 positions. But objective was not ease of doing business, objective was, how do you bring ease of living for the citizens of India?

0:30:44.3 AK: And therefore, our view is that the more rules, regulation, procedures, paperwork that you remove, you will bring in more better livelihoods and better living for the citizens of India and therefore Samaj will eventually get benefitted. And our view is… Our view always has been that Sarkar can and should only be tasked with providing bare necessities, that is road, drinking water, housing. It should focus on improving learning outcomes, it should focus on improving housing outcomes. Bazaar has to step in to bring investment and Samaj will inevitably respond. Bazaar will have to identify the opportunities and leverage its expertise and create space for the demand to unleash itself.

0:31:38.5 AK: But as far as the COVID is concerned, I was heading the emergency group three which was dealing with civil society organisations. We have a Darpan portal in NITI Aayog, where we have over 110,000 civil society organisations listed. I have worked very closely with them. When we started… When the COVID started, we had no mask, no PPE manufacturing, no ventilators, no concentrators, all these are now being made in India.

0:32:13.9 AK: And now let me say, that civil society organisations played a very key and critical role in providing food and livelihood to the citizens of India. Many of them, both during phase 1 and phase 2, partnered the local citizens, they partnered the local administration, they partnered the local gram panchayats, and created a mass movement out of their support.

0:32:40.7 SJ: Sure.

0:32:41.0 AK: And therefore, civil society organisations and NGOs, in my experience over the years, really demonstrates that if government wants to achieve success in better implementation of its schemes, it has to partner well-function civil society organisation. Now, I, in the Aspirational Districts Programme, I have worked with a vast number of civil society organisations too, and I have worked with a vast number of civil society organisations in the NITI Aayog. And my experience always has been that schemes are better implemented in partnership, and especially, when it’s a question of extension, community participation, we’re nudging behaviour, civil society organisations are extremely critical.

0:33:26.5 SJ: Okay, we’ve got a few questions from our audience which I would like to take, but after this question, and this one is to you, Rohini, you wear many hats, you are known, of course, as one of the foremost philanthropists in the country, but equally as someone who is closely involved at the grassroot level, particularly as far as civil society is concerned. And since we are talking about the pandemic, one section of the population that really led the way when it came to being involved and actively involved was young people. And the role of young people when it comes to Samaj, when it comes to Bazaar, of course, and also increasingly in Sarkar. How can we ensure that more young people are involved in the change that needed to take place?

0:34:11.2 RN: Yeah, thank you, Sunanda. I think, obviously, with such a young demographic, and with the kind of new problems that we are facing, and for those of us who have read the IPCC’s sixth report, I would say we can safely put climate change very high on that list. I think it is young people who are going to have to co-create contextual solutions for the future. People like us have left enough problems for them. I think we need to figure out, how are we really going to enable young people? And it’s not just in the normal way, okay? We have to, as Sarkar, as Bazaar, we have to be careful to create safe spaces for them to try stuff and to fail. And we also have to allow them to be idealistic enough to innovate in ways that we won’t. Right? They will be radical, young people are radical. Do you remember how we all were when we were 18 years old? Renu, I’m sure you do. So, young people have radical ideas, we should not try to force uniformity of them. Let there be diversity of ideas, approaches and innovations, and let’s support that. A lot of it will fail, just like the corporate sector understands failure so well.

0:35:28.2 SJ: Sure.

0:35:28.9 RN: Let’s reduce the mistrust that currently exists between Sarkar, Samaj and Bazaar, and let’s find ways to use technology. Some of us are working on something that we call Societal Platform Thinking, where we use a tech backbone, but that’s just a backbone. At the front-end, we are trying hard to see, how can we enable more successful collaboration between the three sectors? And youth play a very strong role in it. In my philanthropy portfolio, I’m so delighted that we have young social entrepreneurs, as young as 20, who are doing the most cutting edge things, in some ways also to make people more active citizens, to take charge of their local problems and show leadership, but also to work with the political class, MPs, MLAs, and try to bring people’s problems to them and for them to resolve them with the state. They try to find opportunities to work with Sarkar… I mean Bazaar as well.

0:36:34.1 SJ: Sure.

0:36:34.1 RN: I think, mainly, invest in young people, allow them to innovate, allow them to be radically diverse and support that. Right? Let them fail, let them innovate, support them, and definitely use our youth power to face what the many challenges that are coming, including climate change that I am very invested in helping to solve.

0:36:57.9 SJ: Okay, since we are speaking about the youth, Mr. Kant, I want to refer to a tweet that you put out a couple of days back, sir, talking about the hottest jobs in 2021, talking about [0:37:15.5] ____ How soon could we perhaps see the hottest jobs, including those from civil society, including those more effecting change, or is that a very idealistic view?

0:37:30.4 AK: Actually, if you wanna see that… You wanna see the transformation that young people are making, you should come to NITI Aayog, it’s just full of only young people. And these are the people and many of them actually have come from all the top universities of the world. They’re all working here to transform India and it’s a very lively atmosphere. And I think they’re the ones who come up with all the great ideas, all the great concepts, all the great technologies. And my personal belief is that the only way India can grow on a sustained basis for three decades or more, is if we use technology to leapfrog. That’s the only way we can do it. And India is very data-rich, but we have to make ourselves data intelligent. And we have to use the power of artificial intelligence, we have to use the power of machine learning to really use data in a very big way. And that is really critical. And much of that, actually the companies, the young startups, which have done very well in recent times, all the top startups, all of them which would become unicorn, are all those who are using the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to really grow and evolve.

0:38:55.9 AK: And therefore, my belief is that many of our IITs and IIMs really need to reorient their courses for new technologies of tomorrow. And therefore, it’s the Industrial 4.0 Revolution will be a function of very many things, but the key will be on how do we create new scientists of tomorrow, new data scientists of tomorrow. How do we create the new artificial engineers of tomorrow? How do we create new designers? How do we skill them? And let me tell you honestly, that there is a shortage of such skilled peoples right now in India. And therefore, there is a reorientation needed. We have a lot of passion, lot of energy, lot of diamonds, and a lot of vibrancy but we need to slightly reorient ourself for the world of tomorrow.

0:39:49.4 SJ: Sure.

0:39:50.1 RK: And Amitabh, if I can add here [0:39:51.6] ____ I think we should also go down to the school level. What you are saying is so true at the university level, but I think, and it’s a big debate that’s already happening, how do you actually start, literally, from the, maybe class 1 curricula? Particularly, Rohini, what you’re talking about climate change, and how do you inculcate, even things like health, even things like how to… A simple thing like yoga. You start from class three or four, it becomes part of the way you grow, it teaches you focus, it teaches you… It makes you a different individual. I think it should really go down, since you, Amitabh, I can… Are an influencer, I think somewhere even from the school curricula that we’re looking at, which is good in some ways, but a lot of rote, I think if we can start there too, it’s going to go a long, long way.

0:40:50.8 AK: Renu, just to tell you that one of the key things that we’ve done is, we started… We run these Atal Tinkering Labs in schools through the Atal Innovation Mission which is housed in NITI Aayog. So, we are over, now we, in three years’ time, we run over about 7,000 Tinkering Labs in schools from class five onwards, children have access to 3D printers, robots… We’re really skilling for the technologies of tomorrow and we’ve really made these Tinkering Labs, children, young children, compete with each other. And then we award them. So, the amount of innovation we’ve seen from these Tinkering Labs is just enormous. The huge innovative spirit of young Indians demonstrated through these Tinkering Labs.

0:41:35.0 SJ: Sure, sir. I understand, we have just a couple of minutes left on this plenary. I know there’s a lot to discuss, and we started by saying that this is a big picture question. I wanna try and squeeze in one viewer… One audience member query that has come in, if I can, before I take closing comments. How would housing for all work when we’re still unable to provide equitable access to land? That’s a question that’s come in from one of the audience members. Perhaps, Renu, if I can direct that to you.

0:42:05.5 RK: We’ll honestly equip… It depends on what part… What you’re looking at. There is… Access to land has changed a lot in the last few years. We are now looking at state governments actually, earmarking land and working out really good public-private partnerships where the land is being made available by the state government, they’re inviting developers from the private sector with the condition that they’re going to make homes, which are in the affordable segment. Now, please don’t think affordable segment means slums. No, they’re not. These are nice one-bedroom, two-bedroom homes. Yes, they are a little, maybe towards a little of the outskirts of the city. So, I think as far as land is concerned, it’s always been an issue. Land prices in Delhis and Bombays, of course, are all… Are deterrents, but if you move to the second tier cities, or you move to outside, I think the availability of land in the last few years has gone up. And I can see a lot more of mid-income to low-income housing which is coming up, which hitherto hadn’t happened.

0:43:16.8 SJ: Yeah. Alright…

0:43:18.9 RN: Sunanda, land issues are not only belonging to the urban sector, look. So, we have to look around our country, there are still many landless people in our rural areas. In some sense, the huge false debate between development and the environment has to be resolved. In some sense, we are dispossessing people of their ancestral lands. So, land is a complex issue. And I think… While I completely agree with Renu that so much more is happening on housing for the urban low-income sector, there are still many other land issues, both for the sake of the environment and the sake of our indigenous people, who we also thought about when we think about land issues, if I may.

0:44:03.0 RN: Because Charcha tries to bring some of the unspoken issues also, out into the open, and how can we have a very good debate and discourse without polarisation, without judgmental-ness, for some time, keep away our ideologies, and just listen and talk to each other across normal divides, right? That’s what Charcha hopes to do over these next three days. So, I hope we’ll go… We’ll look at the kind of innovations that Amitabh and Renu have been talking about for this past 45 minutes, and that’s very good that they are talking about all the positive things. But let us also spare some time… We have… By some records, 200 more million people have gone back into poverty, right?

0:44:48.0 SJ: Sure.

0:44:48.1 RN: Some said 70, some said… Whatever that number is, even if it’s 10 million, it’s a lot. What… How are we going to reframe our thinking, all three sectors, to look at, we have slipped back so much on the SDGs. In the next two years, how can we make up for the last.. Lost years, right? What new things are we going to do together? How are we going to move forward with empathy, with inclusion, with a sense of urgency about the environment, those are the things that actually… We are going to be opening up in Charcha over the next three days.

0:45:24.8 SJ: Fantastic, and we look forward to some of those conversations. That is our time on the clock, so I’m going to take very, very brief closing comments, 30 seconds, if possible, from each of our three panelists today. And even as we’ve been talking about why it is necessary for collaboration, I would love to hear from the three of you why it is necessary, even as these three pillars are working together, to ensure that they’re also in some sense, keeping the other pillars in check, and that is necessary for that to happen. How do you keep it in check, is that happening, is there any collaborative effort? Anything that you want to leave our audience with today and Mr. Kant, if I can request [0:46:08.3] ____ you to answer?

0:46:11.4 AK: Firstly, I must say that I entirely agree with Rohini that both the twin challenges of the post-COVID world and the impending challenge of the climate change, they are gonna… They are several challenges for all of us, and therefore, COVID has impacted learning outcomes, it has impacted health outcomes, it has… It will definitely push people below the poverty line, and how do we ensure better… Improvement on these aspects. A lot of anganwadis have been closed and therefore it has impacted nutrition. And all these aspects, it’s very important that we, all of us, work together to ensure that India can be prosperous only if we are able to improve nutrition.

0:47:09.1 AK: Only if we are able to improve learning outcome, only if we are able to improve health outcome, and therefore the challenge is that all of us need to work together in partnership, and partnership has to be really the key. It’s not possible for the government to deliver alone, it’s important that it works in partnership with civil society organisation, it enables the Bazaar to work properly and therefore, all of us need to be working together to enable the society to benefit over a long period of time, and that is really the key to [0:47:46.1] ____.

0:47:50.5 SJ: Rohini, could I come to you next?

0:47:51.9 RN: Yes. Thank you. For my 30 seconds, I would say, let’s look forward, reduce the friction to collaborate, because what we all need to do is to distribute the ability to solve. We have 1.3 billion citizens who are willing to be part of the solution and not remain part of the problem. What can we design? What effective policies from the Sarkar? What enabling innovative financing from the Bazaar and allowing the Samaj sector to thrive? We have many challenges coming. Let us reduce the trust deficit, let us increase the ability to work together. Lots of good things are happening, some scary things are happening too. Now is the time to reduce all the artificial divides between us and work together and I think the civil society is very committed to this.

0:48:40.9 RN: India has hundreds of good organisations, as Amitabh was saying, willing to step forward. Sometimes there is distrust, let’s reduce that, there’s lots of work ahead. There are people who have fallen back into poverty, people who are looking for support, see one thing. And last point, in the digital age our neighbours had become strangers, because our neighbours… Sometimes the people we think are neighbours are sitting across the continent. The pandemic allowed our neighbours to return to being neighbours and strangers to become neighbours too, because we realised how connected we are. Let’s reconnect with each other’s humanity and work together. We have this country still left to build and I think we can do it, there are pathways and we should focus on some of the innovations for those pathways in this next three days of Charcha. And again, I close by congratulating the Charcha team for bringing us all together. Thank you, Amitabh, thank you, Renu, thank you, Sunanda.

0:49:40.1 SJ: Thank you so much for that, Rohini. Yes, Renu, [0:49:44.2] ____

0:49:45.2 RK: I’ll just give, because it’s all been said by Amitabh and Rohini… The only thing I would say here is to reduce some of the red tapism. You heard stories of… When the pandemic started, people were sending in the resp… What are they called? The oxygenerators, what, I’m getting the name wrong, right? And they were lying because… We could not [0:50:09.3] ____ detect the red tapism, the approvals that were required, they were lying for days at various airports. Now these are things where somebody has to take a call, in this case it would be Sarkar, that forget… Do your couple of checks and let these things out. You know of people who imported them from China, or people sent them, some of the people also, a lot of Indians got together abroad and sent the oxygen machines, and they were lying for a long time.

0:50:40.9 RK: So I think the suspicion to some extent, Rohini has already mentioned that, the suspicion between the Samaj and the Sarkar and maybe at times, when you are talking about the Bazaar, that needs to be reduced. That is enough reason and rationale for that to happen because we do have really, really bad eggs in any basket, but that doesn’t mean the rest of them are bad also. So I think some bit of that red tapism at a point in time, somebody should come in and say, “No, this needs to move, it doesn’t matter, I take all the responsibility of it.” I think if something like that could happen.

0:51:21.5 SJ: Alright, that’s all the time that we have today unfortunately, but the Charcha will definitely continue on some of the topics that have been highlighted today, whether it’s nutrition, whether it is health, financial inclusion, climate change, technology bringing us together rather than dividing us. It’s been my pleasure hosting three of you, thank you for everyone who is logged in. The next session is at 7:00 PM, I understand, that’s the next plenary. For now, it’s a wrap. [0:51:46.7] ____

0:51:47.2 RK: Thank you so much. Wonderful, thank you so much. Thanks.

0:51:51.2 SJ: Thank you so much.

More like this

Civil Society  |  Active Citizenship

Rohini Nilekani | Want to make a difference? Then initiate it.

Good governance, no matter how you define it, is about more than govt and its institutions. Its about citizens investing and engaging in transformation process. View PDF
Mar 19, 2015 | Article

Civil Society

To Fail is to Have Dared

In this interview with IDR, Rohini speaks about why we need to underwrite failure in the social sector, how philanthropists can support failure in practice, and shares some of her own failures as an activist philanthropist. When working on complex issues of social change, failure is inevitable. Yet, people in the social sector are reluctant […]
Apr 16, 2021 |

Education  |  Civil Society

Keynote address at the Belongg Library Network Launch Event 

This is an edited version of Rohini Nilekani’s Keynote Address at the Belongg Library Network Launch Event. Belongg Library’s vision for inclusion and diversity is very welcome and timely. We need to find spaces and tools for people to be able to explore beyond their narrow horizons. People must be allowed the luxury of moving […]
Nov 28, 2020 |

Civil Society

Charge of the compassionate brigade

Modern society is classified into different segments. First you have the state, as represented by elected officials and lawmakers, politicians, ministers, bureaucrats and other organs of the state. Then there are the commercial bodies — companies, chambers of commerce and other market players. The third segment (there is a fourth, the underworld and the mafia, […]
Jan 26, 2012 | Interview