India Education Diary | 22 November 2016
Centre for Civil Society, India’s leading think-tank advocating social change through public policy, in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom launched a Festschrift titled ‘Liberalism in India: Past, Present and Future’ in honour of Late S V Raju, one of India’s strongest liberal voices. The book launch was preceded by a day-long conference featuring prominent Indian economist and public intellectuals such as Gurcharan Das, Author and Public Intellectual; Ashish Dhawan, Founder and Chairman, Central Square Foundation; Deepak Lal , Eminent Economist; J P Narayan, Founder, Lok Satta Party; Jaithirth Rao, Founder & Former CEO, MphasiS; Hindol Sengupta Editor-at-Large at Fortune India; Laveesh Bhandari, Founder & Director, Indicus; R Jagannathan, Editorial Director, Swarajya magazine; Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Research Director, India Development Foundation, and many more.
The editor of the book, Parth J Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society highlighted the evolution of the project, which was conceptualized as a roadmap for liberal policy-making, and touches upon enduring and emerging social issues as religious freedom, social security, reservations, decentralization, and security in radically networked societies. Affirming the roots of Indian liberal thought, contributor to the volume, Hindol Sengupta noted that, “Liberalism and plurality is in our history, and it is our future.” He stressed the “need to think outside of echo chambers which include people like us.” Arguing for decentralization, contributor to the volume Jayaprakash Narayan said, “Pragmatism demands we devolve power to local levels to sustain a common market” and that “we have created over-structured, underpowered, and irrelevant local governments.” Deepak Lal noted that “the most important thing for India is economic liberalism, which would be in support of Panchayati Raj.” Some of the interesting ideas and solutions proposed during the conference included revoking the welfare state and to end bureaucracy. Enumerating solutions for unemployment and self reliance, sustenance and selfhood, Parth J Shah ideated about providing moral and spiritual support to the unemployed, apart from material assistance. He proposed a new model for direct citizen tax allocations, where each individual could segregate a portion of his tax dues to causes and organizations she believes in.
During one of the sessions, Barun Mitra, Founder & Director, Liberty Institute, commented, “We lack the stomach to reach out with our ideas to a larger audience beyond our circles. We ought to discover the art of communicating with people beyond our circles. Democracy is essentially not about majority rule, which is an operative rule, but it is respect for debates and dissent.”
Liberalism in India: Past, Present and Future features fifteen essays from eminent sector experts, and policy advisors, and is a key document for visualizing the future of liberal movement in India.
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