Second Prize: Yavnika Khanna (LSS Delhi 2003)
How I applied my learnings of LSS:
"Jonathan was just a young seagull. It was his destiny to live with his flock, to fish, to eat, to sleep, to wake. Is this all there is to live, wondered Jonathan. He wanted more-He wanted to glide the skies, to soar the vastness, to experiment with the power that would be his. And he did."
The Jonathan Livingston seagull in me soared during this one year singing songs of liberty, during my involvement with CCS. I attended LSS in 2003-just after entering college- a stage when one is susceptible yet quizzical. LSS gave me a new insight into issues and made me ponder over my current stance on diverse matters. Since then two years have whizzed by and I am proud to have a list of activities where I have energetically applied my learning of LSS. During the LSS I learnt about the Economic Freedom Index. And to find more about it I submitted a Statistics project in college about the EFI. The project was really appreciated by my lecturers, so much so that they referred the project to freshers and juniors in our college also! And so the word was spread around. At our college's IT festival "Logic2k", I was adjudged the 1st Runners up at the Technical paper Presentation on " Microsoft a monopoly- Why Aren't we moving towards a freer world?" During this presentation I argued that Deregulation is the buzzword in today's technology driven world. Let the Consumer be the King and it is in the long-term interest to let the market work subject to the laws of Demand and Supply. In the words of Bill Gates-" The goal of competition is this thing called low prices. In the software business, power goes up while prices come down. In extreme cases you actually get free products. " The audience and judges gave a thumbs up to Windows 95 and the thought of wealth creation!
It was then time to expand my knowledge horizons further so I attended the Advanced Liberty & Society Seminar (New Delhi) from the 24th -28th December 2003. During 2004, the outsourcing spar was at its height and I expressed my views in a letter to Editor of The Economic Times (ET), which was published in ET as "Renegade Preachers" on 11th March 2004. I also wrote articles for youth papers such as Hindustan Times Next and my views were published in the column "Inbox". The issues I covered were Politicization of Sports authorities ("Sports in a dreary state", September 1,2004) and a call for Nighttime shopping and it's effective implementation ("Efficient law enforcement is the key" Sep 3, 2004). I decided to spend my summer vacations fruitfully by researching about the issue I cared about most-Radio Privatization. "Why Radio?" you would ask-Since I learnt about the ideas of CCS at LSS, I thought of employing the ideas learnt in our day-to-day lives. When I switched on the radio, it wasn't Vividh Bharathi I was listening to but Mirchi, Red & City. On closer look- things weren't as rosy as they seemed. Yes we had choices. But how many? The government had its control over this mass medium as well. Be it heavy license fee or oppressive tax structures. Change was evident but not invasive. So the next logical step was to do the internship with CCS.CCS acted as a facilitator to all us 13 interns in more than one way. We had an enriching experience interacting with a variety of people and learning the nitty-gritty of research. My second research area was on private townships in Ghaziabad and Gurgaon. It was a study on regulatory frameworks and township utilities, which I titled " A Tale of Two Townships". No research work is complete until it is opened out in front of the governors of Public opinion i.e. the press. So I left no stone unturned and my story on campus Radio was published in A youth newspaper called Campus Paper as well as HT NEXT. In fact the article was published on the online version of the HT as well. All my efforts are in place to get the article on my second research paper published as well. My next application was editing the quarterly e-newsletter for LSS grads called E-catalyst. It has received an overwhelming response. For encouraging other grads to be a part of the endeavor I made oral presentations and persuaded participants to write for E-catalyst told them about the project at LSS October 28-31 and at Delhi LACS in August. My vision for it is to make it a bright spark for all LSS Grads, forum for all, where "feathers of the same kind flock together". I also wish that it could also be a bridge between an active Friends of Freedom and the LSS grad community and strengthen "alumni links". During intercollegiate contests I also participated actively in Group discussion in college on " Corporate social responsibility is a farce". I encouraged my college friends (and even school friends!) to attend LSS and indeed expand the CCS community. I attended Tyler Cowen's lecture on Creative Destruction and Globalization and covered it for The Campus Paper on CCS's behalf. I have initiated the FOF (Delhi) quiz and reading club, though there is much to be done on the FoF front. I wish CCS best of luck because the organization has been instrumental in the stimulating flight of the Jonathan in me. Liberty has indeed been part of my life, would continue to be.
Third Prize: Surabhi Goswami (LSS Delhi 2004)
I, Surabhi Goswami, attended the Liberty and Society Seminar (LSS), Delhi from Oct 28 to 31, 2004 and oh boy, it made for some exciting experience! Considering it a privilege and an honour to have been invited to such a 'residential seminar', I proudly announced my absence from college to my friends for these couple of days. But I was simply clueless as to what the seminar actually held in store for me and 40 other such undergraduate students. From the itinerary I somewhat gathered that the seminar would discuss issues related to economics and politics and which a final year student of economics from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University must attend. And thus I reached Jamia Hamdard, Convention Centre, Seminar Hall-2 to meet people, listen to new ideas and debate issues that would remarkably alter my life and thought process.
What happened at the seminar is very well known and is by now, of course, history. But what happened thereafter is what makes up the subject of my essay.
The Liberty and Society Seminar with its intelligently designed schedule encouraged us to think 'out of the box'. And this bee stung me so hard that not only did I realize my being a liberal always but that I emerged a greater liberal than before.
At the very beginning, I considered it important to share with the teachers of my department the valuable experience of the seminar and the novel ideas I came across. Understandably, I got a mixed response. And interestingly, at just about that time we were being taught capitalism as a market form in one of our papers called Economic Systems and so the discussion was rather well timed. Several of my friends and also some teachers came up with very strong arguments as to why the market cannot resolve all issues and cannot be resorted to for answering several important questions. In fact, to be honest, I almost felt my new ideology to be threatened at certain times. Yet I persevered and did manage to share with my friends in the tutorial classes the benefits of globalisation, how law intends to do good but does more harm because of the 'law of the invisible hand', how the market can flourish and genuinely cater to the needs of the people by not only providing the required goods and services but also providing them with a comforting, enriching and enhanced experience.
Thus I invited Dr. Parth Shah to make a presentation on the Economics of Environment for the students of the Economics Department. The presentation was well received and has created several enthusiasts who are now eager to hear more of the liberal ideas and wish to attend the forthcoming seminars.
In keeping with the momentum, I as coordinator of the society, Academic Forum, invited CCS to screen 'Greed' by John Stossel and follow it up with a discussion. Shruthijit and Saumya indeed managed to get the audience talking, several of whom despised the idea of big business houses making so much money. Yet they managed to get the message across that making money should not be considered a sin but impressed the fact that it actually works as a wonderful incentive to improve performance and genuinely deliver.
Our trip to Deepalaya was the most moving experience. It truly showed the power of civil society where the sincere will of people can really move the mountain. Deepalaya, a school for underprivileged and handicapped children launched by a non profit organization showed how the needs of the society can be met by the collective participation of the people and without any government help or coordination. The success of this school made us question the efficiency of the government run schools and also made us discuss the education system in India. This made for a rather hot subject at my college where even a very rudimentary survey I did showed the discontent students feel about the current education system, their skepticism about its privatization and yet the former outdid the latter. For issues like this and several others like privatization of prostitution and the use of censorship (though there are a few converts), the debate between my friends and me goes on..
A thought that struck me most during the seminar was that India has lived the first 57 of its independent years under so much regulation of the State and yet it has failed to become a developed nation. This clearly shows that there is something wrong in our approach to development and questions the effectiveness of our dependence on the government. This definitely set me thinking and made me discuss this issue with my teachers at college. They made for very patient listeners and after much discussion and pondering I am of the opinion that India could not have afforded to be a purely capitalist society with the State playing only a minor role in the initial years of its independence. The British literally left our country in shambles and probably the government only could have done the work of putting the nation together. But now of course the time is right (and in a way it's 'high time') that we allow the market forces to determine the allocation of resources and keep the participation of the government to the minimum i.e. to those key areas where the efficient distribution of resources is entirely beyond the reach of the market.
Ever since I attended LSS, I'm more attentive about every little transaction I enter into. Even buying a ticket in a blue line bus is no more just another of those routine mindless tasks because I think about how efficiently the bus or rather the public transport system functions, whether they make enough profits, why are the buses unclean, why some buses manage to care for their riders and others don't, why do buses plying on the same route tend to overtake each other etc. etc.!
But the ideas I picked up at LSS also caused me some distress. Because it made me debate with myself about everything I ever chanced upon to do. For example, I did a six weeks law course at college called 'The Rights of Women under Law'. There a session came up with a thought that 'capitalism actually reinforces patriarchy'. To some extent its true and I'm wondering if such a form of capitalism is possible where both the sexes are respected equally and have equal opportunity to participate in the functioning of any organization or economic set up. Maybe CCS can consider addressing the relation of liberty and gender in its future seminars.
Likewise, I sometimes find myself running into odd situations where I do tend to question the viability of such a libertarian option but I'm sure its only natural ('cause change is inevitable and hard to accept!). In fact the seminar itself gave rise to situations, where in the wake of heated and furious arguments between the scholars, my beliefs and opinions were put to test. And that is where I was able to realize that my conviction levels about certain issues are just so high. I truly owe to CCS these moments of revelation. (I'm sure CCS would remember me the next time it discusses the relevance of Mother Teresa and recollect that moment of high tension and drama!)
Despite the debate and discussion that is now part of my life, I'm glad that CCS has managed to initiate a new line of thought and has definitely been successful in its endeavour. 'An independent think tank' which has taken upon the challenge to change mindsets and suggest alternatives in dealing with pressing issues, it has definitely found a loyalist in me. No wonder I'm proud to consider myself a part of the new-found liberal family where entrepreneurial abilities are acknowledged and respected and making money and profits is no more looked down upon. Kudos, CCS!