Harvard US-India Initiative Conference 2016

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The Harvard College US–India Initiative, was started in 2011, is a student-led organization with the aim of promoting long-term cooperation between the Indian and American youth to address some of India’s most pressing social, economic and environmental issues.

The HUII conference which was held at The Trident Hotel at Nariman point, Mumbai on the 8th and 9th January, 2016  consisted of around 350 delegates from all over the country, who were selected on the basis of two essays and their CV from about 5000 applicants. The conference comprised of 5 different panels- Education, Politics, Society, Economics and Giving Back. Each of these panels further had 4 subdivisions which were assigned to each delegate. There were also keynote speakers who spoke on a wide array of topics.

 

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Day one started off with a keynote by Sheela Patel, who is not only the founder of the NGO, SPARC, but also a Padma Shri Awardee. It focused on the need for urban planning, clean neighbourhoods, the importance of slum dwellers in India and the necessity to rehabilitate their lives. Her keynote was followed by the first panel topic: Education, under which there were four sub-topics:-

  • Education’s next big steps: Evaluating Public Schools and the RTE
  • A Career in the Arts
  • Mugging for Marks: Are we robbed of experiential learning and critical thinking?
  • Liberal Arts and Conservative Societies: Should Indian colleges embrace the liberal arts?

Next was a keynote by the renowned speaker and Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, who spoke mainly on globalization and the need for a more integrated society. Next in line was the second panel of topic: Politics, with the following four subdivisions, two of which were in collaboration with Georgetown University:-

  • A clarion call for the youth of India to join Politics
  • Modi’s foreign policy; It’s strategies and results
  • Our tryst with corruption
  • A Politics that preaches Intolerance: Incidents of religious violence

The conference was then addressed by Shiv Khemka, Businessman, Philanthropist and Founder of The Global Education and Leadership Foundation (TGELF), an initiative of The Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation. He threw light on the importance of equality and gave a general talk on motivation. The day ended with a Question-Answer session with the current RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan, where the questions were pre-selected.

“The conference was a wonderful learning opportunity for me. The exposure was great and all the delegates had an amazing time interacting with the speakers. Such events are a brilliant opportunity for the youth to discuss issues of national importance.” – Prateek Pillai, a delegate at the HUII conference.

The second day which began with a keynote by Ronnie Screwvala, Founder of the UTV Group, was a general pet talk on management and entrepreneurship. Next was a discussion on the four topics under the panel: Society:-

  • Preserving India’s Rich Heritage
  • Publication On Media: Challenges catering to an extremely diverse demographic
  • Discrimination in a Diverse Nation
  • The Judiciary’s Role in Protecting National Interest; It’s unique level of activism

The audience further got a chance to interact with Cyrus Mistry, Businessman and Chairman of the Tata Group who was in conversation with the multi-faceted Bahram Vakil, wherein he spoke about Tata’s future and Indian economy’s development. Next panel topic in discussion was Economics with the following subdivisions:-

  • Venture Capital and the Rise of the Indian Startup: startups experiencing unprecedented growth
  • Powering the Future: India’s Energy Outlook
  • BRICS or Bust: With Brazil imploding, Russian rouble losing its value, China slowing down, India’s future is uncertain
  • Make in India: An Unmake-able dream?

The last panel: Giving Back shed light on the following topics:-

  • When thePublic and Private Sectors Meet: An interaction between the two
  • Alternative Care for Children: Abandoned, Orphaned, or Abused
  • Healthcare Provision for the Underprivileged
  • Effective Altruism: How can we do Good, Better?

The day concluded with a keynote by Mr. Piyush Goel, Minister of Coal and Energy and an inspiring speech by the ‘Teach For India’ CEO, Shaheen Mistry, who talked about teaching children, the need to educate and shared real stories where children taught under TFI had risen from poverty and went on to become extremely successful in their lives.