A Developing India

A Developing India

On our second day at IIT Gandhinagar, Alphons Kannanthanam, a famous Indian politican, discussed the bureaucracy and politics of India. Alphons worked as an Indian Administrative Service and was an elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala. He earned the title, The Demolition Man, after he razed over 14,000 illegal buildings as commissioners of the Delhi Development Authority. He was also featured among TIME Magazine’s list of 100 young global leaders in ‘94. As District Collector of Kottayam, he pioneered the literacy movement in India by making Kottayam town the first 100% literate town in India in ‘89. Currently, Alphons in a National Executive Member of the Bharatiaya Janata Party (BJP).

Alphons presented a different approach to changing India compared to the previous day’s speaker, Roop Rekha Verma. Verma advocated a bottom up, grass roots approach to achieve her goals of granting minority rights and providing for children’s education. Her path to change involved less politics and more open discourse and awareness of issues. Alphons, on the other hand supported a top down, more authoritative approach for providing jobs and wealth to India whose poverty rate is above 30%. He wants more power to implement his goals. The people of India seem frustrated with the inaction and corruption of their government and so Alphons appears to offer a firm but practical approach to this inaction. The IIT and Caltech students debated heavily over these issues especially as Alphon’s talk became more politically charged as he talked about Narendra Modi of the BJP. Modi is a controversial figure for among other things, being in power of the state of Gujarat when there was widespream anti-muslim violence. He is accused of taking inadequate steps to stop Hindu mobs from massacring atleast 1,000 of their Muslim neighbors in 2002. Modi may become India’s next Prime Minister which Alphons belives to be almost certain. This lecture left us many more times more aware of the political and social problems in India along with different views on their solutions.

With these issues on our mind, we spent the rest of the day experiencing more of Indian culture. At night, we ate at this restuarant that recreated an old Hindu village complete with Hindu rituals, classical music, and artwork. Dinner was panjabi food which was varied and sweet. Servers would come around every so often to replenish our food on our leaf plate (pictured below).

After dinner we got to experience some Indian classical music and dance. The IIT students showed us some dance moves while a few of us got to partipating in playing the instruments. Vansh got to play drums and Edward, another Techer, played the harmonium.

The place also had a small museum with art and pottery (pictured below).