Sunday, February 14, 2016
Dialogue on Just Governance 2016, Asia Plateau, Panchgani, India.

Report from Day 2 Saturday, 13 February


The second day of the Dialogue gave the participants the possibility for an early morning reflection. The Venerable Banagala Upatissa Thero gracefully offered a spiritual input for the session, ‘Things make our mind unhappy, as well as anger and ignorance. People are dissatisfied because they keep wanting more. Do not let the mind go heavy on desires. Contentment is most important to extend life.’

In preparation for the first plenary Dr Ravindra Rao spoke of ‘putting into practise IofC’s universal values of purity, honesty, unselfishness and love, and listening to our inner voice. These two tools can give us the courage and the confidence to become a leader, a change-maker. Everybody wants to see the other change, the other country change, but for that to happen change starts with us, we need to be the change we want to see in the world.’  Zooni Dash, one of the younger Dialogue volunteers, enacted an illustration of the application of these values in her own life that enabled her to serve others and her country.


Plenary: Just Governance is not just for Governments

Dr Ganesh Devy, former professor at University of Baroda and founder director of the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Vadodara, gave the first food for thought explaining that there is already a range of ideas on good governance, including those of Marx, Buddha, Gandhi and others. All those may still be valid. However, these ideas evolve because the world is also changing, and hence dialogue is necessary, including dialogue where the minorities find a space to speak openly, and where there also is room for protest.


Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni (India), Founder Trustee and Executive Director at Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) described how governance tries to deal with conflict in a way that is often built on a base of mistrust. The same can be said about governance of natural resources, as is the case with water access, distribution and management. In earlier times this was tackled through shared responsibility, active participation and a certain amount of community discipline. The solution for a more sustainable management practice when it comes to natural resources such as water is to build structures of justice and governance including the concepts of trust and discipline.

Dr. Sherman Garnett, Dean of James Madison College at Michigan State University, related governance to teaching. Teaching is a space where you can find people from different places, cultures and mind-sets learning and sharing with each other. When reading the same text we can draw different meaning from it, and at the same time discuss within a certain framework. The same goes with good governance.




Sharada Pawar shared her personal story of being elected as the head woman (sarpanch) in the village of Nizare, India. ‘For 35 years there has been acute water shortage in my village. Hence I decided my priority was to bring water’. She managed to get governmental funding with which she was able to bring piped water from the mountains to her village. She had to face a lot of opposition with men not wanting a woman to succeed.After ending her five years of service as a sarpanch she is now working with training of future village leaders in the IofC Grampari Rural Ecological Centre.


Sudhakar Varanasi is a pioneer of the EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) project and the 108 Emergency Response Service (ambulance services). He started the project when a close friend died because no quick help was available after a car accident. Initially we worked with private funding and eventually managed to get several state governments to partner in the projects. By the 10th anniversary, this service has saved 1.5 million lives. Today it is available in 19 states. He illustrated how ‘a single individual can make a big change in India when having a good cause and working together with others, including governments.’


Every day sessions with the panellists and others in smaller groups (Focused Dialogues) offered a space to go deeper into the topics.   Some examples:

Kurds in the Middle East: A view from Turkey and Syria

Yvo FitzHerbert, a freelance journalist, who writes for the Sunday Times, UK, and Middle East, UK, shared the experience he had on the Kurdish question. The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own, spread over four neighbouring countries. He illustrated the struggles which more recently have become even more dramatic since the ISIS attacks.

FitzHerbert continued: ‘the civilians open up one’s eyes to a whole new world of hope by living the Islamic concept of hospitality and generosity even when they are in situations like this.’

Environment as a community builder

Environment as a community builder with the morning plenary dialogue initiator Himanshu Kulkarni and V. K. Madhavan (Managing Director of Skills Education Private Limited). They elaborated on positive examples of individual responsibility when conserving water or its resources.




Language And Identity: A Focused Dialogue

This was a focussed dialogue with Abbas Tyrewala, a Mumbai based scriptwriter and filmmaker famous for his blockbuster directorial debut Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, together with Prof. Rita Kothari, currently working on A Multilingual Nation: A Translation in the Indian Context, and morning dialogue initiator Dr. Ganesh Devy.  The session unfolded into a broader discussion on language and identity.



In the afternoon a choice of workshops was offered:

E-Governance - Transparency & Accountability: Tackling Corruption

M.C. Verma, a retired Indian Administrative Services officer currently with IofC Centre for Governance (ICCFG), familiarized the audience with the various sources of corruption prevalent in India.

Rajiv Sachdeva, Director of ICCFG who served as the Managing Director of Siemens Power Engineering, introduced the concept of Smart Digital Governance.  Sachdeva introduced us to some innovative proposals which have been made to the Government of India by his team. These proposals focus heavily on utilizing the technology available to us today to increase transparency by removing the administrative intermediary processes and replacing them with automatic or IT-based solutions.

Within the concept of Smart Digital Governance, he introduced us to measures like (i) Smart Pollution Check System for Vehicles (ii) Intelligent Traffic Signal System (iii) e-Fireworks to reduce air pollution and Electric Hot Spots.

The interaction which followed focussed heavily on the conclusion that while the technologies will give us means, ‘until and unless the common man and the authority have an intention to do the right thing, technologies to increase transparency will not be implemented.’


From Polarization to Participation (INGO Dialogue Tool Kit)

Christoph Spreng, Switzerland, IofC representative at the INGO of Council of Europe held an interactive introduction to the International NGO’s Dialogue Toolkit aiming to build bridges in situations where there are tensions between minorities and ‘the majority’. The toolkit has taken many of its case studies from IofC. Spreng passionately led people through the course of the dialogue that will help them understand the unsaid and real issues in their own situation and through that making just governance a reality.

Participants from the North East of India and from Sri Lanka were particularly interested in the use of the tools for the sensitive situations of their regions.  ‘If you want progress, talk about what needs to be talked about, not what everybody else is talking about,’ were the guiding words from Spreng.


Chowk Time










Chowk Time! (A chowk in Hindi means a street crossing). The Chowk time was a relaxed space after a full day of intense dialogues on various topics.






The second day of the Dialogue on Just Governance concluded with an intimate evening in conversation with Ganesh Devy, Niketu Iralu, and Rajmohan Gandhi. To read more click here>>


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