Date: 2nd April, 2012
On April 2, 2012 a group of Swaniti members met Dr. Najma Heptulla (Vice President of BJP and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), at her residence to discuss on “Relevance of Youth in Politics” and to learn from her political experiences. There were eight Swaniti members who attended this coffee chat from diverse educational backgrounds and work experiences.
Dr. Heptulla shared a brief introduction about her and career in Indian Polity. She talked about her childhood days in Bhopal and about her grandfather Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent Indian freedom fighter and the first Minster of Education of Independent India. She shared her educational background and was very proud of her education. She completed Masters of Science Degree in Zoology and a Ph.D. in Cardiac Anatomy at the age of 22. When she was 5 years old, she saw her grandfather go to jail with other freedom fighters which made her think about the struggle for freedom. For Dr. Heptulla, her grandfather was her hero and always remained a source of inspiration. She always followed his teachings and completed her education under his mentoring. She later became a fellow at CSIR and got involved in scientific research.
Dedication to make an impact through education and meeting with Shri Indira Gandhi motivated Dr. Heptulla to enter politics. She became Rajya Sabha member in 1980 and worked on Parliamentary affairs for environment. In 1985, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, she became Deputy Chairman of Indian National Congress and focused on women, children, UNDP and social security and was later nominated to head the Indian Council of Cultural Affairs. She also worked on AIDS awareness programmes and later authored a book on the same “AIDS: Approaches and Prevention”. She closely worked with the United Nations Development Programme and was later appointed as its Human Development Ambassador. She talked about the importance of Human Development and how youth can lead towards better tomorrow with their education and skills.
She enjoys poetry and recently launched her book “Impressions”, a series of her poems. When asked about her interest in poetry, she answered that during her childhood days, she was alone most of the time and visited many places which inspired her to write the “Impressions” which she first wrote on a tissue paper with a pencil. She takes pride to be an Indian and quoted that “We have travelled to occupy mind of people not their lands”.
Following the discussion with Swaniti members, she answered some of their questions. When asked about the role of alliances and political parties, she said that Congress was a movement before Independence and after 1947 became a political party under Election Commission of India. Then it was the single political party and also the largest. Over a period of time, many regional political parties emerged and BJP became the next big political party and a strong opposition. She also shared the working and differences of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members and their legislative work. In reply to another question on where youth can contribute in national development, she said three major areas: Education (at grass-root level), Environment (Afforestation) and Family Planning.
When asked about working of Parliamentary Affairs by Mallika, Dr. Heptulla talked about the government formation through alliances, election manifestos and the recent debate on the formation of ‘Telangana’. She shared her views on the protection of rights of the Members of Parliament and said that question hour is also an answer hour and requested all members to understand the importance of question hour. She focused on the dignity of labour and was sad on India’s current situation in this context.
Speaking from some of her personal stories and experiences she said “People must be elected on the basis of talent”. She spoke on various topics starting with her proud thoughts on how a 19 year old Muslim girl became sarpanch in Gujarat to globalization and Varun Gandhi’s speech during last Lok Sabha elections.
She also spoke about her experiences at the Inter-Parliament Union and meetings with Fidel Castro, General Pervez Musharraf, her Beijing experience and how World War II became gateway for women to join jobs. She concluded the coffee chat with a wonderful quote “Age is a quality of mind”.