Date: 28th July 2012
Time: 11 AM – 1 PM
The inaugural Kolkata edition of “The Swaniti Talks” was hosted by Shri Dinesh Trivedi in collaboration with The Swaniti Initiative. The event, titled Zero Hour with Dinesh Trivedi, was held in a café, The Tea Trove, on Sarat Bose Road on the 28th of July, 2012. The topic of discussion was “The Role of Youth in Indian Politics”. The talk was organized with the intent of raising political awareness amongst the Indian youth and was a closed event for about thirty five interested students, working professionals and citizens interested in polity and governance.
Shri Dinesh Trivedi, a member of the All India Trinamool Congress and presently a Member of Parliament representing West Bengal in Lok Sabha for Barrackpore (since 2009), joined Indian politics in 1980s and had been a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 2008.
He joined the cabinet in 2009 as the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare and transitioned to the position of Union Minister of Railways from 2011 to 2012.
Mr. Trivedi opened the session by reading out from a copy of the Constitution of India, and the illustrious names who drafted it. He continued onto a riveting story about his transition from a very successful business executive in the United States to a concerned citizen and politician in India. “It was all fortuitous – none of these transition steps were planned,” reflected Mr. Trivedi, an MBA graduate of the University of Texas, Austin. Mr. Trivedi quit his lucrative job in the US to return to India and began his work by starting a consumer protection centre to aid transparency in everyday life. Later, he also started his own air freight company. It was during the course of his work in India that he realized that he had to do something substantial to contribute to the country’s political system. Frustrated with his father’s struggle against the deep-rooted corruption in Indian bureaucracy, he persevered in his efforts to become a part of the political change that he believed in. As a youngster, he petitioned the Supreme Court of India to make the Vohra report public. His efforts which furthered the landmark judgement can be seen today in the context of the powerful Right to Information movement that has transformed civil participation in governance. He firmly made the case for politics being the social responsibility of every citizen rather than it being a full-time vocation. “Leveraging diverse educational, personal and professional experiences to usher in strong political leadership is crucial,” said Mr. Trivedi as he referenced the effective political machinery in the United States.
Shri Dinesh Trivedi’s opening statement was followed by a stimulating Q&A session where he fielded questions about dynastic politics, criminalization of politics and mismanagement of infrastructure projects. His frankness and wit was visibly appreciated as he also spoke about his tenure as the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare and later as the Union Railway Minister. The talk finally concluded with a breakout and networking session where Mr. Trivedi interacted with the audience on a one-on-one basis over tea and cookies.
His interactions and demeanour, clearly hiding the tiredness from the flight that morning from Dharamsala, to attend the Zero Hour – portraying a dedication, commitment and an open mind which will be an inspiration to all the youth who had gathered there.