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From future managers to poll observers

Archana Mohan  |  Mumbai/ Ahmedabad 

For years, Indian Institutes of (IIMs), the seats of learning in the country, have faced flak for being 'elitist' and 'playing mute spectators' to public affairs.
Students passing out from the IIMs each year are accused of using the IIM tag to go up the corporate ladder rather than contributing to the society.
However, the first signs of active political and public policy participation on the IIM campuses are now visible. Students of the Post Graduate Programme (PGP) at IIM Ahmedabad are quietly gearing up to refute the notion by forming a special interest group on public policy with active support of top-notch politicians including Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury.
The group has been formed to give students a forum for activism, to understand government policies and its impact on the economy. Some students are also participating as 'Poll Observers' in the Gujarat elections this year.
The co-creator of the group is Krishna Chepuri, a second year PGP student who incidentally was the first student in the history of the IIMs to undertake his summer internship with a political party.
After two months of training under Sitaram Yechury, the politburo member of CPI(M), Chepuri and his batchmate Vijayendra Haryal, who pioneered the social entrepreneurship fair at the campus, are making plans to involve more and more IIM students into working with politicians and public policy officials during summer internships and for preparing research and case studies during the year.
The Public Policy Group, which has 15 core members and 40-50 students from a variety of programmes, had tested rather controversial waters by bringing 123 nuclear deal critics like Sitaram Yechury and those for it like G Balachandran, visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, to the IIM-A to debate on the issue at a crucial juncture when the UPA government was facing pressure from the Left parties.
However, not only was the debate a big hit but also managed to earn them brownie points with political leaders who have expressed willingness to involve them in creating solutions for inclusive growth.
Haryal believes that the visits of Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar, Edward Murray, a US senator, and Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami to the campus have already ignited the interest of first year IIM students who are also exploring Chepuri's route of interning with a political party.
In fact, such is the political fervour on the campus this year that about 40 students of IIM-A will be working as poll-observers at the Gujarat elections this year.
While this is not part of the public policy group, the students have received the nod from the EC and would be posted at polling stations in various constituencies.

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First Published: Tue, December 11 2007. 00:00 IST
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