Students learn to write on social issues at IITGN


Gandhinagar, Jan 4: Through a team effort of The United Nations Foundation, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) and Fair Observer, a program called “Voices of the World” was conducted at IITGN to train students on how to examine and write about social issues and United Nation Sustainable Development Goals. Over 200 students took part in the program that was held on December 31, 2016. 

The 2016 Voices of the World Program has taught students in six countries: the US, Mexico, Austria, Morocco, Kenya and India. 

Fair Observer is an organization that informs and educates global citizens of today and tomorrow. It publishes journals that examine the deeper issues behind the news, provides context and brings together perspectives from around the world.  Already, it has more than 1,700 contributors from over 70 countries, including Nobel laureates, policymakers and business leaders.  As per Google, Fair Observer’s audience comes from 219 countries and is highly influential.  Its advisers include John Bruton, the former Irish Prime Minister who began the Northern Irish Peace Process, and Chitra Subramaniam, a leading Indian journalist who investigated Bofors. 

Prof Atul Singh, the Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Fair Observer, and Scholar-in-Residence at IITGN conducted the 2016 Voices of the World Program to inspire the students to focus on the real issues facing the people such as lack of water, poor health and poverty eradication.  Prof Singh said, “The idea is that top-down discourse always works is naïve at best and arrogant at worst. Therefore, it is important that Indian students tell their own stories to a global audience instead of letting the Americans or the British to do it for them.” 

Talking about writing for social issues, Prof Singh said, “To tell their own stories though, the students have to learn essential skills. They have to cut out the noise to focus on what is important. They have to study existing discourse and come up with hypotheses. Once they come up with hypotheses, they have to examine evidence and forge an argument. Then they have to express their argument with clarity and cogency. Structure and flow assume utmost importance.” 

In the workshop, students discussed issues that are rarely touched upon in daily discussion. For instance, the level of pollution in the Ganga is now 3,000 times higher than the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization. Water tables are falling in the country even as the glaciers are drying. This bodes ill for a country with an increasing population and growing demand for consumption in all forms. 

Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and a noted social activist, who has worked for underprivileged children and for empowerment of marginalized activities, attended the program. He said that it was very useful for students as it made them think. Furthermore, any democracy is run by its citizens who have to learn how to focus on key issues and work together to solve challenges. The program was a means of nudging students not only to be better writers, researchers and speakers but also to be active citizens who participate in the running of their country. IITGN is delighted to be the Indian partner of Fair Observer and the United Nations Foundation, and honored to have conducted such a long training on the last day of the year.