The fifth Kerala edition of the Federal Bank Speak for India debate in association with
Mathrubhoomi was held at the picturesque Windsor Castle Kottayam on 7 February, 2019.
Eight participants selected from 60,000 college students across the state, through several
layers of screening reached the semi finals. The packed audience in the resort’s auditorium
included celebrity guests, officials of the bank, media persons, business leaders, people’s
representatives, teachers, families and groups of students cheering the participants.
The takeaways from the event are many. A banking institution and a media house have
come together to promote a key feature of our democratic tradition. Dialogue, Dissent,
Debate and Decision are hallmarks of democracy. A debate provides the two crescents which
when put together provide the radiant full moon in whose clear-headed light, right decisions
can be taken. Our students have noble ideas, firm convictions, gentle manners and inspiring
words to present their perspectives. They evinced belief in the dictum that those who hold
dissimilar views are not one’s enemies but are worthy opponents. A debate offers a young
mind an opportunity to stand in the shoes of others and understand differing perspectives.
One of the strengths and graceful assurances of democracy is that to the millions who
suffer in silence there is the hope that there is someone out there to speak for them. Our
young and gifted orators proved that our future is safe in their hands. Viewers who were
impressed by the dignity, elegance and forcefulness of the youngsters mused aloud that they
should find a place among the panellists who at times ‘disgust’ issues rather than discuss
them on prime time TV. Amidst the grim and gruesome cacophony in public spaces their
fresh and sweet voices modulated by clear consciences should usher in a new world.
The title Speak for India is noteworthy. Over the past few years our youngsters have been
getting interested in global identities. Parochial navel gazing is also on the rise. Somehow the
throbs for our beloved nation seem to be on the back burner. Only victories in cricket appear
to remind us of our nationhood. Regional satraps fan the flames of sub national pride. We
need our youngsters to stand up and speak for India pursuing her as a dream, a reality and an
emotion. The talented youngsters did precisely that at Kottayam on that memorable February
Meticulous planning, technological perfection and professional execution marked the
event and full credit goes to Red Mic the events division of Mathrubhoomi. Campus Politics
should be Banned was the topic for the semi final from which the final four contestants were
chosen. The three judges Dr Jancy James formerly vice chancellor of the MG and Central
universities, Shri APM Mohammed Hanish MD Metro Kochi and myself formed the judging
panel. It was an onerous task as the contestants went full throttle. The race was neck and neck
and neck... Well groomed and prepared pairs which spoke in favour and against the motion
for a minute each seemed to have accuracy, brevity and clarity as the watch words. The five
minute argument session was exciting with its rapid exchange of firepower. It was followed
by sobering questions from the judging panel to which the contestants responded with
presence of mind and lucidity.
Angela, Bryan, Aparna and Sruthi were selected for the final. It had a sensitive issue to be
debated. Entry of Women of all ages to Sabarimala. The students had one and a half minutes
to present their views after which they argued for five minutes. The moderator Mr Praveen
Parameshwar himself a fine speaker ensured that they had equal opportunity and time. Good
anchoring by Sruthi Gupta pepped up the event. The panel of judges had their questions lined
up. The contestants had ready if not right answers for the queries. The audience supported the
debaters with rapt attention and loud applause. As the final score was being tabulated the
award function got underway.
Ambassador Shri T.P. Sreenivasan the chief guest of the day delivered a brief but brilliant
speech highlighting the significance and nuances of public speaking. Director Siby Malayil
and actors Anushree and Sruthi graced the occasion. Capt. Vijay Varma who figured
prominently in the heroic rescue missions during the August, 2018 floods was honoured at
First year Medical student Angela Rose Augustin of the Govt. Medical College
Trivandrum came first winning Rs 150,000. MBA student Sruthi Radhakrishnan of Rajagiri
CFBS Kochi came second winning Rs one lakh. Rexymol Mathew of Newman College
Thodupuzha won the popular choice award and Rs 50000. Consolation prizes were given to
all the finalists. The MD and CEO of Federal Bank Shri Shyam Sreenivasan, Executive
Editor of Mathrubhoomi Shri P.I. Rajiv and a host of dignitaries attended the meeting.