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Why addressing Dalit, human rights, racism, combatting corruption 'makes MBA holistic'

Sandeep Pandey
By Rishabh Bansal* 
When you envision a typical MBA student, especially one hailing from a prestigious institution like the IIM, various thoughts arise – from accounting, economics to finance. Considerations encompass placement rates, lucrative compensation packages, and industry giants like Tatas, Big 4, MBBs, and other influential firms.
These thoughts are not entirely unfounded, for they mirror the aspirations that drive the youth of the nation to strive vigorously during their rigorous two-year tenure at the college. However, amidst this prevalent capitalist focus, one vital objective behind the establishment of these institutions often goes overlooked: the intent to foster a positive, enduring influence on society.
While the curriculum largely gears towards equipping future leaders with the tools to amass wealth through their expertise, it often neglects a critical aspect: the study of socialist movements and their role in shaping a more holistic-worldview.
This is where an elective course in the second year takes centre stage – "Transforming Social Movements" (TSM), led by Prof. Sandeep Pandey. Unlike any other course at the institute, TSM stands apart. It entails a series of 20 sessions meticulously designed to delve deeply into a wide spectrum of social movements across the globe, transcending geographical boundaries.
Topics encompass movements advocating for dalit rights, combatting corruption, upholding human rights, and addressing racism. Furthermore, the course takes an academic approach to dissecting the factors contributing to the success and emergence of such movements.
Yet, it is the nature of assignments that sets TSM apart. Departing from conventional submission of reports, these assignments necessitate tangible engagement with the real world and its people, aiming for genuine impact.
There are two components: a group project, in which each team chooses a pressing social issue and actively contributes to its advancement; and an individual project, requiring personal connections with individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds, to alleviate specific challenges.

Driving a social cause

For the group assignment, various endeavours were undertaken, ranging from fundraising for marginalized communities to hosting screenings of socially relevant films, followed by discussions with the producers. In my case, our group directed our efforts towards addressing manual scavenging and sanitation issues.
Visiting the Jogrimatanichali community near the Sabarmati riverfront exposed us to deplorable living conditions resulting from open defecation and a lack of proper sanitation facilities. Immersed in their struggles, we recognized the gravity of the issues beyond what we had read in newspapers. Our responsibility to intervene effectively became evident, given our position. We compiled a report and submitted it to the AMC, eagerly awaiting their response.

Making an individual impact

For the individual project, I chose to assist a daily-wage worker contracted by IIM-A to aid in procuring Ayushman Bharat cards. Establishing a personal rapport through activities like cricket and village visits offered a humbling experience.
I gained insight into his arduous daily commute of nearly two hours each way and learned about his family and his journey, starting at IIM-A at a mere age of 16/17. The culmination of our interactions was my delivery of the Ayushman cards, an action that elicited immense gratitude and had a profound impact on his life.
What struck me as truly remarkable was that despite my initial apprehensions, the experience was far from awkward. On the contrary, he greeted me with boundless enthusiasm, eagerly showing me around and extending his utmost hospitality. His warm gesture even included an invitation to spend the night, ensuring my comfort at every turn.
He took immense pride in displaying his living conditions, inviting me for future visits. His generosity extended to treating me to the region's renowned street food – the pav omelette. Through these interactions, I came to realize the lasting impact our connection had on him and his family. What might have seemed effortless on my part held immense significance to him, underscoring the profound value of our interaction.
Numerous instances akin to this abound, showcasing students' commitment to helping raise fees for economically weaker section students and sustaining projects beyond the course duration. Alumni maintain connections with the families they assisted, exemplified by a former participant supporting a woman in her pursuit of a B.Ed. degree, then further assisting her fundraising for an M.Ed.

Learnings

Collectively, these anecdotes spotlight how TSM has transformed hundreds of lives, empowering them to forge a better path. The palpable and lasting effects underscore the necessity of management education evolving beyond the confines of capitalism, imparting to students the potency of effecting change using the ample resources at their disposal.
As a participant in the course, I strongly advocate for the integration of similar programs across educational institutions. These courses provide students with the unique chance to tangibly engage with social issues, fostering a profound sense of empathy. Such experiences are pivotal in moulding future leaders who possess a holistic understanding of societal challenges, ultimately contributing to their growth into more compassionate and effective leaders.
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*Student at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

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