The NLS Experience by Rhea Nath, Beyond Academics Captain

The National Law School of India University (NLSIU) held its third edition of its Junior Debate Competition from 29th November to 1st December at its campus at Chandra Layout, Bangalore. It is a debate competition unlike any other due to its unique format: parliamentary debating.

For those unfamiliar with parliamentary debating, it is a common form of academic debate that consists of 6 speakers: 3 speakers for the topic, representing the ‘Government’ and 3 speakers against the topic, representing the ‘Opposition’. The 3 government speakers take on the roles of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and finally, the Government Whip. Their respective counterparts are called the Leader of Opposition, the Deputy Leader of Opposition and the Opposition Whip.

I was pleased to attend the NLS Junior Debate for the second time this year. At my last venture in 2012-2013, my team consisted of myself as Prime Minister, Shraddha Nair as Deputy Prime Minister and Sudharshan Madhavan as Whip. I would say that we did reasonably well, coming in 3rd place overall. Significantly, all three of us were in the top 10 of the Best Speaker list, placing #2, #3 and #9 respectively. It was my first attempt at parliamentary debate and I was glad to take in all the adjudicator feedback I could get. My favourite part about the experience on a whole is the fact that all the judges are students of the college themselves and are quite approachable. At the end of each round, they are ready to give both team and individual feedback. Personally, I tried to incorporate all their suggestions in every round and it really made me strive to be a better debater.

Of course, after a good run last year, I approached this year’s NLS Junior Debate with great expectations. However, my team was quite different. I was paired up with school captain, Tejas Rao (who was attending the NLS Junior Debate for the third time) and Venturer house captain, Niketa Nerurkar. Unlike last year, I had a good idea of what was expected of me as a Prime Minister and I felt confident in my speaking skills. In fact, I would say that all three of us entered the competition with an upbeat attitude.

At the end of the 4 rounds of debate on the first two days, there is a “break” that determines the top 8 teams of the tournament who qualify for the quarterfinals. Out of the 4 Inventure teams in the tournament, 2 teams made the break –Inventure3 with 4 wins and 0 losses and my team, Inventure1, with 3 wins and 1 loss.

The topic for the quarterfinals was an exciting one. It was “This house believes that the government must follow and publicize a policy of non-negotiation with hostage takers” and out of all the motions in this year’s competition, I personally enjoyed this one the most. My team was opposed to the topic and we layered our argument on the themes of information failure from non-negotiation, the decreased sense of security in the people from such a public policy and finally, the issue of whether all hostage takers were terrorists. The government made several references to the IC814 hostage situation which was determined to have a direct link to 26/11 in Mumbai and I’ll admit that it was a tough argument to counter. In the end, we won by a reasonable margin and to our delight, the other Inventure team also qualified for the semi-finals!

Having previously made it to the semi-finals and lost, I was determined to put up a better show this year. Both Inventure1 and Inventure3 were in the semis and we all wished for an all-Inventure final. During lunch, right before the semi-finals were to begin, we were hopeful.

At least in my mind, these hopes were dashed when we found out the topic –“This house believes that the government should provide free vocational training to the unemployed in rural areas instead of the MGNREGA”. We were the opposition and it needs to be understood that it’s quite hard to debate on a topic when you don’t wholeheartedly believe in it. The NREGA is a government scheme that guarantees employment within 15 days in the form of hard labour and if it fails to do so, it provides compensations. In the short run, this may seem like an ideal situation but in all honestly, free vocational training provides a long-run benefit to the population. We were stumped in that aspect and I think that it reflected in our debate, because in the end, both Inventure teams lost in the semi-finals.

It was my last chance to take part in the NLS Junior Debate and I do feel like we left on a high note, making it to the semi-finals once again. Unlike last year, I did not make it to the Best Speaker List, but I take great happiness in the fact that my team mates did. Shraddha Nair was #7, Ishan Prabhakaran was #12 and our school captain, Tejas Rao, was #14 in the Best Speaker List out of nearly 54 speakers in the tournament. It’s a great achievement for Inventure Academy and while I will graduate this year and be unable to take part again, I have high expectations for next year’s delegation!