She is an ex-journalist, an author and a social activist. Now, Rohini Nilekani dons the mantle of television presenter with an 8-part series, Uncommon Ground, which brings together prominent corporate heads and social activists to debate some of the major challenges that India is facing today.
Uncommon Ground attempts to get two seemingly conflicting perspectives — that of the corporate world and the development sector — to share opinion and debate issues such as food, healthcare, land rights and sustainable development. “The goal was just to get people who had never even met in some cases to talk and listen. What’s uncommon about the show is that it tries to make ground for such debate,” says Nilekani.
“We’ve reached a point in India where business as usual will not do,” she says. “The bigger corporations have understood that. Now the next set of questions is about how to make growth continue without completely eroding the natural resource base, without allowing inequity, and to listen to alternative voices in the process.”
This is where the point of view of the developmental sector comes in. “I think both sectors have an extremely positive role to play [in India’s development],” she says.
Hence, in the course of the series, viewers shall see Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries come face to face with environmental scientist and Nobel Peace prize recipient Dr RK Pachauri to discuss energy solutions; Mahindra & Mahindra vice-chairman and MD Anand Mahindra debate on the issue of land rights with Medha Patkar; and Sunil Mittal of Bharti Group debating the right employment model with political and social activist Aruna Roy.
What emerged from the series, says Nilekani, was that there is much scope for further debate. “It was clear that there are very different development perspectives, but no part of society can wish the other away.”
At the end of the day, Nilekani is optimistic. “If we are willing as a society to work together in the grey areas, we can create an unique Indian solution. We really can,” says the lady. “And I pray that viewers will think about the issues discussed.”