HTLS 2021 Recap: Top quotes from all the speakers. Read here

Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dec 04, 2021 09:29 PM IST

Spread over five days, with a mix of virtual and physical sessions, HTLS 2021 once again showed that even in the midst of political and economic changes and the upheaval brought about by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, there is a way out if everyone comes together.

The Hindustan Times Leadership Summit this year saw politicians, business leaders, lawyers, scientists, sportsperson and actors come together to share, debate and discuss what the ‘new world order’ means for their fields and the country as a whole.

Amit Shah, Union home minister, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS), in New Delhi(Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times)
Amit Shah, Union home minister, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS), in New Delhi(Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times)

Spread over five days, with a mix of virtual and physical sessions, HTLS 2021 once again showed that even in the midst of political and economic changes and the upheaval brought about by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, there is a way out if everyone comes together.

From the first day of the 19th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit to the last, speakers such as Olympic champion Usain Bolt and rising actor Janhvi Kapoor put forward their views as changes brought about by the pandemic have upended our lives.

That we as a country have been able to forge ahead despite the challenges thrown at by the spreading virus and there is a way forward was abundantly clear in the lively sessions.

Day 1

The fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt, kickstarted the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2021. The Jamaican sat down with renowned sports journalist Ayaz Memon and discussed Olympics, setting and breaking personal and world-records. Speaking on tackling growing popularity and meeting expectations, Bolt said, “I started (winning) when I was so young, everybody was looking at me getting into the senior-level and doing big things. People started saying ‘oh, he was good as a junior but he won’t make it at the senior-level’. But I focused on me, I said I won’t listen to the world but I’ll work on myself.”

The next speaker at the November 30 session was Bimal Patel, one of the chief architects of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project and the president of CEPT University in Ahmedabad. Patel, during his discussion with Hindustan Times’ editor-in-chief R Sukumar, highlighted the need for balance between protecting heritage and the need for modernising Delhi’s public spaces. He also said that it is time to remove the symbols of British Raj. “If the buildings that (Edwin) Lutyens and (Herbert) Baker built to signify the power of the British Raj over the Indian population are becoming museums we can walk into with our children and grandchildren, then it is a fantastic move. It’s about time our republic abandoned those symbols of the Raj and turned them over to the people,” Patel said.

Day 1’s last speaker was Dr Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University, who spoke about nasal vaccines and what impact it can have on the pandemic. “How do we ever stop having to vaccinate every so often? That is a question that my lab and others in the field have been tackling. One of the ways is through mucosal vaccines. Mucosal vaccines provide local protection, which is much more resilient against different mutations that occur within the virus,” Iwasaki said in a conversation with health communications specialist Sanchita Sharma.

Day 2

Day 2 of the Hindustan Leadership Summit 2021 began with India’s two Olympians who won gold medals. Archer Abhinav Bindra and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra who won gold to inspire a billion people through their victories in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2021 Tokyo Olympics, respectively. Both of them pointed out that they hated sports when they were children. Chopra highlighted how Bindra winning the gold medal changed the mindset of many sportspersons in India. “What he broke was a mental barrier. Physically, we all work hard, but his gold, it showed us that it was possible, how to do it, how to conduct ourselves, and that changed a mindset,” Neeraj said.

Bindra, on the other hand, said that Neeraj Chopra may even win another Olympic gold medal in the Olympics. “For what’s better than one Olympic gold medal? Two gold medals!” Bindra said while speaking to Hindustan Times’ managing editor Kunal Pradhan.

The next speaker was Lawrence H Summers, former White House National Economic Council director (2009-2010), who spoke to Mint’s editor-in-chief Sruthijith KK on India’s economic power.

“I have been believing in the ultimate economic power of India. I was hopeful that India could grow at 10% for 15 years, helped along by factors such as the rule of law, vast entrepreneurial energy, strengths in digital technologies and a remarkable non-resident India diaspora. I believe unlike the vast majority of countries in the world, that is possible for India,” Summers said.

Day 3

HTLS Day 3’s inaugural session began with former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra who said that a constitutional democracy should ensure that legitimate expectations of every citizen are met. While speaking to HT’s national legal editor Utkarsh Anand. “The judiciary, while performing its most important function of being the final arbiter of the Constitution, has acted as the protector of rights guaranteed under the Constitution by embarking upon the journey of fruitful engagement. The legitimate expectations of a citizen under the Constitution have to be met and no individual should remotely be regarded as an object of chemical experimentation,” Justice Misra said.

The next speaker was Union minister for external affairs S Jaishankar, who spoke on various topics like India’s three top foreign policy priorities, relations with big powers shaping the world order to advance the country’s interests and focusing on countries in India’s extended neighbourhood. He, however, highlighted India’s strained relationship with China and how despite all national security is his number one priority.

“And as we have made clear – the state of the relationship, at the end of the day, will reflect the state of the border. You can’t have a tense, high friction border and have great relations in all other parts of life. It doesn’t work that way,” Jaishankar said while speaking to HT’s foreign affairs expert Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.

The last speaker of Day 3 was Dr Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological sciences, and director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Los Angeles. Longo, in conversation with health communications specialist Sanchita Sharma, highlighted nutrition is the most-powerful way to alter how fast we age, and maybe the key factor that determines whether or not we develop age-related diseases while sharing tips and hacks on how to lead a more long and healthy life.

“We can argue, based on over 100 years of research, that nutrition is by far the most powerful way to alter how fast we age, and also alter whether we will develop an age-related disease like diabetes, cancer, cardiological and neurodegenerative diseases,” Longo said.

Day 4

Day 4 began with Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking on the future of technology and how we interact with it. “Over time, rather than people adapting to computers and phones, computing will adapt more naturally to people, which means you will be able to interact more naturally, like the way you see things and speak. I think there’s a way computing will be more immersive, and ambient — it’ll be there when you need it, not always as a black rectangle in front of you,” Pichai said while speaking to R Sukumar.

Rajan Anandan, managing director of Sequoia Capital, and Upasana Taku, co-founder and chief operating officer of digital payments company MobiKwik, next spoke on how India could be a leader in Web3 — a decentralised version of the Internet that runs on open source code such as a public blockchain, the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies.

“Web3 is very, very important, whether it’s NFTs (non-fungible tokens), gaming, or Defi (distributed finance). The kind of innovation that we’re seeing in Defi is extraordinary,” Ranjan said. Taku highlighted that this year and the years to come will create a new story for tech start-ups in India. “The start-up journey is dozens of people telling you to turn back. But... you keep going forward. Building Mobikwik is like that for me – against all odds, Bipin and I decided to go ahead with a digital wallet in 2009. Imagine, the whole world would have thought we are crazy because India was a completely cash driven economy at that time,” she said in conversation with CNBC-TV18’s deputy editor Shruti Mishra.

Indian-British hotelier Sonu Shivdasani, who was also one of speakers, in a chat with Brunch editor Jamal Sheikh pointed out that sustainability is an important issue in travel these days. “The industry needs to realise that any economic activity unfortunately benefits only the richest 20-30% of people on the planet. If you can afford to travel, even on a low-cost airline, or stay in a budget hotel, you’re still among the richest 20% on the planet, and what you’re consuming impacts the poorest. So, we need to be aware of that; we’re starting to see the consequences of our behaviour,” the chief executive officer and joint creative director of Soneva, a resort chain, said.

The final speaker on the penultimate day of the HTLS 2021 was Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who expressed confidence that under his leadership the state will vaccinate the targeted population before the end of 2021 and refuted the need for a vaccine mandate. “I think Madhya Pradesh will not require any vaccine mandate and we will finish vaccinating everyone by December 31. We are steadily doing the work of vaccinating people. We run special campaigns to jab people,” Chouhan said while speaking with national political editor Sunetra Choudhury.

He also spoke on freedom of expression but said that one should not hurt another person’s sentiments. “In the age of social media, a tweet or post can destabilize the state. We want to maintain peace and avoid unnecessary controversy. Everyone has the freedom of expression but it cannot hurt anyone else’s sentiments,” he said.

Day 5

The final day began with Union home minister Amit Shah inaugural keynote address. He spoke on various issues including the upcoming polls in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, coalition with former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s party and restoration of statehood of Jammu & Kashmir among other topics. Shah said that process is intrinsic when it comes to restoring statehood to Jammu & Kashmir. He also expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party will emerge victorious in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

“Politics is not physics, it's chemistry. Voters are aware, they won't be guided by caste equations anymore. I have extensively toured the state, and can say with confidence that BJP will form a government with an overwhelming majority in Uttar Pradesh,” Shah said in conversation with Shashi Shekhar, editor-in-chief Hindustan.

The next speaker was Supreme Court judge Justice UU Lalit who in conversation with Utkarsh Anand, highlighted awareness is important in bringing justice for those unable to afford legal fees. “Sometimes, people consider legal aid to be the last resort. However, confidence must be built that even if one enters through legal aid, the case will be looked after with the same command,” he said. Justice Lalit is also the executive chairperson of National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa).

Avani Lekhara and Sumit Antil, the gold medallists from Tokyo Paralympics as well as Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia were also among the guests on the final day. Speaking to Shivani Gupta, all three of them spoke about their achievements in the Olympics.

“There has been a good change after winning the medal. Para sports are being recognised now,” Avani said.

The Olympic bronze medallist highlighted how the mentality of Indian athletes have changed. “Now, our athletes are not satisfied with just medals, they want to win gold medals, set world records. Barriers have been broken,” Punia who won bronze in Tokyo said.

“When I started, I only thought of breaking the world record. I did that. I hope whatever happened to me doesn't happen to anyone, but if something like this happens, people now know that they can always turn to Paralympics. There are a lot of inspirational athletes like us who have made the country proud,” Antil said.

The next speaker was Punjab’s chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi who spoke about his elevation to his new role, Amarinder Singh, Punjab’s caste politics and the upcoming elections. “I told him to make someone else. I am with the party. I will be working. Somebody else is upset. I don't want the post. I cried. Don't know whether it was tears of happiness,” Channi said on his elevation and his discussion with Rahul Gandhi ahead of him taking the top post while speaking to national political editor Sunetra Choudhury.

Next speaker of the day was Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel who highlighted that despite the repeal of the farm law a law on the MSP guarantee is required. “We have been buying at MSP for 20 years in Chhattisgarh,” he said during his chat with national political editor Sunetra Choudhury. Baghel also targeted his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee and claimed that she was working with PM Modi. “When Mamata Banerjee met (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar, she said ‘there is no such thing as UPA’. She also met the Prime Minister but never told anyone what was discussed. She should tell the country,” Baghel said.

The next guest on the list was Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who lauded India’s growth amid the pandemic and hoped that this year’s GDP numbers will be encouraging and India will remain the fastest growing economy in the world.

“I am hopeful that this year's GDP will be very encouraging and we will still be the fastest-growing economy in the world,” Sitharaman said while speaking to Hindustan Times’ editor-in-chief R Sukumar.

The final guests of the day were actors Anil Kapoor and Janhvi Kapoor who in discussion with Sonal Kalra, entertainment and lifestyle editor, talked about Bollywood nepotism debate, Sridevi, paparazzi, OTT vs theatre.

“When I feel certain kind of trolling is happening to any member of my family, not only me because obviously I being in films for so many years I am completely thick skin, (trolling) affects me but not as much as it would affect Janhvi or Sonam or Rhea Kapoor or Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor or Arjun Kapoor,” Janhvi said speaking on trolls.

Anil Kapoor highlighted that theatres and OTTs will coexist. “We are going to enter a phase where OTT and theatrical releases co-exist because no one can replicate that experience of watching a film in cinema hall, having a community experience, laughing with people, crying with people, seeing these stunning visuals but again, people are intrinsically aware of the fact that you might be risking your health to go into the theatres,” Anil said.

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