29 January 2016 2 : 30 PM
Grand Sala Hall, Cidade de Goa
Economic growth and an aspirational middle class that votes opportunity to political power, alongside a hyper-proliferation of preferential digital interconnectivity has been the hallmark of India’s modernity over the last two decades. It has created harshly uneven and callous forms of development and appropriation; civil society provides the most effective platform for broad-based action and redressal of grievances in India. Does civil society, then, render a unique dynamism to Indian democracy? Pitted against political and business interests, civic action is the most potent route for impacting change in Indian society.
In a country marked by poverty and corruption, how and where do individuals find strength and courage to ‘take on the system’, to speak for the rights and dignity of the few, almost always the marginalised. Are there long-term changes through civic action, and benefits to society? Or are they just patches of unconnected personal initiatives of an enlightened few? Should there be a common platform for civic action of all types and sorts in a country as diverse and corrupt as India? Panelists will discuss these headlong – through academic analysis and the experience of grassroots activists.
Craig Calhoun – Director, LSE
Craig CALHOUN is President & Director of the London School of Economics & Political Science. Trained as a sociologist, Craig research focuses principally on studying social change – more directly, social movements, popular politics and political economy, considering technology, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, religion and secularism. He is also interested in interdisciplinary political and social theory, especially the efforts to being sociological dimensions to political and legal debates. Most recently, he has co-authored Does Capitalism Have a Future? (2013).
Shubhranshu CHOUDHARY has pioneered the use of mobile phones as a media platform, and is the creator of ‘CGNet Swara’ – a world-first cell-phone based news and current affairs network which started in 2010 in Chhattisgarh. This has transformed the way in which news is shared among the rural poor in central India, with the main content being provided by citizen journalists from the region. CGNet Swara publishes their news items in Hindi and English on their website, where it has been picked up by national and international media, bringing the voices of rural Chhattisgarh to the outside world for the first time, and providing a peaceful vehicle for change. His pioneering ideas earned him the Google Digital Activism Award in 2014.
Mukulika Banerjee – Associate Professor, LSE
Mukulika BANERJEE is Director, South Asia Centre and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics & Political Science. Her research focuses on the intersection of the social and the political in understanding human behaviour in South Asia. Her most recent book is Why India Votes? (2014). She is currently completing a manuscript based on 15 years of ethnographic data on rural voters and their multivalent engagement with elections and democracy in West Bengal.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta – President, CPR
Pratap Bhanu MEHTA, a political scientist, is President and Chief Executive of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. His areas of research include political theory, constitutional law, society and politics in India, governance and political economy and international affairs. A prolific writer and commentator on current affairs in India, he is Contributing Editor to The Indian Express newspaper, and his columns have appeared in Financial times, International Herald Tribune, The Hindu, amongst several others. He has recently co-edited the Oxford Companion to Politics in India (2010).
Vidhya Das – Director, Agragamee
Vidhya DAS is Joint Director of AGRAGAMEE, a grassroots civil society action group in Rayagada, Orissa. Since 2007, she has been Project Coordinator of a livelihoods project supported by Christian Aid in 4 districts in Orissa. Trained in Anthropology, she has been involved in grassroots research and action for over 2 decades in rural and tribal areas. Her engagement has directly led to policy change at several levels, including rights over minor produce to village panchayats, ensuring entitlements and land rights for tribal people, banning of commercial brewing of country liquor in Orissa. She is a regular contributor to newspapers and journals; her most recent monograph is Human Rights Inhuman Wrongs: State of Governance in Tribal Areas (2010).
Yogendra Yadav – Politician
Yogendra YADAV is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and has been closely associated with the Centre’s LOKNITI and ‘Publics and Policies’ programme. His intellectual interests are in the promise, prospects and practices of modern politics. Currently on leave from the Centre, he was a senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party which swept to power in Delhi in 2015; he is now a founder-member and ideologue for the Swaraj Abhiyan, and the Jai Kisan Andolan. He is co-author of Crafting State-Nations: India and Other Multinational Democracies (2010).