Monday, April 16, 2007

Leading social change in contemporary India

Outloook India has just published a list of the 25 people in contemporary India who are contributing to social change and critique. I have no quibbles with those who are on it, but a little (no, very, surprised) that .. well, you find out. Below are some Indians on our list.



Aruna Roy, The Right to Information Campaign,
(Photo courtesy, SAWNET)





Ela Bhatt, Self-Employed Women's Association
(Photo courtesy: Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi)




Girija Devi, a Dalit woman from Bihar who spear-headed the anti-liquor movement and addressed an UN convention in 2006.

Krishna Mohanty of Baji Rout Chhatrabas, Angul, Orissa



Mahashweta Devi, noted writer and activist
Photo Courtesy: SAWNET






Rashida Bee and Shukla Bee, Justice for Bhopal
(Photo courtesy: The Goldman Environmental Prize




RV Bhavani, director , BV Rao Centre for Sustainable Food Security at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation


Shaoli Mitra, Noted actor and stage personality, best known perhaps for her feminist interpretation of the Mahabharata


Surendra & Sanghamitra Gadekar, Anti-nuclear activists from Gujarat


Sumita Ghose, well-known social worker who has worked at the grassroots level in Rajasthan, Assam and Delhi for the past two decades. She is the central moving force behind Ranga Sutra - which she defines as a family of grassroots organizations coming together to find a space in the market today.



Teejan Bai, folk perfomer par excellence
Photo courtesy: Durg District website


5 comments:

ishani said...

While I agree that the Outlook list is strange in the sense that it has only woman on it - I also think that it was a kind of response to another rival publication's power list of the rich & famous in India. In that sense, it has worked - however, a bit more of gender correctness would be welcome. Also feel that instead of the same people (which Ananya's list also has) we should find new people and initiatives and also younger people. Most of these people from both lists we have heard and read about many times - reams have been written about them. Here are two people I feel should be on a list of social change agents from India:

1. RV Bhavani, director , BV Rao Centre for Sustainable Food Security at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation

2. Sumita Ghose, well-known social worker who has worked at the grassroots level in Rajasthan, Assam and Delhi for the past two decades. She is the central moving force behind Ranga Sutra - which she defines as a family of grassroots organizations coming together to find a space in the market today.

ishani said...

Would like to add anti-nuke activists from Gujarat Surendra & Sanghamitra Gadekar & Krishna Mohanty of Baji Raut Chhatrabas in Orissa's Anugul to my list.

GVK said...

I can't say I get excited about Outlook's social changers' list. Besides being subjective, it is the kind of game people can play within their own-group, arguing over who be placed above whom or who doesn't deserve to be on the list. People who work at social change do it at their own level, in their unique manner. Often, their work is known and appreciated only at their neighbourhood level. Of course one needs to highlight achievements of a few – such as that Bangladeshi who revolutionized rural credit network – so that their work can be emulated. Any list, whether or not it ranks the achievers, is exclusive, in sofar as it keeps out far more people than it includes. And those included are not the only deserving people. For everyone of those included on the list, each one of us can cite four others who deserve a place, probably, more so than the one that has been included.



I don't think it is a good idea. A society can use all social changers (if I may use the term) it can get. A list of this nature doesn't help the aggregation process. Each social changer is unique in his/her way. So I have a problem figuring out why this list. I can understand a top 25 rich guys list. It has curiosity value; helps demolish people's perception. In my young days Ford or Rockefeller were names synonymous with the super-rich. Here in India we have people associating high affluence with Tata-Birla. A top 25 or 100 rich people's list would be interesting for year-by-year comparison. Who is up, who's down, and out ought to appeal people, push up sales of magazines. The list also serves as a kind of stock index of individuals.



Again for curiosity, we can have a top ten corrupt folk list; or top ten criminals list, with the lists being revised annually.


A social changers list? Must admit it doesn't enthuse me, like the one's on the corrupt, the criminal, and the super-rich. I would rather see every taluk, town and district draw up list of those who have made a difference to life in their neighbourhood.


Recently I posted something Dr Krishnaswamy of Illinois , a high achiever, who had humble beginnings, with a burning desire to make a difference to the life of a few poor, but bright students from Chamarajanagar (Karnataka).



I am sure there are scores of other achievers one might be familiar with. I would say every other NRI is worth writing about in this context. One would like to see NRI associations in various towns bring out an anthology of the likes of Krishnaswamy, to serve as examples for others. It would be nice if everyone from modest background who has achieved something, and is paying back to his village, school or town, is profiled in such town-specific NRI anthology. It would be equally nice if those profiled put on record their appreciation of the persons (neighbour in your town or village school teacher) who helped them along in life to attain higher things.



GVK

My Take by GVK

Recycled Writings

GVK said...

For the benefit of those who might want to read about him here is the link to Dr Venkataswamy (not Krishnaswamy, as I mentioned earlier)

bhavani said...

I agree with GVK that there can be n number of lists of such kind putting together names of people. There are so many working with commitment but unseen and unheard in difficult circumstances across the country, trying to make a positive difference.
Some I have been fortunate to meet and know -
Achyut and Vidhya Das - Agragamee, Kashipur, Rayagada, Orissa
Neelima Khetan, Sewa Mandir, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Amsalakshmi Ramakrishnan, Devan patty, Theni district, Tamil Nadu -a highly self-motivated woman of substance who has set out to develop herself and her community, living on the motto of self-help is the best help!