Aruna Roy Aruna Roy is an Indian political and social activist. Born in Chennai. She was selected for the IAS in 1968 batch of the UT cadre, and worked for the Government for some years. She resigned from the IAS in 1974 to join the Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC ), Tilonia, Rajasthan, which had been set up by her husband Sanjit Roy, better known as Bunker Roy.She worked in SWRC until 1983, then moved to Devdoondri in 1990 and set up Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS). The MKSS built a grassroots movement that triggered broad debate and a nation wide demand for the public`s right to scrutinize official records – a crucial check against arbitrary governance .
She is a strong supporter of the movement for Right to Information which succeeded in getting the Rajasthan Right to Information Bill passed.
In 2000, she was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community leadership and International Understanding, along with Arputhan, the President of National Slumdwellers Federation. She put the award money of US $ 50,000 into a trust to support the process of democratic struggles.
Shankar Singh, along with Nikhil Dey, has been with Aruna Roy since her days at SWRC. They together founded MKSS and have been an integral part of the MKSS team since. Shankar was born and brought up in Tilonia. He was the fulcrum of the SWRC communication team.Through his warm, incisive wit and humorous way of perceiving reality – he created a combination of song, dance, drama and puppetry to explain finer points of issues like education, health and politics. In fact, it was his cousin sister’s house in Devdoongri where MKSS began and is still located. While Aruna is from middle class, Shankar represents the majority culture of India. He would add an important dimension to make a holistic presentation of the reality.
They began with foundation of the “Barefoot College” imparting the skills of rural self-sufficiency, and moved on to coach the people in the art of making their government work too! Through “Jansunvai”(public hearing), villagers now cross-check bills, vouchers and employment rolls to expose schoolhouses and health clinics paid for but never really constructed or famine and drought relief services recorded but never rendered! This movement soon caught nation-wide imagination, helping pass Right-to-information laws in Rajasthan and three other states. A right to information bill is now pending action at the the national parliament. Aruna’s journey from an IAS officer to a social worker forms a pivotal section of “Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Rediscovery of Gandhi”- a book on current generation Indians in their struggle for social transformation.
Aruna and Shankar will talk about their work at the grassroots level, the results they have achieved and will offer their unique perspective on the effect of local and global policy on India’s rural poor.