Inspired by the democratic socialism of the Sarvodaya movement, Akshay Kumar Pany began his involvement in grassroots social work in 1992. ‘Anchalik Vikas Parishad’ was formed along with a group of volunteers to work towards fundamental Sarvodaya principles of social reconstruction in rural areas, emphasizing voluntary land redistribution, communal land ownership, small-scale production and self-sufficient, self-governing village communities.
A science graduate from Chhattisgarh, Alok completed his higher studies after which he joined Nadi Ghati Morcha (NGM). Following 5 years with NGM, he began work to counter the skewed industrialization policy (specifically the mushrooming of sponge iron plants in the area) and privatization of water. From 2004-08 he was involved with the struggle against the privatization of the Shivnath river.
Amulya is from a middle class agrarian family, he began community development work in 1985 with Samajik Seva Sadan in Odisha. During his 10 year association with the organisation, he worked with adivasis in over 60 villages on health and education issues, honing his skills as a trainer and mobiliser. Driven by the desire to work in his own area, he left the organization to form Adivasi Chetna Sangathan (ACS) and pursue grassroots work in Dhenkanal in 1996. Amulya has been a SRUTI Fellow since 1997.
A Lady Shri Ram College and Oxford University graduate, Anjali is the founder of Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a people’s group based in Delhi that has been working since 2003 to build an empowered and vigilant citizenry based on the right to information. Anjali’s conviction that information is at the root of bringing about real change led her to the Right to Information movement.
Arvind Anjum has been struggling for the rights of tribal and other dispossessed communities in the rapidly industrializing, mineral-rich state of Jharkhand for nearly 3 decades. Inspired by the JP Movement, Arvind Anjum joined Chhatra Sangharsh Yuva Vahini in 1976, while still in school. Here, he gained exposure and political understanding of grassroots issues. He has been an active member of the Suvarnrekha Dam struggle since 1986, bringing together people from over 250 villages displaced by the dam construction at Chandil.
Dashrath Jadhav is a social activist who has been working in Latur district of Maharashtra for over two decades, leading the movement against caste based atrocities and making significant contributions to dalit rights and regularization of gairan (grazing) land.
Devendra has been living and working in a small village called Jhiri in south east Rajasthan since 1988. He has worked intensively with the people of the region on various issues including rights of farmers and labourers, education, livelihood generation and perspective building amongst youth.
Dharmender, 39, is a post graduate from Delhi University. Beginning his engagement with slum communities during college days, he took up problems faced by rag pickers of the city under the banner of Lok Adhikar Sangathan. Mobilizing various stake holders on the issue, he was successful in achieving recognition of household ragpickers as formal employees.
At 29 years of age, Jang Sai is SRUTI’s youngest Fellow. Starting his activist life very early, Jang Sai became a member of Bharat Jan Andolan in Andhra Pradesh & Chhattisgarh at the age of 13. In 2001, Jang Sai led a 3-year long struggle for proper rehabilitation of those displaced by Madamsilli, Dudhwa and Sondur dams in Dhamtari district. The success of the struggle saw him emerge as a young and committed gond adivasi leader in the area.
After walking out on a degree from School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, Amit spent 15 years living, learning and working with Bhil adivasis in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, as part of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangathan (KMCS), an organisation formed to fight against exploitation of tribals and demand dignity and traditional cultivation rights over forest land. Jayashree, a Science graduate from Pune, was an active member of the landmark Narmada Bachao Andolan of which KMCS was a member.
Kailash Bharti was part of the historic, peaceful Bodh Gaya movement in the 1970s, against the illegal occupation of 9,700 acres of agricultural land by Bihar’s feudal Sankaracharya Math in Bodhgaya. Marginalized communities were made to work as bonded labour on this land perpetuating the cycle of impoverishment, dispossession and exploitation. Most members of the sangathan used to work on the same land for which they joined the struggle.
Khemraj is a veteran social and political activist based in Bhadesar in south east Rajasthan. He has led ground-breaking struggles against caste based discrimination and land alienation, working towards the empowerment of tribal communities, and the liberation of the poorfrom bonded labour.
Pandurang has been working in areas such as employment, health, PDS, education and women’s empowerment in Shiroor Anantpal and Nilanga blocks in Latur District in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra for over two decades. His systematic planning and accurate understanding of the conditions on the ground have guided his activism and resulted in making schemes like PDS and scholarships for girl children effective, efficient and corruption-free.
A lawyer by profession, Pradeep Dash began his grassroots experience in the extremist-hit district of Rayagada near the Odisha-Andhra border in 1984. His primary work has been facilitating the empowerment of Lanjia Sora and Kondh adivasis who live in remote and often inaccessible forest areas. Under the leadership of Dash, Lok Chetna Sangathan, has been taking up issues of land & forest rights, education, health, legal aid, migrant workers’ rights and child labour since 1987. He became a SRUTI Fellow in 2002.
Prafulla is from Puri district in Orissa. Starting his community work with an organisation called Sancharr in 1995, his quest for a more meaningful relationship with people led him to grassroots involvement through the formation of the Mati Maa Mahila Morcha (MMMM). It was here that he, along with sangathan member Rashmi, worked with the adivasi population in Nayagarh focusing on community forest rights and conservation; livelihood alternatives through non-timber forest produce (NTFP like tendu patta, mahua) and the implementation of government schemes.
Puran Chand began his public life by playing an active part in student politics during his first year of college in Nahan. Forced to drop-out due to financial constraints, Puran Chand worked in a dairy farm for 10 years to support his family. He fought for farmer’s rights raising demands for better minimum support price, supply of seeds and fertilizers and compensation for crops.
Rajim started grassroots work in 1987, at the age of 19, with Ekta Parishad in Dantewada. She subsequently joined the workers’ rights movement in Bhilai under the leadership of Shankar Guha Niyogi, founder of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM). She was an active member of the CMM movement which demanded a separate regional identity for the predominantly adivasi areas of Central India, and for upliftment of workers and peasants.
Rekha and Basanti are core members of Maati, a women’s collective co-founded by Malika Virdi in Munsiari, Uttarakhand. Maati has been steadily working towards life security and livelihood generation for women, and plays a significant and catalytic role in areas of women’s empowerment, environmentally sustainable development, food sovereignty and diversity and enhanced community participation in the management of common property resources.
Originally from Bihar, Sadre Alam, 37, took an active part in urban social work from his days in Jawaharlal Nehru University. Associated with Student’s Federation of India (SFI), he was Founder-Convener of the Dastak Cultural Group where he immersed himself in theatre and art.
Sahadeviah has been involved in social work since 1989. With his dalit background, he began building a political understanding early on by actively taking up student causes. Recognised by peer groups for his strong mobilisation skills, Sahadeviah decided to work towards a peaceful democratic movement to champion the rights of vulnerable groups - dalits, adivasis, fisherfolk, women, children and agricultural labour in coastal and upland area of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh.
Working within the most vulnerable groups of society - highly marginalized Dalit communities such as dom, musahar and chamar – Bahishkrit Hitkari Sangathan (BHS), led by Sanjeev , has equipped them to lead a life of entitlement and dignity. Nearly a decade ago, deeply disturbed by the conditions of these communities in Bihar, Sanjeev gave up his career in Delhi to work towards eradication of untouchability and the extreme humiliation of these communities, in his home district of Khagaria.
Selvaraj has been leading a vibrant people’s movement in the ethnically fragmented Nilgiri Hills since 1991, bringing together a wide range of groups including adivasis, dalits, Sri Lankan repatriates, tea estate and agricultural labour, and muslims. Having been a part of labour unions from an early age, Selvaraj took up the grievances of tea estate labourers who were severely affected by skewed international trade policies adopted by the country in the 90s.
Sunanda began her work with Rural Education Society in Chittoor district of Rayalaseema region. Over 11 years of working with marginalised dalit, yanadi adivasi and backward communities gave her an in-depth understanding of the state’s feudal land relations. Majority land ownership was controlled by landlords; agricultural labour being the primary livelihood of landless dalits and adivasis, often in abysmal working conditions. Caste atrocities were also rife.
Trilochan Punji, 44, began his engagement with grassroots work at the young age of 11 as part of the mass movement to protect the Gandhamardhan mountain range, one of India’s most bio-diverse areas. Punji has led powerful movements concerning the survival of tribal communities in a region that has witnessed violent conflicts over resource control and subsequent alienation of traditionally resource-dependent local communities.
After a degree in social work from University of Mumbai, Ulka Mahajan began working in the villages of Raigad district in 1989. She spent time with the predominant katkari adivasis, a landless migratory primitive tribe, who had been systematically exploited over the decades and reduced to a state of penury and debt-bondage. Theirs was a community that had lost everything, a community that was sarvahara.
Vilas Bhongade has been a key figure in the Vidharba region working among dalits and adivasis on issues of natural resource rights, displacement and livelihood. Beginning his involvement in social movements as a young adult in Nagpur, he has played an active role in grassroots struggles of unorganized labour - construction workers, incense stick makers, domestic workers and agricultural labour – under the banner of Kashtkari Jan Andolan.
43 year old Yousuf Beg was a petty mining contractor for the majority of his professional life. Alongside his inherited family business, he was a recognized social worker in Panna town working on issues of communal harmony as part of Aman Ekta Committee. In 2006, he was approached by Mines, Minerals and People, an alliance of individuals, institutions and communities affected by mining, to conduct a study on the situation of mine labourers in the region.