The Azim Premji University regularly organizes seminars, webinars and colloquium lectures involving members of the faculty as well as academicians, activists, artists and other distinguished personalities from a wide array of fields. This section consists of video recordings of  major events conducted at the Azim Premji University.

Contemporary West Bengal: A Panel Discussion- Part 1

Swati Bhattacharya and Rajat Roy


About the Lecture

1.    Change, Non-change, Undoing Change: The Land Question In West Bengal (Swati Bhattacharya)

The "Paribartan" Mamata Bandopadhyay promised was actually a promise of status quo. In the last six years, non-acquisition has remained the mainstay of her politics and her policy. That industry has not reacted positively is known well. More importantly, the allegation of forcible acquisition of land, and aggressive popular movements opposing acquisition have placed her on the same dock as her predecessors. The political gain has receded, and relation of land to development remains as vexatious a question as ever.

Less discussed, but more troublesome, is the slow erosion of the gains of land reform. Informal tenancy has increased steeply, and waiving land taxes has further jeopardised proof of ownership. A larger section of the cultivators are being pushed outside formal credit and insurance structures, deepening insecurity and intensifying resentment of the political class.

2.    The Rise of the BJP in Bengal (Rajat Roy)

Ever since Partition, West Bengal's political scene has been dominated by liberal-secular politics. The left of centre (Congress) and Left parties ruled the state successively and the politics of the Hindu Right never got any takers. Yet, of late, the BJP is trying to enter Bengal politics with renewed energy. The common perception is that BJP will be able to occupy a sizeable political space in the state and establish itself as the main opposition party in near future. What are the reasons for that perception?Is the liberal secular ideology interchangeable with Hindu communal thinking?   

About Speaker

Swati Bhattacharjee is Senior Assistant Editor, ABP. She works for the Editorial pages and writes on poverty alleviation schemes, agriculture, self-governance and women's self-help groups. She has a PhD in Social Science from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She has received several fellowships, most recently the Nehru-Fulbright Fellowship in 2010-11, during the tenure of which she was in J-PAL, MIT, Cambridge, USA. Swati is also the General Secretary of South Asian Women in Media, India.

Rajat Roy is a senior journalist and a political commentator with long exposure in both print and electronic media. After working for Anandabazar Patrika for 18 years, where he also served as Chief of Bureau (Delhi), News Editor and Associate Editor (News), he left ABP to join a startup 24x7 Bengali news channel (Kolkata TV). Then he left it and started working as a free lance journalist. From 2009 to 2013 he was associated with Business Standard. He was also engaged by Prothom Alo (leading daily of Bangaldesh) as Editorial Consultant. He also takes part in talk show of various news channels. Besides that, he contributes articles to a number of news portals, newspapers & journals that includes The Quint, Catch News, Deccan Herald, EPW, Seminar etc.

A Continuous Crisis: The Uncertainty of Being Young in Kashmir

Prerna Sud


About the Lecture

The talk will focus on the responses and reactions by Kashmiri youth following two distinct recent crises—the floods of 2014 and the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s killing in 2016. To contextualize, I will present case histories/stories of young people in Kashmir as they struggle to respond and cope with the conflict and trauma. I will also talk about how we, at Kashmir Lifeline, are adapting treatment and care protocols to foster coping mechanisms in anticipation rather than as reaction to crisis situations.


About Speaker

Prerna (PhD; MSc. Clinical Psychology) is a practicing Psychotherapist in Delhi and has worked as a Consulting Clinical Psychologist for PACT (Parents and Children Against Trafficking and Harm) at Aangan, Mumbai wherein her responsibilities included, teaching counseling skills, weekly supervision, and curriculum development for PACT training. Prerna has previously taught as a Lecturer in Psychology at Miyazaki, Japan and has worked as a therapist with low-income families, at-risk youth (such as former gang members) in Southern California.

Gandhi is with Us, Are We with Him? Building an Economy of Nurturance

Ela R. Bhatt


About the Lecture

As early as 1908, in Hind Swaraj, Gandhi had argued that western civilization was heading, that is, towards greater violence, greater inequities, and an economy based on destruction of natural resources. His arguments were largely based on his concept of what constitutes a good life and good society, his concern for truth and non-violence and his concern particularly for the poor. The production and consumption of more and more goods, he noted, was not a sign of progress, but rather one of ‘evil.' For him, real progress was that mode of conduct that shows to man the path of duty (to your self, society and Nature, mother Earth). Gandhi believed that western civilization if it continued on its present path of ‘progress’ would in time be self-destroyed.

So, are we for heading towards greater violence, greater inequities and destruction of resources human and natural? If no, then we are with Gandhi and Gandhi is with us. Then, let us think deeper and act meaningfully. Think with anubandh for better future. A focus on economic growth is necessary but what type of growth are we talking about. By destructive growth what do mean: over consumerism, destruction of fabric of society and relationships. growth has to be such as nurturing our self, family, society and mother Nature as they are intimately related.

In the modern economy, finance is the predominant instrument of growth. Women are workers and an important part of the economy. They use finance mainly for nurturing growth. I will share experiences with SEWA on how poor and self-employed women are building a nurturing economy at different levels, here and abroad.

About Speaker

Born in 1933, Ela R. Bhatt, a Gandhian, is widely recognized as one of the world’s most remarkable pioneers and entrepreneurial forces in grassroots development. Known as the “gentle revolutionary,” she has dedicated her life to improving the lives of India’s poorest and most oppressed women workers. In 1972, she founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union with more than 2 million members now. She founded SEWA Cooperative Bank in 1974 which has an outreach of 3 million women now. She was nominated a Member of the Indian Parliament Rajya Sabha by the President of India and served subsequently as Member of the Indian Planning Commission. She founded and served as Chair for Women’s World Banking, (WWB), the International Alliance of Home-based Workers (HomeNet), Street Vendors (StreetNet) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organizing (WIEGO). She also served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation for a decade. She has received several awards, including Padmashree, Padmabhushan, the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Right Livelihood Award, George Meany-Lane Kirkland Labour Rights Award by AFL-CIO, US and Légion d’honneur by France, Madrid Creatividad Award, CGAE Human Rights Award by Spain, Indira Gandhi International Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, The Freedom from Want Medal’, by Roosevelt Institute of Netherlands. She has received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Natal, McMaster, M.S. Baroda, among others. She has published “We Are Poor but So Many” (Oxford University Press, New York, 2006) and Anubandh - Building Hundred-Mile Communities. She was recently nominated as Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 and appointed Mahatma Gandhi Chair Professorship at Panjab University and Chair of Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad.

The Media Meltdown: Can it be Stemmed?

Ammu Joseph


About the Lecture

The shocking and tragic assassination of Gauri Lankesh serves as a grim reminder of the grave and present threats to freedom of expression (of which media freedom is a part) in general and the dangers faced by individual journalists attempting to speak truth to power in particular. However, there are a number of other ongoing, insidious challenges to media freedom and independent journalism that may not be very obvious to even those members of the public who follow the news in print, on television or online. Yet media freedom is an essential part of democracy, a prerequisite if citizens are to enjoy their rights to freedom of expression and information. So what ails the media today should be of concern to everyone who would like India to remain a functioning democracy.  It is time more citizens became aware that they have a stake in media freedom.

About Speaker

Ammu Joseph is an independent journalist and author based in Bangalore, writing primarily on issues relating to gender, human development, the media, and culture. With degrees in English Literature (Madras University) and Public Communications (Syracuse University), she began her career with Eve's Weekly in Mumbai/Bombay in 1977. In her last full-time job within the press, she was editor of the Sunday magazine of The Indian Post, Mumbai. Her publications include six books (a few of which are co-authored): Whose News? The Media and Women's Issues, Women in Journalism: Making News, Storylines: Conversations with Women Writers, Just Between Us: Women Speak about their Writing, Interior Decoration: Poems by 54 Women in 10 Languages and Terror, Counter-Terror: Women Speak Out.  She has contributed to several other books and publications, both Indian and international, including several UNESCO documents. She received the UNFPA-LAADLI Media Award for Gender Sensitivity in 2007 "in recognition of her consistent engagement with gender issues." In 2003 she received the Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy from the AEJMC, USA. She has been on the visiting faculty of several institutions of media education and is a founder-member of the Network of Women in Media, India as well as media Watch Bengaluru.

Bovine Politics

Dr. Sagari R Ramdas


About the Lecture

The year 2017 until now has witnessed the highest number of incidents of lynching in the name of cow –protection, than ever before. The violent bans on cattle slaughter and inter-state cattle transportation, the drive to shut-down slaughterhouses in the name of 'illegality' and recent rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, to criminalise the sale of animals for slaughter in animal markets nationwide, are not only Anti-Cow but Anti-Farmer as well. These skewed directives of the state, deprive farmers of any resale value for non-productive cattle, which are not bought by another farmer. This resale value exists because of all post-farm downstream economic values of the cattle economy post-slaughter: cattle beef as a critical part of food cultures and a cheap source of protein, cattle skin the basis of India’s thriving leather industry, and other offal used in manufacturing. The sale of non-productive stock enables farmers to procure replacement animals to sustain their dairy and draught-based livelihoods. Bans forcing the closure of these post-farm economies are driving declining cattle populations, and livelihood loss for millions. The cow can only be saved by withdrawing all bans on beef consumption, cattle slaughter, trade of animals for slaughter, inter-state transportation of cattle, along with pro-active strategies to protect the ecological cultures that sustain India’s bovine economy.

About Speaker

Sagari Ramdas is a veterinary scientist, a member of the Food Sovereignty Alliance, India, and learning to be an agro-ecological food farmer. She is a popular educator with social movements in the areas of women and food sovereignty, Adivasis, indigenous resilience and Buen Vivir and agro-ecological livestock production in the context of Food Sovereignty and Climate Change. She has published widely on gender, ecological governance, and resistance struggles. She is involved in developing a Community Learning Centre in Telangana, India (

The Food Sovereignty Alliance is a solidarity platform of adivasi, dalit, pastoralist, landless, small and marginal farmer social movements and co-producers, working towards a common vision of food sovereignty, in defence of peoples sovereign rights to food and the rights of mother earth (

Governance of Nature Conservation in India

Ranjitsinh Jhala


About the Lecture

Despite heavy pressures of population, poverty and land hunger, India has lost only one large mammalian species in the peninsula and plains: the cheetah. In 1947, we had greater advantages in the conservation field than other developing nations. We squandered them.

The conservation imperative here has always flowed from the top echelons. In British and princely India, it was shikar that prompted wildlife protection and there was more wildlife inthose states where the ruler hunted than in those where he did not. After independence, natureconservation depended upon the personal interest of the prime minister. It is men, not money, which matters most in conservation.

Nature and the natural heritage of the nation has hope of survival only in our effectively managed protected areas. These at least should be sacrosanct, like the embodiments of our cultural heritage such as Ajanta, Halebid and others. Conservation and economic development are not necessarily the antithesis of each other. Conservation, as good governance, is a compromise, the art of the possible, but there have to be rubicons which the government must not cross. There are a number of species now close to extinction and unlike the cheetah, we have the wherewithal to save them. So if any species now goes extinct, it would be deemed as allowed to go extinct.

About Speaker

Dr. Ranjitsinh Jhala has more than five decades of experience in wildlife conservation in India. As a member of the Indian Administrative Service, he was instrumental in drafting the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the first comprehensive nationwide legislation that has been the basis for wildlife conservation in India. He has held several key posts such as Member Secretary of the task force for formulating Project Tiger, Director Wildlife Preservation and additional secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.  His efforts have led to the conservation of several endangered species, and an eastern subspecies of the barasingha is even named after him. Recognition of his work on has also come in the form of several awards including the Order of the Golden Ark awarded by Netherlands in 1979.  He is the author of several publications as well as books. His most recent book, “A Life with Wildlife: From Princely India to the Present” (Harper Collins, 2017) is a first-hand, insider's chronicle of the history of wildlife conservation.

New Trends in the Indian Documentary

Meenakshi Shedde


About the Lecture

The talk gives a brief history of documentaries, both Indian and foreign, on India. It will discuss how the Indian documentary has evolved into a lively contemporary tool for art, debate and activism and is experimenting with a variety of form such as the autobiographical, docu-fiction and mockumentaries that incorporporate fiction and surrealism. It will explore powerful documentaries from India made on a range of socio-political issues, including gender, caste, sexuality and human rights.

About Speaker

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin and Dubai International Film Festivals, based in Mumbai. She is Guest Curator, British Film Institute, UK, for India On Film. Winner of India’s National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on the jury of 20 international film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice. She has been India/Asia Curator/Consultant since 20 years to the Berlin, Toronto, Locarno, Busan, Dubai, IFFI-Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and Colombo Film Festivals. Her articles have appeared in Variety, Screen International, Film Comment, Sight & Sound, Cahiers du Cinema and Midday. She has taught and lectured on cinema and has been a mentor on Film Critics’ Labs and Scriptwriting Labs.

Education for a Changing India

Kartikeya Sarabhai


About the Lecture

While the world is rapidly changing, the basic institutions of formal learning, schools and colleges, have remained relatively in the same mould over the years.  Today, in many sectors, we see dramatic changes happening.  Learning itself has become multi-sourced and children have access to information and communication like never before.  New models of sharing are coming up.  The environmental crisis is much more recognized today and requires new skills and values to be inculcated.  Violence in the world has reached new levels and calls for a relook at some of our basic educational approaches.  

CEE has been engaged in working with several new approaches including ones which were part of the Education for Sustainable Development UNESCO decade.  The talk will discuss these approaches and how they could be mainstreamed in the Indian Educational System.

About Speaker

Kartikeya Sarabhai is one of the world's leading environmental educators and a dedicated community builder. He was educated in Cambridge (Tripos in Natural Science) and went on to do post graduate work in development communication at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mr. Sarabhai is the founder director of the Centre for Environment Education headquartered in Ahmedabad, with 40 offices across India. A member of many committees set up by the Government of India and other organizations, Mr. Sarabhai’s primary focus is on the greening of India's formal education system, and initiatives for biodiversity education. Mr.Sarabhai is a member of the Earth Charter International Council and the chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Development and the Human Habitat. Editor of the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, published by SAGE, Mr.Sarabhai has written and spoken extensively on environment and related subjects in national and international forums. Recipient of Tree of Learning Award (1998) from the IUCN in for his contributions for environmental education, the Indian Institute of Human Rights has presented him with the World Human Rights Promotion Award in 2005. In 2012 the President of India conferred him with Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. 

Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Developments and the Costs of Caste

Dean Spears


About the Lecture

Where India Goes addresses the questions: Why are children in India shorter, on average, than   poorer children in sub-Saharan Africa? Why are Muslims in India more likely to survive childhood than Hindus?

Above all, why is open defecation so persistently, stubbornly high in rural India — and what can be done to accelerate the switch to the sort of health-promoting latrines which are widely used in the rest of the developing world?  In their book, Coffey and Spears develop evidence that poor sanitation is an important determinant of the poor health outcomes of India’s children, and that the continuing relevance of the purity, pollution, and untouchability norms of the caste system keeps open defecation alive today despite decades of government latrine construction programs.  The book takes the reader on a tour through Indian villages, survey statistics, and government offices — ultimately, inviting the reader to join in thinking about the crucial open policy question: in a context where poor health is so enduringly tied to social inequality, what can state programs and policies do to help?

About Speaker

Dean Spears is an Assistant Professor of Economics at UT Austin, where he is an affiliate of the Population Research Center, and is a visiting economist at the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University. He is a development economist and economic demographer who studies early-life health and human capital formation, environmental economics, and population.

Diane Coffey and Dean Spears co-founded and co-direct a research non-profit called r.i.c.e., a research institute for compassionate economics, which works towards evidence-based policy for child health and human development in India.

How to think about the role of power in the social sciences-Part 1

Amit Bhaduri


About the Lecture

The Social Sciences deal with the exercise of power in economy, society, polity and even culture, but have different views about its origin and its effect. No coherent systematic analysis connecting different fields exists. Is this not possible? If so, why not? And if this is possible, then what is the way forward? The talk will probe such questions and offer some tentative suggestions.

About Speaker

Educated in Presidency College, Calcutta, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A and Cambridge University, U.K, Amit Bhaduri received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, UK in 1967. He has taught in various universities around the world as Professor/Visiting Professor. These include Presidency College, Calcutta, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, Delhi school of Economics, Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, El Colegio de Mexico, Stanford University, U.S.A, Vienna and Linz University, Austria, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Bremen University, Germany, and Bologna and Pavia University, Italy. He has also been a Fellow of various Institutes of Advanced Studies in Austria, Sweden, Germany and Italy, worked on various expert bodies of the United Nations, and served as Member on some national and international commissions. He has published more than seventy papers in standard international journals and is currently on the editorial boards of five. He has written eight books: The Economic Structure of Backward Agriculture (London, Academic Press, 1982); Macroeconomics: the Dynamics of Commodity Production (London, Macmillan, 1986); Unconventional Economic Essays (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1993); An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalisation (Delhi, Penguin India, 1996), (co-authored with Deepak Nayyar);On The Border of Economic Theory and History (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1993); Development with Dignity (Delhi, National Book Trust, 2005); Employment and Development (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2006); and The Face You Were Afraid to See (Delhi, Penguin India, 2009). Several of his books and articles have been translated into several European and Asian languages.

Amit Bhaduri was internationally selected Professor (of ‘Clear Fame’) in Pavia University, Italy until 2009, and is currently Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and also Visiting Professor in the Council for Social Development, New Delhi.  Amit Bhaduri has been awarded the Leontief Prize, Global Development and Environment, Tufts University (2016), USA., the Indian Council Of Social Science Research Prize in Economics, (1985) and the Stevenson Prize for the best piece of Ph.D. Research in Economics (1967).