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.

Increase in poverty and inequality in India due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Mrinalini Jha


About the Lecture

The speaker gives a brief overview of the findings from the report; State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19 (#SWI2021) She touches upon the impact of the pandemic on incomes, and the corresponding effect on inequality and poverty. According to the report, the poor have suffered far more than the well-to-do and poverty in the country saw a massive increase with an additional 230 million or 23 crore individuals pushed below the national minimum wage threshold. The full report is available at:

About Speaker

The speaker is Research Fellow, Azim Premji University

Impact of Covid-19 on poor Indian households and what needs to be done

Amil Basole


About the Lecture

The speaker provides a brief overview of the findings from the report; State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19 (#SWI2021) According to the findings, poverty has increased sharply during the pandemic, and there is an urgent need for more support measures. Amit talks about the actions that can be undertaken to minimise suffering. The full report is available at:

About Speaker

The speaker is Associate Professor working at Azim Premji University

Telling Colour by Smell, Memory and Song: The Innovation of Traditional Craft in South India

Annapurna Mamidipudi


About the Lecture

Craft producers in India stand in the shadow of deep divisions–rich/poor, urban/rural, modern/traditional, Brahmin/Dalit, educated scientist/illiterate labour, and so on. These divisions become further entrenched when knowledge owned by dominant social groups is privileged over others’ knowledge, thus reinforcing existing hierarchies.Yet through the claiming, contesting and attributing of knowledge, craft ensembles of production and consumption are able to change what is valued as knowledge. Such acts have the power to disrupt inequalities as well perpetuate them in existing social order, thus are always political, demonstrating how inequality is outcome of some, rather than inherent to all, craft ensembles.  In this talk, I explore a framework for the innovation trajectory of traditional craftspeople in South India and their modern urban customers. I do this by framing colour as knowledge. Knowledge of colour, in the absence of patents and copyrights, I will show, is claimed and attributed through the innovation of material, of socio-technical ensembles that produce and consume colour, and of the meaning bestowed on the objects of colour –in other words, through telling colour by smell, memory and song. 



About Speaker

Annapurna Mamidipudi works at the Deutsches Museum at Munich, as researcher on the project ‘Weaving as Technical Mode of Existence’. She completed her PhD in the study of Science, Technology and Modern Culture in Maastricht University supervised by Wiebe Bijker, in 2016. Using concepts from cognitive science as well as traditional Carnatic music she showed how innovation and creativity in science and art follow similar cognitive processes. Before taking up the Ph.D, she set up and worked in an NGO Dastkar Andhra from 1992-08 to conserve traditional craft livelihoods in South India. Under the aegis of Smt. R Vedavalli, senior musician and academic, she produced the CD and Book on Shaji Maharaja’s opera, “Pallaki Seva Prabandhamu” for the “The Pallaki Project” in October 2013.Her research interests include the study of how craftspeople innovate their material practices and how they make knowledge claims to build recognition in contemporary society. As a visiting post-doctoral scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, she co-edited a volume along with material historian Dagmar Schafer on “Ownership of Knowledge’ that sought to look at knowledge ownership beyond intellectual property frameworks. At the intersection of art and craft practice and research, she organizes hybrid spaces to build vocabularies for exchanges between different ways of knowing to take place. She is currently co-ordinating a project with designers, weavers, oral historians on the aesthetic vision of Rukmini Devi Arundale of Kalakshetra, through a study of the material objects she designed- the Kalakshetra saree, and the costumes of the many dance operas she choregraphed. She is well versed in the poetry and music of the Kannada Poets of the bhakti movement [Daasa Sahitya], under the training of Sri Parameshwara Bhat of Udupi. She has had extensive training in natural dyeing working with the master of natural dyes, K.V. Chandramouli. She can operate a basic loom, speaks, reads and writes Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, English, Sanskrit and has working knowledge of Tamil and can manage life in a Dutch speaking country.

A Panel Discussion: The Constitution vs the Politics of Citizenship

Malavika Prasad


About the Lecture

About Panel Discussion

What would a constitutionally valid CAA look like? - Alok Prasanna Kumar 

The talk focuses on whether there is a constitutional route to creating a pathway to citizenship for "illegal migrants" and the boundary conditions of such an exercise keeping in mind the history of migration and conflict over migration in India. To this end, the talk will address two questions: What are the potential consequences of the SC holding that the CAA is unconstitutional (and the different ways it could hold it unconstitutional)? What could be an acceptable set of legislative changes to the CAA? I'm hoping that with this presentation, that the conversation can move from a "beda" to a "beku" in the context of the CAA.

Citizenship, Othering and the Constitution - Malavika Prasad

The talk contextualize citizenship by unpacking the usage of binaries such as citizen vs. Illegal migrant, and citizen vs. refugee, and whether these oppositional constructs find their bases in Indian law. It examines how the meaning and criteria for qualifying as a citizen have changed over the years, culminating in the CAA.

Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Citizenship - Arun K. Thiruvengadam

The talk will focus on historical and comparative perspectives on citizenship issues, drawing from South Asia and Europe in particular, both of which are regions that are wracked by ‘migration crises’. I will also draw upon the ongoing Rohingya litigation before the SC and will focus on the stance adopted by this government in particular to make sense of its stance in the CAA.

About Speaker

About the Panelists

Alok Prasanna Kumar is Senior Resident Fellow and Team Lead, Vidhi Karnataka. His areas of research include Judicial Reforms, Constitutional law, Urban Development, and Law and Technology.   He graduated with a B.A. LL.B. (Hons) from the NALSAR University in 2008 and obtained the BCL from the University of Oxford in 2009. He writes a monthly column for the Economic and Political Weekly and has published in the Indian Journal of Constitutional Law and National Law School of India Review apart from media outlets such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Scroll, Quint and Caravan. He has practiced in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court from the chambers of Mr Mohan Parasaran, and currently also co-hosts the Ganatantra podcast on IVM Podcasts.

Malavika Prasad is an advocate and doctoral fellow at Nalsar University of Law. Her goal is to understand and help bridge the gulf between the Constitution of India and the constitution of India. Towards this, she studies constitutional claims made by and between actors outside the court-system. She also teaches Law and Science at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Previously, she has worked on both sides of the Bar, clerking for a judge of the Delhi High Court, and as an advocate in the Supreme Court of India and other courts. She holds degrees from the Nalsar University of Law and the University of Michigan Law School as a Grotius Fellow.

Arun K. Thiruvengadam is a Professor of Law at the School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University where he teaches courses on Comparative Constitutional Law, Law and Development, and Welfare Rights in India.  His book, The Constitution of India: A contextual analysis (Hart UK/Bloomsbury India, 2017) has been cited by the Indian Supreme Court and by academic works within India and beyond.  He is the co-author of the India Country Report on Citizenship (2017) for the Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT), an online database of citizenship laws, which was subsequently published in book form in 2018. 

Vishnupad is a cultural anthropologist at the School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University with interest in themes of law and politics. Currently he is working on the Constituent Assembly Debates. He received his doctorate from the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University

Nine Rupees an Hour: Disappearing Livelihoods of Tamil Nadu

Aparna Karthikeyan


About the Lecture

Millions of livelihoods have been lost in Tamil Nadu, one of India’s best-developed states, in the last few decades. When livelihoods are demolished, it’s not just the economy that disintegrates. Culture does too.Across the country, food, sports, clothes, worship, and leisure are all influenced by local and long-standing occupations. Which in turn anchor and sustain livelihoods; many that are ancient, complex and beautiful. They require prodigious skill sets and are physically gruelling. Yet, despite being central and integral to society, much of the work is financially unrewarding, constrained by caste and gender and the skills are largely unrecognised. This talk will share stories of the daily struggles of the practitioners of traditional livelihoods in Tamil Nadu to keep alive the culture that we proudly flaunt. Unsurprisingly, most of them say: ‘let this end with me.’



About Speaker

Aparna Karthikeyan is a storyteller and independent journalist and the author of a non-fiction book on the disappearing livelihoods of Tamil Nadu titled Nine Rupees an Hour, She volunteers for the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI) and has written for them, as well as for The Hindu, The Caravan, The Wire, and other publications on culture, books, and livelihoods. She has published short fiction and books for children. She lives in Mumbai with her husband, daughter, and dogs.

Interlocking of Inequalities

Amit Bhaduri


About the Lecture

Using India as the point of reference, the lecture attempts to understand how different modes of exploitation generate inequalities in the economic, social and political sphere, and their interactions.  This has to be approached in an inter-disciplinary manner. Our present preliminary exposition also suggests some possibilities of a quantitative approach both for statistical measurements and field work across academic disciplines.



About Speaker

Amit Bhaduri is currently a visiting professor at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research, Dharwad. He studied at Presidency College, Cambridge University and MIT and obtained his Ph.D. degree from Cambridge in 1967. Professor Bhaduri has taught at several universities in India and around the world, including Presidency College, IIM-Calcutta, CDS-Trivandrum, Delhi School of Economics, JNU as well as El Colegio de Mexico, Stanford University, Vienna and Linz University, Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim, Bremen University and University of Bologna. In recognition of his pioneering work in advancing the frontiers of economics in the area of economic growth and development, he was recently awarded the prestigious Leontief Prize in 2016.

A Panel Discussion: The Contemporary Relevance of Gandhian Economics

Venu Madhav Govindu


About the Lecture

Title: J C Kumarappa and the Development of Gandhian Economics

Panelist:  Venu Madhav Govindu

Throughout his life, Gandhi devoted significant attention to both  politics as well as social transformation through constructive work. With  his deep commitment to freedom and justice in their multiple senses, it is natural that the economic question was an important part of Gandhi's philosophical understanding and social interventions. The Gandhian approach to economics and political economy was significantly developed by Gandhi's associate, the economic philosopher, ecological thinker and constructive worker J. C. Kumarappa (1892-1960). An advocate of economic decentralisation and a champion of the agrarian economy, Kumarappa critically analysed modern economics and its assumptions as well as implications. In the process, he provided an extensive examination of the implications of modern economic thought on our individual, social and environmental lives. In this talk, the panelist will sketch out Kumarappa's philosophical understanding and his views on economics, social reconstruction and environmentalism. While much of Kumarappa's  thought has contemporary relevance, he will locate the development of Kumarappa's understanding in its historical context.


Title: In Search of the Priceless

Panelist: Rajni Bakshi

M K Gandhi was prescient in anticipating that one earth would not suffice if the entire human race tried to live like the modern west. Now, as ecological collapse becomes more imminent global agencies are urging people to 'consume with care' and scrambling to put a monetary value on eco-systems so that there is a 'market incentive' to save them. Why do these efforts look futile? Is it perhaps more important to decide what is priceless and how it can be saved?


Title: Gandhi for the Information Age

Panelist: Amit Basole

Terms such as information revolution, knowledge age, cognitive capitalism, and post-truth have become commonplace today. They point to a deep churning in the world of knowledge. Certainties of the 20th century are giving way to profound uncertainties. Everywhere in the world, including in the "mature democracies" of Europe and America there is a rise of "populism", long thought to be a feature of developing, "immature" polities. At the same time, the concentration of finance capital has never been stronger and economic policy continues to be the domain of experts. Livelihoods everywhere depend on a global economy whose rules are opaque and secret. "Anti-intellectualism", a rejection of experts and valorisation of the "popular" have been successfully hitched to a majoritarian, exclusive, and violent agenda that is comfortable with unprecedented economic inequality. Under such circumstances, can Gandhi’s experiments with a lokavidya based polity and economy show a way forward?

About Speaker

Venu Madhav Govindu

Venu Madhav Govindu is a faculty at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. He is a computer vision researcher with a primary interest in geometry. Inter alia he has introduced and developed the group-theoretic approach of motion averaging. He has a personal interest in the history and political economy of modern India, specifically centred around the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi. He has co-authored, The Web of Freedom: J. C. Kumarappa and the Struggle for Economic Justice. 


Rajni Bakshi

Rajni Bakshi is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and author. She writes about social and political movements in contemporary India. She was formerly the Gandhi Peace Fellow at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. Her journalism has appeared in many English and Hindi newspapers and magazines. She is the author of “Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom” (2009) which won two Vodafone Crossword Book Awards, one in the "Non Fiction" category, and one in the "Popular Award" category. Her other writings include “The Long Haul: The Bombay Textile Workers Strike of 1982-83” (1986; Great Bombay Textile Strike), “The Dispute Over Swami Vivekananda's Legacy” (1993; Swami Vivekananda), “Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Rediscovery of Gandhi” (1998), “Let’s Make it Happen: Alternative Economics” (2003) and An Economics for Well-Being (2003)


Amit Basole

Amit Basole is a faculty of Economics at the School of Arts and Sciences, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, where he also heads the Centre for Sustainable Employment. He has taught earlier at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His principal fields of concentration are Poverty and Inequality, Informality, Employment, Structural Change, and Political Economy of Knowledge. He works primarily on the Indian economy.

Gandhi As I See Him

Mukunda Rao


About the Lecture

The lecture reflects on what Gandhi means today as a living consciousness.

About Speaker

Mukunda Rao is the author of several books fiction, plays, and philosophical works. His works of fiction include, most recently, Sky-Clad: The Life and Times of the Extraordinary Akka Mahadevi (Harper Collins, 2018) and Shambuka Rama: Three Tales Retold (HarperCollins, 2018). He has written two plays: Mahatma – Khuda ka Hijra (1988 and 2009) and Baba Saheb Ambedkar (2008 and 2014).  His works in philosophy include Belief and Beyond: Adventures in Consciousness from the Upanishads to Modern Times (Harper Collins, 2019), The Buddha: An Alternative to His Life and Teaching (Harper Collins, 2017) and Biology of Enlightenment (Element, 2014). He has also edited The Penguin UG Krishnamurthi Reader (Penguin, 2007). He lives on a farm outside Bengaluru.

How to Use Water Ethics to Address Water Conflicts

David Groenfeldt and K. J. Joy


About the Lecture

Policy makers have recently taken interest in the diverse values of water, recognizing not only the obvious economic values, but also social and environmental values.  But how can these competing values be reconciled in any given context?  On what basis should water be allocated to any particular purpose?  Ethics is the field of study that can help guide difficult choices about how water should be allocated, and setting priorities and standards for environmental protection and social welfare. Groenfeldt’s 2013 book, Water Ethics: A Values Approach to Solving the Water Crisis (and a 2nd edition published this year) presents a systematic way of mapping diverse water values around five main themes: environmental, economic, social, cultural, and governance.  This simple matrix can be applied to water controversies such as whether to build more dams for hydropower, or what water safeguards to apply to mines, and even what crops should be given preference from a water perspective. Water Ethics can also be applied in the form of watershed charters, or to mediate water conflicts.  Through a dialogue between Groenfeldt (author) and K.J. Joy (Coordinator of Water Conflict Forum), the feasibility of using a water ethics approach to mediate water conflicts between competing uses (agriculture vs industry) and states (Chhattisgarh vs Odisha) will be discussed.

About Speaker

David Groenfeldt is Director, Water-Culture Institute, and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at University of New Mexico.  Following his PhD research on irrigation development in India (comparing a mostly dry vs. mostly irrigated village straddling the border of Haryana and Rajasthan), he spent five years with the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka and 13 years in Washington, DC working with consulting firms, and the World Bank, on water and natural resources policies and in particular, participatory irrigation management (PIM). More recently, David has focused on environmental and cultural aspects of water policies both globally and locally in New Mexico.  He served as director of Santa Fe Watershed Association (2006-2009) and established the Water-Culture Institute in 2010 to promote the integration of traditional cultural values and ethics into water policies.  He coordinates the Water Ethics Network ( and is the author of two related books: Water Ethics: A Values Approach to Solving the Water Crisis (2013 and 2019) and Global Water Ethics: Towards a Global Ethics Charter (2017).


K. J. Joy is a founding member of Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune, India. He has been an activist-researcher for more than 30 years. His areas of interest include drought, participatory irrigation management, river-basin management, institutions, multi-stakeholder processes, water conflicts, water ethics and people’s movements. He was a full-time activist with also worked with Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi (BGVS) – a people’s science organisation – in its resource literacy and watershed development programme.  He was a Visiting Fellow with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development (CISED), Bangalore. He coordinates the activities of Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India, a national network of activists and academics concerned about water conflicts. He was a Fulbright Fellow with the University of California at Berkeley. He was the recipient of TN Khoshoo Memorial Award for 2016. He has published extensively on water-environment-development issues and some of his co-authored/co-edited books include: India’s Water Futures: Emergent Ideas and Pathways; Alternative Futures: India Unshackled; Water Conflicts in India: A Million Revolts in the Making; Community-based Natural Resource Management: Issues and Cases from South Asia. 

EARNEST: Examining the Agroforestry landscape Resilience in India to inform Socioecological Sustainability in the Tropics

Charuta Kulkarni


About the Lecture

The effective management of human-dominated tropical forest landscapes is crucial in the wake of global environmental change affecting biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and the livelihoods of billions. To ensure success of such ecological management, it is essential that both planning as well as implementation is informed by long-term ecological knowledge rooted in robust scientific inquiries. Examples of science-based ecological management are rare largely due to paucity of high-resolution past ecological modelling studies that are capable of producing tangible analogues and policy-relevant information on a multi-decadal timescale. To bridge this gap in the light of India’s National Agroforestry Policy (NAP) and its wider relevance to other tropical countries, we harness the recent past, “the Anthropocene” to provide guidelines for current-future ecological management of human-dominated tropical landscapes. Adopting innovative statistical approaches (e.g. pollen-based landcover modelling, rarefaction, and multivariate ordination) well-founded on palaeoecological science, we examine the resilience of Indian agroforestry landscapes in relation to past landscape burning and monsoonal variability, thereby analysing their capacity to sustain biodiversity vital for socio-economic development of forest-dependent communities. To explore the applicability of this scenario to other parts of the tropics, we use the model system, Western Ghats of India, one of world’s prime biodiversity hotspots that supports the highest human population density through age-old agroforestry systems. The quantitative reconstructions of past land-cover and land use at a resolution of 20-50 years allows us to deepen the fundamental knowledge of long-term socio-ecological, typical Anthropocene landscapes while providing a tangible window to deliver state-of-the-art understanding of the efficacy of fires in forest management and its implications for the efficient implementation of NAP. This work is part of project “EARNEST” that has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement no. 795557.
Keywords: Pollen-based land-cover, past landscape burning, impacts of changing monsoon, biodiversity changes in its tropical hotspot, Anthropocene

About Speaker

Charuta is a broadly trained earth scientist with academic training and research spanning across three continents. Integrating knowledge-techniques from geology, archaeology, and palaeoecology, her principal research interests lie in exploring environmental histories of regions and their relationships with contemporaneous societies across the Common Era. She completed undergraduate/BSc and graduate/MSc degrees in Geology from Fergusson College, Pune and Savitribai Phule Pune University (previously, University of Pune) and subsequently obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Archaeology from Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, India. Building upon natural and social science training, she joined the City University of New York (CUNY), Graduate Center to pursue her PhD. Working with an international group of researchers from CUNY, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Serbian universities and archaeological institutes, her doctoral dissertation reconstructed the environmental history of the Central Balkan landscapes and discussed it in the context of the Little Ice Age climatic variability and societal impacts of the time. Post-PhD, she continued to cultivate her integrated socio-ecological approach and collaboration with Columbia University researchers in synthesizing pollen-based land-cover datasets with historic land-use and demographic scenarios for New England, USA. During this journey, she has developed a track record of communicating her research and ideas with peers and public through several peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters, conference presentations, and popular science articles in international newspapers and magazines. She has also been a dedicated science teacher all along and has developed-taught several fundamental as well as advanced earth-climate science courses for undergraduate-graduates in Hunter College of CUNY, USA and Fergusson College, Pune, India. She is currently recruited as European Union’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellow 2018-2020 to advance her interdisciplinary research in a European setting. Teaming up with environmental scientists, ecosystem modellers, and policy experts from The Open University, University of Southampton, University of Oxford, UK and Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France, her MSCA work will investigate long-term transformations of the human-dominated forested landscapes of India, examining their resilience against climatic and social scenarios in the light of India’s new landscape management policy. This scientific research, Project EARNEST will test and comment on their resilience against human impacts, especially anthropogenic fires and monsoonal variations in the light of India’s new land management policy and its wider relevance to other tropical countries.