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.

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.

Data, Surveillance, Privacy & Liberty

Murali Neelakantan


About the Lecture

The talk will aim to cover the many instances where government, directly or through private parties, collects data, and in all cases, these databases are linked to Aadhaar, a unique identifier. Using various rules and regulations, mostly of dubious constitutional provenance, the government now has the ability to identify and track the activities of all individuals through email, phone number, PAN, bank account, insurance, vehicle registration, driver’s license, Director Identification Number, health records, DNA, Video and voice capture. This should be a concern in itself as it is clearly an invasion of privacy, a fundamental right. It is important to understand the harm that these acts of invasion of privacy cause and why “if we have nothing to hide, we should not be worried” attitude is ill-informed and naïve. The various proposed uses, especially of (i) the National Health Stack, the repository of all health data, (ii) Ayushman Bharat which is meant to provide universal healthcare and the (iii) DNA Bill, which legalises the collection of DNA material, and its storage and use in databases need to be carefully examined to understand the threat to the lives of everyone. The risks associated with these projects, as demonstrated using a few scenarios and illustrations should be of concern to everyone.

About Speaker

Murali Neelakantan is a dual qualified (English solicitor and Indian advocate) with over 2 decades of experience in advising on international transactions in a wide variety of sectors. He was previously a senior equity partner at Ashurst in London and subsequently a senior partner at Khaitan & Co. He joined Cipla in 2013 as its first Global General Counsel and subsequently was Executive Director and Global General Counsel at Glenmark. He is currently Principal at amicus where he provides legal and policy advice. He has recent written a series of articles on the national health Stack, DNA Bill and healthcare policy for BloombergQuint. 

Migration & Urbanization in India: The Past, Present and Possible Futures

Chinmay Tumbe


About the Lecture

Is India really urbanizing at a rapid pace? What do we know about the migration of labour and capital? How does migration shape the contours of urbanization in India? And which cities are likely to grow rapidly in the coming years? This talk attempts to address these questions by providing an overview of the migration and urbanization dynamics of India over a hundred years. It highlights the Great Indian Migration Wave, remittance urbanism, transnational business, masculine urbanization and demographic divergence as some of the critical issues driving Indian migration and urbanization in the 21st century.

About Speaker

Chinmay Tumbe loves to laugh and learn. He is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) and was the 2018 Alfred D. Chandler Jr. International Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School. He works on migration, cities, firms and history and is the author of India Moving: A History of Migration (Penguin, 2018). He has previously been associated with TISS-Hyderabad, European University Institute in Florence, LSE, IIM-Bangalore, Ruia College Mumbai and Rishi Valley School. He also chairs the IIMA Archives initiative and coordinates IIMA’s History Internship programme.


Love at Sites of Contested Narratives

Avni Sethi


About the Lecture

The talk will revolve around the notions of ‘love' and their relationship with contestation, alongside inquiries such as: Is it possible to dance in forms of joy, protest, endurance, separation, and the everyday? For those who cannot hear the music, is there a possibility of such a dance? How does love manifest in different publics? These conversations will be one such attempt to list and index the forms of love Avni’s work and its cosmology makes available to spectatorship.

About Speaker

Avni Sethi is an Ahmedabad-based interdisciplinary practitioner whose work explores the relations between culture, memory, space and the body. She has conceptualized and designed Conflictorium, a participatory museum on the theme of conflict in Ahmedabad. She studied Interdisciplinary Design from the Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology, Bangalore and pursued a Masters in Performance Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is interested in exploring the relationship between intimate audiences and the performing body.

Talks on Mahatma Gandhi and discusses on the book " GANDHI: THE SOUL FORCE WARRIOR who Revolutionized Revolution and Spiritualized it

Pascal Alan Nazareth


About the Lecture

About Speaker

P. Alan Nazareth is a distinguished diplomat. He has served in India’s diplomatic and consular missions in Tokyo, Rangoon, Lima, London, Chicago, and New York and as India’s High Commissioner to Ghana & Ambassador to Liberia, Togo, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala & El Salvador. He was Director-General of ICCR.  Mr. Nazareth’s first book ‘‘Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership” was released at New Delhi on March 21st, 2006 by former Prime Minister of India Dr. I. K. Gujral. It has been translated into 12 Indian and 23 foreign languages. Mr. Nazareth is a founder and Managing Trustee of Sarvodaya International Trust which is dedicated to promoting Gandhian ideals. He received the prestigious U Thant Peace Award 2007.

Highways and Byways: Infrastructure Making in India between Modernizing Agents and Peasant Households During the Great Depression

Stefan Tetzlaff


About the Lecture

The talk looks at the ways in which the coexistence and competition of motor cars and bullock carts in early 20th century India shaped networks of transportation more generally. The findings strongly suggest that the transformative effect of modern transport on India’s agrarian space was over-emphasized by those who advocated for and protested against motorized transport in India. Instead, the talk argues that bullock carts continued to be of prime importance in the transport sector at a time when automobile traffic grew exponentially. In the detailed analysis, the talk focuses on understudied actors and transport technologies placed in non-metropolitan, rural parts of central and western India during the Great Depression. The region saw a growth in the road transport network and motor vehicle use along with economic and social distress of large parts of the population during this period. The paper highlights, on the one hand, the ways and means by which the road-motor lobby of state and commercial interests attempted to upgrade modern road infrastructure. Faced with numerous challenges in making modern roads, these interests identified bullock carts as the main culprits in destroying new road surfaces in the modern age and side-tracked them to allow the smooth flow of motorized transport. On the other hand, the paper shows how peasant households reacted to newly available technological devices. Filtering into their daily lives in numerous ways, local peasants and representatives of Gandhian ideas often rejected modern technologies outright as they arguably clashed with opportunities for subsidiary income from bullock cart hire.

About Speaker

Stefan Tetzlaff is a historian of South Asia and its connection with the world.  His research broadly examines the impact of trajectories of capitalism on historical formations while investigating how imperialism, colonialism, and postcolonial formations shaped broader global structures and local manifestations. His specific interests in the history of mobility, technology and business practices were shaped during his formative training at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen. Stefan's first book project "The Motorization of the Mofussil" analyzes the arrival of the automobile in rural and small-town India during the interwar period. It argues that automobiles and asphalted roads brought about certain shifts in modern India’s political and economic sphere, as these became significant for an array of social actors, from business tycoons and local entrepreneurs down to farmers and road laborers. During his postdoctoral career since 2015, Stefan has held positions at different academic institutions in Asia, Europe, and the US. These include positions at the Centre for South Asian Studies in Paris (CNRS-EHESS), the German Historical Institutes (GHI) in London and Washington, D.C. and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO) in Berlin. During 2019, Stefan is also an Arts and Humanities Visiting Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi and a Senior Research Fellow in Business History at the Godrej Archives (Mumbai) that attempts to instill the study of Indian business history. During this time, he commenced research on transnational economic and technology exchanges between India and western nations during the Cold War. 

Elites in India's Digital Age: Saviours, Bystanders or Villains?

Ipshita Basu


About the Lecture

As India has entered into an advanced neoliberal, digital age, the constitution of the elites who drive policy and political agendas has changed. Altering the contours of the old military-bureaucracy-business complex are 'data elites' - IT consulting firms, think tanks, social media designers, mobile operators and so on. These elites are elusive, moving laterally across different professional circles but they are increasingly being recognised as key drivers of change. From elections to urban policy agendas to cleaning up the bureaucracy. Does the new elite composition signify a scope for emancipatory change or not? Looking at a whole range of forces: smart cities, digital election campaigns, border conflicts, and governance reform I explain what the new structures of elite power in India are and how they operate.

About Speaker

Dr Ipshita Basu is Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Westminster, London. Her research focuses on identity and policy processes in South Asia. She is the author of Elite Discourse Coalitions and the Governance of Smart Spaces Political Geography (2019, Vol. 68). She is the co-editor of Politics and Governance in Bangladesh: Uncertain Landscapes (Routledge, 2017).  She led publication of the first and influential State of Cities report (2011, BRAC and IDRC). Her forthcoming book is on the Politics of Social Justification and Democracy in Jharkhand, India. Ipshita is a publically engaged scholar and has worked with BRAC in Bangladesh, NGOs in Sri Lanka and on projects funded by the IDRC, UKAid and World Bank.  She was invited to the House of Commons in January 2018 to give evidence on DFID's work on Bangladesh, Burma and Rohingya Crisis. She holds a PhD in International Development from the University of Bath (2010), an M.Res in International Development (Bath, 2004) and an M.A. in Sociology (Warwick, 2002). Previously, she was Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in International Relations at the University of Surrey (2012-2015) and Head of Research at BRAC'S Institute of Governance and Development (2010-2012).