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.

The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity

Meera Subramanian


About the Lecture

Meera Subramanian's multimedia presentation will explore the human and global health implications of India’s ravaged ecological landscape. Her narrative nonfiction book, Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity, is based on travel across the country, learning about the ordinary people and micro-enterprises determined to guide India into a sustainable future. Meet an organic farmer who is reviving his land after the onslaught of the Green Revolution; villagers in Rajasthan who are resuscitating a river run dry; cook stove designers questing after a smokeless fire; and biologists bringing vultures back from the brink of extinction. And in Bihar, one of India’s most impoverished states, meet a bold young woman teaching young adolescents the fundamentals of sexual health. By investigating these five environmental crises, framed around the five elements, Subramanian discovers individual stories that renew hope for a sustainable future. 

About Speaker

Meera Subramanian is an independent journalist based in the US. She writes for national and international publications including Nature, The New York Times, Orion, Caravan and others. Her first book is Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity, published by HarperCollins India in 2015. (And as A River Runs Again: India's Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan tothe Farmlands of Karnataka, by PublicAffairs in the USA). More details at 

 Including Children’s Languages

 Dhir Jhingran


About the Lecture

Language teaching in India focuses on rote memorization, choral repetition and copying/ handwriting practice. There is little focus on meaning-making. Children are largely passive. These ‘safe’ teaching strategies do not support strong language and literacy development in the early grades. Classroom language situations are quite varied in our country in terms of children’s first languages, medium of instruction and language used in the teaching-learning process and language background of the teacher. Children who come to school with a different home language background and/or little exposure to literacy at home face a big disadvantage in the early years. Many of these languages are considered inferior and the children are considered deficient and lacking in ability to acquire strong literacy skills in the school language. The teaching-learning of language needs a thorough overhaul and children’s languages need to find a place in the classroom.

About Speaker

Dhir Jhingran is the Founder Director of Language and Learning Foundation, New Delhi, an NGO focused on professional development in language, literacy and multilingual education. He has worked in the primary education sector for over two decades, within and outside the government. He served as Principal Secretary, Education in the Government of Assam and Director in the Ministry of Human Resource Development as an officer of the Indian Administrative Service. He has been part of the development and implementation of several EFA (Education for All) programmes in the country including the District Primary Education Programme, Janshala and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. He has been involved in policy making and systemic reform in the education sector, both in Assam and at the national level. As Chief Program Officer for Room to Read, an international education NGO, Dhir led the conceptualization, design and implementation of early grades reading programmes in 9 countries in Asia and Africa. He has helped guide early language and literacy projects in Nepal and Assam. His work in primary education has focused on improving the quality of education, specifically the teaching-learning of literacy and language in primary grades. He has made a significant contribution to multilingual education in the country and inclusion ofchildren belonging to vulnerable and marginalized groups. Dhir strongly believes that equity issues need to be strongly addressed to help all children learn. He has authored two books based on empirical researches in primary education and contributed to many books and journals. Dhir holds a Master’s degree in Economics and a PhD in Education.

The Bayes-Laplace legacy:   induction, information, and the quantification of ignorance

 Rajaram Nityanand


About the Lecture

In the late 18th century, the two thinkers in our title planted a time bomb- a model of how we learn about the world, based on deceptively simple probability arguments. Uncontroversially, data plays a key role, but more contentiously, so does our prior notion about what we are seeking. The adjective 'Bayesian' resurfaced in the twentieth century in the context of statistical inference and has driven a deep rift in the community of practitioners and theorists. Prior knowledge underlies Shannon's hugely influential theory of communication of information. His key ideas of coding, compression, and channel capacity lie at the heart of the digital revolution that our fingers invoke daily. In parallel, Bayesian thinking has encroached on the foundation of physics, wherever there is disorder and uncertainty. The talk will go over these developments, including, briefly, my own encounters with such matters.

About Speaker

Rajaram is Mumbai born, with six years including early schooling in Calcutta and then middle and high school in Adyar, Chennai with significant influence of the Besant School and the theosophical movement behind it. A BSc in physics from Vivekananda College was followed by an MSc in physics from the Madras IIT in 1969. After which it was to Bangalore for doctoral work at the National Aerospace Laboratory followed by twenty five years at the Raman Research Institute (RRI). Much of his research work has been theoretical, in areas of physics relating to light and to astronomy and hence involves mathematics and/or computation. Rajaram has enjoyed collaborating with students and colleagues, many of them experimenters, and many outside his own institution. Much of the motivation for what he has done has originated in discussions with them.

Engaging with Uncertainty: Shared Governance in Indigenous Conservation Landscapes

Michael Adams


About the Lecture

The talk examines the trajectories of indigenous land rights and conservation and World Heritage in Australia, and connect this to recent issues in India. It will use this comparative analysis to address questions of knowledge and agency in relation to the significant environmental and social changes of the 21st Century.

About Speaker

Michael Adams is Associate Professor at the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and Indigenous Studies Unit, University of Wollongong, Australia. His research and teaching engages primarilywith two dimensions of human-nature relationships, and the interactions between them: knowledge and governance. He has completed extensive research on shared governance arrangements between government conservation agencies and Indigenous communities in national parks and World Heritage Areas, including direct contributions to policy development. His other research has examined Indigenous and local knowledge systems and how these interact with Western knowledge frameworks. More recent work has focused on the cultural dimensions of hunting, especially around knowledge, respect and sacredness. He has extensive collaborative field research experience with Indigenous and other communities across Australia, in arctic Scandinavia, and more recently in India. Details about his extensive publications are at

Sport and Social Transformation in the 21st Century

Dileep Premachandran


About the Lecture

Sport, at its best and worst, is a microcosm of life. Whether it’s the role that colonialism played in the emergence of a formidable Caribbean cricket team, or the impact of sporting sanctions on apartheid South Africa, it’s impossible to divorce the playing fields from politics and social change. Half a century ago, mostsportsmen were poorly paid serfs. Now, many are multi-millionaires. Sport can unite, as it briefly did South Africa in the 1990s, but it can also cause ructions. In this talk, Dileep Premachandran looks at how sportmirrors societies, and how it can often be a force for positive change.

About Speaker

Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India. Prior to that, he spent a decade at ESPN Cricinfo, where he worked as Features Editor and Associate Editor. He was also Asian Cricket correspondent for The Guardian and Sunday Times (London) for more than half a decade. Dileep started his journalism career at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. He moved to ESPN Cricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and

Policy Engineering: Paradoxes, Pitfalls and Pathways

Nitin Pai


About the Lecture

The talk will examine the question of whether or not we can construct good public policy in India. It will begin with a discussion on the specific constitutional and social context in which policymaking takes place, and highlight some of the fundamental contradictions and tensions in that space. It will then highlight some of the common pitfalls that affect our thinking on public policies and impact outcomes. Finally it will discuss ways to navigate these paradoxes and pitfalls and craft solutions to public problems. 

About Speaker

Nitin Pai is co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent think tank and school of public policy in Bengaluru. Nitin teaches policy analysis, economic reasoning and foreign policy at the institution's flagship Graduate Certificate in Public Policy (GCPP) programme, and is working on research projects in the areas of defence economics, social capital and cyber-politics. He is a columnist with The Hindu and Business Standard and member of the editorial team at Pragati - The Indian National Interest Review. Prior to that he spent more than a decade with Singapore government as a policymaker in telecommunications and broadband internet. He received his Masters in Public Administration degree from the LKY School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He has a bachelor's degree in electricalengineering from NTU, Singapore and is an alumnus of National College, Bangalore.

Global Development Goals: If At All, Why, When and How?

Sanjay G. Reddy


About the Lecture

"Why have global development goals?  What function, if any, might they serve, and under what conditions could they do so successfully? This lecture critically analyzes the push for Sustainable Development Goals in light of these questions".  

About Speaker

Sanjay G. Reddy is an Associate Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research.  He is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Politics Department of the New School for Social Research and a research associate of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University.  He has previously taught at Columbia University, and been a visitor at diverse academic institutions in Europe, India and the U.S. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, an M.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, and an A.B. in applied mathematics with physics from Harvard University.  His areas of research interest include Political Economy, Development; Inequality and Poverty; International Trade and Finance; Philosophy and Economics (including Welfare Economics); Integrative Social Analysis, History of Economic Thought. Besides numerous academic papers in these areas, he has co-edited, A Great Transformation? Understanding India's New Political Economy (Routledge, February 2011).

Ethical Issues in the Mahabharata

Trichur S. Rukmani


About the Lecture

Ethics or moral behaviour is concerned with right behaviour i.e the capacity to decide what is right and what is wrong in any given situation and behave accordingly. However the capacity to decide right and wrong inany situation is not an easy task at all times. In difficult situations when faced with moral dilemmas thedifficulty of knowing the right conduct has preoccupied moral philosophers at all times.  Thus the literature on Moral Philosophy has no closure. Whether morality is something transcendental or empirical or again rooted in an overall ethos of individual societies is something we will never be able to decide. Different cultures have come up with models of behaviour based on their understanding of what it is to be the right behaviour under varied circumstances.  In India the ancient Vedic world view developed a theory of dharma and authors like Austin Creel, P.T. Raju and G.C Pande considered a moral life in the Hindu worldview was a life lived in accordance with dharma. Accepting that definition as the best under the circumstances I examine the lives of some of the characters in the Mahabharata to see whether they fulfilled that criterion.

About Speaker

Trichur S Rukmani is Former Chair in Hindu Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada as alsothe former Chair in Hindu Studies and Indian Philosophy at the University of Westville, Durban S. Aftrica, T.S. Rukmani is Currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, Montreal, from where she retired in July 2012. Her research areas are Advaita Vedanta, Samkhya-Yoga, epic studies, Gender, Gandhian studies and Hinduism. She has written and edited twelve books and has published numerous research articles in reputed journals both in India and abroad.

Reading Indian History (with Reference to Tipu Sultan)

S. Settar


About the Lecture

The talk will discuss the challenges of interpreting events in Indian history. In elaborating this subject, it will engage the recent controversy around Tipu Sultan's historical legacy. 

About Speaker

Dr. S. Settar has been conducting research in the fields of Indian archaeology, art-history, history of religions and philosophy as well as classical literature during the last four decades. He has published several books in the fields of history of art, historiography, religion and philosophy, including Inviting Death: IndianAttitude Towards Ritual Death (Brill: 1989) and Sangam Tamilagam Mattu Kannada Nadu-Nudi (The Sangam Tamilagam And Kannada Land And Language: Reflections On The Early Dravidian Relations, 2007) and Halagannada Lipi, Lipikara, Lipi Vyavasaya (Ancient Kannada Script, Scribe And Cultivation Of Letters, 2014). He has been Professor of History and Archaeology (1970-96) and Director of the Institute of Indian Art History (1978-96) at Karnatak University, Dharwad, and Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, (1996-1999).

Conservation, Crop-loss and Coffee: The Adverse Effects of Banning Customary Practices in an Indian tiger reserve

Nitin D. Rai


About the Lecture

The physical displacement of people is a direct outcome of protected area establishment. The impact of displacement on forest dwelling communities has been documented in some detail. What is less evident is that conservation policy has impacts on forest residents even when it does not involve physical displacement. We suggest that a web of interactions beginning with restrictions that were imposed as part of protected area practice has produced in situ displacement, where people are ‘displaced socioeconomically but not spatially’. The banning of indigenous practices such as early season fires, hunting and collection of forest produce in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve has had a series of effects on not only the condition of the forest, but also on agricultural practice and household income. The lack of fires has resulted in the proliferation of the invasive species Lantana camara. The ban on hunting has increased the population of wild boars, which raid the rain-fed agricultural fields. As a consequence many Soliga adivasi households have switched to cultivating coffee, which wild boar do not consume. Wage labour in largecoffee estates and agricultural plantations are now the primary source of income. Soligas, even as they are displaced in situ, are made available as labour to coffee estates and forest department work. Although proletarianisation of the Indian peasant is an ongoing phenomenon, we argue that conservation policy further exacerbates this process through appropriation of land and forests for conservation.

About Speaker

Nitin D. Rai is a Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). He uses a political ecology approach to understand the implications of conservation practice for people andlandscapes. For the past decade he has partnered with Soliga adivasis to study the politics of conservationin the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve. More recently he has been part of an interdisciplinary team analyzing transformations arising out of state efforts to sedentarise pastoralists, facilitate industrialization and encourage tourism in the Banni grasslands of Kutch district. Nitin is an editor ofConservation and Society and in 2014 was appointed a member of the International Union of Forest Research Organisation’s global panel on forests and food security.