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.

Theory, 'Capital' and the Global South

Aditya Nigam


About the Lecture

Basically, I will address two questions in the talk. (1) What it means to do theory from or in the global south, with special reference to the empirical/historical as distinct from the universal/ philosophical. (2) In the specific instance of Capital and its relation to the global south, why and how its universal history can be challenged. Here the emphasis will be on why capital is theorized the way it has been, given the paraphernalia of Western thought and how a possible alternative story can be produced.

About Speaker

Aditya Nigam works in the broad field of social and political theory. His work attempts to theorize the experience of politics and democracy by moving away from the standard mainstream frameworks that base themselves on notions of popular will and sovereignty and focusing on the mundane and the everyday. A parallel part of Nigam’s work has been concerned with alternative histories of capital, from the vantage point of contemporary experiences in India and the non-West in general. As part of this endeavour, Nigam has also been working collaboratively with some other colleagues at CSDS, in exploring thought in the conceptual universe of Indian languages. He works with the Centre’s Indian Languages Programme and its Hindi journal Pratiman. He has published The Insurrection of Little Selves: The Crisis of Secular Nationalism in India (2006), Power and Contestation: India Since 1989, with Nivedita Menon (2007), After Utopia: Modernity and Socialism and the Postcolony (2010), and Desire Named Development (2011).

India’s 3E Regime : Challenges and Opportunities in Employment, Employability and Education

Manish Sabharwal


About the Lecture

The talk will highlight the challenges in India’s employment, employability and education regime and throw up possible solutions. It will also try to make connections between the 3E’s and will make the case that is that India does not have a jobs problem but a wages problem. Fundamentally the productivity challenge means recognizing that the government is organized vertically but this problem needs thinking horizontally. Despite 1 million kids joining the labour force every month for 10 years, it makes the case that the demographic dividend is a real possibility.   

About Speaker

Manish Sabharwal is currently the Chairman and co-founder of Teamlease Services, India’s largest staffing and human capital firm. Teamlease has over 120,000 employees in 5000 cities and is implementing India’s first vocational university in Gujarat and first national PPP apprenticeship programme.  Manish Sabharwal is also a member of the National Skill Mission chaired by the Prime Minister and serves on various state and central government committees on education, employment and employability. He is a columnist for the Indian Express and got his MBA from The Wharton School in 1996. He is also an alumni of Shriram College, Delhi and Mayo College, Ajmer.

Beyond the Development Trap? Ten Years of Community Radio in India

Vinod Pavarala


About the Lecture

It is over 10 years since a putative community radio policy was announced by the Government of India, in 2003, allowing ‘established educational institutions’ to apply for a license to broadcast over a limited-power FM frequency. It took three years after that initial announcement was made for the government to concede the same right to community-based organizations, which were not any more seen as ‘a threat to the security and sovereignty’ of the nation.  Civil society organizations, media activists and advocates who ran a campaign for opening up of airwaves from mid-1990s up until the early 2000s had emphasized the potential of using community radio for development, rather than foregrounding what seemed to be the more radical framework of communication rights. This talk will review this history and examine some aberrations that have emerged in the Indian community radio landscape.  It will explore questions such as: whether the NGOization of community radio reproduces the same top-down pedagogical approaches to development that were adopted by the post-Independence governments in India?; has the new access to means of representation ushered in, as was expected, an alternative, subaltern public sphere?

About Speaker

Vinod Pavarala is Professor and Head of the Department of Communication and, since 2011, has been the UNESCO Chair on Community Media at University of Hyderabad.  For over a decade, through his research and policy advocacy, he has played a significant role in furthering the discourse on democratization of airwaves in India and elsewhere. His much reviewed book, co-authored with Kanchan K. Malik, Other Voices: The Struggle for Community Radio in India (Sage, 2007) documents community-based efforts across India to carve out an alternative public sphere.  In the last four years, the UNESCO Chair, the only one of its kind in the world, has been working not only in South Asia, but also, more recently, in East Africa, and contributed to policy advocacy in Europe as well.  He serves on the editorial boards of many international journals in the field and furthers communication education in several institutions in an advisory capacity.Prof. Pavarala has dual masters in Sociology and Communication and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh (USA). He taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), and Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, before joining the University of Hyderabad in 1995. 


Sushil Joshi


About the Lecture

When it comes to everyday life, even educated people are often superstitious and gullible. They just forget what was mandatorily learnt by them in the science classroom. On the other hand, the people especially trained and skilled in the practice of science also exhibit utterly unscientific, if not anti-scientific, ways of doing things. The most blatant example being a replica of Mangalyan being taken to Tirupathi Balaji for blessings. Or the practices of the medical establishment, including doctors, which threatens to put us back in the pre-antibiotic era. This schizophrenic behaviour needs some explanation.Many a time it has been suggested that people act in irrational/unscientific ways because they are ignorant. From the examples above it would be clear that ignorance may not be the only cause for belief in superstitions and auspiciousness. There may be other causes. One could be lack of alternatives, when the rational behavior has a cost you are unable to bear. That cost need not necessarily be financial; it may be social, cultural, familial. One other cause may be vested interest, such as over-prescription of anti-biotics, steroids, tonics etc. There may also be political vested interests behind the claims that mythology is an authentic account of Scientific and Technological achievements. Sadly, therefore, mere educational inputs may not be sufficient to tackle the menace of belief in superstitions and auspiciousness.

About Speaker

Born in September 1955 at Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Dr Sushil Joshi completed his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 1982. He worked in Kishore Bharti, an organisation which harbingered creative science education programs, till 1985. He has been an active member of the team that designed the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Program and has written a book on it called Jashn-e-Talim (2008). Besides this, Dr Joshi has been a freelance writer, translator and editor. He presently edits Srot (literally meaning Source), a journal supported by Department of Science and Technology and published by Eklavya.

The Political Economy of Labour Law

Babu Mathew 


About the Lecture

Post neo-liberalism we witness rapid deterioration in both conditions of work and conditions at work. Pauperisation and proletarianisation on the agrarian front fuel the ever growing migration to urban and semi urban centres. There is a ‘race to the bottom’ in many precarious forms of employment such as construction, garments, plantations, security services, housekeeping, domestic work, etc. There is rapid erosion of freedom of association, tripartitism, conditions at work, real wages, social security and job security. We will, through reflection around a few key concepts emerging from our rich labour jurisprudence of the early post-colonial period, examine how we are reduced to reproducing ‘modern forms of slavery’ through the hegemonic discourse of ‘flexible labour’. Are there any signs of hope and what ought to be the future trajectory?

About Speaker

Babu Mathew comes from a background of trade union and civil society work. He was Vice-President of Trade Union International affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions for Asia-Pacific region for two terms. He has led collective bargaining in small and medium scale industry, large private and public sector undertakings, MNCs and the service sector and signed scores of wage settlements ranging from the plant level to the national level. He specialised in organising labour across a wide range of employments, and in bringing the field experience gained, to the class room through the teaching of labour law. He has been awarded the Nehru Fellowship.Babu Mathew has been a Human Rights activist focusing on the marginalised. He set up the “Centre for Child and the Law” at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore (NLSIU) and held the Government of India Chair on Juvenile Justice. He played a key role in drafting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and in child related law reform processes. He went on to be the Country Director of Action Aid in India in which capacity he coordinated human rights work across 24 states of India for two terms. He is a founder member of both the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication and of the Working Group on Human Rights. He has been active in cleaning electoral politics.He has been teacher of Law for the last four decades. He is a gold medallist in Labour Law and Administrative Law and he earlier was the Registrar of NLSIU. Babu Mathew sustains a special interest in the political economy of law with particular reference to Labour Law, Constitutionalism, Law & Development, Human Rights, and Child Rights. He is presently Resident Professor at NLSIU, coordinating the Master’s programme in Public Policy.

Mummy, Why did Rama send Sita to the forest if he loved her?

Arshia Sattar


About the Lecture

Like all good stories, the Ramayana is multi-valent, speaking on many levels and in many tongues. It also speaks directly to children, even without our interventions. What changes when we write for children? How self-conscious do we need to be? What are we afraid of when we write for them -- that they will understand too little or too much? What do children expect from a story and can we, as adults, deliver that? These and other concerns are foregrounded when one retells a beloved and complex tale like the Ramayana for younger readers. Given that the ownership of the Ramayana has been politicized in our times, it becomes critical to ensure that a new generation of Indians engages with this story that underpins the majority culture in India. Is children's literature an appropriate site to address issues of inclusion and exclusion? How do we negotiate our own anxieties and aspirations when we speak to children?

About Speaker

Arshia Sattar has a Ph.D. from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She has worked with the Valmiki Ramayana for 30 years. Her critically acclaimed translation of the Valmiki Ramayana is published as a Penguin Classic. Penguin also published her collection of essays, "Lost Loves: Exploring Rama's Anguish" which read the Ramayana as a tragic love story. Her translation of Valmiki's Uttara Kanda, "Uttara: The Book of Answers" will be published by Penguin in November. "The Ramayana for Children" is her fourth book for young readers and is published by Juggernaut.

Mental Health Care for All - Can Civil Society take over from the Professionals

Manoj Kumar


About the Lecture

With yet another World Mental Health day almost upon us, a taking of stock is required. As the treatment gap for almost all mental disorders continues to be huge, even in the developed nations, the only pertinent question is how do we provide minimum mental health services to all citizens of the world. The choice of 'Psychological first aid' as the theme this year seems startlingly irrelevant in this context. However, in India, there is a sense of hope as there are encouraging signs of civil society organisations taking charge in areas where previously it was left to the government to lead the way. This talk is about novel ways where communities are coming together to organise care especially for the disadvantaged. 

About Speaker

Dr Manoj Kumar is the Clinical Director of The Mental Health Action Trust  ( a not-for-profit Charitable Trust based in Calicut, Kerala.  An alumni of the Calicut Medical College, the Christian Medical College, Vellore, Dr Manoj Kumar started training in Psychiatry over 25 years. He has worked as faculty at the Christian Medical College, Vellore till 1994 during which time his clinical and academic focus was on the Psychiatric aspects of HIV and AIDS. He has worked for over a decade in the United Kingdom and during his time in Leeds, he was instrumental in setting up a clinical Psycho-oncology service there. In later years, he focused on the Psychiatric aspects of Palliative Medicine and was involved nationally and internationally in research and training activities in this field. During this period, he also developed strong links with the nascent specialty of Palliative Care in India, working mainly through the Institute of Palliative Medicine in Calicut, which is the WHO Collaborating Centre for Community Participation in Palliative Care and Long Term Care. He has been involved in various teaching activities in India and is on the National Faculty of the Indian Association for Palliative Care.

Commons that provide: The importance of Bengaluru’s wooded groves for urban resilience

Seema Mundoli


About the Lecture

This presentation is based on ongoing research anchored by Harini Nagendra at the Azim Premji University. The research examines the process of urbanization in Bengaluru city and the resulting transformations of   urban commons.  Urban commons constitute important social-ecological systems for the resilience of cities in the global South. However, rapid urbanization has led to large-scale degradation and transformation of many of these spaces, impacting the resilience of traditional and vulnerable users. This presentation examines the changes to one such commons, gunda thopes (hereafter ‘thopes’) or wooded groves that constitute important yet neglected peri-urban commons of Bengaluru city. These thopes provide a range of ecosystem services supporting traditional livelihoods and subsistence use by local communities, urban poor and more recently migrants into the city. They were central to the social and cultural lives of local residents who have lived for generations adjacent to the thopes, and were involved in collective management of these commons. We examine the impacts of the changes, to the status, management and perceptions of thopes leading to a decline in the ecosystem services they provided, and especially the impacts on the urban marginalized who depend on these commons.  We posit that the loss of urban commons and their prioritization increasingly for recreational use undermine the social and ecological resilience of cities.

About Speaker

Seema is a Research Associate at the Azim Premji University. At the university, she is engaged in research that examines the historical transformation of urban commons, and in understanding the social, ecological and institutional interactions that could contribute to protection or degradation of urban commons. In the past, she has worked with different NGOs engaged in conservation, natural resource management, and advocacy on issues of mining and education.

Building the Economic Power of Women: The IVDP Story

Kulandai Francis


About the Lecture

The talk outlines the origins and evolution of IVDP and its efforts to empower women through Self Help Groups (SHGs) since 1989. In achieving its objectives of alleviating poverty, empowering and developing leadership ability among the poor rural women, encouraging saving habits among them and motivating them to take up responsibilities, IVDP has educated and trained a large number of women. The availability of bank loans for the women’s SHGs increased membership in these groups. IVDP arranged training sessions, regular meetings and frequent loan repayment instalments to further encourage women’s participation. Healthcare, basic literacy, family planning, marketing and occupational skills are also included in its activities. As more and more women joined its SHGs, IVDP aimed to respond holistically to the needs of the community such as providing purified drinking water, sanitation through house hold toilets, personal hygiene (sanitary napkins) and renewable energy (solar lights).  At present, more than 10,000 SHGs with 190,000 members across three districts in Tamilnadu. (Krishangiri, Dharmapuri and Vellore) exist. IVDP’s links with the poor people, its innovative practices, its capacity to enable people’s participation in development and trust building at different levels between stakeholders are among the reasons for the success of its initiatives.

About Speaker

Kulandai Francis studied commerce before doing courses in Social Development in Canada and Philippines. Keenly interested in community development services, he was involved in refugee relief work during the Bangladesh War in 1971 and drought relief work in Pune in 1972. He has aided in the construction of 331 check dams to support poor peasants and raise the ground water level. He founded the IVDP in 1989. His work has received many awards, including those offered by several banks such as Bank of India, Indian Bank, Bank of Baroda, Pallavan Grama Bank, NABARD for his successful and dynamic ways of developing, conducting and managing the SHGs.  He was also honoured with Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2012.

Panel Discussion on Ajit Sinha’s A Revolution in Economic Theory: The Economics of Piero Sraffa (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) Part -1

Goddanti Omkarnath


About the Lecture

This book draws on the work of one of the sharpest minds of the twentieth century, Piero Sraffa (1898-1983). Ludwig Wittgenstein credited him for 'the most consequential ideas' of the Philosophical Investigations (1953) and put him high on his short list of geniuses. Sraffa's revolutionary contribution to Economics was, however, lost to the world because economists did not pay attention to the philosophical underpinnings of his economics. Based on exhaustive archival research, Sinha presents an exciting new thesis that shows how Sraffa challenged the usual mode of theorizing in terms of essential and mechanical causation and, instead, argued for a descriptive or geometrical theory based on simultaneous relations. A consequence of this approach was a complete removal of 'agent's subjectivity' and 'marginal method' or counterfactual reasoning from economic analysis – the two fundamental pillars of orthodox economic theory. It goes on to show that Sraffa’s alternative economic theory establishes that income distribution can be taken as given independently of prices — a conclusion that stands in stark opposition to orthodox economic theory, which maintains that both the size and distribution of income are determined simultaneously with prices.

About Speaker

Goddanti Omkarnath : Goddanti Omkarnath is Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics, University of Hyderabad. Before the year 2000, when he moved there, he served on the faculty of the Centre for Development Studies at Trivandrum. Trained in JNU and Loyola College, Vijayawada, he has held visiting positions at the University of Oxford and the University of Rome. Omkarnath’s professional interests range from economic theory and classical economics to problems of Indian economy and teaching of economics. A frequent contributor to newspapers and television on current economic affairs, he is on the Boards of Studies of several Indian Universities. He has supervised about 25 scholars for their M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees. Romar Correa : Romar Correa is the Reserve Bank of India Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics, University of Mumbai, India. From 2005-2008, he was Director of the Department. He works on the tension between micro and macro in non-neoclassical frameworks. Among other journals, he has published in Keio Economic Papers, Journal of Economic Integration, Control and Cybernetics, Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society, History of Economic Ideas, American Review of Political Economy, International Review of Applied Economics, International Game Theory Review, Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review, International Journal of Political Economy, Applied Economics Letters, The Economist’s Voice, International Journal of Social Economics, Journal of Economic Studies, Journal of Economic Analysis, Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Heterodox Economics, Post Keynesian Economics Forum.  He was Visitor, Maison Des Sciences de L’Homme, Paris, 2004; French Government Post-Doctoral Scholar, 1996-1997, Groupe de Réchèrche sur la Regulation de L’Economie Capitaliste, Université Pierre Mendes, France; Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, October-November 2008. He is on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, and Macroeconomics and Finance in Emerging Market Economies.   Ajit Sinha : Ajit Sinha is Professor of Economics at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.  Ajit has had a long and varied experience of teaching and research in Economics.  He has been associated with a number of academic institutions in India and abroad, notably the Delhi School of Economics, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at JNU, Department of Economics, Mumbai University, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Maître des Conférences Associé at Collège de France, Paris, University of Paris (Sorbonne), University of Trento, Italy and the University of Cambridge. He has served as a member of ‘Research Institutes Committee’ and the National Steering Committee of the Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development (IDPAD) of ICSSR.  The writing of the book under discussion has benefitted from a research grant from Institute of New Economic Thinking (INET) and Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).Ajit has an M.A in Economics from the University of Delhi and a Masters and a Ph.D. in Economics from State University of New York at Buffalo, USA. His main area of research has been the History of Economic Theory, particularly the theories of value and distribution in the history of economics. He has more than forty research papers published in reputed international journals and edited books and encyclopedias. His first book, Theories of Value from Adam Smith to Piero Sraffa, was published in 2010 by Routledge. A Revolution in Economic Theory: The Economics of Piero Sraffa, the subject of today’s discussion, has been published by Palgrave Macmillan. Ajit has also co-edited two books and was a member of the editorial board of the two-volume Encyclopedia of Political Economy, published by Routledge in 1999.    Chiranjib Sen : University; Visiting Scholar, Harvard Institute of International Development; and Visiting Professor, Vassar College. He was the first Indian to serve as President of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI), which is a member-network of leading Indian and Canadian higher education institutions. He was an independent Director of Indian Overseas Bank, and of KIOCL Limited. He was a member of the Task Force on Faculty Shortage and Design of Performance Appraisal Systems, MHRD, Government of India. He serves as external member of program advisory panels in Ambedkar University Delhi and Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.Chiranjib Sen is an economist and a Professor in Azim Premji University.  Prior to joining Azim Premji University, he was for many years a Professor of Economics & Social Sciences in the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He was the founding Chairperson of the Centre for Public Policy (CPP) at IIMB, and led the initiatives for long duration training of senior policymakers. He has been affiliated with a number of academic institutions in India and abroad. These include: Professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum; Harry Reynolds International Visiting Professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Visiting Scholar, Maxwell School for Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse His research interests are Government Role and Capacity under Market Reform; Governance Innovations and Administrative Reform; Regulatory Institutions and Dynamics; Developmental States in Asia, Public Policy; Higher Education and Professional Ethics. Chiranjib received his PhD in Economics from Stanford University, MA from Delhi School of Economics and BA (Hons) from Presidency College, Kolkata.