Professor of Practice Profile: Aruna Roy

Indian Social Activist and Founder, MKSS

Through our Global Governance Program, we were honoured to welcome Ms. Aruna Roy as the 2016 Professor of Practice in Global Governance. Aruna Roy is a prominent socio-political activist and is a part of many socio-political movements in India. After graduating with an M.A. in English Literature, she was in the civil service from 1968 to 1975. In 1975 she resigned from the Indian Administrative Service to work with the rural poor in Rajasthan. She moved to Devdungri, Rajasthan in 1987, along with Shankar Singh, and Nikhil Dey to collectively build a peoples’ organisation - the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS -1990). She has worked with democratic campaigns for the access of the poor to constitutional rights for equality and justice- the Right to Information, Employment, Food Security and PUCL. She worked as a member of the National Advisory Council from 2004-06, 2010-13. As member of the Council she played a crucial role in the passage of national legislations for the Right to Information and the Right to Employment (MGNREGA) in 2005. Our students also greatly benefitted from Ms. Aruna Roy’s visit as she taught the highly popular INTD597 seminar course on “Transparency, Accountability and Participatory Governance Lessons from people's movements in India.”

As part of their role in this program, Professors of Practice in Global Governance hold an intensive practicum, conference or workshop on their area of practice. For the first time in the history of this program, the highly successful workshop took place in two different locations, making the event truly global, and combined speakers and participants from academia, practice, policy and civil society. “Unpacking Participatory Democracy: from Theory to Practice and Practice to Theory” was held at McGill University in Montreal on November 22nd and 23rd and focused on the academic and theoretical components. “Unpacking Participatory Democracy: from Practice to Theory and Theory to Practice” at the Institute of Management of in Government (IMG) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India between January 30th and February 1st, in partnership with IMG and the Tata Institute for Social Sciences.

This workshop, made possible by the Program in Global Governance funded by the Erin Jellel Collins Arsenault Trust brought together practitioners, policy makers, activists, scholars and artists together to discuss key challenges facing modern democracies. While the Montreal workshop focused on the Global dimensions of the issues, the Kerala program focused on India more specifically and Asia more generally with representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Philippines. The main program tackled important questions surrounding accountability, transparency and anti-corruption. But the program did not stay in the classroom. In the Kerala program, in addition to a riveting concert by world-renowned Carnatic performer T.M. Krishna, participants took part in site visits to local Panchayats to experience the manifestations of participatory democracy.

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