Conferred the Doctor of Literature (honoris causa), social activist outlines the importance of democratic dissent
The opening month of the New Year has been a busy one for people at the University, one where the calendar’s been packed with eminent speakers from all corners of the world and every imaginable field of human endeavour. But none could measure up to the event scheduled on the 9th of January, 2014. This was the occasion of an investiture ceremony organized to honour political and social activist Aruna Roy. The University thought it fit to confer on her the degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa), in keeping with her immense contribution to the nation.
Aruna Roy has waged an unceasing struggle on the behalf of the poor and the powerless. A voice that has spoken truth to power, her role in the campaigns demanding the Right to Information, employment and food security, has made her the face of public activism and democratic struggle. The honour was presented to her by Chancellor Dr. C. H. Hanumantha Rao in the DST Auditorium in the presence of Vice Chancellor Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, Pro Vice Chancellor Prof. E. Haribabu, and Prof. Aloka Parasher-Sen (Dean, School of Social Sciences).
She left the Indian civil service to fight on behalf of the poor of India. Her life as an activist took off with the establishment of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Another organization identified with her is the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. It went on to play a crucial role in the passage of the RTI Act. Apart from empowering the peasants of rural India and creating an environment conducive to transparency and accountability, she has also spearheaded the planning and implementation of numerous rural welfare schemes. The most famous of these is the MGNREGA. She was awarded the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership and the 2010 Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management.
Smt. Aruna Roy delivered a stirring speech to the hundreds who had gathered inside the Auditorium, a crowd made up of students, faculty members, academicians, journalists, eminent professionals and ardent admirers. Her Distinguished Lecture was titled ‘Democratic Governance – A Contemporary Discourse’. She pointed how debate and dissent were essential to the health of Indian democracy. India, she pointed out, despite its parliamentary system and progressive Constitution, was a deeply unequal society. One could not ignore these realities and sacrifice the rights of the poor and the underprivileged at the altar of political expediency, feudal practices and neoliberal economics.
The programme was followed by an informal interaction-cum- Q&A session with students of the University in the School of Humanities Auditorium on the following day.