Lokayan
( 1985 , Inde )

...for linking and strengthening local groups working to protect civil liberties, women's rights and the environment.

For us regaining power for the people, for communities, for autonomous societal forces is crucial. To that end Lokayan aims to be a 'dialogue of the people'.


Lokayan is a dialogue for the consolidation of democracy, for exploring the possibilities and principles of coherence within the explosion of democratic assertions, for equity and people’s control over natural resources, women’s empowerment, cultural plurality, health and well-being for all.

Contact

Lokayan
c/o: South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy
383-A, 2nd Floor, Bank Street
Munirka
New Delhi – 110067
INDIA

Biography

Lokayan, meaning ‘Dialogue of the people’, started in 1980 as a forum for interaction between activists and concerned intellectuals through meetings, workshops, working groups and lectures. Professors Rajni Kothari and DL Sheth provided the organisation’s overall leadership during the initial phase. They were followed by Shiv Visvanathan, Vijay Pratap, and Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed as chairpersons, with Suresh Sharma, Harsh Sethi, Smitu Kothari and Vijay Pratap as conveners at different points in time. DP Rajendra Ravi became convener in1998, and Prof. VB Singh became chairperson in 2003. In addition to the core group of conveners, Lokayan’s activities are sustained by a group of part-time associates and volunteers.

Lokayan’s interactions involved a large network of intellectuals, non-party and mainstream political party activists. Through these the Lokayan programme has sought to evolve a systematic critique of the established models of development and the state, and also to promote political action drawing upon the large variety of micro-initiatives that are engaged in the struggle for a just society. The aim is to build a body of knowledge, opinion and concrete strategies of intervention at the ‘macro’ level that will promote a decentralised democratic order and enhance respect for the cultural and social diversity of marginalised sections of society. The thinking, values, aspirations and experiences of these people provide the …

Lokayan, meaning ‘Dialogue of the people’, started in 1980 as a forum for interaction between activists and concerned intellectuals through meetings, workshops, working groups and lectures. Professors Rajni Kothari and DL Sheth provided the organisation’s overall leadership during the initial phase. They were followed by Shiv Visvanathan, Vijay Pratap, and Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed as chairpersons, with Suresh Sharma, Harsh Sethi, Smitu Kothari and Vijay Pratap as conveners at different points in time. DP Rajendra Ravi became convener in1998, and Prof. VB Singh became chairperson in 2003. In addition to the core group of conveners, Lokayan’s activities are sustained by a group of part-time associates and volunteers.

Lokayan’s interactions involved a large network of intellectuals, non-party and mainstream political party activists. Through these the Lokayan programme has sought to evolve a systematic critique of the established models of development and the state, and also to promote political action drawing upon the large variety of micro-initiatives that are engaged in the struggle for a just society. The aim is to build a body of knowledge, opinion and concrete strategies of intervention at the ‘macro’ level that will promote a decentralised democratic order and enhance respect for the cultural and social diversity of marginalised sections of society. The thinking, values, aspirations and experiences of these people provide the basis for alternative cultural, economic and political thinking, helping to unify the various movements for egalitarian change.

Over the past decades there has been a burgeoning of democratic urges and assertion by deprived groups in India, and this has been paralleled by much ideological debate among activist groups and movements. Being preoccupied with the dynamics of survival, however, these groups have not linked up with each other or with the mainstream democratic processes, so Lokayan has sought to provide a forum for such exchanges. It publishes regular bulletins of comment and analysis, as well as struggle notes, movement documents and book reviews, which express the wide range of its concerns. Then English-language ‘Lokayan’ journal appears six times a year.

Eminent political scientist Shiv Vishwanathan recently wrote: “Lokayan, a dialogue with the people, was a legendary thought experiment, which transformed social science in India inalterably. Lokayan was an idea whose time had come, a commons of hospitality open to every variant of every social movement”. Indeed, Lokayan has been an important platform for individuals to promote alternatives. For example, Vandana Shiva (RLA 1992) has written for the Lokayan Bulletin. Lokayan has also provided intellectual sustenance to several social movements in India, including the Narmada Bachao Andolan spearheaded by Medha Patkar (RLA 1991).

 
 

FAQ about Lokayan

asked in 2005

1. Can you give an example of practical changes achieved by Lokayan? 

Since its inception, Lokayan has been working on the issues of human rights, gender and the diversity of the indigenous people. With the number of debates and dialogues it has been involved in, over the years, there has been a shift in the thinking of the planners and policy makers towards these issues. The issue of the rights of the poor, be they in housing or employment on the roads, were never brought to the table for discussion. Today they are integral in the process of policy formulation at least, even though, at the implementation level, there is much that still needs to be done.

2. How has Indian civil society changed since you received the award 20 years ago?

Two decades ago, the ideals and issues raised by Lokayan were considered anti-development as progress was defined as reaching towards a high-tech society – technology being the panacea of all that ailed our society then. However, today our work has become a part of a powerful stream of voices, raised from the country and in the international arena, which are raising issues of sustainability and the rights of the indigenous peoples. The civil society in India is now working for the same goals.

3. What is Lokayan’s biggest concern today?

Lokayan has always worked on human rights issues. Over the last decade, our work has become more urban centred, with the issues of shelter, transport and livelihood becoming the prime focus of our work. With the constant marginalization of the livelihood of the urban poor, by the processes of relocation of small industries and forced eviction from the urban slums, this issue finds centre-stage in the efforts of Lokayan.

4. Why is there a inequity in development and income generation between the countries of the “North” and “South”?

The very comparison of the North and South creates inequities by putting them together on the same platform and by judging the South by the rules and indicators developed in the “North”. The development patterns, values and societal structures of both regions are entirely different. In the post industrial era of the modern world, technology and technical empowerment has been seen as the solution to all problems. This has marginalized the role of human labour and relegated it to inhumanity and indignity. There has been no effort to question how a development model, which is based on a homogeneous society with low population, can be applied to a heterogeneous society with higher availability of human resources. When the planning and economic models of the North are applied to the South, the latter is judged as chaotic and poor.

The truth is that it is the very perceived backwardness of our people and systems which help us find a faster path to sustainability compared to the North, which now has to invent and rediscover sustainable systems as their own do not have a future. A case in point here is the cycle rickshaw – we still have them plying on our roads and only need to include them in formal transport planning to make our systems both environmentally and economically sustainable. Some developed cities of the North are now trying to introduce the cycle rickshaw as a sustainable mode of transport, but will have an uphill struggle because human powered vehicles are no longer a part of their tradition or planning. The mythical perception of “North” as the giver and “South” as the recipient needs to be realigned. An equitable relationship of giving and taking, and learning from each other would be the true definition of globalization.

5. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

The RLA has brought us and the issues we are fighting for a world-wide recognition. This has given us internal strength and external support – both of which have made our cause stronger.

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