Many people i meet ask me what prompted me to bring out the book ‘i, the citizen’? It all started with the many campaigns that we ran -whether it was the right to information, or the campaign to make democracy work, or the marches for water and sanitation…or the long struggle for human rights of indigenous communities. One of the key lessons that i learnt from spearheading them was that these campaigns do have its own impact. Citizen engagement is neither a slogan for activists nor a fashion statement of the day. The long term dividends that citizens gain when they engage with the state and other forces impacting their development is there for all to see. Transparency and accountability of Institutions can significantly go up when empowered and enlightened citizens begin to engage with them. The narratives of the many people who quietly work to make a difference had to be captured and told…these narratives are not only inspirational but are case studies that will help us unravel the complex dynamics of citizen-centric development interventions. It was then, on the prodding of my colleague and friend, Rohit Shetti (who is also the editor of this book) that we decided to put together my many blog writings into a book.
A video explaining why the book was written is here:
This is the article that appeared on the blog of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability Initiative of World Bank about my book ‘i, the citizen’.
The book launch of ‘i, the citizen’ was indeed memorable for more reasons than one. It was organized with clinical efficiency by the GRAAM team and every small detail was thoughtfully planned and executed. The venue of the event could not be more appropriate and was held at Gandhi Bhavan at Bengaluru. This not only reflected the tenor of the book but was a timely message to all of us of the relevance and significance of Gandhian thought and values. Chandrika was at her charming best as the MC of the event. The guests on the stage were not only distinguished people but represented a key aspect of citizen engagement in their own ways. Justice M N Venkatachalliah, the former Chief Justice of India (who has also written the foreword to this book) was at his witty best. He has done more to preserving the spirit of the Indian constitution than anyone else i know. Apart from being my mentor and guide, he is one of the most humane people who has always put the citizens first in everything that he does. Mohandas Pai, one of the co-founders of the software giant, Infosys is now known for his social activism and television commentaries apart from his corporate and VC lives. He espoused the cause of citizen activism and engaging with the state passionately and with clarity. Ramakrishna Upadhyaya, who was formerly a senior editor at Deccan Herald, ended his insights on the book with strong reasons on why it should not only be read but on the need to practice the message that the book brought out. S V Ranganath, the former chief secretary of the Govt of Karnataka and a accomplished bureaucrat spelt out how the book brought out a different paradigm of development and was filled with possible solutions to the many complex problems that one faces today. I shared on why and how i wrote the book and how I was hoping that this would lead to more discourse and dialogue on citizencentric development. The icing on the cake was the fact that many of the indigenous people who were written about in the book attended the event and Mudalimadiah, the chieftain written about as an exemplar in the book was felicitated on the occasion. What was remarkable was the fact that hall was overflowing and everyone who came did so to share in the joy and happiness that was around. Most people who sent me their feedback about the event mentioned the fact that it was one of the most fulfilling evenings that they had spent in a long time. Several remarked that the speeches were outstanding and that the event truly reflected the spirit of citizen engagement that the book espouses.
The book launch at Bengaluru was followed by the launch that we had yesterday on the 30th Sept at the Prime Minister’s office at New Delhi. Dr Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office was kind enough to spare more than an hour for us. He not only released the book but shared his views on why it was important for the voices of the people at the grassroots to be heard and acted upon. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to citizen centric development and to engaging citizens constantly in governance and public policy issues. This event was organized and coordinated by the co-publisher’s of the book, Vision India Foundation. The entire senior team of VIF, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a well known policy analyst and the head of the Public Policy Research Center and Dr M R Seetharam, my colleague and fellow traveler at SVYM were there.
The book ‘I, the Citizen’ will be launched at the Prime Minister’s office at New Delhi on the 30th of September between 2 and 3 pm. This event is being organized by Vision India Foundation, the co-publisher of the book. Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State at the PMO will be doing the honours.
I am happy to inform all of you of the launch of my latest book, “i, the citizen’ at Bengaluru, India on the 28th Sept at 5.30 in the evening. The invitation for the same is below:
I would like to request all of you to come and participate in the launch event and support us in spreading the message of citizen engagement.
It was an exhilarating moment for me for more reasons than one. First it was the formal launch of my latest book, “I, the Citizen’. This book, which took nearly 6 years to write and 1 year to compile and edit, is being published by GRAAM and co-published by Vision India Foundation. This book was possible only because of the editorial support of Rohit Shetti who worked on it patiently for more than 9 months. This book would not have happened without life taking me to H D Kote more than 28 years ago. It would surely not have happened without the deep imprint of the inspirational message of nationalistic service of Swami Vivekananda. And the launch was happening at Cornell University, a place that has become a second home for me in the US and more importantly I was amidst friends who cherish and value my company. Gary Fields, the renowned economist who has lived and spent a year amidst the poor in India and Joe Grasso, a personal friend and the Associate Dean of ILR School at Cornell did the honours. Senior faculty, students and other invitees attended the event. This launch was mainly possible due to the efforts of Donna Ramil, Associate Director of International programs at ILR and her colleague Miguelina Tabar.
I am also thankful to my family, friends, students, well-wishers, colleagues at GRAAM & Vision India Foundation, and my indigenous brethren at H D Kote for being a part of this wonderful adventure. Video of the launch is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z7ZZJ-L7Qc
It is finally done…My book, “I, the Citizen” is finally ready for launch. The response to the book till date has been very good. We are receiving orders for the same and it will start getting processed soon. The formal launch of the book in the United States will be taking place next week at Cornell University after which it will be available for sale there. Arrangements have begun to make the book available on Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart, Desiadda and other sites. A Kindle edition is also on the anvil. I take this opportunity to request all my friends, well wishers, donors and readers to help spread the word and the key theme of ‘citizen engagement‘. The India launch is scheduled in the last week of September 2015. More info on the US launch of the book is here: US Book Launch at Cornell