Vinod Raina – India

A physicist by profession, Vinod is one of the pioneers of the People’s Science Movement in India, having helped set up the All-India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) and the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS).

Vinod Raina

He is a founding member of Eklavya, an organization advocating alternative education for more than two decades, and the only NGO whose curriculum was adopted in the state school educational system.

He resigned from his job in Delhi University to devote full time to grassroots work. He has been a Homi Bhabha Fellow, a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, and an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Science Writers Association.

His involvement with ARENA began after the Bhopal Gas Disaster and the anti-Narmada dams campaign. As a Board member, he helped conceptualise the Victims of Development project and co-edited the subsequent volume The Dispossessed. He is the convener of the ARENA programme on Environmental Security.

A member of the ARENA Executive Boards 1994-2000, Vinod was re-elected as Chair of the ARENA Council of Fellows for the term 2003-2006.

He is also the Chairperson of the Council of Fellows of the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives, the Chairperson of Jubilee South Asia/Pacific ; a member of the India Organising Committee, and the International Council of the WSF, he writes regularly about WSF events.

Vinod Raina writes: A Social Movement is any explicit or implicit persuasion by noninstitutionalized groups seeking public gain by attempting to change some part of “the system”. Accordingly :

i) Social movements are an attempt to bring about institutional change, mainly from without the social structure.

ii) Change may be limited to reform. It mayalter some practices or policies of an institution, but leaves the institution itself intact.

iii) Change advocated may also be radical or revolutionary ;demanding fundamental change in the existing social/institutional structures and relationships.

Quite obviously, a variety of social movements in Asia would fall in at least one of the above categories ; and many may overlap between the three. Rest see the following article Social Mouvments in India.

Further, Vinod Raina writes about Altermondialism and Globalisation – Resisting Globalisation: With nearly every political party implementing policies of privatization, liberalization and promoting foreign direct investment and markets since 1990, the conflict between the marginalized and the impoverished with the government has visibly increased. With the closure of thousands of older industries, an increase in agricultural inputs and a decrease in the purchase prices of domestic agricultural produce, the workers and the peasants are bearing the brunt of the neoliberal policies. With the urban middle class reaping whatever little benefits the neoliberal world has to offer, the rural-urban divide is further deepening.

India has about 340 million people as its labour force, of which only about 30 million are organized. Which leaves over 300 million in the unorganized sector, the bulk of which is agricultural labour. The trade union movement has, therefore, been unable to reach out to the majority of Indian labour. A large number of the unorganized labour is composed of dalits, women and adivasis. Consequently, most of them find their expression through the social movements they are allied to ; which may be of the environmental, adivasi, peasant or dalit kind. And increasingly, these movements have had to deal with issues related to globalization in the last fifteen years. With the national media firmly in the grasp of neoliberal interests, their expression has got further stifled, and they have become more invisible, since they are not of interest anymore, meriting little mention in the frenzied news industry.

The Gandhian legacy of volunteerism spawned a plethora of development voluntary agencies, particularly after the heyday of the Maoist uprisings in the early seventies. Many city professionals migrated to rural areas working directly with people in areas like education, health, rural development, water and sanitation etc through these voluntary agencies. In the beginning there were little funds available to these agencies for their work, and they worked truly in the spirit of volunteerism, close to the communities. But beginning eighties, the central government recognized their importance as delivery agencies for rural development and began to set aside funds for them. Combined with funding available from agencies abroad, the voluntary sector quickly mushroomed into the more familiar NGO sector, particularly in numbers. Estimates of NGO’s in India go even up to a figure of > 200,000 ! The funded, professionally staffed NGO contrasts greatly with the large social and mass movements that are cash starved but have a much larger people’s base. Very often the two collaborate on issues, in their geographical areas, but a mutual tension bordering sometimes on mistrust persists. The movements generally find the NGO’s less radical, prone to taking decisions determined by their funding needs. The advent of globalization seems to have heightened such tensions, since the NGO sector is heavily favoured by even institutions like the World Bank.

The situation has got further complicated by the advent of the local government institutions, the Panchayats, since the constitutional amendments of 1994 that facilitated their emergence. Since they are elected bodies with five year cycles, movements and NGO’s are confronted by such democratic institutions in precisely the areas they work in. Governments, mostly irritated by the presence of NGO’s and movements have been quick to raise the question of legitimacy of the civil society institutions in the midst of such democratically elected bodies. Many NGO’s have either ignored the Panchayat institutions, or come in conflict with them. But some have recognized their political importance, howsoever inefficient they may be, and tried various forms of collaboration with them.

One such movement is the People’s Science Movement. It is unique to India as it is difficult to find a similar movement in other countries. It consists of a large number of science professionals engineers, doctors, scientists and a large number of teachers, who have combined with the local people and communities, and in many instances the Panchayats, in very large numbers, as many as 300,000, to work nearly all over the country. The movement combines reconstruction and struggle in its efforts, working in areas of education, literacy, water, health, rural production, energy and local governance systems ; and uses various forms of struggles to resist the neoliberal onslaught. Whenever feasible, it collaborates with the government, but also confronts it when it finds itself in disagreement. With a definite left leaning, the movement has emerged as one that has tried to be inclusive in bringing together people from all shades, from centre to left, and in its intellectual efforts, has tried to synthesize Marxist and Gandhian thought. In particular, it has experimented actively in local level people’s planning methods, in collaboration with the Panchayats, as a means of resisting the centralizing tendencies of the neoliberal paradigm. A major upheaval is taking place right now amongst the social movements in India as they are confronted by the challenge of holding the World Social Forum in January 2004. With the international community favouring India as the venue for the fourth forum after the first three in Porto Alegre, Brazil, there were many who doubted whether the process could remain inclusive in a heavily diverse and somewhat divisive world of Indian social movements and NGO’s. Given the fact that there are divisions even amongst the movements belonging to the same ideology, and the historical differences between the Left, the Gandhians, the Dalits, the Socialists, the Environmentalists, the New and the Traditional amongst the women, worker and peasant movements, the fears can only be termed as genuine. In the end, with a political process that has gone on for nearly two years, nearly 200 mass movements, social organizations and NGO’s from diverse ideologies have combined to form an Indian working committee to work together to make the WSF2004 happen. This is quite unprecedented particularly when one is reminded that the Brazilian organization has only eight member organisatons.

But WSF is obviously not everyone’s favourite space. Since it excludes groups who believe in violence as a modality of action, and given the deep mistrust of Indian movements to foreign funding agencies in general, some groups and movements have come together, including from other countries like the Philippines, to organize a parallel event to the WSF2004, which they are calling the Mumbai Resistance 2004. Their claim is that their agenda against imperialist globalization is more radical than that of WSF. As long as movements ranged against neoliberalism are prepared to mobilize more and more masses for the purpose, the WSF does not anyway claim or want to be the only platform or space from which they need to operate from. This has clearly been the articulation of the movements that have come together for the first time in such large numbers for the WSF in India. Such an articulation is clearly an indicator of the fact that the movements are beginning to see the value of keeping the main objective in view rather than quibbling over who is in control. If such an attitude sustains even after the WSF, one could say that the WSF has had a positive impact on the Indian movements. One can only hope for that.


Rapport in PDF: Forum Social Mondial 2004 – in french;



CADTM France;

ARENA Council of Fellows;

Promoting People’s Science;

Decentralisation of Education.

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