The School for Democracy (SFD) or Loktantrashala, is dedicated to promoting and deepening democratic education and learning in India. It is conceived as a space that will enable eclectic groups of adult learners from diverse social and educational backgrounds to learn about the theory and practice of a functioning democracy. Loktantrashala is committed to the values enshrined in the Constitution of India, which inspire and frame all our activities. The school aims to develop effective tools and techniques of democratic education, while engaging actively with the challenges of fashioning a more equal, just and participatory democracy.
The School for Democracy is dedicated to deepening democratic education within the framework of the Indian Constitution. It will address the socio-economic, political and cultural aspects of a working democracy through themes defined by the needs of the learners. The curricula will cover a broad range of constitutional and democratic issues. It will respond to the needs of learners engaged with issues of governance, people’s participation in decision making and establishing accountability.
The School for Democracy (SFD) is located in a village called Badi Ka Badiya, in the district of Bhilwara, in Rajasthan. It is four kilometers away from the town of Bhim, which lies on the Delhi–Mumbai National Highway (NH 8). The campus is built in a two-acre land with contributions raised from Indian and non-institutional donors. The construction had been based on a collective architectural design using local technology.
The infrastructure in the campus includes a meeting hall, two training halls, an office, library, residential blocks, mess and a dining hall. The facilities are modest and basic. The School provides simple bedding and basic food. There is adequate covered space for classroom activities.
Satish Deshpande serves as Professor, Department of Sociology, at the Delhi School of Economics. He is a prolific writer and speaker on issues of caste inequalities and its manifestations in contemporary Indian society. He has served as a Member of the Expert Group on Equal Opportunity Commission, Government of India, during 2007-08. He also held editorial positions in a number of national and international bulletins and was an adviser for the sociology text books of the NCERT.
Naurti Devi is a grassroots women’s activist. She has fought against the issues of child marriage, rape and sati. She won the battle for minimum wages in the Supreme Court. She served as the Sarpanch of Harmara Gram Panchayat in Ajmer district and played a leadership role in the formation of Rajasthan Mahila Morcha, an organisation of more than 5000 women.
Lal Singh is a social activist and one of the founding members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangatan (MKSS). He played a pivotal role in the struggles for the Right to Information (RTI) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). His astute political understanding and sound knowledge about the rural economy make him a right choice for a ‘political trainer’.
Aruna Roy is a social and political activist. She is one of the founding members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangatan (MKSS) and played a key role in the campaigns for the right to information (RTI) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). She was the member of the National Advisory Council during 2004-06, and 2010-13. She is a prominent member of many campaigns, and currently the President of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW). She was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000, the Nani Palkiwala Award and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management in 2010. She is also a member of the advisory board to the Comptroller and Auditor General, India.
Tripurari Sharma is a playwright of repute. She has been associated with several theatre groups throughout the country and abroad. She has served as Acting Director of the National School of Drama and presently is professor of acting at the School. She joined the Governing Body as President during 2014-16.
Kamla Bhasin is a gender activist and trainer on gender and patriarchy. She has worked for the women’s movement for over 40 years. She is also the co-founder of JAGORI, a capacity-building initiative, and is adviser to South Asian feminist network, Sangat.
Sushila is a senior grass-root RTI and development activist. She has worked in rural areas of Ajmer district for approximately 25 years. She and her group of women were part of the backbone of the Beawar RTI Dharna in 1996 that helped convert a local struggle into a national campaign. The conceptualization and articulation of the RTI as “Humara paisa humara hissab” (our money, our accounts) by Susheela and a group of rural women in Jawaja, Rajasthan, has given India its signature slogan now translated into multiple languages to be asserted and used across the country. She has used RTI in the areas of health, women’s access to entitlement, wages, education, drinking water, PDS, and also the National Policy for Development.
Ankita Anand is an author and a poet, and a co-founder of the street theatre group Aatish. She has worked with the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) in the past. She is a recipient of the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize and a fellow with the Washington-based group The Rules, which works on addressing global inequalities.
Radhika was the former Secretary of the School for Democracy-Loktantrashala. Apart from extensive work in her home state of Tamil Nadu, she has spent her time in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, documenting local folk cultures and studying the use of cultural communication for peoples’ mobilization and political action. Her most resent initiative, ‘Ek Potlee Ret Ki,’ is an activist collective that works on access to rights and entitlements as well as documentation and preservation of arts, crafts, traditional livelihoods and cultural practices of the most marginalized and disenfranchised hereditary cultural communities across states.
Bajrang Lal Sharma
Bajrang Lal Sharma had a long career in the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS). He worked with the government for more than three decades. During his engagement with the government he regularly interacted with voluntary organizations. His areas of interest include issues related to land, rural development, education and rehabilitation. He lives in Udaipur.
Ramkaran is a gender trainer and community mobiliser working with the Social Work Research Centre (SWRC), Tilonia. He started his career of community service at the age of 15 by teaching village women. His understanding of gender issues at village level and the conditioning of the social practices intertwined to it made his interventions effective.
Shankar Singh is a social and political activist, master communicator and one of the founding members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangatan (MKSS). His exceptional qualities as a communicator have helped the campaigns for right to information, right to work, etc., to have a mass appeal among the larger public. Through puppet show, songs, slogans, skits, etc., he conveys even the most intricate political message in a simple yet powerful language.
Lalit Mathur is a retired civil servant. His areas of work include rural development, SC development, and membership of CAPART (Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology) and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. He was also the former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad.
Gautam works on the politics of poverty, inequality and development in Indian cities with a focus on housing, social security, governance and urban and planning theory. At present he heads Academics & Research at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bengaluru. He also has extensive experience in advising public institutions including providing inputs to the Rajiv Awas Yojana and the New Delhi Municipal Act. He is an active part of urban social movements as well as a frequent columnist and writer in diverse media.
Dr Vipul Mudgal has been a journalist and academic in India, the UK, and South East Asia for over 30 years. He has held senior editorial positions at various media houses in Asia. He headed operations in print, electronic and Internet media in India and abroad. As an activist and a media scholar, he writes and works on the intersections of media, democracy and political violence.
Nachiket Udupa works in the agriculture sector and has been associated with the MKSS and allied campaigns since 2010. He has previously worked in the field of education.
Lal Singh Ji is the secretary of School for Democracy-Loktantrashala. He is also one of the founding members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghthan. His love for Kabir’s dohas, Krishnamurti’s take on life, and his coherent understanding of people and politics in rural India make him an asset to the space we wish to create through the School for Democracy.
Reny is the academic coordinator at SFD. Originally from Mangad village in Kerala, he went on to study economics at Loyola College. He worked with Gramvikas in Orissa and the MKSS before joining SFD in 2015. He brings structure and discipline to our team.
Jeetender is in charge of the accounts and finances at SFD. He is pursuing his Bachelors of Arts through open university. Jeetu is from a small village called Mundoti in Ajmer district, Rajasthan. He joined SFD after his schooling, in 2015.
Taru is in charge of the video documentation of all of SFD’s activities on and off campus. He is from Sohangarh, a village close to the campus and this familiarity with the communities and villages around help us in our outreach, planning and organising activities in villages around us. He joined us in the year 2013.
Bhanwar ji helps at the mess and is in charge of campus maintenance. He is a farmer, expert sweetmaker, and a quiet, hardworking member of the team. He has played different roles all his life in different parts of the country and even helped in the construction of the buildings on campus. He joined us in 2012.
Lakhan is the mess-in-charge at SFD. He formerly worked with the SWRC in Tilonia and then joined us in 2014. When he is around, fun and laughter are sure to follow.
Avinash takes care of the Delhi chapter of the School for Democracy. He organises charchas and democracy dialogues in colleges across Delhi. He is originally from Bihar but has been associated with the School for Democracy since 2014.
Laxman is in charge of documentation support. His artisic sensibilities are often put to use in all our mobile exhibitions, posters, and so on.
Adithi is associated with the ‘Community Library Program’ and ‘Khamayti’ project of SFD. She is from Mangalore and joined us in 2016 after completing her M.A in Education from the Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.
Laxmi is from Saddharan and helps at the mess and with campus maintainance. She joined us in 2015.
Simran is associated with the ‘Community Library Program’, and helps organise programs with schools and colleges in the region. She is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Arts in Economics (honors) from Beawar. She is from Thana and joined in September 2017.
Santosh is our newest member and is currently learning the ropes of the accounts section. She also manages the store. She is from Devdungri and is pursuing her Bachelor’s of Arts from Bhim.
Kamal is part of the Documentation support team. He is from Lotiyana a village in Ajmer district. He is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Arts from Beawar. Kamal also plays a crucial role in our communication team. He has been with us since January 2018.