Biography of Aruna Roy – President of the National Federation of Indian Women

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Aruna Roy is a popular Indian social worker who co-founded Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Organisation (MKSS), a social and grassroots organisation for empowerment of workers and farmers. The organization played a key role in establishing a major civil rights movement in India and the Right to Information Act (RTI). She also served as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service before deciding fully herself to social and political campaigns. Aruna Roy is an Indian political and social worker who is the founder and head of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (“Workers and Farmers Power Association”).  

Aruna Roy is known as a prominent leader of the Right to Information movement, which led to the Right to Information Act in 2005. She is also a member of the National Advisory Council. In 2000, Aruna Roy won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 2010, he won the prestigious Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for excellence in public administration, education and management.

Biography of Aruna Roy

Biography of Aruna Roy

NameAruna Roy[1]
Date of BirthJune 26, 1946
Place of BirthChennai
NationalityIndian
SpouseSanjit Roy
Father’s NameE. D. Jayaram
Mother’s NameHema
FounderMazdoor Kisan Shakti Organization (MKSS)
EducationConvent of Jesus and Mary, Delhi, Post-Graduation in English Literature from Indraprastha College, Delhi University.
Awards1. Raman Magsaysay Award – 2000

2. Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration

3. Academia and Management – 2010

Early Life and Education of Aruna Roy

Aruna Roy was born to a Chennai Tamil Nadu, India on June 26, 1946. Her father’s name is Elugai Doraiswami Jayaram and her mother’s name is Hema. She was born as the eldest child of Hema and Jayaram. She has two sisters and a brother. Though she was born in Chennai, she spent most of her childhood in Delhi.

Aruna Roy’s father was a lawyer by profession. He participated in the Indian independence movement, became civil servant after independence and eventually retired as Legal Adviser to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research while her mother was a well-educated and independent-minded woman. Her parents gave her a deep concern for social causes and encouraged her to become an open thinker.

Aruna Roy graduated in English from Indraprastha Mahila College in 1965 and joined Delhi University for post-graduate studies. When she applied for and successfully enrolled at the Indraprastha College for Women. Her admission was unexpected for the college faculty as she qualified at an age earlier than usual. For a short period of time, she taught at Indraprastha College, she became a professor of English literature for a year during which she passed the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination in 1967, at the age of 21.

Aruna Roy was sent to the Convent of Jesus and Mary in New Delhi for her primary education. She was then sent to Kalakshetra Cultural Academy in Adyar, Chennai, where she learnt art, Classical dance Bharat Natyam style and Carnatic classical music for two years. She was also educated at a convent school and learned French on the insistence of parents. She was then sent to the Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual commune located in Pondicherry, India, while her family moved to New Delhi. Finally, she attended an Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan school in New Delhi, where she finally completed her schooling.

She completed her post-graduation at the University of Delhi. Following her education, she did not want to become a homemaker like most women during that time, which she considered to be a “limbo of passivity” but most fields were male dominated and her options were limited to journalism and teaching. During her post-graduation at Delhi University, one of her classmate was another left-wing social worker Sanjit Roy, whom she married in 1970. Before getting married, Sanjit Roy and Aruna Roy agreed on various conditions that would control their married life.

They agreed never to “bind” by having children; Always be financially independent of each other; Never impose their faith on each other and always be free to “do what they want” as a person.

While their demanding personal schedule makes it difficult for them to spend a lot of time together, and contrary to some perceptions, Sanjit and Aruna are different.

Also Read : Biography of Vinoba Bhave

Career life of Aruna Roy

Aruna Roy started working as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service in 1968. First worked in Tamil Nadu but later shifted to more rural areas called North Arcot. While staying there, she experienced the livelihood of the rural communities and observed the harsh conditions faced by the people of rural areas.

Aruna Roy was part of a few women who were members of the IAS. As a member, she was always obliged to prove and maintain her credibility. During the service, she faced challenges as a result of red-tapism. But the problems proved beneficial.

Around 1970, Aruna Roy started working as a sub-collector and collected revenue. Moreover, she was in charge of other departments and monitored their work. Aruna Roy was transferred to Delhi as sub-divisional magistrate. In this situation, she was in charge of more than six police stations and often dealt with cases related to student unrest and elections. In her power, she realised high levels of corruption in government activities.

Aruna Roy was later appointed as deputy secretary of finance. In 1973, Roy became a secretary serving in the lieutenant governor’s office. At this time, Roy discovered the ugly side of the I. A. S which was contrary to her previous expectations. She was disillusioned with the civil services by this time. Due to high level of corruption, she started planning a different career. Roy, therefore, quit her job at the IAS in 1974 amid much opposition and criticism from various relatives and friends. Aruna Roy then started working with ‘Social Work and Research Centre’, a social organisation founded by her husband.

Aruna Roy worked with SWRC in Tilonia, Rajasthan. While there, she worked with the locals continuously and was always connected with them so that she could understand their problems. Roy was satisfied with her work and discovered that she was more useful to those in her power than being a government worker. With the help of some activists like Shankar Singh and Nikhil Dey, she founded the Mazdurkishan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in 1987.

The primary objective of the group was to tackle at least one major social issue every year. The movement grew and became one of the most influential civil rights organizations in India. It has always been firm in empowering workers. Also, it avoided corruption and campaigned for transparent and honest activities from the government.

Right to Information Act

In the mid-1990s, under the guidance of Aruna Roy, MKSS launched a campaign that advocated the right of the people to examine official records, a major check against arbitrary rule. MKSS attacked corruption at the grassroots level and sought the responsibility of public officials on issues related to distribution of government funds.

M. K. S. S. the establishment and leader of a woman activist named Aruna Roy praised the organisation and its cause in favour of Sonia Gandhi. Roy had gained more of this facility by cleverly linking the right to information with issues related to women’s employment, livelihood and empowerment.

With the support of Sonia Gandhi, the Congress-led government in Rajasthan passed the Rajasthan Right to Information Bill in 2000. Rajasthan, otherwise never mentioned for its progressive approach, passed such a law, and Aruna Roy won the Remon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in the same year. Aruna decided to use U.S $50,000 prize money to set up a trust to support the process of democratic struggle.

The Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi won the national elections in 2004 and formed the central government. Aruna Roy served as a member of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) until 2006 when she resigned.

Aruna Roy’s role was to draft the Right to Information Act which was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2005. She served as a member of the National Advisory Council of India till 2006. She was also appointed the 2016 professor of practice in global government at McGill University, in Montreal.

In 2005, various women’s organizations launched a campaign aiming at ensuring that one woman should win the Nobel Prize for Peace. They made a list of 1000 women from 150 countries who claimed to be considered for the honour. Aruna Roy was one of these 1000 women.

In 2018, along with the MKSS collective, Roy published a book chronicling the history of the Right to Information movement in India titled The RTI Story: Power to the People.

Conclusion

Aruna Roy’s struggle for workers’ wages has brought a campaign known even decades later. It was her loyalty to help the weaker sections of society that inspired a movement that involved the entire nation. She was at the forefront of many socio-political struggles of the poor and the oppressed. She also spoke of her concerns of perpetuation about the recent rise in intolerance in the country. Social activist Aruna Roy who won the National Award is an inspiration to Indian women.

FAQ

1. When and where was Aruna Roy born?

Ans: Aruna Roy was born on June 26, 1946 at Chennai.

2. Who was the leader of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Saangathan?

Ans: Aruna Roy.

3. When was the Right to Information movement started from Bhim tehsil of Rajasthan?

Ans: In 1994, Mazdooor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) started a grassroots campaign for Right to Information demanding information concerning development works in rural Rajasthan. This movement grew and the campaign resulted in the government of Rajasthan enacting a law on Right to Information in 2000.

4. What did Aruna Roy did for India?

Ans: Aruna Roy is a leader of the Right to Information movement in India through the MKSS and the Nationaln Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which was finally successfully with the passage of the Right to Information Act in 2005.

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