Aruna Roy’s struggle for the wages of workers stirred up a campaign that is known even after decades. It was her fidelity to help the vulnerable segments of society that catalysed a movement that involved the entire nation. Her fight for the rights of the common man eventually bore fruit as the revolutionary Right to Information Act, in 2005.

Aruna Roy, Right To Information, RTI, Social Activist, Social Reformer, Doer Life, Be A Doer, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
Image Credits- The Hindu

Aruna Roy was born in Chennai on 26th May 1946 to Tamil parents, also government employees, who nurtured her in a thoroughly secular environment and tradition which bore into her the values of commitment, generosity and passion. She studied at Convent of Jesus and Mary in Delhi and completed her post graduation in English Literature from Indraprastha College, Delhi University. After six years (1968-1975) of working as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service, she came to the conclusion that the bureaucratic functioning was illogical and erroneous. She said, “There are times when one knows that the decisions taken by the higher-ups are blatantly wrong but nothing can be challenged.” Soon after that, Aruna left the IAS and joined her husband, Bunker Roy’s Social Work And Research Centre in Tilonia, Rajasthan. It was then that she saw a village and the ghastly condition of the people for the first time.

Appalled at their state of living and merciless exploitation at the hands of bureaucrats, Roy moved away to establish an organization with the coworkers Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh – The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), that endeavoured to attain fair wages for workers and was also heavily involved in the RTI Campaign (Right To Information) in the 70s. MKSS was a consortium of poor farmers; hence it wasn’t surprising when this campaign metamorphose into a proper crusade that appealed for minimum wages in the 80s. The campaign began to spread its message through public hearings, hunger strikes, dharnas and padayatras. Even ordinary people started subsidizing the movement which further catalyzed the process. This shaped and gradually matured into a struggle which was finally successful in 2005 when the Right to Information Act was passed.

After this, Aruna Roy took part in multiple campaigns that mostly involved operations for the rights of the poor like the Right to Food, Right to Work, etc. Recently, she has been working for a campaign for a universal, non – contributory pension for unorganized sector workers as a member of the Pension Parishad and the NCPRI for the passage and enactment of the Whistleblower Protection Law and Grievance Redress Act.

Aruna Roy, Right To Information, RTI, Social Activist, Social Reformer, Doer Life, Be A Doer
Image Credits- Odisha Bytes

Her work for the benefit of the general public was highly appreciated during her tenure as a social worker. She resigned in 2006 from the National Advisory Council (NAC) of which she was a member. Roy was awarded the Times Fellowships Award for the year 1991 for her assistance towards the rural worker rights to social justice and creative development. She received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2000 and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award in 2010 for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management. One of her highest achievements has been being named as one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Times Magazine.

Even at the age of 72, her intentions remain just as firm and unyielding as they were when she created the MKSS. Her fearlessness, intrepidity and resilience have inspired hundreds all over the world as did her generosity towards all people irrespective of their caste, creed or colour. Breaking all stereotypes of women agitating against men and the government, in general, this remarkable woman has made her name as a person who will always be respected and remembered.

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