Lokavidya Standpoint: the emergence of a new promise

Listen to the gentiles” urges Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, in an essay on his philosophy in life; “pay attention to what intelligent people are saying, even if they do not have your customs or speak your analytical language.”  Given what we know about the phenomenon dubbed the wisdom of the crowd, might we surmise that the people in a society are an unrecognised font of knowledge and, dare we say it, wisdom?

Sunil Sahasrabudhey is a philosopher of science and knowledge, and a life-long activist in people’s movements. He is also a founder-member of Vidya Ashram, an institution dedicated to the study of lokavidya. He will talk to us about the promise of a knowledge movement of the people.

Please join us for the talk on Tuesday the 6th of June, at 5pm at Kanada Auditorium. Tea/Coffee at 4:45 pm.

The world of knowledge is today in a great flux. The appearance of the information sciences is forcing a change in the absolute command that the physical sciences have  enjoyed for over two centuries now. This situation and also the nature of the new  sciences have opened significant spaces for the re-legitimisation of knowledge with the  people, namely lokavidya. This further promises an epoch making change in favour of  the people. This is a time for celebration of Lokavidya for the world at large and for the world of knowledge in particular. Therefore, there has arisen a need to know, understand and appreciate lokavidya.

Lokavidya is not remnants of traditional knowledge; it is knowledge in society renewed every instant by the people based on their experiences and by their own genius. It is not just a body of information, but has its own values, logic, mode of abstraction and so on. It constitutes a very important component of the world of knowledge. If lokavidya has equal standing to that of science and the two enter into a relationship to augment, complement and enrich each other, we shall have a great new promise for the progress of mankind, the bottom line being complete eradication of poverty and absence of disparity and hierarchy.

About the Speaker:
Sunil Sahasrabudhey is founder member of Vidya Ashram, Varanasi, an institution  engaged in building a knowledge movement of the ordinary people, viz a lokavidya movement. A student of BHU and IIT Kanpur, Sunilji has spent two decades at the Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi. He has edited magazines such as Mazdoor Kisan Niti and Lokavidya Samvad, and was member of the Patriotic and People-Oriented Science and Technology (PPST) Foundation. He has nearly four decades of experience as an activist and has successfully combined his theoretical interests in the philosophy of science and knowledge, Gandhian philosophy and the theoretical basis of emancipatory movements with an active engagement in movements such as the Students’ Movement of the 1970s and the Peasant Movement of the 1980s and 90s. He has written several books and articles, in Hindi and English, on the philosophy and practice of India’s peasant movements, Gandhi’s philosophy of Science, politics of knowledge in the Internet Age, etc.

An introduction to lokavidya may be found in this video: “What is lokavidya?

An older series of interviews with Amit Basole of Azim Premji University may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4CwqyUcJbs
An interview with a local news channel in Indore may be found here.
A talk about the significance of lokavidya may be found here.

Using Remote Sensing to understand and preserve our cultural heritage

Until archaeological evidence to the contrary was unearthed, the story of the Trojan war in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey was considered a fable. Much the same is true of how the tsunami that hit India’s Eastern coast in 2004 changed what was thought of the legend of Mahabalipuram’s seven pagodas. Could we use technology to look into the past? Could using the power of satellite imaging, say, obviate the need for tsunamis in archaeology?

Dr. M. B. Rajani, from NIAS, uses space/air based remote sensing images to interpreting earth’s surface and subsurface features in order to extract information that enhances our understanding of the archaeology of an area. She will talk to us about using remote sensing in history and archaeology, on Wednesday the 24th of May, at 5pm at Kanada Auditorium.

An abstract from the speaker follows.


Scientific developments and emerging technologies have provided new tools
to study ancient material and decipher the past. One such powerful tool is
Remote Sensing (RS), which uses aerial and space platforms to view landscapes
in both visible and invisible (infrared, microwave, etc.) wavelengths, and also
help in 3-D landscape modeling. Being purely non-invasive, this technology
leaves sites untouched for the future. This talk will use case studies including
Mahabalipuram and Srirangapatna to illustrate how RS can be used in the
context of cultural heritage sites in two ways: (1) to reveal new insights about
their past, and (2) to help formulate management plans for preserving them
from the ever-increasing threat of development. While there are several
positive consequences of India’s industrial growth, expanding transportation
networks, villages, towns and cities, these activities can cause irrevocable
damage (directly or indirectly) to India’s rich archaeological heritage.
This talk will demonstrate how RS can play an important role in formulating
plans to limit such harm in the future.

About the Speaker:

Rajani did her doctoral research in the field of space-based archaeological investigations at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, and was awarded a PhD by the University of Mysore in 2011. She received the Rachapudi Kamakshi Memorial Young Geospatial Scientist Award for this work. She conducted post-doctoral research for a year at NIAS, and then was an Assistant Professor in the M. Tech GIS programme at NIIT University (NU), Neemrana from 2011 to 2013. Her recent work includes a study of the archaeological remains in the environs of Nalanda as a Fellow of Nalanda University (2013-2014).

The Dimensions And Roles of Science & Technology in India’s Foreign Policy

We are pleased to present a special talk on the role of science and technology in India’s foreign policy, on Tuesday the 2nd of May, at 5pm at Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR. The talk will be delivered by Dr. V. Siddhartha, an Emeritus Scientist at DRDO and Adjunct Faculty member in the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, NIAS.

About the Speaker:
Dr. V. Siddhartha is an Emeritus Scientist in DRDO, and Adjunct Faculty member of the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), NIAS. He has served as an advisor to the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, and the various arms—CSIR, DRDO, ISRO—of the Science and Technology establishment of the Government of India, also serving as Secretary to the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. He has also served the United Nations as part of an Expert Group on UNSC Resolution 1540 (on the non-proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons), and on the UN Environment Programme. He is a founder-member of the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, and a member of several technology associations and bodies in the country.


The talk will dilate on those aspects of our country’s S&T ‘system’ that connect with her foreign policy. While doing so, the necessary distinction will be made between international collaborations in the country’s scientific and technological efforts, and those investments and contours of her S&T programmes that are influenced, or shaped, by India’s foreign policy.

The talk follows other pieces on similar topics:

  1.  “Space and Foreign Policy“, the seminal KPS Menon Memorial lecture by Prof. Satish Dhawan—one of the architects of India’s space programme—delivered in 1988. (KPS Menon was a distinguished Foreign Secretary of India;  his grandson is Shiv Shankar Menon, who also served a FS and subsequently as National Security Adviser to PM Manmohan Singh.)
  2. Global partnerships in scientific research and international mega-science projects“, an essay in Current Science by Prof V.S. Ramamurthy, a former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India.
  3. Synthetic Biology in India: Issues in Risk, Power, and Governance“, an RIS Discussion Paper by Ravi Srinivas

Lake Conservation and Regional Water Security

The hottest year in recorded history has just passed, and we face record levels of water scarcity—across the country, and in Karnataka in particular. This is alarming, if for the reason that This calls for introspection about what could have been done differently, and what can be done now.

Dr. T.V. Ramachandra is an expert in the field of water conservation, and a frequent public commentator on our ongoing water-scarcity related problems. He will talk to us on Thursday the 27th of April, at 5pm, at Kanada Auditorium, JNCASR, about the enormous challenge facing us and how we can overcome it. An abstract from the speaker follows.

Water is one of the fundamental elements of the universe from which early life originated millions of years ago on earth. Every life on the earth is primarily dependent on water which hosts innumerable aquatic species from single cell creatures to gigantic blue whales. As the evolution of human took place, civilized human settled down on the fertile river banks. In other words, river banks are the motherhood for civilized human and most of the civilization around the world. These river or lake banks gave water for drinking and also for cropping along with mineral rich soil. Civilized men knew the importance of water and respected these water bodies. However, deterioration of traditional water harvesting practices in most parts of burgeoning Bangalore has resulted in the inequity in water distribution and growing water scarcity, which has escalated water conflicts during the 20th century. Irresponsible management of natural resources is evident from (i) sustained inflow of untreated sewage and industrial effluents; (ii) dumping of solid waste (with 70% being organic); (iii) transport of untreated wastewater in storm water drains (water drains are essentially arteries of a landscape carrying water), etc.

Unplanned rapid urbanisation during late nineties, witnessed large-scale unrealistic, uncontrolled developmental activities in the neighborhood of wetlands. Land use analysis in Bangalore City shows 1005% increase in urban (built-up) area between 1973 and 2016 (i.e., from 8.0% (in 1973) to 77% (in 2016)) with a decline of 88% tree cover and 79% water bodies. Land use prediction using Agent Based Model showed that built up area would increase to 93.3% by 2020, and the landscape is almost at the verge of saturation.
Average annual rainfall in Bangalore is 787 mm with 75% dependability and return period of 5 years. Catchment wise water yield analysis indicates the total water available is about 14.80 TMC. Domestic demand of water (at 150 lpcd) is 20.05 TMC per year (1573 MLD). This means about 73% of Bangalore’s water demand can be met by efficient harvesting of rain water. Quantification of sewage generated shows that about 16.04 TMC (1258 MLD) of sewage is generated in the city. Sewage treatment with complete removal of nutrients and chemical contaminants is achievable by adopting decentralized treatment plants similar to the success model (secondary treatment plant integrated with constructed wetlands and algae pond) at Jakkur lake. In addition to this, water available with efficient rainwater harvesting is about 14.8 TMC. This means that total of 30.85 TMC of water is available annually to cater the demand of 20.05 TMC, provided the city administration opts for decentralized optimal water management through (i) rainwater harvesting by rejuvenating lakes. The best option to harvest rain water is through interconnected lake systems, (ii) treatment of sewage generated in households in each locality (opting the model at Jakkur lake – STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) integrated with constructed wetlands and algal pond; (iii) conservation of water by plugging the pilferages (due to faulty distribution system); (iv) ensuring water supply 24×7 and (v) ensuring all sections of the society get equal quantity and quality of water. Rejuvenating lakes in the region helps in retaining the rain water. Treating sewage and options to recycle and reuse would minimize the demand for water from outside the region. The analysis illustrates that the city has at least 30 TMC (Bangalore city) of water, which is higher than the existing demand (20.08 TMC, at 150 lpcd and 2016 population), if the city adopts 5R’s (Retain, Rejuvenate, Recycle, Reuse, Retain and Responsible citizens). In order to enhance the water retaining capability in the catchment, it is essential to harvest rain water and undertake large scale watershed programme (soil and water conservation). Lakes are the optimal means of rainwater harvesting at community level.

Reference:  Bangalore’s Reality: towards unlivable status with unplanned urban trajectory, Guest editorial, Current Science (June 2016).

About the Speaker:

Dr. T.V. Ramachandra, FIE, FIEE (UK) obtained Ph.D. in Ecology and Energy from Indian Institute of Science. At present, Coordinator of Energy and Wetlands Research Group (EWRG), Convener of Environmental Information System (ENVIS) at Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES). During the past twenty years he has established an active school of research in the area of energy and environment (http://ces.iisc.ernet.in/energy). He is a member of Karnataka State Audit Advisory Committee (2014-16). He was a Member of Karnataka State level Environment Expert Appraisal Committee (2007-2010), appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and a member of Western Ghats task force appointed by the Government of Karnataka. He is a recipient of Johny Biosphere Award for Ecology and Environment (2004), Satish Dhawan Young Scientist Award, 2007 of Karnataka State Government and Best ENVIS award (thrice – 2015, 2014, 2004), the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, and recently Our Bangalorean, 2016 award (Namma Bengaluru Foundation).

He is an Elected Fellow of the National Institute of Ecology (2011), Indian Association of Hydrologists (India; 2006), Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE, UK; 2005), Institution of Engineers (IE, India; 2003), and a Senior Member, IEEE (USA; 2000) and Association of Energy Engineers (USA; 2000).

TVR’s research interests are in the area of energy systems, renewable energy, energy conservation, energy planning, aquatic ecosystems, biodiversity, ecological modelling, geo-informatics, environmental engineering education research and curriculum development at the tertiary level. He has published over 264 research papers in the reputed peer reviewed international and national journals, 52 book chapters, 302 papers in the international and national symposiums as well as 17 books. In addition, he has delivered a number of plenary lectures at national and international conferences. Publication “Milking diatoms for energy” is seminal work in biofuel research evident from reports in Scientific American, BBC, national dailies, etc.

He has guided 110 students for Master’s dissertation and nine students for Doctoral degrees. TVR has travelled widely across the country for field research and also for delivering lectures at Schools and Colleges. He has taken initiatives through biannual symposium (popular as Lake series), training programmes and workshops for capacity building at various levels. Details of the Lake Symposium are available at

Crucible Steel from India: A Major Metallurgical Accomplishment of Antiquity

Dhwani presents a talk and demonstration by Prof. S. Ranganathan, IISc,  at 5pm on Thursday, 13th April at Kanada Auditorium, on wootz steel , a high-carbon steel alloy that was developed in (South) India several centuries before the common era. In these times when misinformed claims about the scientific and technological achievements in ancient India abound, it is essential that we know about the actual achievements of our past.

Prof. Ranganathan is a renowned expert in the field of metallurgy, and has (literally) written the book on wootz steel. He is eminently suited to enlighten us about this technological achievement from the subcontinent. Prof. Ranganathan has promised to bring sample specimens, including knives and swords, for us to see. An abstract from him follows.

India is celebrated for many metallurgical accomplishments in antiquity. These include lost wax casting of bronzes in Harappa, the extraction of zinc, the rustless iron pillar and the wootz steel. Among them the most spectacular achievement is the legendary wootz steel which was used to fashion the Damascus blades. This advanced material of the ancient world had a historical dominance for over two millennia and a geographic sway over three continents. The development of the materials paradigm arose from a quest to understand its superior properties by Western scientists. Modern materials owe a lot to this insight.

The talk will emphasise the development of the crucible method for making molten steel and the processing of the brittle ultra high carbon steels into ductile materials. As part of our research the celebrated Konasamudram in Telangana will be presented. Merchants from Persia travelled to buy wootz. Our current research is aimed at experimental reproduction of wootz steel and its characterization using modern techniques such as EBSD and high resolution microscopy.

About the speaker:

Srinivasa Ranganathan is NASI Platinum Jubilee Fellow, Homi Bhabha Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. His interests cover physical metallurgy, history of science and materials heritage. He has coauthored a much acclaimed book on India’s Legendary Wootz Steel: An advanced material of the ancient world. The DST Programme on Indian Digital Heritage – Hampi benefitted from his guidance. He taught the inaugural  course on Science and Civilization in India to IISc Undergraduates in August 2011 and a course on Materials Heritage and Conservation at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan in 2012. His current research interests are High Entropy Alloys. The first journal publication on Alloyed Pleasures- Multimetallic Cocktails by him was published in Current Science in 2003 and led to the first book in 2014 on High Entropy Alloys coauthored by him He is a Fellow of four Indian Academies of Science and Engineering and the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). The Indian Institute of Metals, the Electron Microscope Society of India and the Indian National Academy of Engineering have conferred on him Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.

A Brief Look at Happiness Across Non-Western Cultures

Dhwani presents a special talk by Helaine Selin, formerly of Hampshire College, Massachusetts, USA, on Saturday the 25th of March, at 5:00 pm, at AMRL Conference Hall.

From Ms. Selin’s Wikipedia page:

Helaine Selin is well known for being the editor of Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures (1997) which is one of the first books which allows readers to “compare a variety of traditional systems of mathematics and cosmologies.” Mathematics Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Mathematics (2000), is considered by Mathematical Intelligencer as a companion to the Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. The journal, Mathematics and Computer Education, wrote that Mathematics Across Cultures filled a gap in the history of mathematics and was “an exciting collection of papers on ethnomathematics.” Selin’s editorial work, Nature Across Cultures: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures (2003), was considered by Polylog to be a “valuable source for intercultural philosophers.” Selin edited the Encyclopaedia of Classical Indian Sciences (2007), which she said she worked on for six years.

The Encyclopaedia of Classical Indian Sciences was co-edited by Ms. Selin and JNC’s own Prof. Roddam Narasimha. An abstract from the speaker follows.

The talk is mainly taken from a book I edited called Happiness Across Cultures.
It concerns (1) the relation of happiness to culture; (2) whether there is a
difference between happiness, contentment, quality of life, well-being, etc.; (3)
the connection between equality and happiness; (4) what the role of comparison
is; (5) if there is a connection between gender and happiness; and (6)
adaptation: how does people’s ability to adapt help them be happy? I shall focus
a bit on India, but as India is so different from the rest of the world, it shall only
be a bit. The talk is not meant to be a guide to being happy, but an academic
discussion of how the people in the non-Western world view happiness.

Micro-Management of Waste at JNCASR

JNCASR decided, a couple of years ago, to implement a waste segregation and recycling system with the help of an organisation called ProWaste. Dhwani played a part in this. Dhwani will host Ms. Nupur Tandon, the founder of ProWaste, and Ms. Jahnavi Sharma, as they discuss the progress made at JNCASR.

Venue: Kanada Auditorium
Time: 5:30 pm, Thursday, 29th September, 2016

An abstract from the speakers follows.

The talk aims to address the issue of waste and its micro-management: what is
micro-management of waste and how does it help reduce pressure on landfills?
With a brief introduction of waste in Indian context, and the changed perception
towards it, we will discuss the case study of JNCASR. We will discuss the
association of Pro Waste with JNCASR, and offer a reflective outlook on the
journey till now. We will talk about the quantum of waste diverted from
landfills, the recyclables generated, and the money earned for an emergency
fund for the housekeeping staff. Generic guidelines for waste handling shall be
provided. Also, importantly, we will discuss what further needs to be done for
effective waste management at the campus. To make the talk success it is
important for it to be interactive in nature as we welcome suggestions and
pointers to make the waste management program a sustained success.