A Message For Youth
Justice Santosh Hegde and social activist PV Satheesh inspire students with their life stories
HE’S A former Supreme Court judge and a former Solicitor General of India but it was in his capacity as the Lokayukta of Karnataka that Justice Santosh Hedge left the most lasting impression. And when he spoke to students at the Gitam University campus in Rudraram near Hyderabad, about his journey till date, they all listened. And imbibed. And questioned.
He was speaking at TEHELKA’s latest initiative — Aircel’s The Power of Inspiration lecture series. Deccan Development Society (DDS) Director PV Satheesh was the other speaker at the event, which was moderated by The Tehelka Foundation Founder- Trustee Puneeta Roy. Aircel’s Regional Business Head Hamir Bakshi, Business Head (AP Circle) Deepinder Tiwana as well as Gitam University Directors Dr Sanjay and Dr Prasada Rao were also present.
Asked why he had distanced himself from Team Anna, Justice Hegde said he was “interested in fighting against corruption” and not in joining politics. “I joined the movement when the objective was to put an end to corruption and maladministration. Anna’s movement has brought tremendous awareness,” he said, adding that he felt Team Anna didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to go political, as one needs deep pockets to contest elections.
Just to be sure that he wasn’t sending out a wrong message, he emphasised that there was nothing wrong with politics per se; what was wrong was the politicians. He appealed to all the students to take the plunge into politics because a “democracy cannot survive without good politicians”.
Justice Hegde asked students to join politics because ‘a democracy cannot survive without good politicians’
“People should be in a position to boycott persons indulging in corruption,” he said, adding that he practised all that he advocated and owned only a two-room apartment and was very content with that.
It was then the turn of Satheesh to take the mic and the passion for his work was evident in the way he spoke. Alongside him was 10-year-old Mayuri, a Dalit filmmaker, who has won international acclaim for her films based on farmers’ issues.
Satheesh recounted how, despite being one of the top producers with Doordarshan, he had felt an emptiness within him, and how he quit his high-paying job in his quest for happiness. “I have been an unpaid volunteer for the past 18 years, but I have never been more content or happier than I’m now,” he exclaimed.
Driving change (From left to right): Aircel Business Head (Andhra Pradesh Circle) Hamir Bakshi, DDS Director PV Satheesh, Gitam University Director Dr SS Prasada Rao and former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde
Now, working with 5,000 rural, poor Dalit women to create self-sustainable communities gives him all the joy he wants. These were marginalised women at the very bottom of the social ladder with no grain to eat. Today, these same women are not only self-sufficient, they also run seed banks for other villages in the vicinity.
As Satheesh related an incident about the holistic approach of the farmers in Pastapur vis-à-vis agricultural scientists, who were limited by their purely academic knowledge, the students applauded in appreciation. “These farmers may not be literate, but that does not mean they are not knowledgeable,” said Satheesh.
The floor was then opened to the students to ask questions and there was some lively interaction. The Aircel Power of Inspiration book was also launched and students collected a copy on the way out.
For queries on the Aircel The Power of Inspiration Lecture Series, please contact Rimjhim Jha
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Climate Of Inspiration: Why Ethics Matter
Very few in public life in India are equipped to talk about ethics.
Santosh Hegde is one of the exceptions.
He’s a former justice of the Supreme Court and a former Solicitor General of India but it was in his capacity of Lokayukta of Karnataka between 2006 and 2011 that Justice Hedge has left the most lasting impression.
Ironically, when he was first appointed to the position, there were more apprehensions than acclaim – his quiet, reserved manner seemed too much of a counterpoint to the fiery outspokenness of his predecessor, Justice Venkatachala. His functioning, however, proved as quietly efficient as his manner and he is widely lauded as one of the most effective Lokayukta’s in the state; among the landmark instances of corruption he dragged into the public eye was the massive Bellary mining case, which went on to dominate national headlines for months. He also authorized and conducted over 100 raids on government servants; took on the Chief Minister over the poor functioning of the Bangalore Municipal Commissioner; and finally resigned over the non-cooperation of the Karnataka government in the Belekeri Port Scam, frustrated with the lack of prosecution powers granted to the Lokayukta.
He may be out of official service, but Hegde demonstrates that you can’t keep an honest man down – he was a core member of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and is a hugely respected commentator on ethical issues. There's not too many about whom that can be said.
A Different GDP: Experiments In Growth
In 2002, PV Satheesh led a group of Indian farmers to a protest in Britain about aid for farming projects in Andhra Pradesh. Except instead of a demand for aid, they were there to vociferously demand the withdrawal of aid to the tune of 65 million pounds. Once the British press and aid authorities had got their heads around this remarkable fact, they sat up and started to listen to P V Satheesh.
It's a story that has repeated itself many times when it comes to this man.
Back then, he was making a simple point: the aid was to be disbursed according to the goals of a program called Vision 2020, set out by consultants and advisors who recommended the consolidation of land holdings, bringing in corporate agriculture and focusing on export. For Satheesh, that meant the complete destitution of small and marginal farmers, who would lose complete control over their land and processes. And he was not about to let that happen. "If aid can be given on terms that genuinely improves the livelihoods of the people it's meant to reach, so be it. Otherwise, we'd rather not have it."
As a founder member of the Deccan Development Society (DDS) for over 25 years as well as the convener of Southern Action on Genetic Engineering and the Millet Network of India - an alliance of over 14 organizations of farmers, scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists and consumers - and has been one of the few members of 'civil society' who have thrown action behind their beliefs, not just words. He is one of India's best respected spokespersons on gender and food security, ecological agriculture and genetic engineering, respected globally for the conviction he brings to his work and his desire, above all, to protect the smallest, most marginalized farmers. He has been a key member of a number of networks on food security, participation, ecological agriculture; as well as networks fighting against genetic engineering, globalization, WTO, TRIPs and such other inequitable international treaties. Alliance for Democratizing Agricultural Research [ADARSA] of which he is the South Asia Coordinator, has been working with small farmers on how farmers perspectives should lead agricultural research. His work is tireless, taking the form of on-ground educational programs, seminars, films and books, and bringing together the country's leading professionals to secure the voiceless millions that routinely go unrepresented.