Solitude In The Times Of Internet

I belong to a unique time-space in the history of mankind, which is a sandwich between two—what I want to call—eras. I do not wish to devalue other eras by using this term, so I should take it in a weak sense if one is comfortable with its usage as a matter of concern. Most of the words I am going to use shall be used in their weakest sense, without any strong claim to the truth being made. I am very localized and do not wish to speak more than what particulars suggest. (And yet, what else do we have but particulars? And aren’t universals already in the particulars?)

Going more specific, I am locating myself to the twenty-year period between 1994 and 2020. It is, in my (humble) opinion, one of the most significant periods in history that mankind has seen since man started becoming self-aware. It is during this period that “self-awareness” started getting most acute… when the self-awareness became aware of its own awareness. The observation is an intuition, which cannot be wholly shared via words. One has to look around and merge himself into the era to know it… share in its ”care”. 

In 1994, I became aware of my existence as an existence in society. And in 2004, Facebook was born. Of course, Facebook took birth after a lot of what can be called “major” historical technical developments. For example, the internet had been in public use for a long time, and there was Orkut, and there were “ways” via which the communication between two entities (people, places, communities, nations, groups etc.) was faster than ever before, but with the birth of Facebook, something new occurred. And even though that something new was not as momentous as say the French Revolution, in the course of next ten years, it turned out to be a pivotal point, a middle point between two eras, for the world changed after that.

Image via Getty

After Facebook started affecting the lives of people as it does today, the world was never the same. Of course, there is Twitter and Instagram and the like, but I see Facebook being the progenitor, the guardian figure, the tectonic shift. When I use “Facebook”, I mean all other elements of the internet that constitute the internet today (for most of us).

And yet, I should not give it so much value, and rather than looking at who made what and who was or was not responsible, I should ponder on what transpired as a result of the same. And it does appear clear to me that what transpired was, to put in simple terms: the death of solitude.

Of course, one can begin playing with definitions of words and say things like solitude differ from loneliness, and it is a more positive term than loneliness which is negative, but I do not wish to go into that. I want to believe that these differences won’t matter when I define exactly what I mean by solitude.

How I Define Solitude

I had to give this a separate heading because it is a crucial moment in the piece. Any perceptive reader can easily pre-think what I am going to say about the times in which this essay was written by understanding the meaning I ascribe to “solitude”. And yet my meaning is not so different than what the world uses.

I am not a concept developer; I do not want to be. And yet, when we say something about something, we need to be sure what we are implying and what the other is trying to understand. And the best way to make one understand what you want is by roiling about in the muck of words which are always contextual, developing/delineating a context for the words and using them and again putting them in context so that something is not “shown” but is rather “felt”.

Essays of philosophical nature should not be mathematical is what I want to suggest. Because life is not mathematical (or scientific, which deals with categorizations), and philosophy should be about life if it isn’t already.

While it is important to define words, it is even more important to define the context in which the word was/is being defined. Perhaps that is why when we have successfully outlined the context from a perspective which is already smeared (steeped, enlightened, embroiled) with our view, we don’t really need to identify our “view” separately. (There are no “theses” in this world. Everything is just a view).

Anyway, continuing with my argument—which is no argument—I am not using “solitude” in a very different way than it is usually used. It is a positive concept for me also. I want to define it as that series of moments in a person’s life when he is most himself when he is most in touch with himself. It is that collective of continuous moments when he “can” communicate and he “is” communicating with himself. Solitude is not the blank which perhaps people gain after meditation or Yoga. Solitude is full of thoughts, but it is that stage of one’s mind when he thinks by and through himself, and is not influenced by others during the course of solitude.

You cannot stop being influenced by others. The very idea of not getting influenced by others is absurd, in my opinion. In the phase (stage, series of moments) of solitude, one is not influenced by any other than himself, and this is how I see solitude. In solitude, we possess a “self”. (Perhaps that is why it is so necessary to identify it).

Then Comes Noise

And as compared to solitude, and as an enemy, I define noise. Noise is the “other” which prevents one from reaching a solitude, which is one to be won over (killed, removed, exterminated). It is the anti of solitude. Not opposite; opposite of noise is peace. But one has to consider the possibility when a person can enjoy solitude in non-peace. I see a causal connection between the lack of solitude and noise. In my opinion—and I am sure everyone would agree—if there is noise, there cannot be solitude. Absence of noise is the first precondition of any solitude to exist. This is how I define “noise”.

There are various kinds of noises. I do not wish to make a chart and categorize all of them. I think this exercise will not serve my purpose, for I am interested in one particular kind of noise: the internet.

“How/when is internet a noise?” is the question I shall take up later. For now, I want to make one passing comment on”Noise of undesirable thoughts”. From the very phrase itself, its meaning should be clear. It is the noise created in one’s mind by his own self by the tumble of his thoughts. This, he can control if he has the necessary control over his self-hood and does not easily give in to akrasia (used in its loosest sense as “always”). And that is why I do not include “noise of undesirable thoughts” in “noise”.

I want to look at what is external, what is beyond control, and whose effect on us can be controlled. I remember Dumbledore putting his thoughts inside a Pensieve so that he could exclude them from his mind for a while. This is not possible with the current scientific progress among us muggles. We have to do with the idea that thoughts compel us to think, and we can stop thinking them only by thinking other thoughts, which is again “thinking”.

That is why I consider the “noise of undesirable thoughts” a necessary part of a person’s being, like two dead kidneys are a part of a kidney transplant recipient’s being. He has to live with them; he has to live with his tumble of thoughts.

Proceeding further, till now, I have said nothing substantial in my essay. All I have done is lay a little of ground for what I am going to say, and yet, if you belong to the age in which I wrote this essay (as a text can never be removed from the age in which it was written), you would already know what I am going to say. It requires just a little bit of what we usually refer to as “application of mind”.

But that is exactly what you are unable to do at this point. I am not some Plato or Nietzsche whose essay you are reading because everyone does, and you want to know what the great men said. You are reading it (it is hard for me to imagine that anyone would have reached here) because I made it public on the “internet”. The internet is noise for me, and I have used it to create noise in your life.

In the browser in which this article is open, are other tabs of the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. open? Do you just want to skim through this essay because you are interested in knowing what I am up to? Leaving aside the peculiarity of my position viz the people in the world, even for a normal person, your attitude would be the same. You just want to finish this essay and know what is going on, just as you want to know what is Arsenal’s score and where is Kohli going to get married. And, in all this, there is little self-immersion. It is like the horn of a car honking behind you; you pay attention to it so that you can forget it and use it as an indication of something. The horn of a car is noise, but it is necessary. But the essay written by a friend/acquaintance is not a necessity. It is an imposition. It is even bigger noise just as there is the noise of the “feeds” appearing on your Facebook or Twitter timeline or whatever.

Anything you do not enjoy and anything you consider as nothing but an imposition—a necessary imposition which you choose maybe, but an imposition nevertheless—is noise. But this is not a complete analysis. One can always stop receiving the “noise” of the internet by throwing away the WiFi panels, by blocking the internet on the now ubiquitous smartphones.

And Yet, Can One?

For example, in my case, I have tried multiple times to rid my life of the “noise of internet” with a focus on achieving that ever-elusive solitude. I have created and deleted my Facebook account multiple times. I have done it with many social networking sites. I have used and misused WhatsApp. I have blocked everyone from my life by totally abandoning internet (and living in the metaphorical cave). I go on these long periods when I uninstall WhatsApp and install another app so that I do not install WhatsApp again. I have created a web of lies to give “normal/acceptable” answers to people even while knowing that they are all bullshit and the reasonable reason is that I am not one who can be sociable at the level of internet.

At best, I want to use the internet as a utility, but that is what exactly I am unable to do; that is what the internet won’t let me do. And I know that it is because of something lacking in me, a lack of Phronetic judgement which I never had even before (it is not akrasia. I can control myself. But I become absurd on the internet to highlight the absurdity of internet. This is a manic state). But, I do want to ask this question: can you ever attain solitude in the noise of the internet? Even if you are not as neurotic as me?

This is an important question. By virtue of the intellect we have been given, human beings desire solitude once in a while. Without that solitude, it is impossible to live a “human” life. You either become an animal, living one day after another, like a pig or cat lives, working your ass off on the weekdays and going to even noisier bullshit party these clubs and pubs provide (I am not against anything. I use words freely is all.) Noise is an important element of life, and one can always enjoy it in the pubs/clubs. Noise is available in plenty, so much so that it is available too much and that is why we are forever seeking solitude, and this makes me doubt if we really need noise in pubs when we actually have too much of it already, or you become human, even after living the life of an animal. Then, maybe once in a while you plan a holiday to a hill station (using an app) or rent a car (using an app) and go in the “lap of the mountains” or “arms of the ocean” to “find yourself”, to find that ever-elusive solitude in the midst of the noise of life, and regain that status of being human which you lost when you again lost your solitude to the noise of the machine of life when you ran back to the city which symbolizes internet.

And I remember two different times. One was when I did not have a smartphone, and I was in the lap of hills somewhere in Himachal on the top of a villager’s flat roof house, and I felt the warmth of the sun in the cool of the mountains. I sat there with myself without a smartphone, and no photos were clicked, no statuses updated. And the next time I was in Chopta (Uttarakhand) near the white mountains and solitude was just beside me, sitting with me with a cup of coffee (was it stale tea? I remember not drinking it) and range of white mountains, waiting for me, but I picked up my smartphone instead and started thinking of ways by which I could make my Instagram account look more beautiful.

Not to say I did not have moments of solitude; there were moments when my hand was free because my smartphone had gotten discharged and there are (still) places in mountains where human towers cannot reach, but my point is clear by itself. The alienation brought in by the noise of the internet, the excruciating need to be part of this new jungle which never stops humming (like the city) makes our life difficult. We want peace, and we want solitude. And we also want noise.

Image via Getty

But the question is still relevant, and remains to be answered: “Is solitude possible for us where there is internet? Or should we once and for all, conclude that solitude is forever gone from our lives, solitude was solitude a decade ago?”

My example is not a very good one. I had failed my own phases of determination when I tried to keep myself away from the internet to attain solitude. It was not just difficult; it was impossible for me to rid myself of the influence of the internet. I cannot remain in a vacuum. I cannot help myself by not going out because there is internet which can keep me in touch with society. But even if I continuously go out and meet people in person, it is impossible to avoid the internet. It has entered our lives to rule, and the matrix about which the Wachowski brothers made a movie is slowly coming into existence, and very soon, it will take the form shown in Necromancer of Gibson. But, my mentioning it makes little sense unless you have gone through it. (Maybe I should be less like Zizek, which actually I would like to, and yet it is difficult. We, after all, live in metaphors.)

Anyway, the internet is there to stay. And it seems plausible to question the people, like me, who were born in my time. But then, I am a case of neurosis. I am not a good sample to describe the “age” about which this essay is most possibly being written. We have a perfect example of Kohli who was born before me and yet he does seem to have welcomed the internet with both hands. And yet, one can always question if it is really “him” who maintains his social media accounts! Does any celebrity, for that matter?

And in any case, my question is quite different. I am after solitude, and my question is: Is solitude possible in this world of internet? Can one remain connected with the cyber world and still have moments of solitude?

If not for the likes of Kohli (for whom whole firms of humans work to keep him connected with the internet, and by extension with other people) but for the likes of me, this question is important. And yet there many normal people “like me” who have to face this very difficult question. But they seem to answer in a much better way. “Seem to” is an important phrase.

Now I am entering a territory in which I shall be more generalizing than I want to be. I do not want to say anything broad which applies to everyone, and yet with my experience (just 30 years on this pallid earth; of course, I need more time to be a decent philosopher!), it does seem to me that I am not so wrong. So, I will say it; it’s not that this is a very serious work of introspection that shall be read by very serious minds.

Rest of what I am writing is a very truncated version of what I actually wrote:

“…Where is solitude if you are always connected? And when is it that you are “not” connected?…

…Do you consider yourself “not connected” when you don’t have your smartphone with you? I don’t think so, and you will agree with me…”

Averagely speaking, today when a person wakes up, the first thing they do is pick up their smartphone. The smartphone is not smart if it is not connected to the internet. They pick up their phone and take a dip into the internet, if not before breakfast, but after, definitely, or during the ride to work (or school). I can highlight many such symptoms, without being critical, to prove how deeply immersed we are in the world of internet. But that is known to all, and in the coming years, it shall be the norm. We are already as used to the internet as we were when the television was introduced into our lives.

One can even argue that the internet is not noise; it is a part of our lives. But then, the horn of a car is not noise either. The hum of the engines all around us is not noise. So, it is a useless idea to suppose that the internet is not noise. To get rid of the noise of cars and buses, we use these very means to find solitude in the lap of nature. To get rid of the noise of the internet, we use the internet apps (without internet, apps have no existence. One would be foolish to think that the offline app has an existence independent of the internet. They feed on their updates) to run away from the internet.

This is interesting. But even more interesting is the idea that we can leave back our cars and buses, but we cannot leave our smartphones. Have you ever left your smartphone back in your bag before a “hike” in the mountains? Did you find solitude in the mountains with your smartphone in your hands clicking pictures? Isn’t a smartphone an extension of the internet? A tentacle which keeps you hooked even though there is no connection and you cannot check your Facebook timeline? Haven’t you realized that the very invention of a smartphone (with a selfie stick and selfie mode) owes its existence to the internet? Can you use a smartphone without the internet forever?

Solitude in times of internet seems impossible to me, as of now. I am a special case as because of my illness; I am anyway hooked to machines (perhaps that is why I seek dissociation from smartphones ever so more). But for generally healthy (I seldom find people who are healthy, though. Sometimes I tend to feel that I am healthiest of all. At least I know my illnesses) people, too, it does appear to me that solitude is impossible in the cyber world.

People who are intelligent and who understand that solitude is impossible in the world, which is getting more cyber dependent by the minute, either become crazy or like most, tell themselves a couple of lies and pretend that since such is life, and one has to live with it (while suffering because of the lack of solitude in their lives for the same reasons; a suffering which they have given another name). And people who are not intelligent, end up becoming the backbone of the world of internet, feeding it with their sense of selves and living in continual pain, being even more intelligent than intelligent people, being sure of the fact that they are already too foolish to care, and telling themselves that it is the intelligent anyway who lead painful lives.

There are many who live away from the internet, but then, they lose friends and live in a continuous fear that they are outcasts. The web of the internet is such that one does not want to be a part of it, but can’t help but be. I guess it is now a necessary poison.

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वे मृत्यु दंड पाए हुए कैदियों के मानसिक स्वास्थ्य के मुद्दों पर प्रोजेक्ट 39 ए द्वारा किए जा रहे शोध का एक मुख्य सदस्य हैं। इसके भाग के रूप में, उन्होंने देशभर में मृत्यु दंड की सज़ा काट रहे कैदियों और उनके परिवारों के साथ साक्षात्कार करने के लिए यात्रा की है। वे देश के लॉ कॉलेजों में फैले एक कानूनी सहायता क्लिीनिक “परिचय” की भी कोर टीम की सदस्या हैं। यह मुहिम उन लोगों की कानूनी मदद करता है जो NRC की लिस्ट से हटा दिए गए हैं। वसुंधरा ने कॉलेज में क्लीयर और स्ट्रेट समुदाय के लोगों के गठबंधन की भी स्थापना की है, ताकि जेंडर और सेक्शुएलिटी से जुड़े तमाम महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दों पर बातचीत का माहौल तैयार हो सके।
एक कानून की छात्रा होने के नाते, वे मानती हैं कि वंचित लोगों को ध्यान में रखते हुए, समाज में प्रगतिशील परिवर्तन के लिए एक एजेंट के रूप में कानून का उपयोग करना एक कर्तव्य है।
इन्हें अपने Pet और पसंदीदा सेक्सोफोनिस्ट के बारे में बात करना बहुत पसंद है।

2011 बैच के आई.ए.एस. अफसर विशाख जी अय्यर वर्तमान में उत्तर प्रदेश के मुख्यमंत्री के विशेष सचिव हैं। इससे पहले वह यूपी के ही चित्रकूट में डिस्ट्रिक्ट मजिस्ट्रेट थे।
केरल के इडुक्की से निकलकर, विशाख पहले भदोही के ज़िला मजिस्ट्रेट के पद पर रहे फिर मेरठ और वाराणसी के मुख्य विकास अधिकारी के पद पर भी रहे।
एमजी यूनिवर्सिटी कॉलेज ऑफ इंजीनियरिंग, थोडुपुझा के भूतपूर्व छात्र रहने के साथ-साथ वह यूनिवर्सिटी ऑफ ऑक्सफोर्ड के फेलो भी रहे हैं। उन्होंने इलेक्ट्रॉनिक्स एंड कम्युनिकेशन इंजीनियरिंग में बीटेक और पब्लिक पॉलिसी में एमए किया है।
विशाख ने ज़िलाधिकारी चित्रकूट के रूप में अपने कार्यकाल के दौरान, सामुदायिक भागीदारी के साथ मंदाकिनी नदी को पुनर्जीवित करने में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभाई थी। ‘नदी कायाकल्प’ कैटेगरी के तहत चित्रकूट ज़िले को नैशनल वॉटर अवॉर्ड्स 2019 भी प्राप्त हुआ।

एक सोशल एंटरप्रेन्योर होने के साथ-साथ अंशुल युवा मीडिया इंफ्लूएंसर भी हैं, जिन्होंने 17 वर्ष की उम्र में महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दों पर युवाओं को अपनी राय रखने के उद्देश्य से भारत के सबसे बड़े सोशल जस्टिस मीडिया प्लैटफॉर्म Youth Ki Awaaz की शुरुआत की थी। इन 11 सालों में राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर YKA की इम्पैक्ट स्टोरीज़ के ज़रिये सिटीज़न जर्नलिज़्म और जन-भागीदारी आंदोलन में अंशुल को व्यापक अनुभव प्राप्त हुआ है।
बतौर अशोका फेलो, INK फेलो, संयुक्त राष्ट्र के यंग इनोवेटर और फोर्ब्स 30 अंडर 30 में शामिल होकर अंशुल ने राजनीति, जेंडर और आर्ट से लेकर कल्चर तक कई प्रमुख संस्थाओं को ज़रूरी मुद्दों पर युवाओं को अपने साथ जोड़ने में मदद की है।
वह भारत के लिए यूएन वूमन के सिविल सोसाइटी सलाहकार समूह में भी हैं और इससे पहले झटका बोर्ड में काम कर चुके हैं।

बंगलौर की रहने वाली वैदही ने अपने करियर की शुरुआत एक आईटी इंडस्ट्री से की। एक सॉफ्टवेयर इंजीनियर के रूप में वैदही ने भारत और विदेश में लंबे समय तक काम किया। कुछ वक्त बाद इन्होंने अमेरिका से अपनी कॉर्पोरेट नौकरी छोड़ी और पहाड़ों में चली गई। उन्होंने लद्दाख में SECMOL नामक एक इको-स्कूल में बतौर शिक्षक वॉलंटियर किया।
उसके बाद उनका अगला पड़ाव था, वियतनाम, जहां उन्होंने फिर से स्वेच्छा से एक एनजीओ में अंग्रेज़ी शिक्षक के रूप में काम किया, जो कि सापा के पहाड़ों में आदिवासियों का पुनर्वास करता है। इसी दौरान थोड़ें समय के लिए उन्होंने ‘‘Humans Of Bombay’ और ‘We The People’ में लेखक के रूप में काम किया ।
वर्डप्ले ने अपनी पूरी यात्रा उनके साथ की है, और इस सफर में उन्होंने पाया कि ट्विटर उनके विचारों को प्रकाशित करने का एक सुविधाजनक माध्यम था। वैदेही के ट्विटर हैंडल में अब तक के 5000 से ज़्यादा लोग उन्हें फॉलो करते हैं, और लगभग 12.5K लोग वर्डप्ले को फॉलो करते हैं
इस प्रसिद्धि ने इन्हें उनकी वर्तमान जॉब से मिलाया जो कि डुंज़ो नाम का एप है जिसमें वे में सोशल मीडिया कंटेंट लीड के तौर पर कार्यरत हैं।

26 वर्षीय शिखा मंडी संथाल जनजाति से ताल्लुक रखती हैं, जो कि भारत में तीसरी सबसे बड़ी जनजाति है। वे भारत की पहली RJ हैं जो संथाली में पूरे कार्यक्रम की मेजबानी करती हैं। रेडियो मिलान पर उनका दो घंटे का शो जौहर झाड़ग्राम पिछले एक साल में व्यापक रूप से लोकप्रिय हो गया है। इसमें स्थानीय मुद्दों की एक विस्तृत श्रृंखला शामिल है, जिसमें आदिवासी संस्कृति, त्यौहार, और आदिवासियों के सामने आने वाली चुनौतियां शामिल हैं।

नेहा अरोड़ा प्लैनेट एबल्ड की संस्थापक हैं, जो विभिन्न विकलांग लोगों और बुजु़र्गों के लिए सुलभ और आरामदायक यात्रा प्रदान करती है। संयुक्त राष्ट्र के वियना में ज़ीरो प्रोजेक्ट सम्मेलन द्वारा प्लैनेट एबल्ड को सर्वश्रेष्ठ नवीन पहलों में से एक के रूप में सम्मानित किया गया। प्लैनेट एबल्ड को आउटलुक ट्रैवलर और वर्ल्ड ट्रैवल मार्केट, लंदन द्वारा इंडिया रिस्पॉन्सिबल टूरिज्म अवॉर्ड भी प्राप्त है। इसके साथ ही इस संस्था को ट्रैवल एंड ओवर ऑल विनर में बेस्ट इनोवेशन और एनसीपीईडीपी – एमफैसिस यूनिवर्सल डिज़ाइन अवार्ड से भी सम्मानित किया गया है।
इस वर्ष, प्लैनेट एबल्ड को भारत सरकार के पर्यटन मंत्रालय द्वारा सबसे अनोखे और नए पर्यटन उत्पाद के लिए राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार से सम्मानित किया गया है। प्लैनेट एबल्ड ने भारत का एक प्रमुख सुलभ यात्रा गंतव्य के रूप में अंतरराष्ट्रीय स्तर पर प्रतिनिधित्व किया है। उनमें आईटीबी बर्लिन, थाईलैंड में वैश्विक सतत पर्यटन परिषद सम्मेलन और मालागा, स्पेन में पर्यटन और तकनीक की विविधता पर अंतरराष्ट्रीय काँग्रेस शामिल है।
नेहा एक ग्लोबल गुड फंड फेलो और इंडिया इंक्लूज़न फेलो हैं। ये नैसडैक एंटरप्रेन्योरियल सेंटर MMI प्रोग्राम की ग्रैजुएट भी हैं।
यात्राओं के माध्यम से विकलांग लोगों की समस्याओं और मुद्दों को मुख्यधारा में लाने के लिए नेहा कॉरपोरेट्स, विश्वविद्यालयों, इनक्यूबेटरों और विभिन्न मंचों में सेमिनार और कार्यशालाएं आयोजित करती हैं।

मोहम्मद शम्स आलम शेख एक अंतरराष्ट्रीय पैरा तैराक हैं। इन्होंने 2016 में गैटन्यू, क्यूबेक (कनाडा) में आयोजित हुए पैरा स्विमिंग चैंपियनशिप में 100 मीटर ब्रेस्टस्ट्रोक SB4 कैटेगरी में ब्रॉन्ज जीता था। इसके साथ ही इन्होंने 2018 में इंडोनेशिया के जकारता शहर में आयोजित एशियन पैरा गेम्स में भारत का प्रतिनिधित्व किया था।
शम्स वर्तमान में एक पैराप्लैजिक द्वारा सबसे लंबे समय तक खुले समुद्र में तैरने का विश्व रिकॉर्ड रखते हैं। उन्हें 2018 में बिहार खेल रत्न अवार्ड और ज्वेल ऑफ नेशन अवार्ड 2017 सहित कई सम्मान मिल चुके हैं।

मीर भारतीय प्रशासनिक सेवा (IAS) के 2011 बैच के अधिकारी हैं, जो केरल राज्य में सेवारत हैं। उन्हें अगस्त 2016 में कन्नूर के ज़िला कलेक्टर के रूप में तैनात किया गया था। भारत के पहले प्लास्टिक / डिस्पोज़ेबल-मुक्त ज़िले कन्नूर को यह उपाधि दिलाने में इनका मुख्य योगदान था।
इनके द्वारा शुरू फेक न्यूज़ को लेकर “सत्यमेव जयते” नाम की पहल की गई जो टीचर्स और स्टूडेंट्स को फेक न्यूज़ और गलत सूचनाओं की पहचान करने के लिए ट्रेन करती है।
इस कार्यक्रम को कन्नूर में 200 से अधिक स्कूलों में लागू किया गया था, जिसमें 80,000 से अधिक बच्चे शामिल थे और यह देश में अपनी तरह का पहला स्कूल था। उनका काम भारतीय मीडिया से लेकर ब्रिटेन, चीन और जापान में अंतरराष्ट्रीय नेटवर्क द्वारा व्यापक रूप से कवर किया गया था।
उनके नेतृत्व में, कन्नूर को पांच ई-गवर्नेंस अवॉर्ड मिले, जिनमें जनवरी 2019 में केरल के मुख्यमंत्री का ज़िला सर्वश्रेष्ठ ई-गवर्नेंस ज़िलों में शामिल था।
उन्होंने बड़ी परियोजनाओं का नेतृत्व किया है, जिन्होंने नागरिकों के लिए मूल्य और सुविधा बनाने पर ध्यान केंद्रित किया है। समाज के महत्वपूर्ण मुद्दों पर सरकार से लेकर निजी क्षेत्र और समाज के सदस्यों को एक साथ लाने का प्रयास उनके काम करने की मुख्य प्रेरणा शक्ति रही है।
कन्नूर कलेक्टर के रूप में तीन साल के सफल कार्यकाल के बाद, उन्होंने हाल ही में केरल राज्य सुचितवा मिशन के निदेशक के रूप में कार्यभार संभाला है, जो राज्य भर में वेस्ट मैनेजमेंट योजनाओं के कार्यान्वयन की देखरेख करता है।

मैरी सेबैस्टियन न्याय के क्षेत्र से जुड़ी हैं और काफी लंबे समय से महिलाओं और बच्चों के खिलाफ हो रही हिंसा को खत्म करने में प्रयासरत हैं। इन्होंने मुख्य रूप से महाराष्ट्र में यौन तस्करी के सर्वाइवर बच्चों और महिलाओं को केंद्र में रखकर काम किया है। वे वर्तमान में एक वैश्विक स्तर पर तस्करी के खिलाफ काम कर रहे संगठन, इंटरनेशनल जस्टिस मिशन के साथ काम कर रही हैं, जहां वे
कानून प्रवर्त्तन अधिकारियों की कॉमरशियल यौन शोषण के सर्वाइवर्स को बचाने में सहायता करती हैं और साथ में अदालती कार्यवाही के माध्यम से कानूनी प्रतिनिधित्व भी प्रदान करती हैं। मैरी राज्य स्तर पर सर्वाइवर्स के न्याय-संबंधी मुद्दों की वकालत करती हैं। उन्होंने कॉमरशियल यौन शोषण में गिरफ्तारी की मांग हेतु
राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर एक परामर्श का आयोजन भी किया है। वह वर्तमान में महाराष्ट्र राज्य बाल अधिकार संरक्षण आयोग के साथ महाराष्ट्र के 6 ज़िलों में किशोर न्याय (देखभाल और संरक्षण) अधिनियम, 2015 के तहत चाइल्ड केयर एजेंसियों के कामकाज का विश्लेषण करने के लिए एक शोध कर रही हैं। मैरी वैचारिक लीडरशिप की पहल से तस्करी को लेकर जागरूकता और संवेदनशीलता पैदा करने की दिशा में भी काम कर रही हैं।

मालिनी को 3 उद्योगों – आईटी, मीडिया और यात्रा में 15 सालों का अनुभव है। वे एक वॉयस ओवर आर्टिस्ट और F5 Escapes की संस्थापक / सीईओ हैं, जो एक अनुभवात्मक यात्रा कंपनी है और महिलाओं के लिए भारत में यात्रा को अलग तरीके से परिभाषित करने का उद्देश्य रखती है। वे ना केवल भारत को महिलाओं के लिए सुरक्षित गंतव्य के रूप में स्थापित करने का प्रचार प्रसार करती हैं बल्कि इस दिशा में कार्य करने के लिए भी प्रतिबद्ध हैं। इसके अलावा उनका मानना है कि यात्राओं के साथ-साथ एक स्थाई जीवन भी बहुत आवश्यक है। वे अपने साथियों से सीखने की शक्ति में विश्वास करती हैं और इसलिए अपने कार्यक्षेत्र में लौटने वाली महिलाओं और शुरुआती स्तर के उद्यमियों को प्रेरित करना पसंद करती है।

बसित जमाल कॉन्फलिक्ट रिज़ॉल्यून की अवधारणाओं को समझने के लिए युवाओं को सुविधा प्रदान कर रहे हैं। वे धर्म की शक्ति को एक संघर्ष के बजाय समाधान के रूप में बदल रहें हैं। यह धर्म की शक्ति का संघर्ष ही है जिसने दुनियाभर में लाखों लोगों को मारा है। वे स्कूलों, कॉलेजों, मदरसों और मस्जिदों में इबादत करने वाले छात्रों के साथ काम करते हैं। वे दूसरे को बेहतर समझने के लिए इंटरफेथ संवाद को भी बढ़ावा देते हैं। बसित जमाल “Brotherhood of humanity” के संस्थापक हैं। उन्हें 2017 में अशोका फेलोशिप दी गई थी। वे यूनेस्को के युवाओं के शांति दूत के सह-लेखक थे। उन्हें दुनिया के सबसे बड़े इंटरफेथ संगठन “United Religions Initiative” की सदस्यता भी दी गई थी।

Vasundhra is a fifth-year student at National Law University, Delhi. She is a core member of the research being conducted by Project 39A on issues of mental health of death row prisoners. As part of this, she has travelled across the country to meet and interview death row prisoners as well as their families.

She is also part of the core team at Parichay, which is a collaborative legal aid clinic spread across law schools in the country. It aims to assist those excluded from the NRC list in filing appeals. She has also founded a queer straight alliance on campus, which facilitates important conversations surrounding gender and sexuality. Part of being a law student, she believes, is a duty to use the law as an agent for progressive change in society, focusing especially on groups on the margins of society.

Talk to her about her dog and her favourite saxophonists.

कर्णिका कोहली Scroll.in की ऑडियंस एडिटर हैं। इससे पहले इन्होंने TheWire.in के साथ काम किया है, जहां वह सोशल मीडिया डेस्ट का नेतृत्व और फंडिंग के लिए कैंपेन पर काम करती थीं, साथ ही अलग-अलग आयोजनों का संचालन करने वाली टीम का भी हिस्सा थीं। Scroll.in में इनका मुख्य कार्य इसकी ग्रोथ और ऑडियंस रीच की दिशा में है। यह विशेष रूप से ऑडियंस इंगेजमेंट, इनसाइट्स और न्यूज़मरूम रणनीतियों पर काम करती हैं। यह टाइम्स ऑफ इंडिया और न्यूज़ एक्स के साथ भी काम कर चुकी हैं।

रितु जायसवाल ने 2016 में ग्राम पंचायत राज सिंगवाहिनी से मुखिया पद के लिए भारी मतों से चुनाव जीता था। इस जीत के बाद उन्होंने शिक्षा केंद्रों की स्थापना, खुले में शौच की समस्या से निपटने के लिए शौचालयों के निर्माण, सोलर लाइट्स लगाने, पानी की उपलब्धता और सड़कों के निर्माण की दिशा में खासा काम करते हुए गॉंव में बड़ा बदलाव लाया है।
इसके साथ ही वह स्थानीय निवासियों के साथ जागरूकता को लेकर लगातार काम कर रही हैं। इस दिशा में उन्होंने मेंस्ट्रुअल हेल्थ, बायोगैस प्रबंधन और व्यावसायिक प्रशिक्षण जैसे ज़रूरी क्षेत्रों के लिए जागरूकता अभियान चलाए हैं।
रितु जायसवाल को महाराष्ट्र इंस्टीट्यूट ऑफ टेक्नोलॉजी द्वारा 7वें भारतीय छात्र संसद में “उच्च शिक्षित आदर्श युवा सरपंच (मुखिया) पुरस्कर 2016” से सम्मानित किया जा चुका है। इसके साथ ही वह भारत सरकार के पंचायती राज मंत्रालय द्वारा “सरपंच और पंचायत सचिवों के क्षमता निर्माण कार्यक्रम” में बिहार का प्रतिनिधित्व करने वाले 5 मुखियाओं में से एक थी।

वरिष्ठ पत्रकार सौरभ द्विवेदी 10 से ज़्यादा सालों से पत्रकारिता जगत से जुड़े हुए हैं और वर्तमान में द लल्लनटॉप के एडिटर के रूप में कार्यरत हैं। इससे पहले ये स्टार न्यूज़, लाइव इंडिया, नवभारत टाइम्स, दैनिक भास्कर और आज तक के साथ जुड़े रहे हैं।
द लल्लनटॉप, Youtube में पहला 10 मिलियन सब्सक्राइबर वाला लीडिंग हिंदी न्यूज़ मीडिया प्लैटफॉर्म है।

जलवायु परिवर्तन की दिशा में सरकार की जवाबदेही को लेकर मार्च 2017 में रिद्धिमा ने भारत सरकार के खिलाफ एक पेटेशन फाइल किया था। जलवायु परिवर्तन को लेकर गंभीरता दिखाते हुए वह इस साल सितंबर में ग्रेटा थनबर्ग के साथ न्यूयॉर्क में ग्लोबल क्लाइमेट स्ट्राइक में भी शामिल हुईं। इसके साथ ही पेरिस में हुए नोट्रे अफेयर ए टूस (Notre Affaire a Tous) द्वारा आयोजित अंतरराष्ट्रीय सम्मेलन का भी हिस्सा बनीं।
दुनियाभर के पंद्रह किशोर बच्चों के साथ मिलकर रिद्धिमा ने पर्यावरण पर प्रदूषण के बुरे प्रभाव के लिए 5 देशों (अर्जेंटीना, तुर्की, जर्मनी, फ्रांस और ब्राज़िल) के खिलाफ सयुंक्त राष्ट्र में अपनी शिकायत दर्ज करवाई है और वर्तमान में, वह भारत के विभिन्न शहरों में पर्यावरण संरक्षण की दिशा में जागरूकता का काम कर रही हैं।

विराली मोदी एक विकलांगता अधिकार कार्यकर्ता, प्रेरक वक्ता और मॉडल हैं, जिन्होंने 2017 में रेलवे को एक्सेसिबल बनाने के लिए #MyTrainToo नाम का अभियान चलाया है। Change.org पर उनकी याचिका पर 200k हस्ताक्षरकर्ता हैं।

विराली को बीबीसी द्वारा पहचान मिली है और BBC 100 Women द्वारा 2017 की सबसे प्रभावशाली और प्रेरणादायक महिलाओं में से एक के रूप में नामित किया गया था।

विराली 2014 मिस व्हीलचेयर इंडिया की रनरअप थीं, Being Human कैंपेन के लिए सलमान खान के साथ काम कर चुकी हैं और बॉम्बे टाइम्स फैशन वीक, एफबीबी और ज्वेल्स ऑफ इंडिया की शोस्टॉपर रही हैं।

अपार गुप्ता एक वकील और इंटरनेट फ्रीडम फाउंडेशन के एक्ज़ेक्यूटिव डायरेक्टर हैं। इंटरनेट फ्रीडम फाउंडेशन एक भारतीय डिजिटल संगठन है, जो यह सुनिश्चित करता है कि प्रौद्योगिकी हमारे मौलिक अधिकारों का सम्मान करे।

2015 से, वह जनहित के मुद्दों पर बड़े पैमाने पर काम कर रहे हैं, जिसमें रणनीतिक मुकदमेबाजी और अभियानों का आयोजन करना   शामिल है।
अदालत में, एक वकील के तौर पर उनके कार्यों में डिजिटल अधिकारों के केस प्रमुख होते हैं, जिनमें प्राइवेसी और सेंसरशिप के मामले शामिल हैं।

वे धारा 66A, निजता के अधिकार और आधार मामले में जन हित याचिकाओं का प्रतिनिधित्व करने वाली प्रमुख संवैधानिक चुनौतियों का एक हिस्सा है।
अदालत के काम से परे उन्होंने कई कार्यकर्ताओं के साथ बड़े पैमाने पर काम किये हैं और नेट न्यूट्रैलिटी SaveTheInternet.in,मानहानि कानून SpeechBill.in और गोपनीयता की रक्षा करने वाले SaveOurPrivacy.in जैसे अभियानों को स्थापित किया है।
अपार देश के संविधान की रक्षा करने और डिजिटल बुराईयों के खिलाफ लड़ाई के लिए प्रतिबद्ध हैं।

अशोक मलिक भारत के राष्ट्रपति के पूर्व प्रेस सचिव रह चुके हैं। इन्होंने 1991 में कोलकाता में टेलीग्राफ अखबार के साथ अपने करियर की शुरुआत की थी और आगे चलकर टाइम्स ऑफ इंडिया, इंडिया टुडे और इंडियन एक्सप्रेस सहित कई प्रमुख प्रकाशनों के लिए काम किया।
2006 में, इन्होंने एक स्वतंत्र स्तंभकार के रूप में अपने करियर की शुरुआत की और द पायनियर और तहलका में परामर्श संपादक के रूप में विभिन्न बिंदुओं पर सेवा देते रहें।
2015 में इन्होंने ऑब्जर्वर रिसर्च फाउंडेशन ज्वाइन किया। इन्हें इंडियन इंस्टीट्यूट ऑफ कॉर्पोरेट अफेयर्स के बोर्ड ऑफ गवर्नर्स के रूप में नियुक्त किया गया। यह राजघाट स्मारक समिति के भी सदस्य हैं, जो महात्मा गॉंधी को समर्पित स्मारकों की देखरेख करता है। 2016 में, इन्हें भारत के चौथे सर्वोच्च नागरिक सम्मान पद्म श्री से सम्मानित भी किया जा चुका है।

आशीष बिरूली सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता, स्वतंत्र पत्रकार, Adivasi Lives Matter के कंटेंट क्रिएटर और Youth Ki Awaaz के पावरफुल यूज़र हैं। आदिवासी समुदाय से ताल्लुक रखने वाले आशीष झारखंड के जादूगोड़ा के रहने वाले हैं। बतौर फोटो जर्नलिस्ट इन्होंने जदुगोरा में अपने घर से महज़ 500 मीटर की दूरी पर स्थित यूरेनियम खदानों के कारण हुए नुकसान का खुलासा किया था।
जदुगोरा में रेडिएशन के प्रभाव पर इनके काम को 2013 में रियो डी जनेरियो में हुए तीसरे और 2019 में ब्राज़िल में हुए नौवें इंटरनैशनल यूरेनियम फिल्म फेस्टिवल में फीचर किया गया था। इसके साथ ही 2015 में क्यूबेक (कनाडा), हिरोशिमा और 2017 में ओसाका में हुए विश्व यूरेनियम संगोष्ठी में भी इनके काम को शामिल किया गया था।

गुलेश ने 9वीं कक्षा तक पढाई की और 17 साल की उम्र में इनकी शादी हो गई। एक गृहिणी के रूप में वे एक खुशहाल ज़िंदगी बिता रहीं थीं लेकिन सन 2003 में एक एक्सीडेंट में पति की मृत्यु के बाद उनके लिए आर्थिक रूप से आत्मनिर्भर होना ज़रूरी हो गया।
इसकी शुरुआत उन्होंने लोगों के घर में खाना बनाने से लेकर, सब्ज़ी बेचने, सड़क किनारे पकोड़े तलने जैसे कामों से की लेकिन यह ज़्यादा दिन तक चल नहीं पाया। करीब 3-4 साल पहले उन्होंने एक उबर ड्राइवर के तौर पर अपने सफर की शुरुआत की। आज वह आत्मनिर्भर हैं और अपने बेटे को अच्छी शिक्षा मुहैया करा रहीं हैं।

Shikha Mandi is a 26-year-old belonging to the Santhal tribe – the third largest tribe in India. She is India’s first RJ who hosts an entire programme in Santhali. Her two-hour radio show Johar Jhargram on Radio Milan has become widely popular in the past year. It covers a wide range of local issues, including Adivasi culture, festivals, and the challenges faced by tribals.

Supriya Paul is the co-founder of Josh Talks, an impact media platform headquartered in Gurgaon, Haryana. Using the power of storytelling, Josh Talks is on a mission to create an ecosystem to help the youth go from where they are to where they want to be.

Josh Talks is proactively doing so by providing exposure to the youth by giving them access to role models and equipping them with skill sets so they can be empowered to take control of their lives. On 25th January 2019, Josh Talks was awarded the National Media Award by Honourable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and was named in a list of “Top 50 Startups of India” for 2017 by Economic Times.

Supriya is listed in the Forbes magazine “Asia 30 Under 30” list for 2018 and received the SheThePeople Digital Women Award’17 for Best Content Creation.

Dr Aditi Kaul is the Head of the Arts-Based Therapy Program with Fortis Healthcare under the National Mental Health Program. She is a grade 5 UNESCO and CID certified arts-based therapist who has run the programme pan Fortis for the last 7 years which includes working with persons diagnosed with Trauma, anxiety, depressive disorders, disorders of childhood, adolescents as well as stressors of day to day life using psychotherapeutic techniques including visual art, movement, writing and storytelling.

She has done over 500 preventive mental health workshops with schools colleges and NGOs across the city and has been teaching an “Expressive Arts in clinical practice course” for the last 6 years in collaboration with UNESCO and the Council of International Dance, amongst other short term courses.

Saurabh Dwivedi is a senior journalist with over 10 years of experience. Currently the Editor of The Lallantop, he has previously worked with Star News, Live India, Navbharat Times, Dainik Bhaskar and Aaj Tak.

The Lallantop is India’s leading digital first Hindi news media platform, with over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

Mohammad Shams Aalam Shaikh is an international Para Swimmer. He won Bronze at the 2016 Can-Am Para Swimming Championships held in Gatineau, Quebec in the men’s 100m Breaststroke SB4 category and also represented India at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. Shams currently holds the world record for longest open sea swimming by a paraplegic. He has received several accolades, including the Bihar Khel Ratna Award in 2018 and Jewel of Nation Award 2017

Shubham Gupta is an award-winning Mobile Journalist. He is the Head of Storytelling at People Like Us Create. Shubham has produced more than 2000 stories and his stories have also been shared by publications like Hindustan Times and Al Jazeera.

Tamseel Hussain is the Founder of People Like Us Create. He is a mobile storyteller & social media expert. With over a decade of experience, he has previously worked with organisations like Change.org, Oxfam, Greenpeace, civil society groups, media houses, tech-startups, and politicians. Tamseel helps build award-winning platforms, citizen-led campaigns, youth-focused public engagement, placemaking to building an ecosystem for community first storytelling in India, the middle east and Southeast Asian countries.

He also co-founded letmebreathe.in – India’s largest pollution storytelling platform, it now has more than 300 storytellers from 11 Indian cities. They host 25 decision-makers via city-specific sessions and their partners include Twitter India and UN Environment amongst others.

Shubham Gupta is an award-winning Mobile Journalist. He is the Head of Storytelling at People Like Us Create. Shubham has produced more than 2000 stories and his stories have also been shared by publications like Hindustan Times and Al Jazeera. 

Mary Sebastian is a justice professional working for the elimination of violence against women and children with special focus on victims of sex trafficking in the State of Maharashtra. Mary briefly worked in the corporate law field before joining the development sector. She is currently working with a global anti-trafficking organization, International Justice Mission, where she assists law enforcement officials in the rescue of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and provides legal representation through court proceedings. Mary supports systemic interventions and advocacy efforts on the survivor justice-related issues at the state government level and has organized a national level consultation on the arrest of demand for commercial sexual exploitation. She is currently undertaking a research study with the Maharashtra State Child Rights Protection Commission to analyse the functioning of childcare agencies under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 in six districts in Maharashtra. Mary also works towards generating awareness and sensitivity on the issue of trafficking perspectives through thought leadership initiatives.

Shantanu currently leads the Venture team at Ashoka Innovators for the Public, South Asia. Responsible for identifying and engaging the worlds largest and most powerful network of Social Entrepreneurs, Shantanu has worked with hundreds of innovators to enable powerful ideas to reach a systems-level change. Shantanu was previously an IDEX Global Social Enterprise Fellow, where he subsequently also a representative on their board of advisors. Prior to his time at Ashoka, Shantanu has worked extensively in the fields of youth mental health in Australia, youth civic participation and youth participation in diplomacy for national and international organisations, such as the Asia-Europe Foundation. Shantanu has a keen interest in reading, writing and the opportunity to engage with new groups of people.

Vishak G Iyer, a 2011-Batch IAS officer, is currently the Special Secretary to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Prior to this, he was the District Magistrate and Collector of Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh.

Hailing from Idukki, Kerala, Vishak has previously held the post of District Magistrate & Collector of Bhadohi, Hamirpur and Chief Development Officer of Meerut, and Varanasi.

An alumnus of MG University College of Engineering, Thodupuzha and a Chevening Fellow from Said Business School, University of Oxford, he has pursued B.Tech in Electronics & Communication Engineering and MA in Public Policy.

Vishak was instrumental in reviving the river Mandakini with community participation, during his stint as District Magistrate Chitrakoot. Chitrakoot district received ‘National Water Awards-2019’ under the category ‘River rejuvenation’ for the effort.

अमन मॉडर्न स्कूल में कक्षा 11 के छात्र हैं। जलवायु कार्यकर्ता ग्रेटा थनबर्ग से प्रेरित होकर, 16 वर्षीय अमन शर्मा ने इसी साल मई में Change.org पर एक पेटीशन दायर करते हुए यह मांग उठाई कि भारत 2030 तक नेट ज़ीरो-कार्बन उत्सर्जन तक पहुंच जाए, 2020 तक सभी जीवाश्म-ईंधन के विस्तार को रोके तथा अनावश्यक शहरी परियोजनाओं के लिए वनों की कटाई को रोके।
अमन ने फ्राइडे फॉर फ्यूचर के दिल्ली चैप्टर द्वारा किए गए छात्र विरोध प्रदर्शन में भी बड़ी भूमिका निभाई है।

27 वर्षीय अभिनव अग्रवाल, एक एथ्नोम्यूज़िकोलॉजिस्ट (विभिन्न संस्कृतियों के संगीत के जानकार), संगीतकार और अपनी स्वयं सेवी संस्था अनहद फाउंडेशन के संस्थापक और निदेशक हैं।

अभिनव, भारत में घटते लोक संगीत को पुनर्जीवित करने की दिशा में काम कर रहे हैं। उन्होंने इस कला से जुड़े लोगों की आजीविका, गौरव और गरिमा पैदा करने वाले आत्मनिर्भर मॉडल बनाए हैं, ताकि लोक संगीतकारों के सम्मान,पहचान और आत्मविश्वास के निर्माण के माध्यम से सांस्कृतिक लोक संगीत के लिए मांग और मूल्य पैदा हो सकें।
वे समानांतर में एक आत्मनिर्भर और आर्थिक वातावरण बनाने में प्रयासरत हैं, जहां एक कलाकार बिना एक मध्यस्थ के सीधे अपनी प्रस्तुतियों को जनता तक पहुंचा सकता है।

ऐसा करने में, अभिनव एक लोक संगीत उद्योग बनाने में मदद कर रहे हैं जो कला का एक स्थायी रूप है और जिसका नेतृत्व खुद संगीतकारों के हाथों में है।
अभिनव एक अशोक फैलो भी हैं जिन्हें फोर्ब्स की एशियाई सूची के टॉप-30 में फीचर किया गया है। इन्हें करमवीर पुरस्कार से भी सम्मानित किया गया है।

श्री कैलाश सत्यार्थी अंतरराष्ट्रीय स्तर पर प्रतिष्ठित और सक्रिय बाल अधिकार कार्यकर्ता हैं, जो पिछले चार दशकों से बच्चों के अधिकारों के लिए अथक प्रयास कर रहे हैं। उनके कार्य और प्रयास पूरी दुनिया भर के 140 देशों में फैले हैं, जो बच्चों को गुलामी, तस्करी, बंधुआ मज़दूरी, यौन शोषण और हिंसा के सभी रूपों से बचाने के लिए प्रयासरत हैं। विश्व भर में फैले बाल शोषण के मुद्दे तथा बाल सुरक्षा, स्वास्थ और शिक्षा के अधिकारों को वे वैश्विक और राष्ट्रीय विकास के एजेंडा में शामिल करने में अहम भूमिका निभाते रहे हैं।

दुनिया भर में कई वंचित एवं शोषित बच्चों के अधिकारों को बहाल करने के उनके अविश्वसनीय प्रयासों को देखकर वर्ष 2014 में उन्हें नोबेल शांति पुरस्कार से सम्मानित किया गया था।

Samir Saran is the President of Observer Research Foundation (ORF), one of Asia’s most influential think tanks. Working with the Board, he provides strategic direction and leadership to ORF’s multiple centres on fund raising, research projects, platform design and outreach initiatives including stakeholder engagement.

He curates the Raisina Dialogue, India’s annual flagship platform on geopolitics and geo-economics, and chairs CyFy, India’s annual conference on cyber security and internet governance.

Samir is also a Commissioner of The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, member of the South Asia advisory board of the World Economic Forum, and a part of its Global Future Council on Cybersecurity. Along with that, he is the Director of the Centre for Peace and Security at the Sardar Patel Police University, Jodhpur, India.

Samir writes frequently on issues of global governance, climate change, energy policy, global development architecture, artificial intelligence, cyber security, internet governance, and India’s foreign policy. He has authored four books, several academic papers, and is featured regularly in Indian and international print and broadcast media.

Virali Modi is a disability rights activist, motivational speaker, and model who has spearheaded a campaign around accessibility – #MyTrainToo for accessible railways, which she started in 2017. Her petition on change.org has over 200k signatories.

She has been recognized by the BBC and was named as one of the most influential and inspirational women of 2017 by BBC 100 Women.

Virali was Miss Wheelchair India runner up 2014, has worked alongside Salman Khan for the Being Human Campaign, and has been the showstopper for Bombay Times Fashion Week, FBB, and Jewels Of India.

As a quintessential Bangalorean, the initial part of Vaidehi’s career involved paying her dues to the IT industry as a Software Engineer, both in India, and for a year, overseas. On returning from the United States, she waved farewell to her corporate job and took off to the mountains. She also volunteered as a teacher in an eco-school called SECMOL in Ladakh. Next stop, was Vietnam, where she volunteered yet again, as an English teacher in an NGO that rehabilitates tribals in the mountains of Sapa and also had a brief stint as a writer for ‘Humans Of Bombay’, and its sister page ‘We The People’. Wordplay has travelled with her throughout her journey, and she found that Twitter was a convenient medium to journal her thoughts and ideas. Vaidehi has over 5000 puns on her Twitter handle till date, and around 12.5K wordplay aficionados who follow her. It also landed her at her current job as the Social Media Content Lead at Dunzo – a hyperlocal delivery app.

Ritu Jaiswal contested and won the election for the position of Mukhiya from Gram Panchayat Raj Singwahini in 2016 by a huge margin. Since then, she has completely transformed the village by establishing education centres, building toilets to tackle open defecation, installing solar lights and building water capacity and building roads. She continues to work with the residents and runs awareness campaigns around menstrual health, biogas management and vocational training. Ms Jaiswal was conferred with the “Uchh Shikshit Adarsh Yuva Sarpanch (Mukhiya) Puraskaar 2016” at the 7th Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology, and was among the 5 Mukhiyas selected to represent Bihar for the “Capacity Building Program for Sarpanch & Panchayat Secretaries” by The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India.

In March 2017, Ridhima filed a petition against the Government of India in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), asserting that the Indian government has failed to fulfil its duties towards the Indian people in mitigating climate change. In September, she joined Greta Thunberg at the Global Climate Strike in New York and also the International conference organized by Notre Affaire a Tous in Paris.

Along with fifteen teenagers from across the world, Ridhima has filed a complaint against five countries (Argentina, Turkey, Germany, France and Brazil) in the UN for not doing enough to address climate change.

Presently, she is spreading awareness in different cities of India to inspire others to protect the environment.

Aman is a class 11 student at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, N- Delhi. Inspired by his love for nature & the environment, 16-year-old Aman Sharma launched a petition on Change.org in May 2019 asking the government to declare a National climate emergency, which has reached 330,000 signatures now. It urges India to reach net zero-carbon emissions by 2030, stop all fossil-fuel expansion by 2020, stop deforestation for needless urban projects and provide its citizens the right to clean air and water.

Aman represented India at the first-ever youth and climate summit at Oslo Pax, Norway by the Nobel Peace Prize Center in September 2019 and his petition was later presented at the UN youth and climate summit in New York as a part of ‘All in for Climate Action’ campaign which has 1.6 million signatures and 90 countries as part of it. He is a part of and striker with Fridays for Future India and avid birdwatcher, conservationist and wildlife photographer.

Ashok Malik is the former Press Secretary for the President of India. He began his career in the Telegraph newspaper in Kolkata in 1991 and subsequently worked for many leading publications, including The Times of India, India Today and Indian Express. In 2006, he embarked on a career as a self-employed columnist, serving at different points as a consulting editor to the Pioneer and Tehelka. In 2015 he joined the Observer Research Foundation. He has been appointed to the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, a think-tank focused on corporate social responsibility. He is a Member of the Rajghat Memorial Committee, which oversees the Memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour.

Karnika Kohli is the audience editor at Scroll.in. She was previously with TheWire.in, where she led the social media desk, worked on campaigns to raise funding and was part of the team that organised events. Her main focus is on amplifying the reach of Scroll.in’s work and building an engaged audience by bringing data, insights and strategies to the newsroom. She has also worked with the Times of India and NewsX.

Neha Arora is the founder of Planet Abled, which provides accessible travel solutions and leisure excursions for people with various disabilities and the elderly. Planet Abled was awarded as one of the best innovative practices by Zero Project Conference at United Nations Vienna. Planet Abled has also been the recipient of India Responsible Tourism Award by Outlook Traveler and World Travel Market, London – Best Innovation in Travel & Overall Winner and NCPEDP – Mphasis Universal Design Award. This year, Planet Abled was also the recipient of the National Award for the most unique and innovative tourism product by the Ministry of Tourism Government of India.

Planet Abled has also represented India as a major accessible travel destination on global platform like ITB Berlin, Global Sustainable Tourism Council Conference in Thailand and International Congress on Tourism and Technology in Diversity in Malaga, Spain.

Neha is a Global Good Fund Fellow and India Inclusion fellow and a graduate of Nasdaq Entrepreneurial centre MMI program, for her work at Planet Abled. Neha also conducts sessions and workshops in corporates, universities, incubators and various forums for amalgamation of people with disabilities in mainstream via the medium of travel.

Mir is an officer of the 2011 batch of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), serving in the state of Kerala.

He was posted as District Collector of Kannur in August 2016. As District Collector, he was the prime mover behind the transformation of Kannur into India’s first plastic/disposable-free district.

His most recent initiative is a timely project titled ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (Truth Alone Triumphs) that trains teachers and students to identify, vet and respond to misinformation and fake news online. The programme was implemented in over 200 schools in Kannur, covering over 80,000 children making it the first of its kind in the country. His work was widely covered by the national media in India and international networks in Britain, China & Japan.

Under his leadership, Kannur received five Kerala e-Governance Awards, including best e-Governed district from the Chief Minister of Kerala in January 2019.

He has led large projects that have singularly focused on creating value and convenience for citizens. The core driving force of his work has been efficiently bringing together stakeholders from the government, private sector and members of society, in the interest of achieving important social goals.

After a successful three year stint as Kannur Collector, he recently took charge as Director, Kerala State Suchitwa Mission that oversees the implementation of waste management schemes across the state

Malini has 15 years of experience across 3 industries – IT, media and travel. She is a voice-over artist and the Founder/CEO of F5 Escapes, an experiential travel company, with a vision to redefine the way women travel India. She is not only passionate about working towards and promoting India as a safe destination for women but also a firm believer in sustainable living and travel. She believes in the power of peer learning and hence loves motivating women returning to the workplace and early-stage entrepreneurs. 

Gulesh studied till ninth grade and was married off at 17. She was content being a homemaker until one day when in 2003 her husband was killed in an accident and it became absolutely necessary for her to become financially independent. She started with doing a few odd jobs like cooking at people’s houses, selling vegetables, frying pakoras at a roadside stall, etc., but it wasn’t sustainable. About 3-4 years ago, she started her journey as an Uber driver. Today, she is financially independent and supporting her son’s education.

Abhinav Agrawal, 27, an ethnomusicologist, musician and social entrepreneur is also the Founder Director of the Non-Profit Organisation, Anahad Foundation. Abhinav is working towards creating and reviving the diminishing folk music industry in India by creating self-reliant models that generate livelihoods, pride and dignity for stakeholders connected to this art form.

He is generating demand and value for cultural folk music through building respect, recognition, identity and self-confidence of folk musicians, and in parallel creating a self-sustainable economic environment where an artist can distribute their productions directly to the public without an intermediary. In doing so, Abhinav is helping create a Folk Music industry that is a sustainable art form and an industry that is musician-led.

Abhinav is also an Ashoka Fellow, and has been featured under Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list. He has also been awarded with the Karamveer Award.

Anshul is a social entrepreneur and a young media influencer, who founded Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA), India’s
largest social justice media platform for young people to address and engage on critical issues, at the age of
17.

Over the last 11 years, Anshul has gained extensive experience in citizen-powered media, and participatory movement building, with YKA stories often starting nationwide movements creating impact.

An Ashoka Fellow, INK Fellow and Young Innovator (United Nations ITU), Forbes 30 Under 30, Anshul has helped several high-impact organisations engage young people in a variety of important conversations, from politics and gender to art and culture.

He is also on the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women for India and has previously served on the board of Jhatkaa, a campaigning organisation committed to building grassroots citizen power across India, and Collectively, a World Economic Forum and Unilever collaborative non-profit to build a sustainable future.

Basit Jamal is facilitating young people to understand the concepts of conflict resolution. He is repurposing the power of religion to be a solution rather than a roadblock to conflicts which has already seen millions die the world over. He works with students from schools, colleges, madrasas and worshippers in the mosques. He also promotes interfaith dialogue to better understand the other. Basit Jamal is the founder of “Brotherhood of humanity”. He was given Ashoka Fellowship in 2017. He was a co-author of UNESCO’s youth waging peace manual. He was also given membership of the worlds biggest interfaith organization “United Religions Initiative”.

Ashish Birulee is an activist, independent journalist, content creator for Adivasi Lives Matter and power user on Youth Ki Awaaz. He belongs to the Ho Adivasi community and is from Jadugoda in Jharkhand. As a photojournalist has has worked to disclose damages caused by the uranium mines located just 500 meter from his home in Jadugoda. His work on the impact of radiation in Jadugoda has been featured at the 3rd and 9th International Uranium Film Festival in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 2013 and 2019, as well as the World Uranium Symposium in Quebec City, Canada 2015, Hiroshima 2015 and Osaka 2017.

Apar Gupta is a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation – an Indian digital liberties organisation that seeks to ensure that technology respects fundamental rights.
Since 2015, he has been working extensively on public interest issues which include strategic litigation and organisation of campaigns and collectives. In courts, his work as a lawyer includes key digital rights cases on privacy and censorship.
He is a part of key constitutional challenges on Section 66A, the Right to Privacy and Aadhaar representing public interest litigants. Beyond court work he has worked extensively with activists and set up digital campaigns such as those on Net Neutrality (SaveTheInternet.in), fight against defamation laws (SpeechBill.in) and safeguard privacy (SaveOurPrivacy.in). Apar is committed to protect the constitution and fight a digital dystopia.

Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is an internationally acclaimed child rights activist who has been a tireless advocate of children’s rights for four decades now.

His interventions are spread across over 140 countries in the world in an endeavour to protect children from slavery, trafficking, forced labour, sexual abuse and all forms of violence. He has been instrumental in bringing the issues of children in the global and national development agendas besides leading worldwide movements against child exploitation and upholding the rights of children for peace, safety, health, wellbeing and education.

His unrelenting efforts for restoring the rights of the most marginalized and exploited children in the world won him the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2014.

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