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Keshav Desiraju, who passed away last month at the relatively early age of sixty-six, was one of the most remarkable public servants in independent India. A person of rectitude and integrity, who never sought publicity, and who scrupulously kept his distance from ruling party politicians, he had a transformational impact on the health sector through the policies he initiated. He was also enormously admired in his adopted state, Uttarakhand, where he served with distinction both at the district and Secretariat levels. Outside of his professional work, he was a considerable scholar of Indian classical music, and the author of a landmark biography of M. S. Subbulakshmi.
On Saturday 9th October, the Bangalore International Centre will celebrate the life and legacy of Keshav Desiraju. An array of distinguished speakers who worked with him will speak of his multifarious and enduring contributions to the Republic.
Akshay Mangla is an Associate Professor of International Business at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, where he specializes in comparative politics, political economy, development and state-society relations in South Asia. His research seeks to understand why and how states govern effectively, provide essential public services and promote inclusive development. His first book, entitled Making Bureaucracy Work: The State, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press) examines how frontline public agencies effectively deliver primary education in underserved communities within northern India. His other research examines issues of public order and security. He has conducted a large-scale study analyzing the impact police reforms on women’s security in Madhya Pradesh. His work has been supported by the Gates Foundation, DFID, MIT Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the World Bank, the American Institute for Indian Studies, and the NSEP David L. Boren Fellowship.
Akshay holds a B.S. in Finance and B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.Sc. in Management Research from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Saïd Business School faculty, Akshay taught at Harvard Business School, where he where he was an Assistant Professor in the Business, Government and International Economy Unit. He remains a Faculty Research Associate at the Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard.
Jo Chopra McGowan
Jo Chopra McGowan lives in Dehradun where she works as Executive Director of the Latika Roy Foundation, a non-profit for disabled children. She is a former criminal (jailed many times as a peace movement activist in the US) and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, The Guardian, EPW, The Wire, Indian Express and other major dailies. She and her husband Ravi have three children and two grands.
Radha Bhatt, affectionately known as Radha Behn, was born in the remote hill village of Dhurka on 16 October 1933. When she was 16, Radha joined Lakshmi Ashram and Sarala Behn, and it was from here that she began the journey that has led her to be recognised at the national and international level as a Gandhian worker. For twenty years she worked alongside Sarala Behn both in Lakshmi Ashram and in the rural communities. From those early days she was active in social movements, especially the anti-liquor struggles and then the Chipko movement for forest rights of the local communities.
The eighties saw her actively involved in struggles against uncontrolled mining in these hills and the Tehri Dam, then under construction. Recent decades have seen her assume national level responsibilities, as secretary of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, chairperson of Sarva Seva Sangh and also of the Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Ramachandra Guha was born and raised in the Himalayan foothills. He studied in Delhi and Kolkata, and has lived for many years in Bengaluru. His many books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods, a landmark history of the Republic, India after Gandhi, and an authoritative two-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi, both of which were chosen by the New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. Having previously taught at Yale, Stanford and the Indian Institute of Science, he is currently distinguished University Professor at Krea University.
Guha has been a professional historian for some three decades now. He has been a cricket fanatic for three decades longer still. He says he writes on history for a living; and on cricket to live. His awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Daily Telegraph/Cricket Society prize (for A Corner of a Foreign Field), the R.K. Narayan Prize, and the Fukuoka Prize. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Yale University.
Prof. Sanjeev Jain researches the genetic correlates of psychiatric and neurological disease; as well the history, social determinants and policy issues in mental health.
He was part of the group, headed by Mr. Keshav Desiraju, that drafted the Mental Health Policy document of the Govt. of India.
Dr. Sowmya Swaminathan was one of the three deputy director generals and the first Indian to hold the position at WHO. She has recently been appointed as Chief Scientist in the new chief scientist division created to strengthen WHO’s core scientific work. A paediatrician from India and a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, she brings with her 30 years of experience in clinical care and research and has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programmes. Dr Swaminathan was Secretary to the Government of India for Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research from 2015 to 2017. In that position, she focused on bringing science and evidence into health policy making, building research capacity in Indian medical schools and forging south-south partnerships in health sciences. From 2009 to 2011, she also served as Coordinator of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases in Geneva.
She received her academic training in India, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America, and has published more than 350 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. She is an elected Foreign Fellow of the US National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of all three science academies in India. She has previously been on several WHO and global advisory bodies and committees, including the WHO Expert Panel to Review Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group of the Global TB Department at WHO, and most recently was Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on TB.