The book launch of ‘i, the citizen’ was indeed memorable for more reasons than one. It was organized with clinical efficiency by the GRAAM team and every small detail was thoughtfully planned and executed. The venue of the event could not be more appropriate and was held at Gandhi Bhavan at Bengaluru. This not only reflected the tenor of the book but was a timely message to all of us of the relevance and significance of Gandhian thought and values. Chandrika was at her charming best as the MC of the event. The guests on the stage were not only distinguished people but represented a key aspect of citizen engagement in their own ways. Justice M N Venkatachalliah, the former Chief Justice of India (who has also written the foreword to this book) was at his witty best. He has done more to preserving the spirit of the Indian constitution than anyone else i know. Apart from being my mentor and guide, he is one of the most humane people who has always put the citizens first in everything that he does. Mohandas Pai, one of the co-founders of the software giant, Infosys is now known for his social activism and television commentaries apart from his corporate and VC lives. He espoused the cause of citizen activism and engaging with the state passionately and with clarity. Ramakrishna Upadhyaya, who was formerly a senior editor at Deccan Herald, ended his insights on the book with strong reasons on why it should not only be read but on the need to practice the message that the book brought out. S V Ranganath, the former chief secretary of the Govt of Karnataka and a accomplished bureaucrat spelt out how the book brought out a different paradigm of development and was filled with possible solutions to the many complex problems that one faces today. I shared on why and how i wrote the book and how I was hoping that this would lead to more discourse and dialogue on citizencentric development. The icing on the cake was the fact that many of the indigenous people who were written about in the book attended the event and Mudalimadiah, the chieftain written about as an exemplar in the book was felicitated on the occasion. What was remarkable was the fact that hall was overflowing and everyone who came did so to share in the joy and happiness that was around. Most people who sent me their feedback about the event mentioned the fact that it was one of the most fulfilling evenings that they had spent in a long time. Several remarked that the speeches were outstanding and that the event truly reflected the spirit of citizen engagement that the book espouses.
The book launch at Bengaluru was followed by the launch that we had yesterday on the 30th Sept at the Prime Minister’s office at New Delhi. Dr Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office was kind enough to spare more than an hour for us. He not only released the book but shared his views on why it was important for the voices of the people at the grassroots to be heard and acted upon. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to citizen centric development and to engaging citizens constantly in governance and public policy issues. This event was organized and coordinated by the co-publisher’s of the book, Vision India Foundation. The entire senior team of VIF, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a well known policy analyst and the head of the Public Policy Research Center and Dr M R Seetharam, my colleague and fellow traveler at SVYM were there.