Through struggles for the right to minimum wages and employment, Aruna Roy (born 1946) united the people of central Rajasthan under the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). In 1994, the MKSS began the Right to Information movement. What started as a local intervention against corruption now stands as a national movement that has won freedom of information laws in ten states and at the center. The way in which Aruna bridged the interests of the middle class and the impoverished is remarkable.
Aruna Roy left a lucrative career in the civil services to join the Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC) in Tilonia village in Rajasthan in 1975. At the SWRC, she set about replacing the top-down approach to development and facilitated the evolution of the concepts of group action and rural women's leadership. In 1986, she moved to central Rajasthan to work with workers and peasants. Through the struggles for minimum wages and employment in a chronically drought-affected area, the people came together on one platform-the MKSS. In 1994, the MKSS initiated the Right to Information movement through a series of public hearings, which it also used very effectively to expose corruption. Central Rajasthan is today edging toward a corruption-free Panchayati Raj zone, for the corrupt are scared of public humiliation. This "model" is now being used to bring accountability to most government schemes in the social sector. In 2003, the Right to Information was also connected to the process of elections, with the support of MKSS and the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. In 2000, Aruna's work was acknowledged by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. She is now involved in advocating with the government that an employment guarantee act be formulated nationally, to give the dispossessed a level chance at obtaining livelihood options. The most unique feature of Aruna's leadership is her ability to connect macro and micro issues to build a continuum of struggle. The manner in which she bridged the interests of the middle class and the impoverished on the issue of the right to information is remarkable. It is the simplicity that counts: that the collective exercise of a right can force the establishment to acquiesce.
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)