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Vinod Raina did not just critique existing policies, he offered alternatives.
India is perhaps unique in having a strong movement of indigenously supported social organisations engaged in constructive work aimed at the socio-economic uplift of the poor. In the first couple of decades after Independence, such work mainly involved Gandhians like Devendra Kumar in Wardha or Ravindra Upadhyaya in Assam working with grassroots cooperatives in khadi and village industries, and a small stream of communists such as A.K. Gopalan, who organised workers in the beedi and coffee industries, founding famous workers’ cooperatives like the Coffee Board and Ganesh Bidi.
In the 1970s, a new breed of socially committed intellectuals emerged who would play a transformative role in civil society, especially as regards the societal role of science and technology. Highly qualified scientists, engineers and professionals like C.V. Seshadiri, S.S. Kalbag, M.P. Parameswaran, Ashok Khosla, Bunker Roy, Dunu Roy, Anil Sadgopal and others left solid careers in academia, industry or public administration and set up new grassroots institutions and worked in the areas of appropriate technology, education and skill-building, or science communication, challenging the dominant narrative and institutional frameworks of science, technology and education in the country. These pioneers had widely differing viewpoints and visions of what could be achieved. Some among them, with a decidedly left orientation, located themselves within a wider perspective, both in terms of their ideas and as part of a larger movement. And others were to link their specific concerns, experiments and institution-building with a wider transformative politics.
Vinod Raina, who passed away on September 12, was one of this illustrious pantheon, perhaps among the last in this first wave. Having come out of Delhi University’s Physics department with a doctorate to initially join Sadgopal’s Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme, Vinod founded Eklavya to work on path-breaking and innovative science-teaching curriculum, materials and pedagogy. From the experimental fringe, Eklavya’s science textbooks and teaching methods came close to becoming part of the formal system, at least in Madhya Pradesh, before the inevitable resistance and establishment blowback. But not before it had come to be lauded and accepted by all serious educationists as a major breakthrough, with many of its methods and teaching aids finding their way into mainstream teaching.
Vinod, however, was not content to remain in a science-teaching pigeonhole. He readily saw that the problems bedevilling science education in India were part of a much larger malaise and could not