Monday, 4 December 2017

National Vikalp Sangam, Udaipur: Confluence of alternatives 27-29 November, 2017

National Vikalp Sangam, Udaipur: Confluence of alternatives 

As part of the ongoing series of Vikalp Sangams (Alternatives Confluences), a national Sangam was organised on 27-29 November, 2017, at the beautiful Prakriti Sadhana Kendra of Vidya Bhawan, co-hosted by Shikshantar and Kalpavriksh. A total of about 100 people from various backgrounds, ideologies, and interests came together to share their diverse initiatives, discuss broader issues of development and radical alternatives, and build further collaborations. Ideas for the future of the Sangam process, including holding confluences on Peace in conflict zones including Kashmir and central India, Alternative Media, Community and Alternative Health, Alternative Politics/Democracy and Swaraj, Inclusion and Disability, Alternative Economies, Western Himalaya, and others were planned.

While the discussions sometimes meandered and repeated things that civil society circles have debated for decades, the incredible mix of people made for exciting moments, some scintillating sharing of history of movements and current initiatives, and earthy planning for the future. Deeper questions on ethics within/between civil society organisations, the politics of alternatives, what we even mean by 'alternatives', were flagged, some discussed in detail during (or often between!) sessions, and some kept for later reflection. John D'Souza of CED showed a half-hour film combining the previous 12 Sangams.

Overall, it was an encouraging endorsement of the need and relevance of the Vikalp Sangam process ... v. valuable for the core team at Kalpavriksh that is currently coordinating it. Separately I'll post a note on the Vikalp Sangam Core Group meeting that followed the national Sangam, which was at times difficult but in all, uplifting.

Some images:

The forested ambience was ideal for a Sangam on alternatives, with several bird species adding to the discussion

Anganwadi workers reading Vikalp Sangam posters on alternative initiatives 

Udaipur-based Millets of Mewar had some tasty and healthy biscuits! 

Bamboo grove at Prakriti Sadhana Kendra was ideal for the 3 days of discussions 

Participants out on a nature walk

Prakriti Sadhana Kendra's lovely location! 

Udaipur-based Eco-hut displayed their upcycled and other products 

Gunis (traditional healers) organised by Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti, Udaipur, explaining their practice; some participants even availed of their massaging and other services! 

Participants out on a birding and insecting walk 

Shankar Singh of MKSS regaled participants with his songs and puppetry! 

Kalpavriksh's bookstall was a hit, especially the children's books 

Three days of incredible local food including my favourite, dal-baati!


National Vikalp Sangam
27th November to 29th November 2017

Dear friend,

Vikalp Sangam is an ongoing process that started in October 2014 with an aim to provide a platform to constructively challenge the current ‘development’ paradigm, bring together practitioners, thinkers, researchers of alternative initiatives to learn from each other, build alliances and collectively evolve alternative futures that are ecologically sustainable and socio-economically equitable (please see the background attached). A website has been set up for outreach of such initiatives, and their documentation is taking place in the form of stories, articles, video clips, and other media. An evolving core group of 41 organisations (as of July 2017) has been set up to coordinate the planning of the Sangams. This October it will be three years and 10 Sangams old. We feel that it is time to review and collectively deliberate on the future of the process.

We are proposing a national level Sangam from 27th to 29th November at Udaipur, Rajasthan (hosted locally by Swaraj University and other organisations) to mainly focus on the objectives below:

1.      Share key points from the Sangams held in 2014-2017
2.      Review what we have achieved, what we have failed in doing, including exciting moments and results, disappointments, and key lessons from these.
3.      Share thoughts on the next phase of the process ... what to do in 2018-2020, how to do things better, what to change?
4.      Share the experience of linking with other networks through the Sangam of Sangam process, and its objectives of trying to mobilise people for political change.
5.      Consider resourcing for the next phase; any ways to make the process more self-sustaining?
Your participation is recommended by the members of the Vikalp Sangam Core group and we would be delighted to have you with us.

The basic costs of participation will be covered by us. This includes train/bus travel, food and stay at the Swaraj University.

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Shrishtee Bajpai ( (9198775666), Ashish Kothari ( or Manish Jain (


Alternatives Confluences across India

The severe negative impacts of the current model of ‘development’ and ‘globalisation’ include ecological destruction,
displacement of communities, disruption of livelihoods on a mass scale, and growing socio-economic inequities. Various
parts of India are already facing tension and conflicts, and many more are on a powderkeg, as a result of the upheavals
caused by a mindless pursuit of economic growth. Meanwhile all formal sectors of the economy and society are being
oriented towards feeding into this pursuit, whether it is education, R&D, markets and trade, or health.
In the midst of this dismal scenario, there are myriad attempts at generating and practicing alternatives that could not only
challenge the dominant ‘development’ paradigm, but provide viable pathways for human wellbeing that are ecologically
sustainable and socio-economically equitable. These include sustainable farming/pastoralism/fisheries/forestry,
democratic markets and worker-controlled production, community education and health approaches, cross-cultural peace
initiatives, initiatives to further class, caste, religious, racial, and gender equity, urban sustainability, holistic rural
wellbeing, and so on. These are placed within a gathering momentum to participatory (or radical) democracy and political
approaches, which provide access to all citizens to decision-making forums (rather than rely on ‘representatives’ alone),
and bring in essential governance principles like accountability and transparency.
These initiatives are showing that at local and landscape levels, there are indeed viable alternatives. However, a number of
factors severely limit their effect:

1. There is little documentation and public awareness on most of them;
2. They are mostly scattered and unlinked, often very small;
3. They are not threaded together into comprehensive frameworks or visions of an alternative society.
As a consequence, these alternative initiatives do not yet form a ‘critical mass’ capable of changing the dominant
paradigm or even providing it a formidable challenge.

The word alternative or vikalp is being used here for simplicity, while accepting that no single word can accurately and
wholly include the complexity of the concept. We understand that in many cases, these may not have emerged/ been
attempted with a motivation to challenge the dominant paradigm or pose an alternative as such but simply as a way of life
grounded in certain basic principles. Also many of these ideas, concepts and ways of life may have existed for a long
time, while others may be new.

The idea of Vikal Sangams / Alternatives Confluences

It is against this backdrop that regional gatherings of people practicing these alternatives have been initiated; to be
followed at a later stage by thematic and national gatherings. These are being called Vikalp Sangams or Alternatives
Confluences, and will provide a platform to constructively challenge and learn from each other, build alliances, and
collectively evolve alternative futures.
We are aware that there are many networks and initiatives that have brought together movements and groups on various
platforms related to this theme. But most of these are limited to individual themes or kinds of movements, e.g. struggles
against destructive ‘development’ projects, alternative health initiatives, sustainable farming work, etc. There are limited
opportunities and attempts to cut across thematic areas, bringing ecological, education, health, justice, livelihood,
market/trade, governance and other alternatives together to learn from each other. We envisage these gatherings to be such
cross-cutting ones, and to build on rather than replicate the existing/ongoing initiatives.
We also propose that minimum time will be spent at the Vikalp Sangams on the ills of the current economic/ political/
social system. There are plenty of occasions already available for this; these gatherings are predominantly focused on
alternatives. On the other hand we also do not want to fall into the trap of romanticizing these alternatives; both the pros
and cons of such initiatives should be shared.

Structure of the Vikalp Sangams

The Vikalp Sangams are not intended to be academic conferences, but rather a more free-flowing meeting of minds and
hearts. There are a series of small group sessions focused on individual themes, to enable in-depth exchange and learning,
and at least half of the time is devoted to learning across themes and movements. Opportunities to showcase the initiatives
are provided, through exhibitions, films/A-Vs, theatre and other arts, and other media. Spontaneous joint activities like art
and theatre are also attempted. The Sangams are a combination of fun, learning & unlearning, and bonding.

Participants and Venues

The Sangams will bring together practitioners, thinkers, researchers and theorists (these are not necessarily mutually
exclusive categories!) working on the broad theme of alternatives to destructive and inequitable development. The
participation could range from a few dozen to a few hundred people, depending on local situations.
Each of the Sangams will need to be hosted by a regional organization/institution that has the capacity; expenses will need
to be shared by this organization and other co-organisers, and participants. It is doubtful anyone can raise full funding for
an event like this, so costs will have to be distributed widely.

An evolving core group has been set up to coordinate the planning of the Sangams, with the following members (as of
December 2015): Kalpavriksh, Deccan Development Society (DDS), Bhoomi College, Shikshantar, Timbaktu Collective,
Development Alternatives (DA), SOPPECOM, Gene Campaign, BHASHA, Kriti Team, Centre for Equity Studies (CES),
URMUL, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), Peoples’ Science Institute (PSI), Maati, Alliance for
Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Ekta Parishad, South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy (SADED),
Knowledge in Civil Society (KICS), North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS), ACCORD, Centre
for Education and Documentation, Centre for Environment Education, reStore, ComMutiny: The Youth Collective,
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Ektha, Students’ Environmental and Cultural
Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT), Ladakh Arts and Media
Organisation (LAMO), Local Futures, Sahjeevan, Samvedana, Dharamitra, Video Volunteers, Ideosync, Greenpeace
India, MAKAAM, Sambhaavnaa, Jagori Rural, and Deer Park; and Sushma Iyengar and Dinesh Abrol. The Core Group
will keep evolving with the process.


बीजों की परंपरागत संस्कृति और खेती पद्धतियों से खाद्य सुरक्षा संभव

देशी बीजों व देशी खेती का जो परंपरागत ज्ञान हैं लोक कथाएं हैं, उनको सहेजना जरुरी है, जिससे नई पीढ़ी में यह ज्ञान हस्तांतरित हो सके. जहां देशी बीज और परम्परागत खेती जिन्दा है, वहां परम्परागत खेती और किसान भी जिन्दा है. स्थानीय मिटटी पानी के अनुकूल देशी बीजों की परम्परागत विविधता की संस्कृति को सामने लाये जाने और ऐसी खेती की पद्धतियों की चर्चा की जाए जो बिना पर्यावरण का नुक्सान किये लोगों की खाद्य सुरक्षा सुनिश्चित करें. राजस्थान के गावों में मौजूद खाद्य विकल्पों की संस्कृति को सामने लाता प्रस्तुत आलेख.

download link: 


First Vikalap Sangam
Vikalp Sangam at Timbaktu, 
1719 October 2014
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