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Prof. (Dr.) Ashwani Kumar

Professor , Mumbai campus
Dean, School of Development Studies
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences

In a career spanning over two and half decades teaching political science, governance, development and public policy, Dr. Ashwani Kumar has the privilege of engaging with students, academicians, diplomats, parliamentarians, development professionals, multilateral agencies and governments, across countries (UK, Germany, Korea, China, South Africa, USA) and at various levels (as professor, researcher, member of central government committees, global consortiums, multilateral projects), helping build not only rich learning and scholarship, but also a diversity of perspectives with blending of literary traditions; which he believes has helped him to achieve excellence in social sciences and policy action. In recognition of his potential to excel further in academics, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has recently awarded him the prestigious ‘Senior Fellowship’ (2016-18). He is also recipient of the Azim Premji University Research Grant 2017. His book ” Banaras and the Other’ has been long-listed for Jayadev National Poetry Award 2017. His forthcoming book is BIHARI- A Portrait of a Community'(Aleph Book Company 2019) and he is co-editor of Migration and Mobility; A Citizenship Perspecttive ( Routeldge India 2018). He is also co-founder of Indian Novels Collective(INC) to popularise translation of classic novels from Indian languages.

Committed to institutional reforms in governance of welfare programs, Ashwani Kumar is proactively involved in monitoring & evaluation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in various states & districts of India. He has served as a Member of ‘Central Employment Guarantee Council’ (CEGC), Ministry of Rural Development (GoI) and headed a Working Group of Ministry of Rural Development on Capacity Building Reforms for MGNREGA. He was also a Member of Executive Committee for ‘Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology’ (CAPART), Ministry of Rural Development and participated in the governance reforms for voluntary sector in India. He has been involved with various MGNREGA related committees of central government that included member of selection committee for Ombudsman for MGNREGA, Expert Committee on empanelment of National Level Monitors, Reforms in Job Card and Expert Group on Evaluation Studies for MGNREGA at MoRD. He has also done rapid assessment of implementation of MGNREGA and gained crucial experience in coordinating with multiple stakeholders in federal governance in more than 30 districts such as Dhar & Seoni (MP), Sheohar & Gaya(Bihar), Barabanki(UP) Seoni (MP), Dhamtari, Rajnandgaon & Sarguja(Chhattisgarh), Narmada(Gujarat) Tiruvannamali(Tamil Nadu), Bagalkote & Dharwad(Karnataka), Jalpaiguri & Bankura (West-Bengal), Ernakulam (Kerala), Dhalai (Tripura), Nizamabad, Visakhapatnam, Adilabad & Vizininagaram (Andhra Pradesh), Keonjhar & Malkangiri (Odisha) etc. He was a member of MGNREGA Appraisal Team of GIZ (German Ministry of Economic Development & Cooperation) and a Special Invitee for Alagh Committee on Revamping of National Institute of Rural Development (Ministry of Rural Development). He also served as a member of Working Group of Planning Commission of India on Postal Sector for formulating 12thplan for Department of Post; (GoI). He is also a member of academic council of Indian Institute of Forest management (Ministry of Environments & Forests, GoI).

He has obtained his PhD in Political Science under the guidance of Prof. Robert Cox from University of Oklahoma and is the recipient of “John Halvor Leek Memorial Scholarship” in recognition of outstanding academic performance in the graduate program at University of Oklahoma for three consecutive years. As a teaching assistant, he served the staff of David Boren, former Senator and President of University of Oklahoma and Edward Joseph Perkins, former US Ambassador to the United Nations. He has earlier taught at University of Delhi, University of Oklahoma and has also been a Visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at London School of Economics (London), German Development Institute (Bonn), Korea Development Institute (Seoul) North West University (South Africa) etc.

He has authored the ‘Community Warriors: State, Peasants & Private Caste Armies in Bihar’ a significant contribution to exploring the paradoxes of democracy and governance in India. With Mary Kaldor and others at London School of Economics (LSE) and Dirk Messner, Director of German Development Institute, he has co-edited the prestigious LSE Year Book on ‘Global Civil Society; Poverty and Activism’ and ‘Power Shifts and Global Governance’ respectively. He has lectured widely, nationally and internationally including University of Cambridge, University of Sussex, Center for Development Research at University of Bonn, University of Luiss( Rome), University of Chulalongkorn (Bangkok), National University of Singapore among others.

He has led several research projects that include “Online Survey & Competition among Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) Living Abroad” for Election Commission of India; ‘Inclusive Elections and Domestic Migration’ for Election Commission of India, ‘South Africa National Project on Human Rights Literacies’ in collaboration with North West University (South Africa); Project Director for Evaluation of Flagships Development Programs including MGNREGA in Manipur, Govt of Manipur etc. His international projects as project-director include, among others, ICSSR-ESRC (UK)’s partnership program for capacity building for doctoral scholars between TISS & University of Sussex. He has also been Referee for “Governance; International Journal for Policy, Public Administration and Institutions”,(US), Journal on Global Governance, Centre for the Study of Globalization and Regionalization, University of Warwick, UK, The Indian Journal of Social Work”, TISS (Mumbai) and also an examiner for doctoral research at University of Cambridge (UK).

He has been on the Search and Selection Committee for the Vice-Chancellor of a State University and the selection panels of the prestigious scholarship funding programs- The Narotam Sekshsaria Foundation Program & Inlaks Foundation Program.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Ashwani Kumar is also a widely reputed Indian English poet and his anthologies ‘My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter’ and ” Banaras and the Other’ are quite well-received. His poems- translated in Indian languages and Hungarian- noted for ‘lyrical celebration’ of garbled voices of memory and subversive ‘whimsy’ quality, have appeared in Indian Literature, Little Magazine, Indian Quarterly, International Galleria, Post-Colonial Text, Muse, among others. At leisure, he writes articles and reviews for Financial Express, Business Standard, The Hindu, Indian Express, DNA, Open Democracy, Prabhat Khabar, Outlook (Hindi) and among others.