Aruna Roy Biography

Aruna Roy, an Indian social activist and former civil servant, is known for her co-founding of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS), a grassroots organization dedicated to empowering workers and peasants. Her work with the MKSS played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Right to Information Act (RTI) in India. After witnessing the corruption within the Indian bureaucracy during her time as a civil servant, Roy decided to leave her job and join her husband in his efforts to help the poor. Together with other social activists, she founded the MKSS, which has become a major civil rights movement in India. Roy’s dedication to social and political campaigns has earned her the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

Quick Facts

  • Indian Celebrities Born In June Age: 77 Years, 77 Year Old Females
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Bunker Roy, father: Elupai Doraiswami Jayaram, mother: Hema.
  • Political Activists
  • Anti Corruption Activists
  • City: Chennai, India
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
  • Education: Convent of Jesus and Mary, Delhi, Post graduation in English literature from Indraprastha College, Delhi University.
  • Awards: Raman Magsaysay Award – 2000, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration Academia and Management – 2010

Childhood & Early Life

Aruna Roy was born on June 26, 1946, in Chennai, as the eldest child of Hema and Jayaram. She has three younger siblings. Even though she was born in Chennai, she spent much of her childhood in Delhi. Her father was a lawyer and a civil servant with a strong social conscience while her mother was a well-educated and independent-minded woman. Her parents instilled in her a deep concern for social causes and she was encouraged to be a free thinker.

She attended the conservative Convent of Jesus and Mary which was run by French and English nuns. After studying there for five years, her father had her transferred to Kalakshetra, a famous art school in Madras (now Chennai) where she studied for two years. After studying for a while in the Aurobindhu Ashram in Pondicherry, she was transferred to Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan in New Delhi from where she completed her precollegiate education. She was fluent in Hindi, English, and Tamil and on the insistence of her father, also learned French. Her parents taught her that all religions were equal and encouraged her to question the existing social norms. She chose to study English literature in college and earned her postgraduate degree from Indraprastha College, Delhi University and taught nineteenth-century literature for a year at the same college. Teaching, however, was not her passion and she aimed to become a civil servant and took the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examinations in 1967 which she cleared.


She started working in 1968. She was first posted in Tamil Nadu and was then sent to North Arcot where she gained her first experience of living in a rural community. It was here that she learned about the harsh realities of the life of rural poor. As one of the few women in the IAS, time and again she had to prove her credibility. Even though she was troubled by the red-tapism in the bureaucracy, she also learned a lot through this experience.

She got married in 1970. At the time of her marriage, she was working as a subcollector in Pondicherry. She also collected revenues and oversaw the work of other departments. She got transferred to Delhi where she was posted as a subdivisional magistrate. She had jurisdiction over six police stations and was often called to handle student unrest and elections in addition to her regular duties. While serving in Delhi she became aware of the extent of corruption in the government. She was later posted as deputy secretary for finance and then as secretary in the office of the lieutenant governor in 1973. By now she had realized that the IAS was not what she had imagined it to be. Disillusioned by the rampant corruption she was contemplating the next move in her career.

She decided to quit her job and join the Social Work and Research Center (SWRC), established by her husband. Several of her family members and friends were against her resigning from a government job, but Aruna knew it was time to follow her heart. She quit her job in the IAS in 1974. Working with the SWRC in Tilonia, Rajasthan was a very profound experience for Aruna. She worked tirelessly with the rural villagers, living with them and understanding their problems. She realized that by working at the grassroots with the rural people she was able to do more for them than as a government servant. She, along with other social activists like Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, founded the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in 1987 and from the beginning, the members decided that they would tackle one or two major issues each year. Over the years, the MKSS became one of the foremost civil rights movements in India and worked hard for the empowerment of workers and peasants and called for more transparency in the dealings of the government.

Major Works

Aruna Roy is one of the co-founders of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) which is a social movement and grassroots organization that played a key role in pushing the Indian government to enact the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Awards & Achievements

She received the Raman Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2000. The prestigious Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia, and Management was bestowed upon her in 2010.

Personal Life & Legacy

Aruna Roy married Bunker Roy, a college classmate, and a fellow social activist, in 1970. They both decided not to have any children and devoted their lives to social work.

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