Thursday, 15 October 2015

National Seminar on Reconstructing Development and its Discontents in India: Problems, Paradoxes and Possibilities

Following from Prof.  Dr. Bikram Keshari Mishra

ICSSR-Sponsored Two-Day National Seminar


Reconstructing Development and its Discontents in India: Problems, Paradoxes and Possibilities

 [14-15 November 2015]

Organized By

About the University
Ravenshaw University has been functioning since 15th November 2006 in Cuttack. The University, an upgradation of Ravenshaw College (subsequently achieved the status of autonomous college with CPE status by UGC and ‘A’ grade by NAAC), was established in 1868, one of the oldest and largest colleges in India. With all its scholastic achievements, the College had already established a distinct intellectual vibration in the academic landscape of India and beyond. This historic institution, in a sense, is one of the illustrious institutions in India that started to foster the idea of modern education. The institution is famous for nurturing the ideas - national unity and nationalism, promoting social mobilization and gearing up the freedom struggle in the then Odisha – that ignited the minds of thousands of individuals at several times. The institution was also a great avenue for certain historic achievements of the then Odisha: the Declaration of Orissa (present day Odisha) as a separate province on the 1st  April 1936, inauguration of Odisha’s first legislative assembly till it’s shift to Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Odisha, and the initiation of Utkal University, which is currently functioning in Bhubaneswar. Recognizing its great heritage, the Institution has been awarded as National Honour by the Government of India through the issue of a commemorative stamp in 1978. This much celebrated institution is rightly considered as one of the greatest educational institutions that India has so far produced.  
Prior to its upgradation as a University, the institution had started its first post-graduate teaching in 1922 especially in the subject of English. Currently, the University has twenty-seven departments in several disciplines; twenty-three departments are offering post-graduate programmes. The university is also offering research programmes: M. Phil, Ph. D. and  D. Litt. The Department of Sociology offers B.A. (Hons), M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes in Sociology. The department is known for its both teaching and research activities in core as well as applied areas of Sociology. The Department had successfully organized the 37th All India Sociological Conference in December 2010, the annual event of Indian Sociological Society.
About the Seminar
The trajectory of development appears somewhat dialectical. According to Sachs (1997), ‘development is a perception which models reality, a myth which comforts societies, and a fantasy which unleashes passions’. As a global discourse, the initial dialogue on development began only during the second half of the 20th century in order to envision, enunciate and emancipate the (de)colonized social reality. The development dialogue has begun to unravel and identify multiple dimensions – economic, cultural, social, political and human – in its journey in order to attain its desired goals. No wonder, the academics, policymakers and development practitioners tend to approach development through a number of paradigms – modernization, dependency, basic needs, structural adjustment, Washington Consensus, Millennium Development Goals, human-centred, participatory, bottom-up and the contemporary one i.e. sustainable – in making deeper sense of the issue. More specifically, soon after the Second World War, scholars and practitioners have sought to study the causes of poverty and so-called ‘underdevelopment’ in a more systematic and sustained way. These days, the development discourse focuses mainly on poverty reduction and improving ‘human development’ worldwide.

With little ambiguity it can be said, in fulfilling the global agenda of ‘development’, global institutions – World Bank, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, the UN agencies and the like – tend to intensify the development journey with their pro-active role. The processes of globalization, liberalization and privatization have encompassed the world community in general and continue to impinge upon levels of progress of every single nation. India is no exception.

In consonance with the world order, India has been chasing the goal of development in defense of its Constitutional ethos of democracy, socialism and people’s welfare thereby promoting social justice for all. From Sarva Siskhsya Aviyan (RTE), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), Sukanya Samridhi Yojana under Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Campaign, to Swachh Bharat Mission, Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana and the like, the country has introduced a plethora of schemes and has been making all-out effort for accelerating development and ensuring collective well-being. A thorough scrutiny of India’s Five Year Plans best illustrates the manner in which development strategies in the fields of education, polity, culture, environment, health, science and technology, industry and communication have differed from time to time.

However, the very pursuit of development in India is not free from its inherent paradox. At one level, it enriches some people, empowers them and fosters their participation; at another level,  it results in marginalization, exploitation, alienation and exclusion of others. Here is a country where empowerment and enslavement, enrichment and exclusion exist side by side. This renders development a contested terrain. There is often resistance to the very practice of development. The growing dissent and protest movements that keep appearing from time to time only represent the repressed side of development. The cases of Nandigram (West Bengal) and Kalinga Nagar (Odisha) are just tip of the iceberg. It appears the very process of development is caught in its self-refuting paradox. It incorporates some people and excludes others leading to their marginalization; it benefits one section of people and penalizes other; it is accepted by one community and rejected by another. This renders the very process of development ‘double-edged’. The situation is best articulated by the argument of Arturo Escobar when he argues: ‘Development is the last and failed attempt to complete the Enlightenment in Asia, Africa and Latin America . . . rather than search for development alternatives, we need to speak of alternatives to development’ (Escobar 1995). Development process is more known and debated for its discontents rather than its positive effects. Hence, it calls for a critical review and re-thinking of the process itself. It is in this context, the proposed national seminar finds its relevance.  The seminar represents a modest endeavour to uncover development and its discontents in India with specific reference to its various domains:  environment, health, tribe, gender, communication and the marginalization. The seminar shall revolve around the following broad sub-themes:
Seminar Sub-Themes
The Paradigm of Development: Concepts and Theories
Actors in Development: Individuals, Communities, NGOs and Civil Societies
Development and the Nature: Environment and Ecology  
Development and the Human Body:  Public Health, Care and Prevention
Democracy, Development and Deprivation: Gender, SCs and STs
Media and Development: Issues and Concern
Rethinking Development: Plans, Policies and Programmes

However, papers that may not fit in the above sub-themes but are reflective of the broad theme of the seminar are also welcome.
Travel and Accommodation              
TA will be provided to limited number of delegates only (not all). Organizers will take care of accommodation for out-station participants only on prior intimation (at least 15 days in advance of the seminar).
Deadlines to Remember
Last date for Abstract Submission: October 15, 2015.
Acceptance of Abstracts: October 16, 2015.
Submission of Full Paper: October 31, 2015.

About Cuttack
Cuttack - the cultural capital of Odisha - situated in its coastal track is one of the oldest cities with its glorious history, heritage, unique culture and scenic beauty. With the change of time, Cuttack has not failed in preserving its rich cultural distinction. It is also known as the millennium city and considered as a scenic peninsula surrounded by three rivers namely Mahanadi, Kathajodi and Kuakhai. There are certain places worth visiting in and around Cuttack city, for instance Barabati, Dhabaleswar, etc. Cuttack is just 30 km away from Bhubaneswar and is well connected to the major cities of India by air, railway and bus.

Organizing Secretary
Dr. Bikram Keshari Mishra
Reader and Head
Department of Sociology
Ravenshaw University, Cuttack
Odisha – 753 003, INDIA
Mobile: +91-9439849565, 09438246624

A glimpse into Bihar's SHGs and Gram Varta

Following from Sagar Atre:

Updates from the GV Evaluation Qualitative survey

The usual narratives of rural Bihar are of lawlessness, abject poverty and living conditions far below standards considered acceptable. For many years now, Bihar has been considered one of the ‘sick’ states of India. Sini Varghese, an MA student of the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) recently visited the Madhepura district of Bihar for a survey. The survey was part of an impact evaluation of a project called Gram Varta, that a team from IITGN is conducting.
Gram Varta is a program aimed at improving vital aspects of villagers’ life such as the health and nutrition of women and young children, sanitation practices, and use of clean drinking water, among others. 
The project is being implemented by Jeevika, an autonomous society of the Government of Bihar and is funded by the Department of International Development (DFID) of the Government of UK. A team of researchers led by researchers from the University of Gottingen, Germany and IIT Gandhinagar and Harvard University have been tasked with conducting an external impact evaluation of this implementation. The results of the impact evaluation will be used to assess the replicability of this program in other regions.
The theory behind Gram Varta is simple. A facilitator from among the members of SHGs in the villages of Bihar will conduct 20 meetings with the frequency of one meeting every month. Some meetings will be conducted with the entire village. At every meeting, the facilitator will initiate activities and discussions and use interactive games to inform and inspire SHG members about the importance of adequate nutrition, proper sanitation, maintaining clean water supply, daily practices of hygiene and the importance of nutrition for women, adolescent girls, young children and the dangers of malnutrition. 
By the time 20 meetings are completed, the program aims to get the community together, to enable it to deliberate and analyze its own problems, know the solutions, apply them and monitor success. For improvement in use of government facilities like the Primary health centers, Anganwadi centers and ASHAs, Gram Varta seeks to empower the community members to demand for these services and compel the government to fulfill those demands.
Varghese’s survey was aimed to understand the knowledge and attitudes of women in rural Bihar about their health, their rights as women, their importance in the family among some other parameters. She found that there are vast disparities in the attitude of women in rural Bihar as compared to many urban women of India. While urban women are now shaking off the many forms of male subjugation and violence, domination by husbands and family members is a normal state for women in Bihar. She notes, “Few women even think that they deserve something better than what they have. For them, getting beaten by their husbands occasionally, eating when everyone else is done and not being able to even speak to their fathers-in-law is a usual phenomenon. Their nutrition, health issues are often noticed only when they are very severe.”
The medium of SHGs, the main vehicle of change for Gram Varta however, is proving to be a boon for the women according to Varghese, “They are a place where women share their thoughts and concerns and can speak openly without fearing family members. Many women shared their newly acquired abilities of being able to operate bank accounts due to the SHGs, a hugely empowering experience for women who had not travelled outside their own areas. The SHGs are a great source of financial help instead of banks and predatory private money lenders.” The SHGs have hence given women an important platform to get out of their routines, save for the family and improve their own financial security. 
Although money and financial security are major motivations for families to approve of women being part of SHGs, the women themselves say the SHGs are one activity where the usually strict familial norms are much less stringent since the groups are all attended by women from their own village and indulge in constructive activities for their families and the village.
The attitudes and beliefs of community members are an important hurdle to cross while seeking to bring about change in any community. Unlike the middle class in cities, where basic knowledge about health and sanitation is often assumed, knowledge and attitudes about health can be drastically different in villages. Varghese found that toilets were built and used only in some households, and hand-washing too was not a regular practice. Other health-related aspects like breastfeeding, not marrying off women until marriageable age is attained, the importance of adequate nutrition for women, adolescent girls and children are not areas where knowledge can be assumed. Varghese says, “Women’s health and nutrition are especially not given priority. Nor are their health needs fulfilled promptly. For example, it is considered unsafe for women to go out of homes to go to toilet in the fields after dark and women are dissuaded from doing so. This causes women to be denied the simple privilege of going outside their homes after dark. Moreover, the attitude of blaming women for assaults because they were out late at night further restricts their rights.”
Finally, even though the government seeks to provide health services in rural areas, few people trust the system. “People said that the government dispensaries and primary health centers are always understaffed, they don’t have the resources or medications and if they do have staff, the staff are rude and dismissive of the patients’ complaints. People go to private doctors or quacks and seek treatment. They feel they get better care from them because they pay money and are treated with some semblance of dignity. Of the three villages I visited, women of only one village stated that their local ASHA (the village health worker) and other health centers were working properly. Residents of the other two villages reported absenteeism.”
Health programs earlier have sought to address health programs from the supply and administrative side of the process. The Gram Varta program however, seeks to make people the main agents of change in this process. An earlier implementation of this program in Odisha by an organization called Ekjut, which implemented it with the state government was very successful. The program envisions that an empowered, informed and united village will be able to get much more done and will demand health and ancillary services from state, district and block level officials, and that this bottom-up demand for services and care will ultimately improve the health and living conditions of the villagers of rural Bihar.