There was a major debate during the 1960's among professional social workers, especially social work educators on the issue whether Labour Welfare (L. W), Personnel Management (P.M) and Industrial Relations (I.R) was a field of social work. The Association of Schools of Social Work in India (A.S.S.W.I) decided to appoint a committee to deliberate on this issue and submit a report. The members of the committee were: Prof. M. Vasudeva Moorthy, at that time Head, Dept. of Social Work and Sociology, Andhra University, and was earlier at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (T.I.S.S) teaching Social Pathology and L.W.P.M.I.R. as it was known in abbreviation.
He was also responsible for starting a specialization course in L.W.P.M at TLS.S around 1948 and thus a pioneer in India, for starting the course. Another member was Mr.K.N. Vaid who was at the Sriram Centre for Industrial Relations, New Delhi and was the founder editor of its journal, Journal of Industrial Relations. He is an alumnus of Delhi School of Social Work and had taught at the Xavier Institute, Ranchi and the Delhi School of Social Work. He had published a well known book 'State and Labour in India', Asia Publishing House, and a small book based on research-Labour Welfare Officer, Delhi School of Social Work. He was also a Visiting Professor of Personnel Management and Industrial Relations at the Hong Kong University for two years. The third member was Prof. L.S. Kudchedkar, Head, Dept. of L.W, P.M and I.R at T.I.S.S (Convener). I was the fourth member, to represent the social work point of view, though this was not stated officially. We met only once during 1966 at D.S.S.W after some exchange of views by correspondence before the meeting. We deliberated for about an hour and a half and came to the unanimous decision: Labour welfare is part of social work. Some part of P.M like employee counseling could be considered as part of social work. I.R and P.M was not social work. To put it briefly, P.M and I.R was not a field of social work. The report was drafted by Prof. Kudchedkar, signed by all of us and submitted to the A.S.S.W.I a few weeks later. I do not know whether that report had any role to play in T.I.S.S deciding to separate L.W.P.M and LR as a separate specialization, and to award a M.A degree after T.I.S.S became a deemed University in 1965. This decision, "surgical separation" the phrase used by P. T Thomas, was not liked by some of the well-known T.I.S.S alumni such as John Barnabas (1st batch of T.I.S.S) who was U.N Advisor on Social Welfare to Ethiopia and later Founder-Director of the National Institute of Public Co-operation (NIPCCD), M.C.Nanavetty, Dr.M.S.Gore's classmate at T.I.S.S and Advisor on Community Development to the Ministry of Community Development and a few more T.I.S.S alumni, who wrote a letter expressing their opposition to the decision taken by TI.S.S and asking it to reconsider it and it was addressed to the Chairman, Board of Governors, T.I.S.S. The Director of T.I.S.S Dr.M.S.Gore found himself in a difficult situation and had to defend the decision as best as he could. I wrote a separate letter, addressed to the Director, Dr.M.S.Gore, supporting the decision taken by T.I.S.S to separate L. W.P.M and I.R from social work.
Later some attempt was made by a few social work academics to develop a new field of specialization or at least a course called 'Industrial Social Work'.
The second instance of surgical separation took place, due to the persistent efforts of Patrudu, a T.I.S.S. alumnus, at the Dept. of Social Work and Sociology at Andhra University, when L.W.P.M.I.R became a separate Department. The third instance was in the early 1990's at Jamia Millia Islamia, Dept. of Social Work. A new Dept. of H.R.D came into existence; I was at the J.M.I as Visiting Professor around that time and did play some role in this "surgery".
Rtd. Professor of Social Work, Delhi University
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