The Foundation Lecture ‘Delivered’ at the J S S Department of Social Work, Mysore
*This piece of writing, perhaps, is one of the last writings of Dr. P.T.Thomas, a well-established social work educator and a very bold thinker of his times. Dr. Thomas, whom a adored for his scholarship and sharp intellect, had accepted our invitation to deliver the first foundation lecture at the J.S.S. Post-Graduate Deptt. of Social Work, Mysore (Established in 2001), when I was the director of that Deptt. during 2002-2003. Unfortunately due to his Illhealth, which did not allow him to travel from Bangalore to Mysore, we had to post-pone the programme which we could not organize at all. It is sad we lost that precious Social Work Personality recently at his ripe age of 90 in April 2012. However, we are fortunate in publishing, his undelivered lecture here posthumously. We pray for his soul to have heavenly bliss.
20, May 2012
Mr. Chairman and Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like, first of all, to thank the authorities of the J.S.S. department of Social Work, affiliated to the University of Mysore, for inviting me to deliver this Foundation Lecture. I am sorry that my age and its related infirmities do not permit me to be personally present here to deliver the lecture, but had to request that arrangements may be made to have this read out by someone.
My connections with this department have been negligible. I remember the beginnings of social work course at the Mysore University, sometime in the mid 1960's, when I had some talks with Dr. Parvathamma, the then head of the department of Sociology here, about the starting of Social Work in this university, as an addition to the department of Sociology. And then, for a couple of years in the sixties I was an examiner to the students of Social Work of this University. And then, many more years later, when I was nearing my retirement from Social Work education, Dr. Parvathamma did tell me that she wanted to send up my name to the University Grants Commission for appointment as a Visiting Professor in this department. I would have enjoyed that assignment if it did come through, but for some reason nothing came of it. Well, that completes, as far as I recall, the brief story of my connections with this department.
I retired from Social Work education twenty one years ago after a long span of thirty three years in the line, starting with a lectureship in the Faculty of Social Work of the M.S. University of Baroda in 1951, and ending with a fifteen-year- long Principalship of the Indore School of Social Work of the University of Indore, but holding in between the headship of two other schools of Social Work in India for varying periods of time, namely, the Schools at Madras and Udaipur. When I retired in 1984, I retired completely, without even a shadow of Social Work education trailing me, which means, in other words, that I have been blamelessly out of touch with the subject since then. I am therefore under some apprehension that my reflections on the future of Social Work education in India may seem rather out of date, and perhaps not entirely relevant to the situation as it now obtains. I pray, therefore, that my remarks may be taken with due allowance to an overview that has gone somewhat rusty in the passage of time.
Considering the astonishing rapidity with which Social Work education appears to spread and flourish in India, with a notably determined thrust in the last ten years, the question that I am addressing in this paper may seem misplaced, if not foolish. Social Work as professional education was slow to take on in India in the early years. Planted first in Bombay in 1936 as an exotic plant brought over from the United States by an American missionary by the name Clifford Manshardt, with support from the House of Tatas, the Institute, originally named the Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work, re-christened the Tata Institute of Social Sciences eight years later, remained the sole institution of this nature for the first ten years. A second one came along, ten years later, in 1946, when the YWCA in India (Young Women's Christian Association) laid the foundations for a School of Social Work in Delhi, which in later years was merged with the Delhi University as a teaching department of the university, but continued to be known as the Delhi School of Social Work.
For a long time, say, until well into the 1960's Social Work did not find easy acceptance in the universities, and among conservative educationists and scholars as a subject worthy of admittance for a post-graduate university degree. This was particularly true of the more conservative south Indian universities. Madras University was pretty disdainful of even Sociology as a fit subject for university teaching despite its widespread popularity in most other Indian universities. It was not until 1968 or so that Madras created a Chair for Sociology. The point, then, is that Social Work was slow in catching university attention in India for a post-graduate degree. Dr.J.M.Kumarappa, who succeeded Dr.Manshardt as Director of the Tata Institute sometime around 1940 - and stayed as Director until his retirement in about 1955, did very considerable public relations work for Social Work as a spokesman for the discipline whenever and wherever he had an opportunity for public contacts. He traveled to nearly all the state capitals in India, and to other cities, and addressed audiences at public meetings that were arranged for him by his local contacts, or by former students. He never sought university affiliation for the Tata Institute, and was indeed of the view that it was better for a School of Social Work to remain independent of university rules and conditions because it then had greater freedom to change courses as thought necessary, and to experiment with educational and research practices as best suited the profession. In the 1940's he used to express the wish to see four Schools of Social Work in India, one each for east and west, and north and south. In the event, as years passed, his wish was so riotously fulfilled to an extent he couldn't have imagined, that, were he alive today he might well have rued, "I sowed a wind, and reaped a whirlwind". I don't imply that he is responsible for the unbridled expansion of Social Work, the MSW of popular understanding; I am only pointing to the wholly unforeseen manner in which the subject has proliferated, so much so that it has become routine for any ordinary Arts and Science college to advertise the MSW as one of the attractions it offers.
I do not intend to go into the historical development of Social Work education in India, but it may help for a contrast with the present situation to touch briefly on the early phase. Delhi was the first university in India to grant affiliation to a School of Social Work for the Master's degree in Social Work. I believe the degree they grant is MA (SW) rather than the MSW of popular parlance. The first university to institute the degree of MSW was the M.S. University of Baroda in 1950. This university is also the first in the country to raise Social Work to the status of an independent Faculty, rather than a department within a larger Faculty such as the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the only one to do so. At about the same time or a little before that, the Kashi Vidyapeeth of Varanasi added to its educational departments one of Social Work, but called it Applied Sociology. The degree they award - which they can, because they are a deemed university - is MAS (Master of Applied Sociology). While all this was happening, the mother school of all, the Tata Institute, stayed academically independent without university affiliation, and therefore unentitled to award a degree; they awarded instead the Dip.S.S.A. (Diploma in Social Service Administration) until well into the 1970's when, on being raised to the status of a deemed university, they could devise and award their own degrees, which I believe is MA (SW). The South was slower in the creation of a Social Work institution, but didn't lag behind for too long, for in 1952 the Guild of Service of Madras, a voluntary social service organization, founded the Madras School of Social Work, which quickly caught the attention of prospective students from not only the four southern states, but also from far beyond in the east and the north. Sometime in the late 'forties, an Institute of Personnel Management and Social Welfare was founded in Calcutta on private initiative; not a full-fledged school of Social Work, but one that offered short-term courses of six months or so, but soon gained official recognition as adequate qualification for appointment of its diploma holders as Welfare Officers in factories, as required under the Factories Act, 1948.
By the end of the 1950's a few more teaching facilities for Social Work, either as independent schools of Social Work, or as departments of colleges or universities, came up. Three of these were founded by some Order or the other of the Roman Catholic Church - the Rajgiri College of Social Sciences, at Kalarnaserry near Ernakulam, offering social work as one of its courses, the College of Social Work at the Nirmala Niketan in Bombay, and the department of Social Work of the Loyolla College in Madras. (I may mention at this point that yet another School of Social work was founded under Catholic auspices – at Mangalore this time – by an Order of nuns whose chief mission is education: this is the Roshini Nilaya, which was affiliated to the Mysore university for the MSW; but I think this happened some time in the late ‘sixties.) The others were the department of Social Work of the Andhra University at Waltair, the department of Social Work of the Indore Christian College at Indore in Central India (which later became an independent School of Social Work) and the Udaipur School of Social Work founded by the Rajasthan Vidyapith at Udaipur in Rajasthan. There may have been one or two others too but they don't readily come to mind. A School of Social Work came up at Pune too about this time, possibly in the early 'sixties, known as the Karve Institute of Social Work, under the auspices of the Maharshi Karve Educational Trust. It was perhaps about this time too that the beginnings of Social Work education were laid in Karnataka when the Karnataka University at Dharwad opened a department of Social Work. Thus, by the end of the 1960's, there were about a dozen two-year, post-graduate teaching facilities for Social Work, several of them independent Schools affiliated to the local university, some as departments of the ordinary Arts and Science Colleges, two as departments of teaching universities, and one as an independent Faculty of a university. Nearly every major region of the country had a Social Work teaching facility leading to a Master's degree. One notable exception was the eastern region comprising West Bengal, the North - Eastern States, and Bihar and Orissa, but that didn't seem to matter too much because quite a considerable number of students in Schools of Social Work elsewhere were drawn from this part of the country. Leaders in Social Work education were beginning to feel uneasy that we were perhaps having a few too many Schools of Social Work, which was likely to become a threat to good standards in the teaching and in the training practices that had been tested and found useful in a quarter-century of Social Work education. If that was how things were at the beginning of the 1960's, what obtains today is perfectly alarming. I do not have the precise statistics, but I heard someone say recently that we have today well over two hundred so-called Social Work education facilities in India, and we haven't reached the end of the deluge, for nothing has been done, nor is likely to be done, to dam the flow. Ordinary Arts, Science and Commerce colleges jump routinely into offering and advertising the MSW as one of their courses. They are obviously of the view that the MSW is just one of those courses like the MA or the M.Com that can comfortably flow in the college stream. If it is good enough to draw a few students, it is well worth the expense of employing a lecturer to teach the course. To anyone concerned with the health and standards of Social Work education in the country this kind of mindless proliferation of advertised courses would seem to strike fatally at the very roots of professional training for Social Work. Social Work training at the post- graduate level involves a two-year period of concerted efforts: first, in the classroom teaching of a number of basic courses such as the social sciences, including research methodology, mainly in the first year, and a number of different courses specific to the fields and issues in social work in the second year. The second is field practice which is of very considerable importance in shaping up the would-be social worker to be a professional person with practical acquaintance with issues and situations that he or she might face in a future employment. A third aspect is training in social investigation which is a necessary skill for one whose work is likely to involve the organized study of given situations in the complex social milieu. Traditionally, this three-pronged approach is the pattern of training for professional social work, and each has its own vital contribution to the manner and method through which a young person, often fresh from a first degree course with little or no involvement in society at large and in human relations, is conditioned under staff supervision and guidance to become reasonably competent and self-confident to take on responsibilities in one or other of the many different situations in which he might be placed in his post-training phase. Some Schools insist also on a period of supervised block placement of the candidate, to the duration of three to six months, in an institutional setting, very much like the one-year internship of the medical student, before he is considered qualified for his degree.
Social Work training is not merely the passing of an examination in a few text- book subjects: That is possibly the least part of it. More than that, it is the shaping of a personality to the end that the possessor of it will react to situations that confront him in his job and in society at large in ways that are thoughtful, informed, self-confident mature and balanced. This kind of development of the person might be expected to come through in a setting in which he is continually obliged to exercise his unaided initiative and judgement. Never mind if he makes mistakes; he can always seek counsel of his teachers and supervisors who, in an admirable situation of a teacher- student ratio that is as small as 1:10 or about that, can be easily accessed. Social Work training is thus essentially a matter of inter-action, communication and thoughtful judgement in the light of everything that plays a part in a given situation. There is no bag of rules, least of all a set of remembered text-book principles to apply to a situation: each one is unique, and you are called upon to deal with it as best as one might within the limited resources. The many different experiences that a student is passed through in the course of the two-year training course, be it the classroom, the field practice in agencies of many different descriptions outside the school, the application of the skills of social investigation in obligatory research participation in activities within the institution, interactions with teachers and field work agency, personnel and fellow-students, learning to use the library selectively, the inevitable though un-self-conscious development of leadership skills - it is these that go to the making of the social worker. The raw graduate from our large Arts and Science colleges is hardly ever exposed to challenging social situations in his college days, so it is a different thing altogether for him when he becomes a part of a professional course such as Social Work. It is precisely this difference that works its subtle changes in the personality of the young person. This cannot be achieved when Social Work is offered on a platter of a large multi-disciplinary college as one of its attractions among the many.
There was a time when Social Work education had value for its usefulness in certain areas of activity, and some distinction arising from its apparent rarity. Success stories of some social workers often trigger the spurt for starting more institutes or departments of social work, including departments in the run-of-the-mill colleges. Such haphazard grouth is no good to the profession. Medical education is a good thing, but you do not need a medical college for each taluk, not even one for each district. Such unwise multiplication will only defeat the purpose, and give a bad name to medical education. Quality is more to be desired than numbers. Excess beyond reasonable need brings with it an element of self-destruction. The lemming, a small Norwegian rodent, multiplies incredibly in certain years, well beyond food sources to sustain such large numbers. When that happens multitudes of them commit self-destruction by hurling themselves over cliffs into the sea. We seem almost to be in danger of the lemming situation with regard to the countless multiplication of self-styled Social Work facilities, most of them without any idea of what it takes to offer a good course, and without any assessment of need. Suitable employment for social workers is a very limited thing in our country. Opening the flood gates of supply against trickles of opportunities for absorption will only create a self-destroying syndrome.
In medical, dental and engineering education there are checks and balances through national level authorities in the shape of All-India Councils that exercise control over both unbridled expansion and the standards of education. No such controlling authority exists in Social Work education although voices had been raised from time to time, and resolutions passed at Conferences, for creating an Indian Council for Social Work education to keep an authoritative eye on mindless expansion, and with powers to refuse accreditation to institutes and departments that were in excess of need or fell short of acceptable standards. The Central government never woke to the need, and nothing exists to exercise a check. I think there is a danger of perishing for sheer numbers unless we find ways to rein in the spurt as well as to weed out the unsatisfactory and the unwanted. Mass-produced plastics can serve their short-term purposes in the absence of better things but they are not what defines furniture for home and office.
A second threat to the prestige of Social Work comes, and indeed has already come in very noticeable ways, from a later arrival in the Indian professional scene, the Management Schools. It may at first seem odd that Management and Social Work should compete as if for grounds for which both lay claims, because, after all, the two operate at different planes altogether, and needn't come close enough ever to be a reason for actual or potential conflicts. A little explanation will make clear how and where the competing claims operate. Unlike in other countries where Social Work education is an established professional discipline, in India we had from the beginnings added on to Social Work a field of concern that is uniquely its own. And this is what may be broadly termed as Welfare in Industry, but often bears more explicit titles such as Labour Welfare, Personnel Management, Industrial Relations, but with a common subject shared by all, namely, a substantial amount of Labour Legislation, especially where it impinges on health, welfare, security and employment in factories under the Factories Acts, trades union, workmen’s compensation in the event of sickness, accidents or death in the cours of work, employment of women and children, maternity leave, and industrial disputes. Quite a substantial part of the syllabus of Social Work is occupied by what may be comprehensively called the Labour Content, or simply Labour. The time spent on Labour in the Schools, both in class-room instructions and in field placements, occupy almost a half of the entire time in the two year. I should think that Labour, in the sense explained above, had been incorporated in Social Work training right from its inception in Bombay in the mid-1930's, probably as a response to the discerned problems of the teeming industrial labour in the then highly industrialized city of Bombay with its several scores of large textile mills and other manufacturing units. It must have occurred to the pioneers that social work has a useful and constructive role in making life better and easier for the industrial labour, which later included mines labour such as in the large coal mines of central and eastern India, and the large mass of plantation labour such as in the tea, coffee, jute and rubber estates. Interestingly , most of the early graduates of Tata School became in the later life eminent pioneers in the labour field in Bombay, Calcutta, Nagpur, Dhanbad and elsewhere. In some degree they became the role models for many of the later students of the School. Little wonder, then, that all Schools founded in later years, taking the Tata School as their model, incorporated Labour in their own training programmes. Nor has this, to my knowledge, ever been given up. The main reason has been the obvious one: in Labour lay the jobs for the social worker in India, not entirely, but to a large extent. What's more, jobs in Labour were the more coveted ones, not only for the higher salaries, but for the prospects of rising to better positions in industrial administration, especially in the area of personnel management. It cannot be gainsaid, that the main attraction for Social work education, especially among men students, is the presumed prospect of employment in industry. Chances of finding jobs in factories, mines and estates, are better if one held the MSW qualification. In the Factories Act of 1948 it was made mandatory for factories employing more than five hundred workers to employ welfare officers who possessed the Social Work degree from an approved institution. This opened up more opportunities for social workers to be employed in factories; and even more when this requirement was extended to mines and plantations.
Social Work in India may be likened to the Ardhanareeswara, the half-male and half-female deity. Labour is the male half; and conversational Social Work mainly of the American model, is the female half. The two halves are uncomfortable in each other's company, but it can't be helped: the union is inseparable. Did I say inseparable? Not quite so, for a separation was achieved some years ago in at least one famous institution. The Tata Institute split the two, as like a surgeon skillfully separating con-joined twins by a surgical operation. The Institute offers Labour, or rather the MA in Personnel Management in one stream, and Social Work, in another stream. Nor is this a mid-way option for students: at the very admission to the Institute they are admitted in the one or the other and they stay there till completion after two years. This is perhaps the most satisfactory arrangement, but how many Schools in India can afford to run the two streams with adequate staff, library and other facilities for each? It is rather like running two colleges under one roof and one Head. If a chronicle of success stories of social workers in India were written up, it is quite certain that the predominant numbers will be of men who, starting in their early twenties at lowly positions in the Welfare or Personnel departments of large industries or commercial houses, rose to positions of high responsibility, power, salaries and perks in that line by the time they were in their forties. Stories of such success, and of the more prolific middle level successes, get bruited about by word of mouth, and many an ambitious young man with a university degree, looking for a career to choose, soon comes to hitch his ambitions to the MSW.
I must not omit mention of some other success stories of social workers such as a few in the service of the United Nations as Welfare Advisors and consultant in the developing countries, and the few who rose to positions of importance in the Planning Commission or its related bodies, and in the social welfare departments of state government. But these are the exceptions, and so are the links of Medha Patkar who are in the forefront of social activism on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the victims of human rights violations.
But this is not Social Work as properly understood, this is something quite other, something that falls in the area of Management, some would say. And, much to the distress of Social Work, they have been proved right. This is the point I am coming to: an area that used to be the happy hunting ground of many a male MSW has already been largely invaded by the Management Schools, very particularly the Management students who have specialized in what is called the HRD, Human Resources Development. In our contemporary high-tech age in industries and commerce, the HRD is preferred to the MSW for the many different functions that fall within the ambit of policy and administration in the area of Personnel. Schools of Social Work are partly to blame for this erosion, this loss of territory. For one thing, most Schools lack the staff, training methods, the accessories of training, the rigors of discipline and the sophistication to compete against the Management institutes. Secondly, although Social Work had a head-start of a quarter-century over the Management Schools in India, it has been relatively low-profile in the field of professions in India, so it has by and large tended to draw students of a somewhat lower caliber than students who have entered the Management Schools, often as the select few among the many who have competed for entry.
I say this, then. When we ask ourselves the question as to what future Social Work has in India, these are the two things that stare us in the face: first, the unbearable, and at the same time avoidable, weight of numbers. Overabundance of anything is always counter-productive to quality and usefulness. We must guard against Social Work becoming the mass-produced moulded plastics, or to revert to my earlier analogy, the lemmings that, on out-running food resources, commit mass suicide.
The second unhappy prospect is that of Social Work inevitably surrendering territory to Management, the better-armed adversary. Before, say, the 1970's, when the Management Sciences began to gain ascendancy in the areas of human relations and personnel administration, Social Work training, especially what I call the male half of it, or the Labour half, was the nationally acknowledged and recognized qualification for careers in Welfare in Industry, in Industrial Relations, in Personnel Management, and the related areas of these in industry, mines, estates, and anywhere else where trained personnel were required for expert assistance. The decade of the 1970's was a grey area, more or less, when employers weren't too sure whether the personnel that best answered their needs were the MSW's or the MBA's. From the early 'eighties, however, the balance began to tilt in favour of the MBA or its equivalent qualification awarded by the growing number of Management Schools, some of which were very decidedly of standards that were as good as the best in the world. Management Schools were either generously endowed, or they could charge very high tuition fees to meet their needs and would still find their portals thronged with the hopefuls who sought entry into them. The repercussions on Social Work has been that a considerable number of jobs in the Labour and Management areas that used almost to be the prerogative of the MSW went to the MBA. Salaries of the MBA's were phenomenally high, particularly since the globalization of the '90's, but managements were apparently prepared to pay the high salaries; not only prepared, they were in competition with each other at campus recruitments in order to try and draw the best of the bunch unto themselves. The Social Worker didn't seem to stand much of a chance against this. It is perhaps the lesser managements, the ones who couldn't afford, or didn't want to, hire the high-priced MBA's, who plumped for the MSWs. This is only in respect of what I call the male half of Social Work education. Management Schools haven't, so far as we know, encroached upon the female half territory of Social Work where lie the lesser-paid jobs and the fewer ones at that, in such areas as Medical and Psychiatric Social Work, institutional services in care of the disabled, careers in criminology and corrections, jobs in the Social Welfare departments of governments, research jobs in planning departments,
Placements in the growing field of administrative and field services in the NGO's and donor agencies, and anywhere else where the skills of case work and community organization can find application. I suppose this area of Social Work employments will continue unchallenged for a long time, but these are, with but a few exceptions, comparatively low-profile jobs that may not add much lustre to Social Work as the Labour jobs might.
It is perhaps a good thing for the eventual good of Social Work education in India that it has powerful rivals to compete with for positions that were once its prerogative, for this may trigger more concerted efforts to make Social Work a discipline of vitality and efficacy in the social sector. But the fight may be unequal. The Management Schools, not all but a good many among them (the virus of over-production is affecting them too), start off with an advantage over us: they can choose candidates from a larger number. They often get the cream from amongst the graduates from many disciplines, so that the basic ingredient they work on possesses on the average a superior quality in gifts of the intellect, in social intelligence, and in competence for communication. This last, the ability to communicate well, is, to my mind, particularly important. I do not know if the Management Schools have built-in devices to sharpen their students' ability to communicate clearly and intelligently both in writing and in speech; perhaps they have for otherwise their students will not be able to survive in a world of high competitions. Schools of Social Work do not do enough to sharpen the communication skills of their students. In human relations and management this skill gives better returns eventually than memorized theories and principles. The prospective employer is more concerned with whether you can react to questions and given situations with intelligence, good sense clarity and confidence than whether you have a good memory for the text-book principles that you might have learned in the School. I have sometimes heard well-meaning employers with all the goodwill in the world for Social Work lament that many of the MSW candidates who appear before them fare poorly at interviews because they can't express themselves well.
Let us remember in this context that we do not misjudge the importance of competence of students in the written and spoken expressions of the English language for successful careers in any field we may have to draw upon the strengths of the English language for a long time yet as a pragmatic necessity in our struggles to get ahead economically and socially. I would suggest that Schools of Social Work should take on the additional task, which is also one of considerable practical relevance and utility, of helping students to improve their communication skills, whatsoever the means by which this might be brought about. Simply put, they must learn to speak and write English that is at least passable, if not of a high level of excellence; they can't otherwise stand up to meet the competition in the world outside. I would add too that the present-day social worker should be computer-literate.
I hope my prognosis doesn't sound gloomy. As I said in the beginning, I am out of touch with Social Work education in India in the last two decades. I may have been wrong all along, so that as a matter of fact Social Work is in good health, and flourishing, despite its contemporary over-abundance in mindless expansion, and despite the challenge to one important branch on which the Schools used to thrive historically. I will be happy to be proved wrong in my prognostic reflections.
And finally, friends, may I take this opportunity to wish the best of luck success and happiness to all students of this department, past and present, and a/so to all members of the Faculty and others who are concerned with the training of Social Workers in this Institute.
Born in a Central Travancore village in 1922, Thomas had his college education at the Union Christian College, Alwaye, Kerala, where he obtained the B.A. (Philosophy) of the Travancore University. He did post-graduate studies in Social Administration at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Bombay, and in later years, while employed as a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Work of the Baroda University, he simultaneously worked for a doctorate in Sociology of the Baroda University under the late Dr M.N. Srinivas, the then Professor of Sociology at Baroda. He did post-doctoral studies in the Social Sciences in the Manchester University on a British Council scholarship in 1955-56. His first acquaintance with Quakers was in 1946 when he joined the Friends Service Unit in India to assist them in their relief projects in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), and in South India. (The Friends Service Unit, a relief organization, was founded by the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, in Britain and the USA.) It was then too that he first met Marjorie Sykes.
Starting on an academic career at Baroda in 1951, Thomas stayed with teaching and college administration until his retirement from active academic work in 1984. In the course of those thirty-three years, he successively headed three Schools of Social Work in India - Madras, Udaipur, and Indore. In 1959-61 he did a two-year stint in Addis Ababa as an Advisor to the government of Ethiopia in the Ministry of National Community Development, and he also took time off to fulfil engagements as a Visiting Professor in some foreign universities: Manchester, 1969; Tulsa (USA), 1970; Singapore, 1972.
All through the 1980's, and for part of the 1990s, he was actively associated with Quaker work in India, especially with the Friends Rural Centre at Rasulia, Hoshangabad, and the Itarsi-based Friends' Schools Governing Board. When Marjorie Sykes revived publication of the Friendly Way, the Asian Quaker news magazine, in 1980, Thomas was Marjorie's co-editor of the magazine. He did a course on Quaker Studies at Woodbrooke, the Quaker College in Birmingham, in 1986, and represented India at the World Conference of Friends at Elspeet, Holland, in 1991. He has been living in Bangalore since 1984.
Passed away in the last fortnight of the April 2012 at Bangaluru.