In recent years. the country has been a witness to the rapid growth of regionalism, casteism and communalism. Since these pose a very grave threat to the country's integrity and also to the laboring masses ID terms of their livelihood, social action is often addressed as the only solution to making the poor and the marginalized aware of their rights.
Social Development means evenly shared balanced progress of entire populations towards enhancement of the circumstances ofliving, the quality of life and the quality of human relations. If the idea of sustainability, which is the idea of the day, is inculcated then social development should also meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The Social action theory developed by Social theorist Max Weber, which was later, adopted by sociologists, tries to understand the relationship between social structures and the individuals and their behaviour and actions.
Now, social development is not possible without understanding the social structures. In India Caste and class dominate the social structure. Evenly shared progress can only happen when social policies are designed consciously to treat every human as a subject of intrinsically equal worth. entitled to equal social, economic, civil and political rights, liberties, responsibilities and recognition.
How can social action help social development? Social action is not alien to India (even though its origin is attributed to the west). Social action dates back to the "8" and 19" Century when reformers fought against the evil of Sati, child marriage, widowhood practices for women. The disadvantaged segments of the community have always assumed a non-participatory role in social life and social action can be a process to include the disadvantaged segments of the community to gain access to rights and can also pave to redistribution of resources as per principles of democracy and social justice.
Since the term "social" means "interaction of individuals in society" it also includes political, economical, cultural and ethical aspects. When it is used as a prefix to action, it carries the connotation of a collectivity working towards achieve an end.
One great disadvantage of the present day development is that the marginalized have been unable to tap the prosperity that others enjoy. Accountability and lack of inclusion ha ve a l ways threatened the cohesiveness of societies. Hence it is important to adopt comprehensive and inclusive strategies that empower poor and marginalized.
Social development should also be sustainable. The future should also be focused and development should look into the needs of the future generations which is not happening at present looking at the carbon emissions, degradations of greenery, mining to exploit minerals etc. Hence social action should focus on the concept of essential needs in particular and the idea of limitations should be practiced.
In recent times empowerment of women is given significance and self help groups have always been in focus. Frances Sinha in her book "Self Help groups in India" says that out of data collected from 214 SHGs (Self Help Groups) from 4 states 30% reported community action; sometimes more than one such action and around half of these actions have been successful such as improvement in access and quality of community services and infrastructure.
However Social action should ensure returns and allow assets to be used productively and freely. Social action if combined with Robert Chamber's work on sustainable livelihoods and Amartya Sen's approach to assets and capabilities can be effective in helping the poor, their families and communities. Intense involvement of organizations in grassroot levels has also shown that the process of empowering people should allow space for independent initiative, creativity and personal aspirations. Otherwise it could become a oppressive rather than a liberating factor. Equally important is the need for the group to develop a mechanism to deal with our differences within a discipline, which strikes a proper balance between democracy, responsibility and authority.
If social work is working among the poor, or helping the poor to help themselves, social action can be an effective means to empower the poor and development can be effective only if includes the poor, the marginalized and every other section of vulnerable community.
Social workers can use social action as a key model to empower the socio-political and economic status of the oppressed groups, commnities and organizations. This will enable them to access opportunities and resources in the society which will enable them to contribute to the society as valued human beings.
Social workers can also use social action for advocacy and lobbying of right based issues and can also use it, in collaboration with organizations to draw development and action plans. The social work profession has a long and proud tradition of advocacy and social action leading to social reform. Social action has successfully lobbied especially to reduce abuse and violence by enacting laws and legislation.
Hence if social workers can use social action to create awareness and empower people on issues of environment, socio-economic situation in the country and issues relating to privatization, supra structure etc., it is great deal of service indeed.
Ms. Sagayashanthy .A
Coordinator, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore.