M.S. Gore, pp. 398, Rs. 675, Rawat Publications
This book brings together some of my papers published earlier in two separate books entitled Some Aspects of Social Development (1973) and Social Aspects of Development (1985).
Initially, social work curricula did not have much content dealing directly with social development. In fact, the word 'development' was used for many years to refer primarily to economic development. This might seem surprising since, in India, the idea of conscious efforts at development began with the projects initiated by William Myers in Uttar Pradesh in the early 1950s which were called Community Development Projects. But, the emphasis was on introducing progressive methods of agriculture and other economic activities with a view to raise the living standards of the rural population. These projects were experimental in nature and naturally few in number. The Ford Foundation had supported these projects and soon they attracted the attention of the Government of India.
When the government entered the field they extended the number to some 50 odd projects spread over different states in the country. Soon, there was a demand for extension of these projects to all states. A somewhat diluted version of these projects, called the National Extension Projects, was introduced and extended to many more districts in the form of specially carved-out 'development blocks'. Persons deputed from the Revenue Department largely headed these projects. This was natural since they were the ones closest to the rural areas and had adequate rural administrative experience. But it was soon realised that the traditional administrative approach was not best suited to nurture developmental projects in which the people's initiative was at the core of the experiment. One needed people who could elicit this initiative.
It was also perceived that an exclusive focus on agricultural or economic activity was self-defeating. All other economic activities needed to be attended. It was further realised that if villagers were to be involved in the development activity, they needed to be better informed about the projects as well as their own problems and how to cope with them. It was also appreciated that economic developmental efforts could not go far without positive action in the fields of health and education.
The awareness that the fast rate of growth of the country's population would nullify the benefits of any growth in the economy brought in another important dimension that showed that a near exclusive focus on economic goals would not achieve the goals set for development and that the community as a whole and its social life aspects needed to be attended to.
The concept of social development as different from economic development arose out of the many discussions at the annual national conferences on Community Development and National Extension Projects as also out of the discussions in many international meetings under United Nations auspices.
The schools of social work had been uncomfortable with the exclusive emphasis on economic goals right from the beginning but their voice began to be heard only after wider opinion had come to realise the futility of a wholly economic development effort. But, the schools of social work had difficulty in defining what role exactly the social workers could play in the community development effort. Their graduates would be too young and relatively inexperienced in administration to occupy the post of the Block Development Officer and there was for some time no other post where they could utilise their social expertise. Some of them took up the posts of Social Education Officers but the role of this officer remained vague for a long time and there was often frustration among those who occupied these positions.
The schools of social work were themselves trying to ascertain what role they could play in this newly identified field of social development. They had to define what social development meant and what role social workers could play to promote such development. They had to think of what new courses they would need to formulate and what fieldwork experience they could provide to their students to make them useful. Social work itself was traditionally relief and rehabilitation oriented and focused on the specially disadvantaged sections of the community, except in the area of community development. Social or community development as a national programme required that they learn about the needs of the community in general and identify areas, where they could be useful. The Indian Association of Schools of Social Work, as also the International Association of Schools of Social Work, held many meetings to clarify and work out a role for social work in the broader field of social development.
Many of the papers brought together here were prepared for these national and international meetings and deal with the effort to build a bridge between social work and social development.
But I was myself interested in the broader philosophy of social development and its linkages with the concept of human rights and the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The United Nations were also concerned about defining the scope of social rights as different from political or civil rights of an individual. The International Council of Social Work held a special meeting at Helsinki on the subject of human rights.
There are altogether 19 papers in this book. It is possible that there is some repetition of views between papers since they were written for different audiences at different times.
As I wrote these papers I was trying to clarify my own ideas on several themes and there was in my mind certain tentativeness about my views. Not all the papers deal with social development as a concept. Some of the papers deal with different aspects of the process of development and with the different groups in the population that need to be mobilised. One continuing concern in writing these was how this field was relevant to social work practice.
It is not unlikely that what I have said in some of my papers is not any longer a new perspective. But these subjects were very much discussed and formed a part of the discussion on social work and social development when I was active in the field. In the 1950s and 1960s community development was at the core of many discussions, whereas in the 1970s family planning and family welfare had moved to the centre stage. Today, it is the right of the underprivileged groups to fight for equity that holds attention. But all these are part of the broader field of social development and still have a relevance. I am also aware that there is a counter-perspective to the very concept of development. The South American sociologists, who argued that the concept of development as visualised by the capitalist world is itself exploitative, articulated it best. I have not dealt with it directly. But my preoccupation has been with discussing and elaborating the concept of development in a liberal society which recognises that inequities exist and is concerned with how to minimise them and what role social workers can play in it.