Special Articles / Shankar Pathak / Social Policy, Social Welfare and Social Development
The term ‘Social Welfare’ has been used with a variety of meanings both nationally and internationally. It has been treated as synonymous with social policy (Mishra, 1977) which, in turn, has been viewed by Titmuss and many others in Britain as social administration. Lightman viewed social welfare as a concept and as an institution which was no longer limited to popular notions of meeting the requirements of only the poor and the needy. ‘It now relates more properly to the entire populace even when there may be no or little economic need’ (Lightman, 1963), In the same year, Nehru expressed his view of social welfare which was similar to Lightman’s concept. Speaking at the seminar on ‘Social Welfare in a Developing Economy’ Nehru (1963) said, ‘In its broadest sense social welfare is the object of economic development, maximising the welfare of all persons in the society, whether handicapped or normal.’ The seminar participants, however, arrived at a restrictive definition of social welfare. According to them ‘the term social welfare services denote services intended to cater for the special needs of persons and groups who by reason of some handicap, social, economic, physical or mental are unable to avail themselves of or are traditionally denied, the amenities and services provided by the community’ (India: Planning Commission, 1963).
Gore, who was one of the participants at the above seminar, reiterated a decade later, the same restrictive view of social welfare as the services oriented to the poor, the physically and mentally handicapped, the socially maladjusted and generally the vulnerable groups in society. He observed that to begin with these services had primarily an ameliorative or a relief goal, but later with advancement in knowledge and technology, the preventive, curative and rehabilitative goals have also been added. Referring to its usage in a more comprehensive sense in some international conferences he said, ‘the term “social welfare” includes all the areas of health, housing, education, cooperation, mutual aid, and becomes coterminus with the scope of social development itself’ (Gore, 1973).
Siddiqui who has reviewed the theories, concepts and functions of social welfare, stated that the studies of social welfare in India, with a few exceptions, have ignored the need for a theoretical framework for analysis of the complex issue of social resources and their distribution in society. He mentioned Pathak and Gore among the few notable exceptions who have attempted to evolve a theoretical framework for the study of social welfare in India. Siddiqui then proceeded to review briefly the western theories, mostly British. He mentioned the three models of social welfare (residual, institutional and structural) and stressed that seldom a society could be seen as following a particular theoretical model of social welfare completely (Siddiqui, 1990).
Pathak who attempted to study the evolution of social welfare in a theoretical historical perspective, defined social welfare as the organised provision of resources and services by the society to deal with social problems. He considered social welfare as a social institution and a component of social structure, which generally functions in support of the status quo in society (Pathak, 198I). Mishra, who equated social policy with social welfare, said that the term refers in a generic sense, to the aims and objectives of social action concerning needs, as well as to the structural patterns or arrangements through which needs are met (Mishra, 1977). In a latest publication, Midgley stated that the term ‘social welfare’ refers to a social condition and not to the charity given by philanthropic individuals, charities or public assistance provided by the governments. According to him a condition of social welfare (or social well-being) is conceived of as comprising three elements. They are, first, the degree to which social problems are managed; the second, the extent to which needs are met; and finally, the degree to which opportunities for advancement are provided (Midgley, 1995).
Noting the existence of a plurality of conceptions of social welfare in India, Rao observed that the basic tenets underlying the conceptualisation of social welfare are concerned with the place of the individual, the role of government, the interplay of market forces, freedom to own private property, and the content, pace and the direction of change (Rao, 1990a).
Soares was probably the first to point out the constitutional position regarding the absence of social welfare as an identifiable concrete item in any of the three lists - Central, State and the Concurrent, of the Indian Constitution - except for specific references to the welfare of backward classes. He referred to ‘the expert legal opinion which suggested that the only relevant item is Entry 20 of List III which refers to ‘economic and social planning’1 (Soares, 1969).
As Bose pointed out, the inclusion of social welfare as a development sector in the first five year plan itself was a remarkable achievement as the Department of Social Welfare at the centre came into existence much later (Bose, 1990). The Working Group for the Third Five Year Plan for the first time drew a comprehensive framework for planning social welfare services (Kulkarni, 1979b).
At the level of what was then known as provinces, social welfare had been a part of the administrative structure as early as the 1920s in some of the provinces, when the Department of Social Welfare was established in 1957 in the State of Bombay; welfare of the backward classes, training and education of the physically handicapped, statutory services concerning children, beggars and women involved in immoral traffic, were the services assigned to the Social Welfare Department (Kulkarni, 1977). Gradually, social welfare departments came into existence in most of the states. As Rao has pointed out, there is no uniformity in the organisational arrangement of social welfare subjects in the governments. ‘By and large social welfare refers to programmes for the welfare of women, children and the physically handicapped at the state level’ (Rao, 1990a).
The evolution of an administrative structure for social welfare at the central level can be traced to the establishment of the Department of Social Security in 1964 by the transfer of certain subjects from the Ministries of Home, Education and Labour which was redesignated as the Department of Social Welfare in 1966. Administratively the Ministry of Social Welfare was created much later. In 1985 the Department of Social Welfare was bifurcated and a new Department of Women and Child Development was created which was later included in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (Kulkarni, 1977; Rao, 1990a; Soares, 1969).
Kulkarni pointed out to the stray references to social welfare in the various lists in the Constitution which do not add up to the complete picture of social welfare services as they have grown over the years under the Five Year Plans and administered by the central and state governments, and non-governmental agencies operating at various levels. The vast difference between what was scheduled in the Constitution and what has emerged through planning and administration of social welfare services deserves to be noted by the policy makers. He argued that the distribution of welfare responsibilities needs to be set out afresh in the Constitution in the light of emerging realities. It is no longer advisable to leave the status of social welfare undetermined and indeterminate, residual or marginal (Kulkarni, 1977).
Bose (1995), in his survey of social welfare as it evolved through the processes of planning and administrative implementation, arrives at the conclusion that in the first two decades of planning, social welfare was treated as a residual area which could not, however, be done away with for image keeping reasons. The prolonged early childhood phase (of the 1950s and 1960s) in the development of social welfare services underwent a significant transformation in the mid 1970s due to national as well as some international initiatives. The 1970s represent a watershed and could, in fact, be considered the decade when social welfare acquired an identity of its own and an assured place in the agenda of national development. The 1980s was the decade of consolidation and expansion of social welfare services, and carried further the steps initiated in the 1970s. The last decade of the twentieth century has already witnessed a structural reform of far reaching significance, through the 73rd and 74th constitution amendments which guarantee decentralisation. Panchayat institutions in rural areas and municipal bodies in urban areas will receive funds and administer services on the basis of subjects allotted to them which include women and child development, social welfare, and several areas of social development at the primary level.
Social welfare of the 1990s can no longer be confined to actions and initiatives of a single department. Most problems which concern social welfare are multidimensional and require intersectoral integration in planning and interdepartmental coordination in implementation. It would be wrong to view social welfare or social development as sectors or as areas limited by responsibilities or subjects allocated to a particular department or ministry. While relief and rehabilitation have to continue to be social welfare’s concerns, they can no longer be its only or even primary concerns. Social dimensions of development, both positive and negative, need to be the focal concern of social welfare (Bose, 1995).
Muzumdar, a sociologist, stated that social work and social welfare are treated as synonyms, which results in confusion. According to him, social work is a professional practice and it is a process, whereas social welfare is the end result of social work (Muzumdar, 1962).
Thomas (1967) recognised that social work ‘in the broad sense is the sum-total of all efforts directed towards the betterment and enrichment of human life’. Pathak is the only author who defined social work more broadly than others. In his view ‘the term social work refers to the work of voluntary social workers, professional social workers and other social work personnel employed in the field of social welfare’ (Pathak, 1981). Gore (1973) was of the opinion that it is more useful to define a profession not by the client groups they serve or the problem areas in which they operate, but by the nature of the contribution they make (to the persons with whom they work), by the type of skills they utilise, by their knowledge base and work values. The distinctive contribution of social work is that it looks at the totality of a person’s (or group’s) needs and seeks to meet them either through direct service or by referrals to other professionals.
Dasgupta had, in 1968, accepted the concept and methods of social work as they evolved in the west. He believed that modern social work had a substantial universal base in theory and philosophy. But in its practice, that is in the application of methods in a specific cultural situation, some modifications were necessary. Later, he had turned into a severe critic of the western professional model of social work, which he described as ‘Welfare’ in the context of the First World and as ‘development’ in the Third World, the recently decolonised countries of Asia and Africa. Welfare and development had become tools of exploitation, where guided by the forces of modernisation, the profession uses technologies of its own to further impoverish its clientele (Dasgupta, 1985).
The Gandhian social workers, who were influenced by the ideas of Gandhi, Vinoba and Jayaprakash Narayan have used a broader, and in many respects, distinctively different concept of social work. Referred to as constructive work and social reconstruction earlier, it came to be known later as ‘Sarvodaya’ with an emphasis on the goal of the development of all, especially the development of rural communities who have been exploited for centuries. The Gandhian social workers viewed their work as liberation work (Mukti Karya). It is significantly different from both the popular and professional conceptions of social work which was relief work (Rahat Ka Karya). It was radical in terms of ideology and the goal of exploitation-free, egalitarian, self-governing, self-reliant rural communities. It was also developmental in its orientation with its focus on the upliftment or progress of the entire community, with special emphasis on the weakest population (Antyodaya) rather than on some individuals or sections of the rural communities (Dasgupta, 1967; Ganguli, 1977; Pathak, 1967).
The term social development is frequently used in the literature, since the 1970s. In 1973, Gore conceptualised social development and discussed its implications for social welfare and social work. He wrote: ‘Social development is inclusive of economic development but differs from it in the sense that it emphasises the development of the totality of society in its economic, political and cultural aspects.’
Dasgupta, as stated before, later emerged as a severe critic of the dominant mainstream concept and model of development. He referred to development in a variety of senses in different forum but always viewed it negatively, as inimical to the well-being of society. He put forth an alternative vision of a ‘No Poverty Society’ which he described as the Gandhian vision of an altogether different type of society which will neither have affluence nor poverty. He believed that the experiments already in progress in some societies of the Third World could bring the new society into being.
These experiments may offer some guidelines for the reconstruction of the current approaches to development and welfare. The direction of change that lie germane in some of these experiments have been defined by two terms: liberation and swaraj. While liberation means liberation from the development that leads to inequity and exploitation, swaraj means self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The terms have specific connotation of resource availability and consumption patterns, consumption based on simplicity rather than multiplicity of wants. These objectives do not promote the never ending race for an increased standard of living for some people. The purpose is to uplift all at the same time. If any priority is to be given, it is to the poor. The methods to bring the new society are Antyodaya and Sarvodaya (Dasgupta, 1985). The influence of Gandhian ideas are very clear, though Dasgupta has occasionally referred to the ideas of Julious Neyrere and Mao. For this reason, it has been described as the neo-Gandhian view.
The terms ‘development’ and ‘social development’ have been used in the literature sometimes synonymously but mostly with different connotations. Ideally speaking the term social development should be the wider term including economic, political and cultural development. However, for a variety of reasons, ‘development’ has been used in a wider sense, particularly by the economists. ‘Social Development’ has been used in a narrower, residual sense that is, development minus economic development. Specifically, it has been used to refer to what is called as social sector development to include education, health, social security, housing, welfare and poverty alleviation.
For long the field of development planning has been dominated by the economists. So, the expansiveness of the discipline of economics pervades the concept of development, which has been labelled as ‘economism’ (Van Nieuwenhuize, 1982). Conceptually the economists have moved from economic growth to economic development, later to development as the central objective of planned national development. This is broader than the earlier concepts, but it still retains some of the elements of the earlier economistic influence. Social development, thus, may mean social prerequisites to (economic) development or social consequences of development considered as undesirable.
Midgley, after a comprehensive survey of western literature on the subject, has stated that the term ‘social development’ has been primarily used to the provision of social services in developing countries. Midgely defines social development ‘as a process of planned social change, designed to promote the well-being of the population as a whole in conjunction with a dynamic process of economic development’ (Midgley, 1995). The colonial origin of the concept of development has been mentioned by Schrijvers (1993) as well. Both have stated that the concept of social development is characterised by ‘Third Worldism’. This, then is a western ethnocentric concept concerning the Third World, with a heavy layer of colonial administrative view of their role in promoting the welfare and the development of the population of their colonies (Booth, 1994; Van Nieuwenhuize, 1982).
Developmental Social Welfare: Roles, Tasks and Functions
The developmental perspective began to emerge and influence the conception of social welfare during the 1960s and the 1970s. The beginning of this trend is traced by Drucker (1993) to the deliberations and recommendations of meetings held of social work educators, social planners and policy makers, under the auspices of the United Nations. According to him, the first meeting was held in Bangkok in 1968 which was followed by meetings of ministers responsible for social welfare from the Asian Region held at Manila and elsewhere in the region. It needs to be stated emphatically that this widely held impression is factually incorrect. The interest in developmental orientation to social welfare began much earlier at the seminar on ‘Social Welfare in a Developing Economy’ organised by the Planning Commission, Government of India in New Delhi in 1963.
The meeting organised by the ECAFE (1969), Division of Social Affairs, was held much later in 1968. The Indian Planning experience and the participation of social workers in the formulation of two five-year plans for the field of social welfare seem to be the main factors responsible for the germination of a process that culminated over a period of time in the emergence of a developmental perspective in social welfare (Gore, 1973; Kulkarni, 1975; Pathak, 1981).
Gore argued that social welfare has always been a force for change helping the emergence of more human values all the time. The social context has determined the explicitness with which social welfare has been able to plead for, advocate, or assert the needs, the causes and the rights of the ‘pitied’, ‘despised’ or ‘exploited’ sections of society. If development is conceived in human and not mechanistic terms, the social worker will have a meaningful role to play.
Listing the development tasks for social work, Gore (1973) mentioned the following:
Kulkarni attempted to describe what developmental social welfare is by stating its functions. According to him, social welfare becomes developmental when it attempts institutional change as different from maintaining or strengthening the existing structure. The developmental social welfare is a macro-level conception which aims at meeting, in progressive phases, a total national need or deals with the entire social problem in its national magnitude, with a view to eventually liquidating it.
Functional efficiency is another characteristic of developmental social welfare. It is not enough that the motive for social welfare is based on good intentions. The welfare resources have to be very efficiently used, borrowing some of the methods and techniques of modern management, both for the economy or resources and for better impact on the target group. Lastly, Kulkarni mentioned that preparing for change is a significant new function of developmental social welfare (Kulkarni, 1975).
While agreeing broadly with the portrait of developmental social welfare as sketched by Kulkarni, it was pointed out by Pathak (1981) that functional efficiency is independent of the residual or developmental model of social welfare. In fact, there is a greater chance of wasteful and inefficient use of resources in the context of developmental social welfare, because of the magnitude of the resources allocated to it and the size of the target population. He restated it as the preparation of people to adopt social change, adapt to it, and absorb the consequences of change, whether intended or unintended.
Pathak reiterated his earlier position that developmental orientation to social work did not mean giving up or diluting our traditional function of alleviation of human suffering. This is generally described as the system maintenance function of social work. Pathak said that a sequential approach to developmental function is unrealistic in practice and is theoretically debatable. He quoted Jumani who said that all actions have to be simultaneous and not sequential in developmental work (Jumani, cf: Rose, 1992). He pointed out that the main argument in favour of the developmental function of social work, especially in developing countries, is based on the massive nature of major social problems like poverty which cannot be tackled effectively by poverty-alleviation measures alone.
Developmental social welfare has been frequently discussed with reference to the roles which are to be performed by social workers. The most commonly mentioned roles include advocacy, initiation of new services for those adversely affected by social changes, and change-inducing role referred to variously as change agent, catalyst or animator of change (Bedi, 1994; Dasgupta, 1968; Gangrade, 1986; Gore, 1973; Kulkarni, 1979a; Pathak, 1981; Pimple, 1985). Sometimes a political role is briefly and vaguely mentioned without clearly spelling it out (Dasgupta, 1968; Gangrade, 1986; Gore, 1973; Nanavatty, 1993; Rao, 1990b). Participation in the social policy formulation process in a variety of ways including lobbying is also a role that has been mentioned by some writers.
There were many skeptics and some critics when developmental social welfare began to be talked and written about during the decade of 1970s and in the early part of the next decade, during the several seminars that were organised by academic institutions and professional associations. A senior social work educator, for example, asked whether we intended to produce revolutionaries like Jayaprakash Narayan. Another social work educator was quite apprehensive that professional social work was threatened with the loss of its hardwon status and identity in its enthusiasm to adopt the emerging new model of social welfare/social work. While referring to the views of Kulkarni and Dasgupta, Gore (1985) expressed his reservations on whether social workers could really claim a major role in the field of social development which is a multidisciplinary field.
Referring to this controversy, Pathak (1989) stated: ‘Even among the pro-changers there are divergent views on the inclusion or exclusion of officially sponsored programmes as part of social development such as family planning and population control, I.C.D.S. Community health programmes and so on.’
Kulkarni (1990)2 believed that it is possible to devise a model of social work education and practice in which the two roles can be (at least partially) reconciled (combined). Only both roles need not be combined by every social worker at his/her station of duty. Development oriented programmes can sometimes facilitate a suitable ‘mix’ of the two roles. Also, collective and concerted action by social workers can supplement the service function to create a climate for change. Siddiqui (1989), who also referred to this issue of ‘including radicalness social change’ and to ‘the degree of radicalness’, stated that the opinion continues to be sharply divided and there is hardly any possibility of a consensus emerging in the near future.
Social Welfare/Social Work and Development: Thrust Areas and Implications for Practice
Very little has been written on the practice aspects of developmental social welfare/social work. A pioneering study with considerable potential for developing theory and guiding practice is the research conducted by Dasgupta during the late 1950s and 1960s, though the book based on it was published much later (Dasgupta, 1968).
The workers of the Department of Rural Reconstruction at Sriniketan had been working in a group of 85 villages for nearly 38 years. Their work was based on the philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore and this was akin to the modern social work, especially to the method of community organisation. A group of four villages were selected for the study, along with another group of four villages on the other side of the river where the Department had not been working. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the impact of the programmes based on the above philosophy of social work and techniques of social action. They wanted to discover the effects of the methods of working with people which Sriniketan had so long practiced on individuals, groups and communities of the area. The second, but perhaps, equally important aspect of the study was to make a comparative analysis of development in the two groups of villages.
Gangrade (1986), drawing upon his own experience as an academic-cum-field worker during the 1950s in a group of villages near Delhi, wrote that the establishment of relationship with the rural community, the manner of the entry of the social worker as an external leader, his/her acceptance by the community, promoting the demo- cratic choice of the village leaders through elections and widening of the base of village leadership through the entry of weaker sections, were important aspects of development work. Like Dasgupta he also stressed the need for and the desirability of decision making by the process of consensus.
On the basis of an action-research conducted in 1993 in a tribal community near Udaipur, with the help of the first year MSW students, Bedi (1994) states that in order to awake(n) the tribal community from its slumber, a great effort has to be made for awareness generation by professional social workers. For this task they have to possess an armoury of communication, coordination, counseling, and conscientisational and organisational skills and techniques (Bedi, 1994).
Wiesner conducted a field study in 1973-74 in a group of villages in a development block in Gujarat by using a behavioural indicator as an evaluative measure of community work intervention in the health sector. He used both, the secondary village level data collected by the government agencies, and individual level data collected by him in five selected villages of the block to gather in-depth information on health opinions and behaviour, particularly in regard to the use of available facilities in the block and exposure to community work and panchayat activities. He concluded that for the village as a whole, as well as individual village dweller’s, exposure to community workers and active panchayat involvement have no demonstrable influence on health behaviour as measured by used levels of curative medical facilities. The primary correlates of public health facility utilisation are distance and the existence of a cooperative, as well as three inter-related socioeconomic conditions... wealth, literacy and caste status (Weisner, 1977).
After an overview of the developmental scene since Independence, Pathak (1993) identified some major thrust areas for social work practice. They included: eradication and alleviation of poverty; promotion of social and economic equality, promotion of health and literacy, particularly among the disadvantaged sections, protection of human rights; and people’s participation. He then proceeded to identify certain characteristics of developmental social work practice.
The focus of social work is on an entity larger than an individual or family. The unit of social work practice may be a community, frequently a rural or tribal community or it may be a larger community with certain common characteristics or even a segmental community. (sub-community) which is part of a larger community. Alternately, it may be a category of people who are disadvantaged in a legal sense, for example the ‘oustees’ affected by big projects. These people may or may not be poor, but are legally disadvantaged, deprived of their original habitat, traditional means of livelihood and social relationships. It could even be a single person who may be discriminated against on sectarian or gender basis in an organisation or industry. When issues concerning such persons are taken up for the redressal of injustice meted out to them, the legal approach is usually adopted by the social activists. Legal literacy, and unionising or organising the people affected by the denial of their legitimate human rights may be used in addition to the legal approach (Pathak, 1993).
In the context of development many authors have stressed the need for social action as part of social work practice (Dasgupta, 1970; Gore, 1973; Pathak, 1993). Speaking to social workers in 1969 in the context of their role in promoting and protecting human rights, Gore was somewhat hesitant, tentative and cautious regarding the use of social action by social workers. He thought that it was likely to be entangled with political action by political parties and professional social workers had to keep themselves away from such entanglement (Gore, 1973).
Speaking very recently, Gore (1996) said that India, as a developing country, offers more challenges for those who wish to dedicate themselves to social causes by adopting the social action approach. He noted that there are a few individuals who have involved themselves with the problems of people affected by the government’s development policies. Social action involves a subtle shift in the paradigm that has historically guided social work. Instead of acting as the agent delivering a service on behalf of the larger society, the social worker is now required to act on behalf of his/her client group and play either an advocacy role or, on occasions, even a confrontationist or conflict role vis-a-vis the establishment in society.
The general image of social action, as a way of helping people, has been associated with a confrontationist approach. But this is not always the case. Particularly in the area of social services, confrontation need not be either the goal or the only method of a social activist. The core objective of action is the empowerment of the client community through a process of education, sensitisation and mobilisation for corrective action (Gore, 1996).
Empowerment is a term that is used widely in developmental literature and practice. It is used with a variety of meanings. But it is not always clearly defined by those who use it in their discourse. A central idea inherent in most of these discourses is the restoration of the power to the people which legitimately belongs to them; and also to recognise and enhance their capacity to decide, and act on those issues which vitally affect their lives and future (Pathak, 1993). It is common to view empowerment as a process in which a person or community gives or gets power. The notion is that power originates outside the person or community who gives or gets it from another. In contrast, Checkoway (1995) assumes that power is a present or potential resource in every person or community. There is always another person or community that can become empowered. Based on Gutierrez’ s review of social work literature on empowerment, Checkoway defines empowerment as a multilevel process which includes individual involvement, organisational development and community change.
Writing on empowerment, as it has evolved out of grassroots experience by organisations which have been active in the women’s development projects in South Asia, Kabir (1994) states that:
The power from within ultimately entails the experiential recognition and analysis of these (women’s) issues. Such power cannot be given; it has to be self-generated. The multi -dimensional nature of power suggests that empowerment strategies for women must build on the power from within as a necessary adjunct to improving their ability to control resources to determine agendas and make decisions.
Brief accounts of social action have been documented by two professional social workers who participated in the Chipko and Appiko movements. The Chipko movement began in 1973 in the Chamoli district of Garhwal region of Uttar Pradesh (UP) as a local village cooperative came in conflict with the government over the forest resources. It was initially started for economic reasons but later took on an ecological character. The movement arose out of a spontaneous eruption of resentment of the villagers, especially the women who hugged the trees to save them from axes. During the course of their struggle for preserving the forest resources, women redefined the meaning of development as a condition of well-being which fulfilled their day-to-day family needs on an immediate and long term basis, with less physical and psychological strains. Illiterate village women developed many unique innovative, indigenous strategies of protest. These include hugging trees, stealing axes, tying Rakhis, working as ‘watchmen’ and so on (Bhatt, 1996).
Appiko movement originated in 1983 in the hilly region of the district of Uttara Kannada in Karnataka. The crisis here arose from the adverse impact of exploiting natural forests for commercial use and the eventual change in the ecological balance of the area. This change had a serious effect on the lives of the local people and their agriculture. As the people were clearly able to see a link between deforestation and ecological changes, they decided to take some action. Initially the protest action was taken by the local youth who had formed a youth club and were active for some time in campaigns for preventing gambling and drinking alcohol by some villagers (Hegde, 1984).
Appiko movement was an attempt by the local people to evolve an alternative strategy for sustainable development. It has used well known rural communication techniques such as street plays, folk songs and dance-dramas to convey the message of preservation of nature to a large number of people. In addition to these, the Appiko activists launched numerous Padayatras in the interior villages to spread the message of the movement (Hegde, 1984).
Both Chipko and Appiko movements were deeply influenced by the Gandhian philosophy of non-violent protest by the people to secure for themselves what is their rightful share of public resources. While well-known Sarvodaya workers had played a major role in organising the local people into a cooperation in Dashuli in UP, the Appiko movement was guided by a young professional social worker who had acquired a first hand knowledge of the experience and lessons of the Chipko movement. Another professional social worker has played a major role in initiating, organising and leading the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Unfortunately, there is no study or documentation available on this movement in the published literature on social work.
The literature reviewed in this paper was produced mostly in a period of about 15-20 years, from about the mid-1960s to the end of the decade of 1980s. Though a few articles had appeared during the decade preceding this period, and even a book containing contributions by several authors on a variety of topics broadly and loosely titled as ‘Social Welfare in India’ was published in the 1950s, there is no indication of any serious attempt to conceptualise social welfare and social work. The problem was tackled conveniently either by assuming that everyone knew what social welfare or social work was, or those interested would pursue it on their own.
It was during the decades of 1960s and 1970s that some attempts were made by a few authors to conceptualise social welfare (and social work) theoretically, and trace its contours as it took shape in reality through the formulation in the plan documents, and evolution of administrative machinery at the centre and the states. The emerging portrait of social welfare as a manifest function did not quite fit the earlier definitions of it by the same authors which led to conceptual and analytical confusion.
Social Welfare was viewed broadly to include the welfare of the backward classes and labour by using terms like socially and economically handicapped population. But, in the plans it was split up into three sectors as welfare of the backward classes, labour welfare (and social security) and general social welfare. All commentators tended to concentrate only on the allocations for the last named sector which was around one percent or less of the total plan allocations. This (mis) led them into describing the social welfare sector as a ‘mini-sector’ and social welfare allocations as insignificant. If social welfare was viewed in its tri-sectoral fractured existence, in keeping with their own earlier definitions of it, they would have found that the total allocations for social welfare was twice the amount allocated for general social welfare, that is nearly two per cent which is equal to the amount allocated to health in most of the plans. Similarly, it would have been discovered that the developmental perspective which permeates the definitions of social welfare in the first two five year plans, was given a concrete basis in the programmes envisaged for the welfare of the backward classes. It is not quite accurate to say that the developmental emphasis began to emerge only in the Fifth and the Sixth Plans, when the Integrated Child Development Scheme and women’s development programmes were introduced.
If poverty eradication is the centre piece of developmental social welfare conceptually, then allocations for anti-poverty programmes should be taken into consideration along with the tri-sector allocations of approximately two per cent which will total to eight per cent or more of the total plan allocations. Social welfare then does not look like a ‘mini-sector’ or the allocations insignificant. Even the label ‘residual model’ would become an inappropriate description of the reality of social welfare when looked through the plan provisions.
The existence and availability of an adequate amount of social work theory which is relevant for practice has been a matter of considerable debate among western social work scholars. Sheldon has argued that ‘the insistence that theory and practice are complementary aspects of the same thing is part of a verbal rather than a real tradition in social work’ (cf: Roberts, 1990). One of the causes of this gap between theory and practice is said to be the presence of ‘two sub-culture’ in social work... the theoretical and the practice sub-cultures. Generally speaking, the first of these is represented by the academics and the second by the practitioners in the field. The twain seldom meets. This problem is to be found in the literature reviewed here. Nearly all the major authors have been (at least for some time) academics. Practitioners rarely write and when they do they are very brief. For example refer to the extremely small number of pages devoted to the papers by Gandhian social workers in the dialogue between them and the professional social workers (Dasgupta, 1968)
Another major problem that the profession of social work has always faced is its inability to develop sufficient amount of theory by social work researchers and practitioners. Most of the time the profession has relied on theories borrowed from other disciplines and professions, without assessing them for relevance and efficiency for professional practice.
As noted by some scholars, there is very little hard theory which is widely accepted in the field of ‘development studies’. Research by western scholars in recent years on social development has been characterised simply as glorified empiricism (Booth, 1994). Buttle and McMichael (1994) have stated:
Most development sociologists would tend to define the field as the study of the processes that shape the course of the Third World Development, or even in more praxis-oriented terms such as the study of how to enhance Third World Development. Accordingly the field has been dominated by rival definitions of what Third World Development is (or what it should be, or how it should be defined). Development is conventionally defined in some ostensibly objective way that in actual practice, is explicitly or implicitly based on a normatively ordered conception of praxis ... the problematic of explanadum of development sociology has been shaped so centrally by particular practice related normative considerations ... that is, by an agenda to accomplish certain social goals in the Third World that its social scientific foundation has been seriously compromised.
The term ‘social development’ gained popularity in social work circles in the early 1980s largely through the efforts of a small group of social workers in the United States who had been involved with the international agencies or who had worked in developing countries. Although they have attempted to promote the social development perspective, many have defined social development in a highly abstract and idealised way which offers few specific proposals for action. Many definitions of social development formulated by social workers are so broad as to be meaningless. Consequently it is not clear what social workers mean when they define social development. A few social workers have published articles and there are two volumes of edited publications on social development, but they have not yet resulted in the adoption of a generally accepted social development perspective in social work. It is clear that much more needs to be done if a coherent and unique social work perspective on social development is to emerge.
What has been produced so far by the Indian social work authors include some brief definitions of development, social development and social welfare/social work in the context of national development; descriptive historical accounts of the gradual evolution of social welfare through constitutional, planning and administrative processes, noting the lacunae in the constitutional, planning and administrative mechanisms; and identification of the roles of social workers in the field of social development and their unique contribution.
Social work authors can take legitimate credit for their substantive and pioneering contribution to the emergence of developmental perspective in social welfare, both nationally and internationally, and their pioneering work of conceptualisation of social development and developmental social welfare roles, tasks and functions. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there has not been sufficient international recognition of this significant contribution. Note the total absence of references to the publications of Indian social work authors in a lengthy list of more than two thousand references by Midgley (1995) in his recent book on the subject of social development and social welfare.
Most of the published literature reviewed here suffers from deficient scholarship, and contains vague and contradictory definitions. Kulkarni defines social development at one place as ‘concerned with micro-symptomatic treatment in social welfare’. While in several other articles he has repeatedly stressed the macro-dimensions of developmental social welfare. Gore first gave a very wide definition of social development and subsequently uses the term most of the time in its restrictive usage. Dasgupta stated that ‘in the name of welfare, the forces of development are making a travesty of contemporary culture’ and two sentences later, advocates ‘change through the forces of development’!
Almost all the major papers/articles were prepared during a short span of the decade of the 1970s, though some of them were published years later during the next decade. They were ‘invitational’ literature, delivered as memorial lectures on diverse topics of inaugural/keynote addresses delivered over a period of time at national, regional and international fora. As a result, there has been much repetition of the same ideas by the same authors, packaged differently and attractively to give them a new look, and impress the audience with the currently fashionable new phrases and slogans picked up from the regional/ international academic supermarkets. Consequently the concepts and definitions do not reflect later changes and additions to development ideology. For example, while there is an occasional reference to sustainable development, there is hardly any reference to people- centred development, ecofeminism and feminist perspectives on development.
Some key concepts like social change, macro-micro levels and structures, and the problem of inter-linkages between them, empowerment and so on, have neither been adequately, and clearly conceptualised nor discussed in operational terms. So, the literature is mostly exhortative, at times oracular and prescriptive, and thus fail to provide clear guidelines for practice or state testable propositions which can be the basis for further development of usable theory or discovery of operational procedures and techniques for practice. Borrowed ideas have not been properly cited or acknowledged with bibliographical references. Bibliography is either absent or brief which is presented carelessly.
During the past one decade (i.e. 1980’s) very little has been written and published on the subject of social development and social welfare. The few articles that have been written by the next generation of academics are usually very brief, and with rare exceptions, of questionable quality in terms of scholarship and analysis. They have been published in what may be called as ‘inhouse’ academic journals where anything goes (in). There has been, however, a commendable attempt in documenting and promptly publishing an action-research funded by the UGC by an academic institution (Bedi, 1994). The research, however, has many deficiencies, partly because it is based on work done by first year social work students during the course of a few months of an academic year.
There has been very little research relevant to the theory building and practice of social development and social welfare. Two good pieces of research worth mentioning in this respect include the very first practice based study with a developmental perspective (Dasgupta, 1968) and another by a western academic, based on behavioural theory (Weisner, 1977). Dasgupta made a significant contribution to the social development theory and practice by his pioneering and path-breaking study based on the field work of the staff and trainees of the Department of Rural Development of Sriniketan. The formulation of theoretical concepts like social and psychological self-sufficiency of village community; development system of a village; integrated decision making; the process of community organisation as the crucial catalysing element of social change in a rural community on the one hand, and on the other, the formulation of operational propositions like inter-village network as a viable unit of rural planning and development; common collective contribution by the entire village community as a means of achieving self-reliance; and people’s participation in decision-making through open and periodic meetings of village institutions were important contributions to development practice. Unfortunately, these research based concepts and practice propositions were not replicated by further research in other parts of the country which would have yielded reliable guidelines for social development practice.
Weisner’s study was based on the influential behavioural theory which utilised sophisticated modern quantitative social research tech- niques. It was published in a prestigious, foreign academic journal in an abridged version as an article which was not noticed widely in academic circles in India. The significance of this study can be better appreciated in the light of the conclusions by Mattiani (1993) who made a comprehensive scholarly essay review of research on community practice:
Community practice constitutes a particularly promising area for behaviour analysis because the focus of community work has always been environmentally and ecologically oriented. Only a small proportion of the efforts of behavioural social workers has so far been dedicated to this level of intervention, by the existing data regarding work done by social workers and behavioural community psychologists suggest that the potential is vast...
In summary, current research, although not extensive, supports the utility of behavioural procedures to increase and enhance community involvement and practice. In the projects discussed not only were most decisions made by the participants, but the procedures used also increased the level of community empowerment by encouraging informed, constructive participation in self-help and community focused activities.
The survey of the literature on social welfare and development has highlighted the fact that there is very little social scientific theory on which the practitioner can rely. ‘If constant emphasis is made on a social science-social work relationship which concentrates on product, then we are looking, at least some of the time, in the wrong place for our knowledge base’ (Sheppard, 1995). It has been claimed repeatedly for many years that an important part of the knowledge base of social work profession is ‘practice wisdom’, which has remained elusive to the theory-building efforts of those who had the inclination and competence to undertake this difficult task. The social activists at the grassroots level in the field of development have generally shown an ‘anti-intellectual bias’ for a variety of reasons. As a result, there is much rhetoric, frequently couched in radical phraseology, and very little systematised communicable knowledge which draws upon the practice of field workers. What needs to be done by the social work academics is, as a first step, a serious attempt to study the work of developmental social activists by observation, documentation, and, most importantly, by conducting high quality of practice-based research as demonstrated by Dasgupta and Weisner. This should provide the foundation to develop a practice-relevant, middle-range theoretical propositions along with reliable, and hopefully, workable practice kit for the use of a beginning practitioner/social activist in the field of development.
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