Naysayers are wrong, India has success stories

As we celebrate our 75th year of independence, the majority of quarrelsome Indians of my generation – those born within a decade or so after 1947 – and of the social class will claim that India has not accepted the request of its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru fulfilled the 14th August 1947 midnight asked if the Indians were brave enough and wise enough to seize the opportunity and take on the challenges as India awakens to “life and liberty” and moves from the “old to the new” of the future “. Two years later, on November 25, 1949, the architect of our constitution, BR Ambedkar, expanded the challenge. In a speech to the Constituent Assembly, he said: “… Political democracy cannot endure unless it is based on social democracy lies… in politics we have equality, (but) in social and economic life we ​​have inequality We must overcome this cons remove the spell at the earliest opportunity.”

It’s difficult to disagree with the argument made by my demographic and social peers. They have facts to support their position. India still faces deep economic and social fissures. Its political democracy is not in harmony with social democracy.

Still, I have long felt that this narrative is unbalanced and looks at the past 75 years through too narrow a lens. I hail from Udaipur, where volunteering and community service have taken deep root and witnessed the positive impact that community-minded individuals and organizations have made in bridging social and economic gaps. My concern has been that these conversational narratives, which disproportionately focus on explaining the reasons why India has not resolved the Ambedkar contradiction and insufficiently focus on celebrating and learning from successful interventions in the social space, are dispelling the negativism and maintaining the belief that India will forever lag behind its potential. This imbalance should be corrected.

With this in mind, I proposed that the Center for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) support a project to compile selected stories of effective grassroots interventions over the past seven decades. The authors would be the protagonists of these interventions. They are asked to structure their contribution around the following questions: What was the reason for their success? What insights can be derived from their experiences? How might these be applied as India embarks on the next 75 years of its political and social journey?

CSEP was supportive and a book published by Harper Collins entitled Anchoring Change: 75 years of grassroots interventions that made a difference, edited by myself, Neelima Khetan and Jayapadma RV, will be on display at the stands later this month.

The editors faced a challenge in selecting the authors. Because their research uncovered several successful interventions. The publisher had set a word limit, which meant only 24 authors could be invited to contribute. The book would therefore scarcely touch on the richness of the diverse efforts that have been made in recent decades to shift the needle of social progress. To best cover this caveat, the editors have written about social “movements” and several well-known but often successful organizations. For the rest, they have made their selection according to time criteria (reporting should cover seven decades); Geography (it should cover different states of India) and a variety of domains (poverty, women’s empowerment, water, income generation, health, etc.).

Reading the 24 chapters, a clear, if intuitively obvious, message emerges. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to India’s complex social challenges. Every problem needs to be addressed through tailored, localized responses. However, there is a common thread that connects these interventions. A common thread that transcends geography and time and connects seamlessly because it is woven through the commonality of the objectives of each intervention.

All authors agreed that the poor are not passive and without a “voice” and that social interventions must put the beneficiary at the center of the program in order to achieve lasting change. Interventions must be consultative and participatory, and all stakeholders – the developer, the government, and the beneficiary – must be involved in determining the nature and extent of the resources, skills, and institutions needed to help the latter build their own to take life in hand. The “dignity” of giving and taking is central to social change.

Leadership is important but of a special nature: people who lead through values, beliefs and beliefs; who have the “tough patience” to stay the course and the humility to seek lessons from the “poorest”. The book introduces the extraordinary personalities who moved the social needle through intellectual vitality and physical exertion alone. The transformative role of women is striking. There are many examples of women who have successfully overcome traditional barriers to bring about change. A development model that does not give women a central position would be suboptimal.

In Citizenship and Social Class, published in 1950, the year the Indian Constitution was formalized, TH Marshall wrote: “Citizenship (is) the granting of equal rights to all in the state”. He did not mean that everyone is equal or that everyone achieves the same level of achievement. He believed that everyone should have equal access. On this “foundation of equality (of access) (should) be built the structure of inequality”.

According to this definition, a large number of Indians have yet to be granted citizenship. In this respect, the dreams of our founding fathers have yet to be realized. But to say that those dreams are unattainable, as one might infer from conversations in the homes of people like me, would be too severe a charge. This book affirms that every entity in our society – government, corporations, NGOs and individuals – has in some way been successful in teaching people the terms of citizenship. The quarrelsome Indian should be inspired by such signs of hope and achievement.

The author is Chair and Distinguished Fellow of the Center for Social and Economic Progress

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