Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zaini ...

" We were all at the window, holding on tight to the railing, trying to get the best view. That Saturday afternoon the usual 20 of us, all closely huddled in the classroom, watched rain drops make small puddles outside. The sparkle in our tiny eyes and the sweet smell of earth heralded the arrival of the monsoon. Through the haze of the drizzle we could make out a small figure rushing into the school through the broken gate. Our eagerness was overwhelming. The minute Mamta kaki came out of the kitchen to greet her, we were all back in our seats with the fingers and lips juxtaposed. Moments later she was at the door of our class. 'Hello ! I am Zaini'. We all rose in unison and out came a loud 'Namaste Teacher'. This is how we met Zaini Didi...the weekend teacher"

from my volunteering memories ...
(jogupalya school & rt nagar government school, bangalore)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my first graded assignment :|

Name : Prasant Mohanty

Date : 26.08.09

Roll No. : 2009SW089

Agency : CIDCO, Navi Mumbai

Target Group : Adolescent boys & girls

Age Group : 14 -16yrs

Location : Dapoli - Pargaon High School, Taluk Uran, Dist. Raigadh

As disappointing as it may sound, the closest I came to a group work in my earlier profession was making business proposals worth thousands of dollars for clients that I was never going to see or meet. Apart from the monetary aspect, the only intent for opting to work in group was to do a humongous job faster and easier. With the commencement of the field work at TISS, came the realization of breaking the mould that I had in mind about groups and to adopt a strategy that was fresh and rejuvenating. Fate had to be fair to me for I was allotted to a field work agency that had to deal with some of the most underrepresented faces of modern Mumbai – the Project Affected Persons of Navi Mumbai. In the current setting, group work has the potential of becoming a strong tool of information dissemination and sensitization primary because of the following two basic reasons :

(i) In terms of the no. of PAP's that can be impacted by the program in the short period of the program

(ii) Since it is in synchronization with the syllabus set for the MSW course, there is a strong possibility to link theory to practice in real time

The Kurland Model

Having done all the talking, there is one last thing that I would like to point out before outlining my plan for the group work. While going through a reading given to us and then linking the model to the bits and pieces of the odd plan, I realized that my plan might not be as robust as the ambitions it attempts to achieve.

“The model is meant to guide the worker's thinking throughout the planning stage. It presents areas for worker consideration, decision and action; but it is not meant as a checklist. In fact it is unlikely that the worker will ever be able to resolve completely the many issues that each component of the model raises”[1]. With the hopes that I will do justice to the model, I have put the details of the each component of the model in the following eight points and constructed the model in Figure No. 1 given here.

{1} Identifying Social Context

The target community that I am looking at is a subset of the larger population consisting of original inhabitants of Navi Mumbai. It bears representation to a population of the so called 'Project Affected People'(PAP) that came into being when CIDCO started displacing people from the mainland on the eastern seaboard of Thane Creek in the early 1970s to accommodate its plan to absorb the rapid growth of Bombay. (Between 1951-61 Bombay's population rose by 40% due to various favoring reasons). Thus started the planning and execution of one of the biggest planned cities of the world that currently consists of 14 nodes.

But why are PAPs the targets of this group-work exercise?... It might be interesting to know that while PAP's were rewarded huge amounts of money for their contribution, they were not given any support in re-building their communities to decent standards. With so much development happening around them and the lack of attention given to them, the PAPs felt betrayed, trapped and excluded. The pattern of movement of PAPs can now be seen as packets of shanty settlements amongst big housing projects in the whole of Navi Mumbai. This fact finding or realization dawned upon CIDCO years later when it started facing resentment from the PAP communities. Since then CIDCO has undertaken numerous projects for the welfare of those PAPs.

One such project is the school in Pargaon that CIDCO has helped construct and renovate from time to time. This school is for the children of the PAPs. Students in the school are from the lower socio-economic strata and go on to be dependent on local industry to earn livelihoods. The group work is going to include boy and girl students in the age group of 14 to 16yrs of age. Since the school has Marathi & Hindi as medium of instruction, all the students are well versed in both the languages.

{2} Needs Assessment

The full gamut of client, agency and worker needs should be examined as a first step in any analysis. If clients do not perceive the group as meeting their needs, they will not attend. If workers are forced to run groups that they do not find fulfilling their participation may slacken... The needs of the agency must also be met to encourage an atmosphere of acceptance of the group”[2].

The need cris-crosses the interest of the three parties: the agency, the group and the group worker. And the needs fit into the bigger context of holistic development and change of outlook. Please refer to the Figure No. 2 given in the adjacent page.

Development in terms of attitude of the all the three parties towards each other and possibly to factors that are external to the scope the group work (for example a deeper understanding of the agency about needs of the student group w.r.t vocational training options to invest in).

In my field setting the need that I have identified is as follows : to improve the personality of the group in ways that are favorable for the group members to secure livelihood opportunities once they members are of age and to equip them with the knowledge of all the various available livelihood options and vocational training that they can pursue in Navi Mumbai.

{3} Identification of Purpose

The identification of purpose is most potently done by putting oneself in the shoes of the clients, the group members i.e. The students have had a difficult childhood and have had natural problems with education owing to slow learning tendencies & malnutrition. Also because of their rural & semi-agrarian background they have to deal with domestic violence and possibly sibling rivalry. So all these factors act as a catalyst in depressing favorable leadership and personality traits. A noticeable nature of the purpose is in its dynamics. This could be elaborated by quoting lines from one of the works of Sondra Brandler. “Goals will be redefined and evaluation will be constant throughout the course of the group, but the initial explorations of purpose must be clearly stated”[2]. My purpose for the group-work is : to instill a heightened level of awareness about the livelihood options that a young pap student can choose from and to improve one's personality to harness those options.

{4}Considerations regarding Compositions

The group will consist of 15 members. Since the group composed of students from the same setting (class 9th of the Dapoli Pargaon School), it will be a closed group. The activity will proceed with the same group as there is very little chance of a group member to drop out. The group activity will be administered by one male group worker who is a student social worker and this will be his true experience in working solo on groups. As stated in the beginning of the writing, the group members will consist of adolescent boys and girls in the age group of 14 to 16yrs old. Its already been noted that the ratio of boys to girls in the class is almost same. So there will be equal representation of both boys and girls in the group. In his earlier observations, the social worker has seen the perspective students that are being considered for the group-work are extremely agile and interested in activity based learning. This apart they share common habits in languages they speak, educational qualification and socio-economic background. What the differ in is the IQ levels and characteristics related to behavior like the ability to communicate and personal preferences of style; and possibly career interests too.

{5} Establishment of Structure

The group-work has been structured to fit into 15 contact field work days. Each day will ideally have one group session lasting about one hour in duration. The group sessions will be held in a convenient hall that can facilitate group activities with ease. This group-work service is going to be delivered absolutely free of cost and will be done in consent with the school authority and the agency.

{6} Methodology in Pre-Group Contact

Pre-Group Contact in the case of this group-worker largely involves taking the class and the school authority into confidence before engaging the class for the group sessions. The purpose of the exercise is conveyed to them and once this is achieved, the students of the class that fit the profile of the group are formed and a small orientation of the group-members is done. Apart from the interaction, this includes a bit of rappot-building as well (more about it in the Content section). Norms will be formulated in the process and variations to it if any will be normalized and agreed upon.

It is also very important for the class -teacher and the principal to assure the students to devote their attention to the group-worker before the exercise commences. This will instill a sense of faith and responsibility in the group-members.

{7} Identification of key Content

The group-sessions will start with ice-breaking exercises involving limited no or props like a ball of a piece of handkerchief or simple use of voice etc. The games are interlaced with rapport building exercises where the group-members come to know more about the group-worker and as well as the other members of the group. This strategy is to be interlaced with the purpose of the group-work and in sync with the needs of the students. For Exp, a exercise of passing the ball where in the first person at which the ball stops will introduce himself and roll the ball. The next student will introduce himself and also tell 2 things about the previous person.

As the group-workers starts building rapport he will slowly introduce the exercises that will tend to move the group towards the objectives, These will include activities like recreational games, poster making, discussion, a skit representing an issue and involving the group-members, screening movies and documentaries, and a competition.

The whole idea is to bring a concept of rewards, strengthening of motive and role model into the group.

To strengthen the delivery and motives of the whole group-work each exercise will give opportunities for ample interaction amongst all the members of the group including the group-worker. Brainstorming becomes a tools for forming perceptions about issues and taking a stand on them.

The nature of the games only warrants the use of basic materials like stationary materials for art and craft, props for recreational games and audio visual aids.

All the activities and sessions with have strong objectives consistently linking the group with purpose and objective of group-work.

{8} Examination of Agency Context

CIDCO is primarily a state interest institution brought into being to take control of the infrastructure crunch that Mumbai has been facing since a long time. It is primarily involved in providing for housing, industries and infrastructure in Navi Mumbai. It offers housing societies for sale at prices that are subsided. This motivation is to move as many people away from mainland Mumbai as possible to de-congest Mumbai and to create a second hub of industries and corporations outside city to facilitate the ample development potential of Mumbai. For this elaborate state infrastructure (Railways, roads, space for industries etc) is already in place in Navi Mumbai. Since the time CIDCO started operating and interfacing with indigenous Navi Mumbai communities, a lot has been said about them and a lot has been critiqued and praised. As a state agency CIDCO bears the moral responsibility of judiciously including social welfare objectives in its activities. This obligation pushes the social welfare department to design and implement programs for the PAP communities. Apart from the basic mandate of social welfare the other prime objective of its activity is to form, improve and modify the attitudes of the people towards CIDCO, in ways that strengthen relations between communities and the state and to easily facilitate any development activity in Navi Mumbai that may warrant eviction of PAP's in future. The community appeasement motive is a approach of getting the agency's work done without significant resentment and resistance. The prime stakeholder of my agency is the Government of Maharashtra. There are several other forces that act in this like the land mafia, the real estate contractors and political figures (at panchayati and municipality and state level).

The Systems Theory : Linkages to the Kurland model

The basic reason for me to choose System's Theory was because I could find strong connection of the group-work with the concepts underlined by the theory. The Diagram will illustrate the concept of a system in the setting given to the group-worker. The group which is one of the many operating in the bigger supra-system (the School), consists of the 15 students and the group worker; and forms the OPEN SYSTEM. It accepts inputs from the external environment and the other systems operating around. The Group forms the focal point in the larger scheme of things. On day one of the group session the objectives will be discussed and boundaries for the group are set by fixing norms and conditions for the group to operate in. This also includes setting standards of ethics and code of conduct when in the group and when out of the group. All the norms and conditions are to be mutually agreed upon by all the group members. This forms a important parameter for pattern maintenance in the group. Each student of the group; and the group-worker forms a subsystem. Changes in group behavior, group attitude and attitude in the individual sub-systems may contribute to a +ve or -ve feedback and affect the equilibrium and quality of the group. Please allow me to illustrate the importance of equilibrium through practical examples.

The use of visual media is high on my agenda. I want to use a short film or documentary to assert the importance of being future ready. These mediums have impact on the psychological being of the group-member and can potentially disturb the condition of equilibrium. He/she may develop anxiety after such a session and might or might not share it with fellow group members. This may upset him/her and the anxiety may spill out to other members. This behavior can be understood by the concepts of linear and circular causality. In such a case the actions of the group worker and the other group members may subsequently increase/decrease the amount of anxiety (for exp : it may increase when a group member/the group-worker reassures the group-mate and it may decrease when a very confident group member flaunts his/her qualities that have made him future ready).

Also in my case, this group which is an open system has a possibility of the seeing some members exiting the system under extreme conditions. For this a pre-exit conditioning program is to be followed to reduce anxiety of the member who is supposed to go out and the group-members as well. This is one way group-members can handle the art of adaption. To summarize, these kinds of group exercises are necessary since the conditions that will be induced are favorable to promote group cohesion and integration. They become a medium for the group to know the group members, learn from them and contribute to the process of maintaining equilibrium. In an open system since there are external inputs (audio visual media in this case), the equilibrium is termed to be quasi-stationary i.e. even though there is an instability induced inside the group, the group as a whole tries to be in a condition of dynamic stability through its collective actions. All these actions have one motive – to reach the final objectives of the group-work.


[1] : Teaching a Methods Course in Social Work With Groups (Strengthening Group Work Education by Roselle Kurland, & Robert Salmon, Council on Social Work Educ (June 1998)

[2] : 'Group Work: Skills and Strategies for Effective Interventions by Sondra Brandler and Camille P. Roman', The Haworth Press Inc.

[3] : Social Work Treatment by Francis Turner, Free Press(September 1996)

Monday, July 27, 2009



Group Labs was frankly the most enjoyed class in the first three weeks of the academic session. The Group Labs for me were conducted by Dr. Katy Gandevia and Mrs Sarita from the school of social work. It was a welcome change in the string of classroom sessions that had suddenly become a stark reality of my day-to-day life. The exercise were based on developing insight on human values which are otherwise hidden and untapped inside us unless and until we are instigated or pushed to practice. The first exercise of the group labs was the conscious effort of its kind to know about 20 individuals of the class in a way that was more personal than formal. The exercises that touched me the most were

  • The once in which the socio-economic discrimination was demonstrated by the no. of steps we took forward or backward
  • The exercise of blindfolding and be led by another person around the block
  • The exercise of using private and shared resources to make something unique
  • The exercise involving puzzles

These four exercises I think were the most impactful since the values they demonstrated are integral requirements in the practice of social work as a profession. And they are

  • to understand that socio-economic stratification exists in the society and that every individual demands respect and space.
  • to be able to trust somebody with what one can achieve and give him/her a chance to perform or lead.
  • to be able to share and to bare it all to the community that you would work with. To accept and give resources for group usage. This would affirm the commitment you are making to work with them and to enforce the feeling of trust between you and the community.
  • to have an eye and to be open to individuals who may need help and try best to accommodate them and their concerns in the activity you are doing.
  • to foster a sense of goodwill by adopting policies of social inclusion of all groups in the society and to maintain relationships that will last a lifetime.
  • to be a good listener and advocate the practice of the same in the community and group settings
  • to respect the views of every individual and practice sensitivity in whatever you say so as not to hurt sentiments
  • and most importantly be a practitioner of strong character and honesty
Thanks You
Prasant Mohanty


To collate learnings of my friends and my self in words is a difficult task, but this is an effort to bridge the gap between the three broad areas of Education, Livelihood and Health; and simultaneously cut across issues and issue-based groups. This is essential because analysis of agencies like these has to have a micro and macro angle to it.

Following illustration demonstrates all the agencies that were visited by the Social Work class of 2011 in the First Semester. As evident in the illustration, the field work secretariat, has done a commendable job in bringing together just an impressive list of agencies that can give a holistic view of the current developmental issues and how social workers are placed in such settings. For a beggar who has been caught by the criminal justice system, a common man's perspective to it will be limited to poverty, at the first instance. However if we apply a bit of reflexivity to the whole matter we shall be able to come up with many new sides to it for example
a health condition that makes the beggar unacceptable to the societal system or
a kid who has brainwashed into following professional beggary or
a caste system phenomena that denied him/her any livelihood or
a simple case where a destitute woman manifests herself into a beggar to protect herself from insecurities around her.

So a simple case of destitution and beggary has a broad-spectrum linkage to diverse themes of education, health and livelihood. I would like to quote another example to show how the institutional visits helped us develop perspectives about social realities.
Though its a shame to realize everyday that child-labour is still legal in the biggest democracy of the world, it is important to delve into the pixels of the large picture to gauge the depth of the issue and to come to a holistic/solution/program/policy/intervention strategy/suggestion that might be able to address most, if not all the reasons of this menace. In Myron Weiner's book 'The Child and The State in India' the author tries to make the shady picture of child labor in India good, by giving sides of argument that are nothing less than fascinating. Its valid to argue why state legislature is not effective to protect our children and why the state is not pushing this issue in totality. I contribute it to many factors like market dynamics, labour economics, class caste structure, maternal and child nutrition, non-mandated system of primary education, employment opportunities for parents, migration, unequal distribution of wealth, minimal representation of the issue by civic bodies and even public sanitation.

I admit that before the informal institutional visits most of us (including me) had a singular and uni-dynamic point of view to this issue which is now magnified because of the diverse nature of the agencies that we profiled and the intense exercise that happens to share perspectives after the visit. The biggest gift this gave me is a peek into the process of critical social observation and participatory communication. As a preview to what we as student social workers should do on the field, the visit sensitized us about techniques and professional angle that we need to carry as our weapons.

For example a general idea about the specially-abled might be that though they are a prey of the shortcomings of the health system they aren't' seen as a inclusive part of the society because of their minimalistic nature of involvement in societal process and because they are seen as an unnecessary menace to the public systems around. So the generalist interpretation is to look at the specially-abled as people who need help. I interpret this as a general incapability to empathize, and press on the point of us normal beings not being able to help ourselves create space for everyone.

In a youth camp of Moral Re-Armament that I had the privilege to attend before coming to TISS, I overheard a statement which will portray something that is very intellectually powerful. “Before you go to help a blind ask if he/she needs help.” The normal citizen by the virtue of ignorance has taken it for granted that every specially-abled needs to be spoon-fed. Many are yet to see what happens when these same individuals are given a chance to co-adapt. It is this sense of responsibility that we have to seek as social workers to be able to reach an about-egalitarian society.

Thank You
Prasant Mohanty

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


INSTITUTION : Koshish, Beggar's Home, Chembur, Mumbai
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
TARGET GROUP : Homeless, Beggars & Destitute
ISSUE : Livelihood, Rehabilitation
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL NO. : 2009SW89
DATE/DAY : 06.07.09/ Monday

Koshish started as a field action project of TISS in 2006 when a student happened to bring out issues associated with homeless, beggars and the criminal justice system. Each year thousands of men and women become homeless and are mistaken to be beggars by the criminal justice system. Their livelihoods are shattered when they get trapped in the system. Koshish operates out of Barrack No. 6 of the women’s beggar’s home in Mumbai.


Koshish runs some very innovative community outreach programs.
  • Employer’s Collective is an effort to connect employers and inmates (who were employees earlier or who are perspective employees themselves).
  • Night Outs are a platform to reach out to the homeless and discuss their day to day problems. As the name suggests this is done at night when the homeless are done with their job for the day and are settled down. The problems that the homeless gives are taken into consideration during policy building and program formulation.
Koshish runs vocational training courses like sewing, candle making etc for the inmates to pursue alivelihood once they finish their tenure at the beggars home. Later these skilled inmates make products for the market whose returns come to the criminal justice system. When they go out the employers collective helps place them in formal and informal industries. Pallavi, the paraprofessional works on a lifeskills training program for women inmates who are mentally disturbed. This program teaches the women to go back to the society and behave like normal individuals able to work and earn a livelihood for themselves. Also there is a provision for Mukadams. Mukadams are those ex-inmates that have gained livelihood in the beggars home owing to the goodwill they have generated during their tenure as inmates. They stay with inmates and manage them.

The social worker helps in critical tasks of Koshish like program implementation, forming a bridge between the beggar home and TISS. She admitted that its a difficult job to be in this system but its highly satisfying an experience.Koshish is managed by a panel of TISS faculty members, professional social workers and paraprofessionals. It receives a major part of its funding from corporate houses and funding agencies like HDFC and Action Aid.


As I attempt to establish a reconnection between homelessness and beggary I wish to reconstruct the words that Mr Ruchi Sinha gave out in the fieldwork workshop few weeks back.
“Homelessness is the direct impact of lack of livelihood and for the homeless, getting into the criminal justice framework makes it even difficult to get back to mainstream society”
If one analyses the above statement he/she will realize that Koshish is trying to address a second dimension to the trauma that the homeless face. Firstly owing to the stigma they face in the society, the homeless live a minimal existence and secondly they lose whatever little livelihood option they have when they are trapped by the criminal justice system. The basic problem arises because of the nature of Bombay Beggars Act 1959 which is still followed. Because the clauses are broad and hazy, the homeless, beggars and the destitute are exploited by the law. The fact that Koshish is trying to push the amendment of the act and that a new draft has already been submitted for scrutiny, speaks volumes about the dedication of the team. They hope that through this, they can make rules liberal and at the same time inclusive and non-exploitative.

After observing for sometime I realized that if a person is not in a position to successfully secure his basic right to food and shelter because of lack of livelihood opportunities, how many days will be able to afford basic sanitation and clean pair of clothes; and how many days will be able to resist the temptation of begging. This is something that our constitutional concept of freedom in civic society, should be questioned for.