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.