Monday, July 27, 2009


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

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