In a haystack of aspects that are gaining importance,the most prominent ones include the need to upgrade, nurture, and facilitate indigenous skills.
The struggle for development is neither unique nor new. Each community strives to keep up with what it perceives to be the latest and the best. Obviously, there is an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses”.
The slippery bit is the definition of the Joneses. As many would recognise, keeping up with the Joneses refers to keeping pace with the neighbours. The definition of neighbourhood is constantly being redefined as technology reduces space and multiplies time. The neighbourhood, thereby becomes a dependant variable. The inhabitant of a so-called modern enclave like Vasant Vihar from a metropolitan Delhi may perceive the Fifth Avenue of New York as a ‘neighborhood’ and try to keep pace with them.
In the same manner, a tribal village in the Bastar area may see the city of its market, say Raipur, as its neighbourhood and try to replicate that story. The relationship between New Delhi and New York cited above, as also the relationship between Bastar and Raipur, is self-evident. Hence, the reference point of development keeps changing. It’s almost always context-specific.
In the meanwhile, planners of economic development, be it at the Centre or the State or the district, sitting in the Capital, revel in figure work, talking of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Gross National Product (GNP) and many other quite ‘incomprehensible’ acronyms. Often in these planning centres, the model is borrowed from entities like the World Bank, the International Monitory Fund (IMF) and lookalikes like the Asian Development Bank. The entire scenario is conspicuous by its attempt to borrow from the more prosperous entities on the line of vision.
This model has made many careers which have graduated from a humble local level to a district level and from a State level to a national level and then hopefully to some international body. That is defined as success. If one can end up with a job in a United Nations body with a pension which is tax free, then of, course, that’s applauded as an ‘achievement’. In the process, good savings have been made. The spouse is happy, presumably with a parallel engagement. The children have received international exposure. Appropriate marriages have marked the status. One would have almost said, “God is in his heaven and there is peace on earth.”
Unfortunately, as always, predictably there is fly in the ointment. The ointment is the balm for development. The communities, who it was supposed to help, are willy-nilly in 2017, similarly placed as in 1947. It is possible some will react to this analogy and condemn it as an extreme statement. That statement will obviously stand on its legs.
Let us make an example of development of tribal areas. If over a period of time, the issues are the same, the rhetoric is the same and the broadband of interventions is the full gamut of possibilities, then it is also possible to argue that one is going around in circles. Perhaps, some of the contents of the circles have changed. In early 70s, unrest in tribal areas was attributed to Naxalism. Some years later, it was attributed also to the stoking of the foreign hand. Decades later, it was termed as extremism. The problem still defies solution. The times seem to have come to visit some of the fundamentals of interventions. Evidently, more of the same is only getting results of the same variety. The concepts which are now progressively gaining attention is the need to facilitate, upgrade and nurture indigenous skills, products and thereby the returns. People should be encouraged to help themselves and the governance can only have a limited facilitative role. The framework of cooperatives is obviously handy. The methodology needs to be perfected. However, a fundamental rethink is needed.
Talking of tribals, forests easily come to our minds. The synonym of ‘forest’ is ‘jungle’. Both of these categories are inapplicable to the Indian context. Forest is supposed to be wild, the jungle is supposed to be lawless. In the Indian context, this kind of habitat is referred to as ‘Aranyak’. The ‘Aranya’ was neither wild nor lawless. It was a way of life of the ‘woods’. The need is to capture this simple yet illusive concept. The way forward is there if one can remove ones blinkers.
(The writer is a well-known management consultant)
Writer: Vinayshil Gautam
Courtesy: The Pioneer