HRD FOR SOCIETAL SYSTEMS: A SOCIAL IDENTITY BASED APPROACH N.M....
HRD FOR SOCIETAL SYSTEMS: A SOCIAL IDENTITY BASED
This paper analyses the causes for failure of national development efforts. Incorrect choice of develop-
ment approach has resulted in widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Based on the writings
from psychology and sociology, a construct of "Social Identity" has been defined. Development efforts
should make people aware of their social identity as it exists in their mind and the historical forces which
are responsible for that identity and its dysfunctional effects. The paper recommends that change-agents
for development should facilitate the poor and oppressed, to be empowered for managing a change in
their social identity. It also highlights how voluntary organisations are better positioned as compared to
the government agencies in facilitating the poor in their developmental efforts.
Dr. N.M. Agrawal is Senior Faculty, H.A.L. Staff College, Vimanapura, Bangalore.
Developmental processes at societal level have to be multifaceted. Social develop-
ment should ensure economic productivity. But simultaneously, equitable distribu-
tion of resources, and wider freedom of choice for the members of the social system
involved, need to be achieved (Brown, 1988; Pareek, 1988). Rogers (1983: 121)
has conceptualised development as a "widely participatory process of social change
in a society intended to bring about both social and material advancement (including
greater equality, freedom and other valued qualities) for the majority of people
through their gaining greater control over their environment". Socio-economic
imbalances at societal level, have often been cause of revolutions causing loss of
lives and resources. Hence, both developing as well as developed countries,
incorporate social development programmes in their national plans, to minimise
social and economic imbalances prevailing in their societies.
In India, concern for well being of the poor, particularly rural people, had its origin
in the initial work of Christian missionaries from 1860 to 1920. Originally, the
missionaries had not come to India for rural reconstruction, but the persuasion of
Christian converts and the influx of orphans during famines, forced them to take
measures to start some development assistance for them. A large number of the
converts were from rural areas, and had liking for cultivation and hence, they were
provided land by missionaries. In addition, many other developmental activities like
schools for boys and girls, night schools for adults, cooperative societies and health
facilities, were run by the missionaries (Pande, 1967).
After the year 1920, many Indians like Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and
K.T. Paul did considerable work for community development. Paul, who himself was
a farmer and lived in rural surroundings, implemented many socio-economic devel-
opment plans for the depressed classes, as a secretary of YMCA from 1916 to 1930
(Pande, 1967). Rabindranath Tagore strongly believed that people should be self
sufficient and hence, his emphasis was mainly on educating the people, rather than
giving charity. In 1922, he started an institution of rural reconstruction at Sriniketana,
184 N.M. Agrawal
and introduced many socio-economical development programmes for the poor
Gandhiji's concern for the poor needs no elaboration. His first intimate contact with
Indian villages came in 1917 at Champaran (Bihar), where he had gone to assist
the peasants, oppressed by the indigo planters. He started with opening a few
schools for villagers in 1917. Subsequently, his whole life was devoted to the cause
of the poor and freedom of the country. He started the 'Khadi Movement' to make
the villagers self-reliant. In 1936, he settled down in Sevagram
and started many
development activities for the villagers (Gandhi, 1947; Asche, 1968).
After independence, development programmes have been emphasised in all the
Seven Five Year Plans with particular focus on rural development. But in spite of
more than 40 years of development efforts, a large percentage of the total population
still live below poverty line. This paper makes an attempt to analyse the causes for
failure of our development efforts.
Firstly, we have briefly reviewed the nature of development programmes imple-
mented by the Government of India in the last 40 years. It is followed by reviewing
the gap between the rich and the poor and the causes thereof. It has been argued
that while designing and planning the development efforts at national level, Socio-
cultural factors unique to our society have not been considered and it has resulted
in widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Finally, we have discussed how
identity based organisation development approaches can be used to resolve these
issues, and make development efforts more effective.
Rural Development Programmes in India
India started experimenting with development programmes on a large scale by
launching Community Development (CD) Programmes in 1952. Community Devel-
opment Programme has been defined as (United Nation's definition, as quoted in
Mukerji, 1967) the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united
with those of governmental authorities, to improve the economic, social and cultural
conditions of communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nation,
and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress. As suggested by the
definition and as perceived by planners, the essential elements of the community
development programmes were: (a) participation by the people themselves in efforts
to improve their level of living with as much reliance as possible on their own
initiative; (b) the provision of technical and other services in ways which encourage
initiative, self-help, and mutual help and make them more effective. The community
development programmes were very closely related with Five Year Plans, and as
such greater attention was given to accomplishment of concrete visible and spec-
tacular physical results than to the processes of community development. The initial
evaluation of the programme indicated that the programme lacked people's partici-
pation (Taylor, 1956). The Balwantrai Mehta
Study Team (1957, quoted in Mukerji,
1967) suggested the establishment of a three-tier system of democratic participa-
tion, for infusing vigour into the working of the community development programmes.
It resulted in the programmes being transferred into national extension services in
1958 and the Panchayati Raj was
introduced in 1959.
HRD For Societal Systems 185
The objectives of the Panchayati Raj were
democratic decentralisation and greater
involvement of people. However, the programme did not exactly become a success.
The reasons for its failure were (a) absence of rational criteria in grouping villages
into blocks or locating the block headquarters, (b) the services provided at the block
level were inadequate in quantity as well as quality to meet the needs of villages,
(c) the social structure of the village society did not undergo much change and the
institutional reforms were inadequate and poorly implemented, (d) in the villages
and the cooperatives, the new faction-torn and caste-ridden institutions did not show
any interest in the programme and (e) the programme was as a whole largely
oriented towards welfare rather than development (Mishra, 1976).
Since the devotion of limited investible resources to regions all over the country had
not yielded the desired results, it was thought that for solving problems like that of
food, concentration of efforts in certain areas was a necessity. Accordingly, the
Government of India launched a series of intensive agriculture area programmes
during the sixties. These included Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP)
in the years 1960-61, Intensive Area Agricultural Programme (IAAP) in the years
1964-65, High Yielding Variety Programme (HYVP) in the years 1967-68.
The Fourth Five Year Plan (1969-74), increased the resource allocation to the
agricultural sector, with the purpose of utilising the Green Revolution drive for
achieving self-sufficiency in food grains and providing employment in rural area.
The Fifth Plan (1974-79), declared its main objectives as the removal of poverty and
attainment of self-reliance.
A minimum need programme, covering basic needs such as elementary educa-
tion, supply, and medical care was launched during the plan. In the seventies
many other target group based programmes were also launched, some of which
are Rural Work Programme, Small Farmer Development Agency, Tribal Area
Development Programme, Marginal Farmers and Agriculture Labourers Devel-
opment Agency, Training Rural Youth for Self-employment, and National Rural
Employment Programme. In the Sixth Five Year Plan a new section emphasising
"Distributive Justice" was added. Also, the programmes which were exclusively
meant for rural poor were clubbed together, and the programme was named as
"Integrated Rural Development Programmes". The Seventh Five Year Plan was
also geared to equity, removal of deprivation and a tangible rise in levels of social
welfare and social consumption.
Thus, we observe that starting with the community development programme, many
approaches have been experimented for rural development like target sector, target
groups, growth centre, backward area centre, minimum needs and area planning
with full employment. In addition many other welfare programmes, like Family
Planning, Health and National Adult Education Programme, were operated by the
Government of India and many other voluntary agencies.
Widening Gap between the Rich and the Poor
In spite of such large network of development programmes with emphasis on
removing poverty and improving distributive justice, trends in the level and
186 N.M. Agrawal
distribution of private consumption, do not reflect improvements in living standards
for the poor.
Griffin and Khan (1978), made an analysis of the trends in relative and absolute
incomes of the rural poor since 1960. They undertook ten empirical studies and
compiled figures for six Asian countries and for four states of India. The study shows
that not only the absolute numbers but also the percentage of the rural population
below the poverty line (based on income necessary for purchasing the minimum
caloric requirement), has shown a steady upward trend: Even during periods of rapid
agricultural growth, the share of the poorer sections in aggregate income and
consumption has been falling.
More disturbing is the finding that, "in almost every case a significant proportion of
low-income households experienced an absolute decline in their real income,
particularly since the early 1960s" (Griffin and Khan, 1978: 296). Summarising the
different studies on the trends of poverty, Shetty (1978), has concluded that barring
a few exceptions, most of them have shown a rising trend.
The Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) was developed by the Overseas Devel-
opment Council, Washington D.C. under the direction of Morris D. Morris in 1977-78,
to measure the level of progress achieved by various countries in meeting basic
human needs. The PQLI combines mortality, life expectancy at age one, and literacy
into a single positive index. The logic in combining these factors is that, they
represent a wide range of social conditions such as availability of nutrition and clean
water, well being of expectant mothers, healthy general environment, skill to
participate effectively in society and to share the benefits of economic growth. In a
list of 150 countries, India was ranked a low ninety eighth (Morris, 1979).
Thus, empirical evidence suggest that in spite of our development efforts, we have
not moved in the direction of eradicating poverty. Instead the gap between the rich
and the poor has continued to increase over time. We shall now discuss the causes
for this widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Causes for the Widening Gap
It has been suggested that incorrect choice of development approach, has resulted
in widening the gap between the rich and the poor (Braro, 1983; Moulik, 1980).
Development planners in India have chosen the conventional modernisation para-
digm, which has derived its philosophical orientation from a well developed tradition
of structural-functionalism in sociology. The modernisation approach assumes, that
the objective of development is to become more like the west, and that the
modernisation of western type is the obvious and undisputable goal for traditional
Rostow (1960), has outlined five stages through which modern societies evolved
and which are necessary stages in systematic change from underdeveloped to
developed society. The first is the original stage of traditional society, next is the
pre-take off conditions which involve developing a leading sector such as industrial
infrastructure with increased agricultural activity generating the necessary surplus.
The third stage is the take off when the industrial and institutional infrastructures
HRD For Societal Systems 187
have been built and all sectors have been turned to high growth rates. Fourth is the
drive to maturity, long periods of sustained growth with the emergence of new
leading sectors to support the old ones; and this leads to the fifth stage of
mass-consumption with the leading sectors shifting toward consumer goods and
services. The model of development as suggested by Rostow does not consider
the socio-political and historical context of a country and its influence on the process
Moulik (1977), has called the development model used in India as the "harmony
model". According to him, the basic assumption in the harmony model is that,
different interests at the community or regional level can be developed simultane-
ously. In this model it is believed that innovations, be they technological, institutional
or structural, can be introduced in a rural community through proper extension and
service activities by using established local leaders, influential people and progres-
sive farmers. It takes a status quo
orientation about the social system in which a
technological change is certainly favoured but without any change in the social and
political structure. He has argued that it is these simplistic assumptions of the
harmony model which have resulted in the poor being deprived of the gains of
The discussion so far suggests that social forces and social processes play a vital
role in defining the scope and opportunities for development efforts. In the next
section, we shall go on to develop and define the construct of social identity. It is
followed by a discussion of the social identity of the poor in India.
Social Identity of the Poor in India
"Social identity" as a construct is not listed in any encyclopedia of psychology,
social-psychology or sociology. But a review of literature on these subjects provides
certain clues, which help to delineate and develop the construct. According to Freud
(1926), identity is a psycho-social construct. While formulating his links with Jewish
people, he has spoken of "inner identity" in psycho-social context.
Symbolic interactionists have suggested that socialisation plays a vital role in
identity building (Strauss, 1959). Socialisation, is defined as the life long process of
inculcation, whereby an individual learns the principal values and symbols of the
social system, in which he participates and the expression of those values in the
norms composing the roles he and others enact (Mitchell, 1968: 194). Social
systems in a society which define hierarchical rankings in the society and the nature
of socialisation are stratified. Social stratification in turn refers to the distribution of
social status in the society which depends upon the economical, honour and political
status of an individual (Weber, 1958: 180-194; Sherif and Sherif, 1948: 624).
Erikson (1959), in his study of re-education of the American Indians, had found that
Sioux Indian's historical identity counteracted to the occupational and class identity
of his re-educator, the American Civil Service employees. He has pointed out that
"the identities of these groups rest on extreme differences in geographic and
historical perspectives (collective ego-space-time) and on radical differences in
economic goals and means (collective life plan)" (Erikson, 1959:21). He has further
188 N.M. Agrawal
observed that in the remnants of the Sioux Indian's identity, the prehistoric past is
a powerful psychological reality.
Kardiner (1939), in his study of psychodynamics of primitive social organisation, had
found that a group of people living in the same area and socialising in the same way
display similar personality characteristics.
The discussion so far suggests that:
— Identity is a psycho-social construct.
— Socialisations play a vital role in identity building.
— People in a group who have similar socialisation experiences, are likely to have
— Group identity is based on historical and geographical perspective of a group and
the economic goals and means available for a group.
Based on the above, we define:
Social identity is a psycho-social construct, referring to the collective self concept
of a group or class of people. This is determined by external factors such as historical
and geographical perspective of the group, its social status and educational and
occupational opportunities of the group. Internal factors such as the group's percep-
tion of its place and role in the society, should be considered as well.
Figure 1 depicts a model showing how social identity of a group is built.
A MODEL DEPICTING THE PROCESS BY WHICH SOCIAL IDENTITY OF A GROUP IS BUILT
HRD For Societal Systems 189
Studies on Indian society has suggested that caste is an important aspect of social
status and stratification (Weber, 1958; Desai, 1969; Beteille. 1966). According to
Desai (1969: 38 and 39):
In India caste largely determines the function, the status, the available oppor-
tunities as well as the handicaps for an individual. Caste differences even
determine the differences in modes of domestic and social life, types of houses
and cultural patterns of the people which are found in the rural areas. Caste
has fixed the psychology of various social groups and has evolved such
minutely graded levels of social distance and superior-inferior relationships
that the social structure looks like a gigantic hierarchic pyramid with a mass
of untouchables as its base and a small stratum of elite, the Brahmins, almost
equally unapproachable as its apex.
In India, thus low caste people are not only economically weak but also have a low
social-identity. In a study of chamars,
the leather workers belonging to lower castes,
Briggs (1920), had observed that they were economically weak, and also they were
so conquered and broken by centuries of oppression, that they have but little self
respect left and had no ambition. The public schools were virtually closed to chamars.
But teachers and pupils in the schools made it most difficult for low caste
boys to sit in the class rooms. The feeling was widespread that an ignorant chamar
was the only useful chamar.
Though more than 70 years have lapsed since Briggs conducted his study, the
situation does not seem to have changed much. In a study of school drop outs
children (Central Institute of Research and Training in Public
Corporation, 1975), it was found that because of their appalling poverty, the Harijan
parents could not meet the basic physical needs much less the schooling expenses
of the child. Also the humiliating and discriminating practices indulged in by school
teachers and ill-treatment meted out to the Harijan
child by them and the classmates,
were other factors which discouraged continuance of schooling on his/her part. The
general hostility among upper castes towards the well-being and development of
their ability to keep them perpetually under their hegemony and use them
as beggars (work without pay), their constant and deliberate efforts to create a
negative self-image among them, are some of the community disincentives, which
multiply the cases of drop out among Harijan
Bhatt (1975) had found that seventy three per cent of the Harijans
continue to be
illiterate, as compared to only four per cent of other high castes and sixteen per cent
Income distribution by caste also showed a clear trend that, low caste
people had the lowest earnings. It was also found that Harijans
and lower castes
considered themselves to be least influential in respect of political influence at
national and community level. Myrdal (1968) and others (Frankel, 1971; Dobb, 1971)
have suggested that inequality in social status in society leads to unequal distribution
of income. Myrdal has convincingly argued that inequality of status is an inde-
pendent variable and that inequality of income is a dependent variable in Asian
countries, when the process of development results in an overall increase in income,
the additional income is distributed according to inequality of status, so that persons
of higher status get a larger share than persons of lower status. In other words, the
190 N.M. Agrawal
social identities of various groups in a society continue to ensure, that the additional
income is distributed in proportion to the existing income distribution leading to a
further increase in gap between the rich and the poor.
Discussing the sense of identity arising from the caste system in villages, Heredero
(1977: 24-25) has commented, "(It) is a great help to caste people but it is odious
to the scheduled castes and they would prefer to hide their origin. To use Marxian
terminology, they are in a state of total alienation: they do not identify themselves
with their own group and they are rejected by the upper castes with whom they
would like to identify. To put it differently, since society despises the scheduled
castes, they too have learned to despise themselves".
Their context, not understood in its entirety by others, the poor are often criticised
for being lazy and unproductive. Further, their being lazy and unproductive are
attributed as the cause of their poverty (Gupta, 1982). Freire says (1972a: 38), "so
often do they (the oppressed) hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and
are incapable of learning anything; that they are sick, lazy and unproductive, that in
the end they become convinced of their unfitness". Another characteristic associ-
ated and observed in the poor and the oppressed is their sense of helplessness and
belief in fatalism (Briggs, 1920). But it is their exploitation for centuries by money-
lenders, middlemen and the upper castes people through begging system in
villages, which has resulted in their being fatalists.
Bureaucrats, who are usually responsible, to implement government sponsored
development programmes, have their own social identity, much different from the
identity of the poor. This becomes another cause of poor not being benefited from
development programmes. Esmann and Uphoff (1978) have observed that there is
a difficulty of communication between members of the bureaucracy and peasant
cultures. This derives from the "social distance" between educated, urbanised
official whose rules, procedures and rewards are determined by the bureaucratic
structures in which they operate, on the one hand, and semi-literate, low income,
low status and politically weak peasants whom they are expected to serve on the
other. Officials tend to feel superior to peasants and demand deferences in ways
that inhibit effective communication and service; peasants generally respond with
diffidence or avoid contact with officials. Moreover, it is both prudent and easier for
officials to work with the larger and more progressive farmers as they can under-
stand and adopt innovations faster.
Our discussion so far suggests the need for uplifting the social identity of the poor.
The government has tried through constitutional measures to provide justice and
equality to its citizens. While article twenty three prohibits begging and other similar
forms of forced labour, article forty six directs the state to promote educational and
economical interest of the weaker sections of the people, specially, scheduled
castes and scheduled tribes and to protect them from social injustice (The Consti-
tution of India, 1979). Though data about employment in government services and
public sectors suggests that, certain percentage of low caste people have benefited
from them (ICSSR, 1983), observations by Issacs (1965) and Parvathama (1968)
suggest that there is a big gulf between legal provisions and actual practice in
the field. Also, it is observed that the privileges for the scheduled castes have
HRD For Societal Systems 191
strengthened rather than weakened caste alignment and identity. The educated
members of the scheduled caste communities want to forget their former social
identity, but they have not been able to build up a satisfactory new identity (Issacs,
1965; Beteille, 1966).
It is in the above context that we discuss next, how various interventions can be
used to help the poor and oppressed, to change their social identity and experience
development and growth.
Changing Social Identity
The classical model of planned change suggested by Kurt Lewin (1947), consists
of three stages: Unfreezing, changing and refreezing. Agrawal (1991), based on his
work on transfer of learning from classroom to work setting, has extended the model
of planned change to consist of following five stages:
i. Awareness about the need for and direction of change.
ii. Empowering for change through learning relevant knowledge, skills and atti-
iii. Planning for change.
iv. Implementation of change.
v. Refreezing of change.
In context of changing the social identity of the oppressed, unfreezing implies
making them aware of their present social identity, the causes thereof, and its
dysfunctional effect on them. The process of creating awareness should empower
the oppressed to plan and implement the change. The process of freezing can be
facilitated by working with the total group so that the group members could support
each other. The new emerging social identity should become the platform for further
change, development and growth.
Freire (1972a) has strongly advocated the need for building conscientisation and
creating critical awareness through praxis amongst the oppressed. Conscientisation
refers to "learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions, and to
take action against the oppressive elements of reality" (Freire, 1972a: 15). The
processes of conscientisation and critical awareness make the oppressed aware of
the historical forces responsible for their present social identity. These processes
also have the potential to empower the oppressed to plan for the change. For these
processes to create awareness and empowering amongst the oppressed, they must
go through the process of praxis: reflection and action about the world as it exists.
For a change to occur, a change agent working with the oppressed must have a
profound love for them, more importantly, he must firmly believe that the oppressed
are capable of change, can learn and create a new identity for themselves. In fact,
Freire has argued that only human beings are capable of praxis and that is what
differentiates human being from animals.
Freire (1972b) has been using adult education interventions as an opportunity to
create awareness in the oppressed. He derives the generic words, used for teaching
them alphabets, from the context in which the illiterates live. It makes learning easier
for them and the process of learning gets converted into the process of unfreezing
192 N.M. Agrawal
their existing social identity. The learning process builds up a self-confidence in the
individual so that, he can change his social identity. In India also similar approaches
to adult education and development have been reported (Saraswathi, Ravindran
and Sundari, 1982; D'Abreo, 1983).
Heredero and his team-mates inspired by Freire's philosophy and work have been
using many OD based interventions for rural development and social change
(Heredero, 1977). Some of the objective of the rural development programmes
conducted by them are:
— To increase the self-confidence of the participants; to effect a behavioural change
from a state of diffidence ("we can not") into a state of confidence ("we can").
— At the social level the aim is to resolve the polarity of inferiority and superiority.
To restore participants' sense of self-respect so that they may overcome their
feelings of inferiority before the upper castes.
According to Heredero in Indian society, the individual has little meaning apart from
the community. In fact attempts to help him outside the community can be dangerous
not only because the chances of success are very small, but also much harm may
be done since social values are usually upheld by the caste group in villages.
Therefore, he usually takes a homogeneous group of twenty to twenty-five people,
belonging to same caste and village, for training purposes. Using T-groups, role-
playing and problem solving techniques, people are made aware of their own
strengths. They are provided inputs in achievement training, technical and adminis-
trative methods in agricultural practices. These people after training, go back to their
villages and act as change-agents in their own caste groups.
Based on the analysis of the courses conducted by them, it is reported that such
programmes create social awareness and build self confidence in the poor. They
start exerting their rights. In a village in which the programme was conducted, the
was not very effective. They reported the matter to Taluka Development
Officer. He, too, was not very sympathetic at first. The villagers insisted and told him
that if justice were not done they would go to District Development Officer and if
necessary to state minister. It resulted in transfer of the erring gramsevak
more duty conscious person was placed (Heredero, 1977: 103). It is also reported
that the training has resulted in substantial economical gains for the villagers through
a voluntary organisation, working in the field of adult education also
uses various occupational development techniques for creating awareness amongst
the oppressed. A training group was arranged for the members belonging to two
villages from Kherwala Tribal Block of Udaipur district. One group of participants
reached about two hours late for the programme. Discussion in the programme
started with about late coming of the group for the meeting and then it was related
to their present socio-economical condition. Also, role plays were used to make them
realise the importance of unity and the need for knowing the rules and regulations
to deal with government officials. It has been reported that members from both
villages have achieved their planned tasks, like school construction and running of
The members from the second village had infighting which had resulted in
delays in implementing the programmes (Singh and Shrivastava, 1982).
HRD For Societal Systems 193
project was initiated by the Centre for Management in Agriculture, at
the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. The experiment was started with
the aim of working towards influencing change in the social system through
economic activities with emphasis on the development of the people, particularly,
disadvantaged weaker sections to manage their own affairs to organise and guard
themselves against exploitation. The experiment was called the "Rural University".
It was emphasised that as far as possible the activities should use local physical
resources and greater emphasis should be placed on value, added through trained
man power. The training should also be the responsibility of local resource persons.
The capital intensity of the projects was kept low (Matthai, not dated).
The project implemented many economic activities like weaving, leather work,
improved cultivation of tomato and its marketing, agave cultivation, milk dairy and
nonformal education was also introduced. Though many set-backs and conflicts
occurred during the implementation of the project, slowly it has helped to uplift the
poor. Moulik (1980), summarising the leanings from the project, he said that the
effectiveness of people oriented development programme with primary focus on
learning to be self-reliant and self-generating resources, depends largely on pa-
tience and persistent process work by the external change-agents with the target
group rather than the size of financial investments in the programme.
The Tilonia model
of development (Roy, 1986-87) empowers the participants by (a)
providing the poor access to project planning skills; (b) disseminating information
to them about various government schemes; (c) making the communities self-reliant
and (d) providing the poor organisational support in dealing with the socio-economic
political system. While the model ensures empowering of the participants, it also
ensures that a change-agent learns on a continuous basis as a professional by
managing new challenges. In fact, unless a change-agent also perceives that he is
benefited as a professional, by helping the poor, he may not be able to sustain his
interest. Alternatively, if he takes his job as a charity, his abilities to help the poor to
change their identities gets limited.
Managing Change and Conflicts
The above case studies clearly highlights the potential of various occupation
development techniques for solving social identity related issues in development
efforts. But a question arises: will it not result in caste conflicts in villages? In
situations where oppressed are not aware of their strengths and the possibilities of
change, a conflict of interest still exists, but it results in the oppression of poor.
Literature on conflict resolution suggests that successful conflict resolution requires
working through the causes of conflict rather than suppressing it (Blake, Shepard
and Mouton, 1965; Agrawal, 1984). Roy (1986-87), based on experiences and
learnings from the Tilonia model,
recommends that, in spite of opposition from better
offs in a rural community, a project benefiting the poor should be implemented. In
fact, he believes that a change comes only out of conflict, and opposition to a project
should be constructively used to benefit the target group. However, he further adds
that conflict should be non-violent and legal.
In Shahada subdivision of Dhulia District in Maharashtra, tribals were exploited and
oppressed by local mill owners and landlords. Having read a press report about the
alleged murder of some labourers in the above subdivision, by a western educated
landlord, a number of young persons including some students from Indian Institute
of Technology, Bombay reached Shahada and started a Shramik Sangathan.
traditional devotional singer was used to discuss social problems with the poor men
and women to make them aware of their rights and objective conditions. Confron-
tations with the exploiting rich peasants and in particular with the monopolists of the
sugar mill cooperatives resulted in some immediate relief and benefits to the Bhil
The movement also resulted in women organising themselves intogroups
and fighting alcoholism and indiscrimination against women (Moulik, 1977).
The process of changing the social identity has also the potential of creating
intra-personal conflicts among the oppressed as well as the oppressor. Freire
(1972a) has argued that both the oppressed and the oppressor suffer from the "Fear
of Freedom". While the oppressed are afraid to embrace the freedom, the oppres-
sors are afraid of losing the "Freedom to Oppress". For oppression to end,
oppressed should have a new social identity and that means both oppressed and
oppressor should go through a process of resolving their intra-personal and inter-
personal conflicts. Emerson (1962) has suggested that power balance between two
parties reduces the dependence of one party over the other party. By helping the
poor to redefine their social identity, a power balance can be created between the
oppressed and the oppressor. It can reduce the dependence of the poor on the rich
and the possibilities of exploitations of the poor also gets reduced considerably.
Some observations which emerges from the above case studies are:
(a) Change-agents in all the cases were volunteers and were involved in those
interventions because of their identification with the cause of the poor.
(b) The interventions focused on building strengths of the poor and helping them
to redefine their social-identity rather than providing resources.
(c) There was a greater emphasis on action-research strategy for helping the poor
to plan and implement the change.
In contrast to the above discussed voluntary development interventions, in most of
the government sponsored development programmes the planning is centralised.
Centralised planning of the development programmes provides publicity to the party
in power that it is concerned about well being of the poor. The political parties depend
upon the poor for their continuation in power. Hence, they tend to emphasise visible
gains in development programmes rather than building the capabilities of the poor.
The bureaucrat who are responsible to implement the programmes are also only
concerned about meeting the targets, because they are being evaluated based on
Sharma (1979), based on the analysis of sterilisation data in the Family Planning
Programmes, has concluded that coercion and target based approach does harm
the cause of development efforts. Following mass vasectomy camps the perform-
ance improved considerably during 1971-72 and 1972-73, but had a big drop in the
year 1973-74. Similarly during the emergency years the performance improved
substantially, but was lowest for the last 8 years in the year 1977-78. It is observed
HRD For Societal Systems
that in subsequent years the family welfare education suffered a big set back and
the local leaders and politicians were reluctant to associate themselves with
educational efforts, like, public demonstration.*
Some of the successful voluntary health programmes, like, Rural Health Project,
Jamkhed (Subramanian, 1982; Arole and Arole, 1975), Pachod Health Programme
(Dayal Chand and Soni, 1982) have been successful because of their being local
need based and active participation by the local people. Community Health Volun-
teer (CHV) programme, started by the Government of India, is a reasonably effective
programme, as suggested by the evaluation report (National Institute of Health and
Family Welfare, 1979). The major reason for its success is that a health volunteer
is usually a local person, selected by local people and is also administratively
controlled by them.
The major objective of Project Linkage Programme, started by the Government of
Gujarat, was to provide employment to local tribal people. Sethi and Agrawal (1988)
have found that, since the programme design had evolved more as a response to
need of industries, it failed to reflect the needs, aspirations and values of rural
Thus development of human resources at societal level, will require working with a
new definition of development, with a greater focus on empowering the poor by
creating awareness about the causes of his underdevelopment. A change agent
working with the poor should have absolute conviction in possibilities of the poor
being able to rewrite their destiny by their own efforts. Further, he should be
comfortable to work on peripheries rather than being a central figure in a develop-
mental intervention. Finally, the process of change is likely to succeed when the
theories of change to be used for developmental efforts evolve from the context of
As a part of the conclusion, based on our arguments, we propose below two
propositions about development interventions.
The greater the identification of a change agent with the beneficiaries, and the lesser
the dependence of the change agent on the beneficiaries, the greater will be the
focus of the development intervention on building the social identity of the benefi-
ciaries through education and training.
The greater the use of action research strategy in implementing the development
programmes, the greater is the possibility of building the social identity of the benefici-
aries, and the lesser will be their dependence on a change agent in the long run.
* It is based on the discussion the author had with a senior official working with the Ministry of Welfare
during a Development Programme at MM, Ahmedabad.
196 N.M. Agrawal
The strategy for testing the above proposition will imply evaluation of development
programmes. Evaluation of development programmes in their own right has become
an important subject. Development programmes involve scarce resources and
very often they depend upon other external agencies, like developed countries
for supply of resources. Hence, it becomes important to evaluate their effective-
ness (Suchman, 1967).
Since the dependent variable "social identity" is a socio-psychological construct, it
is likely to take considerable time to notice significant variation in it. A post test design
with non equivalent groups can be used in the given situation. This design utilises
a single post treatment observation for the impact variable for both the treatment
group and a non randomly selected control group. This design makes it possible to
compare a group of cases where a certain activity has been undertaken and a group
of cases where a different activity or no activity has occurred (Cook and Campbell,
1976; Campbell and Stanley, 1966). This design is frequently used in social science
research, but it usually does not allow strong causal inferences. Hoole (1978) has
used it to study how National Green Revolution Programme in Indonesia, resulted
in national increase in agricultural production by using Thailand as a control group.
He had incorporated time series data also in the analysis.
In the proposition stated by us the independent variables are the change agent's
attitudes towards and nature of his relationship with the beneficiaries, and the
strategy for implementing the development programme. The topology of develop-
ment programme, like government versus voluntary organisations can provide some
clue towards it. In addition attitudinal scales can be used to measure commitment
of change agent towards the cause of the poor and the reasons for his involvement.
An analysis of the implementation strategy on the dimensions of power sharing,
mutuality of goal setting and deliberateness on the part of beneficiaries can help to
define whether the programme follows action research strategy and to what extent.
The dependent variable 'social identity' can be operationalised by measuring the
responses of the beneficiaries on two aspects, namely, his perceptions of changes
in his economic, social, and political status and the image of the group to which he
belongs. The data can be supplemented wherever possible by participant observer
approach either by the researcher or his confidents in the given situation.
A validation of these propositions will go a long way to restate the theories of
development and possibly make our development efforts more effective.
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