ADDRESS ON DEFINITION AND IDEAL OF SOCIAL WORK DR. RADHAKAMAL MUKERJEE ...
ADDRESS ON
DEFINITION AND IDEAL OF SOCIAL WORK
DR. RADHAKAMAL MUKERJEE
(Chairman, Reception Committee)
Social work is as ancient as society itself in our country between present misery,
with its tensions and sufferings calling for pauperism and unemployment and the ideal
succour and amelioration that were bound of social security, dignity and opportunity
to take some organised forms. As in so many for the common man that is upheld by the
fields, Indian civilization saw the systematic Constitution of the Indian Republic. The
beginning of state social services in the forms Five-Year Plan envisages that such a gap
of establishment of hospitals (arogyasala), will be filled up through a new economic
houses for the disabled (danagriha), rest-
set-up and the development of various types
places for travellers (punyasrama), and of state and voluntary agencies of social work.
shelters for animals from the age of Emperor
Asoka. The spread of Mahayana Buddhism
According to the directive principles of
from China and Japan to Further India and the Indian Constitution it is one of the
Indonesia from the 5th to the 9th century obligations of the State to make effective
A.D. filled half of Asia with various kinds provision for securing the right to work, to
of social welfare agencies and activities under education and to public assistance in cases
their presiding deity, the Great Compas-
of unemployment, old age, sickness and dis-
sionate One as the Bhaishajya Guru of the ablement and other cases of undeserved
Buddhist pantheon. It was, however, from want. There is, however, no gainsaying the
the middle of the 19th century that organised fact that the State has not been able, due to
social services were encountered on a national lack of financial resources, to take suitable
scale in Western Europe and America largely action for the economically dependent groups.
to protect society from pauperism, crime, Meanwhile the ideal of a social order in
vagrancy and insanity coming in the wake which justice, social, economic and political,
of capitalistic industrialism.
shall permeate all human relations has come
to be recognised as the modern social con-
The connotation of social work or social science of the country. Thus the present
welfare has been different in different hiatus between the desirable standard of
countries according to the stage of social or living and security and the distress and in-
economic development. But the following security calls for the redistribution of income,
definition may now be presumed to be the equalisation of economic and educational
acceptable in all countries and serve as a opportunities for all and the creation of
guide to social policy. Social work comprises social consumption goods and welfare
the entire body of public and voluntary services through austerity economy by the
welfare activities that seek to assure every well-to-do classes.
citizen a desirable minimum standard of
living, freedom and security.
Priorities of Social Work.—India has
declared her allegiance to the socialistic
Such a conception of social work is implied policy and is on the way in building up a
in the Report of the Planning Commission new social-service-state in place of the police-
in India. There is, however, a vast cleavage state of the past. The foundations of a

2 4 2 ADDRESS ON SOCIAL WORK
social welfare state in India can only be without which the problem of adjusting
successfully laid by taxing money where it human numbers to food resources becomes
can be most easily spared and making use exceedingly difficult of solution. It is much
of the surplus; in the first place, to combat to be regretted that in spite of the directives
unemployment; in the second place, to of the Planning Commission most of the
equalise educational opportunities for all States have not done much in respect of the
and, third, to provide for schemes of social fixation of ceilings of holdings. Meanwhile
security. India at present is far distant from Acharya Vinoba Bhave's movement of
employment security and from equality in Bhudan and Sampattidan has spread, in-
respect of opportunities of education. Social spired by social goodwill and sharing that
work must fundamentally begin with these. seek to forestall legislation. Fifty lakh acres
Employment and income-security must obtain of land have been poured into the capacious
the highest priority in the country. In its beggar-bowl of this modern Indian saint.
absence health insurance benefits, old age But such small-scale voluntary redistribution
pensions and other forms of assistance touch of land cannot solve the acute problems of
the fringe of the problem of social welfare.
the vast and increasing landless class and its
unemployment and misery. The social aim
Relief of unemployment.—The total here is, no doubt, noble and grand and
volume of Indian unemployment, visible and consonant with the Indian spiritual heritage
invisible, is of the order of 22 millions. The that works through moral transformation
additional employment created in some rather than through State action. But the
selected sectors by the First Five Year Plan agrarian situation today is such that with-
is estimated at only about 10 millions. The out legislation the problem of destitution of
Planning Commission has found that both the large and multiplying landless class
in rural and urban areas unemployment has cannot be effectively tackled.
recently increased, except in the Punjab
which has reported a slight easing in rural
With such colossal illiteracy in our midst
unemployment. No social security measure a higher standard of living and dignity of
can obviously take the place of employment. man are linked with the spread of education.
Neither employment schemes nor social More than formal education, a new type of
services against the major hazards of life, education called Fundamental Education is
again, can succeed without the spread of stressed by the UNESCO. It is defined as
education.
"an emergency scheme for starting the inter-
action among the whole population of a given
The basic social welfare scheme for pre-
community, through providing the minimum
venting, mitigating and relieving unemploy-
knowledge and skill for dealing with practical
ment in an agricultural country like ours is problems in the environments, and thus seek-
a plan for land redistribution so that about ing to develop both individual and social life".
one-fifth of the total population, dependent In our country we call it Social Education
on the land, who constitute the landless class although its contents are not so liberally
may obtain the right to own land. Land conceived as in Mexico and Egypt, where
redistribution can come through the pro-
centres for the training of local Fundamental
cedure of imposing a ceiling of, say, 20 acres teachers have been set up.
for an agricultural holding and the develop-
ment of a new farm structure on co-opera-
It is obvious that in India as long as we
tive or collectivistic lines so as to improve cannot solve successfully the vast volume
the yield both per acre and per unit of land of unemployment, both visible and invisible,

ADDRESS ON SOCIAL WORK 2 4 3
social work remains as mere palliative or giving sanctioned by religion and custom.
charitable activity and can neither give In the under-world of all big cities and
lasting relief nor effectively overcome indi-
towns there is a vast shadowy capitalistic
vidual social and economic maladjustment organisation of commercialised beggary. It
which is the main task of social work in the is from here that are recruited all types of
more advanced countries.
juvenile waifs and strays and delinquents
Difference between Social Work in India connected with some street gang or other.
and the West.—Herein lies the chief We are among the first to tackle the
difference between social work in an unde-
problem of street begging systematically in
veloped economy like India and that in the the city of Lucknow. Some fifteen years
West. Where the considerable majority of back the University Department of Econo-
individuals do not find opportunities for the mics and Sociology found about 2,000
fulfilment of basic human needs and live at beggars in Lucknow city, of whom 50% were
the raw edge of hunger, they can be moved able-bodied. Our Social Service League
closer to the centre of security only through aroused public opinion against professional
the improvement of national output, espe-
beggary, got the U. P. Municipality Act
cially food resources, and a better distribu-
Amended and started a Home with voca-
tion of the means of subsistence. With an tional training of all kinds. This Home was
income per capita of $57 in India as com-
later on transferred by the Social Service
pared with $600—$800 in Western Europe, League to the Lucknow Municipality. Many
and $1,269 in United States, with a literacy of its inmates have shown marked improve-
rate of 14% in India as compared with ment in general intelligence, reliability and
Japan's literacy rate of 98.5% and with a skill in arts and crafts. Thus they have
life expectancy in India at 32 years as been entrusted with work and finally sent
compared with 65-68 years in Western back to society, rehabilitated and economic-
Europe and North America, there must be ally independent.
a clear sense of the priorities of security,
Incidentally our attempt to deal with pro-
whether on a federal or local basis. Social fessional beggary in the city illustrates the
security in the Western sense becomes a necessity of a triple attack on every type
mockery to one who chronically starves and of serious social deviance: first, social re-
has woefully inadequate clothing and shelter. search and diagnosis of the problem at the
Social work has largely been approached University level; second, the arousal of the
in this country from the viewpoint of urban social conscience of the people for voluntary
population, especially of the industrial social action, and third social legislation as
workers who are exposed to greater hazards well as welfare work by governmental or
than rural workers in their work and living municipal agency for which the ground and
and are at the same time politically aroused attitude are already prepared by voluntary
and vocal.
agency. In this case the Children's Act,
Treatment and prevention of professional though already on the statute book, has
beggary.—The continuous stream of migra-
not yet been operative. The Borstal Act,
tion of idle and semi-idle labour from the passed about a decade and a half back,
villages to the cities and towns is responsible is also not being implemented. There is also
for the institution of professional beggary, no Vagrant Act to deal with the swelling
which is encouraged by indiscriminate alms-
numbers of foot-loose paupers and vagrants.

2 4 4 ADDRESS ON SOCIAL WORK
Tramps, loafers, and street-dwellers are opportunities for the trained social worker
on the increase in every Indian town. Thus to raise and enrich the level of living. There
we need a variety of welfare institutions is considerable scope for the process called
such as Detention Colonies, Leper Homes, social group work such as games, folk music,
Curative Workshops and Schools for the drama and pageantry for the renovation
Deaf-mutes and the Blind, which all require of social relationships. Group work directed
social workers who have specialised in by a skilled social worker can develop com-
different fields. But scientific social work is munity co-operation and responsibility in
also a preventive activity directed towards the respect of urgent social needs and develop a
elimination of those factors of economic sense of unity and comradeship instead of
insecurity in the villages which leads many factionalism and casteism in the village.
villagers to take the road to the city with Group work is indeed an efficacious method
great expectations, and lands them into for the improvement of the morale of
permanent vagrancy and pauperism. If un-
neglected individuals and backward caste
employment in the sector of industry now groups. Through games, dramatic perfor-
and then swells the rank of urban pavement-
mances, adult classes, youth clubs and
dwellers— and there are about fifty thousand intercaste festivals and gatherings, the social
persons who may be counted as street-
worker's skill and sensibility to the interest
dwellers in the city of Kanpur—it is the of the group can successfully operate the
chronic raw hunger, unemployment and the group work process for the social adjustment
exploitations and brutalities of everyday life of individuals and groups.
in the village that continuously drive a huge
It is essential to remind ourselves that
class of destitute men and women into the due to the limited financial resources of
towns.
Government and the standardized imper-
sonal methods of Government welfare
For a long time to come social work, services, intensive social group work under
though emerging as a professional service, trained leadership holds high promise in this
will remain largely a counter-measure country in both rural and urban areas.
against poverty and dependency in this Industrialisation and urbanisation tend to
country. Thus the trained social worker disintegrate primary groups and leave the
working with individual families and groups individual to grapple helplessly and alone
should have full and constant awareness of with his misfits and the distresses and suffer-
the interplay of economic and psychological ings these imply. Social group work in the
forces for the causation of poverty, insecurity slums has already shown its usefulness
and dependency.
through the restoration of community life
and action. Bhajan parties, play groups and
Social group work in different fields.— dramatic teams have fostered the feeling that
We should appreciate the striking disparity the welfare of slum-dwellers can be achieved
of urban and rural standards of living in best through community and panchayat
the country and apply our new social intelli-
effort. Once this feeling is aroused, its
gence and conscience first to those social application for different objectives of social
areas, where "security" and "freedom" work will be authentic and effective.
hardly exist for the Indian population. This is
the chief reason why the current community
It is not adequately realised that the
programmes in rural areas offer excellent residential segregation of the lower castes,

ADDRESS ON SOCIAL WORK 2 4 5
especially the Harijan ones, in separate emulation in both constructive group enter-
blocks in the hutments or ahatas of our prise and recreation.
cities is the largest single factor that contri-
butes to perpetuate their social and economic
About l/5th of India's total population
degradation. A UNESCO survey in Kanpur comprises the backward and Harijan groups
city directed by me has shown that more with severe disabilities and handicaps
than 70% of the Parsis, Chamars, Kories, imposed by the economically and culturally
Raidasas and Jaiswaras as well as the dominant castes. It is the practice of demo-
Muslims live in segregated blocks in the cratic values and behaviour in social and
ahatas of Kanpur. It must be recognised recreational life which can be initiated only
that the establishment of new workers' by organised social group work that can
settlements with the different castes living foster egalitarian attitudes and processes in
not in segregation but in close proximity the community. Without this the law recently
with one another and with facilities for enacted for the removal of untouchability
common schooling, worship and recreation will remain a dead letter. In India and,
is the first decisive step towards the improve-
generally speaking in the East the group or
ment of social status and dignity of the institution like the family, the caste and the
under-privileged castes. Social group work village community is the lever of social
in social, recreational and educational agency action. Thus the social worker's task is to use
settings with the professional social worker the properly selected group for combating
as the helping person can most fruitfully anti-social behaviour and securing economic
aid the development and social reorientation betterment and cultural uplift through group
of the backward and untouchable castes in effort. In the West the lever of social progress
our towns.
is the individual rather than the group, and
social work largely addresses itself to the
The Group as lever of social uplift in India. individual's misfits and idiosyncracies and the
—Our immediate aims in social work should promotion of a suitable environment for the
be threefold: the introduction of social group handicapped or maladjusted person.
work in every field of inadequacy, depen-
dency and maladjustment; the development
An Indian Philosophy of Social Work.
of a cadre of trained voluntary social The above contrast in the institutional
background of social work in India and the
workers, each taking charge of a group of West underlies the necessity of an appropriate
6 to 10 dependents and handicapped, as in philosophy of social work in India. For with-
Japan; and the co-ordination of the present out a philosophy of social work, welfare
inefficient social welfare agencies through the policies and programmes cannot take deep
establishment of a community chest and roots in the Indian soil. According to the
expert supervisory authority. It is noteworthy Prime Minister, India today is wedded to the
that in Uttar Pradesh social group work has socialistic ideal and policy. In social ethics,
been recently effectively utilised for the superior to social equity and justice are the
reformation of adult delinquents. In the principles of sharing and solidarity. Love,
Open Prisoners' Camp in Banaras where sharing and solidarity imply the qualitative
they have taken part in the building of an improvement of social relations. Social work
irrigation dam, India has launched a new is at its best when it is concerned not with
experiment where correction rests on the a world of rights and duties, claims and
improvement of individual morale through counter—claims but with an ideal of altruistic

2 4 6 ADDRESS ON SOCIAL WORK
service and counter-service. In India altruism of its boundaries. In the modern literature on
is prized not only as the highest virtue but social work there is a growing recognition
as a metaphysical value grounded in an that those social workers who are themselves
intuitive perception of the oneness of life egoistic, repressed or aggressive personalities
and related to the structure of reality. Such are unfit to solve problems of social malad-
altruism that remains today moral and justment of others, and signally fail to elicit
religious has now to be linked with the improved patterns of social relationship. In
philosophy of democratic socialism. Episte-
non-theistic philosophical systems in India
mology, metaphysics and myth in India it is a mystical identity of self and not-self
establish a chain of altruistic duties and which serves as the ground of compassion
services that binds together all creatures in and sharing. In theistic systems God is
the cosmos. According to the philosophical envisaged as dwelling in finite men. "Bow
myth, man is born with five debts—debts to all creatures with great reverence in mind
to gods, to ancestors, to spiritual teachers, with the knowledge that Isvara enters as a
to fellowmen and to animals with all of fragment in each", says the Bhagavata. Thus
whom he has to live in symbiosis. These five-
compassion becomes prayer, and service to
fold debts can be discharged only by sacra-
fellowmen becomes worship.
ments, by the advancement of learning, by
parenthood, by altruistic service to fellowmen
"I do not seek a kingdom nor do I want
and by tender care for all sentient creatures. happiness, nor cessation of rebirths. What I
In Indian philosophy sacrament is used in a crave is the alleviation of distress of creatures
generic sense as knowledge, action, social of the earth afflicted with misery". In India
work and elan vital that maintain the the orientation of metaphysics and philo-
continuity of life in the universe. "Good men sophy is humanistic and ethical rather than
who take the portion of food left after the theological and religious. The philosophy of
performance of the five-fold sacraments social work in the country can only obtain
become free from all sin. Those men who a permanent footing as it seeks its nourish-
subsist for themselves and do not undertake ment from the metaphysical unity of every-
the sacraments in their selfish pursuit of the thing and everybody in the Cosmic Mind or
goals of life, really eat sin," says the Deity. The marriage of India's traditional
Bhagavad Gita. Social work here comes from metaphysical notions of the divinity of man
an integrated personality and becomes and the humanity of God with modern
entirely denuded of self-reference when it techniques and methods of social work
becomes a sphere of ritual. The recognition can alone realise the ancient social aims of
of the imperative necessity of non-attachment welfare and happiness of the entire people;
in social work is basic in Indian thought
"May all become happy. May all be freed
which identifies complete detachment and from disease. May all realise their well-being.
perfection of self with the infinite extension May none be subject to distress."