Three projects of rural development in Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal have been
analysed from the point of view of their goals, strategies, programmes and methods of
eliciting popular participation. This analysis suggests some hypotheses on the choice of
beneficiary, the choice of strategy and the role of the agent of change
Mr. Patrick De Sousa is Reader. Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Deonar, Bombay 88.
In the days when it was called Com-
of each case-study.
munity Development the social work pro-
The first case under scrutiny is a pilot
fession used such terms as 'Client system', project at Marianad involving a fishing
'agent of change', 'strategy of change' etc. community,
If C D . has today yielded place to
2 An uninhabited stretch of
IRD coast where the fishing was poor and
has there been a corresponding change in hazardous is changed within about 7 years
the role of the agent of change or in the into a 'prosperous' community of self-
strategy he must employ? More explicitly,
does the social work profession have any-
reliant fishermen with a unique fishing co-
thing to contribute to this new role and operative and an active mahila samajam.
This dramatic transformation — the Com-
munity Workers of Marianad are reluc-
If these questions are foremost in our tant to call it a 'success story' — will be
minds today, one way of answering them analysed in terms of its goals, the strategy
would be to analyse a few projects of rural of community action employed, the pro-
development with a view to drawing cer-
grammes and the methods of eliciting peo-
tain hypotheses on what would constitute pie's participation.
an effective strategy of change, what would
Goals: Significantly, there is no explicit
be the functions and tasks of the agent of
change in such a strategy, and — of relev-
statement of goals, but the change agents'
ance to a School of Social Work — what intention was to study the scope for change
training inputs are required to form a and organisation in a "despised" group.
suitable agent of change.
As far as the client group was concerned
the change agents tried "to initiate an in-
Three projects will be taken for analysis—
formal educational process to initiate
one at Marianad in Kerala, the second at change, to build awareness and allow peo-
Nasik in Maharashtra and the third at ple to inspire confidence in themselves" -
Sherpur in West Bengal. All the details a goal conceived in the best traditions of
of each case will not be presented, but the Community Organisation process, and
emphasis will be placed on the conclusions couched in language that could not initially
1 I believe it is a moot point whether the concept of IRD is entirely new or radically
different from that of C D . As early as 1921 Tagore advocated a philosophy of
rural reconstruction that took a holistic view of the total personality, called for a co-ordina-
tion of resources and envisaged an integrated programme encompassing the fields of agri-
culture, animal husbandry, cottage industry, health, life-centric education etc. Building on
this idea, Mayer in 1948, sought the co-operation of all government departments and the
integration of administrative, technical and human-relations approaches. From its inception
C D . has taken integral development as its goal.
2 Ripples and Repercussions, a thought-provoking booklet on Marianad gives the data for
this analysis.

have made much sense to the client group. was a show of strength when the client
Phase I: Strategy of Action — "Com-
group, armed with weapons, defied a Pan-
munity building and community develop-
chayat ban on fishing. The opponents with-
ment based on self-help".
drew and the clients co-operative became
(i) The change agents lived with the new "the only fishermen's co-operative comple-
settlers and 'made friends'.
tely controlled by real fishermen".
(ii) They began with the needs felt and
The success of this campaign among the
expressed by the clients.
men emboldened the agents of change to
(iii) The clients were involved "as much bring together the women into a Mahila
as possible".
Samajam that started an essential food-
(iv) The methods of operation were sim-
grains depot and successfully implemented
ple and no grandiose buildings, schemes or a campaign against illicit distilling of
equipment were employed.
Methods of eliciting participation: The
following actions of the change agents
seem to have evoked a response: —
(i) Construction of low-cost housing at
(i) Living with the clients and identify-
Marianad for 50 very poor families from 7 ing with their lot evoked their liking and
different villages through a house-building trust and gave them moral support in their
(ii) Convening community meetings and
(ii) A public health programme
interpreting the clients' hardships evoked
(iii) Clubs for boys and girls
their determination to fight and focussed
(iv) A savings scheme
on the target.
(v) A nursery and creche
In the second case, that of the Maha-
Phase 11 (7 years later)
rashtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal, Nasik we
Strategy of action: There was a shift in can collect important data on the goals of
emphasis towards helping to liberate the the project, its strategy and the program-
client group from the exploitative clutches mes through which this was implemented
of vested interests who controlled the eco-
from the report of a committee which met
nomy. It was characterised by a readiness in April 1977 to review the Mandal's
to fight for their rights. "It is more honour-
able for a fisherman to die fighting ."
Goal of the project: In 1974 the goal of
Programme: Rather than a series of the project had been formulated in terms of
programmes, there was now a campaign human development. Three years later it
that snow-balled by itself. It started when was felt the goal should be formulated in
the clients became acutely conscious at a terms of community building. Accordingly
series of evening meetings that they were the Mandal aims to build up a local com-
being exploited by merchant money-len-
munity based on social justice in which a
ders. This led to a joint decision to boy-
high premium is placed on personal free-
cott the merchants. The client group was dom, fraternity and equality. Operationally
helped by the change agents to resist the the goal achievement can be measured in
retaliatory tactics of the money-lenders who terms of the following criteria:
had enlisted the support of the Panchayat,
some officials of the Department of Fishe-
(i) involvement of the whole community
ries, local politicians and priests. There
in group decisions

(ii) improving local institutions, creating
(i) Adult education
an awareness of available facilities
(ii) Youth leadership training
for economic development
(iii) Childrens education
(iii) development of co-operatives to cater
to the consumer needs
(iv) Cultural programmes
(iv) developing marketing facilities
(v) Inculcating of spiritual values
(v) forming leaders among the landless
to fight for better wages, preventing
Programmes: In addition to the program-
influx of outside labour etc.
mes mentioned above the Mandal has been
(iv) creating a sense of vigilance in the conducting public health programmes and
community so that local leaders may has been offering technical services (mainly
not become corrupt.
boring of wells). The technical services
were mainly utilised by the better — off
Strategy of action: Building local com-
farmers. The Committee decided to close
munities is an educative process in which down its technical services since they did
the Mandal tries to identify with the poor not cater directly to the poor farmers which
and the oppressed. The various strategies constituted the new target group.
the Mandal could adopt are put down in
the following order of priority:
Methods of eliciting peoples participation;
(a) Concentration of resources on groups The rich farmers participated in program-
rather than on individual benefi-
mes offered by the technical department of
ciaries. The purpose would be to the Mandal because of the attractive rates
form a group which could become at which these services were offered. As
a "critical mass" and be the beginn-
far as the conscientization of the poorer
ing of a movement of social change. farmers goes, the Mandal works through its
(b) To achieve participation on the part extension department which covers 48 vil-
of the people at all levels in the lages intensively and other surrounding
programme of education, viz. at the villages on a more sporadic basis. The
levels of planning, execution and style of life of the extension worker com-
management of finance.
municates to the poorer farmers his identi-
(c) Economic programmes for groups of fication with them. No members of the
community are excluded from decision
farmers owning ten acres and less. making meetings. A sense of togetherness
The purpose of these programmes is sought to be inculcated. These serve to
would be to enable the group to ensure the participation of the people to a
have a voice in local politics and greater extent.
politics at higher levels.
(d) To increase the utility of local insti-
Sherpur Project
tutions (e.g. Gram Panchayat, co-
operative societies, banks) and to
The third project under scrutiny, situated
develop vigilance on the part of the in Sherpur village, Murshidabad Dist. of
community so that these institutions West Bengal, was initiated by a group of
continued to be of service to the college students (NSS) in 1973 and led to
the formation of an organization of local
(e) To conduct explicit educational pro-
village leaders — the Prabartak Parishad.
grammes in the following areas:
In 1976 an attempt was made to assess the

changes induced in the Sherpur community Methods of Eliciting Participation
as a result of various developmental pro-
grammes and to gain insights into the
(a) Initially the presence of an external
possible causes and conditions that foster
agent of change (urban college stu-
dents) doing manual labour on
behalf of the village enticed the
The Goals of the Project
villagers to share the work.
(b) The interest of a prominent local
Initially the project aimed at "infusing a
leader in offering the villagers new
new dynamism into the stagnant village
economic opportunities, and his ini-
community". This 'process' goal was sup-
tial success in the face of opposition
ported by physical targets connected with
caused an upsurge of hope among
the "development of the Sherpur area".
the people.
Strategy of Action
(c) A judicious use of the community
organisation process by the NSS
In the first phase the agents of change
project officer who continued to have
(NSS college students) were more active
great influence on the village leaders
and the programmes they undertook were
led to their greater and greater in-
non-controversial (e.g. building a school). In
the next phase the student action was more
limited and the local leaders became more Some Hypothesis and Implications for
active to the extent of creating their own Training
organisation for development (Prabartak
Parishad) and the programmes they under-
The following hypothesis suggest them-
took were economic programmes that began selves :
to threaten certain vested interests. At the
(1) On the Choice of beneficiary: By
time of the study there was much emphasis choosing only the poorest section of the
placed on withstanding hostilities aroused rural population it is possible to work
from opposing political interests, and on towards a suppression of the exploitative
creating new leaders and patterns of new forces that retard IRD.
leadership in the community. The physical
The Marianad experiment illustrates this
targets though less important were not dramatically.
neglected by the agents of change.
The second case — that of the Mahara-
shtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal also seems
to support this hypothesis. The Mandal, in
(i) School building
the course of three years (1974-1977), shift-
(ii) Cattle Fair (weekly)
ed its emphasis from one of 'development'
(iii) Vegetable Fair (weekly)
to one of 'liberation'. In its review of its
(iv) Tannery
own work the Mandal observed that "some
(v) Building 'Idgah'
people are poor because others are rich"
(vi) Deepening a tank
and resolved to "exclude the rich from its
(vii) Adult literacy programme
economic aid p r o g r a m m e s . . . . (and to run
(viii) Schooling for women
schools to) educate children to change the
(ix) Extension of agricultural program-
status quo of society and not merely pro-
mes to neighbouring villages.
vide learning for the children of the rich."

Swaminathan and Soares (formerly of tive strategy is one of confrontation rather
ICAR) also hold that the "better-off sections than of development.
of the rural community must be left to
depend upon their own initiatives." They
This hypothesis seems to be borne out
interpret the concept of 'antyodaya' as focus-
by the first two cases where there was a
sing exclusively on the rural poor, and note distinct change in the strategy of action.
that this aspect is a "radical departure
In the third case, that of Sherpur in West
from the previous tradition" that charac-
Bengal, the agent of change did not report
terizes IRD.
any explicit change in strategy. Right
The same issue was debated at a Seminar through the strategy was to provide the
on the Organization of Peasants in India, client group "with the means of developing
and Prof. V. K. R. V. Rao came out local resources for self-reliance". All the
strongly against schemes that sought to same certain hostile forces were released
include rich landlords, small landlords and and there were signs of a struggle. The
landless labourers in the same organization. client-group was not confined to the eco-
He maintained that each category should nomically weakest section, but to a politi-
have its own organisation so that the inte-
cally inarticulate group. As this group began
rests of each group were represented.
to develop socio-economic programmes, its
Earlier the choice of beneficiary was leadership became more powerful and this
guided by the concept of viability — the new seat of power in the community began to
beneficiary had to possess sufficient res-
be seen as a threat by the older political
ources (material, psychological strengths leaders who had hitherto done little to
etc.) to be able to make good with a little help the community. Though the agent of
outside assistance. It is not clear whether change did not give up the developmental
the philosophy of antyodaya has entirely approach it had to take definite steps to
abandoned the concept of viability. If it has meet the opposition of the hostile political
then is IRD doomed to become a massive leaders.
programme of social welfare that will be a
It is important to note that confrontation
perpetual drain on the nations' economy? can take varying forms-from lodging com-
If viability continues to be taken into plaints with higher authorities to law-break-
account, then is IRD really a radical depar-
ing actions.
ture from the earlier tradition of rural
The choice of strategy and the degree of
confrontation to be employed will be deter-
Social Work Implications: Since the mined by the relative strengths of the
'poorest' are usually an inarticulate group "exploited" and the "exploiter", bearing in
the agent of change requires special skills -
mind Saul Alinsky's advice to radicals never
not normally found among scientists or to start a campaign unless it is going to be
administrators or technical experts — to successful.
identify and contact this client group and
It is also significant to note that a stra-
gain their confidence.
tegy of continued confrontation is often
called for. In the Marianad project it was
(2) On the Choice of Strategy
observed that after the client group had
successfully liberated itself from the mid-
If the client group comprises the poorest dle men, it began, in its turn, to exploit the
sections it would seem that the most effec-
still weaker sections of the community. The

agents of change noted with regret that "the the Marianad and the Sherpur projects,
co-operative structure can become a capi-
in both of which the outside agent of
talistic institution in itself" and so they change played a decisive role.
called for a continuous change process,
The effective change agent needs to be
reminiscent of Mao's Cultural Revolution. a leader, ready to identify with the client
Social Work Implications: The profes-
and live with and like the client, display
sional Social Worker (who is, by definition, an attitude of deep sympathy and under-
paid by society to help social 'misfits' con-
standing, possess a knowledge of how to
form to society's norms) is automatically analyse society and its problems, use skills
excluded from the role of a confrontative of handling individuals and groups in the
agent of change. This poses a serious chal-
lenge to schools of Social Work that still
Social Work Implications: The profes-
feel they have a commitment to IRD. sional Social Worker is generally equipped
Should Social Work be deprofessionalized? with the requisite knowledge and skills,
Should professionals use only "safe" me-
but the formation of appropriate attitudes
thods of confrontation that do not infringe and personality traits tends to be overlook-
the law or the vested interests of their ed in the course of his training.
employers? Should such methods be given
The CD. programme was launched with
more attention in social work courses and high expectations that have been belied.
field work training?
There may be many factors responsible.
3. The catalytic role of the agent of Not the least of these factors is the poor
change does not mean a passive role. The quality of personnel available. If IRD is to
agent of change has to take a vigorous meet with a better fate than its precursors
role bordering on that of the charismatic it is imperative that serious attention be
given to the training of appropriate
This view is supported by the data from personnel.