Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Upon returning from the field….

By PDM 11 Batch

Any field experience has its own importance for learning, application of theoretical concepts, and better understanding of poverty at micro level. The PDM 11 students from Tata-Dhan Academy got a chance after the first term to be exposed to the ground reality in different contexts. We were divided into three groups and studied in three different contexts: rural, tribal, and slum. Here, we are consolidating some of what we understood from our experiences.

Pashupati conducting a social mapping exercise in a slum in Bihar. In general, conducting participatory techniques is a challenge in such settings, in part because it is difficult to bring together many members from the community in a common gathering place.

Our perception regarding villages has changed somewhat after this one month stay. During this time, we tried to gain some insights into different dimensions of village life and the drudgery of poverty. We noticed that what should be a big community of entrepreneurs were instead people trapped into complex external and internal factors; because of this limitation, there are many consequences for the farmers’ families and for the future generations. The negative impact of our modern civilised society is also quite visible in our villages, but villagers are far behind in adopting more positive developments as is provided through the increased knowledge base and improved technologies modern society provides. During our field study, we identified migration, education, poor agriculture performance, unemployment, and housing as the major challenges for villages. The most important point what we observed was clear cut difference between shining India and old Bharat in our villages.

Ravi reviews the final result of a social mapping activity with community members from the tribal area in which he was staying.

This picture is similar in tribal contexts. This time, TDA students went to Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu for tribal studies. During discussion, it was quite clear that Naxalite-type anti-social groups can hinder the development work in Jharkhand and other sensitive states. The study village in Jharkhand was just a practical exposure for students. The Tamil Nadu tribal community is much better than the north state tribal community in several indicators including health, education, and food security. One positive point that emerged was that the tribal community is increasingly aware about their rights, role, and responsibility; however, development workers and the government still need to do much more focused work for helping these communities.

Amar sits down to conduct an interview with one of the slum dwellers of the slum he was studying.

A slum is a considerably different context from villages and tribal areas. In particular, there are stark differences in culture, people’s mentality towards education, the active social group, and caste stratification. The two students who spent time in slums in Patna, Bihar, were able to explore these issues; they were also able to understand the economic condition and the day-to-day life pattern for those living in the slums. It was also unsettling to find that people had migrated from our villages to our cities with many dreams of a better and safer life, only to find themselves trapped in the drudgery of slum life. At the same time, there is something seemingly paradoxical about the slum situation: most of the people who live in slums help to keep the city clean, whether they are working as rag-pickers, sweepers, peons, and maids. Yet, in the slums, everywhere you look, there are issues of sanitation, water, and dirtiness, and the people in the slums are waiting for outsiders–for instance, the government or NGOs–to solve this.

This seems like a difficult picture for new budding development professionals like us. It disturbs us, but at the same time, it motivates us. From the start with our field experiences, we have been given new challenges. This is good, because the development sector is vast and if we want to contribute something in this sector, we have to be prepared well enough for any challenges the sector sends our way.

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Filed under: Fieldwork 1, PDM 11, , ,

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