Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Spectrum: Issue 5


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Broadly speaking, livelihoods can be seen as the utilization of our human and material assets to meet the requirements of our selves and our households. However, unlike regular employment, which can often be seen as transitional, livelihoods are typically seen as a way of life.

Our lead article in this issue of Spectrum describes how participatory learning methods were used to understand the livelihood opportunities in a coastal community. The article “An Organised Push into Poverty” also explores the issue of livelihoods, but from the perspective of large-scale retailers. “Drought and the Nation” describes how droughts can affect not only livelihoods, but also the economy of the entire nation. Also included is an article on transgenders—a marginalized group for whom the livelihood opportunities imposed upon them by society can be quite dangerous.

Besides these, you can also find a book review of a classic statistics textbook, as well as reflections on the Gita, communication, women’s empowerment, yoga (from an alumnus), and global warming.

We hope you enjoy this fifth issue of Spectrum, and once more, we invite you to offer your own reflections on the articles in this and previous issues.

In this issue:

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Filed under: Spectrum,

Experiencing Livelihoods Through Participatory Learning Methods

Many people, even experienced development practitioners, feel that participatory learning methods are only applicable during the promotion stage of primary groups. Some of us ignore these techniques while doing the expansion stage of a project area. However, participatory learning methods can also be used to understand different issues (for example, a community’s access to credit, or the health scenario in a village) in depth.

In this article, I am going to describe how we used participatory learning methods to understand the livelihood scenario of a coastal village. The article is based on a visit by PDM 10 students of the Tata-Dhan Academy to the coastal village of Mangadu in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu (Ramnad region). When reading, try to keep in mind similar applications of participatory learning methods to different development issues. The techniques we applied during our visit which are presented in this report were social mapping, seasonal mapping, and well-being ranking.

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Effective Communication?

When people begin the study of communication, their attitudes vary anywhere from “I think this would be a very important class: it is important to understand the communication process if I want to improve the effectiveness of my communication,” to “What a waste of time. I’ve been communicating all my life. Do I really need to take a course to understand communication?”

Whether or not we take a course in communication, there is considerable value in trying to refine our understanding of communication. To demonstrate, I will present two class exercises. In describing the exercises, hopefully some of the jargon common in the communications discipline (for example, encoding, decoding, channel, and congruence) will become clearer, and you will be at least a little more sensitive to trying to verify the effectiveness of your everyday communication approaches.

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Drought and the Nation

Nature has endowed us with various resources but not everybody has equal control over them. Despite an inequitable distribution, all natural resources are important for humanity. Some resources have greater importance because they are either scarce or they lack substitutes; scarcity and a lack of substitutes make these resources expensive and sometimes out of the reach of the poor. Among all such resources, water has a great importance for all categories of people, whether rich or poor. Though water is abundantly available on our planet, access to safe water for drinking and sufficient water for various livelihoods is not ensured. Indian villages, most of which are substantially dependent on agriculture, suffer huge losses due to irregularity of monsoons and the worst: droughts.

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Filed under: PDM 11, Spectrum, ,

Revisiting the Indicators of Women’s Empowerment

Women’s empowerment, as the term per se, has been hammering the Indian minds from the days of our struggle for freedom. Not to rule out that there have been initiatives during all stages of Indian history to establish the deserving position of women in the society, but changes gained velocity during (and after) the War of Independence from the British. The movement is mostly remembered for the likes of Sarojini Naidu, Gandhi, and Raja Ram Mohan Roy. That is the history. Besides the history, the culture makes India one of the few countries where a woman is worshiped in various forms and stages. Since Independence, there have been widespread discussions of the issues related to women such as dowry, female infanticide, foeticide, sex ratio, and female illiteracy. It has been artistically captured in a recent movie Matrubhoomi (2003), which shows the future of several districts of India if our culture does not improve.

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Filed under: PDM 10, Spectrum, ,

Sex: Male / Female (circle only one): Transgenders in Contemporary India

At railway stations, bus stations, public places, and sometimes on trains we encounter some people who approach us saying “Bhaiya, give me ten rupees” or even more rudely, “Oye, take out some money.” Generally, we get scared and try to escape from such people. If it is not possible to escape, then we give them some money along with many verbal abuses. We know that they are also human beings, so why are we afraid of them and why do we abuse them? Why do they keep begging and asking for money even after been abused? These are the problems faced by transgenders today. Most people do not bear any compassion for them; others hate them.

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Filed under: PDM 10, Spectrum, ,

A Yogic Approach to Development: An Awakening into Development

When I first attended the yoga class at the Academy, the only time I waited for was “Shanti-ashna”, where I sometimes fell into a deep sleep. I would say I was good at it because some of my friends even snored!

Shanti-ashna is, however, not simply lying flat on the ground; it is the point of maximum consciousness where our consciousness is given to all the parts of the body from internal organs to external organs, from head to toe. Yoga teaches consciousness in every action we do, whether we breathe, eat, sleep, rest, or work. Nothing is let alone to chance to just go on as it is. Leaving things or waiting for things to come naturally is unnatural, and will lead to uncertainties that we actually cannot anticipate. The Vedic saint Patanjali, who compiled the Yougsutra, says that “Yoga of consciousness is about developing the skills and abilities to raise our awareness of who we are, simultaneously releasing the limitations of who we are not.” Everything should be covered under consciousness for the truest neutrality to be expressed.

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Filed under: PDM 8, Spectrum, ,

An Organised Push into Poverty

Big Bazaar has become the popular Indian face of organised retail. It is a place where we can get all the necessary household commodities under one roof. When I first heard about the inauguration of Big Bazaar in my home­town, Kanpur, I was glad. Only recently did I realise its consequences on small shopkeepers. The outlets of organised retails display modern technology, fashion, and commodities, and are the centres of attraction for youth, children, and women. They also offer discounts on heavy purchases even on branded items—a concept somewhat new in Indian markets. Now, a homemaker prefers to purchase from organised retailers rather than from the local shopkeepers. While they offer appreciable services to the consumers, have they snatched the livelihoods of middle-class entrepreneurs?

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Filed under: PDM 11, Spectrum, ,

Every Human Can Contribute

Our planet has always been beautiful. The real beauty of our planet comes from life–plants and animals. The planet takes care of all living creatures by itself. The plants are the producers of food, the animals are the consumers, and the cycle goes round. With this natural cycle of consumption and production, everything is peaceful because the elements in this system are organised by nature, which accommodates the needs of every creature. In the past two centuries, human civilization has manipulated the elements of this system. This has been possible with the help of new technology, which promises efficiency and optimum usage of resources. Unfortunately, this has happened at the expense of nature, which has continually been ignored without caring for the needs of our future generations.

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Filed under: PDM 11, Spectrum, ,

Practicing Five Teachings from the Gita in Management

Painting of Arjuna and Krishna meeting Karna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra retrieved from http://bit.ly/gyfg4p.

Shrimad Bhagwad Gita is such a piece of motivation that every time I visit it, I find new things to ponder and practice. The Gita deals with management—not with the perspective of factors of production, but with a focus on self: the core of all management. This time, I have taken five sharp lessons from Gita, which can benefit us in our daily affairs, especially in the art of management. In the lessons that follow, familiarity of the reader with Shrimad Bhagwad Gita and the epic Mahabharata is assumed.

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Filed under: PDM 10, Spectrum, , , ,