The Development Myth

In his book "I, The Citizen", Dr.R.Balasubramaniam talks about his experience when he worked with Tribal communities in South India's rural hinterland.

During one interaction with women in a Tribal colony, he learnt that they trekked 8 - 10 kms everyday to fetch water. He was aghast on hearing this and disturbed at the plight of these women.

He spoke to the local Administration and within a week had a Tube well with a hand pump installed at the colony.

About 6 months later he visited the colony again expecting to receive adulation from a grateful community for reducing their workload and making their lives better. However, he was shocked to receive the choicest expletives from the women who were angry to see him. On probing further he found out that he had taken away from the women what was most valuable for them. Fetching water was the only time they had for themselves when they could get away from their homes, their family and their husbands. This was a time when they could speak to their friends, discuss their problems and their dreams.

Having a tube well meant no more trips to the river and their husbands insisted that they fetch water from the Tube well and spend more time at home.

They wanted to know how and why he perceived that lack of water was a problem and why he did not ask them.

He raises a valid point that Development practitioners see the problem from the narrow lens of their own expertise and competence.

In a recent example where the Indian PM Narendra Modi has been promoting installation of Toilets instead of defecating in the open. In a UP village around 90 families quietly demolished the toilets built inside their houses preferring to defecate in their comfortable fields. Many converted the toilets into store rooms. src TOI

Read the book

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