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Key issues that the spirituality cell would like to explore: The interaction between religion and development in India: Negative effects of distortions of religion and fundamentalism:  Religious pluralism : spiritual message common to all religions.

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  • Key issues that the spirituality cell would like to explore:

  • The interaction between religion and development in India:

    • Negative effects of distortions of religion and fundamentalism:

    •  Religious pluralism : spiritual message common to all religions.

    • Positive effects of spiritual values in countering excessive materialism:

    •  Economic pluralism: investigation of economic systems predicated upon human/spiritual values.

  • 2. Personal growth and change as necessary for social change: Lifestyle choices and personal conduct borne out of compassion and regard for all life.



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  • Outline of presentation:

  • Why pluralize economics?

  • Need to break out of capitalism/socialism dichotomy

  • Replacing current values in economics with alternative values: provisioning for human life rather than study of choice under conditions of scarcity

  • Self-sustaining local economies: Elango Rangaswamy and Kuthambakkam

  • Matters of scale and intermediate technology: Bilgaon micro-hydel

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What is pluralism in economics?

  • The link between development and economics is obvious.

  • What is less obvious is that any economics is guided by the value system that underlies it. In the spirit of pluralism we would like to present a few general ideas and specific examples that show how changing the value system gives rise to a radically different sorts of economics.


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What is pluralism in economics?

  • The link between development and economics is obvious.

  • What is less obvious is that any economics is guided by the value system that underlies it. In the spirit of pluralism we would like to present a few general ideas and specific examples that show how changing the value system gives rise to a radically different sorts of economics.

  • All human societies have an economy and we are familiar with terms such as ‘tribal economy’, ‘feudal economy’, ‘peasant economy’, ‘industrial economy’ etc. The values of a society make its economy. For example, a needs-based tribal economy is very different in almost every respect from a wants-based consumer economy.

  • Thus modern economics (laissez-faire/market based or socialist) is one system amongst many. And in our view not a very good one either.


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What is pluralism in economics?

  • The link between development and economics is obvious.

  • What is less obvious is that any economics is guided by the value system that underlies it. In the spirit of pluralism we would like to present a few general ideas and specific examples that show how changing the value system gives rise to a radically different sorts of economics.

  • All human societies have an economy and we are familiar with terms such as ‘tribal economy’, ‘feudal economy’, ‘peasant economy’, ‘industrial economy’ etc. The values of a society make its economy. For example, a needs-based tribal economy is very different in almost every respect from a wants-based consumer economy.

  • Thus modern economics (laissez-faire/market based or socialist) is one system amongst many. And in our view not a very good one either.

  • On the one hand:

  • Modern economics tends to isolate economic aspects of human existence from cultural and social aspects, constructing an idealized rational, utility-maximizing individual, decontextualized from everything else.

  • On the other hand it:

  • Fetishizes ‘economic growth’ as a panacea for all of society’s ills. As long as material prosperity increases, the benefits of increased wealth will trickle down to the poorest sections of society. Material consumption and per-capita GDP are the measures on happiness. Ideas such as Pareto optimality serve to further justify the status-quo.


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What is pluralism in economics?

  • The link between development and economics is obvious.

  • What is less obvious is that any economics is guided by the value system that underlies it. In the spirit of pluralism we would like to present a few general ideas and specific examples that show how changing the value system gives rise to a radically different sorts of economics.

  • All human societies have an economy and we are familiar with terms such as ‘tribal economy’, ‘feudal economy’, ‘peasant economy’, ‘industrial economy’ etc. The values of a society make its economy. For example, a needs-based tribal economy is very different in almost every respect from a wants-based consumer economy.

  • Thus modern economics (laissez-faire/market based or socialist) is one system amongst many. And in our view not a very good one either.

  • On the one hand:

  • Modern economics tends to isolate economic aspects of human existence from cultural and social aspects, constructing an idealized rational, utility-maximizing individual, decontextualized from everything else.

  • On the other hand it:

  • Fetishizes ‘economic growth’ as a panacea for all of society’s ills. As long as material prosperity increases, the benefits of increased wealth will trickle down to the poorest sections of society. Material consumption and per-capita GDP are the measures on happiness. Ideas such as Pareto optimality serve to further justify the status-quo.

  • ‘Values’ have been banished from mainstream economic under the pretext of making it ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’. As a social science, economics aims to be descriptive and not prescriptive and tries to follow the fact-value separation that is the hallmark of all of modern science. It does not succeed. In reality values (religious, cultural, social) do influence economic decisions even in modern economies.


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Capitalism and Socialism: Two sides of the same materialistic coin

  • The two great modern economic systems, capitalism and socialism, agree on many fundamentals. In fact the father of socialism, Karl Marx had a lot of high praise for capitalism. In his opinion it was good but not good enough.

  • Both capitalism and socialism agree on a basic materialistic view and on the importance of economic growth. The agree on the importance of large industry, on mechanization, on the idea of progress.


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Capitalism and Socialism: Two sides of the same materialistic coin

  • The two great modern economic systems, capitalism and socialism, agree on many fundamentals. In fact the father of socialism, Karl Marx had a lot of high praise for capitalism. In his opinion it was good but not good enough.

  • Both capitalism and socialism agree on a basic materialistic view and on the importance of economic growth. The agree on the importance of large industry, on mechanization, on the idea of progress.

  • They disagree on who controls the means of production in a society. One system preferring to leave the production and distribution in private hands and the other making the state the owner and distributor of wealth on a needs basis.

  • Once again increasing centralization and concentration of wealth or power or both are common features of capitalism and socialism. Both are predatory and violent economies, resulting in imperialism (of the Anglo-American or the Soviet sort).


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Capitalism and Socialism: Two sides of the same materialistic coin

  • The two great modern economic systems, capitalism and socialism, agree on many fundamentals. In fact the father of socialism, Karl Marx had a lot of high praise for capitalism. In his opinion it was good but not good enough.

  • Both capitalism and socialism agree on a basic materialistic view and on the importance of economic growth. The agree on the importance of large industry, on mechanization, on the idea of progress.

  • They disagree on who controls the means of production in a society. One system preferring to leave the production and distribution in private hands and the other making the state the owner and distributor of wealth on a needs basis.

  • Once again increasing centralization and concentration of wealth or power or both are common features of capitalism and socialism. Both are predatory and violent economies, resulting in imperialism (of the Anglo-American or the Soviet sort).

  • While capitalism makes a virtue out of selfishness and extreme individualism and materialism, actually-existing socialism (as opposed to theoretical Marxist utopias) subordinates the individual to the state by fiat thereby robbing him/her of all individuality.


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Capitalism and Socialism: Two sides of the same materialistic coin

  • The two great modern economic systems, capitalism and socialism, agree on many fundamentals. In fact the father of socialism, Karl Marx had a lot of high praise for capitalism. In his opinion it was good but not good enough.

  • Both capitalism and socialism agree on a basic materialistic view and on the importance of economic growth. The agree on the importance of large industry, on mechanization, on the idea of progress.

  • They disagree on who controls the means of production in a society. One system preferring to leave the production and distribution in private hands and the other making the state the owner and distributor of wealth on a needs basis.

  • Once again increasing centralization and concentration of wealth or power or both are common features of capitalism and socialism. Both are predatory and violent economies, resulting in imperialism (of the Anglo-American or the Soviet sort).

  • While capitalism makes a virtue out of selfishness and extreme individualism and materialism, actually-existing socialism (as opposed to theoretical Marxist utopias) subordinates the individual to the state by fiat thereby robbing him/her of all individuality.

  • But humans do not live by bread alone. Our economic decisions are embedded in a socio-cultural matrix that imparts certain values which one may call spiritual or simply human. Indeed, all major religions have something to say about the economic life of man. For eg. the injunctions against taking interest in Islam and Christianity.


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Capitalism and Socialism: Two sides of the same materialistic coin

  • The two great modern economic systems, capitalism and socialism, agree on many fundamentals. In fact the father of socialism, Karl Marx had a lot of high praise for capitalism. In his opinion it was good but not good enough.

  • Both capitalism and socialism agree on a basic materialistic view and on the importance of economic growth. The agree on the importance of large industry, on mechanization, on the idea of progress.

  • They disagree on who controls the means of production in a society. One system preferring to leave the production and distribution in private hands and the other making the state the owner and distributor of wealth on a needs basis.

  • Once again increasing centralization and concentration of wealth or power or both are common features of capitalism and socialism. Both are predatory and violent economies, resulting in imperialism (of the Anglo-American or the Soviet sort).

  • While capitalism makes a virtue out of selfishness and extreme individualism and materialism, actually-existing socialism (as opposed to theoretical Marxist utopias) subordinates the individual to the state by fiat thereby robbing him/her of all individuality.

  • But humans do not live by bread alone. Our economic decisions are embedded in a socio-cultural matrix that imparts certain values which one may call spiritual or simply human. Indeed, all major religions have something to say about the economic life of man. For eg. the injunctions against taking interest in Islam and Christianity.

  • Humans can put their community’s interest above their own but the size of the community becomes critical. The nation state is too large for this purpose as the socialist countries discovered. Therefore, several thinkers have recognized the importance of keeping economies local. These include Gandhi, Kumarappa and Schumacher.


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Replacing greed with need: Gandhi and Kumarappa

The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed. M.K.Gandhi

Excerpt from Hind Swaraj:

What is civilization?

The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”. If this definition be correct, then India, as so many writers have shown, has nothing to learn from anybody else, and this is as it should be. We notice that the mind is a restless bird; the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied. The more we indulge our passions the more unbridled they become. Our ancestors, therefore set a limit to our indulgences. They saw that happiness was largely a mental condition.

In other words Gandhi wants to see a needs-based economy in place of a wants-based one.


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Replacing greed with need: Gandhi and Kumarappa

The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed. M.K.Gandhi

“What is civilization?

The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”. If this definition be correct, then India, as so many writers have shown, has nothing to learn from anybody else, and this is as it should be. We notice that the mind is a restless bird; the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied. The more we indulge our passions the more unbridled they become. Our ancestors, therefore set a limit to our indulgences. They saw that happiness was largely a mental condition.”

-- From Hind Swaraj by M.K.Gandhi

In other words Gandhi wants to see a needs-based economy in place of a wants-based one.

In the outside world, the economic man does not exist. JC Kumarappa Economy of Permanence

[In this quote, Kumarappa is criticizing the modern idea of ‘economic man’, a hypothetical, rational, utility-maximizing entity who makes economic decisions largely without reference to ‘extraneous’ factors like religion, morality, culture etc. He is saying this man exists only in economics textbooks.]

From the economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence. We must study the economics of permanence. Nothing makes sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities. There can be growth towards a limited objective but there cannot be unlimited, generalized growth.

The economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and in fact have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure.

[It is this wisdom that we are calling spirituality.]


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Buddhist Economics: EF Schumacher

"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful


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Buddhist Economics: EF Schumacher

"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

…the modern economist…is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less.

A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.


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Buddhist Economics: EF Schumacher

"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

…the modern economist…is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less.

A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

Simplicity and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfill the primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: “Cease to do evil; try to do good.”

People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.


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Buddhist Economics: EF Schumacher

"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

…the modern economist…is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less.

A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

Simplicity and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfill the primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: “Cease to do evil; try to do good.”

People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.


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  • How does AID come into the picture:

  • Local economies for sustainable development:

  • Support for the Kuthambakkam Gram Swaraj project

  • 2. Appropriate technology: Support for Bilgaon microhydel project


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Experiments in local economy supported by AID: Rangasamy Elango and the

Kuthambakkam Gram Swaraj project

Kuthambakkam in the Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu, is located about 40 km from Chennai. Of the 1000 families (5000 villagers) living in 7 hamlets, 55% are dalit living in 2 hamlets.

Eight years ago, the village was inflicted with rioting between the dalit and non-dalit communities. Infrastructure and sanitary conditions were poor. Kuthambakkam ranked 22nd among 12,619 villages in Tamil Nadu in illicit liquor brewing, employing about 35% of the population.

http://www.modelvillageindia.org/


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Experiments in local economy supported by AID: Rangasamy Elango and the

Kuthambakkam Gram Swaraj project

Kuthambakkam in the Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu, is located about 40 km from Chennai. Of the 1000 families (5000 villagers) living in 7 hamlets, 55% are dalit living in 2 hamlets.

Eight years ago, the village was inflicted with rioting between the dalit and non-dalit communities. Infrastructure and sanitary conditions were poor. Kuthambakkam ranked 22nd among 12,619 villages in Tamil Nadu in illicit liquor brewing, employing about 35% of the population.

  • Rangaswamy Elango was born into a dalit, farmer's family in Kuthambakkam in 1960.

  • A chemical engineer by training, he worked as a scientist at the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI).

  • His involvement in a rural reconstruction project , took him back to face rural reality and inspired him to read Gandhian literature.

  • As Elango's life's calling turned stronger, he finally left his job in 1994 and returned to Kuthambakkam for good.

  • He is currently working on establishing a land/agriculture-based local economy in Kuthambakkam, along the lines of the model of J.C.Kumarappa, the Gandhian economist.

http://www.modelvillageindia.org/


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  • Village economy in Kuthambakkam : Kumarappa's model

  • Elango's plan for his village is inspired by Dr.Kumarappa’s "Economy of Permanence" with a few suitable alterations in keeping with the times.

  • In Kumarappa's words, the objective is "to bring together the consumer and the producer into such intimate relationship as to solidify society into a consolidated mass, which alone can lay claim to permanence".

  • In this model, the villagers who are producers are consumers themselves. By bringing together six neighboring villages into a cluster, many products that are consumed by the villagers can be produced by themselves. Around 50% of the people in a cluster will be producers of these consumables using sustainable technologies. The rest will be earners by virtue of their skills, age, tradition and interest producing products (mainly handicrafts) to be exported out of the cluster and earn money from outside.

  • Elango has estimated, through a detailed door-to-door survey by his team, that Kuthambakkam consumes Rs.60 lakh worth of commodities every month. The survey covered 50 most commonly used items from rice to festivity. He also identified that as much as Rs.50 lakh worth of commodities can be produced within the village and traded among themselves. The objective is to minimize the outflow of money from, and maximize the inflow of money into the village cluster economy.

Jute centre work

The soap making machinery..


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Village economy in Kuthambakkam : Kumarappa's model

  • Plans to revive village economies are always met with skepticism with one of the most immediate responses being "How can our products compete with those of big corporations?" Elango challenges the foundation of modern economics which says "A healthy economy is all about competition, and being more strategic and faster than the rest", and to relearn that it is more about cooperation and pride.

  • The rural industries will, to the extent possible,

    • be land- (agro-) based

    • use locally available raw-materials and indigenous knowledge

    • cater to the local market; meet the basic needs of villagers - food, clothing and shelter - to attain self-sufficiency

    • be diverse; work on a cooperative model through men and women SHGs.

    • be heavily dependent on human power

    • be environment-friendly.

  • Elango has traveled across the country identifying low-cost and appropriate technologies, and is well on his way towards a vibrant, self-reliant village.

http://www.modelvillageindia.org/


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Appropriate technology: The Bilgaon micro-hydel project

  • “The economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and in fact have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure.”

  • Science and technology based on local knowledge and providing local solutions to local problems can often be less harmful to the environment and a more equitable way of doing things.

  • Bilgaon a tribal village in the Narmada valley consists of 12 hamlets(i.e. about 180 households)

  • There is an "Aashramshaala" or boarding school for 300 children from neighbouring villages.

  • These villages have never seen electricity even 55 years after independence. The nearest point on the national grid, Dhadgaon, is about 12 kms away.

  • Inspired by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the village people did 2000 human-days of Shramdaan (voluntary labour) to construct a check dam, canal, Forebay Tank, Penstock and power-house.

  • The project was designed by engineers from People’s School of Energy and implemented by the Bombay Sarvodaya Friendship Centre with support from AID.

  • The falling water turns the turbine which rotates a generator and produces 15 KW of electricity to light up every house of Bilgaon and the Ashramshala.The Bilgaon Micro-Hydro Project was supported by 4 AID chapters to a tune of Rs 12 Lakhs. In addition, the Ashramshala donated Rs 50,000. The work started in May 2002 and the project was completed in January 2003.

http://www.aidindia.org/hq/projects/illus/bilgaon/bilgaon.htm


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Points of discussion

  • Mainstream economics is unsatisfactory because:

    • it creates an idealized, abstract ‘economic man’ who makes economic decisions without reference to socio-cultural factors

    • it makes material welfare and growth the sole measure of a society’s well-being

    • it deliberately banishes values from economics and makes self-interest the sole economic virtue

  • The efforts of thinkers such as Gandhi, Kumarappa, Schumacher and many others have been to reintroduce human values into economic systems. These values may be called spiritual or humanistic.

  • Such a spiritual point of view has profound implications for how we organize our economy and how we use science and technology for the betterment of all.

  • By making human beings the focus and ends in themselves we can escape the imposed dichotomies of capitalism and socialism which make human subservient to notions of market efficiency and the state respectively.

  • On a personal level, if we accept spiritual values into our economic life many consequences follow with regard to where to work, what to buy, who from and how much.


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Relating spirituality to development: Part 2

A pluralistic view of religion


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Outline

  • Motivation

  • Our approach towards religions

  • Two examples from past AID work

    • AID work in Gujarat

    • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM)

  • Implications


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Motivation

  • Ideas of service, self-reliance, holistic living, harmony form the core of AID’s philosophies.

  • Economic development is regarded by AIDers as one (but not the only factor in development. (>90% agree)

  • These ideas are common to all major religions; they go beyond “material development” to the “spiritual”.

    Furthermore:

  • Distortions of religion lead to systematic oppression and violence : examples range from communal violence to women’s rights issues.

     Thus it may be useful to understand the positive and the negative impact of religion/spirituality on development.


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Some perceptions

  • “I am a religious person” Yes: 40%

  • “I am a spiritual person” Yes: 81%

  • “Misinterpretations of the underlying message have caused violence in the name of religion” Yes: 96%

  • “I think that all things considered, organized religion is a positive force for development of society” Yes: 47%

  • The aim of this cell is NOT to prescribe a code of conduct or to examine others’ actions! Rather, it is meant to provide food for thought towards understanding and introspection for the interested.

  • Thus our approach must naturally be pluralistic/inclusive rather than divisive/exclusive.


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A pluralistic approach…

The underlying beliefs being that

  • “the existence of numerous distinct ethnic, religious or cultural groups within a society is desirable or socially beneficial”

  • “Harmonious development can be achieved in an environment of peace and tolerance of mutual differences, premised on a fundamental respect for justice and for the rights of every human being.”

  • “Nonviolent struggle against injustice, constructive work and responsible living are three pillars that can be used to uphold this fundamental respect for social justice and human rights.”

    -- From the pluralism policy adopted at the 2003 AID conference


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Example 1: AID in Gujarat

When : Started with the Godhra incident in end-Feb 2002

What : Sustained and brutal communal violence

Where:Several districts of central and eastern Gujarat

Effect : Over 2000 lives lost, and enormous displacement of over 100,000 people, largely of Muslim minorities

Complicating factors:

  • Very brutal and calculated violence including on women and children, leading to extreme trauma

  • Lack of govt support, and often denial of justice.

  • Very few NGOs working in this environment for rehab of affected people, because it means taking a stand.


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Elements of AID response

  • On the ground: AID’s former EQ partners and others regrouped into a coalition to work with the riots-affected.

  • In the US: Gujarat taskforce (2002-3)  Gujarat cell (2004).

  • Actions:

    • Phase 1: Included relief, reconstruction and livelihood regeneration activities - mainly in collaboration with Citizens’ Initiative and its constituents.

    • Phase 2: Involved pluralistic community-based organizations, wanting to build bridges, cognizant of the problems of extremism, innovative communal harmony efforts (SPRAT, Center for Development, Tarun Tarveriya)


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AID response in the US - 2

  • Mohalla meetings (AID Boston)

  • Coalition Against Communalism (Bay area)

  • Talks by social workers, screening documentaries, etc.

  • Efforts by various chapters to work with marginalized groups in Kashmir and North-East where AID has little presence, which are slowly bearing fruit.

  • Website on resources for communal harmony set up by the AID Gujarat taskforce.

  • The Eliminate Hate at all Levels (EHAAL) poster and campaign initiated by volunteers from College Park and Columbus.


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Example 2: SVYM

  • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) is a non-profit, non-religious, non-political voluntary organization

  • Started in 1984 by Dr. R. Balasubramaniam;

  • Funded by AID Boston for “Jaagrutha Bhaaratha” program: To empower and enable the rural and adivasi communities in Heggadadevanakote taluk, Mysore district.

  • Issues addressed:

    • Health (Reproductive and child health, family welfare, personal and community hygeine)

    • Social issues (Adolescent marriages, alcoholism, bonded labour)

  • Methodology: Street plays, songs dubbed from popular numbers, anecdotes, skits.


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Feedback from SVYM - 1

Q. Do you think the primary ingredient in development is economic?

A. “At the superficial level, economic concerns are the driving force of development. But then as you continue working, one can easily realize that this is only the beginning and true development begins only when one goes beyond the physical needs […] into the development at the intellectual and spiritual planes as a logical extension.”

  • “The driving force behind all our activities are Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. All our projects are moulded on the principles of Satya, Ahimsa (Gandhi) and Seva and Tyaga (S Vivekananda). Both of them strongly prescribed the concept of local self governance and economies.”


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Feedback from SVYM - 2

Q. Religious fundamentalism has undoubtedly affected society today.What do you think is the greatest effect of that on your project?

A. “Religion is inseparable from human existence. The problem arises when we take religion out of our own personal domains and push it to the public domain. It is a great divider in whatever form it is presented. It has affected the development processes initiated by us in two different ways:

  • “Christian organizations have to taken to converting tribals with temptations of money and other enticements.”

  • “Being named after Swami Vivekananda, we are also many times mistaken for a Sangha Parivar organization and have to suffer the responsibility of explaining that we are not.”


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Feedback from SVYM - 3

Q. "Do you feel the need for teaching religious principles toinculcate values in the general populace, or do you think it is necessary to distance yourselves from any religious practice?”

A. Values can be woven into all programs easily without bringing in any religion. The tenets of all religions at the deeper level basically tends to extol a value based existence. Being religious without being dogmatic, a bigot and fundamentalist may help in the practice of values. But one can extremely value based without subscribing to any religion.


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In summary…

  • Most extremist views of religion create a sense of the “other”. Violence such as the Gujarat carnage need to be understood from this context as well as from social/cultural/economic perspectives.

  • On the other hand, there are many NGOs like SVYM which work with an inclusive and pluralistic outlook derived from religious teachings (in their case, from Swami Vivekananda).

  • Finally, ~80% volunteers identify themselves as spiritual, and 90% volunteers consider economic growth as insufficient for development.

     With these in mind, we feel that a group like this can contribute positively to our understanding about ourselves and about India.


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Action items

  • Writing opinion pieces, articles, etc on AID and other forums

    • On buying locally, popularizing websites/resource materials

    • Articles on local economies [Ithaca dollars etc]

    • Articles on peace/harmony [e.g. communalism combat]

  • Organizing interfaith email discussions/fora

  • Examining past AID projects for examples/counter-examples…

    _______________Acknowledgements________________

    Mokshay Madiman, Gautam Desai

    Chandrika Ramanujam, Gayathri Manikutty, Nishant Jain

    Ameet Jain, Anand Sivaraman, Anubha Dhasmana, Anuj Grover,

    Chakradhar Iyunni, Deepak Malghan, Divya Singh, Hrishi Shinde,

    Kirankumar Vissa, Prasad Boddupalli, Prashant Jawalikar,

    Rajasekhar Jammalamadaka, Shehrebanu Frosh, Suresh Kalkunte,

    Vaijayanti Gupta, Vivek Gulati.


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