Since the past few months the time I spend visiting development projects implemented by NGOs in the field has gone up considerably. And with various observations from the field there are many questions that keep haunting me. They quite literally haunt me.
When I changed tracks 6 years ago to quit an IT job and change my field of work from Bioinformatics to Environment it was in search of solutions for the problems that were staring at me with their huge wide eyes. As any 20 something year old is, I was naive to believe these problems had solutions and simple ones. They just needed people to come in and work on them. Its 6 years into this field and working, I feel that even my understanding of the problem is still incomplete. So I have been reading papers and essays and books ( trying this , but reading whole books on these subjects is quite overwhelming by economist, sociologist and social scientists. This is to help me understand the jigsaw puzzle that development is and how each of the blocks fit and interact with each other to make the bigger and complete picture of development.
Of the many problems I face when I do my field visits or go to conferences , the agendas are very clearly set. And all the observation in field and conference discussions and discourses follow that fixed agenda. But the issues that we look for and discuss about do not stand in isolation and there are in-numerous factors that determine solving the issue. In spite of being aware of this, I feel there is not much time spent on those interconnectedness of issues and factors that have indirect impact on the issues. And when I sit down and try to map out the interconnectedness and see for myself how will a particular issue get solved , I get lost. One of the papers I read was The meaning of Development by Dudley Seers. This was written in the year 1969. This paper has helped me sort out some of the issues I had in giving myself a perspective.
Reading this paper has helped me understand the following:
- What was the idea of development in post second world war world?
- How was it measured ( it was national income then)?
- Logical analysis and prioritization of laundry list of factors that needed to be met for a country’s development to be measured.
- And a discussion on pitfalls of existing ways of measuring development.
- What should be considerations to measure the development more comprehensively?
Dudley Seers’s work is forward and advanced for his times. All the observations and discussions that this paper deal with still stand fit for the issues we face in India. If such papers were authored in 1969, why are we still grappling with the same set of issues this paper discusses. Why is this paper still relevant? Either we have not moved forward at all or the magnitude of the problems discussed is so unfathomable to solve them in 4 decades after this paper was written.
* And one interesting thing about this paper is that many cases and instances sighted and used in this paper of from Indian studies esp. from Indian Institute of Statistics and the NSSO.