Any discussion on poverty in India without mention of Kalahandi in Orissa remains as trite as the poverty in Kalahandi itself. On the face, it is really surprising that despite all the efforts by Government and interventions by bilateral and multilateral funding agencies coupled with ample natural resource base of the region, poverty in Kalahandi remains and remains the question – how to make all the efforts of reducing poverty work? The fundamental issue of making all the efforts at poverty reduction and the services provided with this objective to work for poor is debated and various supply side measures are suggested. Generally, the demand side interventions are either neglected or not properly planned.
Let us contemplate for a moment and try to understand the psyche of poor in Kalahandi. Let us start by saying that poverty is not only a physical curse but also a socio-psychological quagmire. It not only kills human body, it is an anecdote of mental pain that enchains the human spirit which is instinctively born free. The implication is a dejected populace; and a society finding solace in self-cursing; and persistently looking for aids and grants from government/funding agencies.
The institutional framework for delivery of services to the poor is somewhere wrongly spelled and rampant corruption coupled with casual behavior on the part of institutional machinery further adds to the woes of people already crushed physically and psychologically by the poverty. However, in the above context, besides the problems associated with supply of services for poor, the demand side fundamentals inherently are the problems associated with socio-psychological attitudes – the attitude of humans enslaved by the apathy of poverty. Their dejected state of mind, habit of self-cursing and longing for publicly financed services and schemes refuse to break the vicious circle of poverty by not recognizing the mental strength endowed by the nature to mankind; and self respect as the ultimate expression of that strength. They are not ready to accept and realize that aids and grants being provided by government/ funding agencies are not an end in themselves. These are simply meant to enable the poor to break that vicious circle of poverty and capacitate them to sustain on their own. Thus, inherently the problem seems to be at demand side.
Let us contemplate further in the above context. Can we go for some social engineering? What we need to do is to motivate the community and its constituents (i.e. people, groups and institutions) in order to prepare them psychologically/attitudinally to fight against poverty, and create a tactical environment and pressure to make the services provided to poor work for them. The motivation and attitudinal change will have implications at two fronts. First, it will make the community and its constituents to realize that aids and grants being provided by government/ funding agencies are not an end in themselves. These are simply meant to enable the poor to break that vicious circle of poverty and capacitate them to sustain on their own. Second, the institutional set up for delivery of services, that has been proved inefficient, corrupt and needs revamping, will face the tactical pressure from the community itself to deliver as it is envisaged to do. As the cleaning up of institutional machinery is not an easy task, the only force that may force the system to work as it is envisaged to work is such a tactical public pressure.
Now, the question is how to do it? Keeping in view the problem identified and positive implications coming out of its solution, the fundamental intervention required is to engineer the attitude of people as a catalyst in the process fight against poverty. For this, an objectively designed communication campaign targeted at fundamental change in the attitude of community and its constituents is required. Such a communication campaign is not to preach anything because most of the population being tribal in Kalahandi, they will resist a change that is alien to the customs of their tribe and imposed from outside. The message for change should be blended with their own beliefs, customs and practices to ensure its receptivity. In other words, the campaign should insinuate and enable poor to think, decide and act accordingly for change at their own. Such attitudinal change will make them look for alternates and information/knowledge to apply those alternates for their betterment by making the services that are being provided to work for them. The expected outcome of the project will be progressive attitudinal change that will work for better provision and working of services for poor and thus reduction in poverty.
For the implementation of such an idea, the steps involved may be:
Review of the extent and nature of poverty in the area and efforts being made to fight it out. It should cover review of literature on the area, discussions with various stakeholders and development professionals who have been working with the poor in the area for some time in order to have the feel of their pains and attitudes.
Identification of target communities, researching their customs, practices and beliefs.
Attitudinal Survey of the target communities to create baseline information that will be used later for monitoring purposes.
Planning for the Communication Campaign including communication mix and implementation agenda. Communication campaign may be the blend of traditional cultural events/ festivals, customs, folk art- music and drama; modern mediums of entertainment and a well integrated and profoundly packaged message for social change. Tribal dialects (such as Kuvi – language of the Khonds of the area, Gondi, Gonds Kaya, Savara and Gadaba spoken by all the tribes of the Gadabas, Parengas and Bondas) should be used for the campaign. The material used for packaging the message should be their religious beliefs, customs and practices on special occasions like marriage, birth of a child, festivals and celebrations etc.
Implementing the communication campaign and formation of self-help groups simultaneously in order to ensure the sustainability of the process.
Monitoring and follow up covering an attitudinal survey meant for quantifying the outcome of the project by comparing the findings with the baseline information collected in the beginning of process and catalyzing the functioning of self help groups by providing initial know-how and information flow. Feedback from institutional machinery on the number of enquiries and complaints related with provision of services for poor emerging from the target poor communities before and after the implementation of projects and resulting action on them may provide the another measure of positive outcomes of the campaign.
Recording the experiences of the program for wider dissemination.
The social change envisaged through an objectively designed communication campaign in itself is expected to be sustainable and a continuing phenomenon. Although, humans by nature are averse to change, but once it is achieved, it gets locked in defying any possibility of reversal. The positive progression of change can be ensured by two factors. First, self help groups formed during the implementation of project should play the role of catalyst to make the process sustainable and second, the positive outcomes of the changed attitudes will work as incentives for the communities to search for more information/knowledge and even better alternatives. All this is expected to create a chain reaction of positive outcomes and thus self-sustaining.
The experiment can be replicable in other areas also. The fundamentals underlying relationship between vicious circle of poverty and poor people’s attitudes as well as the positive outcomes of the attitudinal change does not change with the change of place. Only the degree of such relationship varies and also varies the packaging material for proposed communication campaign i.e. customs, beliefs and practices of communities.