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Centre for Development of India


Towards Building a Horizontal Dialogue on Development


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Tremendous debate has been generated on the state of Bihar. Generalisations are fixated and, as part of the character of contemporary knowledge production, the views are generated without any element of criticality. Hence, underdevelopment, which no doubt the problem, is seen as a permanent character of the state and society and alternatives are not talked about. Similar is the case with criminalisation, violence and oppression of other kinds.


There is dearth of any critical input on how to bring about transformation. Accepted that education is in dire straits, as it is in other parts of the country, but why does it not constitute the agenda of any political or civil society formation. Floods are characteristic of North Bihar, rendering it immobile in every way – from closing down production cycles in agriculture, schools, health and other forms of administrative machinery. But every year what we see is only ‘relief efforts’. No effort to understand the causes and work out permanent solutions is made.

Central Bihar, the ‘flaming fields of Bihar’, where we work primarily, has been burning all along but even decades of class struggle has not even been able to generate consciousness about the minimum wage issues, leave aside the closed schools, defunct health centres and absent employment opportunities and gendered and caste based oppressions of most morbid nature.


In such a situation we see the need for a consistent engagement with the issues in a holistic fashion, analyse them and work out viable alternatives. We believe that all this exercise needs to be carried out together with the support of suffering masses, which feel the pain and anguish of absent schools, hunger, and caste, class and gendered based oppression. Solutions worked out sitting in the luxuries of capital cities without any involvement of the affected masses have never been effective anywhere in the history of mankind. Developmental schemes and programmes have been rendered ineffective because the agencies involved have not bothered to involve people in their conceptualisation and implementation process. They try, at best, to appropriate the knowledge generated by the common people but never bother to involve them in the process, which follow, of developing that knowledge and making it tangible in the field. Top-down approach needs to be defeated as the first step towards development and it can be defeated only if we believe in the principles of horizontal dialogue and start working on those principles.