When I signed up for this Dialogue, I did not know fully about what kind of a program it would be. I came with the mindset of a blank canvas ready to be painted with all the new knowledge and realizations. The Dialogue is probably one of the best experiences of my life, because today, on Day 7, I feel like there is a small change in me, about the way I think, the way I perceive things & the world, and this small change is so impactful.
Whatever I learned about the rural communities and the whole process of development was a shock and shattered my previous misconceptions. In my understanding, rural communities are the role models about how we should lead our lives self-sufficiently. But, of course, with respect to the present scenario, it is totally difficult, and I have sworn to myself to find a balance between self-reliance and dependence on the external world in my personal life.
I also understood that true development means when everybody ‘co-exists’ in a world with the freedom to do what they want without too much dependence on external factors. I am thanking all heavens for making this Dialogue happen in my life :-)
Pragathi Shankar, BioEngineering Student, Chennai
For me, this dialogue was a practical tool to think from a different perspective on the development and its impact. Before attending this dialogue, I used to believe that progress, growth, and development are necessary things and bound to happen irrespective of cities, villages, and people. For me, money was the benchmark for growth. But now I have learned to segregate money from development and differentiate between long term and short-run impact.
This workshop has taught me to question everything happening around me. Our questions might be extreme but to know the root cause of changes(gradual and abrupt) it is important to ask questions.
I have discerned how governments, businesses, markets, and technologies not only make profits out of us but also manipulates us according to their own will and requirements.
The normal citizens (urban or rural) have a role to play, which is very simple and basic, and to know and realize what those steps are, one will have to go through this 6-7 day transformation process.
During the workshop, I have recognized the blissfulness of meditation in our lives and how important is it for the tranquility of our minds. The importance of solitude and the power it can generate within us through meditation when practiced in the right way was no less than an eye-opener for me.
Arijeet Mondal, Civil Services Aspirant, Kolkata
My experience in the dialogue was amazing, I have learnt so much practically from the simulations that I can never forget, I have learnt a lot from the people who came from all over the country. In the beginning I had a vague idea about the dialogue but then on the 1st day Ashish Sir cleared everything about the dialogue. You genuinely get to know so much about rural India and not only that but also the present scenario, what we have done and are doing to the nation. There is so much to learn from the dialogue and from Ashish Sir. With the dialogue, mediation everyday was a cherry on the cake. We tried different ways of meditation and were asked to follow whichever one we find appropriate for ourselves.
The dialogue shows the true picture of everything.
Yukta Dubey, Law Student, Varanasi
This Dialogue has opened my eyes about the system that we have been following for a long time now.
How we are creating illusion within an illusion and running to achieve our goals.
The economic policies, the flaws in it and how money is the entity that is producing itself.
What is Self-Reliance and what exactly does Rural Development mean.
I have also learned that we human beings create problems out of nothing and then cry about it. Learned various forms of meditations. My weaknesses and strengths and how to overcome the weaknesses.
Mehul Jain, Engineering Student, Patiala
1. My one of the important learning has been ‘HOW’ to look at the world around you- a different perspective to look at self-reliant communities of the country.
The complex web of the current system including our government and markets and the way this concept of "Profits" is running our world .
A realization that exponentially increasing economic development is same as when something tries to grow forever within a living healthy system and results in the threat to health of the whole.
2. To understand the people not through sympathy but by empathy by putting myself in their shoes.
Life is Easy. We just need to have time for ourselves, to understand ourselves.
Charu Garg, Engineering Student, Patiala
Development is a significant topic of debate and discussion in the present world, right from the social media, government panels, private and public forums or international dialogues. With people coming up with innovative ideas, inclusive frameworks, diverse teams and multi-dimensional strategies to solve age-old as well as newly found problems, a considerable portion of the population are now thinking beyond their individual selves to participate in the whole social process of solving human challenges across the world, often dedicating their entire lives for the betterment of mankind and the environment. As per the development of our country is concerned, sustainability is the primary requirement for a greener future for the generations to come.
In such a context, the welfare and development of rural India was well-addressed by Prashna Vikaas Ka – A Dialogue on Rural Development, designed for asking several questions on the need for development, the direction of pursuing it – considering the inter-relationship between mankind, and the living and material world. During these seven days, we, as a group of nine, were allowed to think beyond the basic necessities of life, seeking the intangible outcomes of development that may give meaning to our existence on earth. As a part of this process, my personal favourites were the simulations or hypothetical case studies given to us, over which we needed to brainstorm for ideas and come up with a practical solution suiting the need of the situation.
Our ideas were put up on the board, followed by a thorough discussion, and in the process, we had scope for realizations, further questions and disagreements. Issues like ‘Rural Development’, ‘Localization’, ‘Self-reliance’, ‘Globalization’, ‘Education’, and so on were often brought up in these participatory sessions.
As field-visits, we got marvelous opportunities to explore quite a few villages of Bir, as well as spend time with villagers who, with their traditional lifestyles, were self-reliant and woke at the same time. We used to go down to the villages of Lahar, Chaughan and so on to understand self-reliance practically. For this purpose, we used to prepare different sets of questionnaires as per the subject of the field-work demanded to determine the standard of living among the people from their life experiences. Hindi was the primary language of communication, since the local language of the villages was Pahari, and barely anyone could understand or converse in English. After this, we used to come back and prepare a presentation based on the collected data, on the quality and aspects of life and development in the rural scenario of Bir. These presentations helped us a lot in understanding practically what was discussed in the sessions, getting the theories and ideas validated, our questions answered, doubts cleared and coming across a coherent image of the rural life-style of Bir, predominated by self-reliance.
Furthermore, during the intense process of understanding villages, the help of silence, meditation, reflection and documentaries were also taken. One of the meditation sessions deserve particular mention in which we were asked to identify and address our bodily sensations without any attachments and aversions, being in a state of equanimity.
Overall, by questioning basics of development, our intention was to come up with our individual understanding of how the villages should be ‘developed’ so as to maximize collective prosperity and harmony.
As a participant of this dialogue, I have been able to deeply understand the various communities and to re-think about their working approach while looking at the same from a new perspective. The research carried out through the collected data created an environment for inter- and multi-disciplinary research to feed into work that is being done on multiple aspects of human life without restricting itself into the limited realms of “humanities” or “social sciences”.
Through the experiences and interactions allowed in this dialogue, I have successfully been able to attempt a fresh thinking of the concept of revival, conservation and sustainability, so as to grasp the basics first before thinking about further projects or policies. Prashna Vikaas Ka has enabled me to incorporate the concepts and paradigms into my current field of study as well as further research projects and allowed me to recontextualize the local academic projects with the gained knowledge.
Camellia Paul, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Development of Rural communities can only happen if our focus at the time of designing policies shifts to Self-Reliance, thereby not making rural communities dependent.
For me, the definition of development changed completely.
Aastha Soni, Economics Student, Delhi
I recognize the benefits of self-sufficiency and the disadvantages of governments and markets with a neutral perspective, without prejudice for any system.
Being isolated for a week has led us to reflect on the way humanity has traveled from different communities to a globalized world. There is no doubt that globalization has brought much comfort and luxury to the world. The question is, to whom this luxury was brought. It will be a big lie if we tell everyone. For example, industrialization has made people's lives very easy. It was born in Europe with a need for productivity due to lack of human resources. When this has spread all over the world, colonization has brought about a sudden change in the countries. A stable change is very slow. A sudden change will definitely disturb the existing structure. The sudden entry of machinery into some countries has led to unprecedented unemployment. Always remember that "employment in the formal sector is at the expense of unemployment in the informal sector". Industrialization has forced countries such as India, which were independent in their communities, to adapt to machines that cause unemployment in various areas of production. This forced the majority of the population to turn to agriculture, as this was the only area without major machinery interventions.
In the autonomous communities, everyone works with family sense for everyone. There is a dignity of work because everyone has a job that others need. There was a value for the people. If an external factor called "market" meets those needs, I do not have to rely on another person. I have to rely on markets. I go to the markets to buy what I need, not the people in my community. This has turned "work" into "employment". Work was for our own community while the job was for someone else in exchange for money.
Governments have tried to respond to the "needs" of the villages by creating these "needs" but not making them self-sufficient. None of the governments disturbed this system. We cannot change in less than 70 years. It takes time. And we have to work in that direction.
The whole world is in globalization through the currency. It's always about keeping up with the world. The word "development" is very dangerous because it was predefined for us. It is the "development" to stay in concrete houses, although earth houses are more comfortable. An old woman from a village built a concrete house next to her mud house. She said she only does it because others do it in the village. She said she prefers mud to prevent the spread of the disease. It is "development" when you have a job, but not when you are farming. We run after the modernity camouflaged by the development, which distances us from villages and autonomy. "Developed countries" will become richer economies over time. Your development solution is not applicable in our context. But that's exactly what governments and markets have been trying for years.
On closer inspection of the villages, we understood that. Unlike urban communities, rural communities still have an idea of how much autonomy they have to show us how old India was. Every community has been committed to sustainability and personal responsibility. Sustainability is an easy choice today. We do not really think about the impact of our shopping, our choices and our lifestyle on this world. In fact, every day we are affected by the decisions made by someone else in the world. These little battles in us will make us grow. Ask yourself today what "development" is for you, and your mind will give you different answers depending on your needs.
Arjun Solanki, Law Student, Delhi