This chapter will focus on the objectives, methodological aspect, fieldwork experience, significance and limitation of the study. It will also provide a review of available literature and change in the meaning of development over time.
In social science it is now widely assumed that realities are socially constructed. Just as perception not merely registers but shapes reality, knowledge does not simply reflect but constructs reality. Knowledge is political, shapes perceptions, agendas and policies. It does not make sense to isolate development theory from political processes and treat it as an ivory-tower intellectual exercise, but neither can one simply reduce it to ideology or political propaganda. But ‘cognitive colonialism’ of the west ‘reflects a neo-colonial division of labour in the production of knowledge according to which theory is generated in the North and data, like raw materials, are produced in the South. In the discourses of history produced by western hegemony, knowledge and power are intricately interwoven. Vaclav Havel(1985) observed ‘that the center of power is identical with the center of truth’. This also applies to the centres of power and leading truths in the western world. The central thesis of Developmentalism is that social change occurs according to a pre-established pattern, the logic and direction of which is known. Those who declare themselves furthest advanced along its course claim privileged knowledge of the direction of change. Developmentalism is the truth from he point of view of the center of power; it is the theorization of its own path of development (Pieterse: 2002: 2-4, 18).
Development is still a buzzword in the Third World context- Bangladesh is no exception- even after the trenchant criticisms of the post-development thinkers. In my microscopic and in-depth study I observed the role of NGOs -especially BRAC- on behalf of the domineering donors to bring about development for the teeming millions, particularly for the villagers and critically examined the congruence between promise of NGOs and the reality of the situation to grasp the politics of development program. Although development, which is an ethnocentric term, cannot be measured simply, say in terms of either infrastructure or micro credit, but I opted for the latter, for it is considered to be the engine of rural development. Throughout my research I tried to comprehend the views of Bijoypur villagers, regarding micro credit and its impact in the economic, political and organizational aspect of their lives, and scrutinized how their worldviews were shaped by its presence. That is to say, I tried to grasp whether the villagers were economically benefited from the micro credit program of BRAC, whether their political solidarity changed, and whether the impetus to be organized against injustice increased at all and finally I examined whether their worldviews dovetailed with ‘the emancipation model’ or ‘the survival model.
Meaning of development over time:
Over time the concept of development has provided different meanings. Arturo Escobar (1995) argues that as a set of ideas and practices ‘development’ has historically functioned over the 20th century as a mechanism for the colonial and neo-colonial domination of the South by the North. Its emergence was contingent upon particular historical conjunctions. Some of the most important of these are shifting global relations after the Second World War, the decline of colonialism, the cold war, the need for capitalism to find new markets and the Northern nations’ faith in science and technology. Those using the term and working within development institutions are therefore helping to reproduce neo-colonial power relations even while many believe themselves to be engaged in processes of empowerment or the redistribution of the world’s riches. To appreciate this more fully let us examine the roots of the term (Gardner: 1996:3).
As an adjective, development is inherently judgemental, for it involves a standard against which things are compared while ‘they’ in the South are underdeveloped or in the process of being developed, we in the North (it is implied) have already reached that coveted state. When the term was first officially used by President Truman in 1949, vast areas of the world were therefore suddenly labeled ‘underdeveloped. A new problem was created, and with it the solutions, all of which depended upon the rational-scientific knowledge of the so-called developed powers (Gardner: 1996: 3).
Capitalism and colonialism: (1700-1949)
Larrain(1989) has argued that while there has been economic, and social change throughout history, consciousness of progress and the belief that this should be promoted, arose only within specific historical circumstances in northern Europe. Such ideas were first generated during what he terms the ‘age of competitive capitalism’ (1700-1860): an era of radical social and political struggles in which feudalism was increasingly undermined (Gardner: 1996: 3-4).
Concurrent with the profound economic and political changes, which characterized these years, was the emergence of what is often referred to as the ‘Enlightenment’. This social and cultural movement, which was arguably to demonstrate western thought until the late 20th century, stressed tolerance, reason and common sense. These sentiments were accompanied by the rise of technology and science, which were heralded as ushering in a new age of rationality and enlightenment for humankind, as opposed to what were now increasingly viewed as the superstitious and ignorant ‘Dark Ages’. Rational knowledge, based on empirical information was deemed to be the way forward. During this era, polarities between primitive and civilized, backward and advanced, superstitious and scientific, nature and culture became commonplace. Such dichotomies have their contemporary equivalents in notions of undeveloped and developed.
Larrain (1989) links particular types of development theory with different phases in capitalism, while the period 1700-1860 was characterized by the classical political economy of Smith and Ricardo and the historical materialism of Marx and Engels, the age of imperialism (1860-1945) spawned neo-classical political economy and classical theories of imperialism. Meanwhile, the subsequent expansionary age of late capitalism (1945-66) was marked by theories of modernization, and the crises of 1966-80 by neo-Marxist theories of unequal exchange and dependency (Gardner: 1996: 3-4).
The turn of the century, latecomers to industrialization in central and Eastern Europe faced basic development questions, such as the appropriate relationship between agriculture and industry. In central planning, the soviets found a novel instrument to achieve industrialization. During the cold war years of rivalry between capitalism and communism, the two competing development strategies were western development economics and some form of central planning (in Soviet, Chinese or Cuban varieties). In this general context the core meaning of development was catching up with the advanced industrialized countries (Pieterse: 2002: 5).
Cowen and Shenton uncover yet another meaning of development. In 19th century England, development they argue referred to remedies for the shortcomings and maladies of progress. In this argument progress and development (which are often viewed as a seamless web) are contrasted and development differs from and complements progress. Thus for Hegel progress is linear and development is curvilinear. Accordingly 20th century development thinking in Europe and the colonies had already traversed many terrains and positions and was a reaction to 19th century progress and policy failures where industrialization left people uprooted and out of work, and social relations dislocated (Pieterse: 2002: 5).
The immediate predecessor of modern development economics was colonial economics. Economics in the European colonies and dependencies had gone through several stages. In brief, an early stage of commerce by chartered companies, followed by plantations and mining. In a later phase, colonialism took on the form of trusteeship: the management of colonial economics not merely with a view to their exploitation for metropolitan benefit but allegedly also to develop the economies in the interest of the native population. Development if the term was used at all, in effect referred mainly to colonial resource management, first to make the colonies cost-effective and later to build up economic resources with a view to national independence. Industrialization was not part of colonial economics because the comparative advantage of the colonies was held to be the export of raw materials for the industries in the metropolitan countries. Indeed there are many episodes, amply documented, when European or colonial interests destroyed native manufactures (textile manufacturing in India is the classic case) or sabotaged efforts at industrialization in the periphery (Egypt, Turkey, Persia are cases in point). In modern development thinking and economics, the core meaning of development was economic growth, as in growth theory and Big Push theory (Pieterse: 2002:5-6).
The post-colonial era: 1949 onwards:
Defining development as economic growth is still common today. Indeed after the debt crises of the 1980s and subsequent structural adjustment programmes, economic reform and growth are very much at the top of the 1990s agenda for organizations such as the World Bank. Behind these aims is the assumption that growth involves technological sophistication, urbanization, high levels of consumption and a range of social and cultural changes. For many governments and experts the route to this state was and is industrialization, which is closely linked to theories of modernization. Successful development is measured by economic indices such as the Gross National Product (GNP) or per capita income. It is usually assumed that this will automatically lead to positive changes in other indices, such as rates of infant mortality, illiteracy, malnourishment and so on. Even if not everyone benefits directly from growth, the ‘trickle down effect’ will ensure that the riches of those at the top of the economic scale will eventually benefit the rest of society through increased production and thus employment. In this understanding of development, if people become better fed, better educated, better housed and healthier, this is the indirect result of policies aimed at stimulating higher rates of productivity and consumption, rather than of policies directly tackling the problems of poverty. Development is quantifiable and reducible to economics. One major drawback to defining development, as economic growth is that in reality the ‘trickle-down effect’ rarely takes place; growth does not necessarily lead to enhanced standards of living (Gardner: 1996: 6-7).
Modernization theories influential in the 1950s and 1960s visualize development in terms of a progressive movement towards technologically more complex and integrated forms of modern society. Industrialization, the transition from subsistence agriculture to cash cropping, and urbanization are all key to this process. Modernization is essentially evolutionary; countries are envisaged as being at different stages of a linear path, which leads ultimately to an industrialized, urban and ordered society. More recently, the work of economist W. W. Rostow (1960) illustrates the concept of modernization par excellence. In his works on economic growth, the forms of growth already experienced in the North are taken as model for the rest of the world, while economies are situated at different stages of development, all are assumed to be moving in the same direction. Traditional society is poor, irrational and rural. The take-off stage requires a leap forward, based on technology and high levels of investment preconditions for this are the development of infrastructure, manufacturing and effective government. After this societies reach a stage of self-sustaining growth, in its mature stage, technology pervades the whole economy, leading to the age of high mass consumption, high productivity and high levels of urbanization (Gardner: 1996: 12-13).
In the 1960s notions of dependency and underdevelopment gained widespread recognition with the work of Andre Gunder Frank (1969). Drawing from Marxist concepts of capitalism as inherently exploitative, dependency theorists argue that development is an essentially unequalising process: while rich nations get richer, the rest inevitably get poorer. Like most Marxist analysis, their work is primarily historical and tends to focus upon the political structures, which shape the world. Rather than being undeveloped, they argue countries in the South have been underdeveloped by the processes of imperial and post-imperial exploitation. One model, which is used to describe this process, is that of the center or core of capitalism and the South as its periphery. Through imperial conquest, it is argued, peripheral economies were integrated into capitalism, but on an manufacturing industries in the core, peripheral regions became dependent upon foreign markets and failed to develop their own manufacturing bases (Gardner: 1996: 16).
Closely related to theories of dependency are those presenting the globe as a single interrelated system in which, each country is understood in terms of its relationship to the whole. Immanuel Wallerstein’s World System (1974) and Worsley’s notion of ‘One World’ (1984) are central to these ideas. It is from this context that notions of ‘Third World’ and ‘First World’ have developed, these terms explicitly recognize the way in which the world is divided into different and yet interdependent parts. The Third World it suggests, is not natural, but created through economic and political processes.
Dependency theory therefore understands, underdevelopment as embedded within particular political structures. In this view the improvement policies advocated by modernization theory can never work, for they do not tackle the root causes of the problem. Rather than development projects which ease the short-term miseries of underdevelopment, or support the status quo, dependency theory suggests that the only solution possible is radical, structural change (Gardner: 1996:17).
With the onset of alternative development thinking, new understandings of development came to the fore focused on social and community development. Alternative development can be viewed as a roving critique of mainstream development. In the 1970s dissatisfaction with mainstream development crystallized into an alternative, people-centered approach to development. Over the years alternative development has been reinforced by and associated with virtually any form of criticism of mainstream developmentalism such as anti-capitalism, Green thinking, feminism, ecofeminism, democratization, new social movements, cultural critiques and poststructuralist analysis of development discourse. Alternative development is development from below (Pieterse: 2002: 6,74-75).
With human development in the mid-1980s came the understanding of development as capacitation, following Amartya Sen’s work on capacities and entitlements. In this view, the point of development above all, is that it is enabling. The core definition of development in the Human Development Reports of UNDP is ‘the enlargement of people’s choices’. Mahbub Ul Haq, (1995) mentioned 4 ways to create desirable links between economic growth and human development: investment in education, health and skills, more equitable distribution of income, government social spending and empowerment of people, especially women. He proposed a Human Development paradigm of equity, sustainability, productivity and empowerment. The human development approach now extends to gender (as in the Gender Development Index), political rights (as in the Freedom Development Index) and environmental concerns (Sustainable human development). An obvious question is if capacitation is the objective and measure of development then who defines capacity, ability or human resources? (Pieterse: 2002: 6,120-121,153).
A recognition of women’s roles in the development debate has evolved through the last four decades. In the 60s, women as a social or economic category did not feature in development planning. From 1975 onwards, the UN has celebrated a Women’s Decade (from 1975 to 1985) and organized 4 World Conferences for women on the themes of equality, peace and development. In these decades women’s productive and reproductive roles have been made more visible and they have increasingly been recognized as agents of development. Today, practically every international or multi-lateral agency and most states feel obliged to include women in their development discourse.
The process of recognition of women’s roles in development and a redefinition of gender relations has emerged from disparate discourses. The first embodies the theoretical concepts of an international women’s movement, which draws upon activist experiences at the grass roots. The second reflects the interests and directions of international development, as it adjusts to and promotes changes in the pattern of the global economy. Having started out by seeking visibility and participation, the women’s discourse has moved ahead to redefine development and to restructure gender relations toward equality and social justice. The response of international development, which has been to incorporate women into development (WID) or assess gender differentiated impact of development (GAD)(Guhathakurta: 1997:31-32).
The WID approach however tends to focus only on women in isolation, rather than the social, cultural and political relations of which they are a part. As feminist anthropologists have frequently pointed out, it is gender and not sex, which is at issue. This has led to a shift towards ‘gender and development’ (GAD), which turns attention away from women as an isolated category to the wider relations of which they are a part. It should, however be noted that the terms are often used interchangeably and policies all too frequently focus attention only on women. Indeed, despite the energy and resources directed at gender issues, WID/GAD still frequently remain an ‘add-on’ to mainstream policy (Gardner: 1996:122-123).
Neoliberalism, in returning to neoclassical economics, eliminates the foundation of development economics: the notion that developing economies represent a special case. According to neoliberal view, there is no special case. Development in the sense of government intervention is anathema for it means market distortion. The central objective, economic growth is to be achieved through structural reform, deregulation, liberalization, privatization-all of which are to roll back government and reduce market-distorting intervention. In other words, one of the conventional core meanings of development is retained, i.e. economic growth, while the how to and agency of development switches from state to market (Pieterse: 2002: 6).
Conventionally development has been a monocultural project. Modernization and westernization were virtually synonymous. The critique of Eurocentrism generated a concern with polycentrism, cultural multipolarity and pluralism. The UNESCO-sponsored World Decade on Culture and Development also resulted in growing regard for cultural dimensions of development. In the wake of the cultural turn in development culture represents another dimension of development, which is no longer ignored or viewed as just an obstacle, as in orthodox modernization thinking. Culture now figures in several ways. One is the regard for cultural diversity. A second and related concern is cultural capital, both as a human capacity and a form of human capital and as a political currency. A step further is to view cultural diversity itself as an engine of economic growth (Pieterse: 2002: 15).
Along with ‘anti-development’ and ‘beyond development’, post development is a radical reaction to the dilemmas of development, perplexity and extreme dissatisfaction with business-as-usual and standard development rhetoric and practice and disillusion with alternative development are keynotes of this perspective. Development is rejected because it is the new religion of the west, it is the imposition of science as power, it does not work, it means cultural westernization and homogenization and brings environmental destruction. It is rejected not merely on account of its results but because of its intentions, its worldview and mindset. Anti-development is rejectionism inspired by anger with development business-as-usual. ‘Beyond development’ combines this aversion with looking over the fence. In post-development, these are combined with a Foucauldian methodology and theoretical framework of discourse analysis and a politics inspired by poststructuralism (Pieterse: 2002: 99).
Development domain, the prerogative of economists, inhibited the access of anthropologists until their imposed and top-down approach proved futile to ameliorate the dismal condition of teeming millions. Almost all the literatures I came across corroborate this point, for these books replete with econometric analysis tried to explain human behaviour entirely through quantitative methods. In this section I will try to review available literatures on Bangladesh having a germane link with my research interest in tandem:
In the work titled ‘Fighting poverty with micro credit’ Khandker (1998) tried to show a connection between poverty alleviation and micro credit programs, in a highly vaunted way. He reckoned that the underlying causes of poverty in Bangladesh are the lack of both physical and human capital, but he revealed nothing about the historical process of such destitution. It is true that the failure of traditional financial institutions to provide the poor with access to financial services has paved the way for greater possibility to ensure access to micro credit to those having minimal or no physical collateral. He lambasted the informal lenders in rural Bangladesh for charging high interest rates on the loan, and extolled micro credit programs for their affordable cost in reaching the poor with a view to making them self-employed. The so-called affordable cost of such programs is negated completely by the voices of empirical situation. He gave a graphical description of global dissemination of micro credit program and lauded the group-based lending of Grameen Bank and BRAC. Moreover, he also focused on credit delivery mechanism, recovery of loan, subsidy dependence of micro credit programs and social and economic benefits of micro credit. Although the author disclosed the limitations of micro credit, but the reliance on data accrued from survey methods and quantitative statistical analysis can make his entire analytical pursuit anything but holistic regarding the efficacy of micro credit in rural society. Besides the writer also cast light on the evolution of micro credit programs in Bangladesh. His entire analysis derived mainly from the survey conducted by BIDS and World Bank was the standpoint of an economist, which failed to purvey in-depth information, dispelling the shortcomings of survey methods. Survey method can be a supplementing way of data collection but the sole dependence on it can distort and contaminate the collected data.
Multifarious development approaches (such as community development approach, UNRISD approach, Target Group approach) were presented successively by Chowdhury (1990) in her work ‘Let Grassroots Speak”, which was the outcome of findings of her postdoctoral research project. She tried to concentrate on the trait-based discussion of those approaches as well as on their drawbacks. She called the NGOs like BRAC, Grameen Bank, and Proshika the initiator of target group strategy, and provided retrospective background of the shift from community development approach to the currently practiced strategy of ‘Target Group’, to wit “selected groups of poor people with similar economic interests”. She selected 4 NGOs- BRAC, Proshika, Grameen Bank and Nijera Kori- as case studies and divulged the shortcomings of target group approach for being mainly small-scale ventures and pilot projects”. She focused mainly on the establishment, activities, project areas, beneficiaries, sources of fund, and benefits derived from those projects of the aforementioned 4 NGOs without any mention of project debacle or any excoriation of any policy of those NGOs. She also provided a brief sketch of historical background of political conditions of Bangladesh especially in terms of welfare at grassroots level and the role of NGOs in this regard. Besides she focused on the salient features of the Bangladesh rural economy, including growth of population, labour force, wage rate and unemployment problem. She also cast light on land reforms in Bangladesh and made recommendations for tenurial reform. She tried to appreciate the aims and aspirations of Comilla Development model, and Swanirvar movement with their basic assumptions and shortcomings.
In the book ‘Bangladesh: The test case of Development’ Just Faaland and J.R Parkinson (1977) differed with the view of Mr. Kevin Rafferty published in the financial times that the great development dream for Bangladesh was over. They thought that development was possible, but simultaneously admitted that it would be difficult task to mobilize efforts, constructively. They acknowledged that they took the approach of economists to construe the development issues of Bangladesh. Moreover they disagreed with the commonly held belief that the development of Bangladesh was impossible without large amounts foreign aid although they considered substantial amount of foreign aid to be vital for her development. They tracked down population to be the major stumbling block to the development of Bangladesh and assured that she must check the natural increase in population. They portrayed a picture of Bangladesh where nature determined the lives of teeming millions and thus they preached the message of ‘Developmentalism’ by saying the virtual improbability of attaining the living standards of the western world. Although they focused on the low-calorie contents of food, illiteracy, lack of resources, few possessions, low per capita income but they mentioned nothing abut the historical process of such impoverishment. Although they were very much concerned with the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, and subscribed to absolutism by saying that the prime reason of impoverishment lied not in the unequal distribution of world’s goods, rather in the lack of access to the ‘world’s knowledge’. Although they talked frequently of the possibility of gaining a developed stage, they said very little about its nature, or steps.
Moreover they showed their haughtiness by calling the glorious liberation war of 1971, a civil war, whether they did it intentionally or inadvertently is unknown. They also identified political instability as another major hindrance to the much-coveted development of Bangladesh. And last but not least they repeatedly emphasized the importance of development cooperation for the development of Bangladesh and expressed their apprehension that without aid the economy of Bangladesh would collapse, and thus they showed the way of dependent development for Bangladesh. They recommended that development efforts should be village based to bring about development at the grassroots level. Besides they also praised highly the Comilla pattern of integrated rural development.
Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir (1980) focused on development measures taken up by planning commission as a representative of national endeavour to bring about development in agro-based Bangladesh in his book ‘Development strategy of Bangladesh’, which was the outcome of his research and field experiment when he was a Deputy Commissioner of Jessore from 1976-1979. Cardinal thrust of the book as outlined by Gustav. F. Papanek was to highlight:
1) “The importance and high returns of agricultural and rural development,
2) The possibility of mobilizing local labour to carry out the necessary investment program, thus taking advantage of Bangladesh’s major unused resources, and
3) The benefits, which will accrue substantially to the poor as a result of such effort”.
Alamgir gave a general description on the infrastructure, agriculture, irrigation, flood control, agricultural credit, land ownership and tenancy relationships, structure of GDP and approach to development. He criticized the nature of institutional credit for being limited to better peasants, restricting the access of landless peasants to it. Besides he also lambasted the distribution of Taccavi loans at the thana level and the resultant deprivation of land-poor farmers from it, and their excessive reliance on non-institutional sources to meet their credit needs at high interest rate. He also found a connection between crop failure, high interest rates and rural landlessness, which to his mind would not have happened if the poor peasants dependent on non-institutional sources for their credit had equitable access to institutional credit, but he said nothing concerning the role of micro credit. According to Alamgir, the objectives of any development approach must be to eradicate poverty through the assurance of basic needs of the people and expressed his disbelief in the trickle-down process of development. He opined on the basis of promises of constitution that state should help materialize an exploitation free society, which Foucault called instances of biopolitics.
According to him, the sustainable fulfillment of basic needs of people requires a change in the social structure and he argued along the line of exchange entitlement of Amartya Sen that hunger might be prevalent even in a food-surplus country. He further proposed that planned development needed due consideration for the utilization of human resources and also critically examined the ‘Neo-classical growth theory’ and ‘Basic Needs approach’. He also focused on domestic resource cost of fish, agricultural and industrial production and briefly described past attempt of development at the national level and UJ canal-digging project. Although he castigated the government attempts of development but provided no information regarding the alternative paradigm of development or the nature of development process and moreover he analyzed the development attempts from the standpoint of an economist, therefore interdisciplinary aspect of development got no emphasis at all.
“Development, governance and the environment in South Asia: a Focus on Bangladesh” is an edited tome accomplished by Mohammad Alauddin and Samiul Hasan (1999), where they along with other contributors to the volume showed the nexus among environment, economic development and governance (A predilection of World Bank and other UN bodies). They reckoned that economic development particularly in LDCs is in the process of taking place at the expanse of environmental degradation. World Bank and other UN bodies tend to overemphasize the critical importance of governance than environmental issues connected closely to the side effects of development projects. The authors also provided a brief historical background of Bangladesh’s political, social, environmental and economic changes. Their primary objective was to discuss:
A) “The neglect of environmental issues in earlier literature,
B) Importance of the environment in contemporary literature and
C) Governance issues and their relationship to the environment and development”.
They also espoused the views of Lewis and his disgraceful term of ‘backward countries’ insinuating LDCs and Myrdal’s calling of LDCs ‘soft states’ because of ubiquitous incompetence and corruption in these countries. Main theme of the contributor’s article are presented below:
Clem Tisdell (1999) outlined the comparative socio-economic trends of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and underscored the critical importance of politically stable government to ensure economic and social progress of Bangladesh. Richard Shandar (1999) argued that administrative and institutional reforms were imperative for the reform process of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Akhter Hossain and Anis Chowdhury (1999) analyzed the link between growth performance of Bangladesh economy and political stability. M. Yunus Ali (1999) examined the potential of the economic liberalization policies of Bangladesh in achieving economic growth through private investments. Mozammel Hossain (1999) demonstrated the social and environmental costs of agricultural exports in South Asia and included some recommendations on these issues. Mohammad Alauddin (1999) explored the degree of trade expansion and competitiveness among South Asian nations with a specific focus on Bangladesh and investigated the possibilities for greater inter-regional trade. Akhter Ahmed (1999) focused on the macroeconomic impact of foreign aid in several LDCs of Asia. M. Rafiqul Islam (1999) focused on the major constitutional amendments in Bangladesh and enunciated the Major facets of good governance viz, “ a populist political system, a liberal economic system, efficient and honest bureaucracy, independent judiciary, rule of law, administrative accountability, transparency in public policy formulation and implementation, human rights and freedom of expression”.
Habib Zafarullah (1999) proposed four new elements to wit, ‘a participative policy process, a public integrity system, a decentralized local governmental system and a free media’ to the list of items, which is a sine qua non for democratic governance. Samiul Hasan (1999) examined the relationship among governance, politics and development and also focused on chasm between political party and people and absence of democracy within the political parties. Ahmed Shafiqul Huque (1999) reviewed the development efforts of successive government and stated that the ruling groups in Bangladesh failed to understand clearly the concept of development, which has resulted in a number of futile programs of development. Shamsur Rahman and David. K. Smith (1999) briefly portrayed a relationship between health status of people in Bangladesh and the availability of health center facilities. Samiul Hasan (1999) made a distinction between the locally funded and initiated voluntary organizations termed as the 4th sector and the externally funded NGOs the third sector and argued that 4th sector had greater potential in achieving sustainable development at local levels.
Shankariah Chamala (1999) summarized the issue of major challenges for sustainable development and gave a brief sketch of traditional research and extension models practiced in many developing countries and reviewed some of the new approaches adopted by developed and developing countries such as the Dutch Agricultural Knowledge and Information System (AKIS), the US cooperative Extension Interdependence Model, the Australian cooperative Research and Land care Extension Approach and Participative Action Management or PAM model. M Akhter Hamid and Bruce Frank (1999) dealt with the status and predicaments of ecotourism industry in Sundarbans. Mohammad Aluddin and M. Akhter Hamid (1999) explored the process of coastal aquaculture in South Asia with specific focus on Bangladesh and investigated the environmental implications associated with it. Nilufar Jahan and Mohammad Alauddin (1999) investigated the poor relationship of women to the biophysical environment and underscored the critical importance of embracing gender issues in the planning, implementation and evaluation of development policy. Mohammad Alauddin (1999) in the concluding article of the volume explored the experiences, obstacles and prospects of South Asia in a general context and retrospectively focused on development, governance and environment nexus in South Asia.
In the paper titled ‘Repayment performance in group-based credit programs in Bangladesh: An empirical analysis’ published in the 10th issue of 25th volume of ‘World Development’ journal, Manohar Sharma and Manfred Zeller (1997) analyzed the repayment rates of 128 credit groups belonging to 3 group-based credit programs in Bangladesh namely the Association for Social Advancement (ASA), the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), and the Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS). The authors called lending a risky enterprise, for the repayment of loans cannot fully be guaranteed. They also viewed that among a large number of formal financial institutions the rate of loan repayment was of negligible success. They commended the group-based lending and group responsibility and peer monitoring of informal financial institutions as the prime mover for their success in achieving high repayment rates and cited examples of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, SANSA in Sri Lanka, Credit Solidaire in Burkina Faso, and in Thailand, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural cooperatives to substantiate their claim. The paper in the main cast light on two important issues A) factors that affect group repayment rates of informal financial institutions and B) consideration of those factors prior to initiating group formation.
The authors were very much concerned with the ultimate sustainability of these informal financial institutions, for they argued that even a few loan defaults can weaken a micro finance institution very quickly, but nowhere did they say anything regarding the experience and objections of the borrower. They also highlighted repayment performance of traditional state-owned banks and those of the micro finance institutions in Bangladesh. They castigated the strategy of commercial banks for most loans being collateralized, and discussed the common facets of NGO-based credit organizations in Bangladesh, such as targeting of clients on the basis of land owned, distribution of credit on the basis of joint liability where physical collateral takes a backseat, the obstruction in the release of further loans in the case of outstanding arrears. They also focused on the training activities of micro finance institutions, the contribution that groups make to emergency fund and the institutional structure of ASA, BRAC, and RDRS. They also conducted an econometric analysis of the repayment behaviour of the borrowers. And finally they recommended that members should be given more freedom to form their groups.
The compendium titled ‘Who Needs credit? Poverty and finance in Bangladesh’ edited jointly by Geoffrey. D. Wood and Iffath Sharif (2001) was the outcome of a workshop on poverty. Papers presented in this volume focused precisely on the issues related to poverty and micro finance in Bangladesh. The main thrust of the papers included in the volume are presented below in a successive manner:
Iffath Sharif (2001) in her paper focused on the nexus between poverty and finance concentrating on the challenges for sustainability of both borrower and lender and argued that subcategories of the poor are in need of support and services of distinct type. Martin Greeley (2001) investigated the efficacy of micro credit program in alleviating rural poverty. He mildly criticized the micro credit program for not benefiting the members who were forced to dropout from the program. David Hulme and Paul Mosley (2001) in their paper argued that mainly the middle and upper poor were excised from the beneficial effect of such schemes and therefore the authors criticized the micro financing institutions for their concern only with financial viability and in the process for excluding the extreme poor from their target. They also excoriated the universal models for overlooking the subcategories of poor and for failing to address their distinctive needs. They focused precisely on poverty, vulnerability and deprivation of poor people.
Rehaman Sobhan (2001) wearing the spectacles of Marx held the structural conditions responsible for the reproduction of poverty at both micro and macro levels. He expressed his concern for the extreme poor that were excluded from the micro credit program, and stated firmly that even micro credit program cannot alleviate rural poverty, although some households may be benefited from it. He also criticized the NGOs for their excessive reliance on donor funds to ensure sustainability of their various programs and recommended that they must try to reduce the level of dependence on the fund of neo-colonial agents. The volume also included case studies of cardinal NGOs focusing on their objectives and their efficacious role in development sector. The authors contributing to this part of the volume concentrated on the development strategy, salient features of the programs, success of these efforts, organizational structure and impact of those programs in the economic and social sphere of members of reputed NGOs of Bangladesh such as Proshika, BRAC and ASA. Authors also focused on the performance of public sector and effectiveness of the micro financing scheme of Grammen Bank.
Hasan Zaman (2001) in his article dealt with the question of homogeneity of BRAC members and executed a multivariate analysis of BRAC membership, which focused on variables like ‘sex and occupation of household head, presence of other credit delivering agencies, electrification and length of membership’. He also suggested financial services to be more flexible and systematic to meet the needs of the target group. Syed .M. Hashemi (2001) concentrated on the rationale and delivery model of Grammen Bank micro credit. He predicated that the common problem of Grammen Bank and other NGOs having large-scale micro credit programs such as BRAC, Proshika and ASA, was that they left out huge proportion of rural households from their focus. He also castigated BRAC for shortening the period between group formation and the first loan disbursement, which he opined, was only to please the donor agencies that want ‘cheap development’. Besides he lambasted weekly installment process for being a substantial burden instead of easing the pain related to repayment of credit.
Imran Matin (2001) criticized the peer monitoring which is argued to be the prime reason of high repayment rates achieved by NGOs on the ground that such peer pressure mechanism is not cost-free and unproblematic as is commonly believed. He asserted that it is not spontaneous peer pressure that ensure repayment success rather it is the staff pressure on the members who are motivated by performance incentives. Rushidan Islam Rahman (2001) explored the exclusion of the poorest from micro-credit and averred that NGOs are failing to reach the poorest. She distinguished categories of poor on the basis of their endowments and she refuted the NGO claim that micro credit is breaking the vicious circle of poverty. Geoffrey. D. Wood (2001) stated that all poor people couldn’t be entrepreneur with the help of micro crdedit, which NGOs claimed to be the fact. He explored the limitations of micro credit and differentiated between ‘ghetto credit’ and ‘structurally significant credit’. He also suggested that the principles of credit delivery should be relaxed for the better efficacy of micro credit.
Graham Wright et al (2001) explicitly emphasized on the importance of savings, which ensure ‘borrower sustainability and lender viability’. They argued that compulsory savings scheme of NGOs function as collateral for distribution of loan. They cited the case of BURO, Tangail that emphasized savings instead of credit and provided its members with easy access to their savings. Stuart Rutherford (2001) mainly focused on the distinction between ROSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Associations) and fund samities. (which are also known as ASCAs: Accumulating Savings and Credit Associations). ROSCAs rotate savings among members as soon as they are created, whereas fund samities accumulate savings and lend to members on demand.
In the research work titled ‘Different ways to support the rural poor: Effects of two development approaches in Bangladesh’ Streefland et al (1986) attempted to assess the impact of two development approaches namely, ‘credit approach and conscientization approach’ in the lives of rural poor, particularly in their study sites of Sunamganj and Tangail. Although they provided a brief description of development efforts with a view to alleviating rural poverty since the time after the liberation war of Bangladesh, but they did not expatiate on the Comilla model of Akhter Hamid Khan and the Swanirvar movement of Mahbub Alam Chashi. They investigated the impact of aforementioned approaches in the economic, political, organizational and subjective spheres of the rural poor of their study areas and tried to grasp the subjective aspect of the rural poor on the basis of two ideal type models namely ‘Survival model’ and the ‘Emancipation model’. They also selected two control villages to appraise the impact of the two development approaches on the project villages. They followed the trail of Van Schendel (1982) and performed economic categorization of households evading traditional class analysis for the convenience of comparison of the findings of their study sites with other rural areas in Bangladesh.
Though they apparently avoided class analysis, they highlighted organizational aspect of the poor on the basis of class and focused on the organizational aspect of the poor, they did not cast much light on the unity of women against injustice. They asserted that women had not much role to play in economic decision-making and their voting rights were violated. They also found in their research that women were often beaten up, but the project could not salvage them from this plight of abject misery. Although solidarity and organized state of the poor would ostensibly appear to be very much insignificant to bring about any change in the status quo but it mattered in their daily lives. The worldview of the poor in their study matched impeccably more with the ‘Survival model’ than the ‘Emancipation Model’. Besides the authors did not elaborate ‘Conscientization approach’ other than calling it an awareness-raising program.
David Lewis (2002) in the treatise titled ‘To bite the hands that feed? Strengthening the future of anthropology and development research in Bangladesh’ published in ‘Contemporary anthropology’ edited by S. M. Nurul Alam (2002) reflected on the paucity of ‘anthropological research on development issues and poverty reduction measures’ in Bangladesh and castigated current literatures for having exclusively econometric slant which are subsidized product of donor agencies. He emphasized on the imperative role of anthropologists in the domain of development who can create their own epistemological space for the better understanding of development issues. He maintained that in Bangladesh, development related research, which entirely served the interests of development patrons, therefore failed to respond to the local needs and anthropology’s role was underrated in both policy making and implementation despite its theoretical and applied implication to such research. He articulated that anthropologists are no longer obsessed with ‘authentic culture’ rather they are engaged in the pursuit of ‘defamiliarization’ ‘at home’ and are incorporated to a small extent in the development policy issues. He considered that anthropologists should be an integral part of development intervention, for they are well-versed in the deployment of participant observation-the methodological trademark of anthropology- and they are indoctrinated rigorously on how to dispense with ethnocentric assumptions which other disciplines particularly economics is fraught with. He also contended that two camps of apparently rival anthropologists- one interested to be involved in the homogenization process through development intervention and the other espousing the rejectionism of post development- can be reconciled for the better comprehension of development dilemma. He asserted that Bangladesh was the breeding ground for both the critical scrutiny of development intervention and for grasping the cognitive map of local people regarding progress and prosperity. Lewis maintained that anthropologists could apply their expert lore to explore the role of third sector in society in 3 cardinal ways:
A) They can expatiate the extant literature on the role of third sector in providing adaptive avenues for people ‘in situations of social, cultural, ecological and technological change’ and in pursuing their new found interest of focusing on the role Bangladeshi third sector can play through the provision of credit and savings.
B) They can embrace the role of third sector in other cultures in their research other than that having close connection with the western aid industry to highlight indigenous knowledge system. They can demonstrate the nexus between third sector and Mauss’s work (1958) on gift, for he depicted that the giver enjoyed more prestige and status than the receiver of gift.
C) They can provide new critical perspectives on development policy and practice in the third sector.
He further argued that the third sector should be extricated for the shackles of ‘dependent partnerships’ with donor agencies for the benefit of ‘target group’ and reiterated the indispensability of incorporating anthropologists in development projects. Although he proposed some recommendations to embark on the challenging job of ‘active partnerships’ with the donors and government but did not consider the practical impediments in the achievement of those goals. And finally he accentuated on the constructively critical role of anthropologists for the sound growth of development anthropology in Bangladesh.
A. Mushtaque R. Chowdhury and M. Aminul Islam (1998) in their article titled ‘Bangladesh: politics, development and perspectives of the poor’, published in the journal of social studies, gave a vivid and brief description of the political genealogy of Bangladesh focusing on the political insurrection against the British rule led by Titumir, Surja Sen and Khudi Ram, Language movement, the birth of Bangladesh, political assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, several military coups, deposing of Ershad by mass remonstrance, consecutive tug-of-war between BNP and Awami League for power, and non-cooperation movement of Awami League. Having acknowledged the justification behind this movement, they were honest in their depiction of the downside of this movement. They opined that poverty alleviation programs of NGOs in the form of micro credit were severely affected by this movement. Throughout the paper they zeroed in on the adverse effects of the non-cooperation movement led by Awami League on the micro credit program of BRAC based on their 7 days of study in 1996 when the movement was most matured in terms of alacrity. The quality and validity of the data collected using only interview method on the basis of checklists by the selected fieldworkers of BRAC and not by authors can easily be questioned.
The study results revealed that the villagers under the micro credit program of BRAC considered the non-cooperation movement as ‘Hartal’, and blamed both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina for the predicament. The authors asserted that the movement affected severely the poor people, because of scarcity and price hike of essential commodities and lack of work for day labourers. The movement impeded the disbursement of loan, disrupted the loan repayment, hindered poultry rearing assistance, and affected the non-formal primary education program of BRAC. The most suffered victim of the movement was the female member of BRAC. This study disclosed the fact that ‘Hartal’ or other political events not only affect the urban areas but also quite naturally the rural areas and that villagers are not indifferent to the political incidents of the country. They concluded the treatise seeing eye to eye with the villagers that the political future of Bangladesh was bleak, if things remained unchanged.
Fahmida. A. Khatun (1998) in her treatise titled ‘Environment and sustainable development in Bangladesh’ published in the ‘Journal of Social Studies’ emphasized on the environmental aspect of development for its sustainability in the long run, which will not be baleful for the future generation. She by presenting a definition of sustainable development given by The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED1987), accentuated on the trade-off between ‘man-made capital’ and ‘natural capital’ for sustainable development. She blamed ‘high population growth and rampant poverty’ for the exhaustive use of natural resources which is a major hindrance to sustainable development. She also portrayed a dismal picture of the physical and economic features of Bangladesh. She criticized the traditional quantitative measurement of development indicators for not taking into account the ‘welfare enhancing’ factors which are crucial for development to be sustainable, and maintained that ‘non-declining capital stock’ is critical for sustainable development. She also focused on the low per capita income of Bangladesh and asserted that for sustainable development, equal distribution of economic resources is essential. She then elucidated major environmental problems of Bangladesh such as deforestation, land degradation, water and air pollution, degradation of wetlands and coastal environment and loss of fisheries. Finally she recommended necessary steps to be taken for the sustainable development in Bangladesh.
In the article titled ‘An exploration of the relationship between anthropology and development with special reference to Bangladesh’ published in the ‘Journal of Social Studies’ Ainoon Naher (1997) focused on the ‘practical application’ of anthropological knowledge in development projects in relation to the nascent state of anthropology in Bangladesh. She asserted that there was disagreement among anthropologists regarding the definition of ‘applied anthropology’. She put forward the theoretical debate between Malinowski and Evans Pritchard regarding the similitude of ‘practical anthropology’ with natural science. Although she stated firmly that the nexus between anthropology and colonialism was blown up, for the number of anthropologists employed by colonial government was small compared to academic anthropologists, but it does not exonerate the colonial anthropologists from the stigma attached to the birth of the discipline. She also emphasized reproducing the excerpt of Stavenhagen that, the deployment of other social sciences in the perpetuation of colonial regime other than anthropology was completely overlooked by critics who time and again censured the role of anthropology during the colonial era. She revealed that anthropologists had to face the acid test to venture the development arena, for development activities were tacitly considered the prerogative of economists. She further asserted that the debacle of development projects because of the severe limitation of traditional development approaches devised by economists paved the way for the anthropologists to be employed in the appraisal of development intervention.
Anthropologists had to forsake the synchronic analysis of society in favour of diachronic standpoint to better understand the process of development in terms of social and cultural factors. She also focused on the dilemma of anthropologists, for cultural relativism was incompatible with the ethnocentric models of development. She maintained that anthropologists can influence the planning and implementation of development projects by their role of advocates, mediators, and monitors. Anthropologists must be an integral part of development projects, because of their aptitude to grasp the emic view through holistic perspective and participant observation. In the article there was an implicit exhortation for anthropologists that they must engage in development activities mainly to assist the marginalized section of the society not to capitulate to the demands of the donors.
She maintained that the failure of top-down approaches of mainstream development persuaded development planners to include the concept of people’s participation from alternative development paradigm. They chose PRA as the most suitable method to ensure participatory development at the grassroots level. She critically examined ‘Indigenous Knowledge Systems’ and ‘Actor-Oriented Approach’ as an integral part of sustainable development. She stated that the actor-oriented approach transformed subjugated actors of ‘Neo-Marxist critiques of development’ into ‘active agents’ of development, but it does not resolve the endogeneity problem associated with the implementation of development projects. She also asserted that Ferguson and Escobar castigated not only mainstream development but also alternative paradigms of development and instead espoused the commencement of reconstruction in the light of post-development schools of thought. Although she propped up the deconstruction of western development models, but said nothing about the polycentrism of the reconstruction agenda. She asserted that the underlying cause of the inauguration of anthropology at various universities of Bangladesh was the widespread recognition of the discipline’s indispensability in the development circle. She disclosed that, the deployment of anthropological concepts and methods began in 1957 with the establishment of department of sociology at the university of Dhaka. Since the department was established under the aegis of Pierre Bessaignet, a French anthropologist, therefore anthropological concepts and methods were emphasized despite its sociological tinge to the name of the department, and A. K. Nazmul Karim the first Bengali Chair of the department continued the legacy. She established a clear nexus between anthropology and development intervention of various NGOs in Bangladesh, and concluded her treatise with the expectation that the anthropologists of the ‘Third World’ must critically scrutinize the prevalent discourse of development manufactured in the West in the milieu of asymmetrical power relations.
Fieldwork in Bijoypur was conducted for almost one month, in the main from 7th of July to 10th of August in 2005,with regular intervals. Bijoypur is situated about 4 km to the east of Dhulipitha bus stand, which is near Dhamrai Pourasava. My confessional tales of the fieldwork was not so swashbuckling, for the entire process was an arduous journey, which overtaxed my ardour from the very beginning of the fieldwork. Since I was not permitted to stay in the guesthouse of Dhamrai branch of BRAC, therefore I had to commute as good as everyday to Bijoypur for the collection of raw data. Moreover I was enjoined from BRAC center to conceal my original identity and to introduce myself as one of the NGO’s internee. Although initially I could not fathom the underlying cause of such apparently bizarre prohibition, but later it dawned on me that such revelation could turn me into a suspicious outsider to the branch staffs with high probability that I could leak confidential information of the study area to the officials of the center, which might be different from their claim regarding the progress of development work in the area. However having dealt with the identity crisis I embarked on the demanding job of deciphering the intricacies of the cultural grammar of the villagers. Apart from the collection of census material, the topic of domestic violence was the most challenging part of my fieldwork. Although the small time span of the fieldwork was an obstacle to develop adequate rapport with the villagers, but the spontaneous response of most of the V.O (village organization) members propelled my fieldwork, smoothly. The replication of British style of ‘isolated fieldworker’ in the anthropology of Bangladesh catapulted me in the unfamiliar field with the initial feeling that I was at a loss, but gradually managed to thrust my way through the thicket of cultural data. The area manager Rakib Bhai helped me a lot in the selection of the study area. And I was wary throughout my research that the fieldwork did not turn out to be an epitome of ‘hit and run anthropology’. Above all, this academic capital in the form of rigorous ethnography was the product of ‘subjective soaking’, which enabled me to grasp the micro reality of the study area.
The qualitative methods and techniques that I deployed in my research were:
Purposive or judgement sampling:
In my research I relied on purposive sampling to draw the sample size, for it is frequently used by anthropologists all over the world because of its intrinsic advantage of targeting those samples having intimate connection with the research problems of the anthropologists. Because of the time constraints of my research I purposively selected most articulate and cooperative Village Organization (V.O) members of BRAC to critically examine the purported link between micro credit and development in Bijoypur. While conducting the census of the village ‘the big net approach’ helped me to draw the sample size purposively. 10% of the total population of the village was selected as the representative sample of my research.
I conducted unstructured interviewing to let the informants open up bluntly about the impact of micro credit on the economic, political, organizational, and subjective realm of their lives. Although this kind of informal and conversation-like interviewing was efficacious for my data collection but it was a time-consuming and lengthy process, which the limited time frame of my research, did not permit, therefore at the end of my research I had recourse to semi-structured interviewing.
Key actors are akin to the concept of “Social Authorities” coined by Fredric Le Play during the completion of monographs on working class families in the 19th century France. Throughout my study I also conducted key-actor interviewing, but I was wary not to rely excessively on them in order to evade the problem of ‘Ecological fallacy.’ Besides over- dependence on her for apposite data could result in a study fraught with ‘ideal type’ answers. I started my research with key actor interviewing, but with the maturation of the study, information collected from this source were triangulated against other available sources. With the help of Rakib Bhai, area manager of Dhamrai branch of BRAC, Marjina was selected as the key actor of my research, for she was the leader of a village organization, therefore she was knowledgeable about many stuff which the ordinary V.O members were unaware of and besides she was the most forthcoming among all the V.O leaders.
Use of open–ended and closed ended questions:
Open-ended questions are used more frequently by anthropologists than closed ended questions, for such questions don’t limit the range of options of the informants to interpret any issue, in their own way. Therefore I used open-ended questions during the initial phase of my fieldwork to ensure the richness of their delineation, and asked closed-ended questions in the concluding part of my research to open avenues for ‘echo probe’ and ‘phased assertion’. That is to say, throughout my study I amalgamated both types of questions depending on the demand of the situation.
Use of various kinds of probes:
Different types of probes such as ‘silent probe’ ‘echo probe’ and ‘phased assertion’ were used in my study, but I was cautious not to use ‘directive probe’, for such usage would contaminate the interpretation of the informants. Although I was not adept in applying probes but the use of different probes except for ‘directive probe’ helped me to safeguard the validity of the collected data.
Checklists were devised in accordance with the focus of my research and were used to facilitate the conducting the fieldwork. Cardinal as well as subtle topics were included in the checklists and it won’t be an exaggeration to admit that the study progressed entirely on the basis of topics included in the checklist. Checklist helped me to steer the fieldwork toward the desired direction and to collect data in a disciplined way.
During the fieldwork I was exposed only to verbatim texts, some of which I then converted into third-person description but kept some texts in their original form, to wit preserved the first-person description to enable the readers to appreciate the lucidity of first person description and to validate analytical conclusions of my research. Besides verbatim texts preserve the engaging features of the enunciation of the informants which third person description can tarnish deliberately.
During the study I had to rely on retrospective interviewing, whenever I needed information about past events. Information regarding the inception of development intervention in Bijoypur, past quality and quantity of their meals, change in spending of money on Eid, puja and other festive occasions, past condition of their living quarters, devastating floods of 1998 and 2004, both inter- and intra-generational mobility, change in the patron-client relation and other events related to economic, political, organizational and subjective domain of the lives of the informants called for retrospective interviewing. Since cultural domain of their lives are not preserved in black and white, therefore the quest for the historical background of the present form of their cultural life manifested the indispensability of retrospective interviewing in my research.
Case study method:
Case study as a sole method for data collection can pose the problem of representation. Frederic Le Play who is considered the father of case study method used case of working class family as representative of the 18th century French society, which today is called unit of analysis. As methodological triangulation it can prove to be informative by focusing on actors or any particular social situation. In this vein, I used case study method to depict the downside of the disbursement and repayment strategy of BRAC’s loan, the quantity and quality of meal, life of the key actor and organizational aspect of the poor villagers. Such use of case study method provided wealth of significant information for my research.
Although I did not conduct live-in research in Bijoypur village, which the classical anthropology was stringent about, my research was participant in both sense of the term, which is in vogue. On the one hand the informants participated in the interview session with me, and on the other I, myself participated with them in their Village Organization meeting. Moreover I observed their behaviour, gesture, gait, look, and tried to triangulate the congruence between their words and deeds.
Significance and limitation of the study:
Even in this era of ‘crisis of ethnographic representation’ the critical significance of any research pursuit does not dwindle. That is to say, despite the scathing critiques of postmodernists the significance of any study does not evaporate altogether, provided that subjectivity of interpretation is conceded to exist in ethnographic inquiry. Although literatures I went over portrayed the efficacy of development intervention in the attire of micro credit program, none of them to the best of my comprehension dealt with endogenous aspect of development. Prominent NGDOs and various international bodies vow to relinquish top-down approach, but on the other hand accentuate people’s participation in the implementation of exogenous planning, which makes the entire process simply ridiculous. Thus authentic development from below calls for people’s participation not only in the implementation rather in all departments of development projects is the stance of alternative development. On the other hand, post-development thinking is a radical and rejectionist standpoint, which in the words of Gustavo Esteva (1985) wages war against the imperial west that ‘wants to cover the stench of development with alternative development as a deodorant’. Therefore, cardinal significance of my study lies in the point that I amalgamated these two camps in search of a middle ground, which to the best of my knowledge indicates paucity of such work. So, taking into account the drawbacks of both frameworks their advantages can be applied in the best possible way, for the sustainability of development intervention not as an imposition rather as the informed consent of the participants.
Despite divulging the significance and eulogizing the uniqueness of theoretical underpinnings of my research, the dilemma of ‘Indigenous anthropology’ cropped up. The stereotypical notion entrenched in the western mind, and espoused particularly by James Clifford (1990) that native anthropologists are well equipped to collect more valid data because of their better cultural competence than a complete ‘Professional Stranger’ was exploded by Edmund Leach (1982), as he wrote:
“Fieldwork in a cultural context of which you already have intimate first-hand experience seems to be much more difficult than fieldwork which is approached from the naïve viewpoint of a total stranger. When anthropologists study facets of their own society their vision seems to become distorted by prejudices which derive from private rather than public experience”(Leach: 1982:124).
Therefore as a native anthropologist I did not suffer from cultural shock, had the prior familiarity with the language and on the other hand, I honestly strived to forsake taken-for-granted outlook that might contaminate the collected data to produce ‘Perspectivist Knowledge’ promulgated by Jacques Maquet (1964)(From Narayan: 2001: 315). In other words, I was cautious not to be overpowered by ‘home-blindness’, which the native anthropology is alleged to be rife with. Therefore my role as a native anthropologist can be questioned because of the predicament attached to it and can be envisaged as the major limitation of my study. Besides I could not conduct member or respondent validation done primly after the completion of ethnographic writing to meet the ethical stipulation enunciated by AAA (American Anthropological Association). Moreover, the time frame of the study was short to grasp the pattern of the views of the villagers, but I was committed to dispel the limitation with the best use of available time.
History of development intervention in Bangladesh:
In this chapter we will deal at first with the definitional problem of NGOs, give a brief overview of micro credit programs and development intervention in Bangladesh, and cast light on three important phases of poverty alleviation measures in Bangladesh, to wit The Comilla development Model, The Swanirvar Movement and The Target Group Strategy.
Definition of NGO:
The growing involvement of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the resolution of development problems has precipitated a rapid increase in the literature on NGOs, as a topic of study. As a result of the parallel process of a declining role of the state in many parts of the Third World, the changing focus of international donors in the industrialized countries from the public to the private sector as the preferred channel for aid funding and the increasing significance of political and economic forces at the global level, the need to understand NGOs has never been more critical.
Aside from the name ‘nongovernmental organization’ one of the first problems encountered in identifying a workable definition of NGOs is the lack of consistency in the use of the term. Three major terms are sometimes used interchangeably in the literature: NGO, private voluntary organization (PVO), and nonprofit organization (NPO). Gorman (1984) in an early attempt to define the PVO sector described PVOs as ‘nongovernmental (private), tax-exempt, nonprofit agencies engaged in overseas provision of services for relief and development purposes. There are some shortcomings to this definition. The inclusion of ‘overseas’ activities in the definition implies that the organizations being referred to are exclusively those based in the developed countries and that their mandate is ‘relief and development’ in the nations of the third world. This excludes that whole class of organizations based in the third world, which are also oriented to relief and development.
Some examples of later usage seem to imply a broadening of this definition and an overall convergence between the terms NGO and PVO. There is substantial reference in the most recent literature on PVOs/NGOs to organizations based in Third World nations that serve populations in those countries. Korten (1990) for example, uses PVO and NGO interchangeably in his descriptions of ‘people-centred development’ referring to a wide range of organizations including those based in Third World nations. Whether PVOs are equivalent to NGOs or alternatively whether NGOs are a subset of PVOs is a question that has not been fully explored.
The term nonprofit organization (NPO) is also sometimes used interchangeably with NGO. In a major attempt to investigate the nonprofit sector, Salamon and Anheier (1992) conclude that the structural/operational definition is most appropriate and identify 5 critical features of NPOs: they are formal, private, nonprofit distributing, self-governing and voluntary. While Salamon and Anheier acknowledge that the term NGO is commonly interpreted by many as being equivalent to NPO, they suggest that NGOs actually represent a subset of those NPOs engaged in economic and social development. In the context of a discussion of global governance, Gordenker and Weiss (1995) describe NGOs as private, self-governing, formal and non-profit. Omission of the voluntary feature acknowledges the increasing professionalization of the NGO sector. At the core of the concept of the NGO sector is the private (that is unaffiliated with government) and self-governing (or autonomously managed) nature of NGOs. According to Gordenker and Weiss (1995) a definition of this type would tend to exclude three specific kinds of NGOs: GONGOs (government organized NGOs), which are created by Third world government in order to capture the growing stream of aid funding to the NGO sector, QUANGOs (quasi nongovernmental organizations) which are based in the industrialized countries and receive the bulk of their resources from public coffers, and DONGOs (donor-organized NGOs) which create their own NGOs as preferred channels for donor funding.
A tentative structural-operational definition of NGOs might thus be: self-governing, private, not-for-profit organizations that are geared to improving the quality of life of disadvantaged people. This proposed definition of NGOs needs to be tested in a multi-national context in order to determine whether it is both discriminating (that is able to distinguish NGOs from other similar organizations) and also robust (inclusive of the full range of organizations that most would consider to be NGOs)(Vakil: 1997:2057-2060).
Table-1 Acronyms of NGOs
The evolution of micro credit programs in Bangladesh:
Providing credit is one way of enabling the poor to acquire assets and become productive. Targeted credit programs for the poor were first tried in 1976, when Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economics professor, introduced an experimental project to test whether the poor were creditworthy and whether credit could be provided without physical collateral. With the help of some Bangladeshi banks, Yunus conducted an innovative experiment emphasizing group delivery of credit and exploring what constituted a manageable group size for effective financial intermediation. The Central bank of Bangladesh later facilitated Yunus’ work by arranging for funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In Yunus’ experiment group collateral substituted for physical collateral. The group guarantee to repay individual loans became the hallmark of micro lending. Using the mechanism poor people, with no physical collateral were able to form groups to gain access to institutional credit. The mechanism also allowed credit to reach the poor, especially poor women.
The central premise of this targeted credit approach is that lack of access to credit is the greatest constraint on the economic advancement of the rural poor. Yunus believes that with appropriate support, the poor can be productively employed in income-generating activities, including processing and manufacturing, transport, storage and marketing of agricultural products and poultry and livestock raising. After almost seven years of experimentation with a variety of group-based mechanisms, his idea took formal shape as a bank with its own charter. With the government holding about 90% of the shares in paid-up capital, Grameen Bank was established in 1983, to work exclusively with the poor, defined as individuals owning less than half an acre of land.
Where Grameen bank believes that the most immediate need of the poor is credit to create and expand self-employment opportunities; the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) believes that the poor need skills development and other organizational inputs. BRAC was established in 1972 as a charitable organization to help resettle households displaced during the 1971 war. BRAC’s founder F.H. Abed soon realized that relief simply maintained the status quo; it was inadequate to alleviate poverty. BRAC’s relief experience helped it to understand the causes of rural poverty and develop a framework for poverty alleviation.
BRAC’s approach has been to combine lending with the delivery of organizational inputs, such as skills promotion and consciousness raising. It has never viewed credit as a central instrument for poverty alleviation. Rather it believes that economic dependency on exploitative village economic structures is the ultimate cause of persistent poverty. As revealed in many anthropological studies landholding and command of financial resources are still the major determinants of rural social class. While the wealthiest households dominate the rural society, the rural poor lacking access to alternative resources and an awareness of their situation maintain the dominance of each faction by associating themselves with a particular faction for protection and security. As a result the poor remain poor and become the victims of exploitative forces.
Over time, BRAC and Grameen Bank have learned from one another. BRAC has learned that credit must be provided along with skills development training, Grameen Bank has realized that credit alone is not enough, that the poor need social development and organizational inputs to become more disciplined and productive. BRAC continues to provide skills training and other inputs before disbursing credit, however while Grameen bank continues to disburse credit before providing social development and organizational inputs.
Following the examples of Grameen Bank and BRAC the government of Bangladesh introduced a group-based targeted credit approach based on the Comilla model of two-tier cooperatives. The Comilla model of rural development was designed and implemented by Akhter Hamid Khan in the 1960s at the Academy for Rural Development in Comilla, Bangladesh. The idea involves organizing farmers into cooperative societies in order to distribute modern inputs such as high-yielding crop varieties, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and subsidized credit. The organizational approach, which established primary farmer’s cooperative societies that were federated into central cooperative societies at the thana level, was found to be effective in reaching farmners.
Following Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, the government adopted the Comilla model as the basis for national development. This strategy led to the creation of the two-tier cooperative system. The Comilla model was adopted throughout the nation as part of the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP). The Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB), a semiautonomous government agency under the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, was established in 1982 to replace the IRDP. Like the IRDP, it was based on two-tier cooperatives, but it employed credit as its main input and included a component that specifically targeted the rural poor. The BRDB experimented with a number of projects to increase income and employment opportunities for the rural poor by setting up a separate system of primary cooperatives. The eligible poor were men and women who owned less than half of an acre of land and depended on manual labour as their main source of income. These cooperatives, called Bittaheen Samabay Samity for men and Mahila Bittaheen Samabay Samity for women provided members with skills development training in group leadership and management and access to credit. Savings mobilization was also part of the program. With funds from the Canadian International Development Agency, this program was strengthened in 1988 and renamed the Rural Development Project-12 (RD-12).
RD-12 was based on the model of a two–tier cooperative structure with solidarity groups of five to six members, following the credit delivery model of Grameen bank. This small group targeted approach was more successful than the large group approach of the BRDB in reaching the poor and recovering loans. Along with the small group delivery approach of Grameen bank, RD-12 adopted BRAC’s skill development approach for promoting productivity of the poor (Khandker: 1998:16-18).
Development intervention with a view to alleviating poverty:
Like many other countries, Bangladesh pursued growth-oriented development strategies in the 1960s to increase both employment and productivity through higher economic growth. Issues of distribution and poverty alleviation were considered peripheral, because it was thought that the trickle-down effect would raise living standards among all strata of society. The basic thrust of the growth-oriented development strategy was that economic growth could be achieved through modernization in both industry and agriculture. In industry this meant higher capital intensity in production, with higher profitability and consequently higher investment for further growth. In agriculture this strategy meant supporting and implementing Green Revolution technology, which relied more heavily on irrigation and modern cultivation methods. The growth strategy required that the government, supply subsidized inputs such as credit, fertilizer, irrigation equipment and pesticides. Proponents of this strategy believed that improved agricultural production would reduce poverty by creating new demand and employment opportunities.
Bangladesh’s experience with Green Revolution technology has been mixed. New and improved varieties of crops and increased use of fertilizer and pesticides helped to increase production. Rice production increased at least four fold, leading to near sufficiency in rice by 1990. Bangladesh’s agriculture-led growth strategy was articulated through the IRDP, which used two-tier cooperatives to promote the Green revolution in agriculture. About 50-60 farmers were formed into cooperatives, which were federated into thana-level central cooperative societies. Although the idea was to help farmers gain access to modern inputs, including subsidized credit, the cooperatives were dominated by the rural elite and large landowners. Some researchers have observed that the Comilla-type cooperatives were critical in initiating the transition to a more productive method of production, improving agricultural yields and increasing infrastructural growth. The agricultural growth strategy failed to make the rural poor productive and self-supporting because subsidized inputs encouraged capital-intensive methods of agricultural production and hence discouraged a demand-induced growth strategy. Moreover growth achieved through such capital-intensive methods of production was not sustainable. Bangladesh’s historical growth rate of about 5% per year is sluggish. Because of a lack of strong intersectoral linkages and a demand-induced pattern of growth, institutions established to implement government policies and programs were not self-sustainable and continued to receive huge subsidies from the government.
The supply-based approach is based on the idea that there is a latent demand for inputs such as credit and schooling and that households with access to such inputs can improve their welfare through increased production, consumption and investment. A classic example is the government credit programs that were introduced with the help of bilateral and multilateral donor agencies through government-controlled banking and cooperative institutions. The poor farm households that needed subsidized credit the most were excluded from these institution’s loans. Only about 7% of landless households (defined as those owning less than half an acre of land) had access to institutional credit. Most poor households were excluded because they did not have adequate resources to offer as collateral. In contrast, 20% of medium-size and large farmers were able to obtain subsidized credit. According to the 1987 Rural Credit Survey of Bangladesh, land and immoveable property are the dominant forms of collateral, accounting for 74% of the credit transactions of formal financial institutions. Insufficient mortgaged land (3.3%) followed by high transactions costs (26%) were reported to be the main reasons why needy households did not apply for bank loans. In short, the supply-based strategy, which was designed to create conditions for the alleviation of poverty, did not directly address the income and employment problems of the poor.
A targeted wage employment approach was introduced in the 1970s, when policymakers realized that the homogeneous community-based approach had bypassed the poor. This targeted approach was conceived largely through the Food-for-Work, Rural works and Vulnerable Group Development programs. The main objectives of the Food-for-Work program are to improve the performance of the agriculture sector through construction and maintenance of physical infrastructure for production and marketing, to reduce physical damage and loss of human life from floods and cyclones by creating protective structures ad to generate productive seasonal employment for the very poor. The purpose of the Rural Works program is to build rural infrastructure such as roads, rural markets and food storage facilities. Vulnerable group Development aims to improve both income and employment of destitute women who are not able to take advantage of programs such as Food-for-Work. These programs represented the government’s direct antipoverty schemes.
The Food-for-Work and Vulnerable Group Development programs are self-targeting and thus attract only those who are poor and depend on manual labour for daily wages. Although the programs seemed effective and provided basic infrastructure, the development of sustainable income generation and employment for the poor has been limited because of their temporary and seasonal nature. Food-for-Work create rural infrastructure that should have had secondary effects on income and employment. In fact the benefits accrued largely to landed households that had the productive means to use these facilities. The induced effects on income and employment were negligible, because the roads that were built with these transfers were often washed away by floods or became useless because of poor maintenance. Asaduzzaman and Huddleston (1983) argue that although it is not possible to measure the quantity and quality of the work done under the program there was considerable potential for malpractice and substandard work. Moreover the implementation period of Food-for-Work projects conflicted with crop production activities causing labour shortages.
With help from donors, various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including BRAC, introduced noncredit-targeted measures to help the poor in the aftermath of the 1971 war for independence and following natural disasters. The purpose of these programs was to reduce poverty by providing needed goods and services to the poor. NGOs soon realized however, that poverty had to be confronted on a sustained basis and that human capital services such as adult literacy, skills training and primary health care were inadequate to sustain poverty reduction among the rural poor. In addition to promoting the human development of the poor, programs needed to promote the productive capacity of the poor through physical means, such as acquiring physical capital with credit (Khandker: 1998: 19-23).
Three important phases of poverty alleviation measures in Bangladesh:
Poverty alleviation measures with a view to ushering in development at the grassroots level in Bangladesh is marked by three remarkable phases:
Comilla Development Model:
The community development strategy entered Bangladesh as early as 1956 in the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (PARD), at present Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), as the Comilla Approach to integrated rural development with its cooperatives and a two-tier organizational structure. The Comilla Approach (CA) has been replicated as the national model for rural development in Bangladesh. In spite of some successful ventures like the Deedar Cooperative Society, it has however bypassed the middle farmer, landless and semi-landless rural majority.
The aims and aspirations of the Comilla Approach:
The aims and aspirations of the Comilla Approach are;
That the villagers themselves understand their problems best and the Village Level Workers (VLWs) should try to learn from the villagers and then explain the new approach.
That the villagers are themselves capable of initiating changes in improving their condition by individual and cooperative action.
That the central need is for the creation of capital followed by provision for training ad technical inputs, implying that once these services are provided the most important criteria for the participation of the villagers in the developmental process would be met.
The strategies followed for the implementation of CA:
A) Conducting meetings with the villagers at strategic geographical points to ensure maximum attendance in an attempt to motivate the villagers to undertake changes, learn to accept new ideas and then understand how to implement them.
B) Bringing the villagers to the Academy for Rural Development to learn about the practical implications of the CA.
C) Direct contact of Village Level Workers (VLWs) with the villagers by living with them in order to break the traditional socio-economic barriers, the villagers being approached more as groups rather than individually.
A second set of strategies concerned the VLWs is as follows:
The field officers were given training to develop a perception of their new roles and enter into a ‘friendly partnership’ towards each other and towards the villagers, where guidance and supervision without undue subordination prevails. They were to be helpers rather than administrators and go to the villagers instead of expecting them to leave their work and come to the Academy. Collaboration and teamwork were the keynotes of this approach.
A third set of strategies concerned the building up of infrastructures for:
A) Encouraging the villagers to organize themselves as cooperative groups.
B) Providing technical inputs and agricultural extension services.
C) Focusing attention of income generating and directly productive activities with demonstration effects aiming at improving standards of living.
The organizational structure of the CA:
A) Village cooperative societies were designed to be development oriented, economically viable and functionally efficient. Their purpose was to attack agricultural production constraints and coordinate rural service and enable technology diffusion.
B) The Central Cooperative Association (TCCA) was set up. The TCCA in the project area eventually developed to become an association of both primary societies and federations of societies including the Agricultural Cooperative Federation and the Non-agricultural Special Cooperative Federation. The thana was made the unit for adopting the Comilla Model, rather than the district or Sub-division, thus the focal point for rural development in the CA was the Thana Training and Development Centre with amalgamated the Thana Council and the local government body at the thana level.
The Swanirvar Movement:
The formal inauguration of the Swanirvar Programme took place on September 24, 1975. The Swanirvar Programme (SP) was founded by able bureaucrat and Comilla Academy trained intellectual, Mr. Mahbub Alam Chasi. The SP expanded from the thana and made the village its unit, and two-tier system of Comilla was enlarged into a six-tier set-up, in the village, union, thana, subdivision, district and nation under the guidance of Swanirvar Committees (SC). The National Committee of the Swanirvar Bangladesh is the apex body with Swanirvar Committees (SC) at the village level. The SCs included representatives from different professional groups, e.g. agriculturalists, rural poor (including amongst them the landless labourers, weavers, fishermen) as well made representatives from women and youth. Thus a first attempt was made to create an organization where a larger cross-section of villagers was represented as participators. By 1976, 630 villages had SCs and at least one village in each thana in the country was declared a Swanirvar (self-reliant) village.
A SV was a village where a SC was the executive body with a Gram Sabha (GS) (Village Assembly) consisting of all adult members in the village, which had the ultimate authority. The first step towards creating a SV was to make a base-line survey of the village, this socio-economic survey led to the making of a village plan, which had to be approved by the Gram Sabha. It was hoped that the integration of village plans would take place at the union, thana, district and finally at the national level.
Basic assumptions of SP:
Any attempt at economic development must aim at meeting the basic human needs of the entire population. This broad spectrum of needs first tried to create self-sufficiency in food, giving employment in Food for Works programmes and building agricultural infrastructures, e.g. Ulashi Jadunathpur Canal Building Scheme.
Involvement of the entire community, this CD approach supplemented by including the various groups within the village power structure, and giving the less privileged sections more support.
Utilizing the underemployed human and other resource potential.
Character building, voluntary labour, and changes in the value system and behavioral patterns were propagated as essential for enabling long-term economic benefits.
These assumptions, sweeping and large scale, recognized the role of targeted groups but still included them in the total package of activities for the community, without minimizing the problems of the less privileged in rural power politics.
Shift of focus from the thana to the village.
Involve all people irrespective of their societal position within development activities. The strategy not only treated the rural poor recipients of side benefits of growth-oriented agricultural programmes, but gave them a sense of mission and by making them participants in the Gram Sabha, attempted to break social barriers.
Decisions were based on consensus rather than ideology; stress was given on the need for working together to develop the village.
Emphasis was given to minimizing the size and rate of assistance from external agencies.
The organizational structure:
The SM attributed importance to stable institutional framework as a necessary structure in rural development programmes. It extends the formal local government structure from the union at the apex of district subdivision to the village level at the bottom. It has the superhuman objective of dealing with the interests of all classes in the village and also integrating governmental administration with management of the village affairs. As stated earlier, the Gram Parishad (village assembly) was made the basic unit. The GP representing the whole village was guided by and elected head, Gram Sarathi (village pilot or guide) with a Gram Sampadak (village secretary). The GP had four elected committees responsible for law and order, agriculture, education, health and family planning. Each village had three other associations representing the landless, women and youth. The Gram Tahvil (villager treasury) funds were generated through the imposition of project-specific taxes varying with the assets of the villagers (Chowdhury: 1990: 60-62).
Target Group Strategy:
This conceptual base of the TG (Target Group) strategy is built on the ideas of Paulo Freire, demanding a ‘liberated education’ in his book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ and by Andre Gunder Frank’s version of Dependency Theories, which stated that the disadvantaged poor, treated as a ‘periphery’ were exploited by the ‘centre’. It states that the poor are capable of changing their lives if they are made aware that the reasons for their misery lie in class-based exploitation. Freire and Frank though from different disciplines, one being an educationalist, the other a radical sociologist aimed at appealing to the latent spirit of self-reliance by giving the poor a call to take united action to redress social injustices. Theoretically sound, the idea was taken up as a panacea for development, since it freed donors and development strategists from indulging in heavy inputs and investment. Taken from the socio-economic context of the South American haciendas, it was applied to Bangladesh, already suffering from fragmentation of lands, lack of infrastructure, rural unemployment and rising landlessness. Poverty stricken pockets were selected as target areas.
Self-reliance through TGs can be established on ‘conscientization and awareness-building training discussion’ but the groups, however homogeneous, can only be sustained and expanded by a strong relationship with self-help initiators, where input giving and follow-up activities occur simultaneously. TGs can act together or utilize inputs to alleviate poverty. TGs can be individual units where joint efforts can be mobilized to implement an income-generating scheme. In cases of individual schemes, the feeling that the TG members belong to a group with similar problems is important as a platform for discussing common problems, initiating new plans for receiving loans (Chowdhury: 1990: 205-207).
This chapter focuses on the location and population of the village, educational level of the villagers, development activities and the delineation of the micro credit program in the village, deliberation behind the selection of the topic and that of the study area and occupational categorization of the villagers.
Bijoypur is situated 4km to the east of Dhulipitha bus stand, which is near Dhamrai Pourasava. Dhamrai bazaar, which is a stone’s throw from Bijoypur, remains crowded with vendors and customers throughout the week from dawn to dusk. The bazaar, except medicine, for which the villagers have to commute to the city, which is 4km away from Bijoypur, purveys almost everything needed by the villagers. Bijoypur is a peri-urban village with almost all urban facilities except for the boon of gas. Since the village is minute in size so it is not divided into para. Bijoypur is surrounded by Kalipur and Tanputia village. Kalipur and Tanputia village would be about 1 km to the west and ½ km to the south of Bijoypur respectively. The villagers rely exclusively on tube well water for drinking, bathing and washing clothes. An unpaved road pierces the village and acts as a connector of all the households.
The village has 70 households having on average seven members each and thus the total population of the village becomes about 490. Besides, as the working definition of household I have used that of Streefland et al (1986) where a household has been defined as ‘a residential unit composed of one or more individuals living together and eating food from the same kitchen, including those presently absent for less than 15 days and including guests who have been staying for more than 15 days’. Though the male and female portion of the population is almost equal, but the male population outnumbers the female one by a whisker. Thus the male female ratio will be 3:1. Out of 70 households there are only 10 Hindu households, which evince the fact that Bijoypur is inhabited predominantly by Muslims. Thus the Hindu Muslim ratio would be 1:7. Most of the Hindu households belong to ‘sutradhar’ gotra. Predominance of Muslims in the village will be obvious from the table below:
The educational level in the village is abysmal. Although every villager comprehends the fact that education is like a lighthouse, which dissipates darkness of ignorance, but the village educational level contradicts people’s widespread comprehension because of rampant poverty. The meager literacy rate of 10% includes those who can only sign their name. The functional education programme of BRAC has increased the literacy rate of women who can only sign their name with much effort. That is to say they can neither read nor write anything other than their name, which makes one of the 17 promises of BRAC- that the members of VO should not sign any paper without reading it- simply ridiculous. In this regard the statement of Aziz Miah 40 years old van puller is worth-mentioning- “We understand that education can end our days of misery, but my parents died when I was only 7, I want my kids to be educated but I can’t afford the cost of daily meal how can I afford an additional cost of education”. The literacy rate of man is higher than that of the women, because of their entrenched belief that girls don’t need to be educated, for they will only manage the household chores, and become the means of reproducing social labour. Only a few households were found where female children were more literate than the male children, because of the fact that decisions regarding their education were taken by the V.O members. Girls were usually married off after the completion of the primary level and boys were expected to be additional breadwinners as early as possible. The V.O members also accentuated the importance of religious education for their children especially girls, as will be evident from the confession of Jarina, a V.O member for the last seven years- ‘we will have to face the retribution from the almighty if we don’t give religious education to our children’.
Table-3 Educational level of the villagers
3.4Development activities in the village and the delineation of the micro credit programme:
In Bijoypur development activities were initiated by Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) in 1998 after the devastating flood wrought havoc to the villagers. BRAC started its development activities in the area through the provision of relief to the flood-hit people as well as giving succour to them through conscientization programme. BRAC then realized that conscientization in tandem with credit can bring long-lasting and positive change into the lives of villagers, and to materialize their goal they established their regional branch at Dhamrai and started to dole out credit along with awareness raising programme to make them efficient in their daily negotiation with life struggles. The ensuing pages will be devoted to discover the congruence between the promise and reality of development activities- based on micro credit programme- of BRAC.
There are 3 types of credit programme at Dhamrai, which are as follows:
- Dabi- 8000-30000 taka
- Unnati- 15000-60000 taka
- Progoti- 30000-200000 taka.
The names of different credit programmes are congruent with the meanings of the term and the amount of the loan. Dabi project is the equitable demand of the members; therefore the amount of loan is relatively lower than the other two schemes. Dabi loans have to be repaid within one year. Unnati is for making further economic elevation of the present condition of the villagers, so the amount of credit is higher. Unnati loans have to be repaid within 5 years. Members receiving Unnati loan are not the poorest section of the project area, rather they are economically solvent, but requires hefty sum of loan for the sustainability of their present economic condition. Progoti is for making progress in the area of the member’s investment; therefore the amount is the highest. Progoti loans have to be repaid within ten years. Unlike the Dabi project, all the members in both the Unnati and Progoti schemes are male. Since Bijoypur had only Dabi project therefore I had no other option but to focus solely on it. Interestingly Dabi project has only female members now, but a few years back there were male members, who have been ousted from the project, because of the latter’s unavailability at home during the daytime. BRAC conducts its programme of micro credit distribution through the formation of village organization. In Bijoypur 3 village organizations exist which are then divided into small solidarity groups for the convenience of loan distribution and the subsequent repayment. At least 20 members constitute one village organization and each solidarity group has 4-5 members. The village organization members supervise the performance of solidarity groups. Once savings have been garnered for 4 consecutive weeks, one becomes member of the village organization and becomes eligible to receive the initial loan of 8000 taka from which 400 taka is deducted on the basis of 50-taka subtraction per thousand-tk loan. This deducted amount and the initial savings find their way into the group savings account with 6% of interest rate. The interest rate of any amount of loan is 15%, which many members find quite unreasonable and exorbitant. The minimum amount of 4-week savings is taka 10, but one is free to save more than the specified amount. The loan given to the members has to be redeemed in 46 weekly installments.
NGOs working in Bijoypur village other than BRAC are SEDO, Palli Mangal, Proshika, and BURO, Tangail. All these NGOs are involved in dishing out credit to the poor with a view to ameliorating their present condition and bringing about the gentle breeze of development. Whatever may be the objective, credit lies at the heart of all development activities in rural Bangladesh. Although BRAC overemphasizes skills development and awareness raising issues, it nonetheless amalgam conscientization approach with credit program. Village organizations are generally known to the members as samity, and different NGOs have different days for the weekly samity meeting, which will be evident from the following table:
Table-4 Days of Samity Meeting
Deliberation behind the selection of the topic and that of the study area:
The study area was not selected arbitrarily rather purposively, and certain considerations were active during the entire selection process. Mordant criticisms of postmodernists regarding the lethal biases of anthropologists, which seemed to be ubiquitous helped them to wake up from the deep slumber of mendacious objectivity. Anthropologists were on the horns of a dilemma and with a view to legitimizing their scientific pursuit, shunned positivism and had recourse to phenomenology and managed to find a temporary solace in the division between positive and negative biases. They argued that the deliberate selection of a research problem and subsequent selection of a study area were positive biases and obviously were not baleful for scienticism that anthropologists strived to demonstrate for their discipline. They maintained that they waged war against all forms of negative biases, such as ethnocentrism, judgemental statement, ecological fallacy etc that can creep up in their scientifically inclined work and for that purpose they had deployed a host of research methods and techniques to mitigate and if possible decimate altogether these kinds of research nuisances. Therefore the reflexivity viz self-criticism regarding the representation of the constructed other is commendable but the excessive use of it may engender ‘epistemological hypochondria’ to use a jargon of Geertz, which can eventually obstruct the progress of the discipline. Therefore, having kept the theoretical altercation in mind, the presence of positive bias, viz the selection of the topic and the study area can be attributed to a number of significant considerations, which are enunciated below:
- Although rural development implies not only the introduction of micro credit programme but also other infrastructural developments since BRAC or other NGOs consider micro credit as the magical wand to alleviate rural poverty, therefore I entirely zeroed in on it to examine the efficacy of the platitude.
- The study area was selected through the recommendation of the BRAC staff as well as on the grounds of two-pronged consideration that the area had good conveyance system and that age of the micro credit programme was more than at least 5 years old, so that change in the lives of the villagers would be evaluated by taking into account the pros and cons of the programme.
- Although micro credit programme was initiated by Grammen Bank but I opted for BRAC, for I wanted to probe critically the effectiveness of the development scheme which operated in the main through the fusion of lending of credit to the rural poor and the raising of conscientization.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that almost all the villagers of the study area are involved in Petty trading. Among petty traders grocery shop keeping top the list of occupational categorization. Then successively are eatery business, jewellery shop business and others, which will be evident from the table below:
Table-5 The occupational categorization of the villagers
Educated women who do jobs outside the precinct of their home are primarily employed as processing aide at Savar EPZ and illiterate women who work as domestic help are paid in cash, not in kind (that is to say without food). Kantha stitching is another profession where women are found to be involved in good numbers.
This chapter explores the impact of micro credit program on the sources of income of villagers, quantity and quality of meals of the V.O members, spending of money on Eid, puja and other festive occasions, ownership of utensils and livestock, condition of living quarters, level of indebtedness, ownership of lands, savings, assets and vulnerability, position of women and vertical mobility. This chapter also focuses on the underlying reasons for dropout rate of V.O members from the micro credit program of BRAC and elucidates the concept of deluge effect of development.
Sources of income:
About 80% of the inhabitants of Bijoypur earn their bread and butter through petty trading. Although diverse occupational groups are embraced under the rubric of petty trading, the prime source of income for most of the villagers is grocery shop keeping. Now the question arises if most of the villagers are grocery shopkeeper, then who are the buyers? The answer is status of social actors changes in accordance with the change in social situation. For instance, a grocery shopkeeper who sells daily essentials and consumables to the buyers, also become a buyer when he is in need of essential commodities. Besides there are buyers from the adjacent villages, which resolves the riddle. Most of the households of the V.O members have only one source of income and until children grow up and become physically matured enough having at least primary level education to take up jobs at EPZ, mills and factories and start other menial businesses. That is to say, until the female children are married off and as long as the male children form separate and independent household after marriage, most of the households have multiple sources of income. Eatery business at dilapidated shops is the second most frequent means of livelihood among the villagers, then in the successive places are jewellery business, assorted sweets making and other forms of petty trading, jobs at EPZ and women’s work as domestic help at the places of well-off households.
In contrast to Edwin Ardner’s categorization of women as “muted group”, most of the female informants were much eloquent about their contribution to the household income either directly or indirectly.
Case 1:Shefali Rani Ghosh: A resentful woman:
Shefali Rani Ghosh, a woman in her late forties, enunciated with a bit of huff that “we women work everyday like assiduous donkey as our work takes place within the confines of household compound so our work has no value. But on the other hand man perform their jobs at places where everyone can see the extent of their labour through which they earn money and therefore is considered the most valuable task. It is the money that matters not the extent of the drudgery in gaining recognition for one’s work. If I earn money my labour is considered as work and if I don’t then I’m engaged in worthless task everyday. No one can fathom the importance of our chores without the help of which no one can get outside for performing their jobs. My husband enjoys holiday but I have to work even on the days of puja let alone weekly Fridays. If I don’t work then everything will be in mayhem, I work so that everything is in order and every household member can perform their jobs properly.”
Women contribute to a considerable extent in the household income either directly or indirectly. Women working at EPZ or as domestic help at the place of well-off villagers contribute directly to the household coffers and housewives who assist their husbands by accomplishing spadework especially for eatery business and assorted sweets making contribute indirectly to the household income. The common tenor of the responses of the V.O members is that husbands seldom recognize the importance of the pivotal role played by their wives in household maintenance. Besides women also contribute in direct way to the household fund through works such as kantha stitching or kitchen gardening. Vegetables generally grown around the household compound are pui, gourd, coriander leaf, daata (stem vegetables), etc. Women also earn an extra income by selling coconut, jackfruit, date juice, mango etc at the nearby Dhamrai bazaar. Most of the households used to rear duck and hen but rampant larceny of burglars have forced them to sell off their poultry stock. Now only a few households are found raising poultry stock, which is a rich and available source of animal protein for villagers. Households having kitchen garden meet their vegetable requirement from the homegrown garden vegetables. Over and above, housewives contribute in a substantive way to the household fund by managing loans from local NGOs through which their husbands can embark on the competitive journey of petty trading. Most of the female informants apprised me of the fact that they manage loans from NGOs mainly to help their husbands to start a new business or to generate further capital for a running business. Although BRAC officials told me of their different design of giving loans to women, whatever may be the concealed reason; generally it is women who receive loans in most instances. Although women in the main receive loans from NGOs, but they are always recommended and prohibited not to lend any portion of the money received as loan to anyone other than their nuclear family members. The following case will make evident the underlying reason of such prohibition.
Case 2: Bakri chachi: A swindler:
No one could tell me the original name of Bakri chachi, but the villagers informed me of the origin of such a peculiar and ludicrous name, which they had given her because she had many goats. In 1998 when BRAC started its credit scheme in the area, Bakri chachi mobilized the women of Bijoypur to form a village organization through which loan could reach the most needy women. She was successful in her initial attempt and formed a village organization and gradually she won the trust of the women. Women began to confide in her, as she was very helpful to them. Bakri chachi began to capitalize on the trust of the members of village organization and women started to provide her with money taken as loan from BRAC whenever she was in need of money, which was beyond the ken of BRAC officials. She herself also managed loan from BRAC and one day she left the village with all the money by selling off her homestead and goats. The members were so shocked that they were at their wit’s end and didn’t know how to face the harsh situation that was waiting for them.
Therefore NGOs usually exhort their female clients to start a new business on their own or to utilize the loan productively so that they can redeem the money on time, not with a view to making them self-dependent economically. I was confirmed by the V.O members that traditional money lending by village Mahajans was not practiced anymore in the village and since money lending is generally the domain of man therefore I didn’t find any woman engaged in the business. Though moneylenders had affirm grip over the villagers but it can be said that their business has perished altogether after the advent of NGOs. NGOs wearing the so-called garb of development have simply supplanted the previously existing patron-client relationship between the moneylenders and villagers with a more sophisticated mechanism of mass exploitation, which I will try to expatiate in a later section.
Women working as domestic help are usually paid in cash without any food, and the amount of money paid as their remuneration is 500 taka on an average. Women who work at EPZ get their monthly salary in cash without any perks.
Quantity and quality of meals of the V.O members:
Most of the villagers take meal 2 times a day, once at 10 or 11 am and again at night around 8or 9 o’ clock. Members of the village organization maintained that they used to take meals 3 times a day before they joined the village organization. They further added that the quantity and quality of their meals deteriorated, for when they became village organization members since then they always remain apprehensive about the payment of weekly installment as part of loan repayment to BRAC. To wit, whether they eat or starve they have to pay the weekly installment on time to the shebika apa at the V.O meetings.
Moreover they have to bear the brunt of the rude behaviour of the BRAC officials if they fail to pay the weekly installments in due time and thus V.O membership has a deleterious impact on the quantity and quality of their meals. These days, villagers hardly have 3 meals a day, except on the occasion of Eid or Puja and when their close relatives pay visit to their place. But even on the days of Eid or Puja they have to take soaked rice with salt only. If we can grasp the thread of the villager’s argumentative statement, it becomes conspicuous that membership of V.O has a negative relationship with the quality and quantity of their meals. Seldom they have small fish in their food menu now, and the villagers asserted that, they joined the V.O with a view to ameliorating their penurious state, but now they are waking up from their reverie and having this realization that membership of BRAC was a blunder. Weekly food intake of a village organization member is given below:
Case 3:Weekly food intake of a V.O member’s household:
Spending of money on Eid, puja and other festive occasions:
V.O members spend a very paltry amount of money on the occasion of Eid, puja and other festive occasions. They face a persistent obstruction in spending money during such festive occasions, for the BRAC officials, without any sensible reason, deny them access to their own savings. They argue that, the depraved BRAC officials deprive them of their equitable savings, which they need most during such festive occasions. Nibesh Chandra Ghosh, berated this attitude of BRAC and said in an outspoken manner that ‘we eke out our scanty income throughout the year, so that we can save money which will salvage us from the potential and unpredictable distress, therefore we whine repeatedly for our savings but they turn a deaf ear to our request. They prefer the women only to make their members, for they are always available at home and moreover they are suggestible, but we will simply burn down the office if injustice is inflicted on us. Since most of the villagers are petty traders, therefore they invest more money in their business when Eid, puja or other festive occasions draw on, and the spending occurs mainly for buying new attire (if budget permits, or savings is allocated to them) for near and dear ones, semai (vermicelli) and other food stuff to enable them to have full meal. Their common complaint was that “before the membership we didn’t have savings but now we have savings without timely or any access to it” They averred that their spending on festive occasions such as these didn’t change at all because of the above-mentioned reason.
Ownership of utensils and livestock:
Kitchen utensils owned by V.O members are small cauldron (Dekchi), frying pan (karai), cooking pot (Hari), plates made of tin, steel and glass for the purpose of eating, glasses for drinking water and bowl for serving the food. But the utterly destitute households have one or two earthen cooking pot and plates and glasses made of tin. Most of the V.O members predicated that micro credit didn’t have any positive impact on their kitchen and other household utensils and assured that most of these utensils were bought before joining the Village Organization. I found most of the members to be sleeping on a special type of small and dilapidated bedstead (chawki) and some of them also told me to be sleeping on the mat. Most of the V.O members didn’t have any cloth-hanger (alna). Some of the households had T.V set at their place, which they said to have bought before they became member of the village organization. Although T.V is a status symbol but it would be misleading to assume that the V.O members are not poor rather relatively affordable price of T.V is the reason behind its limited presence. Most of the V.O members don’t own any livestock now and those who had a few sold either to meet the weekly installment of money or to arrange the treatment cost for ill household members and some of them were slaughtered for the arrangement of wedding repast, and some of them died during the flood of 1988 and 1998 respectively. Therefore candid response of the V.O members resonates the fact that micro credit programme had rather ominous repercussions on the ownership of their utensils and livestock.
The underlying reasons for dropout rate from the micro credit program of BRAC:
Ever since BRAC started its micro credit program in Bijoypur village the V.O members had a vision that their abject plight of poverty would be sent in exile for good. But unfortunately their expectation shattered into pieces because of the shoddy service of BRAC. 3 Village Organizations, which has 20 members each now operate in Bijoypur village and thus the total strength of members, become 60. The number of total members was 70, but 10 members withered away over the last 5 years and more and more women are preparing to leave BRAC because of the following reasons:
1) Members have to pay the weekly installments on time at the village organization meetings by any means and the BRAC officials insolently discourage any kind of failure to meet the deadline, whereas in other NGOs like SEDO or Palli Mangal inadvertent failures to pay the weekly installments on time is replenished from the savings of their members.
2) To make the situation worse, if any member of BRAC dies, rest of her installments have to be paid by the living family members, whereas in SEDO or Palli Mangal or Proshika in the case of the death of any member, she is exempted from paying installments and her savings are allocated to her living family members.
3) In SEDO or Palli Mangal, money taken as loan has to be repaid in 45 installments, whereas for BRAC it takes an additional 1 more installment.
4) Moreover the interest rate of BRAC, which is added with the amount of loan, is 15%, which the members think to be a little bit exorbitant, compared with the 13% interest rate of SEDO or Palli Mangal.
5) Besides, members of BRAC have to pay initially 1000 Taka to receive loan and ultimately when the loan is disbursed 50 taka is subtracted from per thousand-taka loan but they have to repay the original amount including the interest rate. For instance if they get 5000 taka loan then 250 taka will be subtracted from the original amount and thus they will get 4750 taka but they will have to repay 5000 taka with 15% interest rate. In other NGOs this kind of subtraction does not take place.
6) Over and above, the members of BRAC don’t have easy access to their own savings, which have been accumulated over a period of 5-6 years, and after much whimpering only a small part of it is given. On the contrary, In SEDO or Palli Mangal savings is given right away when the members demand it without any tardiness.
7) These days misbehaviour of the BRAC staffs has reached the apogee of afflictive state for the members.
8) In addition to that in the life insurance scheme of BRAC the yearly premium is 20 taka without any interest rate. But on the other hand, other NGOs offer 6% interest rate on the premium paid in their life insurance scheme. Moyna, a V.O member said “ what is the guarantee that our offspring will get the insurance money (Bimar teka) after our death. If we can’t see the face of prosperity in our lifetime what is the efficacy of such insurance, which will be paid to our children after our death”
9) In BRAC further loan is not given if previous installments remain outstanding and moreover unpaid installments are not balanced from the savings of the members. On the contrary in SEDO or Palli Mangal since outstanding installments are balanced straight away from the member’s savings therefore they don’t feel the pressure of weekly installments.
The latitude proffered by SEDO or other NGOs and the deplorable strategy of BRAC act as the driving force compelling them to quit BRAC. Because of such anti-people approach of BRAC especially in the area of savings, members garner savings in other NGOs other than the compulsory savings scheme of BRAC. Now the question that emerges in the inquisitive minds that why they retain their membership at BRAC. To probe the answer, the emic view ascertained that, BRAC officials coax them to take further loans instead of giving them their savings and the members having no means simply entangle themselves with the cyclical and intergenerational indebtedness and since their savings are deposited to BRAC, they cannot shift easily to other NGOs, but once they receive the entire amount of savings, they renounce the nightmarish membership of BRAC.
Case 4: Razia Begum: Critical of micro credit:
Razia a woman in her early 40s launched into a diatribe against BRAC by saying that after 5 years of membership her savings became 11000taka. When she was diagnosed with a lethal tumor in her stomach she transpired the BRAC officials of her disease and demanded her savings since she had to undergo an immediate operation, but she was denied outright to her face. But she pursued her tenacity, and after 4 months of persistent nagging she was given only half of the amount. Therefore she had to defer the date of her operation and once she got the entire sum she left BRAC and joined SEDO and Palli Mangal. In her words “ BRAC will have to pay the price of such ruthless behaviour, and if situation remain unchanged it will have to lose all its members one after another.”
Case 5: Sahela : At her wit’s end:
Sahela, a woman of 25 years old, told about her sombre experience with BRAC. Her husband Afsar bought a van with the money she received as loan from BRAC, but one day when the van was stolen, they were staggered and didn’t know how to repay the installments, they implored the BRAC staff to consider the issue, but they were given a cold and negative reply. In her words” No one knows, how harsh those days were and we had no food to eat we had only one concern and that was installment. I tried heart and soul to repay the installment by working as a domestic help” Besides, when her husband had a serious accident her attempt to retrieve the savings was a futile one. In her words “ They don’t care whether we live or die, they understand only one thing and that is installment and tomorrow is the date for paying installment and till now I don’t know where the money will come from”.
Case 6: Chinu Rani Sutradhar: Ambivalent regarding micro credit:
Chinu Rani a woman in her mid forties castigated the attitude of BRAC officials. When her savings became 12000taka, she wanted half of the amount to construct a boundary wall around her household compound and she was given her desired amount after 6 months of persistent nagging. She was ambivalent regarding the micro credit program of BRAC. She said that she had refurbished the homestead after she joined BRAC but at the cost of the deterioration of the quantity and quality of food. She works as a domestic help for which she is paid 900taka monthly, which run out simply by paying the installment money. Netai Chandra Sutradhar her husband strikes hot iron at a nearby iron mill and gets 30taka per day, which she termed to be exiguous. To avoid the hassle of BRAC she now deposits her savings at Palli Mangal.
Case 7: Bina Rani Rajbanshi: A bereaved woman:
Bina Rani is a reticent woman in her mid thirties. She demanded her savings so that she could refurbish her homestead but she is running after them for one month without any efficacious outcome, therefore she is planning to quit the membership of BRAC. She is a housewife and her husband deals in fish. Her husband has two shops at Krishi Market and at Jamgarh of Ashulia respectively. When I was conversing with her she was trying to get over the bereavement of her daughter’s suicidal death. She was lamenting that her daughter Josna Rani wanted to be a singer, but she was about to be married off against her will, which prompted her to commit suicide. She joined the Village Organization with a view to ameliorating her present situation but no significant change occurred in her life. She let her husband invest the money taken as loan in his fish trading.
Case 8: Aduri Ghosh : An aggrieved woman
Aduri Ghosh a woman of 40 years demanded the entire amount of her savings, for she wanted to quit BRAC. Although her savings was 15000taka but she didn’t get a single penny from it. When she fell seriously ill she demanded some part of her savings but she was refused outright. Now she is fed up with BRAC and don’t want to continue the membership any longer. Then she related a mournful piece of her experience that, when her husband died on one Saturday night, the BRAC staff arrived at her place in the morning and instead of giving her condolence, pressurized her to give the amount of installment. She then shouted at them “ are you human being or ruthless monster, can’t you wait a bit? Won’t you let me cremate the body first? She further added, “ Once I get the entire sum of my savings, I will say goodbye to BRAC”.
Case 9 Marjina: An articulate and enterprising woman:
Marjina is an ever-buoyant woman of 47 years old. She was most articulate among the informants on whom I had to rely for authentic information. The household is known by her husband’s name, to wit Moktar Miahr Baari. She is the mother of 2 sons and one daughter. Her daughter and also the eldest child Firoza Akhter, used to work at EPZ but she left the job after her marriage. Alamgir elder of the two sons work, as wedding ceremony decorator, and Rokon youngest of all her children is a bus conductor. Marjina is involved with BRAC since 1998- the year when BRAC commenced the micro credit program in Bijoypur. She is one of the oldest members of Bijoypur Village Organization. Before joining BRAC she had 2 houses (Ghar) but now she owns 3 houses and 3 shops, which she attributed to the loan she had taken from BRAC. Hence she earns in total 1600-2000taka by letting the house out to tenants and from her Vangari shop. 3 shops and 2 additional houses are her prime sources of income. In addition to that she earns a paltry amount by stitching kantha. When her husband used to work at a nearby foundry, they had a total of 4000 taka monthly income, which now has plummeted to 1600-2000taka, for her husband is now jobless since February 2005, because of its close-down.
Her simple dwelling is made of corrugated iron sheet, clay, bamboo, and concrete pillar. She has a tube-well, which was installed not with the loans of BRAC rather her husband brought it from the foundry where he used to work. She has 8 saris, among which she wears 6 regularly, and 2 saris are in store for occasional use on festive occasions. She didn’t buy all the saris; her daughter who used to work at EPZ gave most of them. She sleeps on Chawki.
She lamented that she cannot spend money on the Eid and other festive occasions according to her wish because of economic hardship and she averred exacerbation in the quality and quantity of her daily meal. Now she is indebted to BRAC and has ten installments left to repay and clear the loan. She has 14000 taka savings to BRAC. She also enunciated the hassle regarding savings scheme of BRAC. She is the leader of all three V.O of Bijoypur. She said that when she needed her savings to expend on her daughter’s marriage, she became dejected by repeatedly demanding the money. To my question of why she did not quit BRAC after all the hassle she had to go through, she answered with sagacity “ BRAC is a renowned institution, therefore, it won’t run away with our money, but other NGOs are new and there is a fair possibility that they will defalcate our money and close- down. Besides I have concern over my savings, and if I get my savings back, I will think over the issue, of quitting BRAC”. Marjina runs the small business on her own in contrast to prevalent form where every woman invest the money they receive as loan in the trading of their husbands.
Deluge effect of development:
It would be preposterous to state that no development took place over the last 7 years in Bijoypur; there has been a marked improvement in the living quarters and in the provision of work especially for women, which I would call deluge-effect. Rural development projects in the form of micro credit program can be compared with the ravages of deluge. Deluge decimates everything through large-scale inundation and NGOs the harbinger of development appropriate hefty amount of profit in the name of various development scheme. But one major difference between them is the devastation of deluge is visible directly and development program’s baleful repercussions remain shrouded under various sweetened jargons and the ostensibly positive change in people’s lives can be compared with the post-deluge siltation process. The positive impact of development programs is so trivial compared with their venomous aspect that the indispensability of such program can easily be doubted. Satirically the V.O members seemed to buckle under the pressure of tide emanating from the so-called development projects.
It is comprehensible that the areas where BRAC conduct micro credit program has a good possibility of debacle for scores of factors but that doesn’t exonerate them from the accusation, for they are well aware of people’s lack of physical collateral. Ever increasing drop out rate of members from the micro credit program of BRAC is a clear demonstration of the fact that micro credit program in the name of development is perpetuating the state of underdevelopment and impeding endeavours to break the shackles of poverty. It is axiomatic that development is needed but people for whom it is targeted should not be treated like muzzled guinea pig to unleash the sting of development projects on them, for the efficacy of development schemes hinges on imposition-free dialogue between planners and target people, where the latter’s voice must be given priority.
Condition of living quarters:
The condition of most of the living quarters of Bijoypur village is in the process of further improvement. Materials most commonly used for making houses are, corrugated iron sheet, mud and bamboo. Some of the houses have concrete pillars instead of wooden one. Before BRAC started their program in Bijoypur, shanties were predominantly found in the village. When BRAC commenced their program in the village shanties made predominantly of straw were supplanted by houses made primely of corrugated iron sheet. Now corrugated iron sheet is used as roof and in making enclosure (Bera) of house and beaten heap of mud form the foundation of most of the houses in Bijoypur. The enclosure (Bera) of some of the houses was also found to be made of sliced bamboo. Generally corroded corrugated iron sheet is used to construct the kitchen area. Villagers cook their food on earthen hearth (chula) with the help of small branches of trees used as fuel, though well-heeled households were found to use gas for culinary purposes. After the devastating flood of 1988 some of the shanties were converted into brick built houses to stave-off the water of future flood from entering the house. Some of the households had fruit trees of various types such as mango, jackfruit, coconut etc. Most of the households didn’t own any tube-well and lavatory. They told about their embarrassment to bathe and to respond to the call of nature.
Case 10: Nibesh Chandra Ghosh: An outraged man:
Nibesh Chandra Ghosh 60 years of age looked rather sturdy and strong compared to his age. He grumbled that 3 months ago he through his wife Shefali Rani Ghosh requested to release his wife’s savings so that he can install a tube-well and build a lavatory in his household compound and end the experience of everyday mortification. In his words “ we have to request others having lavatory and tube-well to let us use them. Sometimes they feel disturbed and sometimes we feel humiliated” He worked at Kohinoor spinning mill for 10-11 years but decided to quit the job in 1992 and started to make whey (maatha). He thinks that the quantity and quality of meals have improved not for the reason of joining BRAC rather because of the fact that his two unmarried sons contribute their salaries to the household fund. To my question of why he does not take further loans he said, “ we want some respite from the concern of paying weekly installments, and meanwhile we want to utilize our savings”.
On the basis of the above discussion a positive link can be established between the condition of living quarters and the micro credit program of BRAC.
Level of indebtedness:
Almost all the villagers were more or less indebted to one or other NGOs. In Bijoypur no one was found to take loans from village Mahajans, over whom the villagers had to rely for the purposes of money before BRAC started its micro credit program in 1998. They averred unanimously that NGOs are better than the local moneylenders but they want BRAC or other NGOs to provide more privileges and to be more client-friendly. They assured that the ascendancy of local moneylenders perished altogether once NGOs became actively involved with the villagers to become the prime reservoir of loans. Though there is no particular season or time to take loans, orgy of taking loans become manifested when, Eid, puja or other festive occasions draw on. Since they lack physical collateral, therefore they are denied access to bank loans. Though there are many NGOs operating in Bijoypur, the interest rate according to the villagers, which varied between 13%-15%, was exorbitant for them to pay off. No villager was found to take loans from relatives- near or distant – to meet their need of money. But they seek the help of their relatives for counseling over familial issues. Even they don’t lend out money taken as loan from BRAC or other NGOs to their relatives. Thus discouragement and even prohibition of BRAC staff to their members to give loans to relatives other than the nuclear family members has put the strong network among relatives at stake, even though they have rationale behind such step.
The members apprised me that they generally invest the loan to bolster up the petty trading of their husbands, but there are instances of using it in sectors such as- for refurbishing houses, for installing tube-wells, for the educational purpose of children, simply for taking few full meals or for the accomplishment of nuptial ceremony of their children. Although BRAC doesn’t have any stipulation over the use of the loan, but the staffs regularly monitor the use of it so that money is not invested in unproductive sector, for the loan has to be redeemed within a certain period of time. The members repay the loans in 46 weekly installments, which is commensurate with the principal and the interest rate. Although the members need loans to elevate their present situation but they are coerced to sink themselves into the abyss of constant apprehension of paying weekly installment.
Ownership of land:
Land was considered by V.O members to be the most valuable and desirable asset. Most of the villagers (Although my prime focus was the V.O members but data on the ownership of land was included during the collection of census material) did not own any land other than their homestead and some extremely indigent households didn’t own even the homestead of their own but managed to live on the land of well-to-do villagers. For instance, the household of Aas Mohammad had no land of their own, but Sattar Bepari a well-off businessman allowed them to live there. Aas Mohammad who lived with two of his brother Aziz and Afsar in the same household said,” my parents died when I was a mere stripling, and they didn’t have any land that we could inherit from them. And being the eldest child of my parents I had to go through a period of great hardship to cope with the harsh realities of life. If sattar Bepari didn’t allot us this land, we would have to live under open sky.” The amount of small homestead lands owned by most of the villagers ranged between 1-2 cottah or ½ to 1 decimal. When asked that why he did allot them the land, Sattar Bepari said, magnanimously “these people are utterly poor, I became compassionate when they requested me to give them the land to live temporarily, in addition to that Allah helps those who help others” Those who were members of BRAC didn’t own more than .50 acres of land, a sine qua non of membership in BRAC.
Savings, assets and vulnerability:
The members of V.O predicated that before the inception of micro credit program of BRAC they couldn’t save money, for they had to get by on the paltry amount of money they earned through their hard work. Even if savings took place there was no certainty that it could go on for a specified time until it became a hefty sum, for they had to utilize it before it could mature. Therefore it won’t be an exaggeration that they were not in the habit of saving money. BRAC played a significant role in the arena of mandatory savings mobilization but became a villain by not giving the members their rightful savings in times of their need. The members grumbled that they should be given their savings on time. They used to save 75taka on every week but the amount of weekly savings plummeted to 20 taka, as they don’t have easy access to their savings.
In the context of rural Bangladesh where women generally have a very low status compared to men, do not typically own or control assets. The restrictive inheritance laws, limited employment opportunities, lack of access to markets and public domain etc all of which constrain women’s direct ownership of assets. Even when they own assets they often have very little control over them as these are managed by male family members. Therefore access to productive assets is considered to be a key indicator of the process of women’s empowerment. Assets such as poultry, jewellery, etc are commonly owned by women and are considered as small assets in terms of value. Similarly assets such as land, livestock etc are not frequently owned by rural women since they are expensive and therefore these are considered big assets. (Samiha Huda: 1998)
The assets and belongings of women generally include poultry, jewellery and shops. The most common possessions of women i.e. V.O members in Bijoypur were poultry stock such as hens, ducks, geese and pigeons. Since the members of V.O were penurious hence jewellery was considered a luxury item, except for some of them who received them from their mothers and mother-in laws. Besides only a few of the V.O members owned shop, for they tended to let their husbands invest the money in their petty trading without starting a business on their own. Most of the members owning their own shops were from matrifocal households. In Bijoypur, women of V.O especially those constituting matrifocal household owned big productive asset like shop, which according to them was realized because of the micro credit program of BRAC. Although my prime focus was the V.O members but the conversation with the non-member women during the census period helped me to grasp the fact that non-members didn’t own any big productive assets unlike the V.O members. Therefore this change in the ownership pattern of productive assets of V.O members, was attributed by them to the micro financing of BRAC, which was a deluge effect of micro credit program of BRAC.
Besides the swoop of disease and natural disaster on the poor members is like rubbing salt into their wounds. Fatal encounter with such unpredictable tribulation compel them to live in reduced circumstances. Therefore to meet the cost of any kind of disaster they want to draw on their deposited savings but without timely access to it. Even BRAC bring succour to the disaster-hit people in the form of relief – their initial predilection. During the flood of 2004 BRAC catered 1 seer of rice, quarter seer of lentil, 8 packets of bread, in the first phase and in the second phase of their relief work they provided 15 KGs of rice, 4 KGs of lentil, 1½ litre of soybean oil, several packets of biscuits, seeds of vegetables and various seasonal fruits. Although BRAC want to make the target group, they work with to be self-reliant, but paradoxically they nurture all the factors that help to perpetuate their dependence on the micro credit program.
Position of women:
Although the economic dependency of women on their husband’s income has not dwindled up to the expectation even after the inauguration of micro credit program in Bijoypur, nevertheless now women have more leverage on their husbands, for they procure the cardinal sum from BRAC or other NGOs in the form of loan to be invested directly in the petty trading of their hubbies. Even though BRAC enjoins that women should start something on their own with the loan, but women do consider that whether they invest the money in their own business or in that of their husbands is one and the same thing. Champa an active member of Villager Organization said that “ I give the money to my husband, not to my enemy and moreover his welfare is the welfare of the whole family.” Women, who contribute directly to the household fund through their income generating activities, have more freedom and they are not accountable to their husbands regarding the spending of household funds.
On the contrary, women contributing indirectly to the household coffers through their domestic drudgery, have to answer to their husbands on the spending of household funds. Even women working outside household precincts have control only over their income but not on the income of their husbands. Therefore it can be asserted that the disbursement of loans does not automatically empower women to take economic decisions on the spending of household funds rather it hinges entirely on the direct pecuniary contribution of women in the household coffers. For instance- Marjinaa a Vangari shop owner has much leeway to spend from the household funds, about which she doesn’t have to answer to her husband. Whether women will call the shot in near future will be determined largely by the nexus between the utilization of loan by women themselves for economic emancipation and overall awareness regarding the discriminatory position of women within the household.
Although women making monetary contribution had a say on their husband’s income along with that of their own, but husbands according to the V.O members seldom paid heed to them. Husbands didn’t poke their nose into the spending of their wife’s income, but they held the reins of the spending of their income. Besides on the average women spends no less than 10 hours on every day’s scheduled chores, and the visit of close relatives or the occasion of Eid, puja or other festivals means mounting pressure of additional workloads, for them. Women predicated that their household maintenance tasks are barely recognized by their hubbies but now things are changing gradually. When minor changes in the overall position of women is taken into account it can be said that the apparently utopian ideal of empowerment of women is highly on cards.
Although the time span of the fieldwork was inadequate to observe authentically on the pattern of mobility developed particularly by Shanin (1972) (From schendel’s Peasant Mobility, 1982) in his magnum opus “ The Awkward Class”, but the answers elicited from the members became the mainstay of the consideration of the issue of vertical or slanting mobility in Bijoypur. According to the members of V.O there has been a conspicuous change in the condition of their houses after the inception of credit program, even though some of them complained candidly about the reprehensible role of BRAC staff which hindered them from commencing the refurbishment of their houses, and some ascertained that renovation of their household compound had nothing to do with the membership in BRAC. Despite the dissension of the members, over the linkage between credit program and the improvement of their dwellings, they unanimously assured the gradual aggravation of the quantity and quality of their daily meals and the condition of their attire, for before joining BRAC, they had no concern of installments but now apprehension about the payment of weekly installments grate on their consciousness.
Therefore from the statement of the members, it became evinced that, vertical mobility, which was taking place, was stunted in its manifestation, and slanting mobility with a rather low frequency rate was also in sight. Almost all the members averred that, their economic status compared with that of their parents had improved, which obviously subscribed to the existence of intergenerational vertical mobility but inchoate nature of intra-generational mobility has been corroborated by the members. The transpiration of intergenerational vertical mobility in the case of the members cannot be attributed directly to the inauguration of severely flawed micro credit program in Bijoypur. For, if we hark back to the views of the members, regarding their bitter experience with BRAC, it becomes evident that the pro-profit attitude of BRAC in the guise of mass development can easily be excoriated. Besides since villagers are involved in petty trading, hence they do not practice seasonal mobility, which is a very common feature among agricultural labourers. Agricultural labourers practice seasonal mobility, during the slack season- when agricultural work becomes scarce. That is to say, they migrate seasonally to other areas in search of agricultural work. But the petty traders of Bijoypur are not peddlers, rather settled traders; therefore they do not have to migrate seasonally to other areas in search of buyers.
This chapter deals with the impact of micro credit on the reciprocal treatment of the poor and the elite section of the village, voting behaviour of the poor in village elections, economic decision-making of women, decision-making of women regarding marriage and education of their children, general treatment of women in the household and locomotive autonomy of women.
How poor and elite treat and see each other:
The poor people can no longer be labelled as naïve, they understand the duplicity perpetrated against them but they lack the alacrity to fight for their equitable rights against macro actors. The interaction between the poor and the elite has declined to a great extent, particularly after the advent of different NGOs in Bijoypur, for the villagers who used to take loans from the village elite now go to the NGOs for the purposes of loan. Though the poor are conscious of their abject condition, but they don’t have any idea about how it can be dispelled. Nargis, a V.O member while commenting on the village elite said “they are boro lok (rich men), they don’t have any time to think about our well-being, they are busy only with their own job, and we also are no longer dependent on them for their mercy”. Moreover the poor don’t beseech the village elite for justice to be meted out now in the resolution of conflict, for the locus of manifest power, has been taken over by the local chairman Majnu, to whom the poor are entitled to come up with their complaints. Even under such circumstances, the village elites are not sans any power, although the days of their absolute ascendancy are now as dead as the dodo. Ashkan Ali, a respected village elite who used to be a moneylender 10 years back, now deals in onion said “ NGOs are disconcerting the poor people, whom they manipulate at will to make profit in the name of Unnayan (development)”. Thus the village elites have been dislodged from their previous position of village lord, by the NGOs as well as by the change in the mechanism of conflict resolution. “The NGOs are lesser evil than the village elite who were good for nothing,” commented septuagenarian Lehaz Uddin.
Therefore the micro credit program introduced in the village by NGOs has precipitated the process to depose the consolidated village elite from their monopolistic position of money lending. Interviews with the villagers did evince the fact that, after the advent of credit program the poor are now treated with due reverence by the rural elite, which was previously beyond imagination, for the old patron-client relationship between the poor and the rural elite has been supplanted by the new one of that between the poor and the respective NGO. To wit, since the poor are no longer dependent on the rural elite, except for some who rely on them for the allotment of land to live temporarily, therefore they can not be bulldozed like before through crude exploitation by their former patron. But strategic exploitation prevails because of their membership either to BRAC or to other NGOs.
Voting behaviour of the poor in village elections:
Although the candidates preach the ‘normative rules’ of political game during the election campaign but deep down they nurture the ‘pragmatic rules’ of stratagem to win the election by hook or by crook. The villagers who vest any one candidate with ‘bureaucratic authority’ through democratic consensus cannot erupt with the force of their dormant power if there is any incongruity between promise and reality of the local politicians. In the pourosava poll of 2004 Majnu, a B.N.P candidate was elected chairman by defeating Jashim Uddin of Awami League. The villagers said that before each and every election the candidates make ostensibly authentic promises, which, remain unfulfilled and turn out to be spurious once the poll is over. The candidates try to become very much intimate with the villagers during the campaign, but after the election, even the elected candidate doesn’t come to meet them. It has been inculcated in their mind through political socialization that they cannot dethrone the elected representative of central government through measures or actions that are against the democratic ethos. To keep everything in their favour, they have muscle power at their disposal to coerce the villagers to abide by the rules of double standard. Rashida a former member of BRAC said, “affluent people are acquitted even of the charge of murder, but the poor like us are treated like dogs.”
Although they are familiar with the humbug of the politicians and well aware of the fact that they will not keep their promises, but they are obliged to cast their vote either under duress or in the belief that change is in the offing. They said that, they always try to elect an eligible candidate whose top priority is the development of the area and the well being of the poor. The poor villagers said that by electing Majnu no change has taken place in Bijoypur, his promise to ensure the supply of gas and to metamorphose the village kutcha road into bitumen road has not yet been materialized. The women vote regularly both in the Pourasava election as well as in the national election. After the debacle of all the political parties, they said that they wanted alternative parties to show their mettle, in the consistency between the agenda and their realization. A feeling of helplessness surfaced in the comments of the poor villagers that they cannot overthrow the Pourasava chairman, if there is breach of promise, for even concertedly they cannot cope with the muscle power of the politicians. Therefore, the political culture of the village politics, which is the reflection of national political culture, can be termed ‘subject political culture’, in accordance with the categorization of Almond and Verba, in which ‘people see no possibility of influencing the system as it stands and acquiesces by accepting as authoritative and unchallengeable the decisions of office holders’. Besides lip service paid by politicians especially in the issues of people’s well being, has become an integral part of the political culture of the Bijoypur.
The ‘common sense mentality’ of the villagers indoctrinated through political socialization, help the chairman and the members wield power over them, denouncing the existence of pervasive power propagated by Foucault (1978,1980). Despite the entity of doxa, the micro credit program has influenced the voting behaviour of villagers immensely, for the factional politics, which was in vogue during the sway of previous patron-client relationship between the rural elite and the poor villagers, has been supplanted by Union Parishad politics, because of the advent of new patrons i.e. NGOs for the villagers. That is to say, villagers who used to vote their patrons now vote Chairman candidates, who do not practice factional politics, rather simply are representatives of central government.
Economic decision- making of women:
Although there is no specific season when the members frequently take loans from BRAC, but generally they take further loans only after the reimbursement of the installments. The women don’t have any leeway to decide on the utilization of loan, except for one or two cases. Women play simply the role of passive recipient of the loan, without having much say on the use of money, which is largely decided by their husbands. Therefore it would be erroneous to assume that since women receive the loan, so they are empowered to an appreciable extent, but the truth lies in the fact that, they act simply as a medium for their hubby’s access to the loans. It won’t be an overstatement that only matrifocal households have total control over the spending of loan. Although NGOs proclaim that they target the poor women in order to make them self reliant, but the underlying reason confessed by one of the BRAC officials on the condition of anonymity was the latter’s greater availability at home, than their male counterpart. On the contrary although BRAC has Unnati and Pragati scheme where prime clients are male but men in Bijoypur don’t have that option because of the absence of those two schemes. Therefore they are not found taking loans directly from BRAC or other NGOs, rather have to rely on their wives when they are in need of loans. Women think that generally they are not asked on the use of the loan, for their husbands are better aware of the utilization of the loan than them. This way of thinking makes it conspicuous that the women always perceive their entity collectively, which is clear aftermath of their female –like childhood grooming. As long as women are not inculcated the idea that they have separate entity, which become manifested through income-generating activities, the goal of NGOs to ensure their economic emancipation will remain far-fetched.
Decisions regarding marriage and education of their children:
Since most of the marriages in Bijoypur were arranged by the veteran family members, therefore spouses were unknown to one another until the day of nuptial ceremony, for it is considered illicit for girls to meet and talk with their prospective hubbies before marriage. Although, men have a little bit of authority in choosing their wives, women by contrast are not asked for their consent over the marriage let alone the choice of their spouse, rather they are expected to prove their submissiveness by remaining reticent regarding such issues. Besides Farzana D Amin and Abdullahel Hadi (1998) observed that generally women are married off to men who are at least 5-10 years older than them and parents encounter stern social and economic pressures to marry off their daughters within an acceptable age. If an unmarried girl turns 20 she is ridiculed and mocked by calling old damsel. Moreover parents arrange the marriages as early as possible, for they think that their daughters can safeguard their chastity since the chance of being physically harassed or abused by the outsiders becomes less. Besides puberty is a message for the parents to marry off their daughters as early as possible.
Shahida and Nasima, two daughters of Champa Begum were married off according to familial decisions, without taking into account their opinion, regarding the marriage, but there are also cases where women find such stringent female role unbearable to cope with successfully. One such case was that of Josna Rani, who had aspirations to get educated and be a famous singer, but when she realized that her dreams would be nipped in the bud, she committed suicide, for her parents were marrying her off forcefully at a tender age of 15. Though her suicide was a protest for sure against such domestic oppression, but such suicidal deaths certainly won’t ameliorate woman’s subjugated position. Apart from this event, it is commonplace that proposals of matrimonial alliances are dealt with by the male members of the family. The V.O members are seldom asked for consent over their offspring’s marriage, which spells their subordinate position within the household. But quite a different picture is found in matrifocal households and in households where women make considerable economic contribution to household coffers, either through menial jobs or through petty trading of various sorts. Therefore, Marjina who became economically independent, through the utilization of loans taken from BRAC in petty trading of Vangari shop, gave her daughter Firoza, complete leeway to choose her own life partner. Needless to say, all girls of Bijoypur are not as fortunate as Firoza, Even Aduri Ghosh, head of a matrifocal household, held the same view that, she will give her children utmost freedom in choosing their own spouse when they grow up. Thus a clear nexus is established between the utilization of loan by women themselves and the decision making of women over the marriage ceremony of their children. Boys who are considered as assets are given priorities when the question of school education comes, and girls by contrast are given religious education instead of school education in the belief that this will fit the bill of getting a good marriage proposal, for an educated woman is considered recalcitrant and old enough by the families of prospective grooms to be an ideal housewife.
Although the members of V.O did not confess the pervasive existence of dowry payments in marriage transactions, at the initial stage, but eventually ended up acceding its baleful presence almost in each and every matchmaking, which can be attributed to the functioning of economic compensation theory proposed by Sharma (1980), the oversupply of prospective brides as observed by Miranda (1980), the tendency to view girls as liabilities as countenanced by Van Schendel, and above all the tyranny of consumerism which is devouring the whole world through ‘coca colonization, disneyfication and Mcdonaldization’. Besides the age and physical looks of the bride also influence the amount of dowry to be paid appreciably. By the same token, it can be said that the frequency of dowry giving plummeted considerably in the households where women had control over the loan and the contribution they made in the household fund through its subsequent utilization, for they were articulate in their decisions over the marriage, wedlock payments and the education of their children.
General treatment of women in the house:
Women contributing directly to the household fund take their meals most of the times along with their husbands and other family members, and sometimes they have early or tardy meals, depending on their return from the place of work. Working women predicated that, they don’t deliberately take their meals after that of their husbands, besides they don’t think that hubbies should be given meal first before they eat. By contrast pure housewives said that, they consider it their foremost duty to serve meals to their hubbies first, and they prefer to have meals after everyone else has taken meals. Diametrically opposed views held by the workingwomen and pure housewives can be attributed to the relative economic independence of the former than the latter. My intention here is not to make a simplified generalization through the stereotypical split of women into two different camps, rather my goal is to explore the connection between micro credit program and empowerment of women, which can be one of the indicators for measuring overall development. Over and above, Hasina, a V.O member added “ you know the quality and quantity of our meals, we take the same food we serve to our husbands, we don’t give them the better portion of the food, and in addition to that, the food we take is the food of poor people, if you have to take it may be you will throw up right away”.
No universally agreed definition of violence against women is available in the literature, moreover the definition has to be broadened from time to time to include different new forms of abuses coming up everyday. An official UN definition of violence against women includes any act “ that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Domestic violence is said to happen when violence is directed against a female member at home. Among the many forms of domestic violence wife battering, verbal abuse, dowry- related deaths and acid throwing are some of the most common ones. Under the constitution and general laws, women in Bangladesh are entitled equal rights and status to those of men. It almost goes without saying that only a few women can enjoy these rights in practice. Moreover women’s subordination to men is perpetuated through their unequal access to economic opportunities, education and the resultant ‘stymied’ decision-making power, which eventually make them more susceptible to violence. Marriage, an important episode in a women’s life, usually occurs under unequal socio economic condition and with age gap of 3- 20 years between the spouses, inviting a marital discord in later life. This along with dowry contributes to domestic violence against women.
Goetz and Gupta argued that getting involved in credit program and bringing cash at home might create tension within household and precipitate domestic violence. Similarly Schuler et al suggest that expanding women’s access to economic opportunities and resources does not always make them less vulnerable to domestic violence, at least not right away. Rather in some cases credit creates a new arena of hostility and conflict due to cash flow in the household. In Bangladesh, violence especially violence against women within marriage is not new. When a young woman enters into marital household leaving the security of natal home, she is thrust into unknown social realm and is in vulnerable position. The expectations of in-laws especially mother-in-law and husband are still unknown and failure to comply with them results in violence (Mahmuda. R. Khan: 1998:1,15)
Since asking women about the domestic violence against them was a delicate and sensitive issue, therefore I was apprehensive of the question’s repercussions on them. I thought they might be irate as soon as I asked them about domestic oppression, as it was a question of their prestige. Although the members of V.O hesitated to disclose the instances of wife-beating or other domestic violence, but gradually they confided it to me, because of the whole hearted endeavour of one of Shebika Apa named Rahima. Their candid revelation dovetailed neatly with the two camps of women, to wit women making direct economic contribution and therefore having more control over the loans were less vulnerable than pure housewives with virtually no control over the loans to all sorts of domestic violence. Conjugal squabble between husbands and wives, which is a common phenomenon, doesn’t necessarily leads to the extreme phase of getting beaten up of the latter, although it is the primary stage of all sorts of domestic violence. Though BRAC took a commendable initiative to make women aware of their subjugated position, but the frequency of wife beating didn’t decline considerably. Absence of acute divorce rate must not mislead us to assume that domestic violence against women is nonexistent. In Bijoypur the V.O members revealed not only about the occurrence of physical violence but also about the mental violence. Even if the working members are not subjected to physical violence, but mental violence (e.g. money taken against will, jewellery taken against will, poultry and fruits sold without their consent) persists, which gradually peters out as membership becomes older.
Locomotive autonomy of women:
Bangladesh is predominantly a patriarchal society. Normatively women are expected to stay at home and only men to be involved in outside activities. Men are also viewed as bread earners and providers and thus reinforce women’s seclusion and subordination (Zaman1995). Thereby a situation is created wherein women are bound to depend on men both socially and economically.
The tradition of our society expects women to remain within the domestic sphere where male dominance over women is a common norm in rural Bangladesh. Cain et al (1979) opined that Purdah was a system of secluding women and enforcing high standards of female modesty. It not only restricts women’s mobility and attire but also treats women’s social status as a protected matter and denies their access to many opportunities and aspects of everyday life. As a consequence men exercise power and control the mobility of women and thus women become powerless and dependent on men. Cain essentially argues that patriarchal society is the dominant factor that deters women’s advancement and freedom. Amin(1994) argued that the institution of Purdah governs women’s lives and it is less responsive to poverty. However those who challenge the institution do so out of sheer desperation and at great cost in terms of social status. Generally women in poor households are much more mobile due to circumstantial reasons (Mustafa1996). For them the question of survival is more imperative than observance of social norms. In search of a livelihood, they are compelled to go out of domestic boundaries. Selim(1995) argues that purdah restrictions apply more stringently to women of the more wealthy, landed households. Women from landless households are not able to maintain purdah since they are driven out of the confines of their own homestead by the need to find work. Latif quoted by Mizan(1994) states that women’s dependency on male members is reducing and a new pattern of relationship in the households and in society is developing as women are becoming earning members. Women are not only gaining economic independence but also are emerging as a social force to fight away all prejudices and obstacles. (Momena Islam: 1998).
Mobility is one of the key indicators of women’s empowerment. Mobility can be defined as women’s movement outside their homestead or the domestic sphere to places such as bazaar, natal home, hospital, bank, shop etc. That is to say it implies her locomotive autonomy. Most of the women who were interviewed, professed that they had to go out of their homestead for the scores of reasons such as to attend weekly V.O meetings, to visit the place of married daughters and households sans tube well and lavatory have to use those of others to bathe, to wash clothes and to fetch water and when ill, they have to go to see a doctor. Women working at EPZ or as domestic help at the place of well-off villagers have to go out of their homestead on a daily basis. They don’t seek permission most of the time from their husbands when they go out rather what they do is to simply apprise them of their departure. Although women enjoy greater freedom to move around the village freely and even outside the confines of village, but almost all of them said that they didn’t go to the bazaar. When I asked them the reason behind it Minu, a V.O member assured “ we perform multifarious tasks other than performing our obligatory daily household chores and if we also go to the bazaar what will our husbands do?” But widowed women constituting matrifocal household averred that they were bound to go to the bazaar, for they couldn’t manage other male members of the household to do the job for them. When asked about purdah Aduri Ghosh said “ if we observe purdah we have to starve, for we have to go out of our homestead for the purposes of livelihood (Khaon pindhoner loiga) not for gossiping”.
Besides the poor women for whom BRAC in the main introduced the micro credit program had been spatially mobile even before the inauguration of the program because of their grinding poverty, therefore it cannot be said that the greater mobility now enjoyed by them is the direct result of the development scheme in the guise of micro financing. May be it has accelerated the rate of present mobility but there is no point to try to prove it that the micro credit program initiated it or even was the catalyst for its inception. Moreover women belonging to well-off households said that their husbands prescribed them to observe purdah but didn’t oblige them to make it happen. Shilpi an enterprising woman cum another leader of V.O said “ I move outside the homestead as per my need and wish. I don’t take and wait for my husband’s permission whether I can go out or not. And why should I take his permission? Everyday I have to help two workers of my shop to arrange Vangari materials, (polythene used for wrapping medicine carton). Sometimes I have to go to the bank, have to go to the BRAC office and I also have to organize weekly V.O meetings and if I really take permission before each and every task then simply I will be mad and everyone will laugh at me. Moreover I visit the place of my daughter, but I don’t go to the bazaar, this is not because I’m prohibited to rather I don’t have time to go. We poor people don’t eat fish and egg like the rich men daily; we have our daily meal with varta and lentil soup. So we don’t have to go to the bazaar more often than not. Since I’m the leader of my group I have much more responsibility than any other woman. As a leader I don’t enjoy extra benefit from BRAC rather it’s really a hassle”.
Organizational aspect and unity of the poor:
In this chapter the organization of the poor on the basis of class, formation of Village Organization, savings process, Social Awareness Education (SAE), Freirian model of conscientization, Programs of BRAC on conscientization and social capital and its utilization by V.O members will be discussed. Besides, the impact of micro credit program on the organizational aspect of the poor will be tested critically.
Organization of the poor on the basis of class
The hogwash and mendacious promises of political leaders during the election campaign don’t perturb the villagers any more, for they have got used to such humbug of the politicians. Shahida a V.O member once said “ politicians make promises not to keep, Majnu said that he would pave the road completely and ensure the connection of gas to each and every household but till today these promises have not been yet been materialized”. When asked why they didn’t resist and remonstrate against such hypocrisy of politicians they said in unison “they are more powerful than us. We can’t combat them; if we protest or try to depose them they will engage the local mastans after us, who will simply ravage the entire village. We are poor; we are treated like stray dogs. No one is there to lend an ear to our pain and sufferings”.
A feeling of helplessness and marginalization surfaced through such candid statement. Although they are engaged in silent protest and criticism against the politicians, they fear overt confrontation with them. Such a muzzled state of villagers can be attributed to the ‘Repressive State Apparatus’ as well as ‘Ideological State Apparatus’ to wit coercion and indoctrination. Therefore they cannot be identified as autonomous, transcendental subject of Kantian discourse, for their disposition, appropriate demeanour is determined largely by prevalent discourse of political culture. By contrast although the villagers are enjoined either to protest or to express their dissidence in the so-called democratic way, the micro power that permeates each and every relationship and their interaction with each other, encourages them to get organized against unjust behaviour of ‘ micro actor’. Here is such a case of Rabindra Ghosh.
Case 11: Case of Rabindra Ghosh: An instance of resistance:
Rabindra Ghosh is a petty trader who sells unleavened bread, and curry throughout the year and during different puja festivals especially at the time of Rath Jatra(chariot journey festival) he sells assorted sweets especially jilapiand amitti. His wife Anjuli Ghosh helps him in the work. He said that when he and his wife went to the BRAC office for their savings, the accountant of the office Sumon misbehaved with Rabindra Ghosh. Sumon negated their demand of the savings and in response to Rabindra’s persistent request; he angrily threatened him that he would be shoved out of the office. Then Rabindra could not help saying out of rage “ why are you misbehaving with me, is it for that I am wearing lungi and you’re clad in Shirt and pant. We’re your members; you can’t behave with us in that way. But the accountant was stubborn on his decision, and before the situation could aggravate any further, the other members present at the office pressured him to give Rabindra his due amount of savings and asked him to apologize to Rabindra, and as the situation was getting out of control the accountant finally gave in and provided Rabindra 8000 taka, of his 13000taka savings and he was also compelled to beg pardon for his misbehaviour”. At this juncture Rabindra Ghosh said this to me crying “ is it our sin that we are poor, aren’t we human beings?’ He misbehaved with me only because I am a Hindu and I’m from the minority (shongkhyaloghu) community”.
Although organized state of the villagers against discrimination is very rare scene but such an event cannot be condoned outright, for poor villagers are inculcated through political socialization about the legal mode and extent of protest, and therefore they are aware of their limited role as a protester. Besides they protest only on those occasions when they are at level of minimum risk of transgressing the boundary of legality. And whether such transient organized state of the villagers can be attributed to SAE (Social Awareness Education) or to conscientization orientation is really a moot point. So deciphering their statement the connection between class-consciousness the prime mover of their organized state and the SAE or conscientization approach can be established from perspectivist stance. Although the poor villagers were nonchalant to enter the fray against political leaders, nevertheless I asked them “what would be the result if all the poor people got united against injustice?’ They answered in a rather pessimistic tone that, they cannot get united against the local Chairman and Union Parishad members, for they don’t have any power to resist their unethical activities. Morsheda a V.O member for 7 years said bluntly “during the devastating flood of 98, we heard that the government had allocated relief for the flood hit area, Bazlu the then Chairman received a huge amount of relief, but the amount which we were given was very exiguous, people said that he did enjoy illegally the lion’s share of the relief. And even our recently elected chairman Majnu also deprived us from the equitable share of the relief during last year’s flood. We couldn’t even complain to them that the amount of relief was inadequate let alone ask them about the deprivation from the relief”. Since the poor members of V.O cannot garner enough guts to resist concertedly, then we have to probe the role SAE or conscientization play in the lives of rural poor, and their efficacy in building self-awareness.
Formation of Village Organization:
The formation of the V.O is accompanied by the following steps:
Search for prospective Target Groups (TGs):
To fulfill its objectives, Rural Development Program (RDP) of BRAC intervenes in particular localities and villages. Such process has two distinct phases. In the first phase, RDP establishes its office. Subsequently a survey is carried out within a radius of 10 miles to identify the prospective target groups. However such rapid survey has two distinct disadvantages:
First, it may provide ample scope to confuse non-TG and
Secondly, the real TG may be excluded from initial survey. However this problem is rectified during the second phase when RDP staff (PAs and POs) make direct contact and initiate a process to form V.O ( Mannan et al :1994).
V.O formation and marital status of women:
V.O is a public institution at the grassroots level that creates space for interaction between BRAC staff and the poor. By forming V.Os BRAC could penetrate into domestic sphere of household. V.O is framed according to the BRAC’s organizational principles, but group members participate following the tradition. BRAC organizes and recruits the poor in V.O. The selection process of group members does not follow adherently the BRAC’s strictures. Selection criteria of V.O membership is that they should not have more than .50 acres of land or sell minimum 100 days of physical labour in a year (Mannan et al: 1994).
Generally married women are encouraged to join V.O. On the other hand BRAC do not encourage unmarried women to become the group member. One argument is that the unmarried women will migrate to their husband’s home after marriage. Such marital transfer will not only affect the functions of V.O but also will create problem in saving and credit transactions. This also means a loss of V.O experience that might affect in the long run, the substance of institution building process. On the contrary new bride’s presence in V.O is also not socially desirable. Their participation is actively discouraged because of local tradition and value system. After the formation of V.O the members have to perform three important roles. First they have to save regularly for three months. And secondly to complete the Social Awareness Education (SAE) and thirdly they to attend V.O meetings regularly that will allow them to learn about organizational discipline. V.O meets once a week for an hour or so usually within the courtyard of a Bari. (Mannan et al: 1994)
Target Group response and reasons to join V.O:
During the fieldwork I tried to grasp the raison d’être of women who signed up as a member of V.O. and their answers were ambivalent regarding the process of V.O formation. Housewives could not join V.O without the permission of their hubbies. When wives approached their husbands for permission to join V.O husband usually gave permission as it would ensure cash flow within the household and husbands would be benefited most through the membership of their wives. So they grabbed the opportunity of obtaining loan with the joining of their wives, therefore wives got quick approbation from their husbands. The husbands considered that it would be financially beneficial for them if their wives joined V.O. That is to say they thought that if wives became members of BRAC, it would give them the financial foundation to invest the loan in productive sectors. Besides they felt that under conditions of economic privation their income was not enough to support their family, therefore an additional income by wives would bring affluence to their family. So husbands egged on their wives to join in V.O and deposit money in savings scheme. Female informants on the other hand, reported that they didn’t like the procrastination in the distribution of loan, for they wanted to receive loan as soon as they joined V.O. Many reasons for joining V.O were found from the forthright statements of women. Some joined being persuaded by their neighbours, some joined willingly, some joined for the treatment of ill family members without the knowledge that the money had to be repaid in weekly installments, some joined to marry off their daughters without knowing that the money had to be invested in productive sectors, still others considered loan from BRAC as an additional source of income to complement their poor household fund. Minoti, a V.O member articulated “I joined V.O because my husband was made redundant and he wanted to start a business for which he needed money, so I considered it an opportunity to get money from BRAC”. Whatever may be the reasons the common goal of all the prospective members were that they considered it beneficial to join V.O.
Savings process of Village Organization:
To become an eligible V.O member, one must save a minimum of taka 20 for three consecutive weeks in BRAC’s savings program. Savings is a key building block of V.O membership and a prerequisite for receiving credit. Since women generally do not earn money by themselves other than few workingwomen and thus they are unable to accumulate much desired money for savings. Now the question arises: from whom and where they manage money to deposit in BRAC’s initial savings process? The V.O members observed that they collected money to be deposited in BRAC’s initial savings programs from their husbands and widowed women either from their brothers or from other V.O members. Women also felt that savings in BRAC will help them to curtail their gratuitous spending like buying a sari or going to cinema. Although there are instances of surreptitious savings of rice by rural women as countenanced by White (1992) they were not acquainted with institutional savings, which would help them in times of dire need with sufficient amount of money. When BRAC extended necessary mechanisms for savings, it received a very ambivalent response. Mannan (1994) stated that once women started to save in BRAC they began to construct their own meaning and interpretation of savings, the V.O members considered savings as both a security and income. In BRAC’s organizational rituals, savings is a precondition for getting credit. V.O members of Bijoypur had an anathema to savings because of the iniquitous role of BRAC staffs, which I expatiated in detail in chapter 2.
Social Awareness Education (SAE):
The Social Awareness Education (SAE) is compulsory for the group members. SAE is 26 days of consciousness raising course and usually takes place in the courtyard of group members. Usually everyday class starts with registering attendance and memorizing their group and individual membership numbers as well as 17 promises. SAE aims to raise consciousness of participants and help them to learn at least signing their name. Usually participants sit in square in open space on bamboo mats (Mannan et al: 1994). Social Awareness Education is based primarily on 17 promises:
Participant’s evaluation of SAE:
In the SAE classes initially participants succumb to diffidence, which they gradually overcome with the help of teachers. Classes are held in open spaces to dispel the shyness of the participants. Participants who I interviewed did not face any obstruction from their husbands. Husbands said that they did not thwart them to attend SAE classes, for it was an integral part of the credit scheme of BRAC. Although teachers try to help participants to raise self-awareness through the memorization of 17 promises, which is the backbone of Social Awareness Education, but participants are more interested to receive loan promptly. Participants are also heartened to sing songs of awareness to oust their shyness and articulate their feelings. Some elderly participants find it very difficult to memorize and follow SAE lessons. Moyna Khatun, an aged participant verbalized, “ What is the efficacy of memorizing these lessons? I want immediate loans for which I have become V.O member, not to waste time learning lessons. We were taught these lessons when we were in schools, we do not need to learn these afresh. Please tell them to give us loans without more ado (Kechal).” Marjina, the leader of Village Organization on the other hand asserted the importance of such lessons as well as education in their lives. The teachers evaluated the participant’s performance. After the conclusion of SAE courses members were given savings passbooks on which BRAC’s seal was imprinted to prove that they had completed the course. Members called the savings book ‘ lal boi’, which was crucial for receiving loan. Although SAE courses helped increase awareness of participants against maltreatment and injustice but their awareness was draped in false consciousness so that they did not fathom the strategic exploitation of BRAC and other NGOs. I do not wish to subscribe to cynicism, but these areas of awareness raising remain shrouded under the image of NGOs as hero or salvager of poor people.
Freire’s model of conscientization:
Paulo Freire viewed society divided into two groups- oppressors and oppressed. The oppressor for its own interest dominates the oppressed economically socially and politically. This domination is carried out by keeping the oppressed ‘submerged in a situation in which they are not equipped to know and respond to the concrete realities of their world’ (Freire: 1986:10). This social set-up, i.e., the culture of silence is facilitated through an educational process referred to as banking process of education. Under this process teacher provides students with the subject to be taught and in turn students memorize the same mechanically. Consequently the students view the reality in fragmentation being denied of the total picture of their oppressed situation (Rafi: 2001:1-2).
Freire sought the liberation of the oppressed from the culture of silence also in the educational process- liberating education or problem solving education. Under this educational process a theme (issue or problem) is discussed systematically first by decoding the theme by its syllables and then discussing each of the syllables one by one. The content of education (i.e. themes or issue) is sought in the realities mediating students. Accordingly, ‘the investigation of thematic involves the investigation of the people’s thinking- thinking which occurs only in and among men together seeking out reality’ (Freire: 1986:100).
In order to avoid contradiction and authoritarianism in the classroom a dialogue is established between teacher (coordinator) and students (learner). The teacher is not merely the one who teaches, but is also being taught in dialogue with the students. Thus both teacher and students combine their cognition on the subject selected for learning. In order to initiate dialogue the teacher presents a theme to the student, which in fact is received as a problem from the students. The process of searching for the meaningful theme includes a concern for: 1) the links between the themes 2) poses these themes as problems and 3) view the themes from their historical-cultural context. Thus teacher and students together decode the theme by describing and analyzing it. The process facilitates the discovery of interaction among the parts of disjointed whole. As thought on various dimensions related to the coded situation emerges it began to acquire meaning to them (Rafi: 2001: 2).
As students start decoding their existing situation by selecting it as a theme, thus in order to probe the causes of their existing situation they get involved in a dialogue among themselves. This leads them to a cognitive operation involving critical interpretation of the root causes behind their being in the oppressed situation from different perspective. The outcome of this exercise stimulates them to transform their situation. Freire suggested that the reflection of action for a change resulting from conscientization should be made of continually to find out what are the inevitable impediments for the smooth operation of the desired situation. The critical analysis for identifying and shooting out mistakes and failures in one hand ensure the success and in the other paves the way for further action, referred to as action-reflection-action process i.e. praxis. Praxis is a methodology to reverse past processes through dialectics. A society may have multiple praxis. The peoples’ praxis is a process of building people’s power for development as an alternative to the existing dominant power, e.g. elite praxis. The people’s praxis can be achieved by releasing the creative energies of the disadvantaged/ marginalized that is through mobilizing them, along with local resources and knowledge, for all round development of their lives (Rafi: 2001: 2).
Conscientization in BRAC:
BRAC strives to bring the poor into the main stream of development by alleviating their poverty and by empowering them. The organization evolved over time in its effort to become more effective in achieving these objectives. It started as a relief organization in 1972 but shortly thereafter in order to have a sustainable impact, adopted the community development approach. Finding the outcome of the approach unsatisfactory, adopted the target group approach to development in 1978 (Rafi :2001: 3).
Households owning less than half an acre of land and at least one of its members selling manual labour for not less than 100 days a year are targeted for development. As a first step to their development BRAC mobilizes a member from these households to form a Village Organization (V.O). The V.Os as a catalyst in poverty alleviation and empowerment of the members, steers up two important processes within the members – institution building and credit operation. Presently a V.O consists of 35-45 female members and has three committees to conduct its activities: management committee, social action committee and law implementation committee (BRAC 1995).
It is the strategy of BRAC that all development activities will be organized around V.O and through it resources and power will be mobilized. The target group through V.O plans, initiates, manages and controls group activities, both in social and economic domains. BRAC on the other hand as supports, provides training, credit and logistics assistance to the V.O. In mid 1970s BRAC was very much inspired by the ‘liberating education’ of Freire and ‘dependency theory’ of Andre Gunder Frank (Chowdhury 1989). In response to these influences BRAC believed that unless the deprived realizes that they belong to an exploited group and must do something for their own betterment, all economic inputs given to them would be misappropriated and siphoned off by the better-off sections within the society. It further believed that once the poor become conscious of the basic causes of their poverty and the process of their exploitation they would be able to unite and take part in programs for their uplifting. It was felt that the poor should be made aware of their own interest and should be motivated so that they participate in establishing social justice and fair treatment- something can be done best through V.O. Thus BRAC adopted the policy that the members should be systematically conscientized at very outset when they form their V.O (Chowdhury 1989). Accordingly from 1978 onwards BRAC made deliberate effort of conscientizing the V.O members through Functional Education program (Rafi: 2001: 3).
Past program on Conscientization:
The conscientization effort of BRAC in the past can be divided into two major activities- village meeting organized to form a V.O and Functional Education offered to members after the organization was formed. The village meeting included discussion on existing social structure of the village, mode of exploitations of which they were victims and the measures that they could have taken to free themselves from such exploitation. It was believed that such an awareness and response to that would lead to their development (Rafi: 2001: 3-4).
The functional Educational intended to conscientize V.O members through a two-step process –basic conscientization and awareness building and literacy. First step intended to make members conscious of the root causes of their problems and develop self-initiative and power to seek solution to the problems in them. The Functional Education revolved around village problems through a dialogue, where problems were presented discussed and analyzed in each session. In reflection to Freire’s model of conscientization the learning method was expected to be participatory in which class would encourage students to reflect on and analyze their own problems through two-way communication. The communication would be characterized by group discussion by the members i.e. students and the teacher time to time would introduce ideas or information into the discussion whenever considered necessary. Second step of Functional Education provide literacy to the members (Rafi: 2001: 4).
Each step had on an average two-hour long thirty sessions. The first step was the required portion of the Functional Education whereas the latter was optional. The villagers with a high school certificates were selected as facilitators/ teachers of these courses. They were first trained on how to conduct the Functional Education course and were supplied with learning materials and detail guidelines to be followed in the courses. Although there are studies (Streefaland1986, Hashemi1995) indicating positive outcome of conscientization efforts by NGOs including BRAC, a good number of them pointed out the problems with Freire’s model of conscientization. Some of these problems were inherent in the structure or implementation of Functional Education but others were related to the consequences of the course. (Rafi: 2001: 4)
Contrary to the lessons being dialogical and participatory as Freire proposed those in Functional Education in most case were highly pedagogical and didactic (Montgomery, Bhattacharya and Hulme1996). The lessons were highly structured and contained passive experiences. Such a standardized course applied to all V.Os throughout the country was not much relevant to many members in the course, besides members were not always in agreement with what was being discussed in the class. Despite a participatory and awareness-raising rhetoric the Functional Education course had a teacher-pupil mode of interaction (Hashemi1990)- a relationship Freire strongly condemned for it being an obstacle in free flow of dialogue in the session. Besides the facilitators were not always articulate thus effective in disseminating course message among the participants (Rafi: 2001: 5).
Because of time constraints, illness, or lack of motivation it was quite difficult at times for the members particularly the older ones, to attend all the Functional Education sessions. As a result many students missed sessions frequently or dropped out from the course altogether (Ahmed2001). In mid 1980s in many BRAC areas fewer than half the members were actually completing the course (Lovel: 1991). But as per BRAC policy at that time most of the members of a V.O had to complete all the sixty lessons of Functional Education before the V.O could be recognized as an official group and loan could be extended to its members. Thus the long duration of the course resulting in dropout and irregular attendance of the members caused unnecessary delay in meeting this condition in getting loans by the members (Rafi : 2001: 5).
The outcome of conscientization whether demanding social, economic or political justice with or without changing the system was a direct challenge to the status quo serving the power structure in the village. The prevailing power group saw this as a threat to their long-standing domination and in the enjoyment of privilege within the village. Within a short while the effort to emancipate members through Functional Education was resisted by the elite constructing the village power structure (Hashemi1995). As because government functionaries were dependent on the elite for running the day-to-day affairs in the village it was not prepared to see that the ruling power-structure get dissatisfied by the NGO activities. Moreover government was not committed to structural transformation in the village. As a result government was not comfortable with the conscientization program of NGOs (Rafi : 2001: 5).
As because of these problems most NGOs with conscientization program in late 1980s abandoned the program. Instead they adopted the micro finance based growth oriented programs. At this juncture, BRAC although emphasized the promotion of credit-based economic improvements in the lives of the poor did not undermine the importance of conscientization in the process of development. It continued with the holistic approach to development by making social development interventions, and social mobilization and conscientization efforts running hand in hand with its micro credit interventions (Rafi: 2001: 5).
Present model of conscientization:
In the light of the problems faced in Functional Education, BRAC adopted a new model for conscientization, which in some ways was similar to Freire’s but in others was different. Unlike before the members remained the subject of conscientization. Three central elements can be identified in the present model of conscientization.
A) Awareness: It is the critical understanding by the members about the factors responsible for their conditions, through self-inquiry and analysis. It is a logical outcome of the process in an exploration of ways and means to create change.
B) Organization: It is the facilitating instrument i.e. V.O is changed through group effort. It is an organic entity created, shaped and designed as decided by the members and is also managed and operated collectively by them.
C) Self-reliant actions: This is the assertive element in organized group’s initiatives for constructive activities, as decided by the members of the organization. Such action often provides resource-based and enhanced capacities to launch constructive activities. These activities are rooted in the awareness and consciousness of the members.
Same like Freire, over here it was also axiomatic that all members like anybody had creativity, dignity and strength no matter how they were situated. These attitudes can be awakened by an appropriate stimulation. Some initial stimulation is often required to set these attitudes in motion by using a ‘problem-posing-approach’. The stimulation is done through animation consisting of three overlapping elements related to assistance:
A) Initial conscientization: Stimulating members so that they may critically reflect on their social reality through a process of self-enquiry and analysis. The process enables them to perceive possibilities of changing a situation by their own collective action.
B) Enhancing member’s knowledge: It is done through two processes. Firstly, by assisting members to systematize their experiences, to recover viable elements in their historical tradition and culture which enhance their dignity and power. Secondly, by bringing relevant new knowledge to them. The knowledge for example may be on; 1) people’s legitimate rights, 2) wider social contexts and macro-processes which have a relevance to the members’ life situations, and 3) technologies which can be synthesized with members’ existing knowledge and can be creatively adapted to improve their condition.
C) Facilitation: Assistance to V.O to make a transition to praxis-breaking practical barriers to action. Facilitation is indispensable to assist the members to develop the capacity to make the sustained action for change.
Investigation and analysis of the social realities carried out by the members themselves provide an intellectual base to support whatever actions they decide to take change their reality. Thus action is rooted in members’ own intellectual inquiries and findings. There is a cadre of animators who stimulate and assist members to undertake actions. The animators have already gone through a process of sensitization and learning and are committed to any possible change for the V.O. These animators may be external or internal to V.O. The external animators with their formal education, wider knowledge of social contexts works as resource persons to practical problems of the members. BRAC staff is an example of such an animator. Internal animators are members of V.O with the desire and skills to undertake animation work within their V.O e.g. law implementation committee (Rafi: 2001: 6).
Present programs on conscientization:
The conscientization of members mainly done under the aegis of social development program of BRAC includes four major activities. There are:
A) Village meeting: This conscientization activity is composed of weekly V.O meetings.
B) Gram shoba: This is a forum held once a month for members and their spouses. The BRAC staff facilitates this meeting. In the forum participants discuss about the social problems (e.g. violence against women) within their locality and decides on their solutions. Besides they learn about the practices, e.g. health care, application of high yielding variety seeds, which are likely to benefit them.
C) Popular theatre: It is a performance art for communicating awareness raising message blended with entertainment. The theatre has the alchemy to arouse, enliven and inspire the poor. Struggle for survival of the rural poor is the thematic source for this theatre. The objective of the theatre is to educate people against illegal and exploitative practices in the society. The theatre identifies and exposes the forces that constrain the development of the poor. The members conducting the theatres are open for everybody’s participation and are performed in a suitable location in the village.
D) Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE): Unlike most, it is a special kind of training designed for conscientization and action. The focus of the program is to empower the rural poor through human rights and legal education. The purpose of the program is to increase members’ knowledge on law and their willingness to take up and act on their legal responsibilities.
Each of these activities necessarily does not have all the elements of social praxis. The recitation of 17 promises does not proceed beyond awareness building, on the other hand HRLE program proceeds further to action. Similarly the activities are not equally participatory particularly in the selection of the theme for conscientization. In popular theatre the participants decide the theme to be staged but the members orientation course deals with the pre-selected issues on which the members are conscientized. No matter what are the scopes of these activities they complement each other in the conscientization of the members (Rafi: 2001:8).
Human Rights and Legal Education:
BRAC have observed that the overwhelming number of the rural poor are unaware of their legal rights and this ignorance allowed others to exploit them and in particular, the women. The enormity of the problem prompted BRAC to address the injustice done on the poor, thus in 1989 BRAC introduced HRLE program. It was believed that legal awareness among the members would help them to protect themselves from illegal, unfair, or discriminatory practices. By the end of 2000 BRAC offered HRLE to 1.7 million members (BRAC 2001). The expansion of HRLE program was done simultaneously with de-emphasizing Functional Education by cutting short the duration of the course gradually.
The HRLE course curriculum is tuned to the need of the poor in the village. In order to find out the most pressing problems (including situations that might lead to problems) of the poor focus group discussions are extensively conducted throughout the country. Based on the findings of these discussion twenty-two problems considered to be most relevant to the poor are singled out. Thereafter laws relevant to these problems are identified. Thus HRLE training curriculum covers twenty-two laws of Bangladesh grouped under four titles-Citizen’s Right Protection Law, Muslim/Hindu Family Law, Inheritance Law and Land Law. The problems identified are subject to change as considered necessary with the changing condition.
HRLE training is conducted by a Shebika who received similar training earlier. A course with a maximum of twenty-five trainees runs for twenty-eight days having two-hour session a day. The course is conducted based on a set module. On fourteenth day of the training the Program Coordinator of BRAC forms a three-member Law implementation Committee from among the trainees. The members having better understanding of the course and urge to apply the training are selected for the committee. The function of the committee is to expedite the implementation of the law for the V.O members in their locality (BRAC 1995).
HRLE is different from conventional training in two important ways. It is not only characterized by two-way communication between trainer and trainees but also it uses a number of participatory training techniques. The techniques include lecture-cum-discussion, group discussion, role-play, practical experience sharing, brainstorming, demonstration and practical juggling of the thought process. The conscientization that generates due to the application of these techniques can be divided into two parts. First, convince the trainees that the issues, i.e. theme incorporated in HRLE course are a problem common to them. Problematization of the reality, build-up a critical awareness in them. In turn, it creates an impulse in them to look for the cause and possible solutions to the problem. The process gives an intellectual base to the understanding of the problem. Secondly, make them think about the pragmatic solution to the problems and the legal procedures available to handle them (Rafi: 2001: 8-9).
Appraisal of HRLE in the study area:
In Bijoypur the V.O members highly eulogized the HRLE program of BRAC. They predicated that they were more cognizant of the legal realm of the society. But some members who were skeptical about the whole program rightfully said “ If I kill someone I will be brought under the penalty of the legal system, but if any political leader murders someone, he will be out of the reach of the hand of the law. The legal system only favours the affluent section of the society, not us”. I was dumbfounded by such aphoristic statement of some V.O members. Their down-to-earth approach revealed the fact that they were very much aware of their exploited situation, but simultaneously were forced to be devoured by the feelings of marginalization and helplessness because of the discriminatory legal system of the society. Therefore HRLE on the one hand make the members knowledgeable of the legal steps to be taken against injustice, but the biased legal system of the society on the other inhibit them from taking legal action if the perpetrator belongs to the privileged segment of the society. Corruption and depraved mentality of the politicians have become so commonplace that, the villagers dare not to express their dissatisfaction let alone lodge a complain against them in the police station.
One major drawback of HRLE is that it tries to provide legal solution only to those problems that do not try to dismantle the harmonious social structure, thus preserving the status quo of the society. Since HRLE in Bijoypur was confined exclusively within the V.O members therefore it failed to conscientize the whole community, which is a sine qua non for fighting concertedly on the basis of class. HRLE was extremely efficacious in resolving familial issues, but proved its futility when the question of combating the privileged section came. Conscientization in Freirian sense, which preaches revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor is not imparted in the HRLE program of BRAC, for it can create social unrest and lead to their conviction that NGOs are the agents of exploitation, who help to perpetuate the oppressive plight of the poor villagers. Therefore the NGOs adapted the Freirian model of conscientization in accordance with their ends, sloughing off the major tenets championed by Freire.
Social capital and its utilization by the V.O members:
Before going to expound the importance of social capital in the lives of the poor villagers of Bijoypur, we have to have sound understanding of the term. “Social capital broadly defined refers to the benefits of membership within a social network. The accessibility of additional resources through social connections enables poor people to meet everyday needs. In addition, because poor people can rarely afford formal insurance to protect them in the event of crises such as natural disasters, financial crises, health emergencies, unemployment and the like. Reciprocal social relationships provide wells of financial, social or political support from which they can draw in times of need. Social capital provides a hedge but rarely, by itself lifts poor people out of poverty”(Deepa Narayan: 2002:55-56). Some writers asserted a similitude between social capital and ‘old boy network’ (Smith: 2001, Pieterse: 2002). Another resemblance can be found between social capital and extended entitlements of Dreze and Sen(1989). Let’s zero in on it to dig the meaning of this concept in the verbatim text of the authors:
While the concept of entitlement focuses on a person’s legal rights of ownership, there are some social relations that take the broader form of accepted legitimacy rather then legal rights enforceable in a court. [Such a person] can be seen as having a claim the legitimacy of which is accepted and thus effective, even though it is not a claim that can be upheld in a court or enforced by the power of the state. Despite their legally weaker form, such socially sanctioned rights may be extremely important in determining the amount of food or health care or other commodities that different members of a family get (Dreze and Sen: 1989:10 quoted in Indra 1997).
In the light of the above discussion we can construe the importance of social capital or extended entitlements in the lives of the villagers of Bijoypur. During my fieldwork I was able to comprehend the fact that social capital which functioned ‘as a social and economic safety net’ was crucial for the survival of the villagers. The villagers of Bijoypur drew on social network to lubricate the friction of their poverty-stricken existence. The villagers in the main turn to such critical network to manage the amount of weekly installments. Since all the members of V.O are poor, therefore such dependence on social capital can mean extra bit of pressure on this handy network (on the actors of the network). Besides they also rely on such network for pure consumptive and monetary purposes, but it would be misleading to assume that the network resolves all the problems they encounter in their daily lives, rather sometimes they are temporarily overpowered by the severity of the problems. Moreover, it would lead someone to the conviction that the advent of NGOs might have shaken the rampart of social capital, but the reality is that instead of decreasing their reliance on the network, it has augmented their dependence on it, for the members are denied easy access to their savings unscrupulously and the amount of weekly installments appear to them as an economic burden in lieu of easing their daily hardship. The poor V.O members usually do not mobilize the social resources to fight against injustice, because of ideological inculcation, which thrust them into the quicksand of pessimism and helplessness so that the spirit of revolt is melted away. To recapitulate their assertion that they have guts to fight against injustice perpetrated by the micro actors, but don’t have the mettle to resist the crooked actions of macro actors like local political leaders.
The Subjective aspect or worldview:
This chapter will construe the subjective aspect or worldview of the poor on the roots of their poverty, the solution to poverty articulated by them, and their future plan regarding the education and profession of their children. This chapter will also try to comprehend their worldviews according to two ideal type models, namely the survival model and the emancipation model.
Roots of poverty:
To grasp the worldview of the V.O members, I drew heavily on two models devised by Streefland et al (1986). Two theoretical models namely survival model is fatalistic and emancipation model is materialistic. The prime facets of those two ‘theoretical constructs’ are reproduced below:
Table-8 Worldviews of the poor
During the period of unstructured interviewing, to my straightforward question of what the V.O members considered were the causes of their long-standing poverty. Initially they answered that they did not consider them as poor, rather NGOs or people from upper echelons of the society labeled them poor. In the words of Asha Rani, one of the oldest members of V.O “ We don’t think that we are poor, we work hard to earn our sustenance, we are not beggars”. This kind of similar statements by the V.O members reminded me of the observation made by Pieterse (2002) that ‘Poverty is in the eye of the beholder’. Moreover we can present the words of Vandana Shiva articulated in her seminal work ‘Staying alive: women, ecology and development’ (1988) “Culturally perceived poverty need not be real material poverty: subsistence economies which serve basic needs through self-provisioning are not poor in the sense of being deprived. Yet the ideology of development declares them so because they don’t participate overwhelmingly in the market economy, and do not consume commodities provided for and distributed through the market”. Here we find vicious design of development ideology which was unveiled bitterly by Rajni Kothari(1988) “Where colonialism left off, development took over”. (Pieterse: 2002:100-101).
Later as the interviewing continued for several weeks, the V.O members opened up and identified causes of their grinding poverty. One of them was a little bit angry with my question and said “ Do you want to find the causes of poverty look at my homestead, look at my worn-out cloth, you will get the answer, you people come and ask same questions, but our condition doesn’t change. Yesterday I went to see the ‘rath jatra’(chariot journey) wearing torn clothes”. I was touched by her candid utterances, and well apprehended the source of her anger, which was due to social engineering of development organizations. A good number of V.O members identified disease or illness of family members and the resultant monetary loss as the prime cause of their poverty. Not quite surprisingly some blamed V.O membership as the cardinal source of their poverty. Razia, a former V.O member said “ I quit BRAC because they obstructed my savings, they give us loan but misbehave with us, yesterday I was poor because of lack of money, still today I am poor because my savings is not given to me in the proper time. Moreover I always have to remain apprehensive about the amount of installments”. Only a small number of V.O members attributed the source of their poverty to the large family size and lack of education. Fate, destiny or the will of God as the major source of poverty was more prevalent among the Hindus than the Muslim V.O members, because they were constantly reminded of their marginalized status if not frequently by the villagers but in their daily interaction with BRAC staffs. But none of the V.O members gave ‘self-accusatory answers’ to be the prime cause of their poverty. Thus if we dissect the purport of the statements of the V.O members, one thing becomes clear that their world views tally more with emancipation model than the survival model, which we may attribute partially to the conscientization program of BRAC.
Solutions to poverty:
The V.O members responded spontaneously when asked about how they would like to eradicate poverty and elevate their economic condition. Majority of them identified ‘hard graft’ to be the panacea for the emancipation from the quagmire of impoverishment. Ambia one of the V.O leaders enunciated “ we are working hard, because we don’t want to remain poor. No one likes poor people. We have to lead a miserable life. I am working hard so that my children don’t have to face humiliation (opoman) like us. In future we want to lead a happy life.” They think that they must work hard from their own social position and they need more help from government and NGOs. Some of them quite naturally expressed their views that BRAC must refrain from arresting their savings deliberately, if they wanted to break the cycle of poverty. Minu, a V.O member said “ BRAC staffs misbehave with us and if we want our savings they say to take more loans, and if we fail to pay weekly installments they create pressure, where shall we go? I became member to see the face of happiness (shukher mukh) but now I am always concerned about the repayment of loans. I think BRAC should give my savings back to let me utilize it in times of need”. Some of them instead of giving single solution, combined a number of solutions in their answers to alleviate poverty, viz they combined either God’s will or fate with hard work or limiting the family size with God’s will.
Although they wanted to limit the size of the family but in actuality their size of the family was very large. Marjina, a V.O leader said, “ Allah determines our fate, but at the same time he enjoined human beings (banda) to work hard. Allah is with him/her who works hard”. Only a small portion of the V.O members said that education could salvage them from the trap of poverty. When asked how education could help them in this process, their common assertion was that education gives honour and prestige, because people respect educated people. Razia a former V.O member said to me “ Today you have come to us and think about our well-being because you are educated, if you were illiterate like us, may be you could not have come, because you would have been poor like us.” She then turning her head to her grandson Motin said, “ Study hard, so that one day you can also become someone like sir.” It became evident from their remarks that they understood the importance of education, but poverty hindered them from getting it, and again illiteracy was the root cause of poverty. Therefore having analyzed their statements it became conspicuous that majority of the V.O members subscribe to the emancipation model and some of them combine both the models as possible solutions to poverty. To my question of whether they thought collective efforts of poor people could ameliorate their economic condition, they asserted affirmatively but did not know how that could be achieved in reality.
Views of V.O members regarding their future:
The V.O members who I interviewed disclosed their views boldly regarding them and their children. The general pattern of the answers of most of the members was that they wanted to prosper in their life and believed in freedom, given to their children about the selection of profession. Moyna a V.O member said, “ I want my children to be good human being (manusher moto manush), and let them choose their own profession, but certainly I will have a say. We are poor, we cannot decide everything beforehand, only time will determine,” Some of the members emphasized on the education of their children. They said that since they were poor and illiterate so the BRAC staffs arrested their savings illegally, if they were educated, they would not have to depend on others for help. Rahima said, “we don’t want our children to face the same humiliation like us, we want our children to get educated and lead a happy life. But there is only one school in our village, which is far away from our bari, therefore we told the BRAC staffs to establish a primary school here, but they are not paying heed to our demand”. When asked how they want their children to earn their livelihood, some of them said they wanted their children to be in their own profession, for this would relieve their workload.
Some of the children said that they didn’t want to continue their studies, when asked the reason, some of them remained silent; some of them said that the teachers were rude, and others said that they found the studies difficult to memorize. Joni Ghosh, said,” I am in class 6, I don’t want to study more, I want to be a motor mechanic like my brother”. In addition to that V.O members also emphasized the education of their daughters, particularly religious education. Marjina a V.O leader said “ I believed in the education of my daughter that’s why she passed her S.S.C successfully and worked at Savar EPZ for 5 years before getting married, she had to quit the job for her marriage, I didn’t receive education in my childhood, so I wanted my children especially my daughter to get educated, besides I also taught her how to recite the Quran”. Chinu Rani another V.O member said “I wanted my daughter to attend school, but she was less interested in studies so I engaged her in stitching kantha which would bring in some money to the household. But I didn’t tell her to quit school”.
None of the V.O members mentioned white-collar jobs as their children’s future profession, which disclosed their down-to-earth views about the future, for such jobs require huge expenses for the education to complete, and none of them were found in the position to bear that. They were very much pragmatic and didn’t want to build castle in the air and at the same time didn’t believe in sitting indolently without any future plan, but they planned their life having correspondence with their economic capability.
Summary and conclusion:
The conspectus of the entire research would be that the micro credit program of BRAC did not have much positive impact on the quantity and quality of meals of the poor, spending of money on Eid, puja and other festive occasions, ownership of utensils and livestock and ownership of land by the V.O members. On the other hand, according to the V.O members who I interviewed averred that micro credit program had contributed significantly in the condition of dwellings, increasing savings but without easy access to it, creating employment opportunities for women (although most of the V.O members were inclined to give the money to their husbands), reducing domestic violence and in ensuring locomotive autonomy of women, which I called ‘deluge effect’. Despite such marked improvement in these spheres, there was a high drop out rate from the micro credit program of BRAC, because of the mercenary actions of the BRAC staffs. The micro credit program of BRAC also changed considerably the interaction process of the poor and the elite, the voting behaviour of the poor V.O members, decision making pattern of women in economic sphere and regarding marriage and education of their children. But the organizational aspect of the V.O members remained completely unaffected by the micro credit program, for BRAC imparted the V.O members the distorted version of the conscientization approach of Paulo Freire (1968), to make them aware of social injustices without upsetting the existing status quo. They did so to inculcate false consciousness in their minds, so that horizontal solidarity (after Foucault’s, 1977 ‘horizontal conjunction’) of these social actors doesn’t reach the boiling point of power that may endanger the existence of the privileged section of the society. Moreover, the worldviews of the poor V.O members resembled more the ‘emancipation model’ than the ‘survival model’ which might be attributed to the micro credit program of BRAC, but that did not imply that they were not fatalistic anymore.
Here a theoretical discussion would crystallize the point that Bijoypur village is not estranged from the rest of the world. Rather what the west devises theoretically has direct bearing on the Third World people like Bangladeshis. Thus the academic strife among development practitioners whether to espouse mainstream development or alternative development paradigm or to breed them to produce MAD (Mainstream Alternative Development), ultimately strangulates the target population. Because of the personal aggrandizement of both basic and applied researchers the atrocious dissection of poverty stricken people continues surreptitiously. The fiasco of social engineering even after the inclusion of anthropologists to usher in the long-awaited aura of development pave the way for careful deliberation of endogenous facet of development. Exogenous development intervention on the other hand always strive to ensure maximum participation of the poor people according to top-down approach, but in actuality the case have to be such that endogeneity become quintessential in development discourse where NGOs, donors and governments participate in people’s development, and help materialize stunted empowerment of those who are in the quagmire of wholesale poverty. Moreover there is no foolproof agenda to banish poverty from Bangladesh, for the penury which devours majority of her offspring is the upshot of hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and oppression, which in the new attire of imperial octopus-the progeny of colonial power- is simply perpetuating the state of underdevelopment through ‘development cooperation’. It is equally true that we cannot ‘do away with development’ as proclaimed by Sachs, because of its capricious use by some nefarious brokers of development. Anisur Rahman on the basis of sound reasoning warned us not to discard the concept of development because of its abuse; he even expressed his antipathy towards the post-development paradigm by putting simply “ I was struck by the intensity with which the very notion of ‘development’ was attacked. I submitted that I found the word ‘development’ to be very powerful means of expressing the conception of societal progress as the flowering of people’s creativity. Must we abandon valuable words because they are abused? What to do then with words like democracy, cooperation, socialism, all of which are abused?”(Anisur Rahman quoted in Pieterse: 2002:106). Anisur Rahman rightfully pointed out the abuse of the concept of development and accentuated the innocuous image of the term, what he failed to see was that exponents of post-development paradigm waged war against that development which had become synonymous with strategic exploitation of the poor, and domination of the imperial west over their previous colonies, not against the term itself.
Moreover, development-NGOs have been denounced as new missionaries engaged in recolonization, as unguided missiles or as the new East India Company. They have been accused of neutralizing popular resistance and facilitating popular acceptance of structural adjustment (Pieterse: 2002: 85). Assenting to the tenor of the thinking of David Lewis it can be said that such ‘dependent partnership’ of development NGOs with donors has converted these stalwart figures in the implementation of development projects into the reluctant pawn of the overbearing west, therefore ‘active partnership’ will call for reduction of dependence on ‘development cooperation’ and only then NGOs can contribute effectively in ‘democratizing development’. “According to Escobar, the problem with ‘development’ is that it is external, based on the model of the industrialized world and what is needed instead are more endogenous discourses” (Pieterse: 2002: 101). Therefore throughout my research I zeroed in mainly on the point that micro credit is not an open sesame to the alleviation of poverty, rather conscientization and dialogue in the true Freirian sense (not as the distortion of original essence of the term to endorse status quo) and endogeneity of alternative development paradigm can provide the platform for development to take place at the grassroots level. At the risk of overgeneralization, it can be predicated that, what hundreds of Bangladeshi Villages like Bijoypur enjoys is the transient benefits of dependent development. Therefore the continuation of this kind of development sponsored through the aid of foreign donors would be disquieting for villages like Bijoypur in the upcoming years. Finally yet importantly it can be concluded in accord with Andre Gunder Frank “If the now underdeveloped were really to follow the stages of growth of the now developed ones, they would have to find still other peoples to exploit into underdevelopment, as the now developed countries did before them” (1969: 46 quoted in Pieterse: 2002: 24)
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