Democratizing Development: Struggles for Rights and Social Justice in India


Ranjita Mohanty

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    My father

    Rabindra Nath Mohanty

    for everything


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    The normative idea of progress on which development is fashioned gets vitiated by the power and politics associated with development. The control and distribution of resources, competition among social powers, state intervention and global forces create enclaves of inequality and exclusion. How the poor and socially marginalized, through their struggle for rights and social justice, create conditions for participation, redistribution, equity, equality and inclusion is what this book offers.

    The book is positioned in the historical framework of development that India adopted soon after independence from colonial rule. The successive shifts, notwithstanding the framework, have retained, until recently, the core principles of economic development with social justice and the state as the guarantor of development. Even when neoliberal growth projects are pursued ruthlessly, the welfare and social protection projects are not abandoned. The framework has created aspiration, shaped imagination and influenced people's struggles for the democratization of development, even though it has exploited and excluded them. This book shows, when people engage in social struggles to democratize development, they also expand the framework by accepting the desirable and rejecting the undesirable, as well as by providing alternative visions and practices.

    The book is set in the Indian villages and contains my research conducted over the last 20 years. Some of my works included in the book were published earlier. I have reworked on them to bring under the theme of the book.

    While writing this book, I was struck not only by the complexity of development as it manifests in the Indian villages but also by the complex machinery that works or does not work to deliver development. That the poor, uneducated, socially oppressed and powerless question development shows not only their courage, determination and endurance, but it also shows how the encounter with development has made such struggles an essential part of their living.

    Ranjita Mohanty 2 January 2018


    It is difficult to acknowledge the diverse ways in which so many people over so many years have contributed to make this book possible. I can never thank them enough. I take this occasion to let them know that they have been part of the making of the book.

    I had started putting together ideas for this book during my Fulbright year, 2006-07, I spent at the Anthropology Department, University of North Carolina, USA. I am most thankful to Arturo Escobar for clarity, critical ideas and much needed inspiration. The book wouldn't have been possible without him.

    Chapters 3 and 4 are based on studies conducted as part of a multi-country research project—the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability. I am very thankful to Rajesh Tandon, John Gaventa, Andrea Cornwall, Vera Coelho, Lisa Thompson, Steven Robins, Joanna Wheeler, Mandakini Pant, Bettina von Lieres and others who commented on drafts and with whom I had an opportunity to discuss in workshops. The studies would not have been complete without two people, Ganga Joshi and Tapas Satpathy. They were my constant companions in the field and from whose work in the villages of Uttarakhand and Gujarat I gathered some of the key learnings in social mobilization. Thanks for being with me in work and in leisure.

    For Chapter 5, I am most thankful to Gaya Prasad Gopal and Bhagwat Prasad of Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Seva Sansthan, Chitrakoot. I visited the area in 2008. They not only took me to the villages where I had a chance to know about the land rights struggle of the Kol Tribe but also were most helpful in providing many details during subsequent discussions in person and on phone.

    The interactions held during fieldwork and conducting workshops, besides many informal conversations, generated ideas that have gone into the book. Space is a limiting factor in naming people individually. Herein I extend thanks to all.

    Outside the boundary of work, family and friends have encouraged, indulged, arranged lunches and coffees, skyped from long distances. All of you must know that you have been invaluable.

    Last but not the least, my thanks to the editors at SAGE for taking this work forward from the manuscript to a printed volume.

  • About the Author

    Ranjita Mohanty is a social scientist based in Delhi. She has been working for past 20 years with a cross-section of institutions that include universities, research organizations, grassroots groups, bilateral and multilateral organizations, thus combining research with policy and practice. Her research covers a wide range—development, social policy, participation, social exclusion and inclusion, civil society, citizen action, and rights and entitlements.

    Ranjita Mohanty has a PhD from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dr Mohanty has held several positions including Fulbright Senior Research Fellow, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA; Visiting Fellow, University of Western Cape, Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa. She has coedited two books, Does Civil Society Matter? Governance in Contemporary India and Participatory Citizenship: Issues of Identity, Exclusion, Inclusion, both published by SAGE.

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