Despite being part of the development sector for almost 7 years, I got introduced to the various theories of international development only during my master’s at LSE, 2 years ago. In fact that was one of the reasons I mentioned in my SOP for why I want to do the program. Over time I observed that the field of development is a constant debate and there are so many different voices, from around the world, contributing to the debate. While the arguments and suggestions they put forth may vary, all share the same goal of reducing poverty or more recently of improving ‘wellbeing’ of people.
While I have come across numerous examples, substantiating the observation, in literature; very recently I experienced it firsthand. When I was writing my last article on Ajeevika Bureau, somewhere in the middle of the article I went back to my article on Sahaj Foundation, and I was pleasantly surprised to notice the striking similarities in the problem yet two very different (almost opposite) approaches to address the same.
Both Dahod (where Sahaj works) and districts of Southern Rajasthan like dungarpur and rajsamund where Ajeevika Bureau works are characterised by low rainfall, single crop agriculture and small land holdings; thus necessitating the need to look beyond farm employment for sustenance. However, in both the regions, lack of local opportunities leaves little choice but to migrate to the nearby towns. But migration, as I also described in Ajeevika Bureau, is not always easy, especially for unskilled workers who face constant financial and physical insecurities when in city. In Dahod, unsuccessful migration also triggered high rates of violence and robbery.
In essence, both Sahaj and Ajeevika Bureau started with the aim of addressing the issue of migration for the wellbeing of tribal people living in their areas. The difference lies in their approach. While Sahaj, took the path of reversing migration by providing employment opportunities locally and training people to be self employed; Ajeevika Bureau worked towards facilitating migration, by providing financial services to assist in migration, support groups and advisory and legal services to ensure successful migration.
As goes with everything, both the approaches are right and none is wrong. While migration needs to be kept in check both to ensure the development of villages locally as well as to ensure that the cities are not congested; it is also important to understand that it cannot be completely curtailed. Thus efforts to enable successful migration are also equally important. It is therefore important to listen to all the voices and opinions in a development debate as most often there is no clear right or wrong.