Human development and economic development are often found to be lying in the extreme and opposite ends of the growth spectrum. Although the process for achieving both can be found intertwined at a societal level, the strategies and policies would be aiming almost exclusively at improving either monetary growth or quality of life measures.

The modern day world encapsulated by neoliberal policies through the promises of greater wealth often associate human development as an ancillary goal to the prime goal of wealth creation. Joint forces of media, political actors and corporations have snubbed human development as a socialist priority in contrary to wise principles laid down by Aristotle. The wealth creators of our time from the ivory towers of private enterprise have conveniently handpicked excerpts from the works of political economists such as Adam Smith, Robert Malthus, JS Mill ignoring the benevolent notions of ‘wealth as means to an end’; ‘economic development to overcome the public shame’. Mahbub Ul Haq’s theory of human development was visionary in two aspects. One, he consolidated all the views on human development which was lying scattered across literary works of different thinkers across time and distance. Second, for the first time he was able to quantify the human development progress made by a country and develop a level platform where two or more countries can be compared.

Human Development as a contemporary vision for societal reorganization

It has been proved to the human race that all the magnificent feats that we have achieved ever since the invention of wheel was the result of collective effort. Hence it is natural to ponder why this observation cannot be put into use for making each of our lives better. Organisational capacity of the society can be harnessed to overcome the socio-economic barriers and to harness all available information, knowledge, resources, technology, infrastructure, and human skills to exploit new opportunities. This is exemplified in the rise of cooperatives and Self Help Groups across the nation. The philosophy of behind self help groups is the bridge the gap between income choices and social obligations in the short run and in the long run the using the institution of SHGs as a vehicle for social transformation.

The idea of setting up a Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (Mudra) proposed in Union Government’s Annual Financial Statement of 2015 is a clear recognition of how significant is credit supply to the cooperatives who wish to come out of poverty though micro and small scale enterprises. For a long time, our blind faith in outdated variants of socialism have blinded us from the fact the people are both means and ends of development which is now visible through the new age philosophies of market socialism and cooperative socialism.SHG

World Bank in the late 1990s has come to the conclusion that there is no fixed framework for human development and that every economy should find and adopt policies that would fit in the socio-regional context. Neo-liberal policies ever since 1991, have failed to achieve equity, sustainability, productivity and empowerment with the same level of success in our western counterparts.

As a primordial agricultural economy and multitude of other factors, rural India is yet to develop the human and infrastructural capacity to transform into the market type economies which are found thriving elsewhere in the world. The western experience teaches us that collective of individuals with the right policy environment can mature itself into a joint stock holding company; the Indian experience would convey the need to teach ourselves how to collectively do business, which can be achieved through cooperatives. So the idea of cooperatives fill fit in as a second stage process between an individual and a company.

The idea of cooperatives as a tool for social reorganisation will have prompted outdated social organisations which promote ideas such as gender restrictions, caste based discrimination to mature itself into institutions that recognises human development as a prime motive behind every social institution. Modern India has witnessed the show of power of these cooperatives as they demand better schooling for their children, fight for government entitlements, and articulate issues once considered too sensitive to discuss publicly, like alcoholism and wife beating[1].

The government’s function is to provide an environment best suited for these micro-institutions to grow so that human capabilities are allowed to grow and to be made use for the overall growth of the economy. In this mission, government is equipped with critical tools of education and skill development of masses and leakage free income redistribution system.

[1] Philipose, Pamela., . (2014). High Up In The Naga Hills Women Are Discovering Collective Strength – See more at: Available: Last accessed 5th Feb 2015.

Authored by Theertha Menon and Gautam Jayasurya.


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