Book Review – Voices from the Grassroots

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a prominent writer and politician from Great Britain once said, “Pen is mightier than the sword”, the Indian government appears to resonate with the idea and believe that “policies” are mightier than “execution”. Dr. R. Balasubramaniam (Balu), through his powerful narratives, gives an insight into how “what people want for themselves” is more important that “what some people think other people want”, and how sometimes (if not many), when the two “wants” sync, the delivery won’t happen as one would hope.

Through characters like Madi, Appiraja, Muddiah, Masthi, Mara and various others, Dr. Balu narrates incidents from his three decades of work with SVYM and GRAAM. The narratives are easily relatable and they paint lasting impressions on the mind of the reader. The author talks about concepts like how one constantly seeks affirmation from others, how Self Help Groups must be encouraged and built by not taking away their dignity and self-esteem, about how inequality in earnings is a growing cause of concern, the importance of contextually relevant and culturally appropriate development, the ground realities of sustainable development, the need for constant growth of human capabilities, the relationship of energy and its impact on development, and the dream of a resurgent India. The concepts and terms which are fashionable these days and are used in various forums worldwide are given a grassroots perspective and are brought as close as possible to reality from mere talk.

Dr. Balu finally blends the ideas of social, human and economic capital, and talks about a utopian world that once existed in India, which can happen again, A world “Where no one person would end up being indispensable to the overall social and economic fabric of the community, where power and information would be symmetrically shared, and all contributed to peace and harmony within the community.”

I would strongly recommend the “Voices from the Grassroots” to everyone from every sphere of the society. It is a short read, but one that’ll take you a long way.

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