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Governance and Innovation Conference, BARD Comilla

In December 2014, I participated in the International Conference on Governance and Innovation at the Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD), Comilla. BARD was established in 1959 under the initiative of the Pakistani economist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan. It eventually became famous for its participatory approach and innovations in micro-credit and rural development in Bangladesh since the 1960s, which later came to be known as the Comilla Model of Development.


The conference was organized by the University of Dhaka in collaboration with the GAIN network. Participants from various parts of the world presented insights on governance and innovation in their countries. The chief speaker at the conference was Professor Subrata K. Mitra from the Heidelberg University.

Professor Mitra spoke about some “essentially contested concepts”. According to him an essentially contested concept is that “which cannot be directly measured and on which there is no consensus”.

Sahoo and Subrata Mitra BARD

According to Professor Mitra, governance means “rules, rule-abiding actions, and rules which are made jointly by the powerful and the powerless”. He criticized the concept of “good” governance and advocated for “multilevel” governance. For him, “multilevel governance is not just the Hobbesian state looking from the Westphalian heights with monopoly of legitimate violence but also looking down at all political arena, and wanting to combine the sovereign function of the state with the collaborative function of the state”.


My Workplace


Humboldtians Meeting the Bundespräsident der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Measurement of Social Variables: Placing Social Science Research in Context

T.K. Oommen

Date: April 4, 2012, JNU, New Delhi


According to Professor T.K. Oommen, there are three kinds of sciences: (1) Material Sciences, (2) Life Science, and (3) Social and Cultural Sciences. These three sciences are very different from each other in terms of their theories, methods and objects of study. It is therefore important to place social science in context in order to understand the quantitative methodology or measurement of social variables in social sciences.

Material Sciences: Material sciences study physical objects, which do not have ‘agency‘ or consciousness. These sciences deal with one-dimensional aspects of matter – physical aspect. The objects are capable of ‘reactivity‘ to the experiment. Here the objects under study are less complex, hence easy to measure.

Life Sciences: Life science is the study of plants and animals. Here life scientists deal with two-dimensional aspects – matter as well as life. It is comparatively more complex than material or physical sciences. It is more difficult here to measure the object because of their ‘responsivity‘. Animals have motives. Motives could be of two types: Biogenic and socio-genic. Biogenic motives are rooted in biology of animals. Plants do not have this, so it is difficult to study the responses of the animals than plants because animals are capable of behaviour.

Social and Cultural Sciences: This is the field of knowledge that deals with human beings. Here social scientists are dealing with three-dimensional aspects of the object of study – matter, life and culture. The degree of complexity involved here is very high, hence the possibility of precision is very less. If you make a study on rocks or plants, it cannot be interrogated. But social science study human beings which can be interrogated. Human beings are capable of ‘reflexivity‘ or interrogation, question and often revolt. The capacity of the object to question and interrogate makes research a more complex phenomenon. If a Sociologist can not quantify, it is not the problem of his or her but with the complexity of the object s/he studies – human beings. Each dimension added in physical, life and cultural sciences not only qualitatively different but also more complex. The distinct thing about human beings is that they are capable of creating ‘culture‘ – a meaning system or symbols.

Verification is possible through sense organs by touching it or experiencing it. But the scope of verifying is very limited. Symbols are difficult to verify. The capacity of human beings to imagine and to give meanings to symbols is very distinct to human beings. Believers believe in some objects as sacred. All religion have their sacred objects. Ganga Jal is sacred to the believer but not to a dog or a plant or a non-believer. The manner in which we handle sacred objects is different from normal objects. This symbolic value or the sacred character of Ganga Jal is difficult to study and incapable to measure although it is the same H2O like tap water. The value orientation or sacred character of Ganga Jal is difficult to measure. Throwing a piece of meat to a temple is to offend the sensibilities of Hindus has symbolic value. Social reality is thus difficult to measure.

CALL FOR PAPERS – Globalisation and People at the Margins: Experiences from India


Submissions are invited for a book on “Globalisation and People at the Margins: Experiences from India”.

Tentative Title:
Globalisation and People at the Margins: Experiences from India

Dr. Sarbeswar SAHOO and
Dr. Eswarappa KASI

Globalisation has brought many significant changes in the socio-political and economic spheres of Indian society. Although it has brought economic growth and expanded the size of the middle class in India, the lives of the marginalised people have not improved as expected. Globalisation has drastically transformed the relationship between the state and the civil society in India and, as a result, the state is withdrawing itself from the welfare agenda. In response to this, many of the non-state actors have emerged to take up issues that were previously undertaken by the state. Specifically, globalisation has followed a market-oriented development strategy, which has affected the livelihoods of the marginalised people. The civil society actors have strongly opposed this exploitative and exclusivist model of development and advocated for a more participatory and people-centric development paradigm. With this background, the book aims to dwell upon the theoretical and epistemological engagement of globalisation on the one hand, and the ethnographic and empirical experiences on the other. The book will follow inter-disciplinary perspectives, drawing on inferences from sociology, anthropology, politics, development and area studies. The editors invite abstracts or summary of the paper on the following themes.

1. Globalisation and Marginality
2. Globalization and Livelihoods
3. Globalisation and Social Welfare
4. Globalisation, Civil Society and the State in India
5. Globalisation and Political Mobilisation

The length of the abstract/summary of the paper should be around 500 words. The due date of submission of abstract is April 20, 2012. Abstracts should be submitted to sarbeswarjnu [ at ]; and kasieswar [ at ]

The last date for abstract submission has been extended till June 30, 2012.

Dr. Sarbeswar SAHOO is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max-Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt, Germany.

Dr. Eswarappa KASI is associated with the U.N. Women Project at the Center for Women’s Development and Gender Studies, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, India.

Making Aid Work?

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee (2007) Making Aid Work. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 170pp, £9.95, 978 0 262 02615 4


Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee’s Making Aid Work provides an excellent forum to discuss the problems engulfing international development aid. It argues that the ineffectiveness of foreign development aid is primarily due to “institutional laziness” (p.7). Banerjee argues that international donor agencies, NGOs and multilateral institutions do not pay much attention to the impact and “cost-effectiveness” (p.16) of a program and are often “unclear about what they should be pushing for” (p.21). Building on the drugs evaluation model, Banerjee argues that “randomized trials… are the simplest and best way of assessing the impact of a program” (p.10). Although “randomized trials are not perfect” (p.11), argues Banerjee, they provide “hard evidence” (p.113) and “spur[s] innovation by making it easy to see what works” (p.122).



The problems of foreign aid, as recognized by Banerjee, have been universally agreed upon by several economists and policy makers. However, his arguments on lazy thinking and randomized experiments have received skeptical responses. Many have rejected his accusations that the international donors are not pursuing impact evaluation and cost-benefit analysis. Banerjee’s argument is very limited and ambiguous. His academic training in economics influences much of his thinking on macro level quantitative experimentation, ignoring the dynamics of power relations at the grassroots level. He also fails to explain the idea of randomized experiment in a clear manner. His emphasis on laziness (not filling up a form) that is grounded on a particular example from Pakistan does not really apply to regular NGO functioning. As Mick Moore has rightly argued, development agencies are “staffed and run by expressive intellectuals” who are “skilled in performing the key functions of the contemporary aid business: producing position papers and strategy documents and managing inter-agency coordination meetings” (p.43).


By placing the emphasis on institutions, Banerjee has failed to address the “politics” of development and international aid, which often has created a “culture of dependency” at the grassroots level. Banerjee is also unable to understand that the problem of foreign aid is not primarily due to “institutional laziness” but the result of a rationalized and active institutional effort to depoliticize development and to create what James Ferguson (1990) has called an “anti-politics machine”. Nevertheless, Banerjee’s arguments have generated numerous pertinent issues and discussions related to the aid regime. His concluding essay has brilliantly addressed the machine like character of development policy making. The structure of the book is innovative, although the forum discussions are regrettably brief. 


This review has been published by Sarbeswar Sahoo in Political Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, January 2009





The history was busy to write your name,
Amongst  the nations with the highest fame.
The world was proud of your grace,
Virtue and love were the signs of your face.

From your soil, streams of justice used to flow,
To the vices and  wrongs , you were a lethal blow.
You used to inspire   a trust in all,
You drew no line between   big and small.

The cascade of wisdom from your mind,
Quenched the intellectual thirst of every kind.
To the benighted humanity, you sowed new seed,
The compassion of Jesus (p.b.u.h.) was your  creed.


Why suddenly, for you, this turn of fate?
How you emerged as a symbol of hate?

Stir up your conscience,
Look   ahead with prescience.
Strain your nerves to see the right,
With  a sense of justice, not with might.
Your eyes will perceive a demeaning course,
That made you believe in arms and force.


Delve deep into your soul,

To find out your filthy role.

Each part of the globe was within your reach,
With the  Bible in hand; its lesson to preach.
You threw it away with a ruthless shake,
Your hands now possess weapons , for power sake.


The world is now standing aghast,

Why this all has happened so fast?


I know, only a few in your midst,
Spoiled your serenity with a grisly twist,
Sullied your image as a graceful race,
And eclipsed the sedateness of your pace.

Rise up ! purge your glory,
Of the present grim story;
Restore  your  lost dignity,
With penitential ‘sad’ and ‘sorry’.

Listen to the shrieks and wails,
See the destruction and travails,
Your sons have caused in others’ land,
With the dead falling  like heaps of sand.

When the advent of  Christ (p.b.u.h.)  is too close,
Why you became so hideous, and why you chose,
To smear your face  with innocent blood,
To engulf  the humanity with your raging flood.

Now is the time for you to repent,
For what you have done, and what you spent,
To   bring about fright and fear all around,

Let once again the global ambience reverberate,

Not with threats and piercing cannonade,

But with your soothing sermons, and remorseful sound.



@ Written by Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani, President, All India Muslim Forum, Lucknow- India