Together We Rise: From Poverty to Progress in Our Villages
Poverty alleviation is among the most pressing socioeconomic policy concerns today. Can the poor come together to help each other out? From Bihar, we have two dramatically different models of collective action. First, the Muzaffarpur people’s movement, a completely home-grown movement comprising mainly women from the most marginalized caste groups.
Started by Sanjay Sahni, an electrician in Delhi who returned to fight corruption in his village, the movement boasts tens of thousands of members who force the local state to bend their way by the sheer force of their collective will. On the other hand, there is JEEViKA, Bihar’s state-supported self-help group movement which encourages women to come together to participate in micro-lending activities and empower each other. JEEVikA has over 10 lakh self-help groups and 1.2 crore members.
In the battle against poverty, both these models have made gains, each having its own advantages and disadvantages.
This talk will discuss these two models and ask if there is a middle-path, one that combines the tremendous scale of JEEVika with the radical imagination of the Muzaffarpur people’s movement.
M. R. Sharan
M. R. Sharan is an Assistant Professor researching and teaching economics at University of Maryland, College Park. His research centres around questions in development economics and political economy. He has worked as a researcher and policy economist, with research organizations, state governments and the central government in India. He received his PhD from Harvard University in May 2020. His research focuses on inequality in socially diverse settings and how institutional and technological innovations could empower marginalized groups. Sharan’s research has been funded by grants from JPAL’s Governance Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Weiss Foundation, among others. In addition to research in economics, he writes more broadly. His first narrative non-fiction book on village politics in Bihar titled Last Among Equals was published in December 2021 in India. His novel Blue was published by HarperCollins in 2014.