A recent article in the EPW talks about the ‘Hard Work, No Pay’ way of doing research that some of us have been part of, and have learnt a lot from. The surveys that are organised by Reetika and Jean to find out about the workings of social schemes on the ground have been immensely important interventions in research and policy as well as in initiating young individuals like ourselves into research and action.
My first survey was in 2011. I was part of the Bihar team, and went to investigate the functioning of the Public Distribution System in districts of Katihar and Nalanda. Our team’s findings have been reported here. That survey was a critical juncture of my life, for it introduced me to extreme suffering and deprivation, but also to people’s resilience and struggle against them. Those 3 weeks challanged many of my previously held ideas and beliefs about development, caste, gender, state interventions, and much more. At a personal level, the survey was painful and confusing, as it made me uncomfortable with my privileges and demanded that I read, reflect and act to utilize these privileges in order to fight the inequalities that they entail. The survey also introduced me to people who care deeply about issues of justice, and who continue to inspire and shape me even today through their work and friendships. It won’t be an exagerration, therefore, to say that it changed my life, and that I owe much of who I am and what I do today to the ‘Hard Work, No Pay’ model of research and action. 🙂