ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death of a Dai

Development-Modernity’s ‘Success’ Story

In the case of childbirth, obstetrics is equated with development-modernity, while dais symbolise the lacking space which needs to be either co-opted through training or obliterated. The state, in its approval of this modernising project, offers several incentives and disincentives, even as everyday practice and the choices women make on the ground indicate a far complex reality. By moving through the life story of a real dai, this article underscores the absurdities and ironies that waylay the grand project of development-modernity in its journey towards its goal.

The author would like to sincerely thank Himani Bajaj, Hsing-Wen Chang, Anup Dhar and Sayori Ghoshal; she also acknowledges the Centre for Development Practice, Ambedkar University, Delhi and Manipal University, Karnataka.

A visit to some villages in Madhya Pradesh (MP) in early 2014 revealed a curious reality: where there were no pucca roads, there was a dai (midwife); if the village had a pucca road, it did not have a dai. This inverse relation between the road and the dai is symptomatic of the larger project of development-modernity that has long guided India’s vision of being part of the global developed economy. A pucca road (especially in geographic contexts such as rural interiors) stands for a two-way developmental dyad – (i) physical access to modern day services like healthcare, education and the market, by hitherto left-out poor communities; and (ii) physical access into such communities by agents of the state, offering the community “knowledge” and “services” in the form of, say, the accredited social health activists (ASHAs), female health workers, anganwadi centres, mid-day meals, the 100-day Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MgNREGA) work and more.

Road and the Dai

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