M. L. Dantwala, Harsh Sethi and Pravin Visaria. Social Change through Voluntary Action. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1998. Hardback. Indian Rs 325.00. 199 pages.
Author: Rashida Haq

This book is an• extremely valuable addition to a very important topic concerning development issues at the grassroots levels. It has highlighted the contribution of voluntary organisations and proved that voluntary action can• be a potent instrument for bringing about social change, for eliminating poverty and for building an egalitarian and humane society. In the introduction, the editors remind the readers of the unfulfilled promises made before, and after independence, by leaders to banish poverty and inequality. Five of the eleven chapters in this book take a macro view of the context, the nature as well as the future of voluntary action in India: These articles describe the current state of affairs, the degeneration of the values of sacrifices and an unending quest for money and political power. So, it is argued, that basic values in public behaviour can be restored through vigilant and purposive voluntary action. But a major criticism of voluntary groups is their localism, small size, fragmentation and the failure to institutionalise them. The editors are of the view that thousands of such groups can collectively contribute to social transformation through their modest efforts at organising help for the needy, redress their• grievances and fight against atrocities inflicted on them. The articles evaluate the contextual factors influencing the emergence of voluntary organisations and their applicability to the Indian situation.