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PARTICIPATORY COMMUNICATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Singh SRK and Jha SK
The development processes based on top-down approach which have not only perceived the clientele as passive audience of the developmental programmes rather than being an active participants, but also undermined the importance of indigenous technical knowledge, beliefs, and social systems. The strategy catered the developmental plans more in the interest of the urban elite than the rural people, and could not solve the problems of the needy people at grass-root level. Such situation gave birth to an alternative communication named as participatory communication. Participatory communication (PC), a by-product of participatory approaches and participating communities, is an innovative approach for sustainable development of rural people. This communication methodology involves people at different stages of development viz., decision-making, implementation, evaluation, and sharing of benefits the developmental projects. The communicators in this process are not only neutral movers of information but intervene actively to trigger changes aimed at encouraging people’s participation. In fact, it’s a dynamic and two-way process of communication, in which the techniques of communication have not changed, instead ideologies and philosophies behind the practice of the techniques have been moulded. There is main emphasis on interpersonal and traditional methods, viz., street theatre, folk songs, speech, and group activities as effective channels for communication. The process can work effectively at all levels i.e. community, regional and sub-regional. Besides, there is “Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal (PRCA)” technique, which is used for strengthening the participatory communication process. Before applying this communication methodology, there happens to be few pre-conditions like- type of community, leadership quality, conflicts, situation, cost involved, external funding, etc. which has to be cared by the concerned communicators and/or extension personnel. However, there are some challenges before the practitioner apropos application of PC in real situation, viz., proper definition, conflicts, up-scaling, governance, co-existence with other communication, long term commitment, flexibility, effective training and confidence building, etc.. Thus, it is the responsibility of the extensionist and/or development communicators to meet challenges, so that, it could be used at wider scale. Moreover, all processes have its own limitations, likewise PC has too, which
are: PC is not a panacea for development; the apparently opposing concepts of participation and manipulation can be viewed from many perspectives; the price, people have to pay for taking part in PC, is often overlooked. For proper implementation of PC, the limitations must be given proper attention. Keeping above facts in mind, it could be said that PC has immense potential and can play vital role in changing socio-cultural and econo-political arena, where we are trying to assure sustainable development of community up to maximum extent. Thus, it is prime time to harness the real benefits of such innovative communication process, which is well-capable to speed up the rate of adoption by reducing the existing communication gaps between technology generator and its ultimate user.