“Central to Akhtar Hameed Khan’s vision

was the still uncommon view that poverty was not simply the result of a lack of resources, but

an outcome of lack of power.”

–David Lewis

 

Born in 1914 in Agra, Akhtar Hameed Khan was a Pakistani Social Scientist known for his participatory, community based rural development initiatives. He resigned from Indian Civil Service in 1945 to mark his dissatisfaction with the colonial government’s handling of Bengal Famine. After migration to Pakistan, Akhtar laid the foundation of Comilla Co-operative Pilot Project in East Pakistan in 1959. As opposed to earlier approaches where the state tried to modernize the villages and failed, this project took a more community led approach, treating the farmers as equal participants instead of outsiders. He remained attached to the project till the separation of East Pakistan in 1971. He, then, kept working with the government as well as with the UN in the capacity of advisory roles on rural development. In 1980, he moved to Karachi and started Orangi Pilot Project for the improvement of sanitary conditions in the Orangi area; a densely packed, low income settlement in the suburbs of Karachi. It was again a participatory bottom up development project which involved an active participation of the community itself to improve its physical and social infrastructure instead of endlessly, hopelessly waiting for the messiah of the Government or NGOs. He died in 1999.

As a result of the mismatched, unplanned, rapid urbanization in our country; our cities are fraught with structural and development issues leading to problems like frequent pluvial flooding. Instead of making unrealistic, ambitious promises for political point scoring, the state needs to empower, facilitate the local communities to adopt the models of CCPP and OPP to save their localities.