The problems of the developing countries/the majority world are totally different and require appropriate solutions. The Indian reality, juxtaposed to Bauhaus is its enormous population where one finds a diversity of languages, cultures, behaviors. What this diverse population has in common is that the majority live in villages which lack infrastructure.
At the NID’s inception, one major question posed was this: why would a poor country with millions of starving people need design? Four decades later the question is still valid. The rich became richer, the poor became poorer and design did not reach villages where it was needed most.
Decades ago, the author suggested India had a need for a “barefoot designer,” taking a cue from the phenomenal success of China’s barefoot doctor movement. The concept involved residents of Indian villages selecting a suitable member of the community who would be sent to a design school in the city, undergoing a short, tailor-made program relevant to the particular needs of the village in question. On return, this person would train a dozen others from adjacent villages, thus causing a multiplier effect. Design competency would be applied to their most urgent needs, which they understand best. Optimistically, this would cause a rural design revolution.
Experiments were undertaken in this direction by a few Indian designers: for instance, the Rural University project in Jawaja, where the NID adopted a village. However, such cases are rare because for designers to stay in a village without pay is a sacrifice. Online learning is not possible in villages due to lack of electricity, literacy and internet connectivity.
Equality by design is a democratic necessity whose scale is proportional to population density. India thus tops the list, having the largest number of physically, mentally and socio-economically challenged people. Universality is not uniformity and the universal design principles of America cannot be applied in India because of the differences in socio-cultural contexts. A wheelchair, for example, is of no use in India’s rural areas due to a basic cultural/physical non-compatibility. In 2011, an Indian design group developed Universal Design India Principles. Yet, in almost all of the design schools in India, universal design has not entered the curriculum.
Bauhaus principles continue to guide Indian design education in spirit, with the proviso that its application ought to be appropriate to the social, economic, cultural and political realities of the nation.