April 18, 2011 Pochampally, Nalgonda District, Andhra Pradesh
Based on report by Vishali Vishwanath, Communications Team, BASIX
The last day of ‘Shodh Yatra’ was planned to culminate on April 18, 2011 in a village called Pochampally (about 45 Kms from Hyderabad) where Acharya Vinobha Bhave started the Bhoodan Movement in the year 1951.
The venue was the AP rural tourism complex built next to the spot where Vinoba had come in 1951. The participants included staff, Senior Management, Board Members and well-wishers, friends and collaborators of BASIX. The day started with a short prayer at 7:30 am followed by a few devotional songs
Hum Ko Manki Shakti Dena
Vaishnav jana to taine kahiye jey pir parai janey rey
Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam
The prayer meeting was followed by a brief introduction by Vijay Mahajan (VM) about the Bhoodan Movement led by Acharya Vinobha Bhave and its significance. It was here at exactly this spot exactly 60 years ago that Acharya Vinoba Bhave launched the Bhoodan Movement on 18th April 1951. VM described how it originated here. After Independence, there was a lot of expectation of land reforms, but as that did not happen, disaffection spread among the landless. In Andhra Pradesh, armed struggle started in the Srikakulam district and spread all over northern AP. In the Nalgoda area, Pochampally vollage was a hotbed of Communist inspired violence.
Vinoba came to visit the village to underatnd the situation, He was met bya group of landless on his way to the village and they told him that they supported the Communists because the Communists had promised to help them get land. Otherwise they found it hard to even have food to eat. Vinoba asked them to come to his prayer meeting in the evening. There he said the landless had a justified grievance. He wondered aloud if any landlord would give part of his land to the landless so they could also live with dignity. On hearing this, V Ramachandra Reddy, a landlord who had 1600 acres of land, said he would give part of his land to the landless. Vinoba was very touched by his gesture and asked him to think of it overnight, saying it was the beginning of a peaceful revolution.
The next morning, Ramachandra Reddy reiterated his pledge and Vinoba then announced that this was the begionning of the Bhoodan Yagna (Land Gift Movement), for whioch he would undertake a padayatra (walking tour) of India. He then walked without a break for fourteen years, covering over 40,000 kms and collected over 4.2 million acres of land as gift for redistribution among the landless. This was indeed the world’s greatest peaceful land reform movement, and a fitting tribute to Gandhi from his freomost disciple.
In spite of the great efforts put in by Vinoba for the Bhoodan Movement from 1951 to 1965, its practical results were disappointing. In many cases landlords had gifted land that was under dispute, or had already been encroached. In other cases, the land was barren and uncultivable. In some cases, where the land was cultivable, the recipients did not have irrigation sources, plough bullocks or money for seeds and fertilisers. In many states, the Bhoodan Boards which were formed to distribute the land after a due process, had become bureaucratic or dormant, sitting on thousands of acres of donated land.
Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA):
By 1969, the year of Gandhiji’s birth centenary, many Gandhians felt that something must be done to correct this situation. In Tamilnadu the Sarvodaya Mandal under the leadership of Gandhian leader S Jagannathan, decided to start a project for settling Bhoodan recipients on their land, by digging wells, land leveling, providing plough bullocks and seeds and fertilisers and some working capital. The first such “Sarva Seva Fram” was set up in Sevalur village of Madurai district. The young Gandhian worker who led the effort was S. Loganathan and the he was supported in the financially as well as conceptually by Giovanni Ermiglia, a retired professor of philosophy from San Remo, Italy. By 1979, dozens of Sarva Seva Farms were set up all over Tamil nadu and the Bhoodan recipients saw a great improvement in their lives as a result.
Many Gandhians from other parts of the country requested Shri Jagannathan to start Sarva Seva farms in states like Bihar, Rajastham, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This led to the birth of the Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA), and NGO in 1979. Giovanni helped it to raise donor funds and Loganathan ji managed to mobilise bank loans, and ASSEFA started one project each in Bihar, Rajasthan and Maharshtra. Unfortunately, the success that was witnessed in Tamilnadu did not get replicated in the northern states and by 1981, the projects were in doldrums. The money was all spent and yet the work was not completed and no benefits had accrued to the Bhoodan recipients. They were in fact burdened with bank loans,
It was in this situation that Loganathan went in search of technical and management assistance. When late Prof Kamla Chowdhry of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, who on retirement became a program advisor with the Ford Foundation, visited ASSEFA, she said she will try to locate some young management graduates for him, who are committed to rural development. She came back and told a young program officer at the Ford Foundation to check with late Prof Ranjit Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, for some names. Ranjit Gupta suggested the name of a 1981 graduate of IIMA, Vijay Mahajan.
Deep Joshi first met Vijay on January 21, 1982 and arranged a meeting between him and Lognathan in March. The three developed a strong, warm relationship around the idea of ural development for poverty alleviation. In August 1982, Vijay joined ASSEFA as its Manager, Technical and Management Services, and started working in the Gaya project in Bihar also acting as Bihar State Projects Coordinator. He managed to turn it around in a year and then set up two new projects in Bihar, while recruiting young people like himself from IIMA to work with ASSEFA elsewhere. In order to attract a larger number of professionals to work in development and in NGOs beyond ASSEFA, with the help of Loganathan and TK Mathew of ASSEFA, Vijay set up Professional Assistance for Development Action or PRADAN (which means to give in return, as against DAN, which means to give in charity).
This was the NGO that VM set up in 1983 to recruit, train and deploy young professionals in development, who were to work wth NGOs like ASSEFA and later MYRADA, Anand Niketan, Seva Mandir, etc. Aloysius Fernandes of MYRADA was PRADAN’s first Board Chairman for many years till Prof Ranjit Gupta took over in 19989.
Some well known PRADAN professionals are Deep Joshi, who joined in 1986 and in 1988 took over as the Executive Director from VM, Deep continued in PRADAN till retirement and was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2009. A batchmate fo VM from IIMA, Ved Mitra Arya (who after a few years in PRADAN, founded SRIJAN) worked in ASSEFA Maharashtra and so did Pramod Kulkarni, who later founded PRERNA and Saathi. From the next batch of IIMA joined Vasimalai (who after many years in PRADAN, including as its third Executive Director, later founded DHAN Foundation) in Tamilnadu. From the next batch of IIMA was Guru Charan Naik, who worked for over a decade in PRADAN and now heads The Childrens’ Fund in Srilanka. In 1985, nwhen Vijay shifted to start ASSEFA in Guna, Madhya Pradesh, his role as State Project Coordinator in Bihar was taken over by Achintya Ghosh, who was PRADAN’s fourth Executive Director and is still in PRADAN. Sankar Datta, now the Dean of The Livelihood School was in PRADAN from 1984 to 1988. Another IIMA graduate, Biswajit Sen, joined in 1986 and worked for several years in Uttar Pradesh along with Vinod Jain of IIT Kharagpur. Biswajit is now Livelihoods Advisor to the World Bank while Vinod runs an NGO in UP. Also from IIT Kharagpur was Subodh Gupta, who later started Safal Solutions. Neelima Khetan wason of the first IRMA graduates to join PRADAN and was with it for only three years as she joined Seva Mandir, from where she has just stepped down after 25 years, including 12 as Executive Director. Girish Godbole from TISS joined in 1985 and after working with several NGOs in Maharashtra, left after a few years to head Save the Children, Soumen Biswas who joined PRADAN straight from IRMA in 1986, continued to work in Jharkhand and is now the sixth Executive Director of PRADAN. Stalwarts like Dinabandhu Karmakar, Narendranath, Nivedita Narayan, Anish Kumar, Madhu Khetan and Satyabrata Acharya, Anirban Ghose, among others continue in PRADAN, which is arguably one of the most effective grassroots livelihood promotion institution for the poor in India.
PRADAN was registered on Bhoodan Day, April 18, 1983 and since then VM has made it a point to register new entities on that day. He left PRADAN in 1991 and after five years of intense study and field work decided to set up a new generation livelihood promotion institution, BASIX. BASICS Ltd, the holding company of the BASIX Group, was also registered on April 18, in 1996. Thus the day has a lot of personal significance for VM.
BASIX has nearly 250 customers in villages around Pochampally and the local team arranged a field visit for the participants to meet the customers engaged in fisheries, and weaving activity. Pochampally is well-known for its ikkat (tie-amd-dye) weaving style and saris made here are considered of high aesthetic value. Once people came back from the field visit, breakfast was served and for the benefit of those who could not join the VM’s Shodh Yatra, an audio visual of his journey across the states of India was presented.
The Livelihood School Foundation Day:
TLS celebrated its annual day on April 18 every year and today is the 4th annual day, founded by Dr Sankar Datta, a long-term colleague of VM’s from PRADAN days. Lamp lighting ceremony was performed followed by a brief presentation of annual report of The School by the Assistant Dean, Ms Gouri. An e-learning module on livelihood promotion was inaugurated on the occasion.
Microfinance – Study on Suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Discussion:
This was followed by a presentation about the study conducted by an independent social science research team headed by Dr Davuluri Venkateswarulu, and his five colleagues. This study was a detailed investigation into suicides in AP which were allegedly caused by MFIs. The AP government had listed 87 cases and the study covered a 50% sample, 44 cases. The findings of the study revealed nearly 40 percent of the reported cases of suicides had no link at all with MFIs. But in the other cases, multiple borrowing from more than one MFI, as well as from SHGs was common. In some cases, suicides took place after recovery visits by the borrower’s group members either by themselves or with the MFI staff. This report is yet to be finalised and will shortly be made available in public domain .
Eminent persons who know the microfinance sector were invited to speak about their experiences on the subject –
Mr C S Reddy, CEO of APMAS, To view please click on link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCFle83ELTs,
Mr Girish Godbole, an independent documentary film maker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPnJYKR6KXU
Mr P D Rai, Member of Parliament, Sikkim spoke about the political leaders’ view about the sector. Please click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4e6nOZsL5Hk
Mr Vijay Mahajan, Chairman of BASIX, President of MFIN, and Chairman of Executive Committee of CGAP addressed the question of why he is defending MFIs. To view, please click on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YQHbkuJ7fA.
At his suggestion, a minute’s silence was observed to sympathise with the families where suicides had happened. Mr Vijay Mahajan also said that MFIs should offer monetary compensation in those cases where a link was established between a suicide and an MFI’s loan recovery practices. He also said strict steps should be taken that no such incidents happen in the future, by training and supervising the field staff and lending only after checking the prior borrowings of a household from a credit bureau.
Conclusion of the Shodh Yatra
VM then explained about the purpose of the yatra (the ABCD of Shodh Yatra as explained in the blog) and shared his experience and learning during this journey.
i) The poor continue to be resilient and improvise in various ways to ensure they have a livelihood. Compared to earlier, there is a high demand and awareness for education;
ii) Government is doing a difficult job in introducing several initiatives for upliftment of the poor and let us all come together, use this opportunity to help them make this successful through our journey of mission livelihood promotion and Inclusive growth.
iii) Many remarkable individuals continue to contribute to the nation, to the fellow-beings, to our democracy, so rather than questioning about what others have done and blaming each other, we should take inspiration from them and work.
iv) BASIX re-dedicates itself to working with the poor in a sustainable manner. All actions will be examined in the light of whether they fulfill our mission of promoting a large number of sustainable livelihoods for the poor. Sustainability is not just financial, it is also environmental and institutional (normative) and the recent lessons from the microfinance sector should be taken into account.
He thanked all those who joined him for a day or more and those who have been following the Shodh Yatra on his blog. As he said
My Yatra ends in Pochampally, the Shodh continues…