The Chitrakoot Project- A Campaign for Self Reliance
Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) was founded in 1972 by Nanaji Deshmukh to validate the philosophy of Integral Humanism propounded by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916-1968). Integral Humanism gives us a vision for India that, with an approach to man and his relationship to society that is integral and complementary, could transform India into a self-reliant and compassionate example for the world to follow.
Nanaji Deshmukh quit active politics in 1978 to develop a model for the development of rural areas on the basis of Integral Humanism. After initial experiments in Gonda (U.P.) and Beed (Maharashtra), Nanaji finally fine-tuned an integrated program for the development of rural areas that covers health, hygiene, education, agriculture, income generation, conservation of resources, and social conscience, that is both sustainable and replicable. The basis of the project is ‘Total transformation through total development with people’s initiative and participation’.
The project, called the Chitrakoot Project or the ‘Campaign for Self-Reliance’, was launched on 26th January 2005 in 80 villages around the Chitrakoot area in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The aim is to achieve self reliance for these villages by 2005. When complete in 2010, the project hopes to make the 500 villages surrounding self-reliant and serve as a sustainable and replicable model for the India and the world.
It is not long ago, when Satna District of Madhya Pradesh was one of the most backward regions for the country. Agriculture was the general source of livelihood of the people here and due to paucity of rainfall, farming was on the decline. Farmer, the bread provider of the country was not able to provide enough for himself and his family; his contribution towards the food stock of the country was just beyond imagination. Due to paucity of water – nothing else was visible but barren land, yellow coloured mountains and dead plantation. The census of 1991 counted Satna amongst the most backward regions of the country. Nanaji Deshmukh witnessed a great lack of development in this region and he made it his preferred workplace.
There was no better place for the Centre of the Institute except Chitrakoot. Lord Ram and Bharat scripted one of the greatest stories of renunciation and devotion. Nanaji added one more extension in that series. Chitrakoot is the place where Bharat tried to persuade Ram and requested him to come to Ayodhya and take over the Kingdom but Ram did not agreed to his request. On this Bharat took his footwear back. Ram spend a long time of his forest stay at Chitrakoot. Nanaji Deshmukh also relinquished politics at the age of sixty and devoted his life to social service. In today’s context, Nanaji’s sacrifice is no less exemplary than that episode.
Deendayal Research Institute’s Chitrakoot Project is an effort to transform the whole region and it will lead to similar efforts across the country to make every village self reliant. For the time being, it is aimed to make 500 villages self reliant by 2010 through Chitrakoot Project and the workers of the Institute are implementing a rural development project that can change the picture of India’s future.
Started on 26th January 2002 under Chitrakoot’s self-reliance project, 500villages in 500 kms radius with Chitrakoot as Centre, will change their destiny by their own hands. One hundred self reliance centres have been chosen to give this project a concrete shape which aim at building a prosperous society. In the first phase of the project, 80 villages have become self reliant and the remaining are all set to achieve self reliance within the remaining time period.
The drive for Self-reliance of Villages started in 1991 with Chitrakoot’s Maghgavan region. Maghgavan region is one of the most backward regions. Workers’ of the institute moved around the villages to get familiar with them and sooner they were able to win their hearts. The simple and straightforward villagers staring sharing their problems with the workers of the institute. During this interaction, farmers came to know that they are using old technology and seeds for farming.
Neither they know the quality of the soil of their land nor they know which fertilizer is to be used for which crop. Dependence on rain due to scarcity of water. All this results in low productivity. If farmer gains nothing even after putting in hard labour all through the year, then he is left with no other option except to work as a labourer. Data shows that at that time about 25% people use to leave from the areas near Chitrakoot after leaving farming to city in search of other jobs. The remaining survived on 100 days wages under employment guarantee scheme and the foodgrains they got under public distribution system for providing succor to their family. This cannot be an ideal society for an agrarian society.
There is an traditional phrase which Thighlights the importance of water– Don’t Let the Pitcher Break – Husband may Die. This shows that the water was more precious than the life of a person. Where there is scarcity of drinking water, one cannot think of enough water for agriculture. DRI understood the difficulty of the villages and gave priority to arrangement of water.
Statistics shows that there was consistently a decline in the quantity of rainfall as well as reduction in the days of rains in Maghgavan Development Block. Farms were dry and stocks vanished, farmers were digging earth for water endlessly. How long can a thirsty soil provide water, as such the resources dried out. The result was the rivers dried up and even there was no water in the ponds. Villagers have to travel miles for fetching drinking water.
Deendayal Research Institute’s Agricultural Science Centre, Maghgavan started Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Management Mission in a village– Tagi, about 18 kms from the Block Headquarters. During this effort, every drop of rain was stored and returned to mother earth so that earth’s resources are replenished and the region becomes green. The scenario of the village changed in no time and villagers dependent on forest growth started returning to agriculture.
After this, water harvesting work was started in 17 villages spread over 12536 hectares. For this right from mountain tops to the foothills water availability was enhanced through various measures such as loose bolder check, contour trench for water storage, drain dams, ponds and sidings were constructed.
After arrangement of water, farmers Awere provided good seeds and were also trained in modern farming techniques. There were enlightened about the quantity and quality of fertilizers and subsequently year after year farmers progressed. With the help of CAPART, farmers were encouraged to undertake organic farming in 2001 and accreditation was arranged with SGS to ensure that they get the right value for their harvest.
In addition, the Institute collaborated with Udyamita Vidyapeeth for packaging and marketing of farmers’ harvest and started selling Mustard, Wheat, Gram, Pulses and Moongh under Panchvati Brand name in the nearby markets. The region has a good crop of Amla. Udyamita provided training to farmers for making various byproducts so that they can earn their livelihood in the village itself. For this Gramodaya Trade mark was taken for mustard oil. Villages have the option of selling their produce to DRI or make different byproducts to sell in the market.
In every work, DRI helps as a friend to the farmer. This resulted in farmers getting the right price for their produce and the process of self-reliance in villages started. Since last couple of years, exodus from those villages has stopped where DRI is actively working and villagers have become prosperous and healthy. Since farmers have got year round food security, they are neither dependent upon Public Distribution System nor they need 100 days employment every year under the Employment Guarantee Scheme.
After making farmers self reliant financially, Deendayal Institute focused on other issues of self reliance. Quality education and grooming facilities were provided to ensure the next generation of the country becomes valuable citizens. DRI’s Educational Research Centre is fulfilling this responsibility. There are four schools in Institute’s project region where education is imparted from nursery to higher level. August Muni’s gurukul was established in Dandkarnayam where Lord Ram also got education.
Inspired by this, Nanaji established Gurukul Sankul in 2002. There were 24 members in each gurukul. In these gurukul’s retired educationists stayed alongwith their wife and 20 students as head of the Kutumb and he was assisted by resident helpers and agriculture helpers. There are about 10 gurukuls here where impart education to children from nearby states also. A school has been opened in Maghgavan for girls of scheduled tribes and there is a drastic change the behavior of the villagers who use to pick up fights on the request of sending their daughters to school – a smile of happiness has taken the place.
Special efforts have also been made by Deendayal Research institute to improve the health of the villagers. Under the Chitrakoot scheme, special stress has been given ayurveda and naturopathy. Under this local herbs were collected and knowledge, about treatment of various diseases through these herbs, was provided. Dadi Ma’s Purse of 34 herbs was used for treating a number of daily life diseases. Number of such herbs are growth in the herbal garden in the campus of the Institute and villagers are enlightened about their beneficial use. The diseases which cannot be treated through ayurveda or naturopathy, are treated at the Deendayal Research Institutes Ayurvedic and Naturopathy Research Centre – Ayrogyadham where ultra modern facilities are available. For the purpose of instilling values amongst the educated villagers, a unique museum ‘Ramdarshan’ has been established at Chitrakoot by the Institute. This grand and picturesque museum tries to portray Lord Ram as an efficient and ideal democratic ruler which is more relevant to the contemporary times. The museum inspires villagers to live peacefully and help each other.
President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam visited Chitrakoot on 6th October 2005. He commended the work being carried out by the Institute. He said “I see Chitrakoot Project as an integrated model for the development of rural India. It aims to create a society which is bonded in family, proud of Indian culture, vibrant with Indian knowledge and modern education, free from social tensions, empowerment of all particularly women, healthcare, sanitation, care for environment and equal distribution of wealth amongst all. This gels with my philosophy that developing India does not mean only financial progress, but also development of art, literature, humanity and purity of though and above all conservation of our 5000 years old rich cultural legacy.”
The work of Deendayal Research Institute at Chitrakoot consolidates the belief that the country is again standing on the verge of a grand revolution and if the right people took the right step in the right direction,transformation of the country is all set to happen. The light that Nanaji Deshmukh has lit in 500 villages with a dream for happiness for all, is to be ignited in the hands of the youth all over the country. When crores of hands rise together to ensure participation of people in the process of development and commitment, to take benefit of development to the people, the fire of self reliance with enlighten the lives of people in six lakh villages across the country.