| The elan vital of rural development |
Way back in the sixties, some Sarvodaya workers recognised the plight of most of the bhoodan allotees and realised that it did not do any good to distribute bhoodan lands to the landless and leave them with no wherewithal to use the land productively. With this recognition, realisation and inner urge of a mission, a few Sarvodaya activists got together in 1969 and helped develop about 70 acres of uncultivable bhoodan land in Sevalur-Pudukottai area of Ramnad district, Tamilnad. This initial project demonstrated that bhoodan allotees could indeed improve their lot if the necessary support was provided. Impressed by this fact, the volunteer group extended the scope and coverage of its work and by 1978 it had 16 such farms in five districts of Tamilnad, covering about 800 acres of land and benefitting 364 families. It was now felt that the bhoodan allotees of other States also needed such support. To meet this need, the volunteer group considered it necessary to have a nationwide organisation. The NGO under study was thus born on December 30, 1978.
The long-term goal of the NGO was and continues to be to establish gram swaraj and through it create a sarvodaya society — an ideal social order in which no individual or group will be oppressed, exploited, alienated or excluded; all persons will share the produce of their labour; the strong will protect the weak and function as their trustees; and each will promote the welfare of all.
The NGO is at present engaged in about 100 projects, spread over seven States of India. These projects include six Block Development projects. Natham is one of the six.