Right from the beginning the process was a devilish one. The paper work that has to be done to set up and run an NGO was beyond the capacity of the adivasi activists like my good friends Khemla and Shankar and so all the work fell on my reluctant shoulders. Now I was totally against doing such paper work having ditched such work to come to Alirajpur to live a carefree life among the Bhils. The net result was that the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra never lived up to its name. Dhas in Bhili means communitarian labour that is traditionally practised by the Bhils, Gramin Vikas means rural development and Kendra means Centre. There was some sporadic water and soil conservation work, some sustainable agriculture and some construction of buildings but that was about all and it was far from being a communitarian effort or a rural development centre. After I left Alirajpur even that little work stopped and the organisation became somnolent. In the end we did not manage to get much funds either.
Then suddenly last year we were all shaken up from our comfortable slumber when suddenly the organisation that had given us the funds for carrying out the development work in the early 1990s sent us a legal notice demanding repayment of the funds with accumulated interest as we had not allegedly utilised them. This organisation was a government agency called CAPART that had come in for considerable criticism for having given funds to dubious NGOs which had defalcated them. They had consequently begun cracking down on such NGOs and had sent us a notice even though we had submitted proofs of the work having been done which they had misplaced. So we got cracking and searched our own moth-eaten records and found out all the audit reports and measurement books and sent copies of them to CAPART along with testimonials from the people who had done the work and photographs of the constructed structures to settle matters. All this effort rekindled the old fire in us and Shankar, Khemla and I decided to revive Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary and make it work again. So now it has started functioning with a modest grant for a participatory hydrological study of the Maan river sub-basin of the Narmada river basin. However, the great voluntary energy to change the world that used to drive the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath in its heydays in the early nineties is obviously not there to the same extent. Here is a picture of that earlier invigorating time with Khemla right in front in the foreground.
However, we are stuck with the old problem of paperwork again and as before it has fallen to my lot. Khemla is so allergic to paper that we took all of three months to open a bank account in Indore as he continually used to forget to bring one document or other. Now to get round this problem he is taking classes in computer applications so that he does not have to handle paper and can do everything electronically! The tragedy is that without the backing of an NGO there is no way in which a person like Khemla can survive, however much he may perch himself on high moral ground and rail against the inequities and intricacies of modern development. Khemla, ever since he was rusticated from school when he was in class five for beating up the hostel warden who was filching the food meant for the students, has consistently argued that education and paper have been the undoing of the human race and will surely send us to our consummate ruin very shortly! Since the music of the Beatles is uppermost in my mind these days I will conclude with an ode to Khemla filched from another top class number of theirs - The Fool on The Hill
Well on the way head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices is talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him,
Or the sound he appears to make,
And he never seems to notice,
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.