The Gonda Gramodaya Project was inaugurated in 1978, soon after Nanaji retired from active politics by refusing to accept a Cabinet post in the Government of India.
He launched a unique experiment in integrated rural development to achieve “total transformation through holistic development with people’s initiative and participation.” The objectives proclaimed and set for the rural development programme by Nanaji in the year 1978 were:
- To develop modern science and technology, in accordance with Indian conditions to increase agricultural and industrial production.
- To bridge Economic and Social Disparities to build self-sufficient and prosperous rural communities and popularize cottage industries.
The first of DRI’s rural activities started with the Gonda Gramodaya Project in 1978. This was a unique experiment in integrated rural development to achieve “total transformation through holistic development, with people’s initiative and participation.” The objectives proclaimed and set for the rural development programme by Nanaji were:
- Application of modern science and appropriate technology suiting Indian conditions, to increase agricultural and industrial production.
- To bridge economic and social disparities through self-sufficient and prosperous rural communities, and popularizing cottage industries.
In his inaugural speech on 25th Nov.1978 the then President of India Dr. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy prophetically remarked;
“The whole country will look at Gramodaya Project of Gonda with keen interest. I shall watch this experiment with keen interest and am hopeful of its success. I am confident that devoted, selfless workers under the stewardship of a well experienced, enthusiastic and dedicated soul, Nanaji Deshmukh, will succeed in bringing a new era of peace and prosperity in Gonda district. I have no doubt that this movement will be carried to other parts of the country and there also a new sun of peace and prosperity will dawn.”
The success of this project attracted the attention of several inquisitive minds from within and outside India.
Shri Prembhai, convener of the committee appointed by the People’s Action for Development India (PADI), Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, writes in his report in 1981, “I submit that the members of the visiting team unanimously agree that very good work has been done in the Gonda project area. This project is a successful example of what can be achieved with official and non-official collaboration in a short time for the reduction of poverty from a backward rural area by increasing irrigation and the productivity of agriculture. PADI’s own financial involvement has been only marginal, to facilitate the implementation; of a large, minor irrigation project which used institutional finances to the tune of about 12 crores of rupees, for boring of over 27,000 tube-wells for the irrigation of nearly 2,50,000 acres of land belonging to about 95,000 farmers scattered in 2,008 villages of 25 blocks in Gonda district, in a time frame of two years. By any standard, this seems to be the most remarkable achievement by a voluntary organization in collaboration with the Government and the banks. It must be further studied to find out its multiplicability for the development of other backward rural areas.” The Economist, London, observed in its issue, dated 22nd May 1982: “The initial successes of Gonda Gramodaya project in the field of irrigation have attracted the worldwide attention particularly to the “use of bamboo in place of iron pipes for tube-wells thus reducing the costs to less than one-third and to the device of balloon driven water pump, which is eco-friendly at reduced costs when compared to the electric power and the diesel.”
Besides this, DRl has launched several rural development programmes like tree plantation to the tune of two lakh saplings, gau (cow) vikas centers, milk cooperatives (more than hundred in number) etc. These success stories led to the establishment of following projects:
Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Gopalgram, Gonda (U.P.) – Lal Bahadur Sastri Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) at Gopalgram Centre (Gonda Dist.) was established with the help of ICAR, Govt. of India, in the year 1989. This farm Science Center, situated in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh provides farmers of the region training in various disciplines to increase farm and non-farm income.
Jan Shikshan Sansthan (J.S.S.), Gandhi Park, Gonda (U.P.) – DRI established a Jana Sikshan Sansthan at Gonda in December 2000, with the aid of Government of India, where hundreds of rural youth undergo training every year in different trades to make themselves self-reliant.
Ramnath Arogyadham (Gonda) – This Ayurvedic hospital situated at Jaiprabhagram, Jankinagar, Gonda, (U.P.) is providing healthcare facilities in this rural area. Besides general healthcare this hospital also consists of a modern eye-care unit, child welfare unit and a Pharmacy.
Chinmay Gramodaya Vidyalaya – This model higher secondary school situated at Jaiprabhagram, Gonda, has more than 1600 boys & girls of this rural area on its rolls.
Jai Hanuman Chhatravaas and Trifed Junior High School – The unique educational complex is situated at Imelia Kodar in the tribal region of district Balrampur (U.P.). At present 250 tribal boys & girls are on roll in the school and 100 tribal boys & girls are residing in the hostel.