Gram Vikas is a village development programme launched in 1979 by Joe Madiath. He had started working with villages right from his high school days. He, prior to starting Gram Vikas, had taken a year-long odyssey of the whole country on a bicycle, travelling 100 kilometers a day, visiting villages and towns of the country. “That was an eye opener for me!” proclaimed Joe Madiath.
So when cyclone hit Orissa in 1971, he came to the state to work for the victims. He rebuilt roads, homes and schools for a year in Orissa post the cyclone. It’s after this phase that he started Gram Vikas in 1979. The aim of this NGO is to bring sustainable improvement in the lives of villagers in Orissa. Gram Vikas covers 2, 50,000 villagers from 22 districts.
Madiath spent the first 10 years in Orissa and started 6000 bio-gas plants to ensure steady supply of electricity in the power starved state. The next step was to deal with water issues in rural Orissa. 80% of rural areas didn’t have access to protected water. 95% of rural Orissa didn’t have sanitation facilities. So what Madiath did was, he collected Rs. 1000 from each family of a village and invested it in a bank. Sanitation facilities were built from the interest that came from the initial sum invested. The government also contributed in a small way. Madiath named the sanitation facility as the House of Dignity because he thought toilets gave each villager a sense of dignity and self respect. Gram Vikas has also resolved the issue of water supply to an extent by digging wells, building water tanks and by water harvesting.
We also visited a Gram Vikas residential school for tribal children, which was started in 1982. Currently around 460 tribal children study in this school. The students are mostly children of marginal farmers who own not more than two to three hectares of land. However, the male: female ratio in the school is skewed at 65:35. But, it has improved over the years and they expect it to improve as years go by.