“We shall be required to produce such institutions as will kindle the spirit of action in us, which will replace the self-centredness and selfishness by a desire to serve the nation, which will produce not only sympathy towards our brethren, but a sense of affection and oneness with them. Such institutions can truly reflect our ?chiti?.?
Thus spake Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya in his famous four lectures on Integral Humanism in Mumbai in 1965. Almost four decades after those golden words were uttered, a businessman turned social activist turned BJP leader sought to transform this ideal in his own humble way in his home town of Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh.
Ahimsa Gram, set up barely three years back by Chetanya Kasyap, National Convener of the BJP'sConstructive Work and NGO Cell, has several achievements to its credit?no mortality, total family planning, cent per cent pass marks, all women residents earning minimum three-figure income, a quarrel-free environment, people of 36 castes ranging from Brahmins to Scheduled Castes and Tribes co-existing peacefully as neighbours.
The Utopian cluster is fast catching the attention of activists, experts, the private sector and Governments across the country.
Ahimsa Gram is built on a private land of 55000 sq feet and comprises 100 houses each having two rooms (10X10ft each), kitchen, a five feet open verandah, bath and WC.
Apart from roads, water tank, drainage, sanitation and market facilities, Ahimsa Gram also has a 30 ftX50 ft community hall for vocational and value training besides a 7000 feet garden and a primary health centre.
If Panditji'swords inspired him, the nationalist fraternity too has backed him to the hilt in this humanitarian task. While RSS Sarsanghachalak KS Sudarshan unveiled the model of the cluster in the presence of a host of dignitaries and top religious leaders including Acharya Mahaprajna, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha LK Advani distributed the first lot of houses to the residents.
Shri Kasyap, who has a 60 per cent of market share of the sorbitol production in India, always wanted to do something different, something innovative instead of just making liberal donations to charities like his rich forefathers. He firmly believes that homelessness along with alcoholism, non-vegetarianism and absence of a peaceful environment conducive for personal growth contributed in no small way to the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and resultant violence in society.
The 50-year old chairman of the Chetanya Kasyap Foundation says industrialists like him who have benefited from the society should contribute their mite (if not might) towards its development by empowering people to become self-reliant and not enslaving them through unaccountable charity.
Indeed, at Ahimsa Gram, there are no freebies, except the houses, tuition for children, Yoga classes and vocational training for women, all serving as mere facilitators for self-growth. Every family offers shram daan (voluntary labour) to keep their streets neat and clean. The Foundation has entered into a tie-up with a nearby private school for providing concessional education to the children of Ahimsa Gram.
The ?Ahimsa Gram? brand papads, namkeen, Masala and bags produced by the women (with the option of working either from home or the community centre) are selling like hot cakes both within and outside the state. The women are also well-trained and well-equipped to produce high quality note books.
The villagers celebrate all festivals with the Foundation organising a special lecture to explain the significance of each event and distributing sweets. The Yoga classes along with a vegetarian, non-alcoholic lifestyle has ushered in mental peace and financial stability among the residents.
If not the cash, the project, which has been visited by a host of dignitaries including Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L K Advani, has certainly inspired several industrialists and politicos to set up similar projects. H S Raka of Modern Woollens and BJP leaders including former Union Labour Minister Satyanarayan Jatiya and Rajasthan MP Pushp Jain are some of the inspired souls. And the list is growing.