I have been guided by my dream and mission to balance the needs of human development while preserving the fragile environment. I have had to play a very delicate role to strike a balance between development and environment. I feel I have been able to take very far-reaching initiatives to inculcate new technologies, and at the same time taking care of complex environmental issues confronting us today. One of the distinguishing features of my humble endeavour has been the transparent and participatory nature of policy and decision making. I have been interacting with a very wide cross section of the public because I firmly believe that a participatory partnership with the stake holders is the hallmark of our democratic process. In keeping with these cherished traditions, I now present to you through this web site an account of the initiatives taken by me during the last two years with the active collaboration of the public. Exchange of views is one of the best vehicles for interaction, I therefore earnestly urge upon everyone to contribute their valuable ideas and suggestions, irrespective of faith, religion, culture and geographic diversity, towards sustained development and betterment of our environment and resurgence of "Bharat"- My Dream and Mission.
Undoubtedly, my country has traversed a long way in the pursuit of excellence through modernisation and industrialisation. The economic development has, however, also unfortunately brought in its wake many environmental problems.
This 'development' has resulted in a conflict with sustainable use of our natural resources like air, water and biological diversity. Our life styles are no more in harmony with nature. 'Conservational Approach' which is the soul of our ancient culture has been replaced by consumerism. We have, thus, not only become contributors to environmental pollution but also its victims. We have, to synthesise development and environmental concerns. My major thrust has, therefore, been on changing the mindsets of the ever-craving populace and in ensuring that public policy and decision making are sensitive to environmental concerns. This mammoth task can only be achieved with complete and total involvement of the people.
In consonance with my dream and mission, I have endeavored to analyse environmental issues in a holistic and integrated manner involving governmental and non-governmental stake holders. The task is far from over and much more time and effort is required to deal with the issues of environmental conservation, which cut across various sectors of development.
The Konkan area of Maharashtra is a picturesque part of the State which is sometimes even referred to as the paradise on earth. With its unique geographical terrain having the sahyadri mountain ranges on the east, low level plateau in the middle and wide beautiful beaches on the serpentine coastline on the west, this land presents a delightful exhibition of the Nature’s grace.
This beautiful land which produces one of best varieties of mangoes in the world, is thickly covered by coconut, cashew trees and lush green paddy fields and is also rich in various minerals. This rich land has however a very high level of poverty. Almost one-third of the population lives below poverty line and a large part of the working age population has migrated to the greener pastures in big cities like Mumbai, Pune etc. Despite having comparatively a very high literacy rate, there is vast unemployment. Despite the scenic beauty, rich tradition of folk art and handicrafts the land nowhere figures on the tourist map of the country. In short it is a land of paradoxes
In the past, there have been many efforts to bring socio-economic development to the region with an high ideal of making it the California of India. We saw that the road network developed substantially and despite all odds the train services began their operation in mid 90's. Electricity reached almost every village, and telephones connected most of the villages. But the real development and a high standard of living still eludes the people of Konkan.
For past many years, I have been myself analysing this & have had discussions on this with people from different social strata, scholars, economists, agricultural scientists, social-scientists, politicians etc. I also studied different models of socio-economic development that had evolved in different parts of the country and of the world. With these inputs I started formulating a comprehensive plan for development mainly of the area falling in my constituency i.e. the Sindhudurg district and 3 talukas of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. I realised that the solution has to be through total involvement of people and a comprehensive decentralised package of various activities encompassing every aspect of human life be it agriculture, industry, education, health, religion or sports. I also realised that while chalking out the plan, I could divide the total population in 6 different socio-economic groups viz. farmers, women, youth, fishermen, ex-servicemen and backward classes. The developmental activities need to be centred around these groups which I call "target groups" The stratification of population has helped in focusing the activities for the betterment of a particular target group. Since the activities are centred around that cohesive group, they motivate the members of these group who with their combined efforts can speed up the developmental initiatives. The stratification has also enabled us to have an organisational structure with a representative of each of the target groups at different levels.
With the above development model in mind, our developmental initiative has created a clearly defined organisational structure which involves a network of 105 NGOs for the 1200 villages of Rajapur constituency each looking after the development of approx. 10 to 12 villages in its area of operation through a Parivartan Kendra (Centre of Development). These concepts and the structure have been elaborated in this booklet later. At the level of each village, clients of 10/12 villages, Taluka & District representatives of each target group are identified who look after the developmental needs and projects pertaining to their group. Manav Sadhan Vikas Sanstha (MSVS), a prominent NGO from the area is coordinating these activities as well as the NGO network. For each group of 10 villages, there is a Parivartan Kendra which is the hub of all developmental activities in those 10 villages The participation of NGOs in the formal structure is to ensure participation of people in the developmental activities. No matter how much the Government invests in the developmental activity, the efforts would not succeed unless there is an active participation from the people. The participation also ensures proper utilisation of the funds made available for the developmental initiatives. The importance of the structure lies in thus institutionalising the developmental efforts.
There are hundreds of Government schemes launched by the Government which are aimed at betterment of different sections of the society. The schemes of all ministries of the Government at the Centre/State and at the local levels have already been collected, and analysed. Experience has shown us that lack of information about these schemes is one of the major hindrances in the developmental process. To disseminate the information we are taking these schemes to the people explaining them and following up the proposals with the various Government Departments. Thus the structure as referred to earlier acts as a permanent pipeline through which the information about government schemes are now reaching the people and feedback from people is reaching the Government.
I visualise development in different sectors taking place at the same time so that the benefits of synergy are made available. Thus, development in agriculture sector is being supported by development in food processing and in marketing of the agricultural produce. The development of tourism is being linked with conservation of environment, development of medicinal plantations and promoting Eco tourism etc. As these developmental activities result into employment generation, there would be a need to provide training to the locals to meet the needs of various jobs. As the economic activities start bearing fruits & money starts flowing into the region’s economy, newer opportunities would emerge especially in the service sector. The necessary infrastructure to motivate and train local people to grab the opportunities provided by this sector is of paramount importance especially from the employment angle. A vocational training university has been created for this purpose in Rajapur constituency.
Mere stress on the economic activities would not yield results unless supplemented by efforts in the field of health, education and recreation. Activities in these fields would enrich the life of the people making it more wholesome and meaningful. Social scientists accept that such activities help in increasing the general contentment in the society which in turn favourably affects the efficiency and motivation levels acting as a catalyst in the developmental process. A web of all such activities is being put in place to help people to add meaning to their lives.
All this thinking is based on my own views and the impressions of people I have consulted from different fields of life. But in order that the people, for whom this developmental strategy is to be put into place, can also contribute to the thinking process, a survey of the present availability of infrastructure, of their problems and their aspirations is essential. A comprehensive survey of this nature in all 1200 villages of the constituency is already underway which would provide the necessary factual base for the strategies that we plan.
Five years down the line I see my constituency as a real model for development in this country, the development which integrates the economic social and ecological aspects in a holistic manner, where the development brings more contentment and provides a more meaningful life, as it is based on a meaningful participation of the people themselves. It would be that heaven which perhaps Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has exhorted us to aspire for in his famous poem -