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“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.?br> ?Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
BACK TO HIS ROOTS
The M. R. Morarka GDC Rural Research Foundation
Rajasthan, the second-largest state in India, evokes images of old havelis, folk dances, handicrafts, minakari work and camel rides. Its most noteworthy feature is that it is rich and diverse not only in culture and heritage, but also in its people, landscape and wildlife. Even today, Rajasthan has some pre-Harappan locales, such as the Kalibangan, which bear evidence of traditional agriculture and a sedentary, organised society. However, there's also a darker side to Rajasthan ?extreme weather conditions, deserts, famine, migration, sati, rapes, child abuse and female foeticide. Most of these ills boil down to one major cause ?unemployment.
Rajasthan is very close to the heart of Kamal M. Morarka, the dynamic, 55-year-old industrialist who heads the Gannon Dunkerley Group. Although born and brought up in Mumbai, Kamal Morarka is in his element when he meets the villagers of Shekhawati, one of the most backward areas of Rajasthan from where his ancestors hailed.
His initiatives with the M.R. Morarka GDC Rural Research Foundation have made a difference to the lives of many villagers. Morarka says: “I am pooling my energies into the M.R. Morarka Rural Research Foundation. The accent is on linking people with the authorities in order to fulfil the basic needs of villagers. For example, the simple task of organising farmers to avail of the government scheme to replenish dried-up wells calls for a lot of manpower. After our volunteers educate them, one such well can cater to a thousand villagers!?p style="margin-right: 5" align="justify">The Foundation works on the philosophy that more than resources, it is the resource management capabilities of the rural poor that need interventions. For the implementation of an intervention, the Foundation restricts its role to that of a catalyst, coordinator and facilitator, promoting the participation of the rural community. This is what CHANGE found unique about the Foundation.
There are innumerable NGOs and Foundations dealing in family welfare, education, environment, etc., but very few do it the way the Morarka Foundation does ? by generating employment among the rural poor in various spheres. “When we need more employment, all that this government is talking about is VRS!? Morarka says. According to him, globalisation has not helped India at all, because globalisation is all about partnership between equals and there cannot be “partnerships between people who are at the extreme ends of the economic scale?
The major intervention areas covered by the Foundation are:
In 1995 the Foundation made a small beginning by introducing organic farming as part of its agricultural extension programme in Juhunjhunu district. The Foundation was alone when it started, but after preliminary success, many entrepreneurs, research organisations and, above all, the National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, joined this movement. Today, the Foundation organises a series of outreach programmes, interactive workshops, buyer-seller meets, etc. in high potential clusters in Rajasthan and in identified pockets in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. It works at the grassroots level to develop an understanding of organic farming, identify farmers willing to take up organic farming and study the present status, constraints and potential of organic food production and marketing in all the clusters. It has also initiated a process to identify products and markets for organic farm produce (domestic and international), consumer perception and requirement of market information needs in organic food production and marketing.
The Foundation has now started organising organic farmers as Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to be federated at apex level for an integrated intervention on organic (quality) food production and marketing. These Groups are being trained in grading, cleaning, processing and consumer packaging of all farm produce with quality control measures. Efforts are also being made to introduce and promote a brand name backed by farmers, traders and consumer organisations for organic farm produce in India and abroad.
Agriculture extension services
A unique participatory model for delivery of extension services was evolved offering farmers overall productivity improvements and better income opportunities through resource convergence. Starting in 1995, covering 10,000 families, the Foundation has been able to attain 20-50 per cent productivity increase in over 25,000 hectares of cultivated area.
Watershed development programme
The Foundation's strategies have been oriented towards ensuring equivalent gains in the interim and substantially improved gains in the long run. People have formed SHGs, which have accepted full responsibility for the project from concept to planning, implementation, supervision, maintenance of project measures and associated practices. Some of the important activities carried out are soil and water management, crop management, value addition in agriculture, energy management and animal husbandry.
Today, with five years of in-house research and know-how dissemination, the Morarka Foundation is the single largest producer of vermi-compost in the world. It was recently presented the "Excellence in Technology Innovation" award at the India International Trade Fair, 2001, held at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.
Water resource management
The Morarka Foundation has taken up a programme to address issues of water security and water rights comprising:
Sheep and wool development
The Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation recently shortlisted the Foundation to provide know-how for conversion of city waste into vermi-compost under Supreme Court direction for all municipal towns with a population of more than 10 lakhs as an "Appropriate Technology on Solid Waste Management".
Empowerment of the aged
Tourism promotion in Shekhawati
Apart from the above projects, the Morarka Foundation also strives to eradicate child labour and promote Rajasthan's traditional trades to create employment opportunities. It also takes care of other conventional areas of voluntary actions, viz. health, education, nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, welfare of the disabled, etc., which are prerequisites for overall development and progress of villages.
What do all these programmes of the M.R. Morarka GDC Rural Research Foundation add up to? According to author Carroll Quigley, there are two kinds of societies ?parasitic societies and producing societies. Whereas the former live by hunting, fishing and other activities which reduce the world's natural resources, the latter live by agriculture and pastoral activities, which seek to increase the amount of wealth in the world. This is exactly what the Foundation is doing ?creating wealth for India. The programmes project Kamal Morarka as a strong personality who, as industrialist, is not only engaged in civil, mechanical and general engineering, but is also Vice President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, President of the World Trade Centre, Mumbai and a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International.
He is also an erudite politician, having served the Chandra Shekhar Government as Minister of State in the PMO’s Office. When asked by a journalist of The Financial Express whether his activities with the Foundation in 123 villages of Shekhawati had political undertones, Kamal Morarka replied: "No, not at all. It is just a way of giving back something to the place where my roots are."