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In search of India's wealth-makers

I stopped updating GoodNewsIndia in 2006 when the question arose in my mind if publishing 'good' stories about India by itself was good enough as a service. I have narrated my thoughts in greater detail in this article Thus began work to restore a parcel of abandoned land near Chennai, christened pointReturn.

Six years on, I am comforted the land is responding to the efforts put in. A small team of young volunteers are into growing food and taking care of the land. By their kind courtesy, I am free now to resume my travels in search of 'good' stories in India.

It is a changed India today. I no longer retain my early confidence that a sustained economic boom will be like the tide that raises all the boats. Indeed, I am certain today, that it will not. I further believe that a 'modern' economy cannot create true wealth, let alone one shared with all. On the other hand, it can be destructive of what wealth we inherited and still possess. The true wealth of any nation is in fertile soil, abundant water, clean air, safe food and its people educated for independent action and free to practice it.

I shall go searching for people who are trying to make India wealthy in this manner.

-D V Sridharan
Apr 6, 2012

Stories from 2012 -

Warrior against odds:
Umendra Dutt’s poorly funded, lean staffed team is quietly and gamely trying to turn farmers to natural agriculture in a Punjab that is losing rural folk to cancerous water. It’s an unequal battle but it’s steadily being fought.

Keeper of seeds:
Dr Debal Deb believes that unless India’s elite gives up its ‘developmentality’ and sits listening at the feet of our eco-system people, it will not learn how much the environment matters to our well-being

Earlier stories: 2000-06

Clothier to the poor:
Since 1998, Anshu Gupta’s Goonj has innovated in many ways to deepen our superficial awareness of the importance of clothes for the poor

A rare and enviable school:
The free school for the poor he founded in 1894, is an equal legacy of Henry Steel Olcott to the Theosphical Society that he co-founded and promoted

Making the foot run:
Not many know that top bureaucrat D R Mehta’s 30 year long commitment and leadership are what revived the famed Jaipur foot from slumber and taken it to a third of a million people round the world

Raging into the night:
The creation of Yusuf Meherally Centre near Mumbai is only a part of Mangla Behn and Dr G G Parikh’s 62 year commitment to India. Their smiles belie their fire.

A magic wand to zap plastics:
Alka Zadgaonkar conjures up a way to end waste plastics menace by creating value for collectors and processors

A U-Turn at B-School:
M P Vasimalai’s rural upbringing made him turn back to rural India, soon as he graduated from IIM-A

Reality catches up with GNI’s Publisher:
Having published GoodNewsIndia since 2000, it was hard to overlook MGM Beach Resort’s ways in my own backyard.

The road from Marx turns right at Gandhi:
Mary and Bablu didn’t settle at Timbaktu to retire, but to begin again with the conviction that nature is what really matters.

Dreams come true in Ratnagiri:
An unlikely team of clerks in government offices in Mumbai are reaching out to rural school children in Ratnagiri district

Battling for governance :
Parivartan’s unknown little Indians like Santosh, have fought to clear the thickets to form tracks to good governance.

The Ganga in the sky:
Residents and establishments in Tamil Nadu have taken to rain water harvesting and water recycling proving that local action can alleviate shortages.

The two-pit privy man:
Perfecting a simple sanitation solution and getting it to revolutionise Indian society has taken 35 years of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak’s life

Young voices rising:
Nandana Reddy and Damu Acharya have approached the issue of India’s working children by creating activists from children’s own ranks.

Minimalism in service:
Dada Lakhiani is a role model for everyone who is sitting out for the right time, funds and opportunity to do something for India.

Staring down droughts:
Amidst the gloom of droughts and suicides, we have this transformation of farmers who will look a drought in its eye.

A Gandhi education pays off:
Cherkady Ramachandra Rao, now 86, lost his parents when 2, found Gandhi when 7, and has not been lost ever since.

Inside China’s anti-poverty success:
Does China’s economic performance show-up India, or are there some unique merits in our system that we do not value sufficiently?

Beyond even his dreams:
When J Krishnamurthy spotted that banyan tree in 1925, it is doubtful if he envisioned how it might change the grim landscape and lives around it.

Enfolding the lost ones in Goa:
Bernadette D’Souza and Gregory D’Costa strive for the dignity of immigrants who built today’s shining Goa - and, are abandoned on its streets to their own devices.

Jim Garthe’s innovation:
The pioneering work of Jim Garthe at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, in converting plastic waste into an energy resource has a great significance for India’s environment.

Help for puzzled visitors:
Caring for autistic and special children in India, has been entirely mothers’ and private citizens’ effort, as typified by Shristi Special Academy in Bangalore.

World standard toilets:
Since 1999, Fuad Lokhandwala has been demonstrating in New Delhi that building and running toilets to world standards is possible along sound commercial lines.

The new Indian rope-trick :
In the decade since it opened its economy, India has survived early shocks and has now assimilated with elan the tricks of making good profits in world markets.

A daughter returns:
Anuradha Bakhshi’s sense of debt to India is over-imagined considering how little she has taken from this land but therein lies a lesson for many of us who have drawn much.

Digging deep into Sanskrit:
Prof. Lakshmi Thathachar at Melkote is a teacher, ecologist, animal breeder, computer adept and a champion of Sanskrit as an unmined knowledge source.

Where water flows in veins:
The Smile Index of children and adults here, proves that the networked farm pond idea pioneered by BAIF’s branch in Tiptur, Karnataka is a success worth replication.

Biodiesel goes from lab to land:
Prof Shrinivasa’s SuTRA has proved to India’s tribal people that biodiesel is the best way to electrify their homes. And they are making a revolution of it.

After micro credit, it’s micro capital, now:
Aavishkaar is a pioneer attempt by India’s overseas professionals to bring venture capitalism to socially, environmentally relevant small businesses.

A Marathon man in village-India:
The success of Rangaswamy Elango at Kuthambakkam village justifies the hope that Gram Swaraj will yet bloom all across India.

A soldier’s march into peace:
Anna Hazare’s work with Ralegan Siddhi has thrown up a model for all round development of India’s villages.

This postman delivered more than mail:
This vintage classic from the 1930s should give us heart because it shows service to fellowman is intrinsic to Indian way of life.

Bridges to mainstream life:
Girish Bharadwaj’s foot bridges for isolated villages are transforming communities—and are aesthetic as well

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