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The BAIF Saga - in Dr Manibhai Desai's words

Part 6: Why we avoid poultry? ~ Gandhi on commitment ~ BAIF becomes an R&D unit

Now we are working on drinking water which is the main problem in many villages. We can collect water from the roof and preserve it. We can develop some technology for preservation of rain water. In Vansda the entire year's drinking water requirement can easily be collected. We can develop a collection technology and preserve it as unpolluted potable safe water. It is a challenging task. It is not good to draw water only from the ground. Tomorrow the water might disappear. The only way to conserve water is to collect it and stop it from going to the sea. A very thick, well planned forestry, horticulture, bushes and grass are the only ways of recharging the aquifer below the ground.

I have said that we have not maintained poultry because poultry requires food grains. What you cannot eat, a ruminant like a buffalo or a cow can eat and convert it into a product which human beings can consume. This recycling of nutrients is very crucial in development. We should enrich our environment and make it more sustainable. This approach has been accepted by BAIF as a philosophy and this has been blended in our new programme which is currently being drafted. Better environment is the guarantee for the human being to exist on this planet.

I made a statement in America when I got a award. "Democracy and poverty cannot live together for long." Democracy will disappear if poverty continues for several generations.

If you don't have food you cannot have health. Health is a congruent of life. A starving person cannot have health but it is not necessary that a very rich person is healthy. It is not necessary that if he has all the foodgrains, he will maintain good health. One should not misunderstand. You can solve the problem of migration, slums, deforestation, stray cattle, infant mortality, population explosion etc. by a self-employment programme which has to be economically viable and technically feasible.. At the same time you should see that your people get ideas, training and orientation on good habits which can result in better quality of living. We are now establishing a BAIF Management Training Centre for strengthening the managerial capacity of NGOs in India.

If you are alone and nobody comes to associate with you, then there is something wrong. I made a statement in America when I got a award. "Democracy and poverty cannot live together for long." Democracy will disappear if poverty continues for several generations. Health problems, malnutrition, environmental pollution, cutting of trees are all symptoms of unemployment.

In 1947 I met Gandhiji in April - my last meeting. He said you first decide whether you will take up this challenging task throughout your whole life. He asked me to take an oath that I would agree to have my ashes laid at Urulikanchan for creating employment opportunities in the field of rural development. It was at the morning prayer on April 13th, the Jallianwala Bagh Day. He said, now you need not come with me to Patna. You get down here and take a train to Pune.

If you want to solve problems of education, literacy, health you have to see that the family is employed. So every NGO should develop a Project Manager who is able to conceive the problems, design projects, monitor and evaluate the project. The funding agency should be convinced that there is no risk. This is how BAIF has to play a very crucial role in the next 25 years.

The structure requires a lot of strengthening. What you have done in Maharashtra may not be relevant in Gujarat. What is relevant in Gujarat may not be applicable in Bihar. We have to observe the cultural background of the society. The organisational structure and character of the organisation in view of statutory requirements in this country are very important.

People do not describe it as Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation but they describe it as BAIF.

Right from the time of Lokmanya Tilak and Agarkar, every organisation was registered under 1860 Society Registration Act and Mahatma Gandhi also opted for such an institution. Thus when it was decided to form an autonomous institution at Urulikanchan I had a discussion with Gandhiji. I asked him, "What should be the structure?" He said that till 1946 he had established several organisation which were all registered. "But now, from experience, we will not register this institution under the 1840 Act." I asked him, "Why?" He said, "Now I realise in a Society, in a general body meeting with two thirds majority, one can totally change the constitution, objectives and aims. Such flexibility is normally dangerous. So we must now think of a Public Charitable Trust in such an Act. Whatever is put as the first document under which you register as a Trust Deed, it is not possible to change the objective of the document and manage according to their will. They will have to manage the organisation as per the Trust Deed." BAIF was the first organisation I registered after 1946 as a Charitable Trust. So I thought this was a very good security measure for maintaining the character of BAIF.

My first concept was to take up designing of programmes based on agriculture. So agro-based programmes for development, blended with research, particularly applied research should be the main objective. Thus we gave the name 'Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation.' However we had to change this name because the words Agro Industries was creating some problem while receiving recognition from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Our friends in the Ministry of Science and Technology suggested changing the name so that it would not be misunderstood as a commercial organisation. However, it was not easy for us to change the name. Finally, I had to select a name which would not damage the image of the organisation which was already popular and secondly I had to take a practical view. So I said, "People do not describe it as Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation but they describe it as BAIF. Even the farmers know BAIF although they cannot pronounce it correctly. Moreover, we need both development and research because I believe that any research without development is academic.." So we changed the name to BAIF Development Research Foundation.

I had to think about the structure of the administration. With this historical background of a trust, I tried to develop BAIF as a horizontal organisational model rather than a vertical one. Vertical means everything has to go to the top for decision making. Here, we introduced a project finance system. Hence, every project was a separate project. We had a group of scientists who were operating the programme.

While BAIF's activities are restricted to research, project development, monitoring and evaluation, separate institutions have been entrusted with the responsibility of perfect implementation.

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