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  The Indian Army as development agent?

Modern armies have often tried to use outreach programmes as a way of softening their image; but they have not always succeeded. India’s armed forces have however had many notable successes. In times of floods and calamities they pitch in. Many analysts believe that one of the reasons for the turnaround in Kashmir was because the army --particularly under Gen. Arjun Ray-- embarked on contact programmes that were then used to solving small local problems.

Now comes news of greater import and delight. The Assam Rifles stationed in Arunachal Pradesh in India’s far north east has brought in water mills from Uttaranchal and has shown how to quickly generate electricity from small perennial streams in unreachable hamlets. In Menchuka the first mini-hydel power station went on stream at a cost of just Rs.45,000 or $1000. And soon news spread at the speed of well, electricity. Folks from over 45 villages have converged on the army seeking information; no, they don’t want freebies, they can pay.

State agencies have long tried to propagate the advantages of mini hydel plants. Over the years GoodNewsIndia has carried stories on them which you can read by clicking here and here. It may turn out that the army whose beat takes it to the farthest reaches of India is the right means to deliver this development message.

You can read the full report by S M A Kazmi in the New Indian Express of Dec 30, 2003 at this link.