Now, the punch question. How replicable is the Ralegan process? Is it possible to find an Anna in every village? Also Ralegan has few Dalits and no Muslims or Christians. How do you take the value set from here and plant them elsewhere?
He listens carefully. And begins. You know it's going to be a long answer.
"I began to ask myself these questions once Ralegan was on its way. I decided to find out. So I asked ten college Principals to send me their alumni list. I sent out a thousand form letters. I asked them if they would be interested in propagating the Ralegan experiment. They would be trained for six months. Each day would run from 5 am to 10 pm.They must learn to clean the streets and toilets. Live a simple life and expect little money. After training they would have to spend years in villages as hard as Ralegan was before 1975. They would be paid reasonably. Would they be prepared for this challenge of rebuilding India?
"Not a very good copy, you'd say for a recruitment ad, but I got 403 responses. I picked a 110. When the street cleaning part began 14 left. As the course ground forward, a few more left. But in the end I had 75 potential leaders with me. There are three Muslims and 5 girls among them. Is this not remarkable? I had cast the net randomly and found 75 young Indians ready to work for others. All this from Maharashtra alone with one form letter.
"The criteria for selecting the villages for development were severe. They had to be a minimum of 20 km from any big town. The villages needed to have a population below 4000 and had to be located in a drought-prone district - we want to transform them by focussing on watershed development. Our trainees screened many villages and selected 75 clusters. Each covers a 2500 hectare area. They are all over Maharashtra. Some were deliberately chosen for mixed populations. I visited everyone of them.
"Our young leaders moved in and prepared action plans after surveying and auditing the project areas. I interacted with CAPART [Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology] and have already raised money for 25 of the project areas. At between Rs.10 and 15 millions per project, I have enough to start. 4 have been underway since late 2001. Others will be starting soon."
He pauses. The seriousness switches to a bright smile. The 25 year long trucker's stop at Ralegan seems to be over. He is on the road again. Driving for India.
Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra - 414302