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G G Parikh’s ‘something for Yusuf’, brings Meherally to life[continued]

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Back in the fifties, this process was already apparent to young Dr G G Parikh. Yes, he believed - as he does still- that the prevailing order must be constantly questioned and changed, but in the while, constructive work was necessary. One cannot sit and wait for that moment that will change everything. He began his medical practice at Grant Road and attended to the poor free. He responded to JP's call in the mid-1970s for a 'Total Revolution' and was jailed when Indira Gandhi perceived an 'Emergency' closing in on her. He campaigned for socialists he respected, in electoral politics.

But all that seemed too little. That's when G.G. heard afresh, what JP had been urging socialist friends for years: "We must do something for Yusuf". How quickly this fine fighter for a just India had been forgotten by the media and the establishment.

One time was not enough:

In 1961, G.G. started the Yusuf Meherally Study Centre in one room in Bombay. It was somewhere for socialist loyals to meet and discuss ideas. In such a meeting, someone suggested a one-day medical camp at Tara near Panvel. It seemed so do-able as G.G. himself was a doctor.

That camp opened G.G.'s eyes to a rural India that Gandhi was always focused on. "300 people came to that one day camp in 1967, looking for medical help. Most of the needs were trivial and yet they were not ever available before we came," he says. There was no way they could wind up and walk away. G.G. kept coming back every Sunday and soon Mangla joined him. As problems of rural life revealed themselves to the Parikhs and they responded to them, Yusuf's spirit settled at Tara.

Since that day in 1967, the Yusuf Meherally Centre, has come to sit on a 150 acre campus and is the hub of activities for 20 villages around it. Villagers are mostly of the Katkari tribe whose women have suffered due to abandonment and alcoholism amongst its men. Children have been denied education -and therefore, opportunities. Cash income was non-existent.

The most obvious solutions came first: a medical centre, a 30 bed hospital, women's support and thrift groups, micro production activities like oil milling, soap making, food processing etc and then of course the large school that we began this story with. Money has been forthcoming with moderate effort. "There is no lack of money in India when your work is transparent and results are obvious," says G.G.. He has raised close to Rs 1 crore every year for 20 years now,-most of it Indian- with which to develop the centre.

There are unobvious surprises as well at the Centre. An association with Shripad Dabholkar led to a pilot 10 Guntha Project run by Deepak Suchde. If proven, this can revolutionise food production in marginal lands. Then there is the G.G. dream to reinvent the Khadi movement to transform rural economy. The Centre also rallies every time there is a major disaster - from the East Pakistan refugee crisis of 1970 to the tsunami of 2004.

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