Our organization, India Nirman Sangh, has been working in the hills around Kodaikanal and Palani for the last seven years.
In these seven years, in close co-operation with the Gandhigram Trust, we have been primarily working for women’s development in the backward hill villages and the towns of Kodaikanal and Palani..
Winning the trust of people in the areas we work in, we form small thrift and savings groups (called Self Help Groups) and then arrange for micro credit through local banks for these groups. The groups use this money to give loans to their own members who may need the loan for a variety of reasons including repaying loans taken from moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates, a sickness in the family, a festival, education fees, buying fertilizer, a wedding e tc. Peer pressure among the members ensures a very high recovery rate.
Currently, India Nirman Sangh, along with the Gandhigram Trust, has formed and is currently supporting three hundred Self Help Groups among the women in some of the villages around Kodaikanal and Palani. Each group consists of between twelve and twenty women. Hence a total of around 4000 women are members of our groups.
So far, INS has facilitated loans worth more than six crore rupees for our groups from various Indian banks..
Over time, the groups begin to take up local issues such as sanitation, drinking water supply, the problems in the local ration shop etc. and using collective strength they are often able to bring about dramatic changes. They also ensure proper implementation of government welfare schemes and collectively resist both goondaism and police high handedness. They also voluntarily came forward in 2007 in three panchayats to take up and implement a government scheme to build toilets for each home and completely eliminate open defecation. So far more than 600 home toilets have been built by our groups under these government schemes
Some of the groups have also started tiny businesses – running grocery shops, ration shops, tea shops, distilling and bottling eucalyptus oil, processing and packaging Kodaikanal coffee, manufacturing inexpensive sanitary napkins and running a carpentry workshop. India Nirman Sangh incubates these businesses and helps them run profitably and professionally.
This year we are beginning two new projects. One is to set up a home for destitute women and the elderly poor. This is a crying need throughout India as abandoned or poor women sometimes find themselves without any means of financial or psychological support. We plan to build this home near Palani in Tamilnadu.
Our second project is to set up a model organic farm near Kodaikanal. Farmers in India tend to be averse to formal training methods but are receptive to learning from success stories they see in their vicinity. We would like our organic model farm to be a place where new techniques and methods of farming are used and can be imitated by other farmers. We have already purchased the land for this farm and plan to begin developing it soon.
India Nirman Sangh is led by David Barun Kumar Thomas. David is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kanpur. After IITK, he studied History at JNU in Delhi where he was elected President of the University Students Union. He worked in the corporate world for around twenty years, lastly with IBM in Bangalore and Brussels. He left IBM in 2003, came to Kodaikanal and since then has been involved in community development. He received the IIT Kanpur Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2010.
India Nirman Sangh has a small budget and is entirely funded by donations from supporters and contributions from the persons in our Self Help Groups. The Directors do not draw any remuneration or enjoy any fringe benefits from the organisation.
India Nirman Sangh is a registered Section 25 non profit organization subject to all the controls and scrutiny of the Company Law Board.
Donations may be sent to us through Indians for Collective Action who are based in San Fransisco
A group meeting in a poor hill village
A low cost toilet built in a village
One of our Men’s groups serving lunch at an orphanage
Our dance troupe consisting of boys and girls from a tribal village
Another group meeting, this time to write accounts
The beautiful Kodaikanal hills