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AGRI-CLINIC & AGRI-BUSINESS CENTER: AWARE has been approved as Nodal Training Institute (NTI) by MANAGE (Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare) to conduct Training in Agri-Clinic and Agri-Business for Unemployed Agricultural Graduates /Diploma Holders/similar qualification. The training is for 60 days at Pujyashri Madhavanji Agricultural Polytechnic, at Aswaraopet Campus, Khammam District.... Read more...
Integrated Rural Development Program
The week
Man of The Year - “Man who made the meek AWARE” By G.S. Radha Krishna
Neither the comforts of a wealthy home, a rewarding good job nor the spiritual solitude of the Himalayas could hold the restless spirit of P.K.S. Madhavan. Unsure of his niche in a world of suffering and exploitation, he left home to write a book about an unknown people. He stayed to become their liberator.

He termed the saffron-clad recluses as disguised agents of an exploitative society. The religious leaders had no vision of the suffering world, of the starving people.

The teething problems seemed insurmountable. On the one side were the arrows of the distrustful Chenchu people and on the other, there were the muscleman of the suspicious landlords who called him a Naxalite and a CIA agent. On top of it was his ignorance of the local language. Perhaps he cut a ridiculously sorry figure like a preacher in a tavern after sunset.

What started as a gathering of wide-eyed children listening to his stories soon became public meetings of adult where every word was measured and aimed at instilling quiet revolution in the listener’s mind?

The suggestion to buy goats came from the villagers themselves when Madhavan asked them what they thought would fetch them a little money. Madhavan used the money sent by an Australian social worker to get bank loans for the villagers. In later years, Madhavan was to become a champion for the cause of well-meant and well-spent foreign contributions.

It was during the cyclone of 1977 the AWARE became aware of its own strength. The relief work was almost a dress rehearsal for AWARE volunteers for further projects.

One Lambada woman got up at a meeting and said in her rustic rude manner that AWARE was of no relevance to the woman. It did not take long to prepare an action plan after that shock treatment.

Chaitanya Indri, a woman’s fund, was launched in early 1989 and within a year 37,500 woman have benefited from it. The total amount pooled in and distributed is a staggering ` 1.5crore, half of it from the poor Harijans and Tribals.

Madhavan’s work has been getting recognition within the country and abroad, the most prestigious being an honor from the National Centre for Development Cooperation in Belgium. Two other recipient of it are Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela.


With his well-oiled hair combed back, a gem-studded ring and a golden watch on his right wrist, Puthucode Kongot Sethu Madhavan looks very much a dandy of the sixties. Only the clothes an inexpensive pair of trousers and shirt reveals the simplicity of the soul of AWARE Madhavan.

But even as a dandy in the sixties, long before AWARE was born, P.K.S. Madhavan was a misfit in the milieu he lived. The frustrated academically brilliant son of a landlord had returned to the world of poverty, squalor and exploitation from virtual sanyasi in Rishikesh and, with a mind aware of its own rectitude, gone to live among the tribals of Andhra Pradesh to write a textbook of anthropology.

There he saw the meanest of human society, the scum of the earth, the very bipedal state of man brutal exploitation and slavish servitude, the arrogance and the meekness of man. He saw moneylenders taking back ten times the amount they had lent, he saw the dirty menial filling his stomach with assorted leaves washed down with strong spirits. It gave the scholar gypsy a new awareness of human suffering and AWARE – (Action for Welfare and Awakening in Rural Environment), was born.

All along there had been a sort of impatience in the man, a restlessness that could be suppressed by nothing for long. The only son among four children of a landlord of Palghat in Kerala had his primary education from private tutors, but the restless spirit longed for company and the ‘brat’ was finally sent to school where he quickly became the leader in any group. As a degree student of mathematics, economics and statistics, he led torch processions against the college authorities and later even organized a strike in his father’s manganese mining unit, demanding wage hike for the workers. There was no disputing the young man’s talent for organization. During the Chinese aggression of 1962, the student leader collected ` 11,420 and 11 tolas of gold for the defense fund and 44,000 cigarettes to be sent to the fighting soldiers. After taking his master’s degree in anthropology from Sagar University, Madhavan became a project evaluation officer in the planning department.

The well-paying job, however, only brought forth the discontent in the man. On a tour of northeast India, he learned from close quarters the apathy of the government officials towards the real problems of the people and their indifference towards human suffering. He gave up the job and returned home as a disillusioned man.

Could there be a spiritual solution to suffering? that was Madhavan’s next quest, he visited the religious centres, read the Upanishads and met sages like Swami Gambhirananda and Swami Prabuddhananda of the Ramakrishna Order, Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda of the Chinmaya Mission and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he stayed in Rishikesh, trekked to Gangotri and meditated in the bleak ashrams on the Himalayan foothills.


The mundane still troubled him and he felt a kind of betrayal when he confronted the egos and the petty jealousies of the saffron-clad recluses whom he later termed as disguised agents of an exploitative society. The other-wordily spirituality did not give him any solution to worldly suffering. The religious leaders had no vision of the suffering world, of the starving people and violently exploitative society. Madhavan returned home once again, like a defeated sankara.

He now tried to lose himself in the pleasures of the mundane, managing the family property, attending to his aged parents and so on. But his wandering foot began to itch again. Promising his mother not to visit the Himalayas again he traveled to Andhra Pradesh with plans of writing a book on the relevance of development in tribal societies based on field work among the Chenchu tribals about whom he had read as a student of anthropology.

It was then that he confronted human life in its most undignified form –as yoke animals, as slaves, as the untouchably filthy. And what was he doing by writing a book on them? just “intellectual exploitation”.

Yet it was while working on the book that Madhavan realized the irrelevance of the macro level planning system to the peripheral economics. He said: “The data I collected through field work gave me a shock. Though the government had spent about crore rupees in 10 years, the condition of the less than 5,000 Chenchus on the Amarabad plateau had not improved by an inch. Finally, I found what had happened to the money – 62 percent had gone to maintain the bureaucracy. The commission agents, middle-men and others had pocketed 31 percent. Just seven percent had reached the villagers and five percent was wasted away by them. Only two percent had really been spent on development.”


Surely, there was something more that he and his world could do for them than writing about them and sighing sympathetically. After prolonged consultations with his friends, mostly in the academic world, Madhavan went to Atchampet village in Mahaboobnagar district and set up AWARE in 1975 with just three staff members who were given charge of three villages of Tribals and Harijans.

Now, 15 years later, AWARE has introduced more than three thousand villages to a world in which they never thought they had a destiny, a world of prosperity, enlightened empathy and fulfilling freedom. The mission is continuing and now AWARE has outgrown its very founder who describes himself as only a link in the belt and not the buckle.

Even the teething problems seemed insurmountable. On the one side were the razor-sharp arrows of the distrustful chenchus and on the other were the musclemen of the suspicious landlords who called him a Naxalite and a CIA agent. On top of it was his ignorance of the local language. Perhaps he cut a ridiculously sorry figure like a preach in a tavern after sunset.

Recalled Madhavan: “I had an old car given by my father which I used to travel through the villages – I had to push it 20 km for every 10 km it took me. The Khoyas of Venkata Puram in Khammam district ran away as soon as they saw me and shot arrows from the trees. The people stoned me when I tried to enter to enter Ganamalla villages. I was refused even a glass of water at Tummala-charuvu.”

Finally, he went in for the good old missionary tactic—giving sweetmeats to the children and a few strips of aspirin and such common cures for common indispositions. Gradually he learned the local tongue and added a dash of mythological stories to his sermons. What started as a gathering of wide-eyed children listening to his stories soon became public meetings of adults, every word of his was measured as it is still today and was aimed at instilling a quiet revolution in the mind of the listener; an awareness of his rights and the possibility of altering his destiny.

There were pinpricks from the very beginning. The forces of exploitation, the landlords and the police, often put obstacles in his way. But being familiar with the way of the bureaucracy, Madhavan could talk the district officials to his side.

But mere talk and creating awareness do not end the social work and mere distribution of largesse would be destructive in the long run. Yet at least some form of seed money had to be there to make a beginning. The few hundred rupees he had brought from home had been spent during the months of field work.

There he remembered Neil O’sullivan, an Australian social worker whom he had met at Madras airport during his researcher days. O’sullivan had then agreed to finance the book. Could he instead send the money for something more constructive—to buy a few goats for the Chenchu tribals? O’sullivan sent ` 13,500. That was the first foreign funding for AWARE. (In later years, Madhavan was to become a champion for the cause of well-meant and well-spent foreign contribution.)

In fact, the suggestion to buy goats came from the villagers themselves, when Madhavan asked them what they thought would fetch them a little money. Putting the money sent by the Australian in fixed deposit, Madhavan got the villagers bank loans to buy goats.

But wasn’t the scheme likely to run aground, like most government schemes, with the villagers squandering the money? “There lies the difference between a government scheme and a voluntary agency’s scheme”, Madhavan pointed out. Apart from the close monitoring possible, the non-government organization is in a better position to make the beneficiaries aware of what they need and what they should do. “We told them that they came to be debtors to the landlords and moneylenders through drinking and gambling. We made them aware of the need to break away from such habits. After a continuous dialogue for a year or two, we could mould them into socially productive villagers. We set up some experimental projects by giving loans to just one or two in a village whose prosperity induced the others to emulate them. I knew that poverty is mainly caused by timidity to approach any problem. Hence I encouraged them to develop qualities of courage, unity and patience.”

Ironically, in the initial days AWARE too was cautiously timid. It selected a handful of villages and did intensive work there rather than taking up unmanageably large areas. Even a year after its launch in 1975 AWARE had just dug six community wells and two bore wells in a handful of villages.

It was during the cyclone of 1977 that AWARE became aware of its own strength. “A senior IAS officer in charge of relief operations who had heard of our work telephoned me asking for services in Krishna district. I went there with a team of 300, most of them volunteers from the villages.”

The cyclone relief work was almost a dress rehearsal for the AWARE volunteers for further projects ahead. Not confining itself to providing immediate relief, AWARE launched a health project across 200 cyclone-hit villages, thereby serving about two lakh people.


This brought AWARE to the limelight, which helped, particularly in getting the foreign donation cleared and with funds coming in, the scope of work expanded. More villages were brought within the ambit of development, most of the work being digging irrigation wells, giving interest-free loans for buying goats or setting up petty business and so on. Simultaneously, a propaganda campaign was launched against bonded labourers and soon there was a squad of paralegal staff (trained in basic law) who fanned out into the villages identifying bonded labourers, educating them and helping them to break free.

However, AWARE still was lacking the dynamism it demonstrates now. The work showed tremendous results; the villagers were repaying loans, fewer bottles of alcohol were sold in the villages, many bonded labourers were breaking free of age-old clutches. Yet life in the villages seemed to go on without much of difference. None could identify the one flaw in the organization that prevented it from bursting forth.

The answer came as unexpectedly as a thunderbolt on the evening of November 26, 1977 at a meeting at Govindapalli hamlet. One Lambada woman got up and said in her rustic rude manner that AWARE was of no relevance to the woman. “Then woman after woman got up and started a tirade against us for being male -chauvinistic,” recalled Madhavan who was spellbound for some time.

Slowly the realization dawned on Madhavan and AWARE workers. Whenever they go to villages, the woman would be busy in the kitchen or in the farm, and it was the largely idle men whom they were meeting. It is the woman who is the key factor of the village economy, but she remains outside the purview of development planners and social workers. It did not take long to prepare an action plan after the “shock treatment”, as Madhavan now describes the incident. A woman’s meeting organized by AWARE as a first step, it was resolved that every loan application had to be recommended by the woman of the household. This gave her some leverage against the man squandering the money. Next was the formation of Mahila mandals (Woman’s clubs) in the project villages, which would suggest ways to improve the village economy. As well as their own household economy. And later, women were posted at the head of the coordinating organization, as health workers and paralegal staff in the villages.


However, most of the women found it difficult to come out of their traditionally ordained sulk and so was started Chaitanya Shakti, a brigade of 200 women for awakening the dormant female power. They were trained at the Human Resources Development Centre of AWARE, 24 km from Hyderabad, on various topics like child marriage, dowry, alcoholism, indebtedness, bonded labour, minimum wages, reservation of jobs and even reservation of seats in the elected bodies of government.

One can say Chaitanya Shakti is today the vanguard of change in hundreds of AWARE villages. Its strength and motivation can be gauged from the fact that 20,000 women participated in the 1987 women’s convention of AWARE. Madhavan expected 50,000 of them at the 1990 meeting. During the recent general election, Chaitanya Shakti members organized demonstrations in villages against politicians trying to buy votes by distributing liquor.

Chaitanya Nidhi, a women’s fund, was the next step. It operates something like a chit fund but with a difference: neither the sponsor nor the foreman takes his or her share. Every woman puts in ` 5 every week, a lucky dip decide the beneficiary of the week and AWARE lends as much as the amount collected. The beneficiary repays the amount in installments and at the end of 37 weeks AWARE takes back its money and the members would have put the capital to some economic use. The scheme was launched in early 1989 and within less than a year 37,500 women in hundreds of villages have benefited from it. The total amount pooled in and distributed is a staggering ` 1.5 crore; Half of it from AWARE and the other half from the perennially poor villages of Harijans and Tribals.

Though Madhavan have moved into social work after seeing the plight of the Chenchu tribals, it was the Lambadas and Harijans leading a more settled life who mostly benefited from AWARE. After all, most of the ills of rural societies, like exploitation and bondage, are in such peripheral areas rather than in tribal groups outside the rural mainstream. They live a largely isolated life, beyond the reach of civilized ills.

There are, however other ills plaguing them—malnutrition and disease. It was during the floods of 1983 that Madhavan saw from close quarters the sickly life of the 80,000-odd Khoyas, Kondareddys and Khoya Nayakpodus who claim to be the descendants of the vanaras of the Ramayana, most of them living on the Bison Hill ranges across the Godavari. Scores of them were dying of malnutrition, during childbirth and of a varied set of diseases. They ate 42 varieties of leaves and 20 varieties of roots, apart from the scarcely available game meat.


First Madhavan sent his health workers to the hills with medicines, which cured the ordinary ailments and helped to build trust among the people. Yet it took three years for the AWARE workers to make the tribals approach the AWARE medical units when sick. Finally a couple of years ago AWARE floated a boat hospital, the Jeevana Shravanti, in the Godavari with financial help from the State and Union government. With two doctors, a small operating theatre, a labour room, an emergency ward and a well- stocked dispensary, the Jeevana Shravanti traverses the picturesque Godavari around the Bison Hills as the real lifeline of the tribals. If anyone needs immediate medical attention, the villages put up a red flag at the nearest jetty to attract the attention of the boat crew.

In addition are the health shelters for every 10 villages and health outposts for every five villages, mostly manned by paramedical staff and stocked with elementary medicines. A number of trained traditional midwives of the non-tribal villages are sent to the tribal villages to assist in childbirth. A number of tribal had contracted leprosy and the sick were mostly shunned by the other villagers. AWARE built a small hospital for them, educated the people about leprosy and sent back the cured ones with loans to the villages to set up their own small businesses.


But AWARE’s areas of concentration are the Harijan and Lambadi tribal villages where it has been training the youth in carpentry, masonry, black smithy, pottery, shoe-making, soap-making ,lime and brick-making and such other rural trades. The trained youth and the manumitted labourers are given interest-free loans to set up their own trades. However, in all the enterprises, AWARE’S financial contribution is just 20 percent. The rest of the money comes from the individual or through pooling of village resources through various thrift schemes.

Indeed, all these are activities normally done by any voluntary organization. But Madhavan’s AWARE is different from most of them as it chose not go on working in an area beyond a period. “Once we judge from the health standards, the prosperous looks of the villagers, from their cleaner and improved dress habits and the level of economic activity in a village that there is little more that AWARE should do for them, we level,” said Madhavan. The idea is not to create a dependency syndrome: people should develop by themselves and not always be looking towards AWARE or any other agency for that matter, for help. AWARE only gives a helping hand to a villager to stand up, the villager has to run his own race.


But prior to the withdrawal, AWARE creates a village-level leadership, which can take over where AWARE has left. Thus in the last 15 years AWARE has withdrawn from 580 villages after registering 70 to 90 per cent of growth there. At the same time, AWARE has also been careful not to bite more than what it can chew. Despite numerous requests from the government agencies and villagers themselves, Madhavan has refused to extend AWARE activities beyond a definite number of villages or area. And he has steadfastly refused to work among the urban poor.

From the arrows of the Chenchu tribals to severe censure from politicians and bureaucrats, Madhavan has often suffered for his fanatical zeal. A few years ago, the government suddenly introduced restrictions on foreign donations. Dr. Jaipal Reddy, the MLA from Mahaboobnagar, questioned the foreign fund sources of AWARE in the assembly and even sought Madhavan’s exterminate from the state. Madhavan responded by advertising in the papers welcoming an inquiry. This was way back in 1978 and since then, Madhavan’s work has been getting recognition within the country and abroad, the most prestigious being an honor from the National Centre for Development Cooperation in Belgium. Two other recipients of it are Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela.

The 45-year-old bachelor, however, looks impatient even now, 15 years after the restless spirit found a habitation in a place shunned by civilization. Despite the magnificent success of AWARE, that innate caution in the man has not left him. He chooses his words carefully, whether speaking to the tribals, to bureaucrats, to the press or a group of students of anthropology. To the bureaucrats he is a miracle worker and to the tribals he is god, though Madhavan has no such pretension. God alone, they think, had made them untouchables and slaves and god alone could save them.


Even while working with the best intentions, a social worker cannot afford to take things for granted. Madhavan realized this after meeting a group of Lambada tribals in 1984, 10 years after he launched AWARE.

On a routine tour of the villages, some Lambadas told Madhavan that the AWARE project officer in their area was too busy with paperwork to attend to the needs of the people in about 300 villages under his charge. Madhavan immediately ordered a survey in 37 villages of the district, which brought out one fact: the paramedical structure of AWARE was increasingly turning into a sort of officialdom by itself.

But as any other social worker would have found out, the solutions come from the villagers themselves. They offered to give the feedback on the implementation of the schemes. There began the cluster model of village development, projected by AWARE in later years.

At the lowest level of AWARE is a cluster of 20 villages or 1,800 families, all of whom are looked after by a cluster development officer (CDO). Above the CDOs is the Area coordinating officers who looked after five to eight clusters. Four such areas come under a zonal officer, the senior most people among the field staff. There are five such zones under AWARE. The 126 CDOs, most of them recruited from the cluster of villages, and their assistants trained by AWARE are responsible for raising local resources to match AWARE grants(AWARE extends loans to villagers only to the level put in by the villagers themselves.)

Parallel to this administrative structure are a number of gram sabhas (councils of village elders.) Mahila mandals (women’s forum) and Bala sangams (children’s clubs). The service societies at the cluster taluka and district levels link these parallel organizations with AWARE.

AWARE is in close liaison with the government agencies in most of its activities. During calamities, the massive trained manpower of AWARE, 700 full-time workers. 1,200 part-timers and about 30,000 village volunteers is an asset to the government agencies.

Though he swears by voluntarism as the only means for rural development, Madhavan knows that one cannot go far by insulating oneself from the state system. Many senior posts in AWARE are held by retired civil servants who not only bring in the much needed administrative experience but also are in a better position to work in tandem with the government officers.

However, Madhavan has taken care that the ills of bureaucracy, particularly the bane of huge administrative costs, do not visit on AWARE. The staff receive reasonable provident fund, medical and educational benefits but all this comes to about four percent of the AWARE budget.


Madhavan was disappointed by the turnout at the meeting at Madhulapalli in Khammam district. Most of the few listeners were women. Where have all the men gone? He inquired. The women told him that the landlords did not allow their men to attend the meeting. But couldn’t the labourers defy the landlord? No, they were all slaves, euphemistically called bonded labourers.

The state government had been claiming that bonded lobour had been eradicated but here it was going on in its very primitive form. Soon Madhavan and his associates were trekking through the villages identifying the slaves and slave masters. The list shocked him. Among the slave masters were many respectable citizens including Thotakur Venkatappaiah, a member to the legislative council.

The list attached with a memorandum was submitted to the sub-collector of Khammam and echoes of the issue were heard in the legislature. It soon acquired a political color and the sub collector was transferred. There were several attempts on the lives of Madhavan and his associates.

Madhavan knew that petitioning policy was of no avail against vested political interests and indifferent bureaucrats. The labourers and the landlords had to be made aware of the primitive illegality of the system. So he sent his men to the villages where they organized burra katha (a form of narrative folk art), the tales mostly highlighting the illegality of the system and the legal remedies. The barefoot lawyers of AWARE followed them organizing legal training camps.

But mere awareness would not solve the problem. Even bondage provided a sort of security to the labourers and how could AWARE provide that? So, Madhavan and his staff came out with a brilliant rehabilitation scheme. Every unbound labourer was offered an immediate grant of ` 500. This was enough to instigate many to break their chains and the barefoot lawyers shielded the workers from the landlords. Their case was presented to the administrative authorities and if there was any delay in getting the government grant for rehabilitation, AWARE gave him an interest-free loan of ` 3,500 to set up a farm or some petty business. AWARE protected them for three years after manumission, long enough to make them self-reliant.

The scheme has been successful; AWARE has rehabilitated 14,633 bonded labourers till November in the districts of Khammam, Medak and Mahaboobnagar that even attracted the attention of the supreme court of India. Chief Justice P.N Bhagawati appointed Madhavan commissioner of bonded labour in the state twice. Thanks to judicial intervention, AWARE could liberate about 3,000 labourers from the stone quarries in Hyderabad and Rangareddy districts.

Perhaps the most spectacular success of Madhavan in helping the bonded labourers was when about 90 of them were released in one stroke thanks to his efforts.


The date: October31, 1984. The place: Narsapur taluk in Indira Gandhi’s Medak constituency.

It was a queer system of wage distribution that Madhavan saw in Narsapur village of Medak district a few years ago—two kilos of jowar and two bottles of toddy for a day’s hard toil in the fields. The poor Harijan labourer gratefully accepted them, went home and drank away his pain and sorrows.

“If he does not drink, he will die of body pain: if I do not give liquor, the goddess will be angry with me”, the landlord explained but Madhavan realized that the curious wage system was not willed by any goddess but by the landlord himself. In his exultation over getting the liquor, the labourer did not notice that he had been paid 20 per cent less than his due.

The system had to be ended but Madhavan knew that the lure of the spirits was too strong for the labourers to resist. While educating the people through posters and word of mouth about the hazards of drinking, he also made it known that AWARE would give loans only to non-alcoholics. When AWARE workers found that weddings were celebrated with a free flow of liquor, they offered to organize the wedding.

The result of this persuasive tactics, backed by friendly coercion, has been astounding. There is a kind of voluntary prohibition in about 1,500 villages where AWARE is active or has been active. During the recent general election, about 20,000 Tribals and Harijans demonstrated in Machilipatnam against political parties buying votes by distributing liquor. A few years ago, women in Govindapally village of Khammam district raided the local liquor shop and destroyed all the stock. A drunkard in Rajupeta tried to kill the Sarpanch of his village out of fear that the latter would report him to AWARE activists.


Mosam santhamma, a Kondareddy tribal girl of Chintur forest, did not know that Gandharva vivaham, a custom still prevalent among many tribes, had no legal sanctity. So she did not think twice before marrying a contractor who had come to the forests to cut bamboo. He gave her a child and when his contract period ended in a few years, he left her and the child.

The 24-year old unwed mothers only consolation was that there were about 110 such women in the village. All discarded after use by the civilized folk and yet to gain acceptability among their kinsfolk. The custom was sanctioned by tradition from the time the Deshmuku Jagirdars took the tribal maids. This was encouraged by the British who made their supervisory staff in the villages and was now being continued by the new class of exploiters: mostly beedi leaf contractors or timber traders.

The primitive tribal society perhaps had its own mechanism to absorb the women into its fold (many of them became mistresses of the headman), but in these days of a settled life of scarcity, the tribals find it difficult to support the women and their offspring. Several tribals have tried to seclude their women from the outsiders, but have failed. A study conducted in 1981 found 1,200 unwed mothers in Khammam, East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam tribal belts.

A later study conducted by AWARE was more revealing. A number of such women, unable to find acceptability and struggling to feed their children, had been selling themselves. So AWARE gave them interest-free loans through its Mahila samakhyas (women’s clubs) to buy goats, cows or set up pan shops. Admits Madhavan “We succeeded more in economic rehabilitation than social. We could organize only 16 remarriages so far.” The work done by AWARE has attracted the attention of the tribal welfare department to the problem and it has launched a propaganda drive against the custom.

LETTERS appeared in The Week Magazine


YOUR anniversary special (Dec. 31, 1989) was really superb. Though you have not carried your regular features, I was highly impressed by the cover story (Man who made the meek AWARE). Your Man of the Year selection is quite appropriate.
A liberator

P.K.S. MADHAVAN is a hope amid the debris of our dreams (‘Man who made the meek aware’, Dec. 31). He is not a celebrity, but a simple man who has dared to defy destiny, and won. Congratulations on dedicating the issue to the man who, by his hope and enterprise, courage and dedication, has worked towards the uplift of the downtrodden.

It is an established fact that non-governmental agencies like P.K.S. Madhavan’s AWARE are more successful than government agencies in serving the poor. The reason is simple. These volunteer zeal without incurring any major expenditure on themselves. In the case of government organizations, a large amount of money is spent on the machinery itself rather than on the masses. Rajiv Gandhi once admitted that out of ` 100 spent on measures for the poor, only ` 15 reached the down trodden. Apart from this, there is absence of corruption and extravaganza in these voluntary agencies. I wish there were more people like Madhavan working for the advancement of the rural poor.

I have to congratulate you bringing out such a brilliant study in contrast in your anniversary issue. Your selection of P.K.S. Madhavan as Man of the Year and the write-up on the man and his praiseworthy social activities formed one part of the issue; the other part featured what mindless, soulless capitalism could do to a country. We need more of people like Madhavan and less of the five-star culture


I am highly grateful to you for highlighting the work of AWARE in your anniversary special. I am a simple man and wish to remain simple and humble. Your appreciation of my work gives me more inspiration and intensifies my dedication to my cause and mission of development.

When I look back on the last one and a half decades today, it appears to me as the story of a dream realized. People I met here 15 years ago are different today.

I asked then, what are you in society? They said: “we are slaves. (Bandhanu in local language); we are born to serve.” No further expression on the face.

Their silent eyes mocked at our development plans even after three decades of independent India. I cut my finger, showed my blood, and asked one man to tell me the difference between his blood and mine. Today that bonded labourer (tribal) is the president of a Mandal Praja Parishad, defeating his own spent a couple of lakhs of rupees on the election campaign. What else would give me more happiness than to see the growing capability of these poor Harijans and Tribals to decide their own future? The honor you have bestowed on me is an honor given to my Tribals and Harijans, your appreciation of their struggle for equality and social justice.


THE WEEK is largest circulated English Magazine from South India -A Malayala Manorama Publications