Our Institute is rooted in concerns of the broadest kind regarding the
direction in which humanity is heading. This embeddedness in ideological
concerns is not just an afterthought, introduced to contextualise our
activities. On the contrary, it is the source of each of actual and
practical actions we take on the grassroots level. The reason such a
bond between the ideological and the practical is tenable lies in the
richness and universal relevance of the source material. Mahatma Gandhi
is the source of our inspiration and it is from his follower, the
economist J.C.Kumarappa, we derive our name.
The global transfer of trade from local enterprises to huge
multinationals is affecting everyone, in both the developed and
'developing' world. New consumers in the West might shake their heads as
they learn of increasingly grave conditions in the factories of Asia,
which churn out products destined for designer shops in their own
countries. However they may have overlooked the impact, the same
processes are having on their own neighbourhoods.
A good illustration would be the rise of the supermarket chain in
countries like Britain. CEO's of such companies might claim they are
creating jobs, and in a sense that would be true. But in reality more
jobs are destroyed, as local business, unable to compete with chain
store economies of scale and advertising power, is forced into
bankruptcy. Money that would be remaining in the local economy is
instead funneled towards head offices elsewhere, where it collects, and
multiplies, enabling more stores to open.
This is why the Gandhian alternative, of downscaling to human sized
operations, grows ever more pertinent. He propounded a philosophy in
which exploitation of certain people by others could not arise, and it
is this unfashionable concept that our Institute took as one of its
basic tenets when it was formulated in January 1967.
Gandhi advocated a way of life founded on principles of decentralized,
unexploitative, cooperative, self-reliant and peaceful living. His
policy of Gram Swaraj, or economics of peace was proposed to this end.
Our institute resolved from the beginning to strive for successful
implementation of these doctrines at the most basic level. That level is
the grassroots of India, the rural areas - the villages - that have
always been the sustainers of the Indian way of life in its purest form,
and the central points of social life and culture.
As a necessary precursor to these activities, we resolved also to carry
out our own evaluative programmes of the issues facing the rural poor.
In this way, we knew then, as we know now, that we would be able to act
on the basis of reliably acquired information. Such certainty has always
been impossible when working with published results of university or
otherwise institutionalized surveys. In our view, these elite
organisations often appear to be in tacit complicity with the whole
process that generated difficulties for the common man in the first
Our approach, is, in contrast, saturated with an urgent sense of the
importance of a collaborative approach to development, one that listens
to the people and works with them. This, for us, is preferable to the
imposition of complex 'solutions', involving advanced technologies often
produced by the kind of private enterprise, which the establishment is
committed to promoting anyway.
Angered by this often hypocritical approach, we resolved to find
solutions for rural issues under the principles of traditional Indian
culture, using simple methods in preference to showy ones, and to ensure
the involvement of the people. The key was, and is, to motivate them to
put their energy and creativity into helping themselves - with our