Sombre and serious was the mood here on 8th November 1991 when NOVIB’s official sanction letter for the 2nd Phase of the Dry Land Development Project reached us. There was no jubilation or sudden elation of spirits which normally accompanies the approval of a long awaited proposal. Obtaining of funds was not an important accomplishment in itself. Instead the date marked the final break the people had to make from past realities.
ADATS had placed itself on an almost untenable limb by staking so much on NOVIB’s appreciation of a very subtle description and complicated argument. But we were overwhelmed by other emotions when the sanction letter did come. Whether our insistence on the Coolies shedding hitherto held survival strategies was valid. Whether internal rectification and the creation of a social milieu was the most vital prerequisite. Whether the Coolie Sangha would evolve into the community capable of fostering positive individualism in its member. Whether the Coolies would be able to etch a security and self respect for themselves in the emerging market economy.
On hearing of the sanction, the Coolies privately pondered the big step they were about to take in a quiet and poignant way. A step which would alter all hitherto valid but now fast becoming obsolete equations which had kept them at subsistence in a peasant economy. And prepare them to enter into the new land of opportunities where there would be no subsidies, no reservations, no special considerations and a severe credit squeeze.
Many months of intense discussions had preceded this approval, making the official start of the project almost a second phase in the implementation of a Herculean readjustment process which the Coolies had undertaken in the context of the nation’s structural adjustment. A culmination of months of careful reflection and planning.