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August 26, 2010

The gist:

Road to Devipur

We have started an experiment since May 2010, among the dwellers of Devipur ,a remote Sunderban village  of West Bengal with a target to assist the villagers to improve their own lot by optimum utilization of their own resources.

The first Tangible results of the Devipur Experiment started coming  in with the inauguration of the first sale outlet of the Sundervan bishwasuk Self help group at Ichhapur on 15th August’2010. Initial results are quite promising. The experiment has started meeting its delivery milestones on time. A report.

Contents of the current report:

1. Theoretical background of the experiment

2.Links to the earlier report

3. Recapitulation of earlier developments

3. Report on the latest development on 15th August’2010

4. Summary observation and Next course of action

1. DEVIPUR EXPERIMENT: The theoretical Background


  1. Given adequate guidance , a below poverty line remote rural locality with adequate human resource can generate enough means to survive and thrive on their own without any resource inflow from outside.
  2. In a development program, the local people are the best judges regarding how to make best use of their local resources. They only need assistance in the form of an initial external leadership, in order to
    1. concretize and visualize their own ideas.
    2. enforce timely execution of plans.
    3. arbitrate in case of difference of opinions
    4. conduct a  periodic objective evaluation and suggest (not enforce) alternatives wherever required .



  1. To see whether a below poverty line remote village can grow into a self reliant and economically strong location by using their own material ,intellectual and human resources only, without any resource inflow.
  2. To document the development of decision making capabilities and entrepreneurial skills among the participants in course of the progress of the experiment.
  3. To see whether they can devise and execute some home grown methodology that would start with a small internal resource, and then follow the following cyclic path to make it grow as the effort completes each turn in the cycle.
  4. To record the minimum level of monetary/intellectual/managerial assistance required to pull off such a programme.
  5. To document the various environmental, inter-personal and economic challenges that crop up in course of such efforts and also to document how they get resolved and to what extent that resolution requires outside financial/intellectual/managerial intervention.
  6. To measure the overall degree of outside assistance that is required to achieve the target number 1 as mentioned above.


Report 1:–-may’30-2010/

Report 2:


Devipur is an poverty stricken remote village in the Sunderbans on the bank of the river Thakurani. A Philanthropic organisation named Viswashuk Sevashram Sangha has got a small formation there. The village has been a victim of the recent cyclone called Aila.

The first survey:

The first survey

Two Ashram sympathizers and workers, Shri Shankar Mondal and Smt Aradhana Bhattacharyya were the first team to make a visit to the village in February 2010 with a specific focus on the condition of the women in the Devipur area.

Subsequently, the Ashram approached the Joydhak team with a request to participate in their efforts to improve the socio-economic condition of the village.

The first workshop(30th  May’2010):

The Joydhak expert team consisting Debjyoti Bhattacharyya and Arindam Debnath made their first visit to the village on May 30’2010, accompanied by Shri Shankar Mandal and Sri Makhan Maharaj on behalf of the Ashram..

After a detailed in situ study, the villagers in active deliberation with the visiting team, came up with a set of suggestions that made the beginning of the DEVIPUR EXPERIMENT. The details of that first  report is available at the following link: DEVIPUR EXPERIMENT –FIRST REPORT.

The suggestions were :

(a)    the men would pool some fund by bleeding their informal micro finance business to procure a small diesel-run engine to start a multipurpose mill for husking of grams or extraction of mustard oil or grinding of spices..

(b)   The women would explore the possibilities of making soft toys for which there is a big market. The Ashram would arrange for training of representative women.

In both cases the Ashram was ready to provide the necessary space for the ventures.

The second workshop(11th July’2010):


The detailed report of the second workshop is available at the following link:


Some examples of independent decision makings by the participants that resulted into departure from or modification of the original ideas developed in the first workshop:

(A)Regarding the Men’s project:

Problem statement: Existing financial resources were not enough to start the earlier planned multipurpose agro-processing mill.

Solution proposition: Multiply your existing capital first.

Proposed Solution Mechanism: Procure and package your local agro-products like Moong dal, honey , mustard and red chilies in small packs and sell them at a profit directly to the customer which can offer better price than present market value, since there will be no middle man.

Marketing strategy: The Vishwasuk Sevashram Sangha agreed to provide sale outlets in its different premises and proposed to use its goodwill to help market the products.

Target date: The target date for opening of the first outlet was fixed for 15th August’2010 at the Ichhapur Headquarters of the Ashram.

(B) Regarding the Women’s project:

Problem statement: The Devuipurites did the requisite market enquiries and arrangements were made by Joydhak for their consultation with a private businessman for their learning from his experiences. As a result they came to the conclusion that running a soft toy order supply business from such a remote location would not be cost effective.

As an alternative, they then visited a nearby township named Joynagar and spoke to the  cloth merchants / garments manufacturer  there.

It was found that lots of job work for stitching of ladies’ undergarments / kids wear would be available from this local market / manufacturer only, provided the womenfolk of the villages could learn how to stitch professionally.

So the villagers decided to modify the women’s project also. They were given a sewing machine for initial training of the village women. They themselves arranged for a seamstress named Laksmi, who has started giving lessons to the villagers now in the art of cutting and the craft of using of the sewing machine.

An individual, following the experiment regularly has also offered a second machine immediately after the women make the first profit out of their novel venture.

(C) Regarding Management of inter-personal relationship:

It was seen that they had, by themselves, formed a small group of ten willing families who were ready to participate in the experiment voluntarily and had christened the group as Sunderban Bishwasuk Swanirbhar Goshthi.


After the decisions of the 11th July meetings, the work progressed with a deadline based approach.

On the Women’s side

they have started a continuous training with the help of a local instructor in the art of tailoring of ladies undergarments with the help of the singleton machine provided by the Ashram Authorities.

On the Men’s side

The Devipurites could initially manage to pool a capital of around Rs 4555. to procure the materials to be sold in the outlet to be opened on 15th August at the Ichhapur premises of the Vishwasuk Sevashram Sangha. The proposed materials  consisted of different spices and honey which are their local products.

Three members from Devipur village had arrived in the Ashram premises with the materials on 12th August. They borrowed and set up a small weighing machine in the first floor of the Ashram building and went to work there, meticulously weighing and packing their fares in tiny plastic packets adorned with a label printed at the Ashram press indicating the name of the Self Help Group. A slender candle flickered continuously at one corner—this was their primitive tool – a slow and cumbersome one– for sealing the cellophane packets; allow the flame to lick the top of the filled cellophane pack and heat-seal it, at the risk of burning your fingertips alongwith the packet.

Regarding pricing of the packs they did a survey in the local markets to get the prevailing prices and very intelligently kept their prices a notch lower than that.

inauguration of the first outlet

After the flag hoisting ceremony in the Ashram school premises, the Sale outlet was inaugurated by Makhan Maharaj with assistance from Debjyoti Bhattacharyya, Arindam Debnath and Shankar Mandal. He introduced us to one Ashramite who has been dedicated for managing the sales outlet.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Sukharanjan from Devipur made a very poignant statement about the desperate economic situation of the village and the efforts they are making to ameliorate that without asking form any financial aid from anybody. It was the voice of  a belligerent Sunderbans trying to fight back on their own strength and offering whatever they have to the more advanced segment of the society with an aim to generate a capital for launching of their dream project of a small agro-processing plant in their locale, that would serve the local community and generate income, without any outside financial assistance.

The sale outlet did not have any colour or frills. A simple bamboo thatch with some makeshift benches and tables displaying small cellophane packs and bottles containing the agricultural products and unadulterated honey right from the bosom of the forestland!

The guardians of the children of the school were the first set of customer for the outlet.

Sukharanjan addresses the gathering-- the voice of Sunderban

The result was almost instantaneous. There was a brisk selling and the first day itself saw a sellout worth more than Rs. 2000. As a result the Ashram Authorities got confident about the prospect of the outlet. The entire investment of Rs. 4555 was paid to the Devipurites  by the Ashram authorities so that they could roll the money once again. The rest of the material would be sold from the outlet and the profit portion would be kept separately in the Ashram’s custody as planned.

At the time of writing of this report, the rest of the stock has already been exhausted, and the Devipurites are in the process of bringing in the next lot to the outlet.

On their way back to Devipur on the next day, with their investment recouped, the first thing the Devipurites did was to visit the Kolkata market and purchase one sealing machine and a weighing machine of their own.

5. Summary observation:

Regarding the Men’s project:

The first cycle is thus over in the experiment.

(A) During this period it has been observed that

(a)                the people displayed development of decision making as well as entrepreneurial skills and then

(b)               could successfully pool a small fund from among themselves, roll it , recoup the investment and then re-invest a part of that in creating permanent

assets. (refer flow chart at para 2 of “Target” segment of the report)

(B) For that purpose they required the following outside assistance:

(a)                Infrastructural help in the form of a small sell-outlet

(b)               Psychological counseling and morale boosting interactions

(c)                Management level assistance in defining the goals, setting milestones and following these up by experts.

(C) The Men’s project will now enter its growth phase. This phase is most crucial in the sense that the sustainability of the scheme will be put to the real acid test in this phase.

(D) As a preparatory for this growth phase,

(a)    The villagers themselves are busy preparing for the next stage of a continuous supply of saleable products in larger volumes.

(b)   a set of proposals is going to be discussed by the Ashram authorities regarding the various assistances they would provide in this developmental phase. The discussion is scheduled to take place on 29th August’2010.

(E) The set of proposals include

  1. Creating a permanent RCC structure sale outlet at Ichhapur campus.
  2. Initiating the process of setting up of the second outlet at Medinipur campus.
  3. Initiating the process of marketing the goods at Daihata wing of Ashram campus.
  4. Arranging for adequate display boards etc to attract attention of prospective customers.

Regarding the Women’s Project:

It is yet to complete the first cycle. This is being closely monitored. The difference in the gestation period of the men’s and women’s project could be due to factors like:

(a) difference of socio-economic status among the men and the women

(b) nature of the project. The men’s project invloves procurement and supply of goods while the women’s requires development of a specific skill set.

The issue is being closely monitored and will be studied in detail during the next in situ workshop at Devipur on 10th October’2010.

In the meantime Sri Shankar Mandal is in constant touch with the Devipur people monitoring the progress of the women in their project  and pushing the men-folk regarding the next phase of their business with an aim to maintain the deadlines.

We shall be awaiting the developments and shall publish the next report in due course.

8 Comments leave one →
    September 5, 2010 10:21

    report pore banglar tamasachhanna akase ektu ashar rekha dekha gelo. NOT EVERYTHING IS LOST.
    jadi tor dak sune keu na ase tobe ekla chalore

  2. Indranil Barat permalink
    September 6, 2010 16:52

    Initial result is encouraging but it would be better to keep a few things in mind;
    1. To keep the sale steady (a) maintain quality, (b) ensure supply chain.
    2. Packaging to be carried out at Devipur.
    3. Ensure economy of scale before expansion of outlets.

    Can you motivate towards certified organic farming for some of their products in future? That can assure better market with higher returns.

  3. Dibyangshu Das Gupta permalink
    September 8, 2010 09:43

    So satisfying to see results coming up, specially in the men’s project. Hoping for even better uotput in the women’s section…

  4. P K Mukherjee permalink
    September 12, 2010 20:23

    good job

  5. September 23, 2010 09:54

    The report is very convincing and encouraging.
    I was not aware of such initiatives in such a distant and remote village.
    My salute to JOYDHAK


  1. DEVIPUR EXPERIMENT : Fourth Report: Two more achievements « Joydhak's Blog
  2. Devipur Experiment–latest workshop on 23/1/2011-an Update « So much to do!!!!

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