Nanaji Deshmukh was a great personality and needs no introduction. His razor-sharp intelligence and astonishing organising ability has put an ineradicable mark in Indian politics. As an organiser, as a leader and as a stalwart committed to Gramodaya, Nanaji Deshmukh inspires us in several ways. After renouncing politics, he assumed a new role–that of a social worker–to lift moral and spiritual values and to promote economic and social wellbeing of the distanced-people awaited him. He started his work first in the most backward districts of Gonda in UP and next in the equally drought-prone and poverty-ridden Bead district in Maharashtra and finally settled to do a more comprehensive work of socio-economic progress with moral values covering some 500 villages in Chitrakoot district. The Chitrakoot project is a unique institution developing and implementing a village development model, which is most suited for India. It understands that people’s power is more potent, stable and enduring than political power. By becoming one with the oppressed and depressed, one gains the acumen of administration and governance. Social advancement and prosperity are possible only by injecting the spirit of self-reliance and excellence in the younger generation. Using this principal, Chitrakot project planned to develop one hundred clusters of village having approximately five village each around Chitrakoot. The Chitrakoot Project is a self-reliance campaign, which covers all aspects of individual, family and societal life of the villagers. The key to the campaign is the concept of Samaj Shilpi Dampati (SSD), ‘graduate’ couples that lives within the villages itself, and are responsible for motivating and guiding a cluster of five villages. Foremost among the aspects covered is income generation. This is achieved by introducing watershed and soil management techniques where necessary. New and improved farming technologies through 2.5 and 1.5 acre model farms that enable small and marginal farmers to look after the family needs are adopted. Increasing Non-Farm Sector incomes through entrepreneur training and the formation of income-generating Self Help Groups (SHGs) are both stand-alone, and vertically integrated endeavours. The then President, Dr Abdul Kalam visited Nanaji’s Chitrakoot project and praised it as the most suitable to India, noting that almost 80 villages in the district had become litigation-free. That was his final karmabhoomi, even though the whole country was his karmbhoomi. It is said that when he was a child he had nothing to eat for many days. But that did not turn him into a Naxalite. But his introduction to the RSS at the right age, and association with the right persons, had turned him into a great nationalist who lived for his motherland’s glory and nothing else.
Most people with his background remained confined to a limited group but Nanaji always endeavoured to step out. He was on first name terms with leaders of other political parties, industry, media, and civil society activists. He never hesitated to speak his mind even if they were critical of the political organisation, of which he was a member. He had the ability to raise his voice, unrestrained by partisan thinking and motivated by the national interest. Nanaji Deshmukh had immense energy, drive and commitment towards social welfare and nation-building. It was through his efforts that Shishu Mandir, which was initiated in Gorakhpur, has become a well-known educational institution across India. Nanaji Deshmukh even motivated several famous industrialists to work towards social causes. Nanaji always believed, “Science is universal, but technology must be local.” Nanaji Deshmukh’s perseverance and selfless service towards society remains an inspiration for us.