Lok Biradari Prakalpa was set up in December, 1973 by a band of young men lead by Baba Amte at Hemalkasa in the Tahsil Bhamragad. The place is about 7 k.m. away from Taluka Place Bhamragad. The area is inhabited by the Madia Gond tribals. At the time LBP was formed, illiteracy in the area was almost total, medical care was unheard of. Shifting cultivation was the only kind of agriculture the tribals knew. Getting enough food was a constant struggle. Malaria (and lethal "cerebral malaria") was a constant scourge, as was wild animal attacks. Their sole contact with the outside world was through forest contractors and forest guards who spared no opportunity to exploit them.
When LBP was established in 1973, Baba Amte's experiment at harmonious community living at Anandwan was already a success story, against all odds. In 1967, Baba has set up another project at Somnath, which also became a success in spite of some opposition from the locals and adverse rocky and forest landscape. Hemalkasa (LBP) was the third experiment in a much more remote and adverse area.
The last 25 years has seen significant changes in the area, in most part driven by the efforts of LBP and its volunteers. LBP runs a hospital that caters to 40,000 patients a year from 1,000 villages in a radius of 150 kms. Another important welfare project is a residential school for tribal children, more about which is discussed below. Settled agriculture has now been adopted by the tribals, vegetable growing has become common (traditionally they grew only millets and rice), and watershed management projects are in place.
School and its Activities:
In theory, many villages in the area had a school. But a posting to Bhamragad was often a punishment for government teachers. Over the years, most of the teachers posted to the area schools would maintain shops near the school and spend their time running the shops rather than teaching. The tribals, on their part, did not have any tradition nor knowledge of the importance of literacy and did not mind at all the absence of functioning schools in the area.
When the school was started, in addition to formal education, agricultural extension activity formed an important part. Traditionally, the Madia Gonds grew no vegetables and grew only millets and rice. They would draw all the rest from the forests and would eat all kinds of animals: dogs, cats, ants, birds, monkeys etc., often drying the meat for later consumption. LBP began its agricultural reform activity by distributing hybrid paddy varieties, vegetable and fruit seeds etc. Students in the LBP school were taught improved agricultural techniques, and in turn these students served as ambassadors in their own villages. In due course of time, this has been of immense value and has started a silent revolution in agricultural practices in villages in the region, and the government has moved in support of the activities.
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