How did ARCH start?

ARCH was started by a group of then-young people as a small community health program on the banks of river Narmada in the village of Mangrol near Rajpipla of what was then Bharuch district (now Dist. Narmada) with the aim to provide basic preventive, curative and maternal-child health services.

The group drew its inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Jay Prakash Narayan (JP).

What did ARCH do in the beginning?

The group began developing a primary health care model centering on women and child health with the help of locally recruited, trained and committed village health workers.

Another group began mobilizing tribal villagers facing imminent submergence in the massive reservoir of Narmada Dam Project – Sardar Sarovar. ARCH fought for their rights to receive fair and just compensation for the uprooting and loss of their land and property.

What did ARCH learn over approximately next two decades?

ARCH early on realized that what they thought to be the need of these villagers was not what villagers wanted. Villagers, like any other urban or suburban group, were much more interested in acute medical care and relief of suffering rather than health education and prevention. The group also realized that governmental health services were nearly non existent in these areas.   Pretty soon they observed that patients of all ages, from the surrounding 1,000 villages, quite often traveled more than 100 km (60 miles) to come to Mangrol and seek relief from TB, asthma, dysenteries, malaria, skin ailments of all kinds, and, other serious ailments, such as hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, and mental illnesses.

The villagers were also more interested in their economic wellbeing and progress. During resettlement and rehabilitation work the group came in intimate contact with tribals and learned first hand about their culture, economic activities, and various political as well as other impediments in  their efforts to climb out of the poverty trap.

During this process members of ARCH also understood the reasons and consequences of large scale deforestation and environmental degradation. They also realized that how well-intentioned but completely misguided government polices exaggerated and perpetrated their problems.

What did ARCH achieve in last two decades?

ARCH currently provides primary health care services to approximately 25,000 patients mainly at Mangrol Davakhana and at Dharampur health center along with basic health education and preventive services such as vaccinations, prenatal care, well child care, etc.

At its Dharampur Center ARCH also conducts mobile health camps in inaccessible villages and tribal boarding schools for preventive and curative services and basic health education.

ARCH was instrumental in helping pass the best settlement and rehabilitation policy to date for the Narmada project affected people.

ARCH has published health education booklets in simple Guajarati for the last 15 years. More than 25 booklets are published. These booklets are well received all over Gujarat and are being translated in other languages.

Recently ARCH has started publishing a bimonthly magazine, KHOJ (Pursuit) for more than one year with the aim of bringing larger societal issues to the forefront.  Issues such as economic development, water management, communal relations, impact of globalization, economic liberalization, role of free markets, democracy & liberty, etc are being discussed in this magazine.

ARCH is in the process of translating some classical works by Professors Karl Popper and  F. A. Hayek in Guajarati.  The first such translation of the book Knowledge and Body- Mind Problem:  In Defence of Interaction by Professor Karl Popper is recently published by Gurjar GranthRatna Karyalaya.  The translation of the book Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek is nearly completed and will soon be published.

How has ARCH evolved in the last two decades?

Like many NGO’s of the early 80’s, ARCH was initially attracted and immersed in the folklore of socialism which was extremely popular in those days as the solution to the country’s vast problems.

However with their own work, personal experiences, and understanding of various issues, ARCH has come to the realization that socialist policies may not only be the greatest obstacle in overcoming mass poverty but it may in fact be responsible for its perpetuation.

It now appears that economic liberalization and its accompanying market changes may be the best guarantee for the poor of India to liberate themselves.  To spread the idea of liberalization, ARCH has launched a program called “Initiative for Open Society” (“Pahel” in Gujarati). Publication of KHOJ and the translation of classic libertarian literature are but an attempt to influence public opinion in favor of economic liberalization, market changes, and liberty in general.