GRAMIN is one of the foremost NGOs of Assam. TO KNOW HOW GRAMIN has come to exist, we shall have to go a few years back. All the core members of this organization were active members of Assam Science Society, Biswanath Chariali Branch, and as such all of them were devoted to the work of popularization and proliferation of science among common people. In 1986, we took part in the Gyan Vigyan Jatha, the biggest saga of popularization of Science in the country. During the Jatha we realized that if we want to popularize and spread science among people, first and foremost duty is to impart literacy to them. Then came the literary campaign in our district under the guidance of Gyan Vigyan Samittee, Assam. The Sonitpur district was taken for ‘total literacy campaign’ (TLC) which later on came to be known as Zila Saksharata Samittee (ZSS). Our founder Chairman, Sri Nabajyoti Sarma Boruah became the General Secretary and had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the district.
From the firsthand experience gathered we have seen that where there is poverty there is illiteracy. Poverty and illiteracy are the two sides of the same coin. We have felt that to fight this social menace we must adopt a method where poverty elevation programme and literacy will go parallely. At that time Sjt. B.R. Samal, IAS was the SDO(Civil) of Biswanath Sub-Division. He was a visionary as well as pro-poor officer with a tremendous lust for knowledge. He had brought forward the concept of self-help group (SHG) already tested successfully by Dr. Md. Yunus in Bangladesh and within our country, as for example, in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala etc. So we have decided to organize the rural people into SHGs in Biswanath Sub-Division which will serve as fundamental unit where economic activities and literacy will go simultaneously. The idea is that the literacy zeal will have to come from within rather than an imposition and accordingly in his leadership hundreds of SHGs were formed in the Sub-Division with the combined effort of government officer and ZSS. The idea of formation of an NGO to look after the endeavour and work for rural development and the upliftment of the poor. Then the name of the organization was GRAMIN VIKASH and latter on it had taken the shape of GRAMIN which is acronym of Agency for Rural Income Generation and Management.
After his departure almost all the SHGs had met a natural death due mainly to lack of government patronage. But from 1996 onward we were able to shrug off the fatigue and lethargy and constitute a small body to rejuvenate and strengthen GRAMIN for the elevation of economic condition of rural women by the formation of SHGs among them. Since then we are not looking back. A sense of confidence was grooming in the rural people in their potential and capacity to grow of their own with SELF HELP principle. From economic activities they are entering the arena of social upliftment, cultural refinement and who knows what is in future.
From only six women groups in 1995 we have made a great leap forward. In 1996 we formed ten groups, in 1997 seventeen groups and in 1998 twenty nine groups, and it started gradually growing and male counterparts were also encouraged to come under SHGs. 2nd July 1998 is a land mark in the developing history of GRAMIN. On this day CGM, NABARD,Guwahati Regional Office. Dr. S.C. Pathak, visited our SHGs and being satisfied with the activities of the SHGs formed advised us to expand our activities to a larger geographical area. He also advised us to submit a project proposal to NABARD for financial assistance. We were overwhelmed at the recognition and accordingly submitted our first project, titled “Awakening Ahalaya” which was approved by NABARD on 21stOctober, 2000. Since 1999 NABARD organized different seminars and workshops in collaboration with GRAMIN. This gave us a state level exposure. All these together helped us to broad-base our activities and expand our area of operation from four villages to two districts snowballing the number of SHGs formed. After the success of women groups we also formed male groups along with female groups. Today groups are formed by themselves and come to our office for registration, and at present we can boast of having 2594 SHGs (up to December, 2005) covering 33013 families, of which 2180 SHGs are formed by female members. And the flow goes on giving a wider dimension to our growing GRAMIN family.