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VGKK and Karuna Trust: Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development

27 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2011  

Baragur Venkateshiah Krishnamurthy


Dilshad D. Jalnawalla

Ramaiah Institute of Management Studies (RIMS)

Date Written: November 30, 2011


800 million of the 1200 million people in India have been classified as being poor. About 500 million are “below the poverty line” – a euphemism for per capita income of less than US$ 2 per day. Over 80% of these are the rural poor – living in conditions that cannot be described. These are the people “at the bottom of the pyramid” in the words of C K Prahalad. The country’s impressive economic growth in the last two decades is shadowed by the failure to lift this large mass of people out of poverty and degradation.

Traditional models – whether one wants to look at the Nehruvian model of socialism in which the public sector had a pre-eminent role to play or the half-hearted market economy model of the present Government – have failed to deliver. The Westminster model inherited from the British has created a new class – the politician bureaucrat nexus – that has systematically deprived the ever growing population of the fruits of development (L C Jain et al; Grass without Roots; Sage Publications; 1986). No less than three successive Prime Ministers have admitted that of every Indian Rupee spent on development; only 10% reaches the target group. In contrast, of every Indian Rupee spent through not-for-profit entities, 90% reaches the target group.

The case is about one of the most inspiring examples of Social Entrepreneurship in the last three decades. Dr Sudarshan graduated in medicine in 1973. He served as a doctor with the Ramakrishna Mission and in that capacity travelled to different places – the Himalayas in the north to a very backward village in the Southern Indian State of Karnataka. Appalled by the living conditions of the Soliga Tribe of B R Hills in Karnataka, and inspired by the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Albert Schweitzer, he decided to devote his life to improving the conditions of the tribe. Thus was born the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to transforming the Soliga Tribe in 1980 and Karuna Trust, a not-for-profit organization for the eradication of leprosy, tuberculosis and other diseases in 1986.

This case outlines the unconventional approach taken by Dr Sudarshan in delivering health care, providing education and vocational training, and most importantly, facilitating the transformation of the tribes into micro-producers without ever having to give up their culture and traditions. Extracts from the medicinal plants grown by the tribe are being exported to the developed countries. Handicrafts and artefacts made by the tribe are being marketed through cooperatives. In other words, the Soliga Tribe are now an integral part of the growth story of India.

Recognizing the pioneering work of Dr Sudarshan, the Government of Karnataka invited him to be a part of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to manage the Primary Health Centres in Karnataka. As a result, the Karuna Trust today manages a PHC in every district of Karnataka. Other states have followed suit and the Trust manages PHCs in Arunachal Pradesh (North India) and Orissa (Eastern India). Requests are pouring in to manage PHCs in other states as well.

Dr Sudarshan has demonstrated that selfless social entrepreneurship can do wonders to the process of development. He has provided an alternate model for inclusive growth and economic development of local communities while retaining the rich culture and traditions that have stood the test of time.

The uniqueness of the model is its simplicity, scalability and repeatability. India is a diverse country with very different cultures. If the model could be implemented with equal felicity in Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh and Orissa, there is no reason why it cannot be implemented anywhere in the world. In that sense, Dr Sudarshan has given humanity hope for a better tomorrow.

Suggested Citation

Krishnamurthy, Baragur Venkateshiah and Jalnawalla, Dilshad D., VGKK and Karuna Trust: Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development (November 30, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Baragur Venkateshaiah Krishnamurthy (Contact Author)


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Dilshad D. Jalnawalla

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