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P Vivekanandan: A Development Missionary

I got opportunity to interact with Mr. P Vivekanandan as a part of my MOVE course. I have documented his development journey in a brief. You can read this article and get the understanding what is the meaning of development missionary and what motivates a person to work for social cause.

“Believe on yourself and do your duty with honesty, sincerity and with all devotion, God will take care all your difficulties as an invisible hand.”

-P Vivekanandan, Executive Director, SEVA

“Believe in ‘Karma Theory, Material Simplicity and ‘Spiritual Richness’ which are available in classical literatures also, NGO work is good for the person who does not want material and luxurious life. Perform your duty and derive satisfaction.”

-P Vivekanandan, Executive Director, SEVA

Background Note

Mr. P Vivekanandan came on this earth on June 1956 in Madurai. He belongs to an ordinary family and he obtained his master degree in agriculture from Tamil Nadu University. After his master’s degree he worked as a research associate in Tamil Nadu Agriculture University for two years (1980 to 1982). Success touched the feet of Mr. Vivekanandan and he got selection as a Rural Development Officer in Syndicate Bank. While working in bank as a Rural Development Officer, he was not able to derive satisfaction. There was some restlessness in his mind so he left his secured job of Rural Development Officer and joined ASEFA. He worked in ASEFA for two years and got the exposure of NGO work. After working two year in ASEFA he left and joined General Insurance Corporation. Mr. Vivekanandan wanted to do work for the poor farmers and General Insurance Corporation was working on crop insurance so he joined with the intention to get satisfaction. While working in General Insurance Corporation Mr. Vivekanandan was not able to serve the people as much as he wanted to do. He realized that none of the bank and other corporations is suitable for his desirable work and he find out the way by which he can serve of needy people and community.

Mr. Vivekanandan has strong belief on people’s knowledge that people have solution of every problem with them, there is need to have the eyes to see the capacity of the people. In 1992 Mr. Vivekanandan started SEVA in Madurai (Tamil Nadu), a voluntary organization and registered SEVA under the Tamil Nadu Society Registration Act, 1975. When he started SEVA he has philosophy that the solutions of problem (Livelihood, Health or Climate Change) are locally appropriate and feasible when the solutions are based on indigenous knowledge.

SEVA has a mission to enhance the collective capacity of resource poor population through sustainable management of natural resource by building up indigenous knowledge. In starting period SEVA focuses on researching rural people’s knowledge system, concerning plants, environment values and diverse biodiversity conservation traditions. By researching these issues he wants to disseminate the people’s knowledge and wisdom for sustainable livelihood. Mr. Vivekanandan initiated promotion of farmers experimentation to reduce water requirements by following different methods of drip irrigation, exploration of new plants species and underutilized plants for delivering economic benefits to small land holders, preservation and dissemination of community conservation traditions such as sacred groves wasteland afforestation through women groups, organization of biodiversity contest for school children for transfer of knowledge form older generation to younger generation and publication of Tamil newsletter for communication of indigenous technologies.

Challenges in the life of Vivekanandan

In 1992, Vivekanandan stared SEVA for the management of natural resource but for running the institution a person should have proper financial assistance but he started from his savings which he has saved during his bank and corporation job. Soon he spent all the money and there was not enough money to run the organization. In first year PRADAN awarded a fellowship for six month for studying forestry, watershed development and social mobilization in different states.

Prof. Anil Gupta gave financial assistance of Rs. 1500 for period of three years. Prof. Anil Gupta is a faculty in Indian Institute of Management, Ahemdabad. He assisted SEVA for the publication of SEVA for the dissemination of tradition and indigenous knowledge of people. He also helped SEVA for collaboration with IIM/SRISTI for documentation.

In initial phase Mr. Vivekanandan had a difficult time for working with the people. Many government officials and political person opposed but his concern was stronger than the opposition of any government official and political power. He continued with his concern to serve the people and today there are many stakeholders (Govt, NGO’s, community) who come for taking suggestions from Vivekanandan as a resource person. Now NABARD, CAPART and forest department used to give project which was not recognizing the strength of indigenous knowledge of people and intervention of SEVA at initial phase.

One of the biggest achievements SEVA got rights for pastoralists which enhance the social security. “We were fighting and giving concept papers for the rights of pastoralists and access to grazing land. These communities are vulnerable as they do not have access to health, education and other mainstream facilities. From last 20 years we were trying to get the rights but now we got the pastoralists rights.” Mr. Vivekanandan said.

Like every parent Mr. Vivekanandan parents had some expectation so when he left his secure government job of Rural Development Officer, his mother was not happy with his decision but he was firm on his determination to do something different. Mr. Vivekanandan got married and he had two daughters. Mr. Vivekanandan’s had a hard time to make understand her wife about the non-government organization’s work. At initial phase her wife was worrying about how he will give education and quality life to children. Mr. Vivekanandan was working for the social cause so he had strong belief that God is always with him for making him out form every trouble.

His elder daughter studied B.E. and now she is working in a company as an engineer and younger daughter is also studying the engineering. Mr. Vivekanandan was not able to give as much time like typical parents but whenever it was necessary he gave his time to his children. After few years of marriage his wife understood him and now she is also interested for working for the people. She works with women self -help groups for various development interventions. She influenced from Mr. Vivekanandan and while working for the people she derives satisfaction.

Mr. Vivekanandan has dedicated his whole life for social cause but every human being has trade off in his personal and social life for the development of community. His soul always gave him instruction to dedicate his time for the development of community.

Message for Youths

“When I started the non-government organization SEVA, I was influenced from the work of non-government organization. In 1990’s there were few organizations who were working for development but today there are many organizations so it is difficult but not impossible to create your identity among the stakeholders. Before starting any organization equip yourself with thorough knowledge and skill of your desired area. If you really want to work for specific social causes do your work with devotion, do work without any expectation and have strong faith on God and on yourself. If you have all these minimum things nobody can stop you. Go ahead, God is with you.”

Lessons[1] from Mr. Vivekanandan

While interaction and my observation I came to know the motivation, values and ethics practiced by this development missionary.

Material simplicity

I judge on my first look that Mr. Vivekanandan is a simple personality of the highest level. When I saw SEVA office and Mr. Vivekanandan workspace, I have strong belief that there is no space for material things. He is a natural person while interaction he said, “I am a very small person, I am running a very small NGO and hopefully I am not going to fulfill your expectations.” This sentence and the way of communication impressed me a lot which forces me to say there are the people who do not care for the facilities which are necessary to put body on a comfort zone. Even though he does not wear slippers, one can imagine the extent of material simplicity in the life of Mr. Vivekananda.

Pursuit of Pleasure

While working for the poor people Mr. Vivekanandan used to derive satisfaction which is one kind of pleasure for him. When he makes recognition of people’s indigenous knowledge among the stakeholders particular to government, he used to get pleasure in his life.

Honesty and Transparency

While interaction I found Mr. Vivekanandan as an open person. He did not differentiate me as a student while telling about him. The other thing he follow these two values in his workspace and in his organization also.


I found Mr. Vivekanandan as a truthful person as I have two reasons, (1) the confidence and naturalness while speaking to a person, (2) the challenges faced by him when he entered in development sector. He told me the reality when a person’s desire is to work in development sector.


Piety means bhakti and Mr. Vivekanandan is the best example of practitioner of piety in his development work. While interaction I found he has strong belief on God and he accepts the difficulties of his life as Prasadam of God worship.

Stoic dignity

There are many ups and downs in the life of Mr. Vivekanandan but he never thought that he has chosen the wrong sector for his life. When he took the decision for working on indigenous knowledge of the people many difficulties came like lack of government support, inadequate fund to run the SEVA but he was clear for his purpose of life. As result today SEVA has an unique identity among the stakeholders and SEVA has publication of Honey bee which is read in all over India.

[1] These lessons are based on observation and interaction with Mr. Vivekanandan. These practice qualities are personal reflection of writer.


Filed under: Academic Writing

4 Responses

  1. Arun says:

    This article is very useful to know about Mr.vivekanandan, i am interest to see him.

  2. A.MADHAN KUMAr says:

    Good Rinki. I am moved by your documentation skills. MADHAN

    • Shanti Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for reading my documentation. This documentation is result of TDA faculties who grooms young graduates. Next I am cordially thankful to Mr. Vivekanandan who was opened in sharing his life with me.
      Your student

  3. This is good attept to share the live story of vivekanandan. Thanks.

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