Baba envisioned Somnath as a village where the cured leprosy patients would live together in a village, which they themselves would set up, using their own resources, blood, sweat and toil.
Somnath is spread across 1300 acres, located in the lust green forests of Tadoba. Situated 54 kilometers north-east of Chandrapur, it is about 100 km south of Anandwan. The heavenly place Somnath is the granary of MSS. It is a village of Gandhi’s dreams with its own bio-diversity, abundant water and a rich culture. Since 1967, Somnath has been serving as a manpower training center and has inspired thousands of youth who come here to attend the intensive training programs which provide extensive output. Each of these inspired youth have gone on to become institutions in themselves.
Workers' University - An Unfinished Agenda
It was to be a University in which students along with acquiring a degree would be trained in productive work. Baba says, "The present universities train the mind, but the hands of the students remain incapable of doing any productive work". The workers university would be a place where the work of the youth would become their pulpit. By transforming the existing social organization, centered on subsistence farming, into a highly productive agro-industrial system, the wealth and well-being of the rural population would increase and the emigration into the cities and into the slums would cease.
Baba explains the failure of this project by saying, "It is wrong to evaluate an adventure in terms of ultimate success or failure. An adventurer does not bother about success or failure. Some experiments succeed, others fail. The small failures will be the launching pads of bigger adventures, just as the failure of 'Shramashram' led to the success of Anandwan. The germ of success is hidden within every failure. Such failures can be compared to the few steps a leopard retreats before pouncing on his prey. Very often the failure marks the turning point from the wrong to the right direction".
Initial Years of Struggle
Like Anandwan, Baba's Somnath project also has been launched in difficult environments - unproductive and uninhabitable lands - discarded and forgotten by the people as well as the Government. In 1967 with the blessing of the Planning Commission, Baba Amte was given 2,000 acres of barren forest land at Somnath. Baba Amte moved into Somnath in March 1967 with Vikas, Prakash and their adopted son. Ten cured leprosy patients from Anandwan went with them. The following year, students from all over India came to help develop Somnath and soon twenty-five acres were under the plough. Initially the villagers from surrounding areas rose in protest against Baba as they were apprehensive of the leprosy patients drawing water which was used even by the villagers. Persistent local pressure eventually forced Baba to hand back over 700 acres of the land which had been given to him, together with a valuable stream which would have irrigated large parts of it. But this did not stop him and his patients from turning Somnath into a model farm. The Amtes have always faced this kind of an initial struggle due to the leprosy taboo but the Amtes say that it has always proved lucky for them as the project later has grown to be hugely successful, like Phoenix, rising from its own ashes.
At present Somnath has about 550 residents, most of them leprosy patients and about 1,000 acres out of the 1,330 acres which Baba was allowed to retain, are cultivated. It has become so prosperous that it can send very substantial subsidies of food and money to Anandwan. In fact Somnath is called the granary of MSS.
A great difficulty was that nearly all the available water supply was lost when the 700 acres were given to the local population. Now many percolation dams have been built, which are filled with rainwater during the rainy season and their water seeps into the lower lying areas. Thereby the water scarcity has been turned into water abundance by the toil and determination of the people here.