Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) has emerged with literacy campaigns and believed in these campaigns to be a possible starting point for social transformation. BGVS continues to put such an understanding into action with a strong belief and is a crusader against communalism and dependence. The earlier experience with adult education programmes, culminating in the formation of the National Adult Education Programme (NAEP) in 1978, suggested that it had not created a demand for literacy among the people. Hence, it initiated total literacy campaign for creating a demand not merely for literacy only, but also education.
In 1989, the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), one of the pioneering People's Science Movements (PSMs) in the country, undertook a massive literacy campaign in the district of Ernakulum. In collaboration with the District Administration, KSSP made use of its time-tested medium of Kalajatha (cultural caravans) to reach out to every nook and corner of the district to create an ambience for the literacy programme. The District Administration and KSSP along with various other voluntary and mass organizations worked hand in hand on the platform of Zilla Saksharatha Samiti. Hundreds and thousands of young men and women came out to become voluntary literacy teachers. The campaign approach of Ernakulum proved to be a major success as there was a substantial response to literacy efforts there.
Later in 1989, the NLM decided to replicate the Ernakulum experiment at the nationwide with the idea of a broad-based expansion for propagating literacy in country. All India People's Science Network (AIPSN), at the request of the Government of India, decided to form Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti with the primary responsibility of keeping literacy on the national agenda. Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti was formed to carry forward the campaign on literacy in the national level, Dr. Malcolm S. Adiseshiah was its founder-president and Dr. M.P. Parameshwaran, its secretary. This council elected a 13- members executive committee, which continues to function from the central office located in New Delhi and was included as the representative in the National Literacy Mission (NLM).
The initiative of BGVS on literacy was more likely visionary crusade with a philosophy rather than an ordinary registered organization’s project intervention. BGVS believes that there are good reasons for seeing poverty as a deprivation of basic capabilities, rather than merely as low income. Deprivation of elementary capabilities can be reflected in premature mortality, significant undernourishments (especially of Children and Women), persistent morbidity, widespread gender discriminations, unemployment, and other lapses. BGVS thus paid attention particularly to the expansion of the “Capabilities” of the marginalized, deprived, excluded and oppressed sections of the society- the capabilities of persons to lead the kind of lives they value and have reasons to value. These capabilities can be enhanced by public policy. On the other side, the directions of the public policies can be influenced by the effective use of participatory capabilities by the marginalized sections.