Gandhian thought does not require any army or organisation to achieve a desired change in the society. This ‘one-man army’ concept makes Gandhi different from all other thoughts like Marxism, etc. which focus on a force whether in the form of an organisation or army for any change. Since Gandhian thought is based on morality and morality cannot be generated among the masses all of a sudden, Gandhi focuses on building individuals with high moral character. Then those people with high moral character start addressing different problems of the society. Gandhi’s 18-point ‘Constructive Programme’ is basically to regenerate the society from the degeneration that it suffered due to the slavery of over a thousand years. Gandhi wanted this regeneration on the basis of the cultural ethos of this land and in every sphere of life. That is why he did not cap the 18-points mentioned in the ‘Constructive Programme’, rather called upon the people to add any number of points in the list so that the work of regeneration touches all spheres of life.
When society faces any problem, an individual prepares oneself for a solution. That individual starts work to eliminate any particular problem. And how such individuals can be instrumental in a big change has perfectly been depicted in the latest publication, ‘Unsung Builders of Modern Bharat: Following Gandhi by Deeds’ by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Rajghat, New Delhi. The book, written by senior journalist and Chief News Coordinator of Organiser Weekly Dr Pramod Kumar provides the success stories of 40 such visionaries. These people in their respective areas have proved that there is no problem in the society for which we need to wait for the government agencies to come and solve them. This dependence on government for everything has killed the real spirit of the society.
The 260-page book, which is also available in Hindi under the title ‘Aadhunik Bharat Ke Gumnam Samaj-Shilpi’, provides a roadmap how the individuals and the society should address their problems themselves without any government help. The story of ‘Jalyukta Latur’ where the people of the city, forgetting all their political, social, religious or other differences came forward and collectively cleaned their Manjra River without taking even a single penny from the government, basically shows the way to resolve our various problems. What is wonderful about this project is that the government agencies wanted Rs 80 crore, while the local people did it for less than seven crore rupees.
Another inspiring story in the book is about a youth Harshal Vibhandik who digitised all 1,103 government schools in Dhule District of Maharashtra by mobilising 70 per cent funds from the local villagers, students and teachers. A management graduate, Harshal was working in New York but he returned Bharat to ensure digital classrooms to the tribal students in remote villages where even pucca construction is not allowed.
Every story in the book is full of inspiration. We talk about empowerment of the deprived sections of the society. I feel, today, the most deprived section in our society is the nomadic tribes whom we do not accept even as part of our society. Instead of providing them with basic facilities of life like ration card, voter card, etc., the police till some decades back treated them as ‘criminal by birth’. Every newborn child among them was registered as a ‘criminal by birth’. Could there be any other height of cruelty? Shri Girish Prabhune of Pune dedicated his entire life to ensure a respectable life for them. As a result of his efforts over one lakh nomads in Maharashtra now live a respectable life. Equally, Shri Sanjay Kambale in Latur ensured a dignified life to more than 800 rag pickers. Dr Girish Kulkarni in Ahmednagar (Maharashtra) not only rehabilitated over 900 commercial sex workers but also saved their second generation from the ignominy of joining it. Dr BM Bhardwaj of Bharatpur (Rajasthan) has cured about 11,000 mentally-sick persons normally seen on the roads in highly unhygienic conditions without food, medicine, clothes, shelter, etc. and reunited them to their respective families. Still, he is serving thousands of such people through 20 Ashrams in various states. Shri Ashish Gautam has ensured a dignified life to thousands of lepers in Haridwar. Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti in Delhi has ensured donation of 226 dead bodies and over a thousand pairs of eyes to various Medical Colleges, and over 10,000 people have pledged for it after death. SOCARE Ind. in Bengaluru has saved over 300 kids of convicts from taking to crime.
Some wonderful experiments going on in the society have been compiled in the book with a fascinating narration. At Pen town of Raigad district in Maharashtra, about 500 housewives have transformed the lives of over one lakh people, including 3000 tribal girls. All these housewives only use the free time that they get from their household work. Wonderful service to society without expecting anything in exchange! Smt Chandrika Chauhan in Solapur city of Maharashtra transformed the lives of over 15,000 women in distress and groomed about 400 first-generation women entrepreneurs. This single woman mobilised the women power and used that for their empowerment. The products made by them are now exported to many European countries.
The skyrocketing cost of medical treatment, both in rural and urban areas, all over the country has emerged as a major challenge for the government and society. However, the permanent solution to this problem is possible on the part of the government only, but a Delhi-based medico, Dr RS Tonk who works in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital as Head, Nursing Home, generates a ray of hope. During the last several years, Dr Tonk has screened about six lakh patients in rural areas of the National Capital Territory by ‘taking the hospital to villages’ through free health camps. Until we create a solid health mechanism in the country, such experiments may be conducted in other parts of the country by the government hospitals at least twice a month. It is necessary because the villagers have to run to cities even for minor health issues and there they are robbed off.
The story of Delhi-based businessman, Shravan Goel, is also not less inspiring. He has motivated scores of people born in villages and doing jobs or business in cities to reconnect to their respective villages and join development activities there. A good number of such projects are being run in nine states of the country. Shri Vijay Jardhari in Uttarakhand has preserved over 600 varieties of different indigenous seeds. Inspired by Shri Anupam Mishra the people at Laporiya village in Dudu Tehsil of Jaipur have developed a natural forest reviving over 150 species of birds and thousands of varieties of plants, trees and creatures. Udaipur based Dr PC Jain is working as a one-person army to motivate people to save rainwater. He has motivated over 2000 families to adopt rooftop rainwater harvesting in Rajasthan so far. Basanti Behan has revived a ruined forest and dried river in Almora by mobilising the local women.
The ‘Constructive Programme’ of Gandhi is a guiding force. It is not the last sentence, like the Bible or the Quran. It says there are problems in our society and we have to identify and address them. It is for social regeneration and building national character. These individuals identified any of the issues concerning society and sacrificed their lives to address them. There are countless other champions of change and their efforts should also be documented. I wonder why our media does not spare space for this positive side of society.
This book, forewarded by Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Dr Rajiv Kumar, should be in the libraries of every school, college and university in the country and the students should be especially motivated to read this gospel of social regeneration.
(The writer is Hon. Director of Gandhi Bhavan, University of Delhi)