Kumbh generally has a religious connotation but essentially it is a churning for the larger good. The three-day Ekal Parivartan Kumbh organised in Lucknow from February 16 to 18, 2020 was not an exception to this. This unique conglomeration brought together many unsung heroes together to share their experiences and concluded with the call to focus on integrated village development activities. The resolve to train the new breed of Satyagrahis for Gram Swaraj with the aim of self-reliant literate villages was the best tribute given to Gandhiji during his 150th birth anniversary celebration
Saubhagyawati Pratibha Parihar belongs to Latori village under Salekasa taluka of Gondia district in Maharashtra. She was part of Ekal Parivartan Kumbh held in Lucknow from February 16 to 18, 2020. What made her different from the other participants was the fact that she pioneered a wonderful change in her village. She, along with the Ekal workers, persuaded the fellow villagers to abandon the bad habits of tobacco, gutkha chewing and start contributing Re one per day to the village Ekal School, which is run to teach the children. A total of 30 families have so far started contributing to this collection. Hence, Rs 900 is collected from the village every month for Ekal School. That amount is deposited in Ekal bank account and then it is paid as honorarium to the village teacher. This change in the mindset of those who are availing the sewa shows the impact of Ekal movement that has now spread in over one lakh villages of the country. At the moment, the urban people and NRIs settled in various parts of the world contribute to the Ekal schools and other activities. If this mindset gathers momentum, the Ekal will not be required financial support from outside. Ekal Abhiyan is working on this line.
Patriotic Songs in Manipur Schools
Pratibha Parihar was not the only Ekal Nayak, who participated in the Parivartan Kumbh. There were many role models who have conducted worthy experiments in their respective villages. Khangembam Gopal Meetei belongs to Khujman village under Bishnupur district of Manipur. Though the Ekal work began in Manipur in 2004, in Khangembam’s village it began in 2006. He is now Gatividhi Pramukh there. The major change that has been achieved through Ekal in his village is that earlier there was no practice of singing patriotic songs and even the national anthem because none focused on teaching it in formal schools. But Ekal teacher not only taught the National Anthem to all but also taught the student patriotic songs. Today, there are 750 Ekal schools in Manipur. Apart from the patriotic songs, there is a focus on cultural awareness including the recitation of Saraswati Vandana and Gayatri Mantra. The Ekal activists have also started a dialogue with different tribal communities so that there is no ethnic clash between them in future.
Bhagwat Katha in Assam Jails
Kumari Rupali Hazarika came from Sarodia village under Tinsukia district of Assam. Ekal work in Assam began in 1998. Rupali joined the Ekal’s Kathakar Yojna after receiving training from Keshavdham, Vrindavan. For the last 20 years, she has been generating cultural awareness in the whole of Assam. There were a large number of people in Assam who were not idol worshippers and even did not participate in social activities. But after the Bhagwat Katha, many have actively started contributing to social activities. The experiment of Katha also effectively curbed the proselytisation in the region. There are many places in the state where a good number of tribal are coming back to their ancestors’ roots thanks to the efforts of Ekal and Bhagwat Katha. There are about 5700 Ekal schools in Assam. There is an equal number of Satsang Kendras also. Around 200 trained Kathakars are creating cultural awareness in the state now. Rupali Hazarika has been visiting remote areas of Assam for Bhagwat Katha for the last three years. She even organised Kathas in eight jails, which proved to be highly effective and the jail authorities have now requested her to organise the Katha in every district jail. Assam Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi has also lauded this idea. Dhanu Devi is also from Tinsukia and she imparts training of computer to the village children.
Organic Farming in Jharkhand
Rajvansh Singh from Belagi village in Girdih district, Jharkhand, joined Ekal in 2016 after his retirement as a school teacher. He is now promoting organic farming. He is persuading the villagers to opt for cash crops by adopting new farm technology offered by Krishi Vigyan Kendras. He has also focused on horticulture, which was earlier neglected in the region. This has helped the farmers to opt for multi-layer farming. Similarly, Ramchandra Prasad Verma from Beladi belongs to Girdih district. He is an Ekal-inspired farmer. First, he himself conducted successful experiments in organic farming and has now turned the entire village into an organic farming village. This has benefited all the farmers, as organic produce fetch more return. Santosh Kumar Verma is from Maniadi village under Girdih district. He has been associated with Ekal since 2011. He is also an organic farmer. He specialises in producing organic pesticides. Last year, Jharkhand government sent him to Israel where he learnt farming in the barren land.
Santosh Mahali, who belongs to Phuljori village under Girdih district, now makes bamboo idols. He has been an Ekal student. He knows this art since the young age, but Ekal workers promoted him to use it to earn money. His idols were displayed at the exhibition also held during the Ekal Parivartan Kumbh.
Shilpa Rani Mishra came from Karanjo, Jharkhand. She has been persuading the girls and women to learn tailoring and adopt it as a means of earning money. She imparted tailoring training to around 3500 girls and women from 23 villages since 2011. Prior to imparting this training she learnt tailoring from Ekal itself.
Chanda Devi, who belongs to Chandpur village in Gonda district, Uttar Pradesh, produces herbal tooth power, which is now sold in adjoining five districts. Though she is a post graduate from Faizabad, she received the training for preparing tooth power from Ekal and now has adopted it as a means of livelihood. She has named her tooth power as ‘Anti-Cancer Tooth Power’, as it helps the smokers or gutkha-paan chewers to get rid of this bad habit and stay protected. She has been producing it since 2016. Before producing tooth powder, she used to teach at Ekal Vidyalaya. Now, about 35 people are also earning their livelihood through her product.
Brijlal Thakur came from Sain village in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. During the last few years he, along with other villagers, worked on strengthening social harmony. “The feeling of untouchability has almost vanished from our village Panchayat now. It is thanks to Ekal,” he said.
Rahul Manhas came from Doda district of J&K. He has been a student of Ekal and now is working in J&K Police. When Rahul studied in Ekal School, terrorism was at its peak and the government schools were mostly non-functional. “Not only education but the patriotic spirit was also generated in me by the Ekal,” he said.
The three-day Ekal Parivartan Kumbh was full of similar Ekal Nayaks (who have conducted wonderful and meaning experiments) and the Ekal Gaurav (the Ekal students who have excelled in different fields). On the second day, i.e. on February 17 people who have made different experiments in their respective villages shared their experiences at Ambedkar Auditorium of Ram Manohar Law University.
Swaraj Senani Sammelan
The first day of the Parivartan Kumbh witnessed Swaraj Senani Sammlen at Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Rally Ground which stirred the villagers to be the change agents in their respective villages. For materialising the concept of Swaraj, groups of 10 men and 10 women will be constituted in each village where Ekal has any unit or activity and those groups of specially trained persons would then educate their respective villagers on how they can contribute in different village development activities and then how they can persuade the villagers of at least three surrounding villages to be the change agents in their respective villages.
Over one lakh persons from across the country and over a dozen foreign countries including the US, Australia, New Zeeland, UAE, Nepal etc. joined the Parivartan Kumbh on the first day. Inaugurating the Swaraj Senani Sammelan, noted saint Pujya Govinddev Giri Maharaj, Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara and Pujya Balaknath Maharaj called upon the people to be the change agents in their villages and shun the mindset of depending upon governments agencies for everything. Pujya Govind Dev Giri Maharaj said the huge gathering of villagers assembled at this ground shows that the country and the countrymen have awakened and they are ready to actively contribute to the nation-building. He said the country would truly be a developed nation when each and every tribal is developed.
Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara said the huge gathering at the Rally Ground shows that our dreams would be materialised soon. She stressed on spreading education and ensuring that nobody in the country should be illiterate. Pujya Balaknath Maharaj stressed that each person should pledge and ensure that he/she would educate at least five persons in their vicinity. “We have to ensure that at least the coming generation should be 100 per cent literate. Hence, the whole country should be fully literate in the coming five years. This should be our objective and mission for coming five years,” he said. General Secretary of Ekal Abhiyan Shri Madhvendra Singh said their emphasis is on making the villagers responsible citizens where people themselves think about their development.
Second Day of the Kumbh
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on the second day, said Ekal has been playing a significant role in materialising the concept of Ramrajya. He said the way Shri Ram ensured the development of all sections of the society Shri Narendra Modi government is working to take the fruits of development to all sections of the society. He stressed on awakening the people about various government welfare schemes through Ekal. Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya also addressed the gathering. A book on Ekal written by Meenakshi Singh was released. UPTU Vice Chancellor Prof Vinay Pathak said over 600 technical colleges would technically empower the Ekal schools in Uttar Pradesh. MoU to this effect has been signed. Founder member of Ekal Shri Shyam Gupt, vice president of VHP Shri Champat Rai also shared the dais. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath honoured some Ekal achievers on the second day.
Union Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh, RSS Sahsarkaryavah Dr Krishna Gopal and noted saint Pujya Ramesh Bhai Ojha applauded the social change getting visible through Ekal at the concluding ceremony on February 18. Shri Rajnath Singh said for making Bharat Vishwaguru we have to ensure that every citizen is educated. “It is good that Ekal Abhiyan is doing the same thing. Ekal workers are active even in areas where many people do not wish to go due to the unrest in the name of Naxal and terrorist activities. The Ekal activists are playing a key role in the reconstruction of modern Bharat,” he said.
Dr Krishna Gopal said Ekal has ensured holistic development of rural Bharat. Sant Shri Ramesh Bhai Ojha said Ekal is worthy because it is building the future Bharat. The Ekal students who are now serving police, army and paramilitary forces also shared their feelings before the Defence Minister. A souvenir prepared by Prof Manju Srivastava was released at the concluding ceremony.
The three-day Ekal Parivartan Kumbh concluded with the call for starting work on integrated village development. Under this project, various activities will be started and strengthened for education, healthcare, telemedicine, cleanliness, culture & environment protection. In order to strengthen bonds between the urban and rural students, students exchange programme will be conducted. Also, the Ekal workers would educate the villages on how to draw maximum benefits from various welfare schemes started by the central and the state governments. For the next five years, the Ekal Abhiyan has decided to focus on consolidating the existing work and also to promote the feeling of self-sufficiency (meeting most of the project related expenses locally). If happens, it would be a revolution in the sewa activities.