Gandhi heritage cries for upkeep

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By R.N. SINHA
  • Published 31.01.11
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Motihari, Jan. 30: Mahatma Gandhi’s connection with Champaran goes beyond the Satyagraha Movement he started from the district.

There are more than a dozen places in Champaran, including the basic schools founded by Gandhi, the places where he stayed during his visit, the Chandrahiya village where he was served upon the collector’s order to leave the district and the then SDO’s court where he delivered his famous speech on April 18, 1917, which still boast of a deep connection with the great leader.

However, the current state of the centres started by Gandhi has become a cause of concern and agony for Gandhians in the region.

Braj Kishore Singh, secretary of the Gandhi Sangrahalaya, expressed his displeasure over the poor management of centres associated with Gandhi. The apathy of the authorities towards these places is evident from the fact that while no new cottage industries have come up in Champaran villages since Independence, even those established here by Gandhi like the Khadi Gramudyog have been shut down.

During his stay in Champaran, Gandhi laid the foundation of the first-ever basic school at Barharwa Lakhansen village, 30km east from the district headquarters, on November 13, 1917. The school is considered to be the foundation of the emotional bond that Gandhi developed with Champaran. The country’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad has written in his book that the school was running under the supervision of Mahatma Gandhi and later on, several eminent persons and academics of that time such as Babban Gokhle, Devdas Gandhi and Awantika Bai Gokhle were appointed as teachers at the institute.

Gandhi set up two more basic schools at Bhitiharwa in West Champaran and Madhuban in this district on November 30, 1917 and January 17, 1918. The purpose behind setting up these schools was to fight illiteracy and generate aware-ness among the rural people, said Singh. But now, all three schools have been upgraded to middle school and the teaching standard has declined. The upgrade has dealt a severe blow to the quality of education being imparted to the students, said Singh.

“At a time, when several states of the country and even people abroad have started transforming Gandhi’s thought into action, his principles have been ignored in Champaran, the place from where the Father of the Nation started his mass movement,” said Singh.

Speaking about political parties, Singh, who was former minister in the Congress government in early eighties, said: “Champaran today is like a carpet that is dusted every now and then for political propaganda and then consigned to the ante room.”

The Gandhian, however, expressed satisfaction over the way the Sangrahalaya is functioning. The number of visitors at Gandhi Sangrahalaya has increased.

Screening of films on Gandhi every Sunday at the Sangrahalaya has also started attracting a large number of students and youths to the centre, he said. In fact, more youths are buying the autobiography by Gandhi, in Hindi, Urdu and English from the Sangrahalaya book store.

Singh, who is dissatisfied with the standard of teaching in schools and colleges in Bihar, is hopeful that the growing interest among the youngsters about Gandhi and his theory will help improve the society and its thought process.