If Gandhiji and his ideals are to be understood in true and full context, one has to understand that he was not just the father of the nation, he was the father of a society. He did not just strive to get us political freedom from the English reign. He sought to attain a larger, broader and more inclusive freedom for us as a society from economic backwardness and poverty, religious inflexibility, hegemony of class and creed, social taboos, ignorance and illiteracy. Self rule, or Swaraj, was an incomplete concept according to Gandhiji’s thinking. Only all-round uplift of one and all, or Sarvoday, would be closer to his conception of freedom.
Gandhiji had formed a firm opinion that India was predominantly an agrarian society. It cannot get lasting freedom from hunger, poverty and wanting unless its villages became respectfully employed and self-reliant. Rural India was the foundation on which the superstructure of Indian nation rested. Unless the foundation was strong, the structure above would crumble.
Gandhiji’s pioneering work in village and social sector welfare through practice of Sarvoday has left an indelible mark on every Gandhian, may it be an individual or an institution. GRF is no exception.
The Foundation is proactively engaging multiple and multi-dimensional extension activities that cover social and village welfare, education, water and soil management, and conservation, among others. Some of the major activities are summarised below.
Village Development Agenda
GRF has adopted five villages; namely, Vakod which is the birth place of Dr. Bhavarlal Jain, Jabhol, Mohadi, Takarkheda and Shirsoli and has undertaken comprehensive development programmes there.
Between 10 adn 16 January, 2009, a village development programme was held at Vakod. Youth from all the adopted villages participated in the programme. Diverse activities like personality development, awareness about village development model, forest conservation and protection, civic rights and responsibilities, modern agricultural practices, organic farming, water and soil management, religious tolerance and brotherhood, de-addiction, labour of love, hygiene and sanitation, etc. were included in the programme.
A similar programme was also held in Jalgaon on 10 and 11 January, 2011, at Jain Hills.
Gram Shilpi (Rural Sculptors)
As an outcome of the above programmes, a youth brigade of Gram Shilpis or Rural Sculptors has been established, which is enthusiastically volunteering in the Foundation’s various activities. The brigade is growing in strength and numbers day by day.
This brigade undertook a tour of central and northern Gujarat in early March of 2010 and imparted training and orientation related to water and soil management, community health and hygiene, literacy, child care and development, village development, etc. In north Gujarat, this brigade raised a collective of around 25,000 tribals and trained them in agricultural and economic self-reliance, drip irrigation, cooperative marketing, etc. A major highlight is that in the arid border area of Tharad in Banaskantha district, local farmers created a network of water reservoirs in 150,2016 acres of land and undertook water harvesting there. The initiative has transformed both the ecology and economy of the area, leading to all-round uplift of the hitherto hapless tribals.
One brigade of Rural Sculptors visited Nanded on 12 July 2010 and obtained extensive information and knowledge about khadi industry. Nanded is a reputed khadi production centre in India.
The Foundation has provided a wide range of assistance and aid to the education sector. These include facilities, equipments, sports implements, books, classroom furniture, laboratory instruments, and other infrastructural inputs to many educational institutions.
Hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation drives
The Foundation has initiated community drives related to hygiene practices, village cleanliness and best practices in sanitation. On Labour Day, May 1, 2010, one such drive was organised at Shirsoli village with enthusiastic participation from village dwellers.
Watershed and other water management initiatives
Water is the elixir of all life on earth, but man has been rampantly misusing, exploiting and wasting this finite and precious natural resource. Gandhiji used to lay great emphasis on water conservation and management and zealously advocated its judicious and canalised use in all walks of life.
GRF is committed to advance this cause. In the opinion of Dr. Bhavarlal Jain, agriculture is the single largest consumer of water – our per capita requirement of drinking water is just 2-5 litres per day, while the same for food requirement is 2000-5000 litres. Hence, if only 5% saving is realised in agriculture usage of water, it can meet the entire world’s water need of the growing urban and industrial sectors.
Water management projects are already undertaken by GRF. A 200-feet check dam between Takarkheda and Kadholi Shivrala villages has been completed. Going forward, it is expected that this will be a thrust area for GRF.
Foot marches and cycle rallies
It would not be inappropriate to say that Gandhiji literally walked his way to independence. Foot marches got India its freedom. In Gandhiji’s scheme of things, foot marches were a vital part of Satyagraha, or passive, non-violent resistance. Gandhiji utilised this method because apart from being a very healthy practice, foot marches offered various benefits to the satyagraha movement. Since such processions were more like walkathons, they offered very close and intimate encounters with the masses spread along the entire route of the procession. Such an effective means of mass contact helped in spreading Gandhiji’s message and the freedom wave across the length and breadth of the country. This created a nation-wide ground-swell of potent, non-violent energy, which ultimately became the strength of the independence movement.
The Foundation, in its own way, is utilising walkathons and cycle rallies as agents of change to create awareness about Gandhiji and his ideals amongst the masses.
A walkathon was undertaken between 20 and 30 April, 2011, in which enthusiasts from all the five adopted villages participated.
A 310-kilometer foot march was undertaken between Faizpur and Nandurbar, to celebrate the 75th year of the national convention of the Indian National Congress held at Faizpur in 1936. Imparting of Gandhian ideals, propagation of Khadi, sale of Gandhian literature, and other activities were undertaken during the rally.
A cycle rally with similar objectives was held between 30th January and 12th February, 2012. It traversed between Jalgaon and Prakasha (Shahada), a distance of 232 kilometres. During the rally, programmes were held at 31 schools in which ‘Gandhi’ film was shown, and the photo exhibition ‘Mohan to mahatma’ was displayed.
The Foundation organises purposeful activities under this head and uses them as opportunities of dialogue, debate and interactive events between the stage and the audience. The subjects are wide and diverse, and they include not only established, mainstream Gandhian issues and concerns, but also peripheral ones.
As early as in 2006, a lecture series was organised on the occasion of a century of Gandhiji’s first satyagraha in South Africa in jalgaon, on 11th September. Another notable event was the ‘Freedom Fighter Namdevrao Choudhary Lecture Series’ held in Jalgaon between 8 and 11 October, 2007. The event was inaugurated by Shri Ashok Bhau, and lectures were given by a host of distinguished speakers from different fields of knowledge.
Around ten such major lecture series were organised between 2007 and 2010, with prominent Gandhians and luminaries from other fields spoke effusively in the presence of an august audience.
Mohan to Mahatma photo-exhibition
The Foundation is in possession of over 5000 pictures from Gandhiji’s life, covering all major activities and events. This has been documented, compiled and converted into a mobile photo-exhibition named ‘Mohan to Mahatma’. The exhibition is displayed in schools and other educational institutions free of cost. Till date, over 1,50,000 students in over 50 educational institutions have seen the exhibition, and hopefully, gained a valuable insight into Gandhiji’s life and ideals through this medium.
Distinguished Gandhian and thinker Narayanbhai Desai, who is the son of long-time secretary of Gandhiji Mahadevbhai Desai, has evolved a unique story-telling means to spread the message of Gandhiji to the masses. This is in the form of ‘Gandhi Katha’ or The Life Story of Gandhiji, told live from a dais in an engaging, lyrical style. The Foundation had organised Gandhi Katha at Jalgaon between 4 and 8 October 2009. The event was a big success, and was attended by a distinguished gathering from Jalgaon and far-away places.
Sale of Gandhian literature and Khadi
The Foundation has its own sales cell from where these items are availed to visitors and other interested persons. A wide range of books and and by Gandhiji are available at the cell. The cell has also become known for its imaginative and wide collection of khadi material. Due to this, it is possible to use these materials in many innovative ways and combinations and come up with sleek, contemporary costumes and ensemble for both men and women.