Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Nov 12, 2011

Unparalleled example of making a dream come true!

The year is 1946. the day is 3rd March, quite a  hot day of impending summer.  The place is a remote village in western India. Two simple looking men (one is 66 years old and other precisely a decade younger) are arranging their spartan personal belongings in an 8 ft x 10 ft sized makeshift dwelling under a mango tree. The area is infested with gangs of robbers and dacoits. 

They have the burning ambition to do something for the people of their area. They have spent lot of time in ambitiously planning to build a new educational town. With no resources in hand, they had held a meeting in a small neighbouring village, predominantly comprising of farmers. They were persuading farmers to donate their land for their dream project, which would benefit one and all in times to come. 

One of them - the younger of the two - had drawn an ingenious plan which offered a deal, with all sincerity, integrity and commitment: 

By October 1943, Bhaikaka had planned a complete and compact town of learning. The town would have provision of almost all the faculties of education, with learning facilities from KG to PG, and even a University. He planned a town with all infrastructural facilities like electricity, water supply and roads. He envisioned supportive facilities like a market, a post office, temple, a hospital, a community hall, recreational facilities and a vast playground.

Farmers will give their land free of cost for their project. They would develop the entire are and soon the market value will sky-rocket. At that point of time, they would return to each donor a piece of land measuring 1/3rd of his originally donated land. The market price of this small piece will far, far more than compensate him as compared to his initial philanthropy.

With such a win-win proposal and a desire to be useful to the society at large, the plan worked well. 

At one such meeting in a village, the response was so astounding that the village population spread the map of the village land before these two benevolent taskmasters and offered them a pencil to choose the land size they need. Donations rained that day in the small village of Bakrol and 555 acres of land was spontaneously offered. The educations mega city was now not a mere dream but a work-in-progress.

They despised the idea of borrowing know-how and do- how from anywhere. So they started to bake bricks for the buildings locally. Soon to follow were a workshop and foundry, cement pipe factory, tiles factory, rubber factory and prestressed concrete factory to produce, in addition to bricks, lime, timber doors and windows, flooring tiles, hume pipes and various concrete products.

And why not?  What they produced was cheaper in cost, superior in quality and employed local people. Next, they silently started to transform the social stigmas such as un-touchabilty, divided factions through narrow religious beliefs and caste system. So, they invited a Harijan to inaugurate the brick-kiln, a Muslim mechanic to lay the foundation of the workshop and foundry and a Brahmin to lay the first brick of the Science College! They did not miss out to start even a printing press for printing handbills, booklets, books, research journals and question papers! Not to mention that they planted a thousand trees.

They had blessings of  Sardar Patel,  Mahatma Gandhi and the like. Their extraordinary hard work brought  into existence their first college in  June 1947. Its  B.A. and B.Sc. classes had no roofs - just tall walls. After the classes were over,  the  teachers and students carried, with cheer, bricks and mortar, toiling  along with the skilled and semi-skilled construction workers !

Sir C.V. Raman and Lady Raman graced the first Annual Day celebration of the college.

Justice M.C. Chagla, Vice -Chancellor, University of Bombay, during his visit to  in 1947, was all praise for it when he said, "I came here... and found a new magic. Dreams have come to reality. As the Vice- Chancellor, I am proud that such an ideal college is affiliated to the University of Bombay.'

In next five years came up two more colleges: commerce and engineering. Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor General,  declared open the engineering college on 14th June, 1948 and had praised this "experiment in village reconstruction"  . He said that “ from the start the organizers have kept before them the project of a residential university and I am glad to see the educational areas of the township have been planned accordingly.. it is a real pleasure for me to perform this ceremony , the last of its kind of which will be my pleasure to perform in India as governor general”

Jawaharlal Nehru, who laid the foundation stone  of this new educational town observed"...The first thing I have liked is that the activities here have the object of serving village people. The other thing I have liked is that you do not care whether your house is ready or not. You know how to start putting it to use and start your activities. Here we find harmony of principle and practice. This institution by itself prepares its requirements. I earnestly hope that the example of this institution will not only be followed in this province but throughout the country..."

Many reputed men of letters from all over the country joined  college as teachers in response to the appeal of the founders who ensured that the quality of education imparted was first- rate. In order that new teachers too equip their students with the latest advances in their respective disciplines they sent nearly a dozen teachers to U.K.U.S.A. and Germany  for receiving advanced training in research.

The engineering college was the first one started by a private trust in the entire Bombay State, which extended from Karachi to Dharvad, and the first one in the state. The commerce college foundation stone  was laid in 1950 by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Establishment of Gram Panchayat (1954) & railway station  (1956) added new dimension to the prolific development . And all this within a short span of only eight years !

The enthusiasm was unstoppable. Within ten years of its foundation it became a university township in October 1955. As a befitting gesture expressing their deepest gratitude, people were happy to see the elder of the two founders being appointed as its first vice chancellor.
Today, the campus hums with almost 45 institutions,  beginning with primary schools, technical school, offering graduate courses in arts, science, commerce, engineering,  fine arts, music, dance, pharmacy, applied science, environmental design, English training and research, home science, career development centre, management education, physical education, ayurvedic study and research, language studies, applied social sciences, women’s  institute for engineering, research in computer and communication technology, ayurveda hospital and maternity home, IAS academy, etc. etc.

To imagine that this happened so long ago, without the help of present day time saving tools and facilities like high speed transportation and communication is itself mind boggling.

The two  founding fathers were none other than Shri Bhailalbhai Patel (Bhaikaka) ( 1880-1970)  (pictured  on the left) and Shri Bhikhabhai Patel (1890-1955); the driving force and inspiration behind the entire concept was Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel (1875-1950)( with the university named after him to immortalize his contribution in this entire project, as also  the educational campus : Vallabh Vidyanagar in Gujarat.)