By: RK Misra

Modi Government’s move to take over all Gandhi Ashrams, Trusts, land and property of these Trusts have shocked Gandhians across the country

Gandhi Ashram

Gandhians were stunned to learn last week that the Government was planning to take over the Sabarmati Ashram. The plan is to take over all Trusts, institutions, land and property, painstakingly built over the last 70 years, with or without government grants.

The Sabarmati Ashram was served a notice informing the trustees and the 200 and odd inmates that the Government was preparing to give them ‘handsome compensation’ and apartments for ceding control of the institutions and the land. The Government, the notice assured, planned to transform the Ashram into a fitting ‘world class’ memorial to the Mahatma.

Alleging that the Government is eying what is now prime property, Gandhians point out that the ashram was set up on barren land and was home to Gandhi between 1917 and 1930. Not all Gandhian institutions have been receiving grants from the Government either. And while Gandhians have kept the legacy of the Mahatma alive in the face of severe odds, they seem to have outlived their utility in the eyes of the Government.

Aghast, Gandhians wonder what would happen to Gandhian ideals of simplicity and austerity. Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of the Mahatma tweeted “Stop the devious attempt by the government to take over Sabarmati ashram”.

Their outrage is not difficult to explain. Narendra Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, had got a convention centre named after the Mahatma built at a cost of ₹200 Crore. The glitzy ‘Mahatma Mandir’, as the art and convention centre is known, has now been handed over to a hospitality group, which runs a chain of luxury hotels, to operate.

Now the same government, which failed to run the art-cum-convention centre, is planning to take over Gandhian Trusts and land to have another shot at a ‘world class’ centre. Media reports suggest that Gujarat Government signed a 20-year contract with the hospitality major, Leela Group, and handed over the prime property opposite the secretariat.

It is hardly a coincidence that the Leela Group is also constructing a 300-room luxury hotel which would tower over the redeveloped Gandhinagar Railway Station next to Mahatma Mandir.

Sabarmati Ashram, known as Gandhi Ashram as well as Harijan Ashram, was set up in 1917 on a barren land between a jail and a crematorium. The Ashram’s website explains that Gandhi believed a Satyagrahi had to go to either place.

Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust has Elabehn Bhatt as the chairperson. Other trustees are Shri Kartikeya V Sarabhai, Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar, Nitin Shukla, Ashoke Chatterjee and Amrut Modi as Secretary.

Ashram institutions include Harijan Ashram Trust, which runs Vinay Mandir for secondary and higher education, hostel for Harijan girls and a Mahila Adhyapan Mandir for Primary Teachers’ Training. Gujarat Khadi Gramodyog Mandal looks after village industries and produces and sells Khadi, handmade paper, soap, oil etc and also makes Ambar Charkha, Looms and its accessories.

Khadi Gramodyog Prayog Samiti conducts research and training in spinning-weaving, solar energy, and biogas, etc while Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh works for removal of untouchability; it also runs the Environmental Sanitation Institute and conducts research and training in rural health and sanitation.

Courtesy National herbal india…