An increasing number of students are taking the Gandhi Peace Exam, an 80-mark multiple-choice paper.
In the last five years, the number of school and college students taking the exam has jumped five times. In 2004, 12,000 students across Maharashtra took the exam, while this year 30,000 have already taken it and another 30,000 have applied for it.
“One of the major reasons for this is Munnabhai. After the movie, there was a sudden interest among youths in Gandhian philosophy,” said TRK Somaiya, programme coordinator of the Mumbai Sarvodaya Mandal that conducts the exam in Mumbai and provides books and syllabus to students.
“Another reason for the growth is the United Nations declaring October 2 as International Non-Violence Day.”
The exam can be taken throughout the year and those who pass it get a certificate.
Munnabhai dissolved the generation gap between the youth and Bapu, said Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Gandhi and founder of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. “Earlier, Bapu was for Gandhians and intellectuals, but Munnabhai changed that. Apart form that, youth today are experiencing uncertainty and are increasingly turning to Bapu for solutions,” said Gandhi.
For Ujwala Penker, a teacher at Sharda Mandir High School at Nana Chowk, studying Gandhian philosophy is important to counter the degeneration of value systems.
“Parents are busy and, with nuclear families, there are no grandparents to talk to children about Gandhi. So, this is the best way to teach children these values,” she said.