March from historic Vrindavan ashram to mark Gandhi’s 1st visit to Bihar
A march starting from the historic Vrindavan ashram in West Champaran district of Bihar will be held on April 10 to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence and Mahatma Gandhi’s first visit to Bihar in 1917 in support of Indigo farmers, suffering under the British rule. Union minister of art and culture Prahlad Singh Patel and Bihar deputy chief minister Renu Devi will attend the event, Bihar BJP state president and West Champaran MP Sanjay Jaiswal said on Thursday.
“The event is being organised as part of Amrut Mahotsav, by the government of India, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, kick started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Jaiswal.
Jaiswal said the march from Vrindavan Ashram, featuring several leaders, will culminate into a cultural programme at Bettiah’s Raj Kachahari grounds on April 10. Mahatma Gandhi had reached Patna on April 10, 1917 for his first visit to Bihar to first hand witness the plight of indigo planters of West Champaran. Gandhi’s visit snowballed into his first satyagraha in the country after return from South Africa.
Later in 1939, Gandhi, persuaded by Prajapati Mishra, the then Bihar Congress president, organised the fifth Gandhi Seva Sangh Conference at Vrindavan ashram between May 2 and May 9. The conference highlighted the need for basic education and total dependence on indigenous goods as means to arouse mass consciousness against the British rule, paving the way for establishing basic education schools and khadi gramodyog kendra in erstwhile Champaran.
Spread over 2.5 km wide area, Vrindavan ashram houses private cottages, orchards and Gandhian memorials. Gandhi had addressed a gathering here after the conclusion of the fifth Gandhi Seva Sangh Conference in 1939.
The two basic education schools Gandhi started here- Rajkiya Bunyadi Vidyalaya and Rajkiya Bunyadi Kanya Vidyalaya, have witnessed a decline in the past few years with shrinking students size and the locals citing poor quality of teaching as the chief reason.
From 735 students in 2016-17, the strength at Rajkiya Bunyadi Vidyalaya came down to 617 in 2017-18, followed by 510 in 2018-19, 448 in 2019-20 and 444 in 2020-21. Similarly, the student strength at Rajkiya Bunyadi Kanya Vidyalaya has come down to 250 odd in the current session.
Teachers allege discontinuation of incentives like scholarship, dress compensation etc in the past few years, coupled with poor remuneration for the teachers, as the primary reasons for the decline. “Though the scholarship and dress compensation have been reinstated, the teachers here get mere ₹6,500 as salary. Moreover, Rajkiya Bunyadi Vidyalaya continues to function without a regular headmaster,” said a teacher, who didn’t wish to be named.