The Central and state governments are planning a consolidation of around 63 historical buildings related to Mahatma Gandhi around Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and turning them into a “world class memorial” to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
A declaration on the same is likely on October 2 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend a public function at Sabarmati Riverfront to mark the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Gandhi.
Kartikeya Sarabhai, trustee of Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT), said that details are yet to be worked out on the project but an initiative has been taken.
According to Sarabhai, at present, visitors tour only an area of around 3-4 acres, housing the Hriday Kunj and the museums, where as the actual area spreads around 30 acres, housing around 63 historical buildings related to Gandhi that are generally not visited.
The Sabarmati Ashram precincts, which was earlier called the Satyagraha Ashram, had 120 acres and 28 gunthas of land till 1951, that cover Ahmedabad and Kheda districts. It was then divided into five trusts — The Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT), which has the Hriday Kunj and the museum, and is popularly known as the Sabarmati Ashram, The Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust managed by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and has land opposite the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and in Bidaj village of Kheda, The Sabarmati Harijan Ashram Trust, Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh, and the Khadi Gramodyog Prayog Samiti (KGPS). Apart from these, around 150 families who are descendants of those who were settled in the campus by Gandhi are also residing in the precincts.
“(So) the idea is that the Ashram area should be a bigger experience for the visitor by consolidating the different properties… Some land (also) has to be readjusted. Details are yet to be worked out,” said Sarabhai.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is understood to have discussed this in a meeting during his last visit to Gujarat on September 17. A top government official who was part of the discussion told this paper on condition of anonymity that “things are yet to be finalised”.
Sarabhai welcomed the move while indicating that the initiative has come right from the Prime Minister.
“It is a matter of consolidating different properties that function under different trusts. And it cannot be done without the Prime Minister… And the PM, when he was the CM (of Gujarat) discussed the idea in 2009 (too)… It is a positive step and I don’t think that it can be done other than now. Because PM himself is supporting it… I think that someone is thinking about a larger ashram, that is a positive step,” said Sarabhai.
He also added that the idea is to work together for the project by building consensus and not to forcefully take anything from anybody. Sources said that a committee comprising various experts and authorities has been formed to work out the plan and a number of meetings have also been held in this regard. However, Sarabhai refused to comment on that.
Sources said that the organisations and others are huddling together to decide the future course of action in the wake of the latest development. Different authorities have sent out communications to various trusts running the Gandhian institutions that own the properties in the campus asking them to provide the property for the development of a world-class memorial in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, they said.
Secretary of KGPS, Vijay Bahadur Singh (80), said he received a letter from Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIS) on September 20 with an insistence that the land of the institution be handed over to to the government for developing a world-class memorial in lieu of appropriate land or compensation. Singh said that chairman of KVIC, V K Saxena, also held a discussion with him in this regard.
“We will call a meeting of the Samiti (KGPS) in October or November in this regard and will take a decision,” Singh said.
KVIC Chairman, V K Saxena, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. KVIC falls under the Union Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises.
Dhimant Badhiya, who claims to be one of the ashram inmates, said, “We have come to know about this plan to redevelop the ashram campus. We are opposed to any idea to evict us from the campus. We would rather prefer that the authorities prepare the plan without evicting us. We are descendants of people who were settled by Gandhiji himself and we continue to spread the Gandhian ideology. My great grandfather taught weaving to Gandhiji.”
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