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Revive Mahatma Gandhi’s school in Rajkot as poll promise: Sam Pitroda to Congress

The Gujarat government had justified its action on the basis that the number of students studying in the school was small faring poorly in board examinations.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: November 11, 2017 4:30:44 pm
Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017, gujarat polls 2017, gujarat assembly elections, gujarat polls, mahatama gandhi school, sam pitroda, Congress, indian express news Sam Pitroda (third from left) at Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya, in Rajkot on Saturday. (Photo by Chirag Chotaliya)

SENIOR CONGRESS leader and entrepreneur Sam Pitroda on Saturday said that he was saddened to learn that the historic Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya, the school Mahatma Gandhi went to has been closed down and recommended his party to include in its poll manifesto a proposal to revive it and make it the best school in the world which teaches Gandhian philosophy.

“Before coming here, I visited Alfred School, the alma mater of Gandhiji. I saw the building and felt sad that the school is being closed down. According to me, this school should be the best school in Gujarat. I have heard that they are thinking of converting it into a museum, I don’t know the details. But were I to have my way, I would tell them to keep that school of Gandhiji and upgrade it to the level that it attracts people from all over the world,” Pitroda said while interacting with media in Rajkot.

Pitroda, who is the chairman of Overseas Congress department of Indian National Congress was in Rajkot to hold a public consultation for drafting manifest of the Congress party for the ongoing Assembly elections in Gujarat. The state, which is presently being ruled by the BJP will vote on December 9 and 14.

The Gujarat government had initiated the process of shutting down the Gandhi Vidyalaya in September last year when it ordered the school authorities to transfer students to Karansinhji High School, another government-run school in the city. The final nail in the coffin was hammered in April this year when the government started final process of winding up the school and the principal was ordered to complete the formalities by end of May.

The government had justified its action on the basis that the number of students studying in the school was small and that they were faring poorly in board examinations. The move had come after Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) had sent a proposal to the state government proposing to convert the school into a Gandhi museum.

Pitroda questioned if the state government doesn’t have the capacity to revive the school. “The school was established in 1875. You just imagine. It will shortly complete 150 years. And we are closing down that school. Don’t we have the capacity to revive that school? Why are we converting it into a museum? Such questions are popping up in my mind. We shall come to know later on what is good and what is not good. I don’t know the details. But I felt bad that this great school has been closed down,” he said.

Formerly known as the Alfred High School, the school was built by the Nawab of the erstwhile Junagadh state and opened in 1875. Gandhi attended the school from 1880 to 1887. The school was rechristened Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya in 1971 in the memory of Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. Former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, former cricketer Dhiraj Parsana and Union revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia are among the prominent alumni of the school

After the state government ordered the closure of the school, a small group of local alumni of the school had held protests on a small scale and a petition was also filed in the Gujarat High Court. But the Opposition Congress had not raised the issue then.

Responding to a query later on, Pitroda, however, said he would recommend his party to include a proposal to revive the school in the manifesto of Congress for the Gujarat election and that he would like to work on the school personally: “I would like to recommend to Congress to put this in manifesto. I would take pride in working on it. I am 75-year-old and not left with much time. It would be a great privilege and honour for me if I could convert it into the best school of the world within the amount of time I have. Let us make this school the best school in the world for Gandhian thoughts and not of Western thoughts, not the best school of what the world is teaching but what Gandhiji had to teach. Let people from all over the world come to his Gandhian school. Are we so dumb to close down a school and convert it into a museum?” said the politician who is native of Gujarat.

The RMC has awarded a contract to a private firm for converting the school into a museum and run it. It is likely to be inaugurated in the next few months.

Pitroda also took a dig at development claims of Gujarat. “They talk of development of Gujarat. But as a matter of fact, Gujaratis do well wherever they go and that’s why Gujarat is doing well overall. But this model is top-down model. You spend 30,000 crore for Nano car, 4,000 crore for Sabarmati River Front versus condition of women, malnutrition among children. Women have to walk miles for fetching water in 2017. We have created growth for a few but large masses have been left out. Gandhi talked about a bottom-up approach,” said Pitroda adding he obtained his masters degree in physics from MS University of Baroda by paying a fee of Rs 1000 but now it costs lakhs and people can’t afford education because it is in private hands and has been converted into a business.

During the day, Pitroda was to meet people from various walks of life, representatives of farmers, industry, students etc. After Ahmedabad and Vadodara, Rajkot was the third city of Gujarat where Pitroda held consultations with people for drafting manifesto of Congress party. He is scheduled to hold similar consultations in Jamnagar and Surat also.

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