Dr.W.G Prasanna Kumar was speaking in an online talk organised by the University of Hyderabad (UoH) in commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

 In connection with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the University of Hyderabad, with the support of the Office of Dean, Students’ Welfare and the Programme for Gandhian Economic Thought, School of Economics organised an online talk on Gandhian thought. Dr.W.G Prasanna Kumar, Chairman of Mahatma Gandhi National Council of Rural Education (MGNCRE) was the guest speaker at the event.

 Inviting the speaker and others, Prof. B. Rajashekhar, Pro Vice Chancellor-2 of the university said that Gandhi’s relevance is ever increasing and it has become applicable to almost all disciplines of study. Recalling the series of events conducted on Gandhian Thought in the year, he insisted, “Let us continue this and have more events in the future.” Prof. Naresh Kumar Sharma from the School of Economics joined him in welcoming the chief guest. “It has given an impetus to conduct more events to critically engage with Gandhian ideology,” he added.

 Dr.W.G Prasanna Kumar began the talk by expressing his pleasure in giving a talk to the community belonging to his alma mater. He traced the developments that MGNCRE underwent over the years. From an institute focused on rural institutions, MGNCRE evolved to be one that focused on rural education. He explained how the organization went back and forth on Gandhian ideologies when it came to new policies and programmes.

Dr. Kumar, in his talk, reiterated the Gandhian ideology of ‘head, hand and heart working together.’ He spoke on MGNCRE’s three major areas of work- Education, Economy, and Ecology. “Broom should be everybody’s business, believed Gandhi,” said Dr. Kumar on the public health and hygiene education measures adopted by Gandhi. Quite contrary to Gandhi’s idea of ‘everybody doing it for everybody’, he said, “Public health education in India encourages knowing but not doing.” He said Gandhi’s idealism, on the other hand, was based on pragmatic thought.

 Gandhi was a naturalist. Dr. Kumar pointed out how his ideas on ecology formed the basis for the concept of sustainable development today.

 The MGNCRE believed in the concept of trusteeship and this lead to the birth of Farmer Producer Organisations across the country. “Aggregation enabled farmers to enjoy economies of scale,” said Dr. Kumar, emphasizing the need for giving the farmers the benefits of processing. Acknowledging the minor drawbacks, he said, “Lack of professional management knowledge of FPO’s is the problem. We (MGNCRE) have started Rural Entrepreneurial Development Cell (REDC) in 35% to 40% of the total management institutes in the country to impart hands-on experience.”

 In education, he cited the two biggest problems as a lack of proper knowledge of mother tongue and science and technology studies being restricted to the laboratories. Gandhi’s principle of language education gave immense importance to the knowledge of the mother tongue. Dr. Kumar said, “According to Gandhi, if you know mother tongue, then any language could be learnt easily.” He questioned, “Why issues of rural society stood out of Indian classrooms?” ‘Less use of hands but more use of head’ was his answer.

 Speaking further on this disconnect, he highlighted that community engagement of higher education institutes in India was dismal. The MGNCRE has introduced various Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) programmes in around 300 universities all over India. He also expressed his eagerness to do several activities of this kind with the University of Hyderabad in the coming days. Lastly, he added that vocationalisation in education is a big step in making Gandhi relevant today.

 Interestingly, MGNCRE is also celebrating its silver jubilee this year.

 Dr.Santosh R. Kanade, Deputy Dean Students’ Welfare proposed the words of thanks.

Contributed by Nimisha S Pradeep, Department of Communication