Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

‘Gandhians’ who flourish on Nehru family links

Author: Sonia Sarkar
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 4, 2005

Sentiments sell! Be it in the name of God or in the name of the Mahatma. Several "Gandhian" organisations constituted to spread Gandhian thought in India and abroad have turned out to be a mere one- man or woman show. Most operate on the reflected glory of their "acquaintance" with the Gandhi-Nehru family, and aim only at pulling in maximum funds from government and other sources.

Taking a sneak peek into the functioning of such organisations, The Pioneer has found that these so called "Gandhian" organisations do anything but follow in the Mahatma's way. .

Akhil Bharat Rachanatmak Sangh was established as an antidote to the Jai Prakash Narain movement in the 1970's. After 23 years, none of the founder members are associated with the organisation and Nirmala Deshpande is functioning as the un-elected self appointed President of the same since the outset. Neitherdes it have a constituted executive committee nor does it hold periodic meetings as required by law. A year ago, the Gandhi Ashram at Kingsway Camp was its office, now it as shifted to Ms Deshpande's new residence at AB-98, Shahjahan Road.

However, a look into the sum of money it managed to pull in from different sources within six months after the Congress led UPA government came into power, will certainly raise eyebrows.

A few retired Pakistan Army officers were invited to attend a seminar (funded by the Ministry of External Affairs giving a sum of Rs five lakh) by Indo-Pak Soldier's Initiative for Peace, an organisation presided over by Ms Deshpande, deposited a bank draft of Rs five lakh favouring "Akhil Bharat Rachanatmak Sangh" with Maharashtra Bank. In the same month, the Congress government of Assam gave Rs one lakh as "Gopinath Bardoloi Award." Another sum of Rs five lakh is soon to be awarded to the organisation by the National Foundation for Communal Harmony as the "Communal Harmony Award 2004," the sanction of which has already been made by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Another organisation called Harijan Sevak Sangh, founded by Gandhiji in 1932 for removal of untouchability and uplifting the depressed Harijans, is now a major source to pull in foreign funds in the name of providing a livelihood to the poor Dalit children. Surprisingly, the fate of the 250 Harijan girls who have been staying in a half collapsed building at Okhla is at stake. This body is to have a national level policy approach to deal with the problems of the Dalits.

Presided over by Ms Deshpande again, four members on the Central Board of the Sangh belong to one family. This seven decades old organisation does not have an administrative officer or a Registrar, or even a qualified accountant to provide continuous administration,and financial accountability.

A body called "Gandhi Ashram Reconstruction Trust" has been floated within the HSS in the company of few NRIs, including Sadanand Ward Milliard and even Visvajit Prithvijit Singh, of the Congress Media Unit. The Constitution of the HSS drafted by Gandhiji, too has been amended by Milliard on March 28, last year. The condition of the Dalit children in the organisation has not changed much even after the involvement and contribution of the NRIs and their money.

Asked why such a Trust was being foisted upon the HSS, Ms Deshpande explained. "The Trust has not been foisted upon the Sangh but was passed by the executive committee of the same. We created it because we need money for the maintenance of the school building for the Harijan girls." But why is the building in such a dilapidated condition? "We have not been able to get any money yet . ."was the quick reply from Ms Deshpande.

Sarvodaya International Trust, a Bangalore based organisation pulls in funds in the name of providing financial assistance to Gandhian organisations including Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Gandhi Peace Foundation and Sarva Sewa Sangh. Sources in these organisations said that they have not received any money yet from the Trust, with whom the name of veteran Gandhians including Pascal Alan Nazareth has been associated.

Another body called "Bapu Sadhbhavana and Shikshan Trust" was created by the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in January 2004 to fight the Rashtriya Swayamseva Sangh (RSS). Nothing worthwhile has happened in last 18 months except getting the Trust registered. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, AICC treasurer Motilal Vohra, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee are the members while Ms Deshpande is the chairperson.

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