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While most of us just pray for peace and non-violence, a few take it upon themselves to make these prayers a reality. Shri Siddharaj Dhadda is one of the few. A Gandhian to the hilt and hence a proponent of ahimsa and non-violence, he lives and works for his ideals. It is heartening that this nonagenarian’s advocacy of peace and non-violence have reached far beyond the shores of our country. Leading a simple life, he practices what he preaches.
Shri Siddharaj Dhadda
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Shri Dhadda was born in 1909. Right from his student days in Lucknow University, he became interested in the Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence. Armed with a post-graduate degree in political science, he started his legal practice in Bangalore and then shifted the same to Jaipur. The practice did not hold his interest for long. Inspired by Gandhiji, he was drawn into the vortex of the freedom struggle.
In 1942, he plunged headlong into the Quit India Movement started by Gandhiji, which landed him in the Varanasi prison – the ‘other home’ of Nehru. As he languished in prison for two-and-a half years, his resolve to follow the path of non-violence became stronger.

As a natural outcome of his involvement in freedom struggle, he was made the Industries Minister for the State of Rajasthan, after independence. When he realized that it was impossible to adhere to his principles in a political situation, he opted out of politics and resigned.

In 1951, he established a Sarvodaya Ashram in Khemal, a hamlet in the deserts of Rajasthan. He became a Jeevandani – a person who dedicates his life to develop an ideal and peaceful society – and experimented in various ways to bring about a peacefully co-existing community. Never one to think of the self, but only of the peaceful co-existence of people, he participated in the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements initiated by Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

With his concern towards the welfare of the society, he dedicated himself to bring relief to the drought-hit Bihar in the late sixties. For a period of two years, he served as the Secretary General of Bihar Relief Committee.

As president of All India Sarva Seva Sangh of Wardha, he raised his voice against emergency, which led to his incarceration in jails across the country for nearly two years. After lifting of emergency and subsequent formation of a new Government, he was offered the second highest constitutional position in the country. Needless to say, he declined.

He edits ‘Satyagrah Ahimsa’, a monthly magazine and ‘Gramraj’, a weekly magazine. He has also authored several books on peace and non-violence. Internationally acclaimed as an exponent of peace and ahimsa, he has been invited in various capacities by countries like UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Thailand, Lebanon and Egypt among others, to be part of their peace initiatives. His services have been recognized with the Jamnalal Bajaj Award and the Padma Bhushan.

It was twenty years since independence. But the hill tribes of Uttarakhand were as good as non-existent to the rest of the world. The slow process of nation building was slower still as far as these people were concerned. The developmental works had still not reached the villages in the hills. A group of like-minded people took the matter into their hands and established the Seva Nidhi in 1967. Started as a public charitable trust, the scope of its activities could not be constrained to a single activity.
As the activities of the Trust kept increasing, a separate society by name Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan was started in 1999. With a single-minded focus and unmatched dedication, the Sansthan has brought about an unimaginable progress in five years. Education leads to enlightenment and a woman emancipated is a woman empowered. With these as their motive, the organization works in the spheres of education and women’s empowerment as the first steps towards developing the community.
Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan (USNPSS)
The specific needs of the community had to be borne in mind in any development project that was designed and implemented. In the field of education, the Community Education Programme was started with a course designed to suit the needs of the local people. The innovative approach was to have their village as a living example of ecosystem and hence analyze and deal with issues specific to the same. These courses were introduced in classes 6, 7 and 8. Initially started in one school as a non-formal and experimental method of teaching, it is presently being offered in 1500 schools. The state government has accepted it as a regular course and hence more than 1500 teachers were trained to impart education by this method. This has benefited nearly 1.5 lakh students.

What was started as a tiny spark has grown into a far-reaching flame, spreading its glow onto increasing number of children. With 350 balwadis functioning in the villages, nearly 7000 students, most of them girls, have been trained by the pre-primary education schemes. The education has truly enlightened a number of youngsters. It has not only educated the girls in the academic sense but has given them confidence and a sense of responsibility towards their community. This is evident from the fact that the girls who attended these programmes, have studied further and have come back to be the resource persons for the same programmes. Besides, girls who never stepped out of their houses have gained self-worth and confidence and are guiding others and helping them in attending training programmes.

USNPSS works in tandem with various women’s groups. It has brought about a revolution in the mindset of the villagers, especially the men, at the same time humbly accepting its limitations as a development catalyst. The women are encouraged to participate in decision-making processes that affect them at the local, district and national levels. It did not take long for the women to realize their collective power. Thus they have started revolting against alcoholism and the changes are slowly emerging. The women have also brought about a change in the attitude of men, regarding child development. So men, who are not employed, take care of the children at home – though reluctantly – while women attend to their duties.

Management of land and water resources is crucial in Uttaranchal since most of the population depends on agriculture, which in turn depends on the forest cover and availability of water. With the efforts of USNPSS, the villagers have learnt that shortage in natural resources will lead to ecological poverty. The Sansthan is working towards alleviating this ecological poverty and achieving ecological security.
As interlinked as they are, education has improved the economic status of the women, which in turn has improved their health. Thus the Sansthan has changed the lives of the community of hill people of Uttaranchal with sustained efforts. The Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation, conferring its award for Education and Medicine, congratulates the Sansthan’s dedication.

3) Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement ( SVYM )
Swami Vivekananda continues to inspire millions, even a hundred years after he walked this earth. Inspired by his philosophy, a handful of medical students decided to dedicate themselves to alleviating the physical suffering of our society. To them, the smile of a child cured meant more than millions. They desired for their expertise to dispel the darkness from the lives of fellow beings. Their community concerns prevailed over personal gains. Thus was born in 1984 in Mysore, the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, a non-profit organization without any religious and political affiliations.
With the noble intention of providing cost-effective healthcare to the poor-but no resources to do so - they started with distributing physicians’ free samples and graduated to conducting health camps. When the young doctors heard about the hunter-gatherer tribes who had been displaced from their homeland because of developmental projects – but not rehabilitated, the organization established the Janakalyan Tribal Hospital in Bramhagiri village.
Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM)
Soon the youngsters realized that their healing touch would bring happiness but not the upliftment of the poor; so they decided to tackle illiteracy and poverty. The selfless and patient ministrations of the doctors made the tribes trust them with their life, which they would not have done with anybody else. Because they witnessed the rehabilitation of a HIV-infected mother who had been humiliated and turned away by many hospitals

The trust placed on the doctors spurred them on to do more for the community. They saw the opportunity of moulding young minds and grabbed at it. Education was the means to achieve what they desired. To banish illiteracy, ‘Viveka’ – Tribal Centre for Learning was started as a nonformal education center.As the lives of the tribes revolved around the forest, what the children learnt had to be connected to their way of life. Hence the curriculum has been designed with the local populace in mind, involving experimental learning and vocational training that is relevant to their means of livelihood. Nearly 4000 children have been benefited by ‘Viveka’ , which has been recognized School of Excellence functions in Saragur. The SVYM has introduced a unique Vidyavahini or Mobile Education Programme, primarily for the Jenukuruba Tribes. The method includes pre-school centers and mobile classrooms. The fact that nearly 100 school dropouts have come back to school after Vidyavahini was introduced speaks for its success.

Once the ill health that plagued the communities was weeded out, maintaining health devoid of malnutrition became the priority. Safe drinking water, housing and sanitation facilities have been arranged towards community development. The Movement also works towards creating awareness about water and land resource management and human rights. Training in animal husbandry, sericulture, agriculture, apiculture and tailoring are also imparted so as to make the tribes self-help groups that also serve as micro-credit enterprises. The Movement has guided and encouraged women to form self. SVYM has also founded a Vivekananda institute of Leadership Development in Mysore.

As for the prime concern with which SVYM was started, namely healthcare, various programmes are being implemented. The Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Saragur, a 40-bed hospital offers specialized treatment in various fields of medicine. With the motto of ‘Health – A people’s Movement’, Reproductive and child Health Programme, Health Awareness Programme ‘Jagrutha Bharatha’ using folk art, Tobacco Control Programme supported by WHO, Prevention of Transmission of AIDS and Outreach Programme involving mobile clinics, field camps, etc. are being carried out.

In the twenty years since its inception, SVYM has brought about a significant change in the lives of the people among whom it is working. The rewards of the movement are not just the way doctors have shaped the lives and minds of the young and the old, but also the way in which their work has inspired many. For, a tribal girl who attended one of the Awareness Programmes started creating awareness on imbibing the information she received. She has set her mind on becoming a doctor. Another who has enrolled herself in college is impatient to come back to her own people and become a teacher. These are but two instances of a bunch of children whom the doctors have inspired.

In their attempt and success at making the lives of many meaningful, recognition has come SVYM’s way through the National Youth Award from the Government of India and Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar Award from the Karnataka Government. The Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation salutes the spirit of the SVYM and is happy to confer the award in the fields of community and Social Services.


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