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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 38 New Delhi September 8, 2018

Remembering J.P. Naik’s Experiments in Health and Education

Sunday 9 September 2018

by Vrushali Dehadray

J.P. Naik, the founder of the Indian Institute of Education, was the Adviser to the Government of India during the 1960s and the chief architect of the Kothari Commission Report which is still considered as a milestone in the history of India’s education policy. This article discusses his experiments in education and health at the grassroot level. It is being published on the occasion of the Teachers’ Day on September 5.

J.P. Naik (September 5, 1907-August 30, 1981), the founder of the Indian Institute of Education and several other national level institutes like the Indian Council of Social Science Research, is mainly known for his contribution to the Indian Education Commission popularly known as the Kothari Commission Report (1964-66). He evolved several path-breaking concepts in education and development. His ideas were irreplaceable in countries like India in which the majority of the population is illiterate, poverty-stricken and dependent on the agrarian economy.

Naik’s philosophy was not just at the theoretical level; it was well tested through experimentation conducted at the grassroot level. This part of Naik’s life is not much known to most of the public. The current schemes of National Skill Development and National Rural Health Mission are similar to what he had done for health and education in the village of Uppin Betigiri in rural Karnataka and at Mauni Vidyapeeth in rural Maharashtra nearly 75 years ago.

(A) ‘Health for All’ in Uppin Betigiri

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Like several other young Indians possessed by patriotism, Naik jumped into the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. He was arrested and sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprison-ment in Bellari jail where he worked as the chief orderly in the prison hospital and studied medicine. When he saw suffering inmates on deathbeds with little medical assistance, Naik requested the Jail Superintendent to allot him the duties of a ward boy. He began treating the ailments of inmates with simple remedies from locally available materials. This experience sowed the seeds of his future ‘Health for All’ mission in his Uppin Betigiri experiment.

After his release from jail, Naik decided to work in the village. His own experiences of poverty and deprivation led him to choose rural work which, according to Gandhiji, was one of the ways to serve the nation and a component of the freedom struggle.

Being an ardent follower of the Gandhian philosophy, Naik’s decision was not surprising. Uppin Betigiri is a village situated in Karnataka where Naik started his experiment of develop-ment of the village with the participation of the local community. Along with Uppin Betigiri, the experiment was also carried out in the adjoining village of Karadigudda. These two villages are 3-4 km. apart and around 18 km away from Dharwad in Karnataka.

Naik began working with the villagers using the medical knowledge that he had gathered during his imprisonment. His practice was not restricted only to prescribing or applying medicines, Naik went a few steps ahead by starting the use of injections and undertaking minor surgeries. His services formed the entry- point that helped in establishing rapport with the community. No wonder, in a few days he became the ‘God’ of the villagers. His simple and unorthodox lifestyle left a deep impression on the villagers, earning their trust. With this trust he could ignite a desire for change among the villagers. A famous Marathi author, P.L. Deshpande, addressed him as the ‘Barefoot Doctor’ for his selfless service rendered to the rural people. Instead of taking control of everything in his hand and becoming a sole leader of all the proposed plans, he developed or spotted the local leadership and acted as a mere catalyst in translating the plans into reality, thus exemplifying his commitment towards the basic principles of democracy and decentralisation.

Naik believed that development and education go hand in hand. Hence, apart from education, other aspects of development were also on his agenda. He developed infrastructure and services such as roads, temples, schools, agriculture, health services, sanitation, hygiene and drainage by encouraging the community to take owner-ship of all these facilities. He worked for all-round development of which education was one of the aspects. He started adult education classes along with several other initiatives for village development. He was awarded the Sir Frederick Sykes Village Improvement Shield in 1937. The award was presented by the then Governor of the Bombay Province. Based on his experiments, he advised the UNICEF to consider a pilot project for health in some of the States in the mid-1970s in which health was to be the entry- point for rural education and all-round development.

B) Adult and Primary Education work at Dharwad:

 

The Uppin Betigiri episode was followed by the experiment of organising an ‘Adult Education Month’ in Dharwad town. A plan was made with Mr Hebsur, the then Deputy Collector of Dharwad, on the basis of a meticulous census of illiterate adults. With the help of a philanthropist from Dharwad and its Municipal Corporation, night classes were started in the town. Teachers were appointed; required material like slates and pencils were provided; a crash course in literacy was designed and this was generously supported by the community.

Giving ownership and responsibility to the community was a special feature of projects undertaken by Naik. The individuals, who participated in this campaign, received dual benefit—becoming literate and getting voting right which at that time was given only to literates.

The Uppin Betigi and Dharwad adult education experiments helped Naik to realise that health may serve as an entry-point, but education is the way leading to the ladder of socio-economic development. Later he spread his work to about 50 villages by opening schools and providing training to the teachers of these schools. The noteworthy feature of this training was that it was not restricted to pedagogy, but covered wider aspects from land revenue to first aid. It bore testimony to his futuristic thinking—recognising and unleashing the potential among teachers, equipping them to be village resource persons rather than restricting them only to the school. During these days, he started a mobile library on bullock cart, perhaps the first of its kind in the rural area at that time.

(C) Concept of Janata College:

Naik proposed a concept of a Janata College for rural development which he expected to be a focal point around which the social, cultural and intellectual life of the people would be woven. He envisioned the Janata College located in the rural area as a cluster of different activities pertaining to various aspects of rural development. He assigned a three-fold role for the Janata College: 1. Community Centre 2. Research Centre and 3. Training Centre. All three roles were expected to go hand-in-hand and work for the progress of the people.

1. The community centre should start multiple activities simultaneously considering the differential nature of needs of different groups of the community—educated, semi-literate, illiterate, children, youths and women.

2. The Janata College as a research centre: Naik expected to undertake issues faced by the community as research problems to be studied. An expert should be involved with a curriculum of the given subject, prepare teaching aids, deliver talks, develop booklets and so on.

3. The training centre should look after the needs of primary teachers and others in the techniques of social education.

Naik did not stop after providing a framework of activities to be undertaken by the Janata College. He also looked into the financial and administrative issues. Because any ground- breaking idea will get ransacked if its financial and administrative implications are not thought about; hence he further proposed that all these activities should take place without employing a huge staff. The community needs to be made self-reliant even in this aspect by training volunteers. A community centre should have a whole time executive assisted by a small temporary staff in the initial stage. Another query could be whether it would be possible to obtain all the workers needed for the community centre on a voluntary basis in the given area. Naik firmly believed that it was possible to get volunteers for multiple work. The third principle in the organisation of a community centre is that the activities should be carefully selected on the basis of local talent and available resources.

Mauni Vidyapeeth

The establishment of a Mauni Vidyapeeth was a full-blown expression of Naik’s philosophy of intertwined concepts of education and develop-ment expressed in the concept of Janata College. Establishment of an agriculture school was the starting-point for the Mauni Vidyapeeth. A contribution was collected to establish a memorial of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (June 26, 1874-May 6, 1922) in the then princely state of Kolhapur, now in Maharashtra. Following a decision to start agriculture schools in Kolhapur in his memory, one of these schools was started at Gargoti, a small village in Bhudargad tahsil (called Peta in the pre-independence period) in 1946 due to the initiative taken by J.P. Naik with the help of V.T. Patil. It was believed that Gargya Rishi had his hermitage at this place in ancient time and had his ‘kuti’—a hut on the banks of river Vedganga. From the name Gargya’s Kuti, that is, Gargya’s hut, the corrupted form ‘Gargoti’ evolved. This place was suitable for the kind of institute Naik had dreamt of. A legend says that a saint had come from the north in the 17th century and tried to preach Vedas to all without considering the caste. He was harassed by the community to the extent that he took a vow of silence forever. Naik couldn’t have spotted a more appropriate location for the rural university than this. It was decided to establish a Vidyapeeth in the campus of the agriculture school. Many people helped Naik in the establishment of the Mauni Vidyapeeth out of their love and trust for him, and they included Acharya Bhagwat, Chitra Naik and Prabhakar Korgaonkar. The establish-ment of the Mauni Vidyapeeth was also an outcome of the recommendation given by the Radhakrishnan Commission and Naik’s deep faith in the Gandhian philosophy.

Naik established an experiment and research centre under the Vidyapeeth. It was named ‘Shri Mauni Vidyapeeth’s Post Graduate Research Centre on Problems of Rural Education’ which was affiliated to the University of Pune.

The University Education Commission (Radha-krishnan Commission) of 1948 recommended the setting up rural universities. It quoted that “the general advancement of rural India will call for an ever increasing range and quality of skill and training. To supply these and to meet the requirement of an educated citizenship, a system of rural colleges and universities is necessary”. Naik was one of the many experts who were interviewed by this Commission. It recommended the setting up of rural universities that would govern secondary schools with hostels and colleges in the vicinity. The University should be a centre of different institutes and activities providing opportunities in education and research serving the rural community. The idea of a Rural University was not much different from Gandhi’s concept of ‘Gram Swaraj’.

Naik elaborated the concept of a rural institute of higher education in the article ‘The Janata College’. (Naik in Waghmare and Babu, p. 173) Under the umbrella of the Mauni Vidyapeeth, several institutes and activities addressing different aspects of rural development were initiated. The Vidyapeeth was based on three guiding principles—knowledge, service and sacrifice. The emblem of the Vidyapeeth showcased a farmer ploughing the land with bullock on the background of rising sun and river. It was a symbol of a prosperous rural life. At the base of the logo three words were depicted—knowledge, service and sacrifice that are the means of achieving peace.

The Vidyapeeth was spread in the area of 75 acres and included a primary school, a multi-purpose secondary school with agricultural base, a training college for primary teachers, a college of education, a rural institute, a playground for holding sports meets and football matches, laboratories and a big library which served all the educational institutions. A community kitchen, a salary earners’ credit society, a co-operative store and a co-operative health clinic were established for the workers of the Vidyapeeth. A canteen was set up for teachers, visitors and even for the few villagers who wished to visit it. A pre-school was started both for the children of the staff of the Vidyapeeth and children from Gargoti village. The Vidyapeeth became a resource centre of community development. It received support from the Ministry of Community Development of the Government of India and its counterpart in the State of Bombay and many other institutions such as Korgaonkar Charitable Trust, and Prince Shivaji Education Society, Kolhapur.

On the request of the Government of India, a training centre for Social Education Organisers was established. A network of 110 villages from Bhudargadh Tehsil was developed and this served as the laboratory for the Vidyapeeth’s experimentation of new ideas and concept of community development covering several domains of development—education at all levels, agriculture, women’s empowerment, cottage industries, health and so on.

Centres and Courses offered by the Vidyapeeth

As mentioned earlier, the Vidyapeeth was envisioned as a centre for initiating development. Several courses were designed and started such as Diploma in Rural Services, Diploma in Civil and Rural Engineering, Social Education Organisation, Training Centre for developing local youths in development-centred gover-nance, etc. Similarly, certificate courses of Talathi Training, Panchayat Secretary Training were started. The curriculum of Social Work Training Institute incorporated subjects such as the rural structure of rural society, rural economy, agriculture technology, social development, external education, health, cooperation. A centre was started for primary teachers which organised programmes for cooperative education, training of assistant teachers, seminars for college principals etc. Several seminars were conducted for union leaders, workers, officers from administrative services, industrialists, social workers, etc.

Naik believed that a new social system would be developed through the efforts of an educated community. Though these educated individuals were participating in infrastructure develop-ment, their efforts can reach their goal only through change in the thought process. They should be aware of values that form the base of the new social system. Similarly, they should receive guidance for removing old social evils and instil new reforms. To train people in democratic governance, Naik established Shri Mauni Panchayat in the Vidyapeeth. It was run like a Grampanchayat by residential employees, hostel students and superintendents and was a centre of training for Panchayati Raj. Naik believed that the Panchayati Raj system decentralises power which can be used effectively only by empowering the rural community.

One more institute established and affiliated to the Vidyapeeth was the Social Reform Institute whose objective of imparting education required the development of democratic attitude and welfare-centred social structure. The specific goals of the institute were introducing new life values, organising objective discussion per-taining to the the problems faced by the Indian and Maharastrian society, advocating a scientific and humanitarian view to solve social and individual problems. It conducted camps across Maharasthra, published leaflets regarding democratic rights, code of conduct of election and voting, conducted lectures to advocate social reforms and social activism.

Responsibility for the maintenance of the Vidyapeeth’s buildings was assigned to the Construction Department of the Vidyapeeth, a school teaching all types of constructions to rural youths. The carpentry and smithy were set up to train local village artisans.

Balwadis were started in 30 selected villages. A teacher training institute was established in the village called Madilge. Before the term ‘women’s empowerment’ became popular, a centre for women’s development was also started along with Balwadis in the same 30 villages. Naik never thought of development only in terms of expansion of big industries. He knew that development is possible if the current vocations were upgraded and not abolished. Realising it, a centre for experimenting with agriculture and cottage industries was started in the village of Kadegaon. The Labour Cooperatives were established for enabling villages to undertake different types of construction of government buildings and roads. A cooperative society of potters was established and production of earthenware and tiles was promoted. Health education and health services were located in Gargoti.

Welfare of Students

The hostels were set up for the backward class and economically backward students. Naik assigned a guardianship of three-fourth hostel students to the Vidyapeeth staff. The volunteers used to collect donations from the farmers in the form of grains which were used in the hostel for the economically backward students. The excess grains were sold at the market price to the other hostels attached to the Vidyapeeth.

A fund was set up to give financial help to the needy students. Reading rooms, hostels for Dalit students, books for poor students, scholarships and educational loans and rewards were made available from this fund. Naik established a consumer cooperative store and cooperative society to train students and volunteers in establishing a co-operative society. The credit society established by the Vidyapeeth was awarded by the government for good administration. The general body meetings of both of these institutes provided learning opportunity to students of the Cooperation Course of the Vidyapeeth, local volunteers and other students.

From his own experience Naik knew that several bright youngsters could not take higher education due to poverty. Hence, he started a scheme of giving educational loans. A number of students from impoverished backgrounds took the benefit of this scheme and became laurel winners in different disciplines. Some students were appointed in administration as apprentices and after completion of training they were given suitable positions in the Vidyapeeth. Naik had keen eyes in recognising the potential of students. He used to advise a suitable vocation to them depending on their abilities and skills.

Health and Entertainment 

Naik never neglected physical fitness. A children’s park was started in which various equipments were fitted adequate to four different age-groups. A number of students of primary and secondary schools from nearby villages and towns used to visit this park.

A big playground was developed for hockey and football. A group drill was organised on every Saturday. A well-equipped gym was built. To train the students in national and international sports, coaches were hired. Annual sports meets were organised with teams from towns and cities teaching the rules and regulations of football and hockey to the rural students.

A drama group was formed for entertainment and awareness. Dance and music teachers were appointed. Artistes playing different musical instruments were in regular service of the Vidyapeeth.

A family planning campaign, along with the organisation of vasectomy camps, was started in 1957. Village midwives were trained in safe methods of delivery and child care. Health education camps were organised for the youth. Nutritional education became an important feature in women’s programmes and in primary school education.

The Vidyapeeth surveyed all the school-less villages in the Bhudargad block and established voluntary schools where the local youth were employed. With financial support from the Education Department of Bombay, a Graduates’ Basic Training Centre was started.

An adult education campaign was also started. The SEO Training Centre undertook not only a literacy campaign, but cultural development education of adults as well. The students of the Rural Institute regularly spared part of their time for rural development. Students from the engineering section of this Institute helped the villagers in the construction of approach roads, houses and tanks and laid pipelines to improve water supply. Construction of simple latrines was undertaken on an extensive scale by the villagers who were trained to do this in camps organised by the Vidyapeeth.

Naik envisioned a self-reliant, self-sufficient rural community—a concept proposed by Gandhiji. His concept of Gram Swaraj envisioned a village “independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is necessary”. Each village should be basically self-reliant, making provision for all necessities of life, including food, clothing, clean water, sanitation, housing, education, government and self-defence, and all socially useful amenities required by a community. For India as a whole, full independence would mean that every village would be a republic with full powers. Mauni Vidyapeeth was an expansion of Gandhiji’s ideas of Gram Swaraj. Even today these ideas are not outdated and can be implemented to control the overcrowding of cities, generating employment in rural locality and help the community to lead quality life.

Bibliography

Behar, S.C. (Unpublished), Biography of J.P. Naik.

Desai, N. (2009), Sanskar Sawalya, Kolhapur: Bharati Mudranalay.

Naik. J.P. (1973), ‘The idea of an autonomous college’ in Waghmare, Y.R. and Babu, A.S (2008) (ed.), Collected Articles of Padmabhushan Prof J.P. Naik, Vol. I, Pune: Authors Press.

Dr Vrushali Dehadray is an Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Education, Pune, and can be contacted at e-mail: vrushalidray[at]gmail.com

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