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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

The Reluctant Administrator

Remembering Anil Bordia

Monday 17 September 2012, by Devaki Jain



I first met Anil Bordia on the lawns of Pramila Dandavate’s house. Mrinal Gore and Pramila Dandavate, elected to Parliament during the Janata Government, were constantly having informal meetings in their houses getting to know us, Delhiwallas, who had been working on issues related to equality and social justice as well as other change-makers.

One time at Pramila’s residence a tall, slim, straight-backed Anil Bordia stood up and said to me Mera Naam Hai Anil Bordia, in that very typical way in which he always used to intro-duce himself. He was at that time working on Adult Education—a love affair which he could never abandon, namely, various ways in which to enable ‘literacy’. I put literacy in inverted commas as Anil was a real ‘progressive’ seeing literacy not as ‘learning letters’ but, like Paolo Frere, self-strengthening. Hence we see later, that is, long after his retirement, his innovative programmes in the field of education such as the people’s movement for education called Lok Jumbish and another remarkable innovative idea, “Doosra Dashak”.

At that time, in the seventies, we at the ISST were looking for and building up case studies of successful endeavours. We had completed a book of case studies in which a large number of women had come together and strengthened themselves. Madhuriben Shah, at that time Chairperson of the UGC, heard about our work and invited us to do a similar book of case studies where women had been effectively enabled through the Adult Education Pro-grammes. .When I shared with Anil what we were doing, he straightaway told me about an amazing literacy mission in Brazil; he said I must make a field visit, understand this programme and add it to my attempts. So indeed during my next visit to Brazil; which was related to my work with DAWN, Anil arranged for me to go to the field and see this inspiring programme. 

Later on, in 1978, when the ISST undertook a study of the time-use of men and women in three villages in Bharatpur district, we were struggling to find a way of contributing some-thing to the villages, where we had lived for a whole year. Anil was at that time the Develop-ment Commissioner; I asked him if he could hold a meeting in the village and help to give it a touch. Anil held a conference in the village, where toilets were identified as a need, especially for women, and had them built in the village through the government schemes. 

I am sure there are so many others, working in the non-profit sector, who have similar stories of Anil’s helping and creative hand in their work—I know that the ISST again partnered with him and Lok Jumbish even in the 2000s! Never wanting to be seen as an officer, a distant administrator but as part of movements, of endeavours by civil society, by academics, by citizens, but always as a friend, Anil was the paradigm of what government officers can do, and how to do it. 
Over the decades from as far back as 1977—all of 35 years—that I have known Anil Bordia, it was always with that enthusiasm for,—for lack of a better term,—peoples’ empowerment. Surely if anyone could have left this world with a sense of peace and contentment with a life he/she led, it will be my brother, Anil Bordia. 

The author, a noted development economist, is a former Member of the South Commission.

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