By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Oct 2 (IANS) In a major initiative, the Maharashtra government is likely to seek a UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the renowned Gandhi Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, where Mahatma Gandhi lived for nearly 12 years.
Official sources told IANS that a proposal would be submitted soon to the Central government to set the ball rolling for including it in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Welcoming the plans, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Tushar A. Gandhi, said that if it fructifies, this will be first-ever such proposal for any Gandhi-related monument to be accorded a UNESCO tag anywhere in the world, 72 years after the Mahatma’s martyrdom.
“We shall be happy to help the state government in any manner to achieve this. We request Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to take the first steps by declaring it as a ‘heritage monument’. A committee to this effect was also set up by the Centre a few years ago, but nothing happened after that,” Tushar Gandhi told IANS.
Uddhav Thackeray also gave the indication when he dedicated the development plans for the Ashram on the occasion of Gandhiji’s 151st birth anniversary here on Friday.
“India’s struggle for Independence was launched from the Sevagram Ashram. There was no modern technology or propaganda machinery then and there were restrictions of all kinds. However, Gandhiji made it a mass ‘people’s movement’ in those days,” Thackeray said.
Thackeray remembered his grandfather’s words that whenever people heard that Gandhiji would visit some place, a spontaneous sea of humanity would be present to see and listen to him.
Recalling his teachings and the 7 Codes of Conduct, the Chief Minister said that Gandhiji proved to the world that a “war can be won without arms” and the Gandhi Sevagram Ashram should be accorded the status of a World Heritage Site for his followers and tourists from all over the world.
“I plan to visit the Ashram soon. I congratulate the employees at Sevagram who keep alive Gandhiji’s legacy, his values and preserve the monuments there. There will be no shortage of funds for the development project of the ashram,” Thackeray assured.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said that it is our duty to preserve the sanctity of the Sevagram and appealed to all to ensure the local environment is not degraded while taking up developmental works.
His comments came a month after there was a massive uproar over the manner in which trees were butchered for a road project, prompting three generations of Gandhiji’s descendents to appeal for Thackeray’s intervention.
After the emotional appeal by Ela Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, followed by Tushar Gandhi, and then his daughter Kasturi, the state government stepped in to make amends. (IANS report dated September 2)
Those who were present on the occasion on Friday included Animal Husbandry Minister Sunil Kedar, MLA Ranjit Kamble, Additional Chief Secretary (Finance & Planning) Debashish Chakraborty and Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Kumar.
From Wardha district, Collector Vivek Bhimnawar, Gandhi Sevagram Ashram President T.R.N. Prabhu, Superintendent of Police Prashant Holkar, Zilla Parishad President Sarita Gakhre, Chief Executive Officer in-charge Satyajit Bade and the sarpanch of Sevagram village Sujata Taksande were present.
Wardha Guardian Minister Sunil Kedar said that the world’s first sculptures of Gandhiji and Vinobha Bhave, 31 and 19 feet tall, respectively, have been erected using industrial and automobiles scrap which would be major tourist attractions.
The Ashram has also sent a proposal to set up a training centre in the premises to the Ministry of MSME, and Kedar urged Thackeray and Sharad Pawar to initiate a followup action in the matter.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])