Friday, November 6, 2015

Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya: A campus built on industry

For the last two years, Ezhilarasan has been sleepily getting into a bus at dawn from his home in Kundrathur to reach Nandanam. From here, he walks to the large Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya campus just in time for his wiring class. “I have just a few days left to complete my course,” he says, grinning. “I’m a good electrician; I hope to get a good job in campus placement.”
Ezhil, like a lot of his friends, is a “Xth pass”. Like them, he is from a home of daily-wage earners. He needs skills to earn, and so applied to the Central Polytechnic at Taramani. It didn’t work out, so he tried his luck at ITI-Guindy.
“I was accepted and sent to Mint for counselling where I met this officer from Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya. He told me about the free electricals/industrial motor-wiring course, and I jumped at the offer.” He is already doing wiring jobs near his home and is getting paid well.
Why is it named Thakkar, I ask 94-year-old Sthanunathan, secretary of the institution.
He explains, “Gandhi started the Harijan Sevak Sangh with branches in all states. Thakkar, born in the same year as the Mahatma, and his close associate, was appointed its first general-secretary. When the industrial school started by Gandhi in Kodambakkam needed to be shifted, Thakkar acquired these premises, and in 1946 invited Gandhi to lay the foundation stone for the new building. A philanthropist had donated funds and wanted the place to be named after him, but Gandhiji was firm on Thakkar’s name.”
The Vidyalaya runs technical courses recognised by the National Council for Vocational Training (electrician/fitter/wireman), courses affiliated to the State Government (AC mechanic/carpentry) and its own (welding/tailoring), says Sthanunathan.
“We have a working-women’s hostel. Our charges are nominal.” They also run a primary school with free boarding and lodging.
Everything is run on Gandhian principles, Sthanunathan reiterates. The institution is run on public contributions and endowments help to give prizes and scholarships, he adds. “I want this to grow into a big institution, and continue to provide skills to young boys and girls. We’re also planning a six-month patient-care course.”
A series of low buildings are spread out over the large campus. Mohan, chairman of the Gandhi Study Centre, volunteers to take me on a tour: the front arch and wall-writings proclaim the institution’s association with Gandhiji, the trees that grew before Gandhiji returned from South Africa, the marble foundation stone he laid.
A plaque announces the opening of the boys’ hostel by Rajaji and a third reads, “Udyogashala opened by Sri O.P. Ramaswami Reddiar, Premier of Madras, 9th November, 1947.”
Mohan then shows me their most precious possessions — a well-polished charka Gandhiji used when he was in Madras in 1946 and the trowel he used to set the foundation stone.
Today, one can drive into the campus to reach Vinobha Hall, a modern auditorium let out for felicitations and lectures on culture and history. But for youngsters like Ezhilarasan, training here is a crucial step towards a life with dignity.
For details, call 2434 3302.
Thanks :- The Hindu,  CHENNAI, July 22, 2015


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