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Dwarko Sundarani, 90 years old legend, has been empowering the tribal community for the last 58 years in Bihar at Samanvay Ashram

Vivek Umrao Glendenning
The Founder and the Editor, Ground Report India
The Vice-Chancellor & Co-Founder, The Gokul Social University

Dwarko Sundarani and Vivek, the chief editor of the Ground Report India

Dwarko Sundarani, 90 years old, is a follower of Vinoba Bhave and has been serving the tribal and local communities in Gaya district of Bihar state for the last 58 years without a break. He was born in Gujarat and belonged to a prestigious family.  But he left his family and home 60 years ago to serve poor people.

Sundarani participated in the various movements of Vinoba Bhave, until one day in the year 1954 Vinoba told him to go Bodhgaya to establish a model of self-sustainability from scratch. 

Vinoba Bhave told him to go Gaya railway station and donate all his money to beggars in the railway station and then walk to Bodhgaya from Gaya railway station. Dwarko Sundarani followed Vinoba Bhave’s suggestion without any complaint. 

Vinoba Bhave gave Dwarko Rs 30 (around half a dollar) each month for food, clothing, living and administrative expenses for community work. For seven months, Dwarko managed with Rs 30 per month, even though it was very less to manage all these expenses.

“Books are not education, and they are containers. Rote learning and writing answers in examinations are not education. Rote learning of a book is not a happening in the life. Education is an art of living that we do not follow.” Dwarko Sundarani

With time though, the local community started to support Dwarko Sundarani.  Today there is a large self-sustained ashram internationally known as “Samanvay Ashram”. Vegetables, grains, food and other crops are grown in the agricultural fields in the campuses of the Samanvay Ashram.

Samanvay Ashram: a model of a self-sustained residential education centre

Dwarko established eleven new villages in Gaya district, Bihar.  The region is a drought-prone area, so he supported the work of water harvesting structures including ponds, mud dams and other water bodies. He motivated the local tribal communities to begin farming and started farming centres in the region.

After establishing these villages, Dwarko started to think about children’s education. Dwarko established a residential education centre for the children of the Mushahar community.  The people of the Mushahar community catch and eat mice, but do not own any land.

According to Dwarko Sundarani, in India, the government education system is anti-human and anti-nation.  He says, “Books are not education, they are containers. Students read books to write answers in examinations and get marks. Rote learning is not an education. If a student is an expert at rote learning then (s)he gets good marks and qualifies in competitions to get jobs. The rote learners run India. Rote learning of books is not a happening of life.  It does not have any relationship with the understanding of life. Education is an art of living that pursues an understanding of life.”

Dwarko goes on to say, “How can a person, who does not understand life, contribute towards a better nation and society though (s)he gets very high marks in the paper writing examinations?”

Dwarko Sundarani invested decades of his life to convert almost 100 acres of wasteland into a fertile land

When some land was donated to the Samanvay Ashram a few decades ago, it was barren land. Dwarko started to treat the soil by storing water through water harvesting activities. 

The chief editor of the Ground Report India visited that land in 2012.  When entering the region, it is clear that it is very drought-prone and dry.  The GRI team was highly surprised to see a fertile land, with thousands of trees, humanmade lakes and ponds, wells with high water levels, birds and many varieties of grains and vegetables grown there. It seemed like a fertile land surrounded by a desert.

Eye operations in Samanvay Ashram

People at registration office for eye operation

Food and accommodations are provided by the Samanvay Ashram

For many decades now, each year, Samanvay Ashram has done thousands of eye operations. In the last three years, more than 30,000 eye operations are performed with high efficiency.  To the eye patients, Samanvay Ashram provides free food, free accommodation and free operations. Renowned business persons and doctors come to perform eye operations each year and stay in Samanvay Ashram premises from one to two months. These business persons and doctors have donated between 1 to 2 million US$ each year for these eye operations. 

Many thousands of people get food three times and tea per day in the time of eye operations, the day starts at 3 am in the very early morning and ends at 11 pm or 12 pm in the late night.

About Author

Vivek Umrao Glendenning 'SAMAJIK YAYAVAR'

He is an Indian citizen & permanent resident of Australia and a scholar, an author, a social-policy critic, a frequent traveller, a social wayfarer, a social entrepreneur and a journalist.

He has been exploring, understanding and implementing the ideas of social-economy, participatory local governance, education, citizen-media, ground-journalism, rural-journalism, freedom of expression, bureaucratic accountability, indigenous community development, village development, reliefs & rehabilitation, village revival and other.

For Ground Report India editions, Vivek organised many national and state levels tours for exploring ground realities covering 5000 to 15000 kilometres in one or two months to establish Ground Report India, a constructive ground journalism platform with social accountability.

He has written a book “मानसिक, सामाजिक, आर्थिक स्वराज्य की ओर” on various social issues, development community practices, water, agriculture, his ground works & efforts and conditioning of thoughts & mind. Reviewers say it is a practical book which answers “What” “Why” “How” practically for the development and social solution in India. 

Nowadays, He is writing a book on the theme of the Constructive Conflict Resolution in the Maoists affected region Bastar Chhattisgarh.

About the author

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