Leaving Sabarmati Ashram: ‘Won’t be proper if we can’t do this daan for Bapu’


“When such a big work is being done for Bapu, one has to contribute. By leaving our homes in the Sabarmati Ashram, we are contributing to the same in a little, but significant way. It won’t be proper if we can’t do this much of daan,” says 86-year-old Jadiben Dabhi on Wednesday, as she watched the bhoomi pujan (ground-breaking ceremony) of Satyagrah Park Cooperative Housing Society Limited near Ahmedabad Collector Office, where she will build her new home.

The housing society has been formed by 23 families who are residents of Sabarmati Ashram and direct descendants of those whom Gandhi and his associates had brought to the Ashram for different activities. These families are voluntarily vacating their houses in the Ashram for the Rs 1,200-crore Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development project.

As part of their rehabilitation package, the 23 families have formed the cooperative housing society and the state government has allotted them a 3,400 square metre plot of land near the Ashram apart from Rs 25 lakh as construction cost.

This will be the first such housing cluster where the Ashram dwellers will be rehabilitated from their original houses for the Rs 1,200-crore project jointly implemented by the Union and state governments.

The land given to the housing society has been acquired from The Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust in lieu of the land given to the latter in Kheda district and is close to the Gandhi Ashram.

The original Sabarmati Ashram was around 120 acre where six trusts are custodians of the land, these being the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Sabarmati Harijan Ashram Trust, The Khadi Gramodyog Prayog Samiti, The Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust, Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh, and Gujarat Khadi Gramodyog Mandal.

Speaking about vacating their homes, Jadiben says, “Naturally, we will feel the pain. We stayed there for 70-75 years. But we are content that we have got land near the Ashram. We are satisfied that we will be shifting to this place.”

Jadiben is a primary school teacher who retired from Mahatma Gandhi Ashram Shala situated in the Ashram campus behind the PTC College. As per Jadiben, she is originally from Kavitha village of Ahmedabad district and was brought to the Ashram to pursue her studies in 1949 by Parikshitlal Majmudar, a close aide of Gandhi, who also led the Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh for many years.

After her schooling, Jadiben studied at the PTC College at the ashram campus and was then offered a job as a primary school teacher at one of the schools there.

Jadiben lives along with her son Shirish, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Incidentally, Shirish is the secretary of the Satyagrah Cooperative Housing Society. Shirish says that they wanted to give a name to the trust, which is symbolic with Mahatma Gandhi and eventually selected the word ‘Satyagrah’.

Jadiben’s views on the rehabilitation from their original homes was echoed by Tushar Badhiya and his wife Grishma, who are among the 23 families who are shifting.

Tushar is the great grandson of Ramjibhai Badhiya, who is considered as the weaving teacher of Gandhi and whom the latter had brought to the Ashram for carrying out Khadi-related activities. Grishma’s mother, Kamala Chaudhary, on the other hand, was a teacher at PTC College at the Ashram campus.

Badhiya says, “We feel the grief of leaving our original residence. We have been living there for five generations. But at the same time, we are also happy that we are not going to any unknown area. Right from the beginning of the project, we did not want to go to an unknown area. We are happy that we have got this plot near the Ashram from the government.”

According to Badhiya, he runs a gaushala. Grishma is a special educator teaching mentally and physically-challenged children.

Grishma, too, expresses happiness that they have got a plot near the Ashram. “We did not want to go far from the Ashram. We have been living here for the last 44 years. We are happy that we have got this plot here.”

Badhiya says that each of the 23 families will get a plot of around 106 square yard on which they will build a house comprising a bedroom-hall-kitchen (BHK) on the ground floor and two bedrooms on the first floor.

The ground-breaking ceremony was held by Guruji Vijay Joshi, religious head of Gajanan Ashram in Malsar of Vadodara district. Those who remained present on the occasion include Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, K Kailashnathan; Ahmedabad Collector Praveena D K; senior IPS officer Gautam Parmar and Officer on Special Duty for the project and retired IAS officer I K Patel.

As part of the rehabilitation package, the 23 families have been granted Rs 15,000 as monthly rent for one year after vacating their houses in the Ashram to fend for the interim period till their new homes are built. Earlier, the rent amount was fixed at Rs 10,000, but I K Patel announced at the ground-breaking ceremony that the demand of the families to raise the amount has been accepted. The families are expected to complete the construction work of their houses within three years, as per one of the many conditions under which the plot has been allocated to the housing society.

The cheques of Rs 25 lakh for construction purposes were also distributed among the 23 families by Kailashnathan on Wednesday.


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