Gandhi in Jungle
It is a strange irony that very close to Hindalco (factory in Sonbhadra district) there also exists India as visualised by Gandhi. Amidst noise and din of huge turbines in the Myorepure, Gandhi's charkha will also be found rotating in the villages. In this era of globalisation, Banwasi Sewa Ashram has kindled a torch of Gandhian philosophy and this light can be seen not only in the country, but also abroad. German writer Elizabeth Handi commented in a book written on the Ashram that Gandhi Ji might have visualised an India where even a villager may learn about self-reliance, education, agriculture and cooperation. The Ashram is a unique example of this. People like the noted environmentalist GD Agarwal visit the Ashram every year and play a role in nurturing it.
When Prembhai and his wife Dr Ragini Behan took reins of this Ashram founded by Govind Vallabh Pant, the condition of this tribal dominated area was pitiable. The people of the area led their lives by eating wild fruits, gethi, kanda, amlaula, piyar, chakvad, etc. Selling wood and plucking tendu leaves was their main occupation. This situation motivated this couple for human service. Agriculture scientist Prembhai and Dr Rahini Behan took a vow to change the face of this area following Gandhian principles. They got considerable success too. Trainees from IAS Academy Dehradun are sent to the Ashram for showing them a village of Gandhi. While sharing their experiences, trainees Pratima Verma, Radha Mishra and LM Mina said that the image of the village that they had seen in the picture is taking shape in the villages of the Ashram.
According to Britain resident Shanta, the concept of development of Amartya Sen is taking shape in the Ashram. According to Ram Naresh Tripathi, a resident of Kota village in Chopan block and freedom fighter, he learnt Satyagrah and self-reliance of Gandhi from the Ashram.
The Ashram has formal and non-formal education facilities for the tribal children. When Ashram's tribal girl Heer Kunwar got sliver medal at Gymnastics competition organised in France, the district administration said she had raised the head of the district. She was also honoured at Republic day.
The Central government has passed the law related to triblas' rights over forest land recently. But the Convenor of the Ashram Late Prembhai had done similar work three decades ago. That is another matter that he had fought for the tribals of Sonbhadra district, but tribals elsewhere were also benefited. Today the same is the concept of the forest rights.