Gandhiji settled in Maganwadi, Wardha, after his departure from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. He named this Ashram after Maganlal Gandhi, his close associate and a rural scientist who had been his right hand in all the earlier three Ashrams but who suddenly died while working, at his behest, in Bihar in 1928.
Dedicated to the cause of village industries Gandhiji founded the All India Village Industries Association (AIVIA) by a resolution of the All India Congress Committee on 26th October 1934.
Towering national personalities like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, renowned humanist and international scientists like Shri.C.V.Raman and Prof. Jagadish Chandra Bose, Shri P.C.Ray and prominent industrialist Shri G.D.Birla were part of the advisory board of AIVIA.
Gandhiji himself as the chairman, with Kumarappaji as the secretary of AIVIA, undertook the foremost all India movement of revival and expansion of various rural industries, Khadi and artisans based crafts. AIVIA evolved, developed, and disseminated rural industries as well as trained several organizations and artisans.
LAYING FOUNDATION FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEVELOPMENT
On 30th December 1938 Gandhiji innograted Magan Sangrahalaya – The very first museum of Rural Industries and Khadi. He wanted it to be a dynamic window on evolving technicques in rural industrialization and a centre of education for the common person to impart information on new modes of production which could help the poor of the land.
Dr. Devendra Kumar, a young Oil technologist, joined AIVIA from 1949 to 1952 as a scientist and undertook the onus of providing momentum to the noble cause of helping those below the poverty line by empowering them with the tool of science and technology.
In 1978, Devendra Bhai (which was his popular name) made Magan Sanghralaya his base and took up the mission to create a new awareness pertaining to Gandhian values among the scientists, technologists, economists, sociologists and experts in various disciplines all over the country. Here he set up the Center of Science for villages. His entire life was nothing but a relentless pursuit to provide a human face to technology with the dream that no one slept hungry and every citizen of India became self sufficient and lead a life of dignity and honor.
THE THRUST- BUILDING TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETENCIES
The main objective of Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti (MSS) is to bring to the fore indigenous skills of the village artisans, stemming from the accumulated traditional knowledge, and facilitate its interaction with the recent knowledge of science and technology. To innovate technologies that could be converted into sustainable business opportunities at the grassroots level.
The other objectives are research, development and dissemination of Khadi and village industries, agriculture, dairy etc. alongwith the display and demonstrate of their production processes.
DEVENDRA BHAI: THE CRUSADER
Dr. Devendra Kumar, popularly known as Devendra Bhai, was hailed as the doyen of Appropriate Technology in India.
A science graduate from Lucknow University and an Oil Technologist from the famous Harcourt Butler Technological Institute, Devendra Bhai left a lucrative job to join the Gandhian Movement in 1946. Influenced by the Gandhian economic philosophy of decentralization, he joined the All India Village Industries Association (AIVIA), of which Mahatma Gandhi was the president and Prof.J.C. Kumarappa was the secretary. Prof. Kumarappa was a great Gandhian Economist, who influenced Gandhiji to initiate the ‘Namak Satyagraha’ (or the famous ‘Salt Movement’) against the British Raj.
Devendra Bhai helped his Guru Kumarappaji for six years in research and innovative experiments in various village industries he also edited and translated his books as well as articles, which Gandhiji hailed as the best analysis of the village economy of India and called Kumarappa the ‘Doctor of Village Industries’.
Guiding people to self sufficiency
In 1952, Devendra Bhai opted to live with the landless poor of a small insulated hilly village, called ‘Machala’, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh for eight long years – to experience village life in the raw. He made a sea change in the lives of the rural people of Machala who still revere him as a saint who changed their lives by making them self-sufficient to lead a life of dignity and honour. He was also a part of the ‘Bhoodan’ movement (where big land owners donated land to the landless poor) spearheaded by Vinoba Bhave – the barefoot ‘Saint on the march’. Under Vinobaji’s guidance, Devendra Bhai acted as the state level organizer of Bhoodan and was also active in Sarvodaya and village movements.
Catalyzing policy initiatives
In 1965, Devendra Bhai was invited to become the Secretary of the National Gandhi Memorial Trust at New Delhi and was made the Organizing Secretary of the National Committee for Gandhi Centenary of which the President of India was the President and the Prime Minister of India Chairperson. He initiated a number of institutions and was connected to various national and international committees on Gandhian constructive movement. Devendra Bhai acted as a vital link between the grassroots NGOs in the Gandhian field and the policy makers at the Central Government level. He was involved in organizing important meetings with the Prime Minister and the concerned ministers on various issues. He was also instrumental in cultivating a number of scientific institutions in Delhi to orient them towards rural needs. Even the concept of having Rural Development and Appropriate Technology cells at all the IITs in India, was the brainchild of Devendra Bhai. Not many people are aware that he was the person who helped in the formulation of the Council for Advancement of Rural Technology (CART) – the erstwhile CAPART. He was a member of around 150 national Science & Technology committees.
Transforming Rural Life with Technology
In 1978, Devendra Bhai took up the mission of his Guru – Kumarappa – of taking the benefits of technology to the rural poor and initiated the Centre of Science for Villages (CSV) at Magan Sangrahalaya. Wardha. With a team of committed scientists and technocrats, CSV developed 75 technologies to convert them into business opportunities for the rural people and constructed 30,000 low-cost mud houses, 100,000 hygienic toilets, 20,000 biogas plants and trained around 30,000 rural artisans in improved scientific techniques ( like non-violent honey extraction, gum-collection without harming the trees, single-bullock driven agricultural equipment and improved potter’s wheel). In fact, he started a major artisan movement called ‘Karigar Panchayat’, creating artisan guilds in 22 states of India with a total strength of 200, 000 artisans.
Light that continues to Enlighten
Though Devendra Bhai is no more in this world, his daughter – Dr Vibha Gupta – is carrying on the torch by creating sustainable livelihoods in Rural India through technological interventions. She has been working with Devendra Bhai since 1978 and is currently the Chairperson of the Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti.