Villagers donate land for college in Maharashtra

24 Oct

AMBAVADE: The sun is harsh and the silence pervasive. As the car crunches down the red earth roads into this tiny landlocked village of 97 homes in Ratnagiri some 200 km from Mumbai, it is clear that development has passed Ambavade by. There isn’t a hospital, a park, a public loo or a bus station in this village in Pune district. Or a college, considered a toolbox for constructing tomorrow.

The villagers have led quiet lives, struggling even for basic amenities, but proud that Ambavade gave India the architect of its Constitution: B R Ambedkar. The bright and restless have followed in his footsteps and left the village for an education and a career.

It’s been the same for decades: young Ambavadites wandering away to promising lands. But now some villagers-a few farmers, the village kiranawala, a retired teacher, the village postman, a housewife-have taken it on themselves to change it. They are handing over their land, their all, to the state government to build a college. And they want nothing as compensation.

The paper work has been firmed up and the final transfer of properties will take place next week.

Fifty-year-old Pandurang Janu Farate, the village postman, says he could never go to high school and he was forced to send his son to an industrial training institute (ITI) in Mumbai. “If the government builds a college here, we have a future,” he says.

It’s this belief that brought several families together to give away their land holdings, which abut each other, for a college campus that will be spread over 20 acres. The decision was taken in the village’s gram panchayat on a Sunday about two months ago. There’s been no looking back since.

Four generations of Shailesh Nayan Posture’s family have been in Ambavade. This 30-year-old sells biscuits and his family grows rice, just enough for the family. The Postures are giving 18 guntas for the college. “Ambedkarji has left an important message for us: education can change our destiny. We hope the college will bring quality education and some jobs too,” said Shailesh.

The movement began after the University of Mumbai proposed to build a model college under a University Grants Commission ( UGC) scheme to set up campuses in 374 districts where the gross enrollment in higher education is lower than the national average. Although Ambavade fit the bill, the Maharashtra government did not clear the proposal as it did not have land to spare. So the villagers decided to chip in.

Sudarshan Sakpal, who is coordinating with the University of Mumbai, says the villagers hope Ambavade will become the focal point of learning for the 18 villages around that are without a college. Most also feel the college will roll in more than just a brick and mortar campus.

For, in forgotten Ambavade, whether to see a doctor or to attend college, one has to travel to the tehsil headquarters – Mandangad – by the only rickety state transport bus that passes through before dawn breaks. “If we miss that bus, we’re stuck in Ambavade for the day,” says Sakpal.

The villagers put up their hands when opportunity beckoned and now Ambedkar’s Ambavade is waiting for education to change its destiny.

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