Efforts to revive the Tolstoy Farm, a desolate area which once was a thriving commune run by Mahatma Gandhi, has received a major boost with several Indian companies in South Africa pledging support. Tolstoy Farm, some 30 km from Johannesburg, was once a thriving self-sufficient community, but fell into disuse and was lying derelict for many years, with just the foundation of Gandhi’s original house still remaining.
Visits by Indian leaders resulted in substantial donations, including a pledge of one crore rupees from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan which led to the first phase of a Garden of Remembrance being officially launched last year by Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam.
“My spirits have been hugely lifted by the offers made at this meeting,” Mohan Hira, a veteran sportsman said after Consul General K J Srinivasa called a meeting of the India Business Forum, comprising heads of Indian companies represented in South Africa.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to support restoring this farm and being a part of this glorious moment, so we will be contributing a 10 KV generator which is on its way from India and should be here by the end of this month,” said Anil Sur of the Kirloskar Group. Sasi Kumar of CRI Pumps will provide a pump for the borehole on the farm, while State Bank of India promised to aid for the necessary agricultural implements.
“When the building comes up, we will take up the entire painting for the premises,” said Debajit Shome of United Colours, who also pledged the support of the India Club, an organisation bringing together NRI’s in South Africa, to secure any items on a wish list that the committee could provide. Various suggestions were also made about how the facilities could be used for the benefit of the indigent local communities surrounding Tolstoy Farm.
Jody Kollapen, Chairperson of a non-profit organisation set up in conjunction with the Indian High Commission to oversee the revival of Tolstoy Farm, said the heritage of Gandhi was common to India and South Africa. It was therefore gratifying to see the South African Indian community in its fourth and fifth generation working together with the NRI community to preserve the great leader’s legacy, he said.