Of Gandhian Principles And Worldly Interests

Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
An industrialist observing a fast to arouse public conscience may sound unworldly today, but then Jaiprakash Agarwal is not an archetype. A devout Gandhian, he believes the best weapon to get rid of the evils prevalent in our society is by following Gandhian principles. The founder director and vice chairman of Surya Roshni Ltd, a Rs 1,000 crore company, was on a 20-day fast from September 15 to October 6.

The enthusiastic response he received from all parts of the country has only strengthened his belief. I have decided to propagate the Gandhian teaching among the younger generation, so that they can pass it on to their contemporaries, says he.

Of course, he is realistic enough to appreciate that ideology alone cant implement his vision. He believes that education is a vital tool. He has adopted 200 villages in different parts of the country and has made arrangements to impart education to kids.

He has also established various trusts like Prakash Seva Trust, which has given scholarships to a large number of students, and donations to schools for more than two decades without any consideration of caste, creed, religion and language.

Besides, he has set up think tanks on defence, water resources, railways, law and justice, economy, tourism, alternative medical systems, education, telecom, power, public administration, energy, etc, to deliberate on how to solve the burning problems facing the nation. Expert reports of these think tanks are then circulated amongst opinion leaders like parliamentarians, academics and civil services and intellectuals in different fields of the society.

All this does not mean that the business, particularly the staff, is neglected. Despite being the head of the organisation, he keeps in close touch with all his employees. The company has established a national development academy, Sadhna Asthali, at Jhinjholi, 35 km away from Delhi, for development of human resources. The campus offers training facilities, which focus on developing not only the knowledge base of the attending people, but also their personality and character. Locating it in the larger context, he emphasises: Unless corruption, poverty and unemployment are eradicated, we will remain backward. Thats why personality development is important, he argues.

Youth Training and Personality Development camps are regular features at Jhinjholi. This programme sees hundreds of youths from various states taking training in management and personality development. Students of IIT, Delhi, and IIT, Kanpur, have also attended these camps.

He is reluctant to reveal how much does it cost him or the company at the end of the day. Its more in terms of sparing human resources for such work than actual money, and its yet to be quantified, he says. But then whos complaining!