Published: 02nd October 2021
Gandhi with Gen Z: How this institute in Tamil Nadu is taking the Mahatma's thoughts, teachings forward
From mandatory Gandhian Thought classes to rural internships, The Gandhigram Rural Institute in Dindigul has been offering an alternative look at education since 1956
Among the various lessons that Mahatma Gandhi imparted, it is perhaps his stance on non-violence that remains the most prominent. "An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind," he had said. It is such thoughts, principles and teachings that form the basis of establishment of The Gandhigram Rural Institute in Dindigul. The institute, which is a one-of-a-kind centre for learning about Gandhi's life and beliefs, enrols thousands of undergraduate, postgraduate and research scholars every year.
Speaking about their foundation course on Gandhi, Professor R Mani, Director of the Department of Gandhian Thought and Peace Science, says, "Every undergraduate student, irrespective of their discipline, has to study about Gandhi's life and thought, conflict management and peace studies. These classes are held for two hours every week and all our 3,500 undergraduate students have to compulsorily attend it." And this is just one of the classes that the department conducts. According to Prof Mani, the department also offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral degrees in Gandhian Thought.
But what's most unique about the institute is their Village Placement Programme (VPP). Prof Mani explains, "It builds on the third pillar of the institute — extension. The first two are teaching and research. Under the extension programme, researchers of the institute identify a village and a problem. They go there, stay in the village and help them solve the problem with what they have learnt." This, Professor Mani says, promotes Gandhi's principles of helping society and enabling the rural economy.
This comes from Gandhi's concept of basic education for all or 'Nai Talim', a principle that the institute follows to the core. And this is also in line with the new National Education Policy (NEP), which also promotes lifelong learning and holistic development of the student. "The institute was founded based on these principles," says Prof Mani. "Besides the usual courses on Gandhi, the institute also asks its students to be involved in manual labour. This is also a part of the 'Nai Talim' concept, where students are encouraged to allay their disdain for manual labour. This is beyond their syllabus and is unique to the institute," he adds.
The institute, which was founded in 1956 by G Ramachandran and TS Soundaram Ramachandran, is focused on rural development and skill development courses. Students can pursue vocational training on a variety of subjects. The institute also offers BTech, MTech and MBA programmes as well. Agricultural studies is another major subject that students come to the institute to study. "Most of our students are from the southern states but we also receive a lot of students from the north-east, especially in the Gandhian Thought department," says Prof Mani.