Jadhav Model : India's Obama..?

Sunday Pioneer, Column by Chandrabhan Prasad.





In this age of recession, village Wadule has evolved into a fountain of hope. Falling under Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, Wadule is 75 km east to the city of Pune. The drought-prone rocky landmass is home to 98 families. 15 years back, Wadule didn't have a linking road. Today, all the 98 households of Wadule have modern toilets. Before February 15, I had not seen a village in India with toilets. This miracle is the work of Dr Narendra Jadhav, renowned economist, author of the best selling book Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Escape from India 's Caste Systems and currently the VC of Pune University.

I was visiting the University to participate in a national level seminar (February 14-16) on Dalit questions. On the very first day, I heard people talking about Samarth  Bharat  Abhiyan making India a Great Mission.

Dr Vijay Khare, organizer of the seminar arranged a meeting with Dr Jadhav as we wanted to see his model at work. Dr Jadhav invited us to join him the next day as he was going to inaugurate a Career Mahotsav Career Enhancement Festival  being organized at the New Arts and Science College, Ahmednagar district. We grabbed the opportunity.

Next morning D Shyam Babu, Dr Rajesh Paswan and I boarded the VC 's six-seater car at 8. There was only one security man to escort the VC. I got a bit anxious. Often, when VCs address students, they are protected by a dozen armed security staff as they expect a hostile body of students. Maybe the security will join when he reaches Ahmednagar town, I thought.

Nothing of that sort happened. As we entered the venue, a gigantic make-shift hall in the College campus, Dr Jadhav was cheered by more than 8,000 students. Amidst the unstoppable standing ovation by students and teachers alike, Dr Jadhav walked toward the dais like a rock star. Hailed as India 's Obama, Dr Jadhav spoke more like a motivator than an administrator. Once the program culminated and we headed toward the car, hundreds of student followed cheering him. And why not? Dr Jadhav has infused a new sense of confidence amongst the small-town students of Ahmednagar.

Small-town students lag behind their counterparts in large towns in many ways. While it is difficult to bridge the gap completely, it can be reduced by some innovative thinking. Under Jadhav 's Samarth Bharat Mission, 87 institutions had set up stalls on the college campus. Dozens of professors stood at their respective stalls guiding students  from subject selection to job prospects to new development in teaching and learning tools. Led by Principal UR Thube, the College management had organized the event marvelously, better than events organised by many Central Universities. According to Dr Sambhaji Annasaheb Pathare, Director (Students Welfare), during February 14-17, 52,000 students and parents registered for counseling. Ahmednagar district has 106 colleges, with 80,000 students, affiliated to the University of Pune.

The Jadhav Model works on a simple theory — let university professors inspire students, and gain experience. The colleges and their students, too, are expected to inspire villagers. For this, each college is expected to adopt a village.

Of the 536 colleges affiliated to the university, 472 have adopted a village each. Led by their teachers, students stay for ten days in the villages. They help villagers build flush-system toilets, teach them health-related issues, crop choices, and undertake soil testing. So far, in 195 villages, colleges have helped villagers build toilets. When we visited Wadule, we saw 93 college boys and 32 girls constructing rainwater harvesting systems. Here too, Dr Jadhav was given a hero 's welcome. He is transforming our lives, the villagers told.

The Jadhav Model empowers all. The university must upgrade the standard of colleges which affiliate to it as it picks up most students from them. This process, in the end, will then upgrade the standard of the university. Let colleges develop few hundred villages into Model Villages and the rest would follow on their own. Since we all have toilets, our boys are the most sought after grooms, a man from Wadule village said.