Utkalamani Gopabandhu Das as the Harbinger of Social Modernisation-II

In my talk On Gandhi and Gopabandhu delivered on 27th March 2006 at Gopabandhu Bhavan, Cuttack, I had referred to the Education Code of Japan which prescribed opening of schools at every village of that country. That code, I stated, was responsible for spread of mass education and played a determining role in the emergence of Japan as a modern and industrialized country in the twentieth century. I made that statement without referring to Gopabandhu's collected works and then said that he by establishing the Satyabadi School had had the similar vision for the people of Orissa and India.
Later when I read the first volume of Gopabandhu's collected works it was instructive to know that Gopabandhu in his speech at the Puri District Education Conference in 1912 had referred to the Education Code of Japan announced by the Emperor of that country. He said that the code outlined the vision of the modern Japan in which not a single subject would remain unlettered and deprived of education. Stating that Japan laid the foundation of its national development the day it announced and implemented the code, he asked with a heavy heart "When would our so called benevolent Government announce such a code for us?" That stirring question represented the agitation of his mind and his restlessness for liberating the people of India from the thralldom of ignorance which paralyzed their mental faculties and crushed their spirit even as they struggled to physically survive.
It also meant that had Gopabandhu's desire to have a Education Code been implemented, Orissa and indeed the whole of India would have had the indices of development no less significant than that of Japan.
The fact that Gopabandhu was aware of the Education Code of Japan, the fact that he attributed the phenomenal progress of Japan to that code which accelerated the spread of education among people reveals his deep understanding of the matters concerning advancement of education in other countries and its role in completely transforming them as modern and front ranking nations of the world. His breadth of vision was an eloquent testimony to his modern approach. His fervent desire that the British Government of the day should introduce such a code amply demonstrated his eagerness for a revolutionary development of our society and nation through education. Much later Dr. B.R.Ambedkar the principal architect of the Constitution underlined the value of education by saying "We may forego the material benefits but not education". The modern studies in twenty first century have revealed that the GNP of a nation can be appreciably increased more by educating people than by investing in any other sector of the economy. The numerous Human Development Reports of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) now emphasise on spread of education for building human development and the Secretary General of the United Nations Dr. Kofi Annan has made education a key component for achieving the Millennium Development Goal for the humanity.
A rudimentary understanding of Gopabandhu Das's profound thoughts and his intensely practical action for the cause of education make us aware of his role as one of the leading torchbearers of social modernization in Orissa and the country.

While dwelling on the role played by Gopabandhu Das in setting the process of social modernization one is struck by his ability to assimilate ideas form different sources. Earlier I referred to the Education Code of Japan and the way Gopabandhu cited it as a model for our own country to introduce education and quicken its process for the larger advancement of the people and nation. It was indicative of his all embracing mind which was receptive to ideas from different sources, be it foreign or indigenous. A man all the while engaged in addressing the miseries of the starving people and serving society had also the deep concern for changing society along modern lines. While doing so he remained tuned to the developments in the sphere of education in other parts of the country and wrote about them to inform and inspire people to follow those examples. It was indeed characteristic of Gopabandhu Das to look at the bright spots of learning, in the midst of pervasive illiteracy, and derive appropriate lessons for educating the masses. In a moving piece written in Satyabadi in 1916 on the theme "Education in the Indian States", Desiya Rajyare Siksha, he glowingly referred to the eloquent statement of Gopal Krishna Gokhle that the first and foremost requirement of India was education. Adding that Gokhle made that statement in the context of the spread of primary education he lamented that the British Government did not pay heed to the pronouncements on the ground that those were impossible to implement. However, Gopabandhu happily cited the example of Baroda State where the impossible was made possible. Writing that several attempts were being made to spread education in many other Indian States, he proudly mentioned the campaign launched in Mysore which apart from establishing schools for primary education set up libraries for promoting mass education, made special provisions for the upliftment of the neglected sections of society and put massive efforts for the improvement of agriculture and industry. Giving the shining example of Travancore State, he outlined the noteworthy features such as the establishment of a school in every three square mile, enrolment of half of the eligible boys and girls in the school and even the registration of all the students in the school of a particular Taluk. The exemplary success in generating momentum for the spread of education among people gladdened the heart of Gopabandhu and he wrote about them to mobilize people and public opinion in Orissa to show similar results. To motivate people to pursue education he used to explode the popular myth that education was a luxury for them. In fact, when a district authority declared that 'secondary education is a luxury, those who want it must pay for it' Gopabandhu rejected the argument by saying that education is indispensable and whether it is primary, secondary or higher education it would be wrong to categorise it as luxury for the human being. He then stated that the divinity of the beast like human being could only be brought out by education alone. Declaring that the principal objective of education is concerned with the organization of a well ordered life he added that such lofty goals could not be achieved either by developing logical reasoning or getting awards through excellence in the field of cricket and football. The role models for our youth today are not those whose life are well ordered or based on values but those who have achieved name, fame and positions of strength and power. The role models are the cricketers and accomplished sports persons who are being deified for their success irrespective of their worth as human beings. Today when values are being disintegrated in wild pursuit of hedonism the remarks of Utkalamani Gopabandhu Das stirs our conscience to reevaluate our approach for nurturing our younger generation and inculcating in them the ideals and standards of a conscientious citizen. (Cont...)

Courtesy:
Odisha Review

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