BHAIKAKA & BHIKHABHAI: THE CREATOR DUO
The genesis and phenomenal growth and development of Vallabh Vidyanagar, the well-planned and unique educational township situated in the heart of the Gujarat State, is stranger than fiction. Based on local talent and local resources it is a peerless example of self-reliance and dedication. While working in Sindh (now in Pakistan) as Superintending Engineer in Sukkur Barrage, Yevala in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad Municipality, as a distinguished Chief Engineer, Shri Bhailalbhai Dyabhai Patel, later warmly taken to their heart by the people of Gujarat as ‘Bhaikaka’, had earned reputation for his sense of values, discipline, dedication to duty and absolute integrity. Having been born and brought up in a family of strained financial resources in Sojitra village in Kheda district he had known what it meant to be poor. So, while in dedicating himself to the cause of rural India which was sunk in inertia, squalor and abject poverty. Once during a meeting between him and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. who knew Bhaikaka as a man of practical bent of mind, unusual ability and character, Sardar advised him to go to the villages and work for their regeneration. Sardar’s wish was tantamount to a command to him. Bhaikaka’s irresistible desire to improve the lot of the poor villagers coupled with Sardar’s advice or command impelled him to take early retirement from the service. He saw that the most potent instrument to improve the subhuman life of villagers was to bring higher learning to their very doorstep and thus the concept of establishing institutions of higher education started taking shape. He got in touch with Shri Bhikhabhai Kuberbhai Patel. a dedicated and farsighted educationist, fired by the same ideal. He had played a pivotal role in the establishment of Charotar Education Society in Anand and Narmada Kelavani Mandal at Shuklateerth.
Torrential Rain of Land
They held several meetings in different parts of Kheda (then Kaira) district and a couple of them of about five hundred persons interested in higher education in Anand town. On March 28,1945 it was decided to draw and implement the plan of planting an educational township in a wilderness infested with dacoits which later came to be known as Vallabh Vidyanagar. Bhaikaka and Bhikhabhai worked out an ingenious scheme based on enlightened self-interest. They persuaded the farmers to donate their land free of cost, saying, “Donate your land to us now; we’ll develop and use two-thirds and return you the remaining one-third in course of time”. It was explained to them that while having the pleasure of assisting in the establishment of an educational township at no cost to themselves the building plots they would each obtain would appreciate sufficiently not only to cover the value of the land donated, but also leave a handsome margin of profit. It was a win-win situation and the response to it was overwhelming. At a meeting in Bakrol, a village at a hailing distance from today’s Vallabh Vidyanagar, spontaneous offer of land was made to Bhaikaka and Bhikhabhai.Amap of the village was spread before the duo and they were asked to mark with a pencil the area needed. Residents of Anand and Karamsad (Sardar Patel’s village) followed suit. Thus a total of 555 acres of land at the intersection of Bakrol, Karamsad and Anand was received in donation. It was a torrential rain of land!
The founders decided to establish two institutions - Charutar Vidya Mandal and Charotar Gramoddhar Sahakari Mandal. The former was to be devoted to the cause of education, that is, establishing colleges and schools and the latter meant to produce the building materials for educational institutions and residential quarters. They were registered on August 10, 1945 and September 7, 1945, respectively.
Bhaikaka and Bhikhabhai came to reside in the wilderness in an improvised residence - a hut measuring 8 ft and 1 0 ft on March 3, 1 946. They chose a mango tree and installed themselves under it, in the divine presence of Lord Brahma, the Super Creator, dreaming, planning, breaking a new ground, organizing, getting things done and resolving snarls to plant a city of education farfrom the maddening hustle and bustle of cities. It merits a special mention here that Bhaikaka, the Patriarch of Mango Tree, as he was then called, despised the idea of copying or borrowing know-how and do-how from anywhere. His indomitable faith in the local human material, though inexperienced, propelled him to bake bricks for the buildings locally. He established building material units -workshop and foundry, cement pipe factory, tiles factory, rubber factory and prestressed concrete factory to produce, in addition to bricks, lime, timber doors and windows, flooring tiles, hume pipes and various concrete products. The materials thus produced worked out cheaper than in the market and in addition, provided employment to the local people. It is difficult to resist the temptation of recalling here that Bhaikaka invited a Harijan to inaugurate the brick-kiln, a Muslim mechanic to lay the foundation of the workshop and foundry and a Brahmin to lay the first brick of the V. P. Science College ! A printing press named as Gramoddhar Printing Press for printing handbills, booklets, books, research journals and questionpapers was also set up.
Bhaikaka, Ihe man with green thumb, planted a thousand trees. It is to him that we owe the lush-green, stately, shady trees all along the roads in VallabhVidyanagar.