The northeastern states of India often miss the limelight as they lose out on a lot of infrastructural and technical development in comparision to other states. But gradually, the scenario is changing and we are seeing the seven sisters progress and get better access to healthcare, education, infrastructure etc.
There are certain people who have worked immensely to transform these states, keeping their identity in front of the nation and the world. Nestlested in extreme corner of the nation, Nagaland had to face acute infrastructural problems at one point in time. But Natwarbhai Thakkar is a person who not only noticed those problems but also tackled them.
Embarking upon a new journey
Natwarbhai was born in 1932 in a Gujarati-speaking family in Palghar district of Maharashtra. Right from his childhood, he followed the footsteps of Gandhian social reformer Kaka Kalelkar. At the age of 23, Natwarbhai left his hometown and headed to Nagaland with a single motive of initiating social development. He came to Nagaland to promote national and emotional integration through voluntary service based on Gandhian principles.
The Chuchuyimlang village was the start of a massive transformation in Nagaland. In that village, even the basic amenities like electricity were a luxury and asbestos sheets were all they could afford to cover their homes. It was a backward village as it also had basic communication problems.
However, the village left its bad old days after Natwarbhai established Gandhi Ashram. The Ashram solely aimed to develop the village and therefore introduced initiatives like weaving, vocational education, primary education, a library, youth activities, livelihood training, and so on.
Facing the Naga rebels
The village was surrounded by difficult terrain and no physical connect to big cities. He encountered this problem and started building bridges that could connect its villages to other states. At that time, the Naga rebels and the Indian army was constantly at war and hence the militants considered any Indian a spy. They even warned the villagers not to aid or shelter Natwarbhai and often threatened him and his family. But owing to his firm and fierce resolute and intentions, he stood strong and never backed out.
The Nagaland Gandhi Ashram stood to be the first NGO to establish a centre in Chuchuyimlang village with the help of Ministry of Communications of the Government of India. An extension centre of National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology was started in Chuchuyimlang village in 2006. It is a government-funded institute equipped with the latest technology.
All of this was possible only because of one single man, Natwarbhai.
The Ashram has also tied up with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and is offering a postgraduate program in Human Development.
His work defines his life
“There was neither a post office nor a telephone facility. Now the Nagaland Gandhi Ashram runs a computer centre with over 60 computers offering several courses for Naga youths,” says Natwarbhai, who is also dubbed as Nagaland’s Gandhi.
Natwarbhai made himself a part of the Naga community that further helped him understand the depth of the problems that they faced. Whatever he could think is a necessity in today’s fast moving world, he made sure that the state got it.
“At first, there was not a single educated person in Chuchuyimlang village. Now, we can count a few IAS officers, teachers, government servants, and lawyers.”
This defines the dedication of Natwarbhai to enhance the lives of the Naga community.
His life is an inspiration for all of us who aims to make better lives for others. For a person who could have easily stayed back in Maharashtra and lead a comfortable life, his exemplary work and dedication reminds all of us that we should always have each other’s back to create a better future for the entire nation.
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