Vishal Mistry, Rajpipla: “My work has never been hindered by lack of money,” said 81-year-old Mahendra Bhatt who has selflessly worked to serve the people in the interiors of Narmada’s tribal areas.
Seven years after he was married, Mahendrabhai along with his wife Bhartiben and their young daughter came to Mangrol village in Nandod taluka of Narmada district intending to serve the people there.
For the last 44 years, the couple has worked towards educating the tribals and making them self reliant.
Mahendrabhai belongs to a family of freedom fighters. His parents and elder brother had taken part in the freedom movement. Yet his family has never claimed the pension that is given to freedom fighters and even donated their land to the needy during Vinobha Bhave’s Bhoodan movement.
How the Gandhian couple met
Mahendrabhai met his wife in Mumbai. He was an electrical engineer working with the GEB while his wife had a degree in microbiology and worked as a therapist. The couple had a salary of Rs1000 in those days but gave it up to come and settle in Narmada.
The couple spent the initial days in the village in a 1oX1o ft wooden structure. The couple’s other friends also joined them and they took turns living in the structure. “When it was our turn to sleep outside our young daughter would sleep with us outside too,” he said.
His efforts have ensured the self-reliance of over 70 villages in the area. He has also traveled across Gujarat’s villages spreading Vinbho Bhave’s teachings and the need to embrace a simple life.
Long before Swacch Bharat became a rallying call, the Bhatt couple had two decades ago ensured that all villages where they worked had a toilet.
They have also encouraged organic farming and helped set up more than 500 gobar gas plants in the village.
The couple and their daughter only wear khadi and stitch their own clothes.
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