Respected Advaniji, esteemed Shri Shrenikbhai, Dipakbhai, the focal point of today’s programme Shri Utkarshbhai, all the great personalities sitting on the dais, elders, mothers, brothers and sisters..!
Such type of activity is the symbol of how fast the trends are changing in our social life. We all have lived as a society with strength for more than five thousand years and the reason behind it was our family system. Among all the social structures in the world, if there is any organization in which there is dynamism, which itself has vitality, which has the ability to energize itself then it is only the great family system of India. But by the passage of time the generations are changed. But, chronologically the times have changed, 1200 years of slavery brought many setbacks in social life, we could not get a chance to change according to the times. The strength of social leaders was lost in movements to get independence from slavery and so the period of 1200 years was passed in such a way that the refinements that were required to be made according to the time could not be made. Consequently, the way if an old building is not maintained from time to time and it becomes outworn day by day, in the same way our social structure, our family system started becoming weaker and to survive, the society found some innovatory ways and gradually we all detoured towards micro family. And when such situation arises, naturally new systems need to be developed, new arrangements are to be supported and then only we can take care of a big class of the society. It is true that the situation over here is not such as in some countries where senior citizen becomes a burden on the society and the country, we don’t have that worse situation. In such a big Gujarat with the population of six crore, there are hardly 170 old age homes today. It doesn’t mean that here there is an absence of old people, but even today there is some strength in the social structure that is still maintained by the family and the society itself. And therefore, the basic force that we have needs to be nourished consciously forever. The biggest threat that has come up is that of generation gap and if anybody becomes the victim of it largely, they are either old people or the children. Because there is a combination of three generations living together and if the present generation becomes incapable of maintaining the balance, then this imbalance is suffered at the most by elderly persons and secondly by the children. In such a situation, a firm effort is needed to see how an integrated system could be developed in the social life.
The manner in which we are worried for senior citizens, in the same way it has become important to have concern for the children also. During the time of joint families, the family itself was like a university. The elders used to give their significant contribution in the child’s development. The child used to learn one thing from grandfather, another thing from grandmother… One thing from mother, second from uncle, third thing from maternal uncle… And in a way, because of the joint family, development of the child was in form of a university. With the passage of time, today’s children are deprived of this fortuity with the upcoming of micro families and at younger age, they have to grope elsewhere. They have to live in some different environment. Such conditions are created. The child lives on the dependence of a maid. And because of this, whatever the child sees, he tries to frame his own life on that basis. Today if we take 100 children to a toy shop and ask them to choose a toy of their choice. To our surprise, out of 100, 60 to 65 children choose pistol from all other toys. This is a matter of big shock. If the child is deprived of love and affection, where shall he go then….! Perhaps the old generation in our family plays a very meaningful role in moulding the character of our children. When such a big problem is formed, Gujarat has made a small effort. Gujarat is the first State in the world which has imagined for a ‘Children University’. And in this Children University, with the changing times, in the situation of micro families, we can not shake off our responsibility and just leave the matter to concerned people… No. We have to think farsightedly and should make some new arrangement and as a part of that, by the Children University, a research has been undertaken to develop a system for the overall development of children despite of living in micro family so that such a generation could be prepared which may brighten the future of the social life. Gujarat has commenced to work in that direction.
Various kinds of activities are carried out by the Social Welfare Department of the Gujarat Government. Old age homes are also there, they are also provided with financial aid by the Government. But now we are taking a new approach, i.e. ‘Cluster Approach’. There are separate arrangements for abandoned women at one place, for orphaned children at second place, for old aged people at some third place… Such Governmental arrangements are already there, but scattered and also expensive. We are thinking to bring these abandoned women, orphaned children and old aged people in the same campus. If a family life environment gets created, then it is possible that these scattered arrangements may become strength in social life. We have initiated our efforts in this direction. In the coming days, we will be trying to develop ‘Bal Gokulam’ type of centres. I hope that by making the efforts in this direction, the social life will get a new strength.
It is true that if there is any identity of Gujarat, it is because of its spirit and activity of service. Here we have charity work at such a large scale that the activities that were carried out by Mahajans (illustrious capitalist people) from so many years, you may go to any village… Cow-shed is made by Mahajans, School is made by Mahajans, Water Hut is made by Mahajans, Library is made by Mahajans… It has been our strength from centuries. These works are not done by any Government. For centuries, because of this Mahajan tradition… And the purpose of Mahajan tradition itself is that charity has become another name for an activity in the society and that has remained a great strength in the social life. I remember, after the earthquake when I was working in Kutch, at that time large numbers of foreigners had come to work there. In the evening they used to go in small tents that they had brought along with them. I was also anxious to meet them, to know their experiences, what do they say..! These foreigners expressed their surprise on one matter. Many of their groups came directly from Turkey where the last earthquake took place. They told me that Sir, wherever we went for earthquake relief, there used to be only three or four NGOs, whether it is WHO or Red Cross… only these NGOs work there. To our surprise, here in each and every lane some NGO is found working. Some take care of catering, some take care of bandaging, some are providing physiotherapy..! It was a matter of surprise for them. This is the strength of our social life and its reflection can be seen in such a well organized ‘Shanti Niketan’.
I am confident that this Shanti Niketan will become a centre to fill new energy. I am sure that anywhere in Gujarat or in the whole country, wherever such activities for old age homes are carried out, how should be its model, how to partner them, how can the experience of senior citizens and their ability be utilised for the creative development of the coming generation, how to make this in a way a centre to transform the experiences of senior citizens into activity… The more we think in that direction, we would be able to place a new reward in front of the people of our country. Many many congratulations to Utkarshbhai and his family and Dipakbhai and his family.
Lots of wishes..!