Over 34,000 letters written by and to Mahatma Gandhi, documents related to his personal life and freedom struggle will soon be available at the click of a mouse under a Government plan, which will also see 2,000 lesser-known places associated with the apostle of peace sporting a new look.
The Government, in association with Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust at Ahmedabad, will soon launch the Gandhi Heritage Sites portal at a cost of Rs. 8 crore.
Besides, the Culture Ministry will also set up Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission at a cost of Rs. 42 crore during a five-year period to spruce up, protect and conserve the sites spread across eight countries including India with a view to showcase them to the younger generation and to tourists.
The portal will be set up at the Sabarmati Ashram, as recommended by a panel of eminent Gandhians and historians in the country headed by Gandhi’s grandson Gopalakrishna Gandhi and will serve as a one-stop shop for people to know about Gandhi’s personal and public life, a senior Culture Ministry official said today.
To establish the portal, government will provide Rs. 8 crore and a corpus fund is being set up, for which Rs. 4 crore is being released to the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT) this month, the official said.
Sabarmati Ashram has by far the largest collection of carefully preserved manuscripts of Gandhiji’s writings during his stay in Sabarmati.
“The Library and Archives at Sabarmati consist of 34,111 letters - either to Gandhiji or from him; original as well as photostat copies. These letters have been microfilmed and entered into register which is also on computer files,” the official said.
All these documents and letters will be available on the portal for public use and the decision was taken to preserve and perpetuate these invaluable heritages with proper research, in an authentic manner to showcase to the younger generation and also to the rest of the world.
The portal will be regularly updated by the Sabarmati Ashram to ensure that all relevant details on Gandhiji are incorporated in one site which will be unique in more than one sense, the official said, adding it will be interactive.
On the Heritage Sites Mission, the official said the sites, most of which are in a dilapidated condition, have been identified by the panel.
The Mission will be assisted by the existing Zonal Cultural Centers in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
The Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission will be headed by a Chairperson who will be an eminent Gandhian and the Director of the Mission will be an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary.
The Panel has recommended 39 core sites which include Porbandar and Rajkot sites of the childhood period, Tilak Ghat, Chennai, Mani Bhavan, Mumbai, Beliaghata, Kolkata, the venue in Madurai where Gandhiji took to the loin-cloth, the prison cell in Yeravda Jail, Pune, and the prison room in Aga Khan Palace (Pune) etc.
Besides, nearly 2000 sites have been identified by the panel and they have covered almost every single place visited and associated with Gandhiji from 1869 to 1948, in India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Mauritius, Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and venues in what now form parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Sources said the committee had submitted a voluminous book detailing how and why the sites are associated with the apostle of peace. Almost all the 2,000 sites were visited by Gandhi during the freedom struggle.
Under the scheme, the sites will be spruced up, painted properly and will also have signages and lighting arrangements.
The government will also put up sign boards which will educate the tourists about how and why Mahatma Gandhi was associated with the place.
The official said the Government is also mulling to appoint guides and volunteers to create awareness about the importance of the sites to both domestic and foreign tourists.
The Culture Ministry appointed the committee in April 2006 for identifying and documenting sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi, with a view to strengthening their upkeep and conservation for posterity.
The sites include public places, parks and committee halls where the Mahatma visited and stayed.