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Academics question proposal to observe Nanaji Deshmukh's anniversary as Social Work Day

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The Economic Times
10th October, 2019 23:40 IST

NEW DELHI: Academics of reputed universities have questioned a proposal of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) to celebrate Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh’s birth anniversary as National Social Work Day.

Many heads of departments and professors of Delhi University, JNU, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Jamia Milia Islamia and Lucknow University have recused themselves from commemorating the event on Friday, when BSM will hold a grand function that would see participation of various RSS leaders, including joint general secretary Krishna Gopal.

Some of the professors told ET that it was problematic to consider Deshmukh’s “independent experiment in Chitrakoot” as professional social work and dedicate a day in his honour, ignoring many other contributors.

According to BSM, it is important to honour Deshmukh with a day in his memory because he “changed the fortune of around 500 villages in UP and MP through simple and eco-friendly technology, installed around 2,700 bamboo bore wells in villages, had a scientific and academic approach to his unique model of rural development and founded India’s first rural university in Chitrakoot”.

Deshmukh, a member of Jan Sangh and a Rajya Sabha MP, was a close associate of the second RSS chief, MS Golwalkar, and was instrumental in spreading Sangh footprint in central India. The Modi government had awarded him the Bharat Ratna last year.

Sanjai Bhatt, professor in DU’s department of social work, said it was not right to classify Deshmukh’s social work as professional. “His experiment in Bundelkhand is good work. But it cannot be considered professional work.

There are healers in society, but would one give them the place of a surgeon?” Jamia Milia Islamia professor Zubair Meenai told ETthat professional social work education traces its theoretical formulation from sociology, anthropology and other disciplines and one should not be in a hurry to identify icons. “There needs to be constructive study of all good social work that has happened in India. Only then can we identify who represents us the best.”

On Friday, BSM will release a book incorporating studies and practices of social work India, authored by DU professor Bishnu Mohan Dash and social scientist Siddeshwar Shukla.

BSM national organising secretary Mukul Kanitkar said professional social work has never been an ancient Indian concept, and there was a reason why the organisation zeroed in on Nanaji Deshmukh, as he “institutionalised professional social work for the first time”.

Some others, however, feel there is no reason to pick the contribution of one person over others. Suresh Pathare, secretary, Centre for Studies in Rural Development Institute of Social Work and Research, said Deshmukh’s work would fall in the category of “social reform, social service, charity and welfare”, but one cannot classify it as professional social work. “Even Mahatma Gandhi’s or Mother Teresa’s work doesn’t come under professional social work,” he said.

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