About Dr. V. V. (Appa) Pendse

The Turning Point : New Thinking : From Revolution to Reconstruction

The four months imprisonment at Rajmahendri in Andhra gave respite to Appa Pendse to think a new about the situation. Why were the efforts of his own and his colleagues, the efforts of national organizations like the R.S.S., Hindu Sabha, and even Congress, could not avert the partition of the dear motherland? What things were missing ? What led to so many mistakes? These were the searching questions he was asking to himself. From the analysis of the past, the plan for the future should merge, he was thinking.

He concluded that the rivalry among the national political parties and organisations was one of the important causes o the failure of the National Movement. Out of this realization arose the concept of mutually helping political , social and national organisations instead of the conflicting ones.

Armed revolutionary groups were no longer necessary now. Many of the freedom fighters entered active politics and got themselves elected. Some retreated int the quietude of coy family life. But a new like Appa Pendse were aware of the new challenges of national reconstruction. They were searching for new avenues. Appa Pendse resolved to continue his celibate life dedicated to the cause of the nation.

The problem of removing poverty and generating wealth cropped up in his mind. The problem was gigantic, yet, somewhere a beginning had to be made. And that somewhere meant the rural India, where the problem was especially acute. The philosophy of 'Sarvodaya' propounded by Vinoba Bhave, having its roots in the Gandhian thought of the self sufficient village, showed some promise. In order to understand that philosophy from a veteran Sarvodaya leader, Dr. Pendse went to see him at Sinhgad, a hill-fort near Pune.

While talking with the Sarvodya leader, Appa asked him, "What are your plans for the betterment o the valley down below?" The leader explained, "uniting the village people, teaching them the use of organic manure, finding customers for their milk and other products and thus increasing their per capita income."

"Don't you think the machine age should be taken to villages?" asked Appa Pendse.

The Sarvodaya leader had no immediate answer. But Appa believed that agriculture along would not be able to support the villages. He threw a pebble in the direction of a central village in the valley and narrated his vision as to how a medium sized factory could be erected there, in which the farmers would work on the machines and also continue to look after their farms, and thus industry and agriculture would be complementary, and how that factory could be the centre of new awakening and organization. This vision was to remain with Appa Pendse long after wards, waiting to be transformed into reality.

He had started telling his new ideas after coming back from the prison to his companions in the youth organization. In 1950, while working as a journalist in a local daily, Appa Pendse published his essay about the Grand Cooly Dam Project in the U.S.A., He argued that India also would need such projects, but they would have to be built out of people's free labour. If monument could be built by emperors using bonded labour, why could not free India build dams using people's voluntary labour? A proper appeal would have to be made to motivate people to do this.

At that time, it was an original idea which later on became popular as "Shramadan", i.e. offering of labour. In order to prove his idea, he organised a camp in a near-by village called Shivane, and with the help of the villagers, built an approach-road there. A public work could be accomplished by the voluntary efforts without the Public Works Department of the Government. It was something new. But this companions in the youth organization did not appreciate Appa's new approach.

In 1952, the monsoons failed in Maharashtra. The parched land could not yield anything. The whole province was in the grip of the famine and the grip was tightening day by day. Appa was uneasy. He intensely felt that something had to be done. After persistent efforts he could persuade R.S.S. to set up the 'Maharashtra Famine Relief Committee'. He himself became its active and dynamic secretary and did excellent relief work in eight districts of Maharashtra.