Dr. G. Vijayam, Executive Director, Atheist Centre


Dr. Radhakrishna, a known Gandhian Social Worker, former Secretary of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Chairman of the Gandhi Peace Centre and an ardent Champion of Rural Development, died on June 19, 1994 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. He was 71.

Radhakrishna went into a coma for five weeks and every effort was made to bring him to consciousness. The best efforts of the doctors were in vain. We lost him forever, belying the expectations of all that he would regain consciousness and provide his guidance in the organization of Vinoba Centenary and the 125th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. All of us wished that he would be with us to strengthen the Gandhian movement at this critical juncture.

Radhakrishna’sis death is great loss to the Gandhian Movement. The Sarvodaya and the Voluntary Organizations lost his valuable guidance. Radhakrishna had immense faith in the future of the country and he had devoted his time and energies to revitalize the village development on Gandhian lines. He had a broad perspective and vision about the future of voluntary efforts. Radhakrishna maintained a live-wire contact with all sections of people - right from the ordinary workers of the grass root to the highest level. With single minded devotion he was searching for a common cause to unite all of them together to achieve the goal.

Radhakrishna was very creative. He covered a broad spectrum of activities and encouraged all to do their best in their respective fields of voluntary effort. He was growing young with age and he could be on same wave length with different generations. Because of his flexibility, ability, foresight and analytical skill - he was able to mix with all with remarkable ease.

He was one with voluntary agencies, knowing their problems, strengths and weaknesses and guided them as and when it was necessary. He was a friend and elderly brother to very many, irrespective of their status or ages.

Radhakrishna took people as they were and encouraged them to come into the fold of voluntary effort. Thus he initiated and involved them in various programmes. Step by step they became closer to the movements.Radhakrishna always looked into the points of agreement and gave importance to their deeds. He banked on the goodness of every individual and tried to involve them in the process of social service and voluntary effort. If someone did not rise upto his expectations, he did not spend his time in criticizing them. On the other hand, he viewed their inability to rise to the occasion was also part of human nature.

Radhakrishna well understood the changes in the Post-Gandhian periods He was well-versed with the changing scenario and the aims and aspirations of the younger generations. His main concern was how to involve the young into the Gandhian fold. His language, thinking pattern, approach bridged the gulf and became closer to the youth.

Change and impermanence is the characteristic of life. With the changing times the aims and aspirations of the young also change. If the elders keep pace with changing situation and mend their ways, then their leadership continues. Otherwise the young surge forward leaving the old behind. In the post Independent India the changes are taking place in an accelerated speed. All aspects of life are affected by industrialization, urbanization and by the changes in the value system. Even in the Gandhian field many leaders lost their vigor, direction and their ability to comprehend the changes. But Radhakrishna did not lag behind. In his half a century dynamic public life, he grew from the experience and was able to inspire the youth. He placed new challenges before them to participate in the nation building efforts..

Radhakrishna was modern in his approach and thinking. Instead of following the beaten track, he tried to place alternative approaches in rural development with Gandhian perspective. He was equally interested with the application of science and technology for comprehensive rural development. He understood the significance of environmental protection for sustainable development and the pivotal role of voluntary effort in this regard. Keeping in touch with the national and international efforts for conservation of environment, he enthused youth to rise to the occasion.

The future of rural India is intertwined with its ability to integrate science and technology. He encouraged many organizations such as ‘Consortium of Rural Technology’ ( CORT) and ‘The Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development’(FORRAD).

He encouraged the cottage industries for introducing new designs and techniques so that they can withstand the vicissitudes of time.He was instrumental in bringing experts of National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad down to the village level to interact with the weavers in thisendeavor. Thus in KrishnaDistrict.Weavers were benefited by his efforts through " Tarangini".

Radhakrishna gave highest priority for the development of Human resources. We have tremendous human potential in our country which can be tapped for all round development of the country. Agriculture can be rich if it adopts science and technology. Motivation, training, skill improvement, infrastructure and encouragement change the face of Indian villages.

Radhakrishna firmly believed in the Gandhian concept of Basic Education - the ‘BuniyadiTaleem’. It inculcates dignity of labour and new values in the minds of the people.

He viewed social progress in a comprehensive way. He gave highest importance to art and artistic life. His association with Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketanleft an indelible impression and his programmeswhich reflected this.

He visualized that social, economic, political, ethical and cultural aspects are part and parcel of the same human being. Radhakrishna was primarily wedded to social field and involved in voluntary effort. He entered into political field when individual freedom, human rights, democracy were threatened.

When the Emergency was declared in 1975,Radhakrishna was with Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) in defending democracy and individual freedom in India.Radhakrishna was imprisoned during the Emergency. Radhakrishna became closer to all the national leaders. When Emergency was lifted and elections were held, the newly elected members of Parliament gathered at Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF), New Delhi to discuss the future course of action.

In 1977, when Janata government was formed at the Centre, Radhakrishna played an active role. However, he did not deviate from his chosen path of social service to enter into the political arena. But Radhakrishna thought only in terms of social control over political field, rather than entering into the electoral fray. Empowering people and highlighting people's cause were his main concern.

Even though he was close to the leaders of various political parties, Radhakrishna was distinctly different. However, the Janata experiment proved to be abortive.

Electoral reforms was his another major concern. The universal adult franchise was only the first step. Morality in public life and amicable relationship between the representatives of the people and their masters is a must. If the representatives of the people fail to reflect the aims and aspirations of the 'dumb millions', and become 'Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams', the only possible alternative to safeguard democracy is to bring awareness among people, Voter's councils should be encouraged to emphasis on the positive and responsible role of the elected representatives. Election expenditure must be cut. Criminalization of politics and politicization of criminals is a bane. He assisted Jayaprakash Narayan in electoral reforms.

Panchayat Raj and democratic decentralization were high on his agenda. In 1960's,Radhakrishna was actively associated with Jayaprakash Narayan's committee to study the working of Panchayat Raj in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

At the fag end of his life Radhakrishna reemphasized on Panchayat Raj Act. He was instrumental in initiating an indepth study amongthe voluntary agencies to examine the impact of the Panchayat Raj legislation. He organized a National Conference on PanchayatRaj at Sewagram in January, 1993, Inspite of several draw-backs, the Bill provided 30% reservation for women. It may look as an innocuous provision, but wrought with far reaching consequences. Women will be active partners in the political sphere hereafter. He wholeheartedly welcomed this change.

The Panchayat Raj system will have its repercussions on the working of the voluntary agencies at the grass root level. It is a challenge as well as an opportunity. They must reassess their roles and responsibilities.
Radhakrishna emphasized on women education and encouraged them to shoulder new responsibilities.He had immense faith in 'Stree Shakti'. He inaugurated the ‘Prakriti’ organization at Nagpur and also initiated steps for starting women’s resource centers.

When we look back into Radhakrishna's life, we find that his attention was primarily on resolving problems in social, political and economic spheres. When he was striving to solve some of the problems, he was misunderstood.

Radhakrishna was involved in finding solutions to the complex problems like peace in Nagaland and Chambal Vally dacoits. As a young man he witnessed the unprecedented calamity that followed the partition of the country in which millions of people lost their lives. His work among the refugees in the Punjab increased his commitment to secularism.

During the Gandhi Centenary, Radhakrishna became the Secretary of Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi and continued in the position for two decades.

The non-violent and peaceful movement led by MujiburRehman in the erstwhile East Pakistan was touching to Radhakrishna and Jayaprakash Narayan, who toured extensively to mobilize public opinion in favour of the emergence of Bangladesh. In an effort to find a peaceful solution to the problem of Bangladesh, an international conference was organized in early 1971 at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi in which Radhakrishna played a significant role. He organized aid to the refugees from East Pakistan. Hundreds of Gandhian constructive workers extended help in the hour of crisis.

Radhakrishna was actively involved in extending humanitarian aid to the victims of cyclone and tidal wave which hit Andhra Pradesh in 1977. He coordinated some of the efforts for relief and rehabilitation such as reconstruction of houses, help for agriculture, income generation, promotion of cottage industries, and lift-irrigation. The people of Andhra, in particular the villagers of Krishna and Guntur, can never forget his timely help for their rehabilitation.

Out of the relief and rehabilitation activities, the Gandhi Peace Centre (GPC) was born in 1997-78 at Vijayawada with Radhakrishna as its Chairman. Emboldened by the rich experience gained in the natural calamity, Gandhi Peace Centre extended its activities on a wider scale in various states of India. On the other hand, the organizations like ArthikSamataMandal (ASM) in Krishna district and “Gramasiri’ in Guntur district took firm roots in the soil to extend a helping hand through their voluntary efforts. Radhakrishna strove incessantly to develop human resources. He was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the voluntary effort.

After Independence some of the people viewed it as an opportunity for self-employment. He started to work with the human material that is available. Hence, he gave importance to training and orientation programme for the workers so that they can imbibe some of the qualities of voluntarism. He also encouraged them to visit other voluntary organizations for exposure.

Satyagraha became a powerful tool in the hands of the oppressed to fight injustice. Keeping this single contribution of Gandhi in view,Radhakrishnaopted "Satyagraha" as its telegraphic address for Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi. But some of the Gandhians felt that 'truth' or 'ahimsa’ would have been apt to reflect the life philosophy of the Mahatma. But Radhakrishna reiterated that "Satyagraha" was the quintessence of the Gandhian thought.