Padam Shree Magraj Ji Jain : Humble yet resolute steps of a desert volunteer

  • Padam Shree Magraj Ji Jain : Humble yet resolute steps of a desert volunteer

Padamshree Magraj ji Jain : Humble yet resolute steps of a desert volunteer

Mr. Magraj Khangarmal Jain was born on 27 February, 1930 in Sheo amidst frugal resources and scarcity. At that time Sheo was a small village in interiors of Barmer, a desert district in south western Rajasthan bordering Pakistan. Maadsa, as he was fondly called by people near him, had been an inspirational presence for villagers and urban people, men and women right from beginning. His tenacious striving in fostering a socially just and non- exploitative economic order was an arduous journey spanning more than six decades. Accompanied by ordinary desert denizens, craftspeople, folk musicians, farmers, pastoralists, landless, war displaced refugees, physically challenged, marginal and destitute, irrespective of caste, sex, religion or age, Magraj Ji had been a trail blazer of voluntary social service in the inaccessible fragile desert ecology of Barmer, a stalking ground of recurrent droughts. Magraj Ji started work for ameliorating the plight of desert communities living in desolate interiors of Thar at a time when there were practically no roads and other means of communication. Not only was there a paucity of financial resources, institutionalizing rural development was a daunting challenge.

As a student, he experienced the sufferings of poor closely while collecting food and clothing for refugees from Pakistan during the 1947 partition. While teaching in village school he became associated with Bharat Sevak Samaj (BSS) a social organization founded by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Magraj Ji organized camps in around sixty villages to motivate youth towards upkeep of community’s natural resources. Barmer city owes it well- equipped homeopathic hospital to his efforts. He was awarded the Best Teacher in the State Award by the Government of Rajasthan in 1972.While working at Nehru Yuvak Kendra from 1973 to 1990, as District and Regional Coordinator, he started the first evening college in Barmer. With the support of District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), he started a camel carts manufacturing unit which gave camel carts to three thousand farmers. This camel cart unit became a model in lessening rampant corruption. In an innovative effort under TRYSEM scheme, more than three thousand youth were imparted training in twenty three trades that included traditional skills like folk music and wood carving. For his pioneering contribution to the development of this desert region, he was awarded the Padmashree in 1989. What was truly remarkable about this rustic man was his ability to inspire and motivate people for meaningful regeneration of fragile ecology of Thar by combining traditional wisdom and modern knowledge.

This quest for human and ecological well being was complemented by a committed faith in capability of rural communities to participate in sustainable development of their region. With this vision, he continued to work with his team at Society to Uplift Rural Economy (SURE), an organisation he formed in 1990. In his last years despite being weighed down by bouts of ill health, Magraj Ji, as he was fondly known, was always on the move displaying the zeal to strive for positive change. At the age of 84, Magraj Ji passed away on November 4, 2014. A beacon of motivation for many, he believed that social work had been a calling and not a career.