There was a regular village to village campaign launched by enlightened Mer leaders who carried slogans of social welfare through control of illiteracy from rural areas. There was no dearth of foresight, talent and aptitude among the Mer leaders with regards to improving educational and occupational standards of the community. During 1951 – 54 there were quite a few educated Mers who had gone into diverse vocations other than those of farm-labour, public service, cultivation and animal farming. They were the mainstay of their development. Some of the Mers living in the town Porbandar worked in the only one textile mill, a few in salt factories and stone quarries, while others found selling vegetables, fruit and milk in the city. Some of the Mers has gone to East Africa with little or no education, but were able to give good education to their children. Value of modern education was thus enhanced.
Maldev Bapu Keshwala was ‘fired-up’ with the enthusiasm and realised that education must be spread and that Mers should have latest education. This education in the real sense of the word must be imparted to young Mers who would be in the course of time the real leaders of the community which was once great and respected in Saurashtra, would take its own place as it did in the past. He was therefore, not slow in taking proper steps in that direction. He called a meeting of elderly people and the worldly wise to discuss with them the vital question of the regeneration of the community. The meeting came to so many conclusions, the most important of them all was to raise a fund in Saurashtra and out of Saurashtra where Mers have gone and settled and have prospered. Maldev Bapu undertook the work which was dear to his heart and went throughout Suarahtra, saw benevolent princes like Rana Saheb of Porbandar who were quite ready to contribute their mite to the cause of education of the Mers. Thus in a short time he was able to raise a fund to help of which he was able to open Mer boarding for Mer boys to board and lodge. He went to Africa and collected a decent fund and with the help of the fund and the cooperation of other workers he places the boarding house on a sound footing. Within the boarding over a hundred students belonging to the Mer community are carrying out their study. Those who want to carry on further study are also helped from the fund collected for the purpose. Thus the torch of learning is spreading its light and rousing Mers to their duties and Mission.
This trend of educating Mer children had already started vigorously during which period the community was able to build a Maher boarding house in the city of Porbandar. The students in the boarding house were provided free lodging and boarding facilities with nominal entrance fee and therefore the maintenance of people themselves. The community leaders strongly felt that the need of educating the younger generation was a must. As a result, a Mer youth had become school teachers, police officers, military men, etc and a few had become lawyers and medical doctors. The social movement of education and welfare of the community was spearheaded among others by aforesaid late Maldev Rana Keshwala of the village Bakharla, later settled in Porbandar. This was the promising beginning of dispelling illiteracy, ignorance and superstitions from the community which was badly languishing on account of dated practices and lack of opportunities for self-development. The community in the past had suffered a great deal due to non-availability of educational opportunities and lack of strong will power and ambivalent attitude towards educating children. This backwards pattern existed from ages in the past with faithfulness to conservative occupation of agriculture and animal husbandry, which were comparatively less remunerative. The vicious circle of poverty due to lack of education resulted into heavy occupational mobility which resulted in the social backwardness of the Mer community. The idea of education was symbolically won with the establishment of the boarding house for students by people like Maldev Bapu and other Mer leaders at Porbandar. The enlightened Mers wanted to educate their children in educational institutions of higher learning.
Maldev Bapu’s strong believe of education and welfare of the Mer community enabled Mer children from different backgrounds a possibility to progress into a certain profession. His devotion for a greater Mer community is something that will never be forgotten.
Article supplied by Kishan V Sisodia