Moru Bhau Ketkar, the first full time worker of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and an organiser par excellence is known as the builder of Kalyan Ashram’s organisational network. Moru Bhaiya, as he was affectionately called, was the man who became one of the foundation stones so that a strong organisational structure could be created.
Moru Bhau was originally from Wardha. He worked many years in Khandwa as Pracharak. He became Vibhag Pracharak in Jabalpur. He was given the responsibility to assist Balasaheb Deshpande in the initial days of the organisation. He, through his hard work and missionary zeal built the organisation brick by brick. Kalyan Ashram was founded by Balasaheb Deshpande on December 26, 1952. Raja Vijay Bhushan Singh Deo also played an important role in it. Since in those days the capital of Central Province and Barar was Nagpur, the Kalyan Ashram was formally registered in Nagpur in the year 1956. When I was at a Sangh Shakha of Wardha, I met many senior swayamsevaks who informed me that Moru Bhau worked many years as Pracharak in Wardha too.
After joining the Kalyan Ashram in Jashpur Nagar he started a boy’s hostel in the Palace of Raja Vijay Bhushan Singh Deo. Later, he got a piece of land for building the Kalyan Ashram office. The main building, which is the headquarters of the Kalyan Ashram today, was originally constructed in the garden of Rani Jaya Singh Judeo. She was from Bikaner and married to Raja Vijay Bhushan Singh Deo.
With the passage of time Moru Bhaiya became national vice president to support Balasaheb. He had Pravas of all the states wherever sewa projects were going on.
Moru Bhaiya played a key role in organisation of the first national conference in Delhi in September 1981. A total of 781 delegates had participated in the conference. Shri Balasaheb Deoras, Shri Bhaurao Deoras, Prof Rajendra Singh, Dr Karna Singh also addressed the delegates. An interesting incident took place in the conference. A large number of delegates who had come from remote areas of the Vanvasi regions requested Moru Bhaiya for simple food, as they were not habitual of taking oily and spicy meals. On 6th day of the conference, Moro Bhaiya ensured boiled rice and ‘Saag Bhaji’ to those delegates. His easy accessibility and simplicity was very popular among the workers.
The first training camp of state organisers was organised at Randha village in Dadra Nagar Haveli. This project, known as Surya Niketan, was established by first organising secretary Shri Ram Bhau Godbole and the foundation stone for the project was laid by the then President of India Shri Gyani Jail Singh. Moru Bhaiya was present in the Abhyas Varga for all seven days. He addressed many sessions on various topics. Shri Dattopant Thengadi, Dr Abaaji Thate, Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara also addressed the workers at the Abhyas Varga. Moru Bhaiya specifically exhorted the workers about the working method of the Kalyan Ashram. He always emphasised on simplicity and to happily take whatever meal was offered by the villagers. He also stressed on learning from the villagers. Since the Vanvasis are fundamentally Sanatani, the workers should also try to understand their methods of worship.
He specifically told the workers to ensure their participation in the Vanvasi festivals and stay in their houses, sleep with them on the mats, as most of the Vanvasi families did not have bed or cott in their houses.
Moru Bhaiya spent most of his time at Bagicha to cultivate the land that the Kalyan Ashram got from Raja Vijay Bhushan Singh Deo. He breathed his last on June 9 at 3.15 am. First tribute was offered by Raja Dilip Singh Judeo and his mother Rani Jayadevi Singh Deo at Kalyan Ashram campus in Jashpur Nagar at 5 am. Kalyan Ashram today runs over 17000 projects. Moru Bhaiya is in the foundation of all these projects. A school building has been dedicated to him in Jashpur Nagar. He was popular as Ketkar Guruji here.
Kripa Prasad Singh (The writer is vice president of Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram)