Vanarai is not just an organization, it is a people's movement to make India Sujalaam - Sufalaam

Late. Padma Vibhushan Dr. Mohan Dharia

Padma Vibhushan Dr. Mohan Dharia aka Anna as he was fondly called, was born on 14th February 1925 in the village named ‘Nate’ in Raigad district of Maharashtra state.


Dr. Mohan Dharia completed his primary education from Municipal Marathi School, Mahad’ and thereafter completed his schooling in English medium school of ‘Konkan Education Society’ in Mahad. After passing out in SSC, he took admission in Fergusson College, Pune. His dream was to pursue Medical stream and become a surgeon, however his participation in the Freedom struggle of 1942 landed him in Jail and that completely changed his perspective. He decided to pursue law and took a degree from “ILS Law College” under University of Pune. Going forward he practiced as a lawyer in Mumbai High Court and had won many high profile cases of his times.

Revolutionary Freedom Fighter, Youth and Labor Movement Leader -

Dr. Mohan Dharia plunged in the Independence Struggle at the very tender age of 16. At that instance he was heading the ‘Seva Dal’ in Mahad. Along with his fellow Sevadalis, he tried to take charge of the tehsil Kacheri with an armed attack. While in action, there were gun shots fired and 5 persons were dead including a government official. Dr. Mohan Dharia immediately went underground however was caught by the police. He was sentenced to imprisonment in 1942 by the court. After completing his sentence, he went ahead and established an organization, named “Loksena”. Through this he freed the “Janjira Sansthan” (Janjira Princely province) from the clutches of Siddhi. He took over as external affairs minister in the provisional government formed in that area. By the virtue of his strong leadership skills, he could unite the youth and students. Along with this he headed many labor organization of Postal department employees, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (M.S.R.T.C.) employees, Bank employees, Defense employees, Hindustan Antibiotics and many more. He was the chairperson for ‘National labor Center’.

Corporator – Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) -

Dr. Mohan Dhariaji was elected as Corporator in the Pune Municipal Corporation. During this period, he gave a constructive direction to the “PMPML”, then “Pune Municipal Transport Committee” as a chairman. During his reign as a chairman of “PMPML”, then “Pune Municipal Transport Committee”, he gave a new direction to the Public Transport System. Due to political disagreements, he left the ‘Socialist Party’ in 1960 and at the same time he relinquished from all the positions in various offices to uphold the strong legacy of Democracy.

General Secretary, Maharashtra Congress Committee and Member 0f All India Congress Committee -

While Dr. Dharia was executing his duties as General Secretaryof the Maharashtra State Congress Committee, he was Election In-Charge for the 1962 General Elections. His organizational capacities were, recognized by all including the former Prime Minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. Dr. Dharia was a member of All India Congress Committee from 1962 to 1975. Dr. Dharia and his group of Young Turks compelled the leaders of the Congress party to accept the policy of commitment as against convenience and thus initiated action-oriented politics. Dr. Dharia was a renowned name by now and had reached all corners of the country for his progressive principles and politics of conviction.

Member of Parliament -

From 1964 -71 and 1971 – 79, Dr. Dharia was a member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament of India) and Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament of India) respectively. He was known as one of the most effective vocal parliamentarian and young leader. His balanced approach, deep knowledge and forthright views made him popular all over the country.

Minister of State for Planning, Works, Housing and Urban Development, Government of India -

Dr. Dharia was the Minister of State for Planning, Works, Housing, and Urban Development. He was responsible for several important decisions and made his mark as an able Administrator.He introduced the ‘Seed Capital Scheme’ for the educated youth, while he was in charge of the ‘Scheme for Employment to the Educated’. In this the engineers and technocrats were not to invest anything; however 10% investment was taken from educated youths of other education streams. Through this self-employment was generated for nearly 4 lakhs youths. In 1974 Dr. Dharia mooted a proposal to restrict population growth of cities beyond one million. During the same time, he was appointed as Chairman of the High Level Policy Committee for preparing a report in respect of making available essential commodities and articles at reasonable prices. After travelling across the entire country and speaking and taking inputs from lots of experts of the field, the committee submitted an extensive report. This report is known as ‘Dharia Committee Report’, which suggested permanent solution to stabilize prices by giving remunerative price to the producers and the farmers and making available essential commodities at reasonable price to the people. The report was not well accepted and was resisted by the then Government, including the Prime Minister as well. Ultimately, this report was accepted when Janata Government came into power. During this period, Dr. Dharia was the Cabinet Minister of Commerce, Civil Supplies and Cooperation.

Resigned from the Ministry, Opposed Emergency and went behind Bars to Save Democracy -

Late Mr. Jaiprakash Narayan was leading the movement against corruption and encouraging the employment oriented education as well as render social justice to the youth and poorer sections of the society during the reign of Ms. Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India. Dr. Dharia insisted for a dialogue between the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and late Mr. Jaiprakash Narayan, as the movement led by the later was in line with ideologies of the Congress Party and specifically mentioned in the party memorandum. Dr. Dharia urged for politics of conciliation as against confrontation. He strongly opposed Emergency, imposed in 1975. Dr. Dharia was the only Minister to oppose and resign from Mrs. Gandhi’s Ministry on this issue and had to go behind bars for 16-17 months for the survival of Democracy in India. After the freedom struggle, Dr. Dharia was convicted on more than 10 occasions for his struggles to secure social justice. Despite holding a high position in the Government of India, Dr. Dharia never compromised with principles. Dr. Dharia thus enjoys a rare distinction of having fought both, for freedom of the country and also for the survival of democracy in the country.

Cabinet Minister for Commerce, Jute and Textiles, Civil supplies and Cooperation, Government of India -

During Emergency, in 1977 General Electionswere held. Dr. Dharia was elected to Parliament (Lok Sabha) and became the Cabinet Minister for Commerce, Jute and Textiles, Civil Supplies and Cooperation in the Central Government. He was instrumental in introducing several dynamic changes to boost exports, and maintain the price level to provide relief to millions of masses. Because of the perfect planning and coordination, all essential articles were available in abundance at reasonable prices throughout the country. Simultaneously he ensured remunerative price to the producers by strengthening cooperative network in the country. Though not by earlier Government, but the ‘Dharia Committee Report’ on essential commodities and articles was accepted by the Janata Government. However it could not be implemented, as the Government could not survive for long. Dr. Dharia created new infrastructures, removed unwarranted restrictions and hurdles to boost Foreign Trade. Dynamic decisions taken by Dr. Dharia are always remembered. He provided new life to the dying Cooperative Movement in India.

Leader of several Indian delegation to foreign countries -

During his tenure as Member of Parliament and Commerce Minister of the country, Dr. Dharia successfully led several delegations to abroad countries. He was leading the group of MPs, who represented India in United Nations in the year 1970. During his tenure as a ‘Commerce Minister’, he led the Indian Delegation at the International organizations like ‘United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific’ (UNSCAP) and ‘United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’ (UNCTAD) Here to an extent he was successful in convincing the ministers of Developing countries to form a business conglomerate for tea, coffee, spices, iron and others minerals in order to secure the remunerative price for their goods from the Developed countries. Dr. Dharia’s participation in the National and International Conferences has always been appreciated for his forthright views, clear understanding and vision. Dr. Dharia was the member of Indian delegation to the World Summit for Sustainable Development held at Johannesburg, South Africa from 26th August 2002 to 4th Sept. 2002. He had chaired a session organized by United Nation’s Institute for Research and Training, United State Environmental Protection Agency, Institute for Sustainable Development, South Africa Department of Education, Smithsonian Institution and other institutions.

Deputy Chairman of the planning Commission, Government of India -

During 1990-91, Dr. Dharia was the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India. Though his tenure was small, he gave a new direction to the planning process and suggested several programs to alleviate poverty, create employment opportunities to millions of people, with special emphasis on Agriculture, Afforestation, Rural Development and Small Scale Industries sector. His efforts to attain the objective of self-reliance and sustainable development to ensure food and water security for millions of Indians provided a permanent guidance to his successors and also to the forthcoming policy makers. It was during his tenure, that the serious problems of wastelands, degradation of environment, illiteracy, the dying cooperative movement and explosion of population were given top priority while planning for prosperous India. His emphasis on decentralization of power and grass root level planning by involving local people is always appreciated.

Chairman of High Level Policy Committee -

A High Level Policy Committee was constituted by the Government of India under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mohan Dharia, to consider the serious problem of nearly 175 millionhectares of degraded waste lands (including forest lands) and rejuvenation of the same in the country. Thecommittee, was known as ‘Dharia Committee’, submitted its report in the year 1995. After great persuasion by Dr. Dharia, this report was finally approved by the Planning Commission and accepted by Central Government of India during 2000. Government then constituted a new Land Resource Department to implement the programmes recommended by the Dharia Committee.

Contribution to Co-operative Movement -

Dr. Dharia through his extensive determination and hard work formed ‘Confederation of NGOs of Rural India’ (CNRI) to bring all the NGOs in the rural area together under one umbrella. This was aimed to be a Think Tank and consultative body at the National level. He was ably helped by Shri. L. V. Saptarshi (Former Director General, Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology, CAPART). More than seven thousand Organizations, NGOs across the country are members of CNRI. This is a National platform given the NGOs of rural area. Eminent Scholars like Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has addressed to the NGOs of Rural India through this dais.

Chairman of DISHA -

‘Development Initiative for Self – Help and Awakening’ (DISHA) came in to existence for the awareness, training and empowerment of the women through self-help groups. Dr. Dharia was the chairman for a very long time in this organization.

Association with many Social Institutes -

He was associated with many institutes like ‘Indian Institute of Education’ (IIE), YashawantraoChavanPratishthan, Sadhana Trust, Jan Seva Foundation as trustee or senior advisor or offices bearer. He always played the role as of trustee of the country even when not in power. He always believed that the elected representatives of the people should always be like trustees and should be accountable to the society and country as a whole.

Contribution in Literature -

Dr. Mohan Dharia was a voracious reader and his articles and write-ups on various subjects including the objective of VANARAI were regularly published through leading magazines and newspapers.

Below given is a selective collection of his writings:
  • Sangharshmay Safar (Socio-Political Autobiography)
  • BolAnubhavache (Personal work experiences in various sectors)
  • VedhVikasacha (Collection of selective articles and speeches)
  • Fumes and Fire
  • India’s Glorious Freedom Struggle and the Post-Independence era
  • YahiZindagi (Collection of articles based on true stories)
  • Afforestation in India
  • Population explosion and India
  • An Introduction: Indian Scientists of International Repute
  • The Great Secular King – Chhatrapati Shivaji
  • Tethekarmajhejulati (Various personalities and their work, whom Dr. Dharia met)
  • This has been a source of information and knowledge in the field of Socioeconomic, political, and environmental for all.


  • Founder of ‘Confederation of NGOs of Rural India’ (CNRI) –
  • Doctor of Letters ( D. Y. Patil University and Tilak Maharashtra University)
  • Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award (Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India)
  • International Award for his services to Hindi
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (Savitribai Phule Pune University)
  • Bapu Puraskar (Gandhi National Memorial Society)
  • Indira Gandhi National Integration Award
  • Yashwantrao Chavan Award for Excellence
  • Rajiv Gandhi Paryavaran Ratna Award
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (Top Management Consortium)
  • Pune’s Pride Award -Development
  • Jewel Award
  • Surya Ratna Award
  • Suryadatta Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Harit Kranti Nayak Puraskar
  • Samaj Bhushan Dev Manus Puraskar
  • Kriyashil Global Award
  • Abasaheb Veer SamajikPuraskar (Kisan Veer Co-operative Sugar Factory, Satara)
  • Kanitkar Puraskar (Progressive Education Society)
  • Kelkar Granthottejak Puraskar (Kesari-Maratha Trust)
  • Paryavaran Rakshak Puraskar
  • Swami Vivekanand National Award
  • Maharshi Puraskar (Pune Navratri Festival)
  • Ramshastri Prabhune Award and many more

Vaikunth Mehta National Institute for Cooperative Management (VAMNICOM) -

In addition to the above contribution, he fiercely opposed the relocation of ‘Vaikunth Mehta National Institute for Cooperative Management’ (VAMNICOM) from Pune to Ahmedabad. This was as per the direction from the then Prime Minister and Finance Minister’s office. Not only did he oppose, but went ahead and laid the foundation stone of the new building on the premises of ‘University of Pune’. To create an independent University for the Cooperative sector was ever on his agenda till his last breath.

Instrumental role in nationalization of banks -

Dr. Dharia played an instrumental role for the Nationalization of major private banks and also for the abolition of privileges and privy purses of former princely state rulers.

Contribution to various Institutes -

Founder of ‘VANARAI’ -

VANARAI was founded by Dr. Mohan Dharia on 10th July 1986. Today it is a renowned name in the Rural Development and Environment Conservation sector. VANARAI played a major role in changing the government policies of development through people participation. VANARAI spearheaded many projects and programs which transformed many colonies, hills, mountains, villages and urban areas and changed those in to clean, green and prosperous areas.

Chairman to ‘Maharashtra Rashtra Bhasha Sabha’ -

‘Maharashtra Rashtra Bhasha Sabha’ is dedicated to the cause of spreading awareness about our National language ‘Hindi’ and igniting the flame of National Integration. Every year nearly three lakh students and others sit through the Hindi examinations conducted by the institute. To date, more than 11 crores citizens have been benefitted from the same. There are nearly seven thousand teachers on the one thousand and six hundred centers of the Institute for Maharashtra and Goa state, put together. He presided over the institute till the end after the renowned socialist leader S.M. Joshi.

Founder President to various Institutes -

He the founder president to institutes like ‘Yuva Shakti’, ‘Himalayan Adventures’ and ‘RaktdataPratishthan’. Today the seeds sown have taken the form of full grown trees and many youths are actively involved in the activities of the Institutes. He always tried to emphasize that Blood Donation is over and above of all the discriminations and the donor only understands the religion of ‘Humanity’.

Association with Educational Institutions -

He was a trustee member to ‘Indian Institute of Education’ and has done commendable work while his tenure as senate member of ‘University of Pune’ and ‘YashawantraoChavan Maharashtra Open University’

Eye Donation and SmritiVriksha (Posthumous) -

Dr. Mohan Dharia passed away on 14th October 2013, at the age of 89. As per his last wish his eyes were donated.A Peepal Tree is planted in the ‘VaikunthaSmashanBhumi’, Pune in his memory. There were Tree Plantation drives conducted in the villages where he had made his presence felt by doing developmental activities. This was named as ‘Mohan Dharia SmritiVriksha’

This will definitely keep the villagers motivated in years to come. This enriching journey of Dr. Mohan Dharia is definitely a Role model for every youth of the country and an everlasting source of motivation. We salute to his remarkable journey.