NEW DELHI: In the winter of 2008, with barely a few months left of UPA-1, even officials of the HRD ministry had given up hope that Right To Education would see the light of day. The only person who would shrug off all cynicism with a wave of his hand was the mild-mannered Vinod Raina, the eternal optimist, who spent hours chiseling away at provisions of the historic legislation. Raina passed away on Thursday.
Raina’s optimism emanated from his deep-seated belief that no government could afford to ignore a social intervention like RTE. This was typical Raina, part of the sixties set and a romantic to the core, who had relinquished a cosy Delhi University job as a physics teacher to move to Madhya Pradesh to develop what came to be known as the Hoshangabad Science Project.
It was not an effort to make science teaching easier but to develop a new pedagogy not only of science but of other subjects also. As Apporvanand of DU says, “It developed into an educational thought that later became Eklavya and a precursor to the National Curriculum Framework of 2005.”
When the National Literacy Mission was launched, Raina traversed every nook and corner of the country, and would joke that he has seen every block of India. Through Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, adult literacy was popularized throughout the country.
Raina’s greatest quality was his amiable nature. Not that he did not argue, protest or fight but never stopped trying to reach out even to his radical opponents, especially when RTE was being formulated. Apporvanand calls him a quintessential “committee man” with immense capability to work with others and, if possible, find space for dialogue.
Much as Raina shunned publicity, the last few years were spent in the limelight as a pedagogue and a thinker who always had something new to say. When he was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, he only intensified his work as the malady spread further.
If education moved him, music soothed him. A regular in Delhi music soirees, music was Raina’s constant companion. On Thursday, as friends and family – brother Badri Raina is an academic – bid him farewell, it was like saying goodbye to a man who was a movement.