‘The Great Banyan Tree’: A Portrait Of A Freedom Fighter, Technocrat And Philanthropist Mahavir Dharmaji Anagol

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Vivek Patil 

Pune, 26th September 2021: A Banyan tree symbolizes permanence, one which grows thicker and denser, nourishes life around it, and as it grows it helps others to grow with it.

 Shri Mahavir Dharmaji Anagol : 14 Mar 1929 – 2 Sep 2021

This is a story of a young boy whose life was shaping up in British India around the 1930s. Wearing hand-woven khaddar clothes, roaming in Belgaum a small town in Karnataka, he dreamt of free India.

As his friend describes him, as a person with liberal and progressive ideas and who would always think beyond caste, creed, and community. While the members of his family tell that he was a man who was obsessed with Indian independence. He disliked being called by his first name ‘Mahavir’, as according to him it was an indicator towards his caste. 

He was known as MD, MDA, Kaka, or simply appa. He would enjoy narrating the stories about how he resisted the British being a member of Rashtriya Seva dal to his grandson.


His days as a freedom fighter from 1942-1948

During his college days, Mahavir Dharmaji Anagol was greatly influenced by the Indian freedom movement and was drawn towards the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and M.N. Roy’s radical humanism. MDA joined the Rashtriya Seva Dal (from 1942-1948) led by great social activist and freedom fighter Sane Guruji, from Maharashtra. It was a social organization attached to Indian National Congress. MDA was attracted by the ideals of inculcated values of social justice, intolerance to justice, upliftment of the weaker sections, patriotism, and secularism. He actively participated in the Quit India movement alongside freedom fighter Barrister Nath Pai.


MDA graduated with the first batch of telecommunications engineers from the College of Engineering, Pune (COEP), and worked as an engineer for All India Radio (AIR). He was given the major task of setting up the early infrastructure of radio transmission facilities in the country. With great ardour and keenness, he prepared a plan of covering the whole of India as well as southeast Asia by putting up a giant transmitter at Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands were (in)famous as prison camps. Nevertheless, his plan was rejected by the officers in Delhi, but could not crush his dream.


“Don Quixote pursuing his technology dreams” 

Gandhiji’s philosophy of making India self-reliant was etched in his mind. It had stoked his entrepreneurial instincts. MDA later left the comfortable central government job to pursue business dreams and explore his Industrious nature. He left AIR to start Imeco Ultrasonics in 1968. He is the pioneer who nurtured Imeco to become the leading company in industrial ultrasonics machines in India. The Imeco machines became part of most major manufacturing companies in the country, with more than 14,000 installations across the globe. Along with his growth, over 27 entrepreneurs emerged from among his employees, many with his personal guidance and support. His son-in-law, Murali Subbarao, was one among them, who later went on to become a successful entrepreneur in the USA.

MDA’s management style was rather very distinguished and remarkable as treated his employees like family. He dreamt of manufacturing electronics products in India.


Most eligible bachelor in the Jain community 

MDA was unconventional and forward-thinking as a husband for his generation. He encouraged his wife Malati Anagol to pursue education and was even instrumental in making her join the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, headed by famous economist Dr V.KV. Rao. She later applied for a CommonWealth scholarship and briefly studied in Canada.

Mrs Malati describes him as the most eligible bachelor in the community who had a government (that too central) job and yet was very modest and humble. He had sought her hand in marriage.

As a father too, he seemed to be very unusual for his generation in India as he made breakfast (fried eggs and toast) for their daughter Anjali and also plaited her hair every day. Anjali Anagol- Subbarao following her father’s footsteps later went on to earn her B.Tech degree from famous IIT Bombay.


Social work and a philanthropist 

MDA was an active philanthropist. Along with his wife, Mrs. (Dr.) Malati Anagol, he set up the Anagol Foundation 25 years ago. They were inspired by Dr Karmaveer Bhaurav Patil. The Anagol Foundation has been active with children’s education and women empowerment programs. Samvedana is a project run by the Anagol Foundation. It has uplifted over 2,000 downtrodden women through education, counseling, and rehabilitation. It made them self-reliant by doing micro-businesses. More than 35 neglected and orphan children become engineers with the mentorship and financial support provided by the Foundation. 

Many governmental policies for uplifting the disadvantaged took place with the active participation and encouragement from Mr Anagol. Last year, MD Anagol and Mrs Anagol, made a substantial donation of a 22,000 square feet plot in Hadapsar, Pune to the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha. A blueprint for a four-storey college building on that plot has been approved. The goal is to offer high-quality skill development courses in artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, animation, and software development. Mr Anagol’s legacy of growth through education will live on. 

Under the shade of a banyan tree, lies a flourishing and nourishing life, that strengthens whoever seeks help, the banyan tree may die but the roots of the tree always remain.