As we left Thiruvanthapuram moving steadily in a left-leaning curve, we started to leave behind us the suburbia of the large and bustling city of Thiruvanthapuram. We were climbing all the while. It was the Malabar hills along the ridged nestle of which we were passing through as the circuitous but a sturdily built route became ever narrower.
We motored through and passed by Peyadi, Thirumala, and Kalaimundu, touching the margins of a plethora of small segments of tiny urban habitations -and had just passed the large S K hospital, when the air suddenly started to turn cool and moist. We were right amidst the mountain range- historically called the Western Ghats- itself, having passed the foothills.
We were soon entering the impressive 40 feet high brown-stone portals of the EMS Academy amidst some of the densest greens we have ever encountered. Nominated by the Bengal unit of the CPI (M), we had come here attend the Central Party School being organised for the comrades who worked in the Party media.
The Academy the foundation of which was laid back in 1999 by the late lamented general secretary of the CPI (M) comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet, was named after the Communist pioneer and legendary Marxist chronicler of the annals of Indian history, Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran [‘EMS’ as he is still popularly referred to] Namboodiripad (June 13, 1909 – March 19, 1998), and even as work goes on we were very impressed indeed with what has already been achieved.
The 40-odd acre of a medium-sized plateau on the western side of the Malabar hills had been carved out to produce a great big ground of rolling lands. On small hillocks were constructed beautifully stucco-roofed buildings, some very sprawling, some deceptively small. There was that vast mail buildings on the first floor of which 87 of us were fairly lost in the lecture hall surrounded by a wide verandah on all four sides. The Malabar hills appeared close enough to touch. There was this cavernous canteen hall, and an equally large library, which is still being built up. All walls of all the buildings carried large photographs of EMS, some them dating back to the time when EMS had been sworn in as the first Communist chief minister of a state in India.
Dr A Pratahapa chandran Nair, retired university teacher of solid state and nuclear physics, and a leader of the college and university teachers’ movement, briefed us about the Academy. The campus contained a never-ending, as we imagined, rubber plantation. There were massive patches of Tapioca trees.
There were plants and trees, some herbal, some flowery, some roots-and-tubers, some creepers the wide variety of which left us a complete non-botanist stumped for answers. This did not prevent us from enjoying the green that apparently stretched to the horizon. Only 10% of the vast plateau has been built upon and that would be about it, we were assured. We could see and enjoy myriad types of insects, flying and crawling, birds including the rare white hawk, and reptiles of various sizes, length, and shape.
Dr Nair told us that the Academy housed Party education centres. Party education in Kerala is a central hub of party functioning as it should well be elsewhere too. Classes are regularly held in the Academy with the faculty suggested by both the Kerala unit of the Party and the central committee with the latter giving the final stamp of approval.
Party education is imparted to various target groups throughout the year by a highly-proficient faculty with guest lecturers often participating in the teaching-learning process. Our classes were addressed, for example by Dr Nageswar Rao of the Osmania University who came down from Hyderabad to talk about ‘media and social responsibility.’
The massively wide swathe of rubber plantation is organised in a truly Communist fashion. The workers- men and women, the latter outnumbering the former- have formed a co-operative under the initiative of the Party. The proceeds of the sale of raw and processed, high quality rubber (milky white and thick as honey) is divided up by half, with the workers getting 50% of the sale and the rest going to funding and running the Academy. The workers we spoke to appeared quite content and happy with the state-of-affairs.
The principal function of the Academy is the imparting of Party education. The Academy organises classes at different functioning tiers of the Kerala unit of the CPI (M) – district committees, zonal committees, local committees, branches, and for various frontal organizations of the CPI (M). The Academy is no island of excellence. It seamlessly merges its activities with the CPI (M)-run Panchayats around. The Academy itself is situated right in the midst of the Vilappil village Panchayat.
There is an exchange if political-organisational ideas with the elected members of the rural bodies where the Academy provides the guidance, and the Panchayat members are the eager students – in such topics as Marxism-Leninism, political economy, and party organisation, as well as the pro-people and pro-poor rôle of the Panchayat bodies in three tiers.
The future plans, Dr Nair informed us, include development of a science and technology centre, a horticultural centre, and a bio-diversity park. A recent visit by a team from the People’s Republic of China has seen plans afoot to set up a physical culture centre and a stadium at the Academy: a healthy mind in a healthy body.
As we were coming out of the Academy for this time, the Kerala Party simply would allow us to do so with a heavy heart. We saw a fresh batch of students, 155 local committee members all, trooping in to take their classes. This is the sixth student batch of LCM’s we are told. We exchange a cheery Red Salute and pass along each other’s way – with a very joyful frame of mind, the depression of departure all gone in a flash of fervour. INN