By Sumit Kr
Tomorrow is Mahatma Gandhi’s 148’th birth anniversary. When one talks about Gandhi, it is not an individual that is represented but rather an idea, that has many shades colored within itself. As India completes her 70’th freedom anniversary, it becomes pertinent to assess and decode the ideas of Gandhi that bear relevance in contemporary times.
The most fundamental and important contribution for which Gandhi must be remembered in this era of growing hate, hostility and belligerence is the idea of tolerance, peace and non-violence. He believed in loving the enemy, and making him change through moral manipulation rather than indulging in physical violence to eliminate the enemy. This characteristics of him was very rightly embodied in the Sanjay Dutt starrer “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, where the protagonist does not fight but rather sends a “get well soon” card to his enemy. Gandhi knew that violence is never the solution, instead it will worsen the problem. When he withdrew the Non Cooperation movement after the infamous Chauri-Chaura incident in 1922, there were protests against Gandhi as they believed that Gandhi has betrayed the masses that were fighting selflessly against colonial rule. But, Gandhi knew that any sort of violence and civil unrest could be ingeniously capitalized by the British to legitimize the police brutality on civilians. He knew that the only thing that violent masses fighting physically will get in return in repression and suppression in a more brutish manner. Gandhi’s assertion that violence results in zero result in the end could also be used to buttress the failure of Naxalbari movement in India. The fundamental objective of the Naxalbari movement, as it were at the time it was formed, was to seek redressal of the grievance of tribal people who were left isolated from the fruits of post-development India. But, the idea of violence and arms to fight the authorities ended up doing the just opposite. Rather than fighting for the tribals, they ended up fighting with them. The tribals sandwitched between the fight of naxals and forces suffered immensely in the form of casualties and other infrastructure deficits. Therefore, the fundamental objective that the Naxalbari movement was found for was absolutely betrayed and ceaseless violence inflicted burgeoning miseries and deaths on both sides of the war.
Gandhi’s economics was socialist in nature that was oriented for the development of cottage and small scale industries. He believed that the true development of India can happen only if the villages develop. This is exactly the model that needs to be embraced. Cities have become over-crowded, over-polluted and the dismal state of infrastructure and urban governance has made life more tough for the people. Villages need to be focused on to reduce the emigration. According to the Census 2011, 68.86 percent of the population still lives in villages and relies on the local infrastructure and service delivery system. Planned and assiduous development of villages, as sought by Gandhi, keeping the job capability and opportunities of villagers in mind, can be an idea that shall be mulled. As Gandhian Directive Principle of State Policy states, the focus should be on the small scale and cottage industries apart from other ancillary agriculture activities.
Gandhi believed in a decentralization of powers to the local bodies. Gandhi knew that a top to bottom approach in a huge country like India will never succeed. The decentralization of powers happened in 1992 by giving a constitutional status to Panchayats and Municipalities but unfortunately the powers, both financial and administrative have not been devolved as much as it should have been to ensure better participation and governance. There is a need to decentralize the powers and functions to a greater extent.
Sanitation, as Gandhi said is a demon. Gandhi realized the need of sanitation and cleanliness and worked vehemently for this cause. He understood the problems that uncleanliness causes to a country and society. He assessed that unhygienic conditions causes a variety of diseases and it is the poor who is hit the most as a result of it, both in terms of health and money. He propagated the idea of a clean India by making people aware of the consequences of uncleanliness. The government is running a “Swacch Bharat Abhiyan” and one hopes that it succeeds in it’s promise to achieve a clean India by 2019.
As I said in my introductory part, Mahatma Gandhi encompassed the idea, some which were political, some economic, some social and so on. It is not that every idea for which Gandhi stood for is relevant in current times but there are some ideas and mantras of Gandhi, that are of course pertinent and must be embraced even today. Gandhi should be taught in schools in a more subjective manner, his ideas should be taught to the children and of course, his sympathy for the poor and downtrodden must be taught to the politicians who keep his framed photo in their offices but never follow his teachings in true sense.