Yojana Summary Oct 2019
Theme: Invaluable Legacy
A Possibility in the Eco-system of Swadeshi and Swaraj
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the buzzword in the corporate world and the Government. There is an impression among some both in business and public at large that the Government, by making a law forcing the corporate and the business world to spend two per cent of their profit for social betterment, has gained the ground for Gandhi’s idea of Trusteeship. It is now known as CSR.
- However, Gandhi’s idea is deeper. Gandhi also had something to say about ethics in business. He had definite ideas about how people engaged in commerce and business should act and can contribute to nation building and forming a nonviolent harmonious society. He had conveyed to business community that they had a clear role.
- Gandhiji had developed the thesis of trusteeship as an alternative to capitalism and communism. Since 1990 the world has changed. Communism as an experiment is almost over. There is a feeling that capitalism is the only saviour for humanity and there is no alternative! In this context understand Gandhi’s ideas of Trusteeship is important. When Gandhi developed this concept, he was essentially trying to argue out a theoretical case.
- The basic and fundamental argument has made in this regard was that both capitalism and communism were founded on violent. In capitalism, wealth creation generates violence. Communism that talks about equity also recommends violence.
- As against both the schools of thoughts, trusteeship principle basically stands on non-violence. The efforts that society has to make to achieve this kind of equity are not on violence. So for a sustainable society, Gandhi’s argument was that trusteeship stands a better chance at the theoretical level.
- The fundamental assumption regarding the theory is honesty and integrity of the trustee. Unrealistic nature of the assumption did not deter him since the idea essentially was embedded in the nature of a theoretical model.
- In other words, Trusteeship is one such theory from where one should deduce and should not hold Gandhi responsible for such deductions. This point needs to be emphasized as eminent scholars have observed that trusteeship as a concept is not absolute but relative in space and time and on the needs of society.
- The idea of trusteeship is based on one particular value that is embedded in Indian tradition. It is the value of aparigraha in Indian tradition. It is the value of aparigraha non-acquisitive nature of the human being that has to be developed. This aparigraha is the foundation of his idea of trusteeship.
- It has so happened that the positive economics, as it evolved, has ignored values of this nature. Aparigraha becomes the integral part of the human behaviour and this has to be considered also as a part of the behaviour of the economic man.
- Gandhi departs from the conventional positive economists from this point. The economic man has an ordinal utility, which is qualitative and comparable. Aparigrahi, i.e., the person who is acquiring wealth but is not acquisitive, has a variety of uses of his wealth.
- One, and also accepted by the positive economists, would be the utilization for self-satisfaction-gratification of self-needs. This is one part of the utility; the other part of the utility involves an individual deriving the satisfaction and utility by satisfying the needs of others. In this case, she takes into consideration the satisfaction of family member, relatives, neighbourhood, society at large and the whole world by her actions.
- The important aspect of aparigraha is its multi-utility concept. This concept is slightly different and qualitative in nature, and for maximization of satisfaction, this multi-order utility has to be considered rather than focusing only on the economic man, where the anthropocentric behaviour aims at maximizing individual utility.
- If this normative nature of aparigraha is accepted in the mainstream economic analysis, cultivating an aparigrahi individual becomes a major task. Gandhi believed that the value of aparigraha had been embedded in Indian culture.
- In contemporary corporate environment, the dominance of the positive economics is reflected in the acceptance of the exogenous nature of values, i.e., the values have to be treated outside and separately. This is not true because actual human behaviour is not bereft of such kind of value systems. The market failure of acting like an economic man. In reality, the economic man concept becomes segregated and stands alone in a text bookish world.
- In corporate practice often there exists irrationality-value other than profit motive. If space is to be created for such value, then it is possible to create space for aparigraha as a value to be operational. Trusteeship is based on this premise.
- Taking the point little further, one can understand the practical implications. If aparigraha is to be imbibed, the approach to view the production system would differ.
- Also, within the production system, the issues like what to produce and how much to produce would be tackled from a different perspective. The society would need to find the way to bring down the acquisitive nature of the population.
- One solution lies with the introduction of the moral value of aparigraha into lives of the mass through education. However, that is going to be a long process.
Trusteeship is Based on Ahimsa
- Essentially, trusteeship is based on the idea of ahimsa. The natural corollary of ahmisa is satyagraha, that is, if the wealthy and the capitalist do not part with their wealth voluntarily, then the weapon of satyagraha is to be used.
- This point is pertinent and important. Failing to rectify the situation and allowing the corporate sector to grow unbridled, the inequalities would grow further resulting into serious consequences.
- The mindset about the violent acquisition and confiscation of wealth would become reality if the corporate world would not start acting as a trustee. As against violence and murder, Gandhian approach requires the corporate sector to be more trustee-like and use the wealth for the benefit of all.
Trusteeship Allows Creation of Wealth
- Trusteeship is essentially about how to possess and how much to possess. It is not against creation and possession. Creation and possession of wealth is justified in the scheme of Trusteeship.
- There exists possibility of violent incidences since the corporate world has been treating their labours merely as a physical objective input devoid of human face and just as a factor of production. In the Neo Classical Economics, to imbibe the value of labour indirectly and to minimize the cost, it is to be exploited physically and economically.
- This is what virtually happens which is irresponsibility. In such circumstances, any expectation from labourers to become efficient and develop a commitment for production cannot materialize. If the labour neither has any sense of stake in production process nor of ownership in the production unit and environment, it would be an alienated lot in the entire production process, hence would not be interested.
- The entire process of production generates definite negative externalities by not paying proper wages. These externalities are also being imposed on the society and the state.
- If the concept of trusteeship is to be applied in these circumstances as a trustee, as a producer the corporate sector should make an offer to fellow human beings who are part of the production process for their decent standards of living. Decent standards of living, in this context, would mean provision for roti, kapada, makaan, education and health.
- These provisions can be made with an idea of trusteeship. In pure economic terminology, consideration for the average cost only is not the answer. It is necessary to internalize the externalities that the corporate sector has imposed on the society.
Trusteeship and Nature
- The other input of production is nature. Depletion and degradation of natural resources is comparatively recent phenomena. Natural resources and inputs are used in production process.
- As a corporate sector, consideration should be to minimize extraction cost or transportation cost or if there is some absolute scarcity cost of the natural resource. In a corporate framework, intrinsic value of that natural resource is not being evaluated. Non-use value of the resource, in the anthropomorphic sense, is the value that is only useful to us and not for others. We consider only those things, which are useful to us and not useful to the nature, in general but are important for our survival and we may not understand it presently.
- One can also be trustee by choosing appropriate technologies. Gandhi has proved to be consistent on the production side. Gandhi’s opposition to machinery is well known. He was against excessive and senseless use of machineries and technologies. His concern was sensible use of technology, in contemporary parlance it can be treated as eco-friendly technology. That can be interpreted as trusteeship. Hence, on production side too there is ample scope of trusteeship.
Trusteeship in Consumption
- After the production of wealth and commodities, the issue of utilization follows. Though Corporate Social Responsibility is getting popularized rapidly as a new concept, it is philanthropy, at the best. It is present in Indian culture as well.
- Consumption has two distinct levels; personal and societal. Trusteeship at personal level is individual’s consumption requirements and needs. The theory of aparigraha, non-acquisitiveness, tends not to acquire and consume things which are useless to an individual. This is where Gandhi brings in the concept of limiting personal demands/needs.
- A conscientious trustee would control and regulate his/her self-consumption. It is important to note here that Gandhi had never advocated abject poverty. After satisfying needs for a decent livelihood, the rest of the wealth is required to be spent for the social good. A question of choice comes at this juncture. Gandhi was against philanthropy.
- Beginning the process with the basic principle of aparigraha, non-acquisitive life by the trustee, by the creator and possessor of the wealth would impact the entire society in a positive manner.
- Such society would be a simple society and the craze for useful and not-so-useful technologies will also be automatically regulated.
- The vision has to change. Gandhi’s Trusteeship becomes relevant and a possibility within his overall vision of a non-violent society, swadeshi decentralized economic system and Swaraj as self-rule.
Quest for an Alternate Vision
- ‘Return to Gandhi’ is an expression we hear often repeated in the general discourse on Gandhi, particularly in the context of celebrating his 150th birth anniversary. One is constrained to comment that it has almost become a cliché; not only uncritical admires but even serious students of Gandhi use it almost as a refrain while affirming that the only way to solve the pressing problems confronted by humanity today is to ‘return to Gandhi’.
- As ‘return’ suggests going back to a place where you have been before or a situation that existed before, to apply the term ‘return’ to Gandhi does not seem very accurate. It is well-known that the central aim of the Gandhian programme of action is the attainment of Swaraj and Sarvodaya which in general parlance mean the all-round, (w)holistic development of humanity.
- A critical look at the principles and programmes of Gandhi indicates that he was a revolutionary reformer and guide with a prophetic vision and perspective and, therefore, our duty is to go forward to him, accept his vision and programme of action and work for their realization for building a true and sustainable civilization.
The Contemporary Human Crisis
- We know that humanity today is passing through critical times; it is confronting probably the worst-ever crises in its existence, with its survival hanging in the balance right in front of us. Contemporary society has been characterized as knowledge society; it is an age of explosion of and access to information and knowledge based on information, particularly through internet connectivity.
- But in spite of such easy and widespread access to information and knowledge, in daily living we confront natural phenomena which are practically incomprehensible, inexplicable and hence mind-boggling to most people.
- It is obvious that the crises we face today is well recognized as a manmade crisis in the sense that is the natural outcome of the terrible atrocities that powerful humans have committed against Mother Earth and our weaker fellow human beings.
- We know that it was the scientific revolution (of the seventeenth century) and subsequent European Enlightenment that led to a paradigm shift at all levels of human existence. The traditional worldview that guided human life in all its aspects was replaced by the so called scientific worldview.
- The earth came to be viewed merely as a giant machine and a repository of material resources for human consumption. Humans were here to dominate, control and manipulate nature using science and technology. The meaning and purpose of life were redefined and physical welfare and sensuous enjoyment were elevated as the ultimate purpose of human existence. A brand of materialism evolved and it replaced religion and spirituality. Knowledge, traditionally viewed as an aid to service, came to be considered a more instrument for the attainment of power and domination.
- The idea that unlimited physical comforts and sensuous enjoyment could be chased and realized developed into a new theory and ideology known as developmentalism. Development at any cost has become the motto of modern civilization, irrespective of the divergent political ideologies followed by different nation states. Developmentalism has assumed the dimension of a new political religion, so to say, and like most religions has become superstitious and fundamentalist.
Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj
- As is well-known, Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj contained, among other things, a severe critique of modern western civilization. He diagnosed the root cause of the disease of modern civilization as It was rooted in and sustained by violence both direct and structural, and consequentially, it generated and escalated more violence.
- The other dangers that Gandhi identified in modern western civilization were that it dismissed religion and morality from human life and transactions as redundant and elevated physical comfort – he termed it as “bodily welfare” – to the level of the ultimate goal to be sought after in life. In keeping with the Marxian perspective, it measured the level of human civilization on the basis of its increased technological capacity to dominate over, manipulate and control nature.
- Gandhi warns in Hind Swaraj that as modern civilization functions on the basis an instrumental view of physical nature and human beings, it will turn out to be a nine days wonder or even take humanity eventually to its doom, unless checked and corrected.
- Now that the prognosis is evidently clear and survival of humanity is threatened by such real dangers as climate change and resultant natural calamities, human beings, though beguiled by self-aggrandisement and sensuous enjoyment, have started a process of rethinking.
- When the United Nations Organization discussed the issues relating to climate change and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some of the world leaders referred to Gandhi, his vision and programme of action for building an alternative, sustainable civilization.
- The UN Declaration Document clearly states that the focus of the programme is or people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, points repeatedly emphasized by Gandhi on many occasions. It also states that the member nations are determined to take steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. But it appears that no serious steps are taken by most nation states to implement such important covenants and protocols. Look at the state of the Kyoto Protocol, for example.
- Modern civilization with its glitz and glamour continue to entice gullible people and the majority of humanity, is caught within its trammels even today. It is not without reason that Gandhi called it a nine days’ wonder.
- As the UN, rightly posed it, the question before us is simple and obvious: Are we ready to read the clear signs on the horizon and change on to a sustainable path. This was, precisely, what Gandhi had asked in his Hind Swaraj and it was the basic principles of a sustainable civilization that he enunciated in it. Our responsibility is to translate them into reality. And that would be the true tribute to his revered memory too.
Thinking Beyond the Self and the Other
- One of the contemporary major challenges is multilevel violence that ranges from micro to macro level. Commonly violence is considered in ‘legal terms’. However, legal terms narrow down the complexity of violence and define it as punishable acts, thus, simplify the phenomenon of violence. Foucault has rightly mentioned that ‘what appears obvious to us is not all so obvious’.
- Applying this notion to the concept of violence one may argue, although violence may seem a straightforward and self-evident concept, it is profoundly ambiguous. In this regard one may agree with Stanko who observed, ’what violence means is and will always be fluid, not fixed’.
- Let us see how Gandhi’s non-violence responds to the contemporary problem of violence at this three – level; direct, structural and cultural.
Gandhi’s Response to Direct Violence
- The underlying principle of Gandhi’s non-violence is Advaita. Thus, Gandhi does not see any separation between the self and other. Following Advaita, his non-violence affirms that there are no others, there is only the self, or versions thereof. Thus, violence against others is actually violence against oneself. Direct or personal violence, organized or sporadic, that we observe in contemporary society and politics, emerges when one considers others as absolute ‘other’.
- Gandhi challenges such contemporary view and perceives ‘otherness’ as a relational notion in which sacrifice of the self gets supremacy to sacrificing others. He noted in Hind Swaraj that ‘sacrifice of self is infinitely superior to sacrifice of others’.
- In Gandhi’s paradigm, both self and the others are tied to a relationship of responsibility. This responsibility is ethical and nonviolent in nature that recognizes each other’s free will to experiment in the field of society and politics guided by the truth.
- On this grounding, to challenge contemporary direct violence, Gandhi argues that one must have training in non-violence and finally one should undergo for personal suffering and sacrifice if the situation demands. As a priori, his non-violence implies self-purification of individual and he maintains that the power of non-violence is in exact proportion to the ability of the nonviolent person.
- Gandhi also argues why violence as a contemporary means to settle issues should be avoided in our personal and social life.
- First, he observes that violence does not accept the ‘essential dignity’ and worth of the individual.
- Second, violence recognizes no boundaries and finally becomes self-justificatory in itself. The reason is that violence claims to possess the truth about right and wrong and on this basis, it also decides who should be punished and who spared.
- Third, when violence becomes habitual and institutionalized, it becomes a general means/method to settle the issue of any kind of conflicts in society. He also suggested that in the long run violence does more harm than good as it produces a vicious and endless chain in which an individual or the society get trapped.
- Thus, he prescribes non-violence as a way of our daily individual life and invites us to test it in our lifeworld. To test one’s non-violence, he argued, one must learn to dare danger and death, mortify the flesh and acquire the capacity to endure all manners of hardships. Thus, his non-violence is not only a matter of philosophy or intellectual inquiry but it calls for dynamic action at the individual level as well.
- It must be recalled, for Gandhi, non-violence is not confined only to a personal virtue or individual behaviour. He considered non-violence as ‘law of our being’ that must be applied in all social relations: familial, political, economic, and educational. To contemporary violence inflicted society, his message in very clear – apply non- violence in all possible fields of human relations. He was convinced that the fundamental moral instincts are still active and the human being can survive only if he/ she has faith in non-violence.
Gandhi’s Response to Structural Violence
- In the modern world, at the structural level, the problem of violence may be viewed in terms of concentration of power, large scale industrialization, and exploitation of one group by another. These have been termed as structural violence by non-violence and peace scholars. In Gandhi’s views, these are the manifestation of violation of the moral principles which contemporary society tends to ignore.
- Here, Gandhi’s idea of aparigraha (non-possession) and its institutionalized form ‘trusteeship’ as well as the need for self-control, are very useful today. Gandhi held the view that the modern crisis can be overcome only by making our institutions more in the line of ‘law of non-violence’.
- He recognized centralization of power, political or economic, as violence and advocated the decentralized mode of polity (Panchayati Raj) and economy (Gram Swaraj) to minimize the structural violence in the society. For such social and political task, Gandhi invites people to take up moral leadership at different levels.
- The moral leadership which Gandhi calls for, to create a society free from exploitation and marginalization or structural violence, is not the imposition of one’s will on others, but employing the supremacy of reason and love to one’s life and related institutions.
- In response to the contemporary problem of social-political injustice or the economic inequality, Gandhi proposes a nonviolent mode of protest what he termed as Satyagraha. Based on the ‘active principle of love’, his Satyagraha takes various forms according to a different situation, such as civil disobedience and non-cooperation, but the object of all these methods is to awaken the sense of justice in the wrongdoer.
- However, he noted that these methods can be adopted only by those who are self-less, fearless and self-controlled. To modern society, where ethnic or political conflict has become common, his Satyagraha offers a method of nonviolent, creative conflict transformation which results in reconciliation and removal of bitterness between or among the conflicting parties.
- On the issue of State and individual, which is a central challenge to modern polity, Gandhi regarded the individual as the centre of authority and value. According to him, the State and Government derive their existence and power from the individuals. He reminded the people that the State and Government cannot exist for a moment without their cooperation.
- Thus, when the State begins to exploit the people and impede their progress, it is the holy duty of the people to withdraw their cooperation from the State and reform the State by moral force. For this, he recommended that the edge of the political consciousness of people should always be kept sharp and moral discipline must be maintained. In his view, without moral discipline and voluntary control of the greed for wealth and power, neither the individual nor society can prosper.
Gandhi’s Response to Cultural Violence
- Gandhi does not see violence only in overt form. He was well aware that violence has many dimensions and forms in the contemporary world, for example, exploitation or marginalization. He also realized that such multi-dimensionality of violence worked together on a particular community or society as in the case of colonized India.
- Such violence often gets vent when cultural, political or religious war (as in the case of terrorism) takes place. Similarly, for Gandhi, violence is not only an act or major violent event but also a sign of deeper socio-political and economic alienation that a community or group faces or perceives.
- Thus, in Gandhi’s prescription, as violence is the result of the dominance of the socio-political or economic structure of the society on a particular social group/community, it cannot be analyzed, tackled or solved separately taking it only as a major violent event. One must view violence in its totality and examine it in the worldview in which it emerges.
- The violence against nature, known as the environmental crisis, is serious contemporary challenges before us. The present environmental crisis is not a problem but only a symptom of a deeply mistaken normative view of the relation between humans and nature. Rather than looking the nature separate from the human being, Gandhi submitted that we should feel a more living bond between ourselves and the rest of the animate world. He also suggested that humans and nature must be in harmony rather than human being exploiting the nature for their pleasure.
- Gandhi’s idea of non-violence attempts to eradicate the root cause of the present ecological crisis by proposing the idea similar to a notion recently termed as ‘human ecology’. Human ecology, is concerned with the ecological implications of all what human beings do.
- Gandhi does not see the environmental crisis in isolation. He intimately links the environment to the very nature of other human institutions as a polity, economy, health, and mode of development and calls for essential change in these fields. He strongly advocates the ‘green thought’ in our day to day life as well as an economy and developmental model based on natural order to save ourselves from the catastrophe.
The Flame of Swachhagraha Burns Bright
- Again and again all these years, India as well as the world have been digging deep into the life of the Saint of Sabarmati to reboot our priorities and ways of living. That simple statement, ‘My life is my message’ is perhaps the offer of window to goldmine of what to pursue for the sake of a better society, a better country and better humanity.
- Among many parts to lean on and learn from, one would recall the ground-breaking works of Gandhi on sanitation more than a century ago when he first traveled as a legal counsel to South Africa in 1893. His subsequent two decades struggle against racial discrimination and oppression took a different flight altogether when he stressed on improving the sanitation and hygiene on priority. During almost two decades of stay there, he successfully experimented the landmark non-violent approaches like ‘Satyagraha’ for mass mobilization.
- Gandhi ensured that sanitation remaining one of his major focus areas irrespective of the place, community or goals. He strongly advocated that ‘Everyone must be his own scavenger’ and implemented this idea on scale in Phoenix and Tolstoy, two farms he established during Satyagraha movements in South Africa.
Swaccha Bharat Mission on Gandhian lines
- Over a century later and just five years ago, India returned big time to combine both the concepts of Satyagraha and Sanitation that Gandhi so zealously espoused. The country made a daring promise to the world under the inspiring leadership of the Prime Minister, to provide universal safe sanitation access to its citizens and build an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India as a befitting tribute to the greatest sanitation champion ever, Mahatma Gandhi, on his 150th birth anniversary.
- The Swachh Bharat Mission or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was born out of the core Gandhian thoughts. Jan Andolan in the cause of Swacchata followed the pattern of Gandhi’s inspirational mass mobilizations during the freedom struggle. Swachhagrahi became the new foot soldiers who insisted on sanitation like the Satyagrahis of yesteryears who insisted on truth and justice.
- Rightfully, one of the defining calls in Swachh Bharat Mission has been ‘Satyagraha Se Swachhagraha’ and one of the iconic congregations of Swachhagrahis was held in Champaran, in April 2018, marking the culmination of the commemoration of the centenary of Champaran Satyagraha.
- Gandhi carried the flame of sanitation to homeland, India, and traveled across the country for finger on the pulse of the situation. He was astonished and disappointed after seeing the pathetic status of sanitation across class and creed. He said, “Independence can wait for some time but Sanitation cannot” and regarded, “Cleanliness as the biggest religion”.
- Access to safe sanitation in 5 years for population of continental size made the promise look unachievable. India had then a mere 39% rural sanitation coverage and accounted for over 50% of the global open defecation burden and had a mammoth task cut out for itself considering its geographical vastness, diversity and regional challenges. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6 for meeting universal sanitation coverage by target year 2030 almost depended on what India could or could not do.
Success of the SBM
- Armed with Gandhi’s inspiration Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched on 2nd October, 2014 by India’s Prime Minister, for ridding the country of the stigma of open defecation and uncleanliness and building Clean India of Gandhi’s dreams.
- The next five years saw unprecedented community mobilization riding on the magic of the 4Ps: Political Leadership, Public funding, Partnerships and People’s participation. Started as a Government Programme, SBM gradually transformed into one of the world’s largest people’s movement or Jan Andolan that witnessed emergence of natural leaders, volunteers and stakeholders across all levels with Gram Sarpanches and Swachhagrahis leading the path. Labeled as the world’s largest behaviour change programme, SBM bears the testimony of Herculean efforts by millions on the ground.
- SBM stands out with women at the centre of all interventions by themselves leading the march in many cases and reclaiming dignity and empowerment in the process. Women in rural hinterland not only ventured out for discussing sanitation and convincing rest of the folks, they moved a step ahead by staking claim in men-dominated masonry work as Rani Mistris by constructing toilets, affectionately called ‘Izzat Ghar’ or Dignity Home in many parts of the country.
- Children and youth volunteered in a big way by inculcating Swachhata in behaviour and volunteered for Swachhata Shramdaan and tremendous participation in mobilization campaigns. School children have been the change agents at many places with their demand of “Mujhe Shauchalaya Chahiye” triggering a sense of urgency among parents and school management alike. Children have also performed the morning Nigrani work with aplomb when they accost the stray defecator with whistle and torchlight and get them back to toilets.
- The SBM journey bewilders everyone with its milestones as well where over 10 crore Individual Household Latrines (IHHLs) have been constructed, and all 6 lakh villages, all 699 districts and 35 states/ UTs are on the verge of being declared ODF with a sanitation coverage only decimal short of 100 percent as of day. Of course, India can’t afford to rest on its laurels as it takes up the challenge ahead in sustaining the gains made with ODF and taking up the next big task of Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) with a higher intensity.
Role of Information, Education and Communication
- The SBM success story is incomplete without the mention of the stellar role played by Information, Education and Communication (IEC). IEC is the soul of SBM and is at the heart of the programme making the complex task look easier.
- Leveraging the time-tested efficacy of Inter Personal Communication (IPC) in media dark villages and other pockets, Behaviour Change was ingrained in community with great efforts by about 4.5 lakh Swachhagrahis on ground.
- The Swachh Bharat logo with the thought provoking Gandhiji’s spectacles as part it could easily be the most seen sign across villages, towns, lanes and by-lanes of the country today. One speciality of SBM communication has been the waves created through demonstration by influencers, champions and community leaders.
- Digging of a toilet pit or emptying of it, putting bricks for the superstructure, while creating a public event surround, made sure that people saw, believed, emulated and spoke about it.
Swacchata Hi Seva campaign
- Swachhata Hi Seva, a campaign highly inspired by Gandhian ideals of voluntarism, mass movement, Shramdan – all directed toward sanitation has become a part of the national life around this time of the year.
- An estimated 10 crore Indians took part in SHS 2017 and in 2018, the number simply double to 20 crores.
Towards an egalitarian society
When Gandhiji set up Satyagraha/Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad during 1915, he introduced Eleven Vows (Ekadash Vrata) which every inmate of the ashram would have to follow and imbibe in his life and living. These eleven vows were: truth, non-violence, non-stealing, brahmacharya, non-possession, control of palate, fearlessness, elimination of untouchability, bread labour, swadhesh and equal respect for all religions. Out of these eleven vows, two of them viz. sparsh bhavana (elimination of untouchability) and sharir shram (bread labour) were primarily concerned with the principle of dignity of labour. Hence, a brief discussion about both these vows is called for.
- The simple meaning of the principle of bread labour is that one must work to live. In other words, what entitles a man to have his bread is the physical labour. He might be engaged in any kind of mental work, but he has to put in some amount of physical work to earn his bread.
- Gandhi was aware that the dignity of labour was missing from our socio-cultural value system. He wanted to establish it as one of the core social values of the Indian society. Hence, he made it a part of the Ekadash Vrata.
- Gandhi also associated this principle of bread labour with Jajna concept of the Bhagavad Gita. It is said there that anyone who partakes food without performing some sacrifice (Jajna) is nothing short of being a thief.
- He advanced a number of arguments in the favour of the principle of bread labour.
- One, certain amount of physical labour is needed for maintaining good health by any individual.
- Two, the scourge of the superiority of the mental work over the physical labour could be easily abolished by following this principle of bread labour.
- Three, the rich would come to consider themselves as the trustees of their property by following the principle of bread labour and as such the existing conflict between capital and labour could be easily taken care of.
- Fourth, he considered self-scavenging as the best form of the bread labour, as it would automatically eliminate the scourge of untouchability and lead to the state of social quality of all men. Thousands of his followers started practicing the principle of bread labour on his lines.
- Charkha and Kargha became the symbol of synthesis between mental and physical work. They also were meant to provide employment to the millions of people during their spare time. Getting their own cloths through spinning and weaving, people were to attain self-reliance and indeed their own Swaraj. Not only that, the culture of self-reliance was to be promoted all ever the society through them. This was the primary idea behind khadi and its related works.
Sparsh Bhavana (Elimination of Untouchability):
- From his early days, Gandhi was totally against the scourge of untouchability. He considered the entire spectrum of untouchability as a blot on the fair face of Hinduism. Sparsh Bhavana became one of the major vrata of his Elevan Vows.
- He had set up Harijan Sevak Sangh and published a journal called Harijan with the same purpose. He had advanced a number of arguments in favour of his contention.
- One, he considered it a sin to look at some people as untouchables based on their births in a particular family.
- Two, it was never an integral part of Hinduism.
- Three, as everyone comes from the same source (God), hence, all are equal, he further asserted. Hence, we have to fraternize and mingle with them, taking them as our brethren.
- Four, it is nothing short of the practice of love and ahimsa.
- Fifth, the elimination of untouchability amounts to removal of barriers between man and man.
- Hence, it is a major step towards equalitarian society. He found scavenging as the most essential act in human society. But being confined to a section of people, it has become the symbol of indignity of labour. Hence, he pleaded for self-scavenging.
- These two Gandhian ideas of Sparsh Bhavana and sharir shram appear very relevant to the present situation. India has covered a lot of ground in these areas. During our fight for independence, thousands of freedom fighters practiced these ideas both in their private and public life.
- But it would not be correct to say that we have totally succeeded on these fronts. Long back untouchability was abolished by law and an attempt was also made to firmly establish a new social value of dignity of labour. True, a lot has been done and achieved.
- But it is equally true to say that a lot remains to be done. The battle is won, but the war is still on and it must continue to usher India into a new era of equality between man and man as dreamt by Bapu and other freedom fighters.
Overflowing love melts in other’s woes
Gandhi’s notion of peace can be understood from his concept of life based on the fundamental principle of ‘Truth’. His peace is life-centric in a concrete sense and he pursued it through the means of ‘non-violence’, which according to him, is competent to guide oneself and the rest into sustainable life experience.
- Truth for Gandhi, is the basis of life, and it is the practice of Truth, as he did that one unravels the peace he expounded.
- While elucidating Truth as God, Gandhi explained that there is an “unalterable Law that governs everything and every being that exists or lives. It is not a blind law, for no blind law an govern the conduct of living beings.
- He understood Truth as the Sanskrit term satya connoted. It stems from the word ‘sat’ which means ‘that which exists’. All that exists is real or true, hence part of the ‘Satya’.
- Gandhi explained life as the closest manifestation of Truth or God.
- Hence, the only way to find the all-encompassing Truth or God is “to see Him in his creation and be one with it. This can be done by service to all”.
- While Truth for him was the end, Gandhi held non-violence as the undisputed means. As life is real or true, he proposed, anything that protects, promotes and preserves life are also attributes of Truth. He called such acts non-violence.
- On the contrary, anything that hampers life is considered to be anathema to Truth and he called such act as violence.
- He wanted to free India and humanity at large, from all the bonds that in some way or the other prevent people from being free.
- This holistic non-violence sustains life and, therefore he called it ahimsaparamodharama.
Peace: An Experience of Life
- For Gandhi, peace is an experience of life. In our day to day life, it is recognized through attributes such as satisfaction, joy, happiness, relief, sharing, cooperation, mutual aid, love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, understanding, realization and consciousness.
- All these together as well as independently refer to the experience of peace.
Peace: A Pursuit of Life
- As life is the reference to peace, peace is subject to life. There is no peace where there is no life.
- Peace independent of life is called ‘peace of graveyard’.
- When life is all good, the experience of it is termed as peaceful and when life is in trouble, the experience of it is termed as peaceless.
- Anything that protects, promotes, preserves or sustains life gives us an experience of peace.
- Eating sustains life, hence the act of eating gives us satisfaction-peace. Meeting people sustains social being emotionally, hence the act of meeting gives us comfort-peace.
- Peace of life is more of a dynamic experience which is termed as ‘positive peace’.
- Peace is experienced through creative, constructive and sustaining instances pertaining to life.
- Life is experienced through the fulfillment of its needs. Peace therefore also means, a situation that enables individual to procure or avail of these needs, and do so without hampering the fellow beings’ pursuit of their needs in any manner.
- Gandhi’s idea of swaraj is an ideal pursuit of peace, for it leads to self rule which means self-empowerment of every individual to the extent of each taking care of oneself, without hurting anyone’s prospect of life in any manner.
- Thus life requires certain sustaining components to construct the experience of peace. Need fulfillment, social relationship, systems and structures that ensure fulfillment, knowledge of the system and skills to deal with it and consciousness of not overdoing at the expense of others are some of the components that together ensure peace in life.
- Gandhi’s concept of Sarvodaya – welfare for all, deals with peace in this connotation.
Harmony with all
- Gandhi’s understanding of all-encompassing Truth and its existential interpretation of ‘welfare of all’ subscribes to the fact that he was a believer in the principles of advaita.
- At the same time he agreed to the all-pervading reality in a constantly changing form.
- He professed that this changing form of Truth, “leads me to believe in the innumerable many-ness of reality.”
Crisis Management Technique
- Life is realized by individual through the society. Society is all about relationship. And the relationship is bound to get strained, for individuals are essentially different from one another.
- On such occasion, it is important we resist the wrong and not the wrong doer. The wrong impedes life (the Truth) hence it has to be resisted; while the wrong doer is a reality (part of the Truth) hence to be endeared.
- This scientifically tempered surgical analysis (doctor fights against the disease to save the patient, even when both the disease and the patient have come as one package), is attuned to the larger reality of Truth.
- In this sense Gandhi often reiterated “hate the sin and not the sinner.” And he called that methodology ‘Satyagraha’.
- Gandhi’s life-centric pursuit of Truth gives us indication of peace that which protects, promotes or preserves life is an experience of peace. He called such acts as non-violence.
- Conversely, that which hampers life is an experience of peacelessness. He called such acts as violence.
- Non-violence is the means of achieving the ultimate purpose, ‘Truth’. It is also an experience of peace. That is why Gandhi termed that ‘non violence’ and ‘Truth’ are convertible terms. Peace, as a byproduct of non violence, therefore, can also be seen as a convertible term to ‘truth’ and ‘non-violence’.
- A life of non-violence is a life of peace; life of truth is a life of peace; not in the metaphysical sense, but in a very mundane, pragmatic sense.
The Path towards National Regeneration
- Gandhi chalked out a comprehensive programme for national regeneration, which he called the Constructive Programme.
- The content of Constructive Programme, however, was unique – it was a compilation of issues and initiatives that he had promoted in one way or other throughout his public career, beginning in South Africa in the late nineteenth century.
- Though he had formally categorized constructive programme in 1941, he started his constructive activities during Champaran Satyagraha by establishing schools, health and hygiene programmes. His Ashram was used as the training grounds for public workers.
Gandhi’s 18 point programme
- Gandhi had listed 18-point programme but these were only illustrative and were not meant to be comprehensive and exhaustive.
- In fact, it is impossible to foresee different types of work that may be useful in a particular locality or area. It is also not desirable to impose any kind of plan for a place without taking into consideration the specific needs and requirements of the locality.
- Gandhi’s 18-point programme may be broadly classified into:
- Social (communal harmony, removal of untouchability, prohibition, women, students, kisan, labour, adivasis and lepers);
- Economical (Khadi, other village industries and economic equality);
- Education (Basic education, adult education, national language and provincial language) and
- Health ( village sanitation and hygiene and health).
Constructive Programme and Civil Disobedience Movement
- The Constructive Programme was Gandhi’s method for regeneration of swaraj by engaging each and every unit of society irrespective of caste, creed or race and for developing a constitutive and necessary part of the civil disobedience movement.
- There is no need for civil disobedience If we sincerely involve ourselves in the Constructive Programmes.
- Disobedience attracts punishment and imprisonment; but constructive work is within the reach of anyone who is willing to contribute his might to the cause of the country.
- Constructive Work and Civil Disobedience will go hand in hand. It connects to the people in need.
- Civil Disobedience on the other hand, will mobilize the people to resist the unjust practices.
- Therefore, constructive programme is the training ground for civil disobedience.
- Many modern non violent movements pay little or no attention to Constructive Programme.
- Many a time they focus their energy on non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience. Unless we connect with the people and their issues, it is very difficult to mobilize the masses at the time of resistance.
- The development of voluntary sector in India is also the outcome of Gandhi’s constructive programme. Many NGOs are doing yeoman service for uplifting the depressed sections of the society.
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