This article is written by Aayushi Gupta of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. This is an exhaustive article that analyzes the work of Gandhi and the relevance of Gandhian Principles in the present times and how some of the principles are eternal by virtue of being universal.
Looking at the current state of affairs in the world and even in his birth country, India, one would surmise that Gandhian principles have no relevance in the 21st century. Even his ardent followers would think the same. He is mostly forgotten and the world has sunk into a more deplorable state. His principles or what we can call as Gandhianism can surely help the world become a better and a safer place to live in.
The world knows glory in many forms. There are the great who drank to military achievements and there are some whose inventions and discoveries have transformed the way we live. But Mahatma Gandhi stands in a category of his own. He was an inventor of a unique way of living, in which he emphasized on waging peace and not making wars. The moral universe was his field of action and his weapons were truth and non-violence. He never wanted to attain the kingdom of heaven but to make this world a better place to live in by bringing about some radical changes in our society and changing people’s perception.
Indian Nationalist Leader Gandhi was born in Porbandar, Gujarat, which was then part of the British Empire. Gandhi’s father served as the Chief Minister in Porbandar and other states while his mother was a deeply religious woman. Although he aspired to be a doctor, his father wanted him to become a government official like him, so he steered Gandhi in the legal profession. When he was 18, he was sent to South Africa to study law. After struggling to find work, he finally signed a one-year contract to perform legal services in South Africa. While he was in South Africa, he was greatly appalled by the racial discrimination which the Indian migrants face at the hands of Britishers and Boers. He fought against such discrimination vigorously.
When he returned to India, he was still unknown. But what brought him faith and public confidence was the fact that he stood up against the British authorities. He protested the arbitrary Rowlatt Act and called for a Satyagraha Campaign to protest peacefully. He also launched the Non-Cooperation Movement, insisting on boycotting British goods and services. He also started the Khilafat Movement which would bring Hindus and Muslims under one umbrella. He propagated non-violence as the means to fight the Britishers and also insisted on Swadeshi. In 1930, he launched Salt Satyagraha or Dandi March, in which he and other people broke salt laws around the country, the laws that prevented common people from producing salt. This was the movement which brought him international fame because this was the first time when a movement saw massive participation of women. He also fought for untouchables or Harijans who were segregated from society. He then initiated the Quit India Movement that necessitated the immediate British withdrawal from the nation. But this movement was not a success, as Britishers were successful in repressing Indians and indeed the movement. Subsequently, in 1947, the country became free but at the cost of Partition. Gandhi was strictly against the Partition of the then British India and consistently worked to keep the communities unified, but he couldn’t succeed. In 1948, his journey came to an end when an extremist Hindu assassinated him. This violent act took the life of a pacifist who always preached non-violence.
Even after his assassination, his philosophies and teachings are still entrenched in our hearts and give a beacon of hope that the world can still become a better place to live in.
Although Gandhi is known worldwide as a political leader, he was also a renowned theorist, philosopher and practitioner of truth, non-violence, tolerance, and freedom. He was a spirit of profound wisdom with an iron will and an inflexible resolve that shook the British’s strength to the core with the simplicity and humility of his life. Though he was considered a frail naked man, his principles and ideologies are revered worldwide and hold significance even to this date. Despite the fact that, on the superficial level, his principles are based in Indian contexts, his philosophy is considered universal and eternal by the world.
Gandhian political thought
As Gandhi was not a visionary but a practical man, his political thoughts present a living philosophy capable of solving many problems that the contemporary world presents. There is an element of universality in his thoughts- the zeal with which these ideas were used back in those days makes us realize its significance in contemporary times.
Gandhi lived in a time characterized by political upheavals and fermentation. At that time, earlier ideologies which were entrenched in the society began to lose their significance and new thoughts and ideologies were taking shape. It was in this context, that Gandhi came up with his political principles and tested their strength in the furnace of his own experiences. He came up with the idea that the institutions can be defeated with the weapon of truth without causing any rankling in them. In the post-world war times, he came up with a panacea to these problems and was one of the foremost thinkers of the idea of one world-one government. He thought that the only solution to the problems like world-wars is the realization of the feeling of oneness of a man as a whole. He said that regardless of political boundaries, economic divide and cultural differences, spiritually and morally, we are all humans. He even called for a federal world state based on social and economic justice, and the self-determination of people. This concept of oneness of humans and a world government is more important than ever in the contemporary times, when countries are at a cut-throat competition with each other, ready to even sacrifice the lives of civilians. The organizations like the UN are no more than a puppet in the hands of few countries. The world government will help in keeping a check on these countries. And when there is a rise in terrorism, people should realize that irrespective of religion or race, we all are humans and should try to protect each other.
In a world where rulers relied more on brute force and the governments worked against the law and brotherhood, Gandhi was an exception. He was followed by millions, not because of his wealth or special police or power but he appealed to our conscience which made the people realize that once when spiritual power seems to assert its influence, it reduces the values of the material world to impotence. He was as unique among the spiritual leaders as among the rulers in general. His way of fighting was unique and thus inspirational. This was reflective in his fifteen years of struggle against South Africa for Indians. The government imprisoned him and his followers and treated them as sub-human beings, but whenever they needed help, he never turned his back. When the government was involved in a dangerous war, he arranged a special corps of Indian stretcher-bearers for them and this proves that he was a true leader. And also he didn’t claim himself to be infallible. He always paused and reconsidered the righteousness of his actions. When his followers used violence in the Chauri-Chaura incident, he instantly called off the movement. He not only helped his enemies in the cread but also recognized his fallibility, which brought him reverence. But in contemporary times, when leaders are moved by self-interested attitude and turn their backs to the government when they are proved wrong, Gandhian principles can help them steer in the right direction.
No doubt, people see him as a mystic and religious leader but he was best known as the political leader of India. His idea was that of establishing a new social order hinged on non-violence and truth, which is unknown to present-day modern democratic, communist or socialist states. He advocated the establishment of a just socio-political order in the political realm. As justice for him was the eternal synthesis of non-violence, freedom and equality, it would be a stateless society with the maximum consummation of truth, non-violence, justice, freedom, and equality.
His ideal society would be a nonviolent stateless society and he repudiated the state as antagonistic to liberty and justice of an individual. He dismissed the notion of the state on the premise that it poses a threat to the freedom of the individual and it represents violence in an organized form. He didn’t want to abolish the state, as the anarchists did, but he was strictly opposed to the oppressive authority and absolute sovereignty of the state. He, in fact, said that the present society would see representative institutions and government. Thus, he meant a nonviolent society and not a nonviolent stateless society.
He prescribed a nonviolent society where voluntary organizations would be the substitute of state. The society would consist of self-sufficing, self-regulating village communities joined in a voluntary federation where cooperation is the key to a dignified life. Every village will be a panchayat or republic with full powers, which would be self-sustained and competent of even defending itself against the world. He regarded the village as a republic within a republic. His ideal state was a nonviolent democratic state where social life was self-regulated. He preached nonviolence as the greatest of all virtues. He said democracy doesn’t lie in how many people vote but democracy in its truest sense means to what extent people are saturated with the idea of non-violence and truth. He says that in an ideal democratic state the powers are to be decentralized and equality is to prevail in every aspect of life. He was of the view that most of the functions of the state must be transferred to these voluntary organizations except the maintenance of the federation, for which government would be required. He said that power doesn’t enlighten the individual rather it frustrates his inner genius. He stated that every individual has a responsibility to the society and hence must be given the opportunity to become as good as the other which is only possible in a decentralized system. Decentralization, in the present times, is observed in our country by diffusing powers to local self-government bodies.
He also believed in the least interference from the government. He said that true democracy exists where people do their activities with the least interference from the government. He also detested the monotony of machine production and took pride in the creative work done by people for which they were famous in the past.
Gandhian concept of society
The contemporary society is a complex whole which is neither value-oriented nor purely speculative. Tradition and authority which were once revered are now utterly disregarded. The whole of humanity is steered by jealousy, distrust, suspicion and hatred. Violence, poverty and intolerance are on the rise. The outer homogeneity brought by science and civilization doesn’t emanate with the inner unity of our souls. So, there is a dire need to reform our minds. He says that adherence to truthfulness should be our only purpose of existence. The ultimate end of the individual is the realization of truth and justice through consistent endeavours not only for ourselves but for the entire humanity. He said that to achieve the ultimate end, one needs to purify himself. Self-purification demands strict adherence to five principles- Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-possession), and Brahmacharya (celibacy). The adherence to some of these principles can surely help in making the world a better place. For instance, if everyone resorts to being truthful, there would be less distrust and fear among people. And following the principle of Ahimsa requires avoidance of ill-will, hatred, jealousy and also avoiding the killing of people or animals and seeking benevolence for the entire society. And the principle of Brahmacharya will make the man considerate and would prompt him to love mankind and to serve it. These principles would play a significant role in times where distrust, hatred, jealousy are on increase.
Concept of economy
Gandhi was a first-rate egalitarian and a socialist whose ideas on socialism were an improvement on present-day notions of socialism and communism. While it is generally recognized that socialism can’t be established without the use of force, his idea of socialism involves the use of non-violence. He didn’t believe in extremes and neither appreciated complete liberty, as in a capitalist democracy nor regimentation as in communist dictatorships. His idea was that power is to be as decentralized as possible. In the 20th century, socialists focused on centralization of power but Gandhi had a different take on diffusing powers to the grass-root level. He said that the concentration of power is an evil of democracy. This type of socialism is the type that every country should strive for. The powers will be decentralized and the responsibility of every individual would be performed effectively.
As far as economic equality is concerned, he was of the view that absolute quality is impossible. He was certain that the gulf between the rich and the poor must be bridged but he also said that absolute equality, as propagated by Marxists, is impossible. He insisted that equality is everyone having a house to live in, sufficient food to eat and sufficient Khadi to cover their body. And he also said that the entrenched cruel inequality which exists will be removed through purely nonviolent means, through love and persuasion. He said equality doesn’t mean confiscation of property of landlords but changing their mentality through love and persuasion.
In the sphere of economic activities, the role of an individual is ascertained by the values of Asteya and Aparigraha. In practising these values, one must not possess those things which are not meant for our sustenance. He stated that one must live a life of renunciation and should only acquire those possessions which are necessary for his or her sustenance because a desire for more material possessions would only distract us from our ultimate pursuit for truth and would also drag one into a life of exploitation and violence. He said that acquisition of possessions without any need is theft, one must not acquire things which he doesn’t need for his sustenance and must practice Asteya. And for acquiring these necessary possessions one must be involved in bread labour, as in doing productive manual work. The earning beyond the minimum requirement must be used for the benefit of the community. This principle is quite applicable to our present times. People are so desperate for the acquisition of property and material wealth that they often tend to get involved in violence. By practising Asteya and Aparigraha, one can restrain oneself from acquiring more and more material wealth and would eventually lead to self-sufficiency.
People don’t really own the universe. We are actually the god’s trustees to these positions. For preventing over possession, Gandhi came up with the principle of trusteeship. He said that the wealth we earn is not ours but belongs to the people. We must take what we legitimately need and the remainder can be used for the benefit of the society. This surmise of trusteeship doesn’t differentiate between articles of production and consumption, and between private and public ownership. This theory says that even the labourer has to behave like a trustee in providing his skill. Trusteeship prevents the evils of violence regimentation and suppression of liberty. The production must be done with selfless interests, keeping in mind the needs of the society. Even if centralize all the large sectors of the industry, the co-existence of individual enterprise would act as an antidote to slackness, corruption and bureaucratic autocracy.
Gandhi was as such not opposed to industrialization as such but was opposed to those industries which lead to degradation of environment and unemployment. In fact, he advocated the growth of certain industries. He advocated cottage industries which can not only act as a tool to gain self-reliance but also can help generate employment on a large scale in the country. He insisted on enlarging the domestic markets by the promotion of village industries and production of Khadi to meet the demands. He was keen on decentralizing the village industries which completely relied on local resources and wanted people to voluntarily limit their wants. This model, even in the present time, has universal application.
Globalization means integration of world economies through cross-country exchange of goods, ideas, information, and many services. Dominant economies with the aid of Multinational Companies and International Organizations are serving their interests to the extent that often the interest of the poor countries is compromised. Globalization has led to the corruption of values and ethics and also ruined local identities. Gandhi was not against Globalization but would not have preferred globalization in the present sense. As more and more products are made available in the market, people’s choice enlarges and it leads to hoarding of even those goods which are not necessary for our sustenance. And this unnecessary acquisition is against the principle of Aparigraha. He says that mass production is to be blamed for world crisis and if the production and distribution are done in the required areas, there would be no fraud. He also insists on the localization of production and distribution. Globalization has turned the world into a global village while Gandhi wanted to promote a Globe of Villages. He stated that India is not made up of citizens but comprises villages. He said that developing a village is to make it self sufficient and capable enough to develop itself against the world. While globalization leads to the acquisition of wealth in the hands of few entities and can lead to imperialism, the small village industries, which Gandhi promoted, would not have hoarded money to such an extent that they can dominate or donate to others. The village industries are still abiding by the Gandhian Model of development.
Concept of secularism
Gandhi was deeply religious and compassionate to the religious sentiments of the followers of other faiths. He propagated a secular ideology, which he defined as Servadharma Sambhav, equal respect for all religions. Religion became the basis of his life. He viewed that religion is not to detach men from one another but to bind them together. He believed that all great religions have the ability to ingrain brotherhood and unity amongst its followers and the followers of other faiths. He recognized religion as a unifying force which calls for brotherhood and togetherness amongst men. He even said that the state has to steer clear of our religion and the state will just look after our secular welfare. He asserted that an individual’s religion is articulated by providing services to the needy. In the times of distress, Gandhi also didn’t let the rage spread and worked incessantly for communal harmony. In the present times, where we have seen horrendous incidents like that of Godra, where many people were burnt in the fire of communalism, we realize that our current picture on secularism is raging as we are not taking secularism in its proper perspective. We need to realize that all humans are equal irrespective of their religious orientation.
For Gandhi, education is a tool which can be used to change the world. He regarded education as the light of life and the very source of realization of oneness. He viewed that universality of all religions can be realized through universalization of education and such universalization would lead to national integration. He thought that humanization of knowledge can lead us to immunization of ideas against communal distrust. He was critical of traditional education and said that being literate doesn’t mean being educated. He focused on the overall development of an individual through recreation as well as education. He advised for free and compulsory education for all girls and boys between the age of 7 and 14 years. Education at the primary level should be instilled in the mother tongue of the student. He always put prominence to vocational and functional education. His motto was earning while learning. He viewed that these vocational courses will enhance the efficiency of the students who will consequently make the villages self-sustained. His main concern was character building through learning. He said that while learning students can inculcate the values of non-violence, tolerance, truth, charity, etc, which will help build their character. He always fought for women’s education and said it would improve their position in society. His views regarding education are rather significant in our times, as education today is mainly focused on imparting bookish knowledge and inhibiting a child’s talent.
Another key Gandhian principle is that of non-violence. It was the weapon used by him which gained our country independence. Instead of relying on violence, he taught the world a lesson that one can achieve anything through the weapon of non-violence, toleration and perseverance. It is sometimes said that non-violence is a weapon of the weak but relying solely on non-violence takes a lot of courage and patience. Non-violence, for him, didn’t mean just the abstinence from violence. It was much more profound in practice and even in its connotation. It entailed remaining in accord with nature and transforming the whole way of life. This identification of the individual with the whole cosmos and at the same time retaining the individuality is what constituted non-violence. This realization will make the individual overcome his or her shortcomings and will spur him or her to constantly strive for refining his or her thoughts or actions. In a world that is moving through the phases of war and is marred with violence and brutal killing of innocent lives due to the menace of terrorism, the significant requirement of Gandhian ideal of non-violence is now more than ever.
This principle will never lose its significance. Even the greatest leaders of the world have realized the importance of this ideal. Gandhi has been a great source of inspiration for Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, who has put Gandhi’s success in the right perspective. He said that many ancient Indian masters have preached the philosophy of ahimsa, but that was just philosophical understanding. But Gandhi was the one who had put this sophisticated thought into practice and applied it in modern politics so that his country can achieve independence, which is a great thing. In the past century, many places have been transformed with the brute force of war, like the Soviet Union, Japan, etc, but the power of conscience and goodwill has always prevailed over the power of war.
Daisaku Ikeda, the Japanese Buddhist leader said that Gandhi’s activism was not a mere action, but a spiritual practice that is roused by the strict urge to the power of conscience. The phenomenal success of Gandhi in fighting for human rights and civil liberties, not only inspired Nelson Mandela, Africa’s freedom fighter but also inspired many of the great leaders of the world like Desmond Tutu, De Clerk, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, and many more.
Martin Luther King was greatly inspired by Gandhi. He also resonated the same view that people should not follow unjust laws and should happily go to jail if they violate such laws. He also said that if humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inexorable. He felt that Gandhian principles can lead to a world of peace and harmony. Barack Obama also finds inspiration in Gandhi and he says that Gandhi has embodied the kind of transformational change that can be brought if ordinary people come together and fight for it. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese leader who was under house arrest for several years, learned from Gandhi that if one were to bring the doctrine of reconciliation and peace into practice, one needs to be fearless. This is what gave her the strength to fight against the brutal regime. Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist leader said that even if one fails in his action, he stands correct if that action is based on non-violence, love and understanding.
Gandhi is still alive in our modern world. President Frauen of Seychelles said that the principle of non-violence, that we need to teach our children in present days, had been propagated by Gandhi a century ago.
When Mahatma Gandhi and other Indians talked about swaraj, they meant it in the sense of self-governance. Swaraj meant to be free from external influences and foreign control. Now the country is independent and free from any external control. But can we truly say that the people are independent? Swaraj, in the present times, having control over one’s own self. Our actions are governed by the opinions and judgments of other people. What we need today is freedom from outside control. It is crucial that we exercise self-discipline and self-control and should free ourselves from worldly temptations. In today’s competitive and fast-paced world, we must have control over our inner conscience. Self-empowerment is the need of the hour. Every person should search for their own identity, and shouldn’t try to fit themselves in the moulds created by society.
Truth, one of the core principles of Gandhian philosophy, has been given special importance by Gandhi as he tried to remain truthful his entire life. His view of truth was irreversible in several contexts. In the midst of the Non-Cooperation Movement, when the satyagrahis deviated from the path of truth and the violent incident of Chauri Chaura took place where policemen were burnt alive, he immediately called off the movement. He was also of the view that the ultimate end of life is truth. He said that truth makes a person grow stronger while likes weaken a person from within. In the times where there is distrust and hatred among people, the principle of truth is a significant requirement.
One of the most revered actions of Gandhi is his opposition against the caste system. He believed that everyone is equal irrespective of their caste or race. He worked for the marginalized sections of the society, who have been discriminated against due to entrenched casteism. He didn’t enter the premises of the temple where lower caste people were not allowed to enter. He named them Harijan which means Children of God. His philosophy is quite useful in creating a casteless society, where everyone is treated equally irrespective of their caste.
He has always given great emphasis on cleanliness. He and his wife, Kasturba Gandhi have worked to ensure a clean and hygienic environment in villages. He said that cleanliness is next to godliness. The recent Swacchta Bharat Abhiyan, the biggest cleanliness drive of India, is to make his dream of a clean India come true. This campaign is a testimony to the universality of his principles. This cleanliness drive doesn’t only focus on physical cleanliness but also on inner cleanliness. It says that along with clean roads and defecation free India, we also want a corruption-free society where transparency and accountability are cherished. Through this cleanliness drive, two of Gandhian Principles are being fulfilled- truthfulness and Cleanliness.
He also worked for women empowerment. He said that women are to participate in national movements because of their inherent capability of non-violence and tolerance. His Dandi March is infamous for the fact that it was the first time that a national movement showed mass participation of women. He also worked for women education. He said that educating women would not only improve their positions in society but also works for enrichment of the society itself. At times, when participation in every field is so low due to many factors, women empowerment is essential.
His principle of Swadeshi is quintessential in times of globalization. Globalization leads to cross-country flow of information and services, which consequently results in local producers being harmed. They are not able to meet their ends. So, empowering local industries and workers, buying products made in the country will help them survive this competitive world. Gandhi always said to wear Khadi and use products which are made in India, but in present times this is not the case. The local products are unable to compete with world-class products and hence, fails to survive. Government and even the citizens need to work and encourage the producers to use local resources and make local products. The central government’s initiative of Make in India is one step ahead to achieving self-sufficiency.
Another crucial element in today’s world is a healthy lifestyle. When we go to a dietician, he or she prescribes a diet that is frugal, natural but power-packed. Gandhi, being a naturalist and a minimalist, can become our lifestyle guru as well. He advocated eating raw, opted for millets, a superfood which we have “recently” discovered in our lives, preferred a plant-based diet, minimum sugar, and portion control. He advocated all the elements of a healthy lifestyle that we now strive for. He took to fasting long back even before contemporary intermittent fasting became a trend.
The world is whirling under global warming, climate change and resource crunch. The world, including the United Nations, has recognized the Gandhian principle of Sustainable Development and the inauguration of Gandhi Solar Park at the UN headquarters is a testimony to that. Gandhi was of the view that we should use our resources in such a way that it fulfils our requirements while not depleting it for the future generation. He also said that we have enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for anyone’s greed. All the climate deals, environment conservation treaties and Sustainable Development Goals follow the Gandhian principle of self-sustenance. The Gandhian idea of trusteeship is one of the most significant principles in these dire times. We need to realize that we don’t own the universe and how our behaviour disrupts nature and sustainable living is the need of the hour.
Technology and Gandhianism
Gandhian philosophy consists of the ideas and principles of the Father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It primarily comprises his contribution to the non-violent struggle, called the civil resistance, of which truth and ahimsa are the mainstays.
In fact, Gandhi didn’t quite approve of the conception of Gandhianism. He disapproved of the same by saying that there is no such thing as Gandhianism and didn’t want to leave behind any sect after him. All his principles and ideologies are as old as the hills and have been hitherto used in the past. He just made a simple attempt to link the universal truth to people’s daily lives and activities. The opinions that he formed and the conclusions derived were not final and are dynamic in nature. They were bound to change. But his contributions are not to be ignored.
The Gandhian principles are still relevant and technology can be used to enhance their effectiveness. The main tenet that he propagated was Satya. He launched Satyagraha, which is made of two words- Satya (truth) and Agraha (polite insistence or holding firmly to). All he meant to say was that nothing but the truth exists. It would include truth with respect to speech, reality as it exists and good as opposed to immoral, evil, and bad. As opposed to this, in contemporary times, people are not truthful and they are not presented with the existing reality of the system. Here, technology plays its part. Technology can help bring the reality and truth out of the systems. It can curb our main evil, corruption. Information and Communications Technology plays a significant role in this. It facilitates the movement of data among governmental institutions, among citizens and between citizens and government as well. It helps bring transparency, answerability, and public participation. It can play a pivotal role in triggering positive change by eliminating intermediaries and cutting out red-tape. Through increased automation, government’s efficiency can be improved, transparency can be brought in our systems, and information can be provided to them. For example, Right to information empowers our citizens to access secure information under the public authorities and make our democracy work for people. It uses an online system through which people can access information.
Gandhi’s entire political strategy was based on the superiority of soul force over physical force. He meant that nonviolence is pitting one’s soul against the will of the oppressor or the tyrant. Satyagraha and non-violence depended on the word of mouth. In this digital era, what better source can it be to disseminate these principles than the Internet. Technology and the Internet would have facilitated the dissemination of ideas and people would have gotten faster insights on what to do. Digitization can be used to propagate the ideas on non-violence.
Gandhi’s view of democracy was remarkable. He said that democracy provided the weak with the same chance as the strong. But it had its own discrepancy. Democracy is a great institution in itself and was likely to get abused. But in the present times, technology has made the world more democratic. The people can now raise their voices and hold the government accountable. But the problem is that the government is slow to react and still uses the outmoded processes to react to people’s increasing demands. But technology has indeed made democracy more democratic and efficient.
Gandhi has always stood for people’s education. He said that education is a tool that can be used to change the world. But he also said that education should revolutionize in such a way that it should answer the needs of the poor and not the exploiter. This digital era has only made education accessible to all. The government realized the significance of education and Digital India launched a series of digital initiatives to make education disseminate even to the remotest regions. Various efforts have been made at the primary, secondary, and higher levels to revolutionize the system. The app SWAYAM facilitates access to courses imparted from ninth standard to post-graduation. It bridges the digital divide and acts as a major opportunity for those who can’t go to school due to lack of vital resources. ePATHSHALA is one such scheme which disseminates educational content through websites and videos. Several apps and programs like Mid-Day Meal Monitoring App, Shala Siddhi evaluate the quality of school administration and try to enhance the quality of education.
Following the path of Gandhi, Techno-Gandhian Philosophy (TGP) was formulated to resolve the complex conditions that provide a way for one’s career and personal life. TGP was formulated in 1994 and has now become a science of life and developed into a moral code.
Man is born with intellectual capacity and is also known for living as a community working for his livelihood while keeping his relations intact. The acceptance of social or political roles is important for any person to maintain peace and unanimity in the community. The acceptance of social and political responsibilities is a routine activity and every individual has to go through this phase. And it is not trouble-free as many of us try to evade from such responsibilities and work with a self-interested attitude. Consequently, we meddle with these forces sub-consciously without a resolution. It instils anxiety and distress, putting us into a vexed state of mind. The choice between socio-political participation or professional career is always tricky and ends up being a perilous decision. The technological people tend to adopt the conventional and stereotypical way of resolving the matter, while they end up with the matter rather unresolved with a prejudiced approach and never seem to work out between assuming or declining the responsibility.
The notion of TGP is a well-carved philosophy of existing practices and propositions in the areas of corporate relationships and brings professional leadership and corporate responsibility to humanistic philosophy. As the technology evolves and spreads very rapidly, the world is becoming a gin of electronic gadgets and highly dependent on technological innovations. People turn to these technological ushers even for their psychological and physical neemds, which in fact adds stress and strain injuring the bodily nature of our lives. People believe that spirituality or religion can relieve people from such stress and can get them out of this disastrous situation. But spirituality teaches us to work with technology and cope with it. The basic tenet of TGP is to work with technology and add traditional values to it. TGP advocates to go with technology for the needy and the necessity. The Gandhian principles of Serenity, Swadeshi, Satya, etc, are the perfect ideals one has to adopt in one’s life. The Gandhian ideology provided us with a way of life to work with technology and add morality and simplicity to our lives so that we can attain the freedom and life of our choice. TGP, in fact, can be practised by anyone, of any age or gender, looking for adding moral tinge in their technologically infected lives. TGP is all about the reciprocal policy of give and take between morality and technology.
Adopting Gandhian principles and identifying technological needs are the basic preconditions for leading a TGP life. While using technology, one tends to forget the moral values for which he speaks for and is known for. So, in this digital era, one must draw a line of control and should only call for basic and purposeful and technological needs. TGP also specifies a way to identify the right technology. It says the technology must not give one pleasure but serve one’s needs, must not cut his physical activity, must guide one through the darkness, transform our identity and image in the society and must affect one’s psychological attitude. It should not lead one to darkness. By following these ways, one can opt for the right technology while maintaining his morality.
Practising TGP may be challenging at first, as it doesn’t produce immediate effects. But once one thoroughly understands one’s technological needs and Gandhian Ideologies, it ceases to exist as a challenge. People, whether rich or poor, once introduced to TGP see simplicity in their lives with the technological barriers removed. The rich can follow the TGP life by entering into Swadeshi based industries and while the poor earning profits in technology-based industries must remain intact to their morality and values.
These observations prove that technology is indeed a great tool for enhancing the effectiveness of Gandhian Ideology while making the world a better and moral place to live in.
Are Gandhian principles still relevant?
Gandhi still shines as a world preceptor or guru whose sermons and principles are still pertinent across the globe by virtue of their concern for humanity and universality. But on superficial perusal, one may find that his principles are utopian and unrealistic. One may find that humans are highly selfish and their interactions, be it socio-political or personal, are coupled with persistent distrust, conflict, disharmony, and violence. If humans are highly self-interested, then the Gandhian principles of ahimsa, asteya, aparigraha hold no importance for them. Hence, the ideal society which is based on truth, nonviolence and mutual love is highly unrealistic and imaginative.
Also, people hold the view that his principle of Aparigraha is inimical to the economic well-being of the individual and leads to voluntary poverty. In reality, this is not true. This concept of Aparigraha teaches us self-sustenance. His principle of Aparigraha holds the view that one must acquire only those possessions which are necessary for his sustenance and the rest should be used for the collective benefit of the society. So this principle in no way connotes voluntary poverty.
In the Gandhian polity, freedom and justice may not be realized by the individual as he says that religion and politics are inseparable and this would bring irrationality, orthodoxy, and conservation into politics. So, his ideal society would be devoid of freedom and justice. On examination by his contemporary thinkers, it was revealed that he was not a visionary but a practical idealist. Although he said that religion and politics are inseparable, he also said that individuals need not be selfless all the time. People belong to different races as to religions, therefore, it would be difficult for us to live united. So, people must develop a habit of tolerance and mutual respect, so that they can live together. He also said that the cause of injustice will not survive and people should raise their voices against injustice.
Some of the Gandhian principles hold universal relevance. He thought that the main aim of education should not be getting a good degree or a good job, rather it should aim at grooming and character building of good citizens. But the contemporary education system negates the Gandhian surmise of education. There is a mad rush to secure good marks and gain a good job, rather than inculcating the values to build one’s personality and good character. He said that instead of being a corrupt individual, one should fight against corruption. But this character building is unlikely to happen because we see mushrooming of such educational institutions who don’t add even a single tinge of quality to education.
It is not wrong to remark that his principle of non-violence holds eternal relevance. But some hold the view that non-violence didn’t work every time. It offered no solutions to many colonial ruled nations who achieved independence only after violent and bloody struggles. It is not imprudent to remark that Indian Independence is an achievement due to the non-violent means advocated by Gandhi, but we shouldn’t forget the Bombay mutiny or Royal Indian Navy mutiny, in which the Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy attacked the British ports by turning the British ship cannons. The British were aware that they could easily incarcerate an old man or allow him to fast, but they could definitely not suppress a mutiny or rebellion which enjoyed a large support base of the subjects they ruled. Also, non-violence must be coupled with the truth. When the truth is rejected, and when an illusory view of the world clouds our judgment, non-violence is also rejected. So, ahimsa is effective only when it is aligned with Satya. But in contemporary times, violence doesn’t seem to be a feasible alternative. People say that countries are still determined to adhere to violence even if the opposing country is non-violent, but the truth is that non-violence requires tolerance and perseverance. It is rightly said that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Globalization and consumerism have in fact made people’s lives tougher. They have a lot of options to choose from, but they are not happy and satisfied with their lives. The gulf between the rich and poor is widening day by day. Gandhian principle of self-sustenance and serving others is a significant requirement in present times as ever. But some people repudiate the Gandhian idea of self-reliance. They are of the view that this principle has become obsolete in contemporary times, as it seems like a form of a protectionist barrier. They assert that this principle doesn’t allow an individual or a country to enjoy the benefits and advantages that the interdependent world has to offer. They see that people should embrace the technological innovations taking place across the world and should live with them. The concept of TGP talks about the same. The principle of TGP says that people should make the best use of technology while keeping their moral scruples intact.
Also, when he says that government interference is not desirable as it undermines the true spirit of democracy, he was wrong in saying that. Government interference is necessary where people need incentives to make their lives better or to even meet their needs. His idea of promotion of local producers still holds significance.
His environmental concerns were real and are taking shape in the present times. He was quite apprehensive of machinery production and industrialization, which will harm the environment. And here we are, living a deplorable life among the noxious fumes, polluted, and harmful gases released by these industries. They also cut trees and harm the forest habitat, which harms the ecological balance. The need for sustainable development is quintessential in present times.
Socialism is also one of the basic philosophical entities of Gandhianism. He was of the view that absolute equality is impossible but we can try to bridge the gap between the rich and poor as far as possible. In his view, economic equality is one where everyone has a house to live in, sufficient food to eat and Khadi to wear. He also said that this cruel inequality will be removed through purely non-violent means, as opposed to Marxian philosophy he said that the goal of economic equality will be achieved through changing the minds of people through persuasion and compassion and not through wholesale confiscation of their property. This seems to be a more practical and progressive approach as against the concept of absolute equality emphasized by Marxists. Starting from universal healthcare under Ayushman Bharat, poverty alleviation, schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to Obamacare policy in the United States of America, the contemporary world has adopted the concept of socialism as a guiding principle.
On the behavioural and ethical part, Gandhian principles are of vital importance as the world is seeing the degradation of values. His values of self-empowerment and self-control are crucial because people seem to have succumbed under the worldly temptations. The degradation of values is to such an extent that people are ready to kill another person just to gratify their own needs. Respect of women is another idea of Gandhianism and is the need of the hour as the world is witnessing increasing brutality and subjugation against women. His dream of a safe nation necessitates safety of women which can be achieved through exercising self-control. Adding more to the list includes Gandhian principles of punctuality, honesty, duty boundness, which are the essence of good administration and governance.
His functional perspective of religious integration and coherence while vehemently criticizing religious conflicts, intolerance and exploitation are quite relevant. Our political situation is hanging by a thread. Rarely we find a political leader who hasn’t sold his moral scruples and is selflessly working for the betterment of the society. The need for true leadership like Gandhi’s is quite significant.
Although he is revered by several world leaders, Nelson Mandela saying that his principles are not applicable in every situation is also true. He said that if you fight an exploiter by fasting unto death or inflicting self pain to embarrass him to submit, this will not work in situations where the exploiter has no moral conscience. In most of the circumstances, the enemy wouldn’t care for peace-loving measures.
It will be wrong to say that none of the Gandhian principles holds significance in present times. The emancipation of mankind from the evils and ills of contemporary lives seems to depend on some of the key principles propagated by Gandhi. Gandhi and his philosophies are always more than we even know. His political contributions offered us freedom, but his philosophies and principles enlighten our lives. Perhaps this was clear to Rabindranath Tagore and that is why he named Gandhi as Mahatma meaning a great soul. The influence of Gandhi on the course of human history is almost without a parallel. It is rightly said that Gandhi belongs not only to Indian but to the whole world; he is not only of our times but all of all times and he will continue to have relevance throughout the coming ages.
- Xaxa, Johani, and B.K. Mahakul. “CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE OF GANDHISM.” The Indian Journal of Political Science, vol. 70, no. 1, 2009, pp. 41–54. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41856494. Accessed 4 July 2020.
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