Father of The Nation @ 150 : Still Alive in Our Blood - Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Father of The Nation @ 150 : Still Alive in Our Blood - Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Why in News?

Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, October 2, is not only commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, but is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence. This year, government of India has celebrated 150th anniversary and released ocmmemorative sR. 510 ocin.

Introduction

It has been seventy years since Mahatma Gandhi departed from our midst. But his life and soul continue to animate humanity transcending national and international boundaries. His contribution to human development is far too great and varied to have been forgotten or to be overlooked. The world today recognizes him as a far more compelling social innovator than humanity veer eralized.

The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a story of heroic effort to establish the values of 'truth' and 'nonviolence' in human life. In pursuing this objective Gandhiji became a Mahatma from a mere ‘Monya’. He became a messenger, for the people of the world surrounded by fire of violence in the twentieth century. He also became ‘The Father of The Nation’. He saved India and Britain from mutual hate and revenge by resorting to the experiment of 'truth' and 'non-violence' in India’s struggle for freedom. This created an atmosphere which made it possible for other countries of Asia and Africa to free themselves without bloodshed from the hold of the European countries which had subdued them in the nineteenth century.

Gandhism is a body of ideas that describes the inspiration, vision and the life work of Mohandas Gandhi. It is particularly associated with his contributions to the idea of nonviolent resistance, sometimes also called civil resistance. The two pillars of Gandhism are truth and non-violence.

Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi

The twin cardinal principles of Gandhi's thought are 'truth' and 'non-violence'. For Gandhi, truth is the relative truth of truthfulness in word and deed, and the absolute truth - the Ultimate Reality. This ultimate truth is God (as God is also Truth) and morality - the moral laws and code - its basis. He explicitly mentions the six deadly enemies which cause prejudice, malice and ill-will to arise, on account of which the person is unable to see or feel the truth. These deadly enemies are desire, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy. Therefore, in order to practice truth one must constantly endeavor to oneself from these evils, one must cultivate moral purity and courage and must not allow these enemies to cloud his vision.

Non-Violence

Mahatma Gandhi says that nonviolence means to keep oneself completely away from such action which may hurt others physically or mentally. Non-violence is the most effective means to fight against discrimination and falsehood. Nonviolence is one of the major moral qualities of human being. Non-violence is a power force than violence because it is linked with the bravery of mind. Non-violence is a powerful weapon of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi used nonviolence not only for the purification of his soul, but to purify the conduct of the human society. He practiced nonviolence in mass action and devised means to fight out injustice.

Apart from truth and non-violence, other principles are given below:

Swaraj

Although the word swaraj means self-rule, Gandhi gave it the content of an integral revolution that encompasses all spheres of life. At the individual level swaraj is vitally connected with the capacity for dispassionate selfassessment, ceaseless self-purification and growing swadeshi or self-reliance. Politically swaraj is self-government and not good government (for Gandhi, good government is no substitute for self-government). In the other words, it is sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority. Economically, poorna swaraj means full economic freedom for the toiling millions. For Gandhi, swaraj of the people meant the sum total of the swaraj (self-rule) of individuals and so he clarified that for him swaraj meant freedom for the meanest of his countrymen. And in its fullest sense, swaraj is much more than freedom from all restraints, it is self-rule, self-restraint and could be equated with moksha or salvation.

Satyagraha

The Gandhian philosophy of satyagraha is a natural outcome of the supreme concept of truth. Satyagraha means the exercise of the purest soulforce against all injustice, oppression and exploitation. Satyagraha as conceived by Gandhi is not a formula of social and political disintegration. A satyagrahi must have first rendered willing obedience to the laws of the state and Gandhi laid down strict canons of moral discipline for the satyagrahi.

There are different forms of satyagraha. Non-cooperation with the evil doer is a mild form. Civil disobedience of the laws of the government is a strong and extreme form of satyagraha. There can be individual as well as mass civil disobedience.

Sarvodaya

Sarvodaya is a term meaning 'Universal Uplift' or 'Progress of All'. The term was first coined by Mohandas Gandhi as the title of his 1908 translation of John Ruskin's tract on political economy, "Unto This Last", and Gandhi came to use the term for the ideal of his own political philosophy.

Trusteeship

Trusteeship is a socio-economic philosophy that was propounded by Mahatma Gandhi. It provides a means by which the wealthy people would be the trustees of trusts that looked after the welfare of the people in general. Gandhi believed that the wealthy people could be persuaded to part with their wealth to help the poor.

The Relevance of Gandhi in the 21st Century

More than ever before, Mahatma Gandhiji's teachings are valid today, when people are trying to find solutions to the rampant greed, widespread violence and runaway consumptive style of living. Here, we will discuss the relevance o f hsi etachings:

Education

Gandhi strongly holds the view that education must enrich human personality and integrate individuals as integral members of a dormant and dynamic society. As a creative unit in a co-operative society, all his activities must have a social content. Gandhi wanted to free education from government and state bureaucracy interference. He valued self-sufficiency and autonomy and the more financially independent the schools were, the more politically independent they could be. Gandhi wanted radical changes from what is common in education today. Long before today’s “consume all" society, Gandhi was arguing that education had been turned into a commodity and that we should not assess the value of education in the same manner as we assessed the value of land or stock market shares.

But, the irony is that today, as India clings to its centralized, textbookoriented, employment opportunitydriven education, several countries such as Britain, China, Bangladesh among others have moved towards many of Gandhi’s teachings. China’s rural education system incorporates far more features in its structure that Gandhi would approve of, than anything promoted by our government. Bangladesh has hundreds of nongovernment organizations delivering the “popular education" developed by philosopher Paulo Freire, similar to the teachings of Gandhi. In the West there has been a major move towards teaching and learning in the vernacular and local authorities, schools, teachers, pupils and parents have been allowed to have more influence over what is taught, and education is not seen simply as a ticket for career.

Economics

In India, economic development has been mostly confined to the urban conglomerates. In the process, the rural India that comprises around 700 million people has been given short shrift. Gandhiji's philosophy of inclusive growth is fundamental to the building of a resurgent rural India. He believed in “production by the masses” rather than in mass production, a distinctive feature of the industrial revolution. Gandhi envisaged villages as selfsufficient republics. He knew that India lived in its villages, which is why he stressed on the growth of the rural economy such as khadi, handloom, handicraft and sericulture. This is why he advocated the establishment of cottage industries and recommended the use of rural products. According to him, the village economy would satisfy two important objectives. First, it would provide maximum employment and income to inhabitants, and second, it would generate equality, freedom and justice.

Further, according to him, largescale production was meant to be profitoriented and therefore, harmful for society as it could lead to concentration of wealth and power in a few hands. Gandhi advocated decentralisation because it could avoid violence. He suggested delocalisation of production as against concentration in particular areas. His beliefs on decentralisation were aimed at correcting all evils of a centralised economy.

Terrorism

In recent years, we have witnessed terrorist violence affecting almost all countries. Even the so called advanced, affluent nations suffer from the menace of terrorist violence. Today, people are divided not only on economic basis but also on national, regional and religious basis. In recent times, religious fundamentalism has assumed dangerous proportions though it has always existed in one form or the other. Racism, which yields violence, has become a device to assume important positions in public life, not only in India and Muslim countries but even in the USA and other countries also.

The situation demands that nonviolent techniques as a means of social change are put into practice immediately. Gandhiji held that violence was wrong as a matter of principle. According to him, resistance to violence by counter violence is obviously wrong. A wrong cannot be righted by another wrong. The addition of another wrong does not diminish but adds to the evil already in existence. So violence must first be resisted by persuasion and when persuasion fails, it must be resisted non-violently. Gandhi promoted nonviolence not just as a philosophy and a political strategy, but as a means to achieve justice and change.

Cleanliness

Indians gained freedom under the leadership of Gandhiji, but his dream of a clean India is still unfulfilled. For Gandhi, the drive for cleanliness in society was an integral part of the process in bringing about a casteless and free society. Sanitation was also considered a necessity by Gandhi in order to remove the label attached to Indians being in need for the West’s civilising mission. Connecting the issues of cleanliness and untouchability, Gandhi emphasised the fact that it is extremely unjust to look upon those who do scavenging to be of the lowest social status. Stressing upon the need for better living conditions for those who did manual scavenging, Gandhi insisted that each one of us should be our own scavenger. He observed that since scavengers were considered to be of low status, people had been neglecting sanitation as ‘unclean’ work.

So, in order to make cleanliness a people's movement (jan andolan), the government of India has launched 'Swachh Bharat Mission' in 2014. It aims to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage in the country by this year as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. Till now, this cleanliness campaign has not only improved the lives of crores of Indians, but it has also played a significant role in achieving the goals set by the United Nations (UN).

Ecological Issues

Environmental movements do not make a direct reference to Gandhi, although the methods that many of them adopt and the discourse that is moulded in their wake often contain Gandhian elements. One example is the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico, which, after a violent confrontation with government forces, turned to civilian-based forms of resistance. Its alternative model of organising society—based on the principles of autonomy, participation and public office — is seen as a form of service rather than as a source of power, suggesting strong Gandhian overtones.

In India, most of the environmental movements emerged in response to the developmental paradigm that the country adopted after Independence. They are centred on issues related to livelihood, land, water and ecological stability. What is remarkable about these movements is that many of them adopted Gandhian methods of action such as civil disobedience, burying themselves in coastal sand, Jal Satyagraha, long walks, hunger strikes, involvement of political and community leaders, petitioning to officials, dialogue with scientists and government officials and convening of all party meetings to build consensus. Coming to the notable environmental movements, we have the example of Chipko, Narmada and Silent Valley protests. The Chipko Movement is particularly noted for its Gandhian connections.

The focus of 21st century is on sustainable development. By definition, sustainable development is the development of the present generation without compromising the abilities of future generations. Though the concept of sustainable development was alien to Gandhi, his constructive programmes were the first expressions of such a development without destroying nature and natural environment. As the sustainable development goals (SDGs) envision, Gandhi also dreamt of a world where there is no poverty, inequality and injustice. Gandhi called it as Sarvodaya Society, an egalitarian society which guarantees to uplift the poorest of the poor. But unfortunately the objectives of Sarvodaya, that is, the individual freedom, self-sufficiency, communal harmony, economic equality and dignity of labour are still a distant dream orf amny n i uor dmeocracy.

Way Forward

Despite impressive advances in science and technology and the growth of material wealth in the industrialised countries, humanity continues to be afflicted with poverty, famine, malnutrition, and lack of education and health care. Differences in race, religion and nationality continue to contribute to many regional, national and international tensions. And many countries and nations that were beacons of democracy are now seeing a rise in populism, religious nationalism and sectarian rivalries. Therefore, through-out application of his ideas to resolving present-day serious existential crisis could be of great value.

Further, Gandhi’s enduring legacy is his continued relevance to our thinking and action on a broad sweep of issues, from protecting the environment to promoting justice, from education to inequality. His teaching remains fresh and thought-provoking, including his emphasis on the importance of facing up to the truth with courage. Indeed, many of his ideas foreshadow the holistic thinking behind the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

General Studies Paper- IV

  • Topic: Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.

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