of Gandhian Thought
by S. N. Goel
Kamla Nagar Hospital, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Introductory: Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest men
of the twentieth century. His thoughts have influenced the lives
of millions of people, whom he provided the voice and tools in their
fight for freedom and social justice. Whenever he was on the march,
people from all walks of life joined him, irrespective of their
caste, creed, culture, religion and social and political affiliations.
He always had his hand on the pulse of the people and he was constantly
worried about the day-to-day concerns of the poorest of the poor.
all the limelight and halo, Mahatma Gandhi lived like a common man.
He did all those things, which a common man does, and consequently,
he committed all those mistakes, which normally a common man commits.
Significantly, he was never shy about commenting on his failings
and defaults. And in the process, he was able to awaken the conscience
of billions of people round the world and ultimately, this common
man scaled those heights, where he was hailed as one of the most
uncommon man of the century.
The People: Whatever the country, nationality, religion,
caste, creed or culture, there are only two classes of people in
this world. One is, what is commonly known as the privileged class
and the other is the unprivileged class or the down trodden class.
Floating in between them is the middle class. Nucleus of the privileged
class is built around those people, who and whose forefathers have
been men of initiative and drive. They picked up all types of opportunities
for work and advancement in life, as and when they got them, and
in the process, they undertook all the risks involved in completing
difficult and painstaking tasks for the realization of their aspirations.
Everybody belonging to the privileged class may not be equally energetic
and innovative and may not have that dash and initiative, but most
of them sail through with their mentors and continue to bask in
the glow of their achievements. Bulk of the people belonging to
the unprivileged class are those, who lack opportunities for work
and advancement in life, for reasons embedded in the history and
geography of their caste, creed, race, culture and religion. The
greatest wonder is that they have survived and continue to survive
inspite of all the odds. In the middle class, some people with initiative
and drive pick up opportunities for work and advancement in life
and gradually move up the ladder to the privileged class. Whereas,
those who lack initiative and drive and miss the opportunities available
to them, gradually slide down to the ranks of unprivileged class.
The pattern is the same throughout the world. The difference is
only in the scale. In the affluent countries social security nets
are available to mitigate the hardship of the unprivileged class
and to enable them to live a reasonably satisfied and peaceful life.
In less affluent and poor countries, the unprivileged class does
not have anything to protect them and the consequent result is malnutrition
and hunger, ultimately leading to social unrest, stunted growth
and deteriorating law and order problems.
The World: The present world is divided into so called
developed countries, developing countries and undeveloped countries.
Developed countries have been lands of opportunities. For centuries,
they have served as strong magnets for the collection of best human
material and physical resources of the world. People from the undeveloped
and developing countries have been making a beeline to the developed
countries for education, trade, business and settlement. The flow
has always been unending and overflowing. USA the most developed
of all the developed countries is a land of immigrants. It is a
living example of what the human material and human endeavour can
achieve, from almost a scratch. Over the years, USA has been able
to build up a strong infra-structure and all the affluence and sophistication,
which has provided satisfaction, prosperity and comfortable living
to its people and an unlimited scope for initiative, drive and innovation
for the pursuit of their cherished dreams. And with the surplus
that has been generated, they have been able to provide a helping
hand for the economic development and prosperity of almost all countries
of the world. Consequently, a number of countries in Asia and Pacific
Rim have gradually risen from the slums and have developed large
opportunities for productive work, leading to a reverse flow of
wealth, industries and talent from developed countries of the west
to the developing countries in the east.
The spirit of Khadi: The life and times of Mahatma Gandhi
were very different. Whatever he has done, written or spoken are
in the context of those times. However, the spirit, concepts and
thoughts behind all that he did are a beacon of light at all times,
for all those who want to understand him. Mahatma Gandhi’s
concept of Khadi was to provide opportunities for work to the unprivileged
masses without disturbing their place of residence and their normal
daily routine. During the thirties India was a stratified society
and hand spun and hand woven cloth, which was considered as coarse
cloth, was normally worn by economically poorer sections of the
society, particularly in predominantly rural areas. All fine varieties
of cloth used to be imported from the textile mills of England for
meeting the needs of city elites and other affluent sections of
the society. Mahatma Gandhi could see that cloth is an essential
item of mass consumption and that the production of hand spun and
hand woven cloth in every village and every houselold could meet
this essential need of the people and at the same time it could
generate tremendous opportunities for fruitful work for economically
depressed populace. Subsequently, this hand spun and hand woven
coarse cloth, popularly known as Khadi, gradually got all the respectability,
when the affluent, high and mighty in the land started using it
and adopted it as a part of their formal dress and started vying
with each other, in exhibiting their Khadi outfit in all public
appearances. Thus, Khadi helped in breaking the visible barrier
between man and man and between affluence and poverty and provided
unlimited opportunities for fruitful work for millions of people,
who had almost nothing productive or fruitful to see in the economic
vacuum of the colonial era. We may not have been able to appreciate
it, but we can see that Khadi, the magic wand of Mahatma Gandhi
can well be treated as the fore-runner for opening up large scale
productive opportunities of work for those masses, which had almost
nothing to fall back on.
unlimited opportunities of work at their own door and their chosen
hour, provided hope and a feeling of confidence to the common people.
Food, nutrition, health and education followed for pushing the sights
up. In the present context, Khadi should not be restricted to mean,
the spinning of yarn by a Charkha and weaving of coarse cloth on
a loom. Even when Mahatma Gandhi was living, he had moved on from
a single spindle Charka to six to eight spindle Amber Charka from
considerations of better productivity. As such, the spirit of Khadi
represents the development of all types of opportunities for productive
work for the masses in conformity with their skills, daily routine
and life style. Mahatma Gandhi was able to provide relief to millions
of people during the thirties with the help of this rudimentary
tool. However, even after seventy to eighty years, development of
substantial opportunities for productive work on a mass scale continues
to remain the pressing need of all countries of the world. To-day,
we have all the know-how, we have all the resources, we have all
the management and training skills and capability and therefore,
there is no reason that if we can pool our talent and resources,
we should not be able to put opportunities for productive work within
easy grasp of the hands of billions of people scattered all over
of the world. People do not want aid or doles. People need opportunities
for fruitful work for a modest living, for boosting up their self-esteem
and for looking up to the future with a sense of hope and pride.
Role of Gandhi Ashrams: The dreams of a common man are
usually very modest and close to realities. All that he wishes is,
availability of sufficient opportunities for work and the freedom
to enjoy the fruits of his labour in a relaxed manner, in an environment
of safety, security and goodwill. Opportunities for scrambling two
square meals a day, gradually kindle in him the urge for improving
facilities for better shelter, better education and better health.
These are common urges. Everybody has them and with proper environment
and opportunity, everybody has the capacity to cross the hump.
Gandhi developed a number of Gandhi Ashrams in early thirties. In
the initial stages, these were primarily cotton spinning centers
for the production of yarn for Khadi. The primitive Charkha was
the basic tool. The wages of manual laborer in those days were of
the order of ten paisa per day and even for this, sufficient work
opportunities were not available. Under that context, Gandhi Ashrams
made an offer to anybody and everybody to come to the Ashram, learn
the use of Charkha and utilize whatever spare time was available
for spinning yarn from the Charkha. Cotton was made available by
the ashram and the spun yarn was taken by the ashram. The labour
for spinning yarn was paid to the man in cash by the Ashram. Thus
anybody who did not have opportunities for fruitful employment,
went to the Ashram, put in his spare time there and earned something.
That something may have been of the order of two paisa or four paisa
or more or less, depending on the time, skill and dedication of
the person concerned. Charkha did not provide a living wage, but
it did provide something, where there was nothing to be seen. It
did supplement the income of the family and the family was slightly
better off than what it was. Gradually, the man acquired a Charkha,
placed it at his home and all members of the family were spinning,
whenever they were free and whenever Charkha was available. Charkha
did not make them affluent, but it did help them in scrambling two
meals a day. And gradually they started thinking about better things
and better life. In course of time, Gandhi Ashrams developed facilities
for almost all types of cottage industries.
the present context we see that all countries of the world have
successful entrepreneurs, business houses, factories, franchises
and collaborative production arrangements in some form or the other.
They provide employment to hundreds of thousands of people with
almost all types of skills. The basic concept is the development
of sufficient opportunities for productive work to millions of needy
people in conformity with local skills and resources. It is immaterial,
whether you call them ashrams or workshops or factories or production
centres. All that is needed is that anybody and everybody who is
willing to work should have opportunities for sufficient work to
do. All people of the world, as individuals, may not have the talents,
initiative, drive and resources to become entrepreneurs, but every
successful entrepreneur has the potential to provide opportunities
for work to hundreds and thousands of people.
Message of Gram Swarajya: With all the scientific advancement,
millions of people, all over the world, are suffering from hunger,
malnutrition, disease, unhealthy living conditions and poverty.
All nations and almost all international bodies have continuously
thought about it and have been pouring billions of dollars and other
resources in aid every year for the alleviation of the sufferings
of these unfortunate people, but the problems are colossal and appear
to be unending. To-day China has assumed the role of manufacturing
centre of the world. The industries from all over the world have
moved to China and the movement continues unabated. The simple secret
is opportunities for productive work available there. Similarly,
India is fast becoming as the service centre of the world. All major
corporations of the world have a presence in India and multifarious
service tasks of the world are handled there. Again the secret is
ready availability of world-class pool of highly trained, English
speaking professional manpower in the country and unlimited opportunities
for work for them. It may ironical, but almost all developed countries
of the world, which have helped China and India at some stage or
the other in realizing their present potential, are facing continuously
shrinking opportunities for employment and loss of high end jobs.
And, of course the problem appears to be getting out of hand everywhere.
the present context, we may look to another concept projected by
Mahatma Gandhi - the concept of gram swarajya. Initially, the concept
was that every village should be self sufficient in meeting bulk
of the day-to-day needs of goods and services of the people living
in the village. At that time, under the colonial rule, the economy
of India was in a very primitive and dormant state and the intention
was to encourage dispersion of opportunities for productive and
fruitful work in every village in the remotest areas of the country.
Under the present context of globalization, the concept of gram
swarajya carries with it the potential universality for the dispersion
of opportunities of fruitful work in all countries and all regions
of the world, in all economic conditions and in all types of diverse
cultural levels of the society.
Sarvodaya: Look to any of the newspapers, TV channels or
radio broadcasts, anywhere in the world and you will find them full
of news about mini-wars, terror blasts and all types of conflicts
on the one side and socio-economic insecurity, unemployment, mal-nutrition
and hunger on the other side. With all the best of intentions and
solemn affirmations by most of the countries, the pressing problems
of the world seem to be spinning out of control and there does not
appear to be any hope about the solution of any of the problems
of the world is anywhere within reach, in the foreseeable future.
It seems that, over all these years, we have been trying to build
everything, except man. The concept of Sarvodaya involves an integrated
development and enlightenment of every individual, so that, the
society has caring and loving people, concerned for each other and
willing to work jointly for the betterment of the society irrespective
of their, caste, creed, culture, religion or socio-economic conditions.
Ultimately, no rules, regulations or laws may be needed to govern
Conclusion: Everybody knows that the problems of the world
are diverse, complex and have almost gone out of control. It has
not been possible for any individual, organization, state or international
body to provide reasonable solutions and relief to any of the problems,
within the present environment, resources and constraints. All that
people want is reasonable opportunities of work, safety and security
and some sort of satisfaction that they also have some space under
the sun. This is exactly the concept of Khadi, Gandhi Ashram, Gram
Swarajya and Sarvodaya. The life and times of Mahatma Gandhi were
very different. Whatever he has written or spoken are in the context
of those times. However, the spirit, concepts and thoughts behind
all that he did are a beacon of light at all times, for anybody
and everybody. The civilized world has very few options. It can
draw inspiration from the works of Mahatma Gandhi for the survival
of the present generation and for the safety, security and prosperity
of the generations to come.