Gandhi is Only About Cleanliness? Really!
A hurtful campaign
It has been distressing for me to notice how the entire space for celebrating Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary , by the Government of India has been focusing on toilets: public defecation free India.
In the process of shifting public attention, finances and administrative energy into building toilets (I will not go into the flaws, the failures, the continuation of manual scavenging etc.),-and therefore Swachh Bharat as the clarion call at this time, Gandhi’s contribution to poverty eradication, to life style, to sarva dharma , and samaa nathva, has been neglected, has lost space.
Even as this campaign was started with symbolism like Gandhi’s famous glasses it hurt people like me.
Gandhi had such important ideas for India’s economic growth, economic prosperity and economic justice. He also had do-able and valuable ideas on people-friendly institutions. For example, Gandhi’s appeal in developing the Khadi movement, could be described in corporate language as a buyer-seller meet !
If people would buy what is produced in widespread economic units namely households and small shops then there would be a distribution of incomes almost automatically.While the Khadi program has been justifiably criticized for being unviable in terms of investment which brings returns, it could also be argued that it was not designed and implemented in more effective and rational ways .
The Gandhi celebrations could have concentrated on his economics as non-violence . It hurts to notice the kind of goods that are now part of the buying habits of the middle and rich classes. It hurts to read that India has added more to the club of the world's wealthiest, while we also have the persistence of deprivation.
There are many programs for the underprivileged – the latest is Modi-care , there are also efforts to engage with women's rights .. There is also efforts at skilling. But Gandhi had it worked out in a cycle – engage with the masses for producing the required goods, whether it be cloth or food or even tools and machines; production engage with the public, persuading through rhetoric and economic incentives and systems to buy these goods. Organize cooperatives of labour for building roads or houses. Strengthen programs like the NREGA. Let the rhetoric and the propaganda be addressed to these issues, in the same way as this government has addressed swachh bharat!
Alas , the celebrations have steered clear of the heart of Gandhi’s dreams – a just and peaceful social and economic order.
(Devaki Jain (born 1933) is an Indian economist and writer, who has worked mainly in the field of feminist economics. In 2006 she was awarded the Padma Bhusan, the third-highest civilian award from Government of India, for her contribution to social justice and the empowerment of women.)