ARTICLES : About Mahatma Gandhi

Read articles written by very well-known personalities and eminent authors about their views on Gandhi, Gandhi's works, Gandhian philosophy and it's relevance today.

Gandhi Meditating


About Gandhi
(Dimension of Gandhi)

  1. Gandhi - An Example in Humility and Service
  2. Gandhi's Model of Masculinity in the Backdrop of Colonial India
  3. From Absolute to the Ordinary
  4. Gandhi and Communication: Respecting One's Feelings and Those of The Other
  5. The Journalist in Gandhi
  6. Gandhi's Last Painful Days
  7. The Mahatma As A Management Guru In The New Millennium
  8. What Champaran gave to Gandhi and India's freedom struggle
  9. MAHATMA GANDHI : A real friend
  10. Gandhi, Parchure and Stigma of leprosy
  11. The woman behind the Mahatma
  12. Reflections on Gandhi
  13. Inspired By Mahatma Gandhi's Autobiography
  14. Mahatma Gandhi
  15. In the Early Days with Gandhi
  16. Gandhi's Human Touch
  17. Using And Abusing Gandhi
  18. Gandhi: The Leader
  19. The Sacred Warrior
  20. Gandhi The Prisoner- A Comparison
  21. Are Gandhi And Ford On The Same Road?
  22. Attack on Gandhi
  23. The Essence of Gandhi
  24. Gandhi's Illustrious Antecedents
  25. Ink Notes
  26. Peerless Communicator
  27. Other Gandhis: Aung San Suu Kyi
  28. Gandhi Through The Eyes of The Gita
  29. Gandhi's Source of Inspiration
  30. Tarring The Mahatma
  31. Gandhi, Globalization, and Quality of Life
  32. Gandhi And Globalisation
  33. Gandhi's Revolutionary Genius
  34. Mahatma Gandhi
  35. Who Is Mahatma?
  36. What I Owe To Mahatma Gandhi
  37. The Gentle Revolutionary
  38. Gandhi: The Practical Idealist
  39. Gandhi & Lenin
  40. A Note on Marxist Interpretation of Gandhi
  41. Gandhiji & The World
  42. Gandhi's Legacy
  43. Gandhi's Epic Fast
  44. Gandhi : The Mahatma
  45. How Gandhi Came To Me?
  46. Gandhian Influence on Indian Writing in English
  47. Rural Myth, Urban Reality
  48. August 15, 1947 - From Bondage To Freedom
  49. Mahatma Gandhi and His Contemporary Artists
  50. Gandhi in The Global Village
  51. The Last Day of Mahatma Gandhi
  52. Gandhi: India and Universalism
  53. Gandhi in Sharper Focus
  54. Gandhi on Corresponding Duties/ Rights
  55. Love for Humanity : A Gandhian View
  56. Gandhiji and The Prophet
  57. Mahatma Gandhi - A Protagonist of Peace
  58. Last Words of Mahatma Gandhi
  59. Lessons for Social Work
  60. Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
  61. The Message of Gandhi
  62. Gandhiji's Weeklies : Indian Opinion, Young India, Harijan
  63. M. K. Gandhi- The Student
  64. What Mahatma Gandhi Did To Save Bhagat Singh
  65. How Mahatma Gandhi's martyrdom saved India

Gandhi, Globalization and Quality of Life: A Study In The Ethics of Development

By Rajendra Prasad

In this article the author stresses on the need for moral and ethical development along with economical development which was Gandhi's ideal for economic growth in India. Gandhi always believed that the cultivation of wealth should be done keeping in mind the morals and ethics to be practised by people on their path to economic growth. He believed that wealth without ethics and morals made a human being more poor than the poorest of man who never neglected his moral growth in his pursuit of wealth.

It is an important objective of every enlightened national government to adopt and execute a development model, strategy, or method, suited to improving the quality of its people's life. The government of a developed nation aims at making the quality still better, even though as it is, it may be quite satisfactory. An underdevelopment in some direction, a right method of development. It may be that development in some direction, say, alleviation of poverty, illiteracy, or bad health conditions, etc. for a sizable section of its people, is the crying need of the hour and the available resources are very meager. It cannot then afford to make one experiment after another and fail several times before changing to be blessed with a model of development suited for its situation.
An individual's quality of life is determined by a number of factors. His economy is very important but not sufficient to crown it with all that is desirable. Some of the other necessary factors are his attitude towards the way he spends it, his ability to fulfill his needs, his capability to do well the job he is assigned to do, his education, his reading habits, his sense of self respect and self-dignity, his dealings with the other members of his family and society, the freedom he has to function as a viable member of his society, etc. It is important to note that in all this it is necessary that he has, or is able to acquire, the resources he needs to fulfill the basic, desirable, needs of his own and of other members of his family in a manner which is consistent with his self-respect and self-dignity. For example, a beggar may collect at the end of each day so much of money that he not only meets with the needs of his own and of his family, but also saves enough to run a lucrative business of money-lending among his neighbours. But in all likelihood he would not have an uninjured feeling of self-respect, and if he has, our normal reaction would be that it is a perverted feeling.
Nobody has emphasized, and more sincerely, the need for ameliorating the economic condition of the Indian poor than Gandhi. But still he would not agree with the view that economic well-being of an individual can by itself make the quality of his lifestyle commendable. Rather, he would say that he may still be very low on the cultural-moral scale. This would obviously he true, we can add, of an economically affluent person who takes pride in having bargained successfully with a poor physical labourer to work in his house on a wage much lower than the latter's reasonable daily wage. The following, a scene depicted in an Assumes short story, very well illustrates the point I am trying to make.
A well-to-do "gentleman" buys fish costing sixty rupees and bargains for half an hour with a manual rickshaw-puller to drive him to his residence for a fare less by fifty paisa than the reasonable one demanded by the latter, and feels very happy when the latter agrees to. On reaching his residence he pays the fare and goes inside, forgetting to carry with him the bag containing the fish he had bought. After driving away for some distance from his residence, the rickshaw-puller notices the fish-bag lying on the foot-space of his rickshaw, turns back towards the gentleman's residence, knocks at his door, and offers him the fish-bag. The gentleman is gladdened to get it back and offers him one rupee as a reward. The rickshaw-puller taunts, saying "You were not willing to give me fifty paisa more which I deserved for my hard labour and are now giving me double the amount for my honesty. Keep your one rupee with yourself" and drives back towards the market.
The fish buyer may have the money to buy all that he and his family need and all the goods they need may also be available in the open market. One may say that in the economic sense he has achieved his well-being and he may also feel that he has achieved it in as complete a sense as one can be reasonably expected to have. But it is an anemic well-being because it is deeded, or devoid, of the sense of respect for the dignity of an individual as an individual, of a sense of justice, or fair play, in human dealings, of a disposition to value human labour whatever its nature or market price may be. The rickshaw-puller's condition may be lacking in so many things, and even if he is satisfied with it, we would say it very much needs to be improved in so many respects. But still the quality of his well-being is superior to the fish-buyer's because of the latter's value-attitudes or dispositions. The fish-buyer's value-attitude is likely to cause some evil, or to make someone suffer an evil for no fault of his. But the rickshaw-puller's is not. As an oft-quoted remark of Plato goes, one who does an evil to someone else is much inferior to him who suffers the evil. And, I would add, the well-being, or the quality of life, of the doer of an evil is much inferior to that of the sufferer of the evil. The acquisition of this mental good, of the disposition to grade one's well-being not only in terms of his economic prosperity, or professional status, but also in terms of his value-attitudes, or care for certain values, of his respect for elegance in life and for the dignity of the individual as an individual irrespective of what he is, etc. is also to be taken into account in assessing the quality of his well-being.
The components which make a quality of life reasonably good would generally be the same for all peoples. But it is possible that some individuals of a country lack some of them and other individuals of the same country lack some others. Similarly, it is also possible that individuals of one country lack some which those of another country do not; rather, they lack some others. It is also possible that the individuals of a country lack none of them. But, since it is human nature that one is not satisfied with what one has, no one is likely to think that his quality of life does not need any further improvement. It is clear from all this that the same method of development may not suit all countries, or even all citizens of the same country. But it is also clear that a development mode, or strategy, would be considered appropriate only if it contributes to improving the quality of those individuals lives for which it is adopted. And, the adoption of any development strategy, to be pointful must contribute, directly or indirectly, to improving the quality of life of those who are disadvantaged, for example, the people who are below the poverty line, are better off than those who suffer from absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is poverty as per any standard of living, whereas the condition of an individual can be called relative poverty in comparison with only the condition of another individual. For example, a professor getting Rs. 25,000 per month as his salary is relatively poorer than his lawyer who earns Rs.50,000 a month and the latter is relatively poorer than his lawyer who earns Rs.1,50,000 a month. A rickshaw-puller, on the other hand, who gets, on an average, Rs. 30 a day, and nothing on the day he is too sick to work, is absolutely poor whatever standard of poverty we use.

Gandhi's Model For India's Development
While conducting the struggle for the country's independence from alien rule, Gandhi had given a model for its development. By development he clearly meant an all-round improvement of an average Indian's quality of life. His understanding, or diagnosis, of India's problems was basically right then and is no less right even today. It cannot be called wrong on the ground that it has failed because it has not been tried in all seriousness.
I have chosen his model for discussion in this essay because it is a competing alternative to the much talked-about current one which attaches a very high value to globalization and considers it unavoidable. Gandhi was not against India's having global contracts, or global collaborative enterprises. But it seems that he would not have preferred globalization to the extent to which, or, in the manner in which, it is being preferred today. He might have rejected it, since, in effect, to a very great extent, it means free trade. He is very forthright in saying that "England has sinned against India by forcing free trade upon her."1 He is in favour of having an indigenous way of development, using, as far as possible, indigenous resources, in keeping with India's cultural and ethical traditions. The idea most foundational to his model is that neither in planning a method of development, nor in its execution, should there be anything which is unethical, or which prompts, or gives an opportunity, to any participant in it to do anything unethical. It may look odd these days to be so much concerned with ethics or morality because, many including a good number of the ruling elite, think that in public life, in one's executing a public project or development scheme, some immoralities are unavoidable or not worth bothering about. That is why immoralities which Gandhi would have considered serious go unnoticed, or are not taken seriously even if noticed.

The Concept Of Self-Sustained Village
To develop India is to develop, for Gandhi, its villages. "India is to be found" he says, "not in its few cities but in its 7,00,000 villages."2 "I would say that", he continues, "if the village perishes India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost"3. Developing a village, according to him, is to make it "self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the world."4 To make it self-sustained is to enable it to produce most of what it needs to fulfill the basic needs of its people and possibly of some others. It should be made able to grow its food crops, cotton for its cloth, fodder for its cattle, to have facilities for recreation and games, clean drinking water, good sanitation, a theatre, school, facilities of medical treatment, etc, etc. It should be left to develop in such a way that it meets not only the physical needs of its people and of some others, but also provides ample score for artistic and intellectual pursuits. In such a village "There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life worth having which will not be had in the villages."5
To develop a village, village industries, arts and crafts, must be developed. Villagers who work in these areas are to be helped by making available to them expertise and raw materials they need but lack, and the goods they produce should be brought and used even if they are more expensive and less sophisticated than their equivalents manufactured by big mills. Heavy industrialization or mechanization is needed where the available number of workers is less than what is needed for the works to be done. Here in India, Gandhi says―and what he says is more true now than it was when he said it―that the number of available workers is many times more than the number of works to be done. Therefore large-scale mechanization will increase the number of unemployed men and women which is already too large.
To make villages function in a socially cohesive way, he suggests that each village be left to function as a republic with a Panchayat, a group of individuals freely elected by its residents, as its governing agency, taking care of all disputes and managerial problems. The whole country would then be a republic with all the village republics as its building-blocks. When the question of accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few individuals is raised, Gandhiji's advice is that the rich mill owners and landowners should treat themselves as trustees, or custodians, of the wealth in their possession, and after having only as much as they need for their leading a worthwhile life, the rest of the profit they should distribute among those who do the work that has fetched the profit so that they too lead a worthwhile life.
The Gandhian model has as an ingredient of it, the suggestion that every Indian should have, or inculcate, an attitude of mind which prefers an indigenous good to a foreign-made one, and a good produced by a village-industry to one produced by a mill. The inculcation of this mentality is the basic theme of his gospel of Swadeshi. His belief is that if we have the swadeshi spirit in us, villagers and village industries would flourish, the rich would not be greedy but treat those who work for them as equals, the Panchayat would work in a fair manner, and the government of the country would provide all possible help. Naturally, then there would be an all-round development of India and the equality of life lived by an average Indian will definitely be one which he would cherish or should cherish.

Globalization And Its Likely Ethical Fall-Out
The role of globalization can be pointfully discussed only when we keep in mind a particular country, which is planning to adopt, or has actually adopted, a policy of globalization. The country which I have in mind in the present discussion is obviously India. I would discuss it with an eye on the role of globalization as an agent of development for improving the quality of the life lived by an average Indian, more specifically, a disadvantaged Indian. It should be an agent for some development even if it only adds a new shine to the luster of the life of an affluent Indian. It would do that, for example, by making available to him an air-conditioned motor car which is extremely expensive but jerk proof even on a road which has more than two feet deep crevices and more than three feet high bumps after a distance of every ten feet. But such a measure would not really do the country what its proper development ought to. On the other hand, another measure, for example, one which makes available a method of using Indian bamboo poles, instead of costly plastic or iron pipes, for being bored into the earth to draw out underground water fit for drinking, would be a better agent of development because it would be affordable even by poor people. It would fulfill a great need of theirs because clean drinking water is a rare commodity to a large number of them.
A development measure, which contributes to the further improvement of the already high quality of life of the rich, as well as to the much needed improvement of the living conditions of the present-day poor who find it extremely difficult to manage to exist, would definitely be preferable. But it does not seem to be possible because the amount of effort and resources which it would need, the country does not seem to have, therefore, the desirability of globalization should be primarily determined by the role it can play in improving the quality of life lived by disadvantaged Indians. As a developmental measure, it seems, it would proceed by first benefiting the affluent, and then some benefits may percolate to those who are below the poverty line. But it may also happen that they dry up before reaching the bottom where the poor are. In the Gandhian model, on the other hand, we have to start the development process which, first benefit those who are at the bottom of the affluence scale, and therefore it is sure to benefit the poor. It may even require the affluent to sacrifice a bit of their self-interest, or comforts. This sacrifice would be morally desirable in the eyes of foreigners interested in India. What the affluent loses in monetary terms is more than compensated by what he gains in moral terms, and in terms of a higher kind of happiness accruing to his and to others as a result of consequential social harmony.

Globalization As Multilateral Trade
Globalization can be operative in so many ways. Any country can have, if it wants to, global political relations, that is, relations with any other country in case the other is also willing to reciprocate. In academic matters, the scholars of any country can have academic contacts, through their readings and writing, with those of any other country. In matters of trade, or commerce, however, it is not possible for a trader of one country to sell his goods in another, or start a business in partnership with a trader of another country in the latter's, or his own country, unless the governments of the two countries permit the two traders to do that. To globalize trade and commerce is in principle to opt for a policy of, what Gandhi calls, free trade.
For India to accept the policy of globalization is, therefore, to declare that, if it serves its interests, India can permit a foreign investor to invest in India his capital to run his business through his own agents, or in partnership with an Indian party, private of foreign-made goods, or goods produced in India by a foreign company in collaboration with an Indian party, to be made available in the Indian market. In such ventures only top level, well-established, multinational, foreign firms are likely to enter the Indian market. They would naturally choose to station themselves in big, metropolitan cities in India. The positive side of such ventures is that certain goods which some Indians need or wait to have and which are not manufactured in India would become available to them. It is also possible that the quality of their goods is equivalent to that produced by an indigenous company. Even if the former are much more expensive than the latter, buyers, who can afford, are likely to prefer them, and to feel happier because they have got the goods of their liking. But such goods would generally be the needs of affluent city-dwellers. They would not touch the Indian poor, or even the not-so-poor. Another effect of it may be that the Indian industry producing goods of comparatively inferior quality fails to compete with the foreign industry using a superior technology, and consequently is forced to close down and dismiss all of its employees. It also is possible that it betters its technology and comes up with better products. Keeping in view the technological and financial resources of a multinational company, what is more likely is that only a big Indian company would manage to have material and human resources to compete with the former in making its products come up to the standards of the latter or even better than them. Therefore globalization may have some good effects by causing competition among big companies. But it is also likely to have adverse effects on village industries which are small-scale industries, and thereby to cause unemployment among village people. This would make a large number of those presently employed in rural traditional industries unemployed and therefore make their lives miserable. In this respect it would go against the ethics of development. Poor villagers, whom any viable model of development ought to benefit, instead of being benefited, are likely to become poorer than they presently are.
As a result of globalization, foreign money will surely enter the Indian money market. Along with it even some new technology may also become available to Indian industrialists and enable them to produce goods for which they presently do not have the required technology. Globalization would also bring in the country some skilled and unskilled foreign workers who will carry with them their ethics, including work ethics and Indian workers would come into contact with Western workers. But the Western sex ethics is more liberal and flexible then Indian sex ethics. The problems which may arise on that account may also become serious. Such problems are already arising because of the influx of foreign tourists in certain areas of the country frequented by the latter.
Some foreign-made goods may be better than their Indian-made equivalents, and vice versa. But many Indians have the prejudice that foreign-made goods are generally better than Indian goods. With globalization making foreign goods easily available, this prejudice may become stronger or more widespread, and may develop in many a feeling of national inferiority complex. Nationalism is not always ethically commendable. For example, when one nation commits aggression against another, a national of the former would be ethically right when he opposes the national policy of his country and thereby becomes international. But developing a general feeling of national inferiority complex is ethically undesirable. No nation can grow and prosper if its nationals' inferiority complex is ethically undesirable. No nation can grow and prosper if its nationals do not have national self-confidence, namely the confidence that some of their non-nationals can also produce goods, mental or material, which are as good as, or better than, those produced by some foreign national or nationals. When this confidence is eroded, the feeling of national self-respect is sure to be eroded. Behind Gandhi's emphasis on the Swadeshi spirit, there exists this idea of inculcating and nurturing the feeling of national self-confidence and of national self-respect.
There is another side to the policy of globalization or free trade, namely liberalization of exports, which has not been mentioned in the above discussion so prominently as the liberalization of imports has been. It is true that when there is free trade between India and another country, things made in India by Indians can also, in principle, enter the market of the latter, provided, of course, there is a demand for them there. But here too, only big Indian companies can benefit in this kind of commerce. Village industries, or cottage industries, would have no chance, and therefore the poor Indian labourer, or even the middle-level businessman, is likely to derive no, or very little, benefit.

Globalization And Academics
Maybe, not globalization, but something very near it, has been operative in India, since ages, in the field of academics. There have been no bar to importing foreign publications or to exporting Indian publications to other countries. Since long some important publishing houses have been having their branches in India, and Indian ones their agencies or collaborative partners abroad. Since the fourth or fifth decade of the previous century, initiative taken by the Government of India in founding some centres of academic excellence like IITs and IIMs, with the collaboration of Unesco or of countries such as USA, UK, Germany, or Russia, has produced very good results with no undesirable fallout. This means globalization cannot be called an unmixed evil, or something which has to have no place anywhere. Rather, it may be said that till date, as far as academics are concerned, we have not had enough of it, or as much of it as we need.
To elaborate what I mean, let me refer to an obvious fact of academic life. It is well-known to us that among intellectuals and academic institutions there exists a sizeable class of those who are disadvantaged, in the sense that because of the areas in which they specialize, or intend to specialize, they need some books and periodicals published abroad. But on account of their very high prices when converted into Indian currency, or of their not being easily available in the Indian book market, they are not able to buy them. Their academic progress is therefore very likely to be stopped, or to proceed too slowly. The obvious way, one may say, is to have a fully free trade in books. But it is very few, since the class of specialists is very small. Therefore the number of sellers of foreign publications coming forward would be very small. To get out of this difficult situation, the best way seems to be to do something on the pattern of the founding of IITs; that is, the Government of India, or some private agency or agencies, should come forward to found, with collaboration of some foreign partner or partners, some central libraries, say one or two in each of the regions of India, eastern, southern and central, conveniently located and properly manned, procuring foreign publications in a need based manner and making them available to intellectuals attached or non-attached, to any academic institution. Just one national library cannot do the job. It would also be worthwhile to persuade some well-known publishing houses from abroad to have their branches in India to make available low-priced Indian editions or prints of materials published abroad. It would not be unjustified to give to such firms some concessions, like allotting a suitable building on reduced rent, or even permitting them to start a little more lucrative business in some other area which may compensate for their loss, or lack of profit, if any, in the publication business.
Such steps, some may think, would benefit only a small percentage of the Indian population. But that would only be an apparent truth. By benefiting the individuals engaged in the pursuit of higher knowledge, by improving their equipment, it would improve the equipment of students and young scholars who are taught by them, or read their writings. Therefore ultimately it would tone up the caliber of all those who go in for higher education, provided they are willing and motivated to better their abilities.
It would be wrong even to say that all this would not be of much assistance in toning up the prevailing systems of primary and secondary education. School education in some countries, for example, the USA and UK, is the bedrock of their excellence in higher education, and so should be the case in India. The Indian system of school education can definitely profit by some components of methodology followed by the schools in the USA and UK. This is not to say that we borrow their methodology lock, stock, and barrel, but only that the Indian methodology may be segmented with some of the relevant and usable features of their methodology. What I am suggesting is that collaboration with some other countries may be used to tone up not only our higher education and research but also our school education. Most Indian intellectuals, I think, do believe that standards of education in some foreign countries are higher than ours though they may not say it publicly. It is not difficult to locate an Indian scholar who has been abroad for getting a degree equivalent to, or even of a lower rank than the one he already had from a prestigious Indian university. This practice is not in every case a thoughtless venture because, more often than not, his working for the degree abroad improves a great deal of his intellectual caliber and equipment.
There seems to be a suspicion in some minds that globalization in trade, and more surely in education, would bring into the country not only some alien men and materials but also some cultural ideas which may affect Indian culture in an adverse manner. This suspicion is unfounded because even without globalization alien cultural ideas are entering the Indian lifestyle. It is almost impossible to keep Indian culture or cultures isolated. Moreover, it is vain to preserve the identity of Indian culture by keeping it isolated from world cultures. If Indian culture has inner strength, Gandhi would have said, contact with other cultures will not weaken it; rather, the latter may make it shine brighter.

Placing The Gandhian And Globalization Models Face To Face
Neither the Gandhian, nor the globalization model raises any problem for ethical theory. Each one of them can be assessed, depending on the specificity of the context, in deontological, teleological, or virtue-theoretic terms, though generally theorists prefer to judge a development scheme in teleological, more specifically, utilitarian, terms. But the models do raise some problems for the ethics of development, that is, some practical, ethical, problems. This is clear from what has been said earlier. It has been shown therein that the Gandhian model is more suited to ameliorating the conditions of the Indian poor, rural or urban, whereas the globalization model is more likely to benefit the urban, maybe even the rural, affluent. This is an ethical, or moral, difference between the two because it is more ethical to do the former than to do the latter, and therefore the Gandhian model is ethically superior to the globalization model.
Since globalization may largely benefit the urban affluent and only marginally the rural or urban poor, we cannot say that it is all evil. But we can say that it is not likely to do what needs to be urgently done, namely the amelioration of the conditions of the poor. But if the liberalization which goes with globalization motivates a foreign investor to enter the Indian market by starting a big industry in an area and also to have a side-by-side operation which benefits the local poor a great deal, I do not think there should be any serious objection to his doing both. But still the Gandhian model is better because it aims at developing a village in a manner which retains and strengthens those components of the village ethos which deserve to be retained and strengthened. It is something like trying to cure a sick man's ailment by giving him to eat out of the dibbles in his own kitchen those which not only have curative properties but are also pleasing to his palate.
Notwithstanding his great respect for the classical Indian ideal of acquiring happiness by having no attachment for the consequences of one's actions, Gandhi does not plead for the poor man's cultivating this attitude, nor does he admonish him to curtail his desires, or to exercise self-control. This he does not, because he realizes and more truly than most of his contemporaries or cohorts did that their desires are already too modest. The breathing idea behind his advice or suggestion to Indians, via his proposal for developing village industries to such an extent that they become capable of producing all, or almost all, of the goods required to satisfy all or almost all of the basic needs or desires of villagers, is that this method or mode of satisfying their needs would arouse in them their sense of self-respect and self-confidence, and thereby make their resultant happiness much superior to that which they may have by buying goods made by some foreign countries or concerns. Gandhi's ideal was people's happiness, a mental state, achievable through the instrumentation of self-activity or, putting it materialistically, indigenous production. This state is not quantifiable but is clear and precise enough for being made the goal of a development strategy. It is, therefore, not identical with the modern consumption. That is, when the availability of goods increases and with it increases material consumption, that is, the consumption of the goods, a modern economist would say, welfare increases. Quite obviously, welfare, in this understanding of it, would be a measurable concept and therefore more congenital for modern, or mathematical, economists.
Whichever way one thinks fit to characterize it, Gandhi's economics, or economic development, is by and large qualitative. It is morality-centric because its goal is the realization of people's satisfaction on happiness, but not any kind of satisfaction or happiness. Using a modern ethical terminology, it is informed, that is, rationally justifiable, satisfaction or happiness which they can attain only after having gotten rid of their prejudices, biases, superstitions, wrong beliefs, etc. that is, after having been properly informed of the right kind of things they ought to desire and to have. Making them properly informed was the main objective, or one of the main objectives, of his constructive programme, since an important component of it was the constructive criticism of social evils accompanied with the dissemination of a healthy and coherence-promoting social ethics.
The apparent snag in the Gandhian model is the impossible looking task of impressing upon a big landlord, or a factory owner, to behave in the manner of a trustee of people's property and not in that of its master, as he does even now, more than half a century after India's becoming politically independent. If this problem can be solved by adopting some governmental, legislative, social or political, measures to stop exploitation of the poor workers, rural or urban, the Gandhian model would be decidedly the best. It would not only have no undesirable ethical fallout, but will be very greatly primitive of the sentiments of national self-respect and national self-confidence which are likely to be weakened in some by the adoption of the globalization model.
The idea of trusteeship, among Gandhian ideas of social reconstruction, is the idea which has been or, one of those ideas which have been, considered to be impracticable. But it is also true that in his theory of social reconstruction the two building-blocks of which are nonviolence (ahimsa) and truth (satya), practicalizing this idea could be the only logical way to stop capitalistic exploitation of labour. Gandhi had in his mind a picture of the way in which the political worker, the elected representative, that is, the political ruler, would or should, function in independent India. That his style of life would be very simple and imbued with his commitment to the primary of the ethical to the commitment to preferring an ethical consideration to any non-ethical or unethical consideration was, according to him, the sin qua non for a healthy political practice or for one participating in it. To emphasize this aspect of a worthwhile political practice he did not hesitate whenever there was an occasion to. But the political practice in post-Independence India took a different, or rather an opposite, turn. Elections became highly expensive. Aspiring politicians and political parties started collecting funds, and large amounts of money could come only from rich capitalists. A capitalist who donates huge amounts would naturally try to compensate for the donation made through his profits in howsoever unfair a manner possible. And since he has obliged a political individual or a party, he would naturally expect and also get their support if he is in trouble on account of having indulged in any unfair but highly profit-yielding deal.
Taking profit is not ethically undesirable. A businessmen has the right to make profit, but he has to keep his profit making endeavour within the bounds of morality. He would do that marvelously well if he treats himself as the trustee of the property from the use of which he earns his profit. Gandhi had the moral right to say to a capitalist that he should do that because he himself always kept his personal or public operations well within the bounds of morality. But a post-Independence politician lost his right to do that because of his practice of collecting money from the rich to be elected and thereby to be in power. Therefore a trend of thought set in to the effect that the very idea of trusteeship itself was unpracticalizable. But the fact of the matter is that such political individuals, or parties, did not come up who had the moral right to persuade, or even tell, a capitalist to behave like a Gandhian trustee. A businessman can be expected or required to earn his profit only in a morally desirable manner, and not to exploit those who work for him and by their work enable him to earn the profit, only if he himself is not exploited by anyone, any politician, or political party, in being pressed to make heavy donations to their political funds.
Heavy donations to political funds can be made only by big industrialists, or landowners, and not by owners of small village industries were not and are not developed to the extent to which Gandhi wanted. Even globalization, going in for multinational trade, is in the same direction of encouraging the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few individuals, or groups of individuals. All this may eventually happen, in spite of some opposition to it. But the axiom of the Gandhian model of development to develop India while preserving its ethics-cultural identity is to develop its villages and its ethical soundness is as valid today as, if not more than, they were in pre-Independence India.

Source : Gandhi Marg, Vol. - 22; No - 2; July - Sep 2001

  1. M. K. Gandhi, India of My Dreams( Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1947 ), p.124.
  2. Ibid, p.91.
  3. Ibid, p.104.
  4. Ibid, p.99.
  5. Ibid, pp.97-98.