Skip to main content

Gandhi wasn't in favour of putting too much burden on resources provided by nature

By Sandeep Pandey*
In Mahatma Gandhi’s lifetime climate change or threat to environment was not yet a perceived problem. Therefore it is no surprise that there is no explicit mention of it in Gandhi’s concerns. Yet his entire worldview was environment friendly. Protection of environment or non-destruction of nature was in-built in his philosophy.
He expected his most ardent followers, especially the ones who chose to live with him at his various ashrams, to be bound by certain vows. Vow of truth meant no deception to be practiced. Truth could lead to opposition of our loved ones. Vow of non-violence was applicable to all living beings as well as to one’s adversary. Cow protection for him was learning to respect an animal where man is taken beyond his species and identifies with all living beings.
Gandhi was sensitive enough not to partake even cow’s milk which he thought belonged to her calves. It was later in life upon a doctor’s insistence and his wife Kasturba’s advice after putting up resistance, he agreed with great difficulty, to take goat’s milk. Vow of celibacy was meant to control one’s passions, even in thought. He was of the view that a lifelong relationship of purity must be observed between a man and woman married together.
Similarly, he expected people to have control over their palate. For him possessing articles which were not needed was akin to theft. He believed that nature provides us enough to fulfill our daily needs and its role was to provide only that much. This not only precluded any hoarding but also possession of items not absolutely essential for us.
It other words Mahatma Gandhi believed in simple living and by extension not putting too much burden on the resources provided to us by nature. He was known to optimally use the resources available to him and to keep meticulous record of their usage.
As part of his Swadeshi philosophy he was against the use of manufactured items which were a product of labourers subjected to much misery. He ran a campaign to boycott foreign made goods produced by sophisticated machinery. He was a votary of simple clothes which could be produced by hand in India.
Gandhi was so opposed to machinery that he preferred an India dependent on British market rather than an India using British machinery. He said it would be better to buy materials manufactured in Manchester than to set up Manchester factories in India and that an Indian Rockefeller would be no better than a European capitalist. He further articulated that machinery is a great sin which enslaves nations and money is a poison as much as sexual vice.
Hence, Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of development was, by default, non-exploitative of nature as it would not include most machines which we use in our daily lives. Machines, like automobiles, and machine making industries are the worst pollutants of environment and sources of carbon emissions. But unfortunately the modern world has adopted a path of development which is in direct contrast to the one suggested by Gandhi.
The dilemma of modern development is best captured by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the trusted lieutenant of Manmohan Singh, the modern economist Prime Minister who put India on fast track development with his neo-liberal policies.
A Human Development Report released by United Nations Development Programme in 2007-08 recommended that developed countries aim for a 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 and major emitters in developing world, like India and China, aim for 20% reduction. 
The trap in which people like Montek Singh Ahluwalia fall: Ignoring Gandhi’s advice to reject pollution-generating industrialised model of development
It warned that trend of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could lead to reversals in progress made in nutrition, health and poverty reduction. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, then deputy chairman of planning commission, described abovementioned recommendation as fundamentally flawed because it did not address the issue of equity.
He argued that United States, which emitted 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita per year would reach a level of 3 tonnes after 80% reduction but India, which emitted merely 1.2 tonnes would come down to about 0.8 tonne of carbon dioxide per capita per year after a 20% cut. He did not consider this fair enough.
The UNDP report said that if each poor person on the planet had the same energy rich life style as that in US and Canada, nine planets would be needed to safely cope with pollution.
The trap in which people like Montek Singh Ahluwalia fall is quite obvious. Ignoring Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to reject the concept of pollution generating industrialised model of development if we make the developed world as our ideal then we’ll also have to match their pollution levels. This is quite clearly non-sustainable. Government of India follows the same misconceived thinking of development even today.
Instead what was expected of India was to evolve an alternative model of development which may not have produced fantastic growth as was achieved by Manmohan Singh’s methods but would have aimed at providing employment to all our youth as well as would have been ecologically sustainable. Manmohan Singh used to repeatedly talk about jobless growth and even advocates that today.
But that is not in the interest of the country. Instead Bhutan has taken a courageous step by declaring that Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important that Gross Domestic Product. The idea of GNH is based on holistic and sustainable thinking which gives importance to non-economic indicators too.
After all well being is not just in economic terms. Bhutan has identified a total of 33 indicators in nine equally weighted domains like cultural and ecological diversity and resilience as well as community vitality in a paradigm of Buddhist understanding.
This is what Gandhi was trying to convey when he rejected the western idea of progress. He claimed that the Hindu view of life and progress was markedly different from the western perspective. He strived to explain his views painstakingly through writings like Hind Swaraj but alas even his close colleagues like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel didn’t share his vision.
However, as the world hurtles towards a climate change crisis Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas would increasingly seem to have more wisdom. Our future existence will depend on how much willing we are to adopt them.
---
*Magsaysay award winning social and political activist, contact: ashaashram@yahoo.com

Comments

TRENDING

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

Church in India 'seems to have lost' moral compass of unequivocal support to the poor

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In 2017, Pope Francis dedicated a special day, to be observed by the Universal Church, every year, as the ‘World Day of the Poor’. This year it will be observed on November 17 on the theme ‘The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever’; in a message for the day Pope Francis says:

'Discussed' with Modi, Gujarat Rann Sarovar proposal for Kutch runs into rough weather

By Rajiv Shah
Top Saurashtra industrialist Jaysukhbhai Patel’s by now controversial proposal to convert the 4,900 sq km Little Rann of Kutch area, an eco-sensitive zone – a UNESCO biosphere, world’s only wild ass reserve, and a nesting ground of lesser flamingoes – into a huge sweet water lake, called Rann Sarovar, has suffered a major roadblock. At least three Central agencies have expressed serious doubts about its feasibility.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.