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

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.