Skip to main content

Recalling Gandhi's warning of the dangers of 'abject dependence' on technology

Dr John Chelladurai
By Rosamma Thomas*
The Gandhi Research Foundation (GRF), Jalgaon, was founded in 2012. In its less-than-a-decade lifetime, this institution has worked to “preserve for posterity the profound legacy of Gandhiji’s life, thought and work,” says its vision, declared on its website.
On August 28, 2021, Dean of Academics at the GRF was addressing an audience at Wardha, across the road from Gandhiji’s Sewagram Ashram, on the subject ‘How Gandhi comes alive today’. He had prepared his slides in English, but seeing that the audience comprised elected representatives from the gram panchayats in the state who would better understand if he spoke either Marathi or Hindi, he delivered his lecture in Hindi.
Conflict too can be a creative experience, he said. To Gandhi, Truth was Supreme – Satya, the Hindi word for truth, derives from ‘Sat’ the word that stands for essence in Sanskrit. Anything that exists is true, he said. You are truth, your life is truth; these are not figments of the imagination. To protect, promote and preserve all life was thus service of truth.
To understand Satya or Truth better, some actions were recommended – Sarvodaya – or the awakening of all, universal uplift – was the noble aim of all actions inspired by truth. And this could be achieved through Swaraj, Swadeshi and Swavalamban – self-rule, reliance on domestic production and self-sufficiency. Sarvodaya would not happen until Antayodaya was achieved – the upliftment and awakening of the very last man. We are thus all in it together, and prosperity for a few and pauperization of many can hardly achieve the aims that Gandhi stood for.
So how could we go about changing our situation? Dr Chelladurai explained:
“We are given to believe that when a big factory is set up in our village, employment will be generated. But is that really true? What if the factory produces sugar, and we already have as much sugar as we need? Then, a fresh factory will only cause a dip in the production from other factories, and perhaps a displacement of labour as some people may be laid off from their jobs in factories that decide to produce less, since consumption will not expand rapidly to absorb increased supply. Thus, instead of creating employment opportunities, the new factory might only cause displacement of employment.”
So what is the solution? What we need is a relationship between the producer and the supplier – when the two come together, production can be planned, and consumers instead of being passive can direct production. Suppose there is need for cooking oil. The needs of one family alone cannot sustain a production facility. If, however, there were 200 families that came together, and there was need for a large quantity of cooking oil, it may be possible to consider a production facility that serves their needs. 
This way, since all villages will never be able to produce all they need, they can enter into relationships with each other, and buy what they need from each other instead of enriching multinational firms or large corporate groups that do not offer any employment or other benefits to local communities who might be consumers of their products.
Dr Chelladurai was rudely stopped by Prof Gita Dharampal, Dean of Research, Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, while chairing the session
Dr Chelladurai, speaking in Hindi, had the audience transfixed. It was clear that what he offered was a workable solution, one that would go a long way in attaining gram swaraj. He was speaking at a session of the two-day ‘Gandhiji and Gram Swaraj’ meeting organized by Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, in collaboration with the Sewagram Ashram Prathishthan, Wardha.
This meeting was held partly online, since all speakers could not be physically present at the venue. Dr Chelladurai was abruptly – and rather rudely -- stopped by Prof Gita Dharampal of  the Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, where she is Dean of Research. Chairing the session she said she could not hear him online. The next speaker that Prof Dharampal thought exceedingly highly about was an undergraduate student conducting research on Gandhi and his work at Wardha.
The proceedings at this session reminded many in the audience of Gandhi’s “Hind Swaraj”, where he warned of the dangers of abject dependence on technology, which could serve to extend human abilities but could never completely replace human ability.
The vast majority of the audience gathered for the event was at Wardha. Yet, a professor listening online from Pune could call a halt to a speaker who was communicating well and perfectly audible, because she could not hear him; what is worse, Prof Dharampal even mentioned that Dr Chelladurai was not speaking on the theme of the session.
This incident also gave one reason to question the fact that an undergraduate student with nothing new to offer to people familiar with Gandhi literature was given as much time as a seasoned scholar with a wealth of interesting experience.
Some members in the audience were aghast by the rudeness of Prof Dharampal. Dr Chelladurai, however, spoke as requested, took only a few minutes more, and did not insist on showing the audience his full presentation – he is, after all, a “social analyst specialized in conflict transformation and peace building”.
---
*Freelance journalist based in Pune

Comments

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Mark Lee: A spiritual leader who thought conventional religions are barrier to liberation

  By Harsh Thakor*  The Krishnamurti Foundation of America (KFA) lost Roger Edwin Mark Lee, who was a devoted disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the greatest and most self realised spiritual philosophers of our time. Mark passed away due to pneumonia complications on April 6, 2024, at he Ventura Community Memorial Hospital in California. His exit was an irreparable loss to the spiritual world.

Fossil fuel projects: NGOs ask investors to cut TotalEnergies’ main sources of finance

By Antoine Bouhey, Lara Cuvelier, Helen Burley*  Reclaim Finance has joined 58 NGOs from around the world, including Banktrack, in signing an open letter calling on banks and investors to stop participating in bonds (loans granted by investors and facilitated by banks) issued by TotalEnergies. The 58 NGO signatories include 350.org , Amazon Watch, BankTrack, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR, Papua New Guinea), Justiça Ambiental (Mozambique) and Friday for Future (Uganda), Oil Change International and Urgewald (Germany).