Are we remembering Gandhi holistically?

Worker is alienated from the means of production

Yet another October 2 has passed by. This year clean India campaign was undertaken with the fanfare it more than deserved. The Prime Minister led with the broom in hand sweeping the streets at Valmiki sadan where the Mahatma had lived. Bureaucrats took the pledge for making India clean and make 100 others take the pledge.

A large quantity of municipal solid waste is generated every day. Like lifestyle diseases this is also a byproduct of our collective lifestyle. We live in an era of advertising blitz in which there is a spree to change and exchange commodities. Capitalism, in its search for higher profits, invariably shortens life cycle of products and forces obsolescence.

The fast disappearing tribe of those who repair and maintain (pen doctors and watch repairers have almost become extinct or endangered) results in abandoning of consumer durables which join the group of solid and e-wastes. When strength of an economy is measured by the quantity of output and services produced, production for profit is encouraged and environmental consequences are ignored. Worker is alienated from the means of production.

Mahatma Gandhi who was not a political leftist could clearly discern the predatory invasions on environment which unbridled capitalism could cause. The spinning wheel he propagated was more than symbolic. This was a counter to the hegemonistic capitalist model which caused alienation of the worker from the means of production in the monstrous factory system. Cleaning premises was also a part of Gandhi’s campaign against a political and economic system which destroyed the dignity of labour and destroyed foundations of personal liberty in search of profits and accumulation which were Moses and Prophet for it.

Gandhi’s fight was not only against the British might but against the concept of an authoritarian state and politics remote from people. Ideas of economic reconstruction, constructive activities (including cleaning), building a new polity in which democracy has deeper roots than the Westminster system, and communal harmony were cornerstones of Gandhian ideology. Unfortunately, in independent India, we have not built up a state based on Gandhi’s vision. Here, it needs mention that Dr. Ambedkar’s reasoned critique and often skepticism need not be ignored.

While taking our Prime Minister’s call for Clean India positively, thinkers will have to debate seriously on remembering Mahatma Gandhi more holistically for a waste free India or even a world. It requires a huge conscience revolution. This is a far more Herculean a task. While appreciating and participating wholeheartedly in campaign for a Clean India, let us look ahead and approach Gandhi holistically lest we should touch only tip of an iceberg.

(The author is a researcher in issues of Indian federal polity)

( Source : dc )
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