ARTICLES : Gandhian view on Economics

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Managing Rural Economy In Gandhian Way: Empowering India for Globalisation

By Mrs Priya Parkar

Globalisation is the process of integrating various economies of the world to allow free flow of goods, services, technologies, capital and human labour. India has stepped into the era of globalisation with the introduction of new economic reforms since 1991. The importance of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation has resulted in gradual withdrawal of unnecessary trade and business restrictions, encouragement to private initiatives and integration of the Indian economy to the world economy. Adoption of economic reforms or globalisation has resulted in the overall economic development of the country. The ILO Report (2004), states that there are winners and losers in India as a result of globalisation. The lives of educated and rich have been enriched by globalisation. However, the benefits are yet to reach the majority, and new risks are being cropped up for the losers, the socially deprived and the rural poor. Even the ranking of “Human Development Index” says India ranked 124th in 2001; 126th in 2006 and further degraded to 134th in 2011; (UNDP report 2001; 2006; 2011). We observe that globalisation brought polarisation in the Indian society & failed to eliminate the problems of many important socio-economic sectors. But India is already hooked on to globalisation. Apart from these failure, globalisation has other possible negative effects like loss of economic independence of India, fear of dumping, destruction of domestic industries, resource depletion etc.

Objectives of the paper
The Gandhian Path of Development seems the most suitable and sustainable alternative for a country like India, which is predominantly rural in character. (Das B. C. & Mishra G. P., 1979) to face the challenges created by globalisation. The Gandhian Economic Concepts may lead us to constructive thinking for the good of the country. The paper attempts to analyse the contemporary relevance of the Gandhian Model of sustainable economic development for India in the era of globalisation. By virtue of the analysis, we can assess whether Gandhian philosophy can guide to achieve Millennium Development Goals introduced for India.
Sustainable Economic Development
Gandhian economics starts from the fundamental proposition that the economic policy of colonial regions must be eliminated and new economic tailor-made order should be erected which will abolish the exploitative effect of factory – manufactures & the parasitic effect of the urban – rural relations (or developed – developing regions). Sustainable development is development, which meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (WCED; 1987). It is based on Economic Efficiency, Use of Local Resources and Local workforce, Conservation of Resources and Social Equity. Gandhi was very well aware that India lives in villages hence if village economy is improved then only India will improve. Hence, he laid emphasis on micro level regional planning & focused on the overall development of the villages. Let us have look towards Gandhian model of economics.
Economic Effieciency
Economic Efficiency refers to revival of village industries for sustainable economic development. Gandhi was firm on encouraging village level cottage industries which are based on local raw material to create employment for the local people. The village industries cannot be complete without basic essential industries such as hand grinding, oil pressing, soap making, paper making etc. The other village industries cover cattle farming, dairying, farming, compost manure. Most of the industries located in the cities require raw material produced in the villages. However, it may not benefit villagers as expected. eg. sugar cane is produced by the villagers but sugar mills are in the hands of a few rich people. Gandhi stressed on rural development through small scale industries & the principle of trusteeship. In the current context, India’s villages require to be revived.
Consumption of local resources
Gandhi believed in a self-sufficient village economy. The idea of self-sufficiency of villages means the villages in their capacity should try to meet the basic requirements of the villagers. Whatever things cannot be produced should be obtained in exchange of surplus products produced in villages. But it does not means that villages will export or send it to the far off cities and metros. In a nutshell, villages should be served first, then neighbourhood, then district & then the province.
Gandhi insisted on consumption of locally grown products & food. This is especially valid even in today’s world. The consumption of locally produced products safeguards local market for producers; it saves valuable foreign currency & controls global warming by reducing the fuel consumption on transporting goods. According to Gandhi, the so called modern civilisation that big cities wish to replicate from western countries which may not sustain as their development is not based on the local resources.
Gandhian philosophy states “economic progress in terms of reduction in the absolute number of the people who feels that they are living below an acceptable minimum standard of living.” This is so; because he believed the capitalism tend to increase the unlimited needs & number of poor people. Hence, according Gandhi, elimination of poverty is not possible by mere growing per capita incomes (as it would have increased the unhappiness) but by minimizing requirements. He was convinced that “If villages perish, India will perish too”. He insisted on village industries, primary education through handicrafts, and eradication of untouchability, communal harmony, and non-violent organisation of labour.
Use of Local Human Resources
In order to eradicate disguised unemployment, he believed in a labour intensive approach rather than capital intensive & emphasise on self sufficiency of the villages. The revived village industries would create livelihood for millions of villagers. One must note here that Gandhi was not against machines but he wanted to create employment for the millions of hands which otherwise would remain idle. In order to use local human resources & to control migration from rural to urban area, organization of labour intensive public works schemes are necessary to raise the productivity of agriculture along with revival of the village-based industries. In the absence of Government support it was quite rational to emphasise on ‘Khadi’ to provide work to the hands of unutilised hands instead of using mill produced clothes. The ultimate goal was to reconstitute the villages.
Gandhi used to say that “Go back to the villages”. Critics, who never understood him, felt that it is like putting the hands of the clock of progress behind. He never meant that city dwellers should go & reside in the villages but he wanted the youth from the villages should sustain in the villages. Sustainable economic development is not possible without local & trained human resources. Youth should spend their vacations in the villages surrounding their colleges & those who have finished their education should think of settling in the villages for reconstruction of the villages.
Conservation of local resources
Resources could be conserved by avoiding wastage. What is waste in one becomes a raw material in the other. Gandhi insisted on conservation & management of local resource to meet the local needs. According to him “there is sufficient to satisfy the needs but not the greed”. He warned that if we could not take care of our animal resources then instead of becoming resources they would become a burden on our economy. He also advised to produce first to satisfy the basic needs by growing food & cotton also emphasized on land use planning by preserving grazing grounds & some place for recreational purpose, ensuring clean water supply and then keeping some land for growing cash crops, maintaining public amenities.
Social equity by empowering the underprivileged
For social equity & to rebuild India from the lowest level with the poorest & the weakest, Gandhi was in favour of the highest degree of localization & decentralization of production & distribution along with ownership of the means of production in the labourers themselves (Das, A. A.) He did not favour a powerful Central Government to assess the need of the people, to determine the priorities & to formulate the policies to satisfy the needs. He wanted Panchayati Raj as a governing unit of administration for all purposes at the village level. Thus he insisted on decentralization of power for micro level development.
Contemporary Relevance of Gandhian Model to attain Millennium Goals of 21st Century
At the turn of the century, in the year 2000, the U.N. and the world leaders agreed on a number of global goals that should be achieved in the new Millennium. The MDG that were identified dealt with poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality and empowering of women, reduced child mortality & improved maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing global partnerships for development. It asserts that every individual has the right to dignity, freedom, equality, a basic standard of living that includes freedom from hunger and violence, and encourages tolerance and solidarity.
Gandhi being the real visionary he had these MDG on his priority list since then. His philosophy & thinking can only show the light to achieve MDG goals. It included eradication of poverty through empowering village economy as India lives in the villages. He gave teachings of non-violence & tolerance, Fight against the evils such as untouchability & communalism which weakens the unity & solidarity of the country, and believe in the education of masses.
Eradication of poverty
Eradication of poverty through empowering the village economy as India lives in the villages was the agenda of Gandhi. India lives in the villages; hence for eradication of poverty efforts are necessary on the grass root levels. This is reflected through his message of making village economy ‘Self-sufficient’ & retaining village manpower in the villages by revival of cottage industry (labour intensive & based on local raw material). He wished that each common man should have a dignified life.
Village sanitation & health
He believed that sanitation is a science & his ideas on village sanitation were related to clean & diseases-free villages where people are practising environmental ethics such as recycle & reuse. According to him, improved sanitation can enhance the lifestyle of the people. So he insisted on right habits of hygiene (Joshi D.).
Untouchability & communalism
According to him, untouchability & communalism are evils which weaken the unity & solidarity of the country. Gandhi’s untouchability movement was a gesture of unity with the depressed classes. He wanted to bring all the masses irrespective of their differences into mainstream of the society for unity of nation. He strongly recommended the principle of ‘Non-violence’, as peace leads to the prosperity.
Education of Masses
Gandhi was a firm believer of ‘Basic Education & Adult Education to all’. He believed that process of education is continuous throughout the life of an individual & it should teach one to discriminate between the good & the bad. According to him, “Nayi Talim” means the education should be imparted through the hands on training & should blend the four things of life together viz. craft, literary instruction, hygiene & art. He insisted that craft should be regarded as a medium for industries. Rather than treating them different than the education. Thus he emphasized on skill & job oriented education of masses which will help them to earn their livelihood.
The findings of the paper emphasise the evil effects and deficiencies of the process of globalisation & economic crisis can be aptly handled by the appropriate application of Gandhian’s revised economic model. Of course it needs the some context-setting as per the changing framework of modern society. To conclude in a nutshell, it is clear that he was a great visionary & his principles cannot be overlooked as they can still guide the 21st C. India too.

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Courtesy: This article has been reproduced from the ISBN Publication - Gandhi in the New Millennium - Issues and Challenges' published by Khandwala Publishing House.

* Associate Professor in Environmental Studies, Maharshi Dayanand College, Parel, Mumbai 400 012.