GANDHIAN SOLUTION TO GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL CRISIS: SOME REFLECTIONS
The Surest and Perhaps the Only Solution to Our Impending Catastrophic Global Ecological Crisis
(1)Ecological Crisis and Gandhian Alternative to Modern Western Form of Development
Neither Gandhiji nor the seers of various great religions would approve the present culture of development of modern western civilization which has caused disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-sustaining natural systems, (in the form of causing pollution of air, water, land, global warming and climate change, depletion of non-renewable natural resources, depletion of ozone layer, etc.) which has devastating implications in the long run for our future generations as well as for the entire life world. Polluting the essential requirements of life such as air, water and land, etc. and consuming the limited non-renewable natural resources at the cost of the essential needs of our future generations or of our fellow lower form of creatures for the sake of luxuries is highly immoral. Unlike the explicit human-centric ethics of modern western civilization, the ethics of classical Indian civilization has been explicitly life-centric. Gandhiji clearly sees: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated…It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God the compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.” “A society can be judged the way it treats its animals. It is arrogant to say that human beings are lords of and masters of the lower creatures. On the contrary, being endowed with great things in life, they are the trustees of the lower animal kingdom” (T.N. Khoshoo, Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, pp.65-66.) Gandhiji was once asked if he expected independent India to attain the same standard of living as Britain. Gandhiji replied, “It took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve this prosperity. How many planets will a country like India require!” He firmly believes that “the earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” (Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, p.7.)
It is worth noting that according to WWF’s 2006 Living Planet Report, the demand people place on the natural world was 25% greater than the earth’s annual ability to provide everything from food to energy and recycle all human waste in 2003; on current projections humanity will be using two planets’ worth of natural resources every year by 2050; if the rest of the world led the kind of life styles as those in America, we would require five planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb the waste: people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources. Gndhiji would not support a culture of development which produces harmful waste materials such as long-lived radioactive wastes which neither man nor nature could convert into useful or harmless material. He would also not support a culture of development based on non renewable limited natural resources such as fossil fuels, natural carbon stores, etc. to support luxurious form of life even if it is based on green technology, if it is at the cost of essential needs of our future generations. Surely it would be highly immoral to deprive our future generations such natural resources for the sake of our luxuries.
In the beginning of 20th century in his Hind Swaraj, Gandhiji made a severe condemnation of modern western civilization and articulated an alternative to it involving essentially retelling the basic values of the great teachers and seers of our classical Indian civilization in the context of our present technological age. It was his firm conviction that in the materialization of his vision lay the true freedom of India, and through India of the world at large. He considered the modern western civilization to be essentially an irreligious false civilization in the sense that selfless ethical love, which constitutes the essence of religious life, has no place or only peripheral place in it, and what it considers to be the ultimate goal of life is essentially false. For Gandhiji “to lead a spiritual life” and “to lead a religious life” essentially mean the same as to lead a selfless ethical life of Love and to realize God, to realize Truth, to realize self, to realize liberation is essentially the same as to realize a perfect enlightened selfless ethical life of love. Gandhiji did not change his view about modern Western civilization till the end of his life(For a discussion on this issue, please see the note entitled “Gandhiji on Modern Western Civilization and Classical Indian Civilization” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
Village Swaraj and Swadeshi:
Gandhiji’s thought does provide the form and content of a non-violent form of development in the present context, which is the surest and perhaps the only solution to our impending catastrophic global ecological crises. His alternative to modern western form of development is his conception of Village Swaraj, Swadeshi and Bread-labour (rural-self rule, economic self-reliance and dignified body-labour with in a critical ethical culture of Truth and non-violence). Gandhiji says, “My idea of Village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbors for its vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity…..The government of the village will be conducted by the Panchayat of five persons, annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications… Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office….. Here there is perfect democracy based on individual freedom. The individual is the architect of his own government. The law of non-violence rules him and his government. He and his village are able to defy the might of a world. For the law governing every villager is that he will suffer death in the defense of his and his village’s honor.” (Selections from Gandhi, pp47-48.)
About his conception of ideal village, Gandhi had written in Harijan on 4th August 1946: “When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short there will be nothing in life which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be like tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit. The reconstruction of villages along these lines should begin right now…not on a temporary but permanent basis.”
According to Gandhiji, “Swadeshi is the spirit in us which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surrounding to the exclusion of the more remote.” “I have never considered the exclusion of everything foreign under every conceivable circumstance as part of swadeshi. The board definition of Swadeshi is the use of all home-made things to the exclusion of foreign things, in so far as such use is necessary for the protection of home industry, more especially those industries without which India will become pauperized. In my opinion, therefore, Swadeshi which excludes the use of everything foreign, no matter how beneficent it may be, and irrespective of the fact that it impoverishes nobody, is a narrow interpretation of Swadeshi”. (Selections from Gandhi, p.306.) “It (Khadi) means a wholesale Swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the necessaries of life in India and that too through the labour and intellect of the villagers… the latter (the villages of India) will be largely self-contained, and will voluntarily serve the cities of India and even the outside world in so far as it benefits both the parties…. Khadi mentality means decentralization of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life. Therefore, the formula so far evolves is every village to produce all its necessaries and a certain percentage in addition for the requirements of the cities.” (Constructive Programme, pp9-10) “I do visualize electricity, ship-building, iron-works, machine-making and the like existing side-by-side with village handicrafts. But the order of dependence will be reversed. Hitherto industrialization has been so planned as to destroy the villages and village crafts. In the state of the future, it will subserve the villages and their crafts. Nothing will be allowed to be produced by the cities that can be equally well produced by the villages. The proper function of the cities is to serve as clearing houses for village products.” (Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, p. 37.)
Gandhiji saw clearly: “The contrast between the rich and the poor today is a painful sight. The poor villagers are exploited by the foreign government and also by their own countrymen- city-dwellers. They produce the food and go hungry. They produce milk and their children have to go without it. It is disgraceful. Everyone must have a balanced diet, a decent house to live in, facilities for the education of one’s children and adequate medical relief.” (Selections From Gandhi, p.79.) It is surely highly deplorable that even more than sixty years after our country’ independence even when our GDP growth is very high, our farmers and weavers are committing suicide in large numbers. Our intellectuals have failed to create the mass awareness necessary to create mass movements against various forms of injustice. Although India’s independence was brought as the result of a great mass non-violent political struggle under Gandhiji’s leadership, which perhaps has no parallel instance in the entire history of mankind, they even fail to see that the Gandhian nonviolent mass-struggle against various forms of mass-injustice which exist in the world today on the basis of differences in species, class, gender, race, color, caste, religion, language, etc. is the surest and best means to root out them from the world. They fail to see that a non-violent movement is a process of self-purification and a bloodless revolution of “thought and spirit.” “You need not be afraid that the method of non-violence is a slow long-drawn out process. It is the swiftest the world has seen, for it is the surest.” (Selections from Gandhi,p. 165.) Non-violent means ” results in the long run in the least loss of life and what is more it ennobles those who lose their lives and morally enriches the world for their sacrifice.” (Selections from Gandhi, p. 166.) “When they (the farmers) become conscious of their non-violent strength no power on earth can resist them.” “A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good.” (Selections from Gandhi,p. 77.) It is worth noting that “46 farmers commit suicide every day in India, the National Crime Records Bureau said in its latest report, ‘the Accidental Deaths and Suicide Report-2007.’ A whooping 16632 cases of suicides by farmers were recorded across the country last year with Maharashtra retaining the dubious distinction of having the largest number of such cases.” (The Times of India, December 16, 2008, Pune.)
The culture of development of modern western civilization treats Nature as an adversary to be subdued and conquered, but the Gandhian approach to technological progress lies in considering Nature as our friend and benefactor. All religions directly or indirectly accept the natural systems which sustain healthy life to be sacred and invaluable. Contrary to the widely accepted belief, Gandhiji is not against machinery or development per se. He is certainly not against pursuit of study and research in human and natural sciences or against the use of machinery for development within the limits of ethics. But even if it would be possible to have a highly affluent pollution free, eco-friendly, technological society with sustainable development, Gandhiji would not consider such a society to be ideal. For it is his firm belief that a society in which the masses lead a simple life of contentment and high thinking depending on body-labour for their essential requirements, the masses would lead a far healthier and happier life. He is certainly against the replacement of body-labor by machine-work, but not against making physical work more joyful with the help of machine-work: it is his firm conviction that willing obedience to the law of body-labour brings contentment and health. “A millionaire cannot carry on for long, and will soon get tired of his life, if he rolls in his bed all day along, and even helped to the foods he eats. If every one, whether rich or poor, has thus to take exercise in some shape or form, why should it not assume the form of productive, i.e., Bread Labour?” (Selections From Gandhi, p. 68.) Thus he is against mass production “by the fewest possible number through the aid of highly complicated machinery”, but not against mass production by masses in their own homes by the help of ” simple tools and instruments and such machinery as saves individual labour and lightens the burden of the millions of cottages.”
He is not against factory production by using sophisticated machines if it is necessary for the benefit of the people. “Do I seek to destroy the mill industry, I have often been asked…. I want the mill industry to prosper- only I do not want it to prosper at the expense of the country. On the contrary, if the interests of the country demand that the industry should go, I should let it go without the slightest compunction.” (Selections from Gandhi, p.68.) But he would prefer such factories to be nationalized, although he firmly believes that any capitalist like any other human being could transform his life into a life of enlightened ethical goodness and use his wealth to meet what he reasonably requires for his personal needs and act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for the society.
Gandhiji rightly says: “I would say that if the village perishes India will perish too. Indi will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited…. Therefore we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.” (Selections from Gandhi, pp.69-70.)
He did not want to taboo everything above and beyond the bare necessities but they must come after the essential needs of the poor are satisfied. Although Gandhiji’s ideal life is an enlightened unselfish ethical life of plain living and high thinking, it is absolutely voluntary. He would not approve anyone to be forced to lead a simple life unless in some situation it is a moral requirement. No villager should be deprived of against his will to pursue a luxurious urban life within the limits of morality, which would not be possible without providing all equal opportunity for education and work.
Gandhiji would never approve the present extremely eco-hostile, out-and-out consumerist and inherently unsustainable self-destructive market culture of development of unlimited desires and cut throat competition for getting more and more wealth beyond one’s genuine needs for their satisfaction, which is essentially born of lust for pleasure, greediness and envy, and spreading like wild fire globally almost without any hindrance. He clearly sees: “Man’s happiness really lies in contentment. He who is discontented, however much he possesses, becomes a slave to his desires….. The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is an evil. I make bold to say that the Europeans will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves. A time is coming when those who are in mad rush today of multiplying their wants, will retrace their steps and say; what we have done?…. A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes hindrance instead of help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and snare.” (Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, pp.68-69.) “I do not believe that multiplication of wants and machinery contrived to supply them is taking the world a single step nearer to its goal…. I whole-heartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and I have understood it to do so, I call it Satanic.” (The Voice of Truth, pp.326-327.) It is important to note that the great spiritual teachers and seers of classical Indian civilization, irrespective of their difference in the sphere of metaphysics, explicitly accept that the highest form of human life is essentially an enlightened unselfish desireless ethical life.
We must not allow, in the name of development with the help of science and technology, our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries to deprive the masses pure air, pure water and pure natural manure, medicinal plants, etc. which they have been getting freely from nature since ages. The spiritual seers of various great religions explicitly or implicitly accept that aesthetic and intellectual happiness is superior to pleasures of senses, and spiritual happiness is the highest kind of happiness: in their conception of ideal happy life, spiritual happiness constitutes its core and pursuit of aesthetic and intellectual happiness, and pleasures of senses within the limits of ethics constitute respectively its middle and periphery. Surely it is better to be free from any suffering due to lack of any essential such as pure food, water, air, etc. even without luxuries than luxuries without any essential: it is better to be free from disease, hunger, thirst , suffocation even without any luxuries than to have any such suffering with a lot of luxuries. All great religions, explicitly or implicitly, accept the natural eco-systems which sustain healthy life and provide the essentials of life freely to masses to be sacred and invaluable.
He sees clearly that Western industrialism has two choices: “First it can wait until catastrophic failures expose systematic deficiencies, distortion and self deception….Secondly; a culture can provide social checks and balances to correct for systematic distortion prior to catastrophic failures.” (Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, p.34.) If we do not listen the present ecological warnings of Nature, its ruthless worth will slowly but surely come. The earth system, which is the only known habitat for living species, acts as a gigantic living organism and reacts to any natural or human inducted interferences. The modern western form of development which started with industrial revolution in mid-1700 has already caused massive damage to our planet earth’s ecosphere. We must respect and protect the delicate and holistic balance that exists in the invaluable ecosystems of nature and try to restore wherever possible our degraded eco systems.
We must begin with Gandhiji’s 18 constructive programmes in the rural India, which is designed to build up the nation from the very bottom upward, with a massive effort to realize his conception of Village Swaraj. To the original list which contains items such as communal unity, removable of untouchability, basic education, adult education, education in health and hygiene, village sanitation, prohibition, economic equality, protection and promotion of khadi and other village industries, provincial languages and national language, empowerment of women, kisans, labour, and adivasis, etc., we must add new items such as checking the adverse effects of industrialization on environment, population growth, growth of urbanization, etc. Industrialization and urbanization must be in the service of rural India , and development must be non-violent with loving care of our fellow lower form of creatures and life-sustaining natural systems. We must not allow, in the name of development, our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries to deprive the masses the invaluable essentials of life such as pure air, water, sun light, natural manure, medicinal plants, etc. which they have been getting freely from nature since ages. We must not allow our population to grow beyond the limit which would cause great harm to our future generations or to our fellow lower form of beings and if it has gone beyond the limit we must try to bring it down to the desirable level. The earth cannot provide even our basic needs even if all would lead a simple life, if there is an unlimited population growth. It is highly deplorable that although India was the first country in the world to launch a national programme on family planning in1952, due to our governmental and intellectual apathy, population problem continues to be one of our major unsolved problems. We have the necessary knowledge, skill and resources to bring down our population through some ethical means to a desirable level, solve the problem of forced migration of rural unemployed to cities by converting rural India into ideal places for leading enlightened ethical life of simple living and high thinking with dignified exhilarating and health-giving body labour in an atmosphere of natural purity and beauty, solve the problem of corruption, which is proving to be the biggest hurdle in the way of implementing our various governmental programmes of public services, with the help of good governance, etc. but we lack the moral will to solve these problems due to our moral bankruptcy; and the problem of moral bankruptcy cannot be solved without having Character building ethics education.
(2) The Importance of Critical Ethics Education for Creating Enlightened Moral and Spiritual Society
Our moral and spiritual bankruptcy is the root cause of our various major deep rooted social evils including corruption and surely introduction of universal critical ethics education compulsorily would be a major step in the direction to root out it. Although India is a land of many great moral and spiritual teachers, under the influence of modern western civilization, our intellectuals have excluded ethics education from our education curricula. It is deeply painful and highly deplorable that even our educated leaders, having been educated in a system of education where ethics education has no place or only some peripheral place, fail to see the importance of ethical goodness for life and the importance of critical ethics education for building a life of enlightened ethical goodness.
How can we have morality in society without building the moral character of its people? How can we build the moral character of people without providing them the necessary critical ethics education? It is impossible to have lasting peace, prosperity and happiness in a society without justice; it is unlikely to have justice in the society without having a morally good government; it is unlikely to have a morally good government without people having ethical control over the government; and it is unlikely for the people to have ethical control over the government without having the necessary awareness through critical moral education. It is also not possible to have spiritual happiness and lasting internal peace without self-purification and ethical enlightenment, and it is impossible to have an ethical culture of self- purification and enlightenment without having the necessary critical spiritual education as an essential part of ethics education.
Gandhiji firmly believed with deep conviction that study of ethics should be introduced from the very beginning of our educational curricula and surely the great teachers and seers of various great religions would agree with him on this issue: “A child before it begins to write its alphabet and to gain worldly knowledge, should know what the soul is, what truth is, what love is …. A child should learn that, in the struggle of life, it has to conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, and violence by self-suffering.” (Selections from Gandhi, p.220.) In his Hind Swaraj, making a severe condemnation of the education system of modern western civilization, he claims: “…it(higher education) has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection and put ethics under a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to make this education compulsary. Our ancient school system is enough. Character building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last. ……Religious, that is ethical, education will occupy the first place.”(Hind Swaraj, pp.77-79.) “I feel and I have felt during the whole of my public life that we need, what a nation needs, but we perhaps of all the nations of the world need just now, is nothing else and nothing less than character-building.”
We must introduce universal compulsory critical ethics education with character-building ethics education as its core from the beginning of our education system, which would be a major step in the direction to overcome our present deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis. We must study critically the views of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning ethical values and the value and means of ethically good life and good society. It would certainly be a major step in the direction to create the mass awareness necessary to fight against our various major social evils/ ills and build an enlightened morally good society of lasting peace, development, prosperity and happiness. It would help the seeker of Truth to have a deeper understanding of the true ultimate meaning of life and its means. It would also certainly be a major step in the direction to have a permanent rational culture of inter-religious dialogue and harmony: inter religious-fighting is basically due to shallow understanding of the religions. Gandhiji rightly believes that ethical goodness constitutes the soul of religious life and that the basic ethics of all great religions are essentially the same and true. He firmly and rightly believes that inter-religious dialogue would be conductive to lasting inter-religious harmony and growth of all religions. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the note entitled “Gandhiji on Inter-religious Dialogue and Harmony” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
Teaching various branches of ethics like environmental ethics, business ethics, medical ethics, political and legal ethics, etc. without discussing why to lead ethical life and how to lead ethical life, i.e. the value and means of ethical life, would be of little significance. One may knowingly avoid a morally good action and not avoid an immoral action, if one believes it to be in one’s substantial selfish interest due to one’s lack of knowledge about the value of an ethically good life; and even if one has knowledge about the value of an ethically good life, one may fail to lead such a life because of one’s ignorance about the means to be free from various deep rooted contrary habits and passions if one does not have knowledge about the means to life of ethical goodness.
Various great religions are the store house of great human values which have survived the test of time, which can be very fruitfully taught through critical study of the views of various great religions on various fundamental issues of ethics discussed in some core ethics subject. If we make a deep critical study of the scriptures of great religions with deep respect, we will find that the Gandhian view that the basic ethics of all great religions is essentially the same and true and selfless ethical life of love constitutes the essence of religious life, is essentially true. To begin with the ethics of great religions and of great teachers should be introduced in simple language at the elementary school level and a critical study of them at the higher secondary level. The ethics of various modern ideologies such as Marxism, Liberalism, existentialism, Gandhian thought, etc should be introduced at the higher secondary level with some critical dialogue with what ethics has been taught in the elementa1ry school level. A deeper critical study of the ethics of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning individual as well as society should be there at the graduate and post graduate level .
The great teachers and seers of our ancient Indian civilization explicitly accept universal non-violence, i.e. non-violence to both human and non-human life, to be the foundation of ethics. They see clearly that perfect enlightened selfless ethical life of universal love and renunciation constitutes the core of the ultimate goal of life, i.e. of liberation, and pursuit of selfless ethical life of love, serving selflessly to society to the best of one’s ability through some work required for the general good and making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection, constitutes the core of its means. They see clearly that enlightened unselfish ethical life of love is intrinsically blissful and that a liberated life is eternally the best form of life: the happiness which intrinsically involves in such a life is of the highest kind and everlasting. They see clearly that our love for human beings is bound to be highly imperfect if we interact cruelly with our fellow non-human beings. Thus, unlike the votaries of modern Western civilization, they have clear answer even to an atheist to the question why to make sacrifices for our future generations or for our harmless fellow lower form of beings even if it is against our substantial selfish interest. They see clearly that any person through conscious effort can pursue liberation and progress towards it from evil to good life, from selfish good life to unselfish good life, from unselfish good life to enlightened selfless good life and from it finally to liberated life. They see clearly that such a human life involves selfless ethical service to humanity and its fellow creatures to the best of one’s ability in the best possible way, whether the contribution it makes for the betterment of the life-world is very high or very low. They explicitly accept that pursuit of wealth and pleasure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for lasting development, prosperity and happiness in society. Gandhiji sees clearly that all great religions also explicitly or implicitly accept the same.
Although various great spiritual seers have seen clearly and various great religions claim explicitly or implicitly that an enlightened spiritual life is intrinsically a life of happiness of the highest kind, it is our predicament that even intellectuals and religious preachers generally fail to see it, because of the impossibility of seeing this invaluable eternal truth about the value of spirituality without leading a spiritual life, even if one is a man of great intelligence. They even fail to see that all great religions explicitly or implicitly accept it, although they generally do not fail to see the claim of all great religions that evil gets necessarily proper punishment, good proper reward and liberation the highest kind of eternal happiness external to goodness, in the present life or in the life after death. Although the problem of the ultimate goal of life is the central problem of ethics, it is generally falsely considered to be essentially a metaphysical problem. Although it is most difficult to pursue and realize ethical perfection, in any society in any age it is possible for any person, theist or atheist, good or bad, man or woman, poor or rich, illiterate or literate, etc., to pursue and realize a life of ethical perfection. Let India provide to the world in the context of our technological age an example of a critical spiritual culture where people generally do experiment with Truth, as Gandhiji did, separating the metaphysical dimension of spirituality from its scientific dimension, and deliberately pursue or try to pursue liberation as the ultimate goal of life, irrespective of their differences in the realm of metaphysics.
Surely classical Indian civilization, the mother of many great religions, has the moral and spiritual resources to provide the awareness necessary to create a mass Satyagraha to save the world from the impending massive ecological crises, and surely India, the mother of this only great living ancient civilization, is in far better position than any other country to create and lead such a movement. India must not try to become a super power in the modern western conception of super power, but must try to become a moral and spiritual super power. We must replace the present eco-hostile, out-and-out consumerist and inherently unsustainable self-destructive culture of development of unlimited desires and life-corroding competition for getting more and more wealth for their satisfaction, by a culture of contentment, purity and sustainable non-violent development. Let various like-minded intellectual and spiritual leaders and Gandhians direct the thrust of their activities to create the awareness necessary to empower the masses of rural India to have an effective ethical control over the government as well as the awareness necessary to convert our rural India into a haven for those who want to lead a rational moral and spiritual life of simple living and high thinking. Posterity will condemn and curse us if we do not take the necessary time- bound steps to avoid the impending catastrophic ecological crisis which has devastating implications for them.
Let us transform our Gandhian institutions into centers of Gandhian thought and action for creating such a movement. It is greatly agonizing to see that Gandhians and Gandhian Institutions are hardly doing anything substantial to complete the unfinished work of our beloved Bapu. Let the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (KGNMT), which pays homage to MATRISHAKTI-Mother Power with its 22 state branches with more than 500 centers spread throughout India play an important role for the empowerment of women and children of the rural India and provide at least some meaningful help to our destitute girl children and women to lead a dignified simple human life. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission with its 33 States and Union Territories Khadi & V.I. Boards and over 7050 Retail Sales Outlets all over the country must take the responsibility of not only promoting Khadi and other village industries, organic agriculture and their marketing, use of eco-friendly renewable kinds of energy and machinery, etc. but also of promoting a critical culture of village Swaraja and Swadeshi along with various Gandhian Institutions and like-minded NGOs. We must establish national as well as provincial Institutes of Rural Technology and Management devoted to the cause of promoting sustainable non-violent rural development. We must transform our Gandhian institutions into centers of moral and spiritual awareness and inter-religious dialogue on the one hand, and into centers of movements against various forms of social injustices, on the other hand. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the note “Saving Gandhi and Gandhian Institutions in India” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
Since our rivers and forests will remain always invaluable for us, we must take time-bound decisive steps to make all our rivers completely and permanently free from pollution and transform one third of our land into forests. It is our deep conviction that saving the Ganga, the cradle of our Civilization and the lifeline of crores of our people, and the Himalayas which is the source of the Ganga and many other great rivers, would certainly be a major step in the direction to create a Gandhian non-violent culture of development, which is the surest and perhaps the only means to prevent the impending global ecological crises. It is truly deeply anguishing to see that we have failed to make the Ganga free from pollution in spite of our Central Government launching the Ganga Action Plan in 1985and National Ganga River Basin Authority in 2008, and spending hundreds of crores of rupees for this purpose. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the notes entitled “Means to Save Ganga” and “Gandhi, Ganga & Giriraj (Himalayas)” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.) Various like-minded eminent persons from different streams of life, scientists and intellectuals, social activists and organizations, Gandhians and Gandhian Institutions, spiritual leaders and religious institutions of different faiths must come under one roof to devote to the cause of creating the necessary mass-awareness to put moral pressure on the government to take sincerely a time bound-action plan to save the Ganga symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains forests and wildlife. Protection of the Ganga, symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, must be accorded highest priority in our national development process. Ultimately, we must create a new paradigm of development for India based on Gandhian principles Truth and universal non-violence. Let India provide the world a culture of non-violence and Truth, i.e., the true Ultimate meaning of life, in the context of our present technological age, where all religions could grow harmoniously on the basis of the knowledge about their fundamental ethical unity and truth, in spite of their differences in the realm of metaphysics, and where development could take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life giving &life-sustaining aesthetically invaluable natural systems.
Gandhiji is the apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age. In the words of Einstein: “Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this, it may be, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” “The moral influence which Gandhi has exercised upon thinking people may be far more durable than would appear likely in our present age, with its exaggeration of brute force. We are fortunate and grateful that fate has bestowed upon us so luminous a contemporary, a beacon to generations to come.” (Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, p.63.) Let us make an in-depth critical study of the Gandhian alternative and initiate a national and global debate on it before it is too late.
Mrs Rama Rauta
Convener, Save Ganga Movement
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
Gandhiji: “India has an unbroken tradition of non-violence from times immemorial. But at no time in her ancient history, as far as I know, has it had complete non-violence in action pervading the whole land. Nevertheless, it is my unshakable belief that her destiny is to deliver the message of non-violence to mankind. It may take ages to come to fruition. But so far as I judge, no other country will precede her in the fulfillment of that mission.” (Gandhi, Ganga, Giriraj, P.164.)
The quotations have been taken from M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 2005); M..K. Gandhi, Constructive Programme (Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 1999); NK Bose (Ed.), Selections from Gandhi (Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 1972); and T.N Khoshoo, Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of applied Human Ecology (Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, 2002.); Lachman M Khubchandani (Ed.), Gandhi, Ganga, Giriraj (Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 2006); M.K Gandhi, The Voice of Truth ( Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 1968.)