Editorial Articles

Volume-26, 29 September to 5 October, 2018



Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Gandhian Constructive Programmes


Prof. N. Radhakrishnan

It is generally believed  that the strength, vitality and relevance of  a philosophy or vision associated with a great person is measured on the basis of the extent to which his philosophy  is interpreted  in  such a manner that has the power to explode  intellectually, leading to social change. The Aristotle-Plato explorations , Sree Ramakrishna-Vivekananda spiritual affinity,  the Karl Marx-   Lenin political teaming up  are a few of the most outstanding examples of  daring and courageous efforts to reinterpret or adapt the philosophy of   their mentors or masters. Vinoba Bhave's efforts in India  through the Bhoodan Movement rekindled the magic of the Gandhian Revolution  but  it was short-lived and  it is generally perceived that Gandhi remains now an academic subject and an iconic figure  to be worshipped but difficult to be followed in daily life.

The task before the nation as it gears to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi should be  therefore, to examine ways and means to discover the Gandhi in each of us and to understantd what his legacy means to the nation particularly.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan rekindles Gandhian vision of a healthy nation.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a very imaginative and creative national initiative answers several unanswered questions Indians in the post- Gandhian period have been raising from time to time.

It quickly captured the imagination of the nation and has become a 'Jan Andolan' receiving tremendous and massive people's participation reflecting its acceptance as a brave and comprehensive step towards a cleaner and healthier India from bottom up . Citizens too have turned out in large numbers and pledged for a  cleaner India of Gandhi's dream.

"A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019," said  the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi as he launched the Swachh Bharat Mission at Rajpath in New Delhi. On 2nd October 2014, Swachh Bharat Mission was launched throughout length and breadth of the country as a national movement. The campaign aims to achieve the vision of a 'Clean India' by 2nd October 2019.Shri Narendra Modi led a cleanliness pledge at India Gate, which about thirty lakh government employees across the country joined. He also flagged off a walkathon at Rajpath and surprised people by joining in not just for a token few steps, but marching with the participants for a long way.

People from different sections of the society have come forward and joined this mass movement of cleanliness. From government officials to jawans, bollywood actors to sportspersons, industrialists to spiritual leaders, all have lined up for the noble work. Millions of people across the country have been day after day joining the cleanliness initiatives of the government departments, NGOs and local community centres to make India clean.

While leading the mass movement for cleanliness, the Prime Minister exhorted people to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi's dream of a clean and hygienic India.

Shri Narendra Modi himself initiated the cleanliness drive at Mandir Marg Police Station. Picking up the broom to clean dirt, making Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a mass movement across the nation, the Prime Minister said people should neither litter, nor let others litter. Taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focusing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment have become a practice after the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by the Prime Minister of India. People have started to take part and are helping spread the message of ' Cleanliness is next to Godliness".

Forward with Gandhi

Notwithstanding Gandhi's suggestion to bury with him  his writings , now there is a greater debate leading to a serious examination of the significance of his work, his thoughts and vision in the emerging scenario all over the world.  What is known today as 'Gandhian Philosophy' is what has grown out of  his life, work and his views on life, men, matters and society.

Gandhi's  life, work and vision  reveal that he is  a great confluence of ideas. Deeply rooted in his tradition he learnt from the west very heavily, and absorbed intimately insights and teachings of most of the major regions of the world.  He borrowed ideas from Tolstoy, Ruskin and many other western thinkers and practitioners besides from many Indian masters and visionaries.  In this process, he became the meeting ground of several ideas and persons of eminence. 'A practical idealist' as he described himself, he left a rich legacy for human emancipation and sustainable living.  When pressed for a message he offered the now-famous quote, 'My life is my Message'. To call or describe Gandhi a philosopher in the conventional sense of the term will be thus erroneous.  No doubt, he had his own philosophy of life. 

Gandhiji's vision of a social order where all are equal and are eligible for equal opportunities is known today as Sarvodaya Samaj: Gandhi described such a society, as Ram Rajya.  Unfortunately, the term Ram Rajya acquired religious overtones and has become a suspect in the eyes of non-Hindus.  Gandhi explained that his efforts were geared to ensure a just society.The Ramraj of his dream was a kingdom of Truth--Kingdom of Justice where nobody will be discriminated.  It was a kingdom of God on earth.

Constructive Programmes

The development models Gandhi suggested, and the strategies he adopted for non-violent social transformation individual emancipation and empowerment, were not guided by the exigencies of time or were impulsive in any sense.  What are known today as Constructive Programmes which Gandhi submitted to the nation to rebuild it and restore its lost glory will amply suggest how comprehensive and holistic were the Gandhian initiatives for non-violent social change. However, Gandhi himself indicated that these programmes were just illustrative. 

Let us take a quick look at these programmes which, according to the distinguished scholar and activist Prof. Gene Sharp, have three main parts:

1.Improvement of individuals in their own lives and ways of living

2.Constructive programme to begin building a new social order even as the old one still exists; and

3.The practice of various forms of non-violent action against specific social evils.

            Gene Sharp, after careful analysis of the various programmes, further explained Gandhi's approach as follows:

"He assumed that a just social order characterized by self-reliance and freedom must be produced by a movement with those same characteristics.  Gandhi, therefore developed the idea of creating a new social order through a voluntary constructive programme functioning independently of the State and other institutions of the old order.  His efforts were experimental; he would be the last to call them adequate. 

  1. Equality of all Religions

Gandhi fully realized the creative role, religions could play in integrating social values.  Advocating a new approach, he reminded people that religions are different roads converging to the same goal.  And as such it should not make any difference if we take different roads, so long as we reach the same point.  All religions preach the gospel love.  Still what we see around is a growing tendency to look down upon other's religion and to extol the virtues of one's own religion.  Many lack even the basic understanding that in a diverse situation tolerance acts like a glue that keeps the fabric of society together.  They forget the simple truth that tolerance gives us spiritual insight and arms us with courage of conviction which will eventually break all barriers between faith and faith.  It will also extend the frontiers of human understanding. Gandhi, hence advocated a new approach- Sarvadharma Sambhava (equal respect for all religions).

2 Removal of Untouchability

Segregation of any segment of population on the basis of its birth in a particular community, or colour of skin or the vocation it follows tantamount to violation of human rights and is a sin against humanity.  Gandhi argued.  Hence, the individual and social efforts are to be undertaken with courage and conviction to undo the wrongs perpetrated towards those deprived sections. From obscurantism  and inhuman practices, these suppressed people are to be liberated, he pointed out.  

The 21 years of Gandhiji's work in South Africa is now understood as a crusade for ensuring human rights to all. The South African period, which was very crucial in Gandhiji's life, also witnessed a young lawyer blossoming into a Mahatma.  The Indian period witnessed amongst many other things Gurudev Tagore conferring on Gandhi, Mahatmahood and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose hailing Gandhi as the Father of the Nation in recognition of Gandhi's contribution.

  1. Prohibition

The evil of drinking alcohol, the misery it brings into the lives of men, and women and children, the ruin of the family the drain of the hard earned money into, arrack sellers', and the health hazards drinking creates, attracted Gandhiji's attention and he wanted to attack this evil comprehensively.  The prohibition  Council initiated by Gandhi while undertaking the massive education campaign highlighting this evil, no doubt created a considerable general awareness. This was followed by a vigorous campaign to enforce prohibition in all parts of the country under Gandhi's leadership. 

  1. Khadi

Khadi has been rightly hailed as the soul of the Gandhian revolution and to Gandhi, Khadi was the symbol of both the individuals and nation's emancipation.  Gandhi described khadi as "the beginning of economic freedom and equality of all in the country.  The proof of the pudding  is in the eating.  Let everyone try, and he or she will find out for himself or herself the truth of what I am saying.  Khadi must be taken with all its implications.  It means a wholesale Swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the necessities of life in India and that too through the labour and intellect of the villagers.  That means a reversal of the existing process." 

  1. Village Industries

Gandhi's views on production by the masses, as a necessary condition for development, equality and peace, rested on his insistence that each village be treated as an independent, self-sufficient unit where the craftsman, artisans, labourers, would find enough opportunities for engaging in meaningful activities which will enable them to continue both their hereditary and acquired means of living. These different activities would generate not only employment but also ensure higher individual income in the villages.  Weaving, oil pressing, honey-making, papad making hand-pounding of rice, handmade paper, soap making, to list a few of the in exhaustive list of village industries that can be undertaken in the villages.  

  1. Basic Education

While Gandhi had no quarrel with the traditional approach to education, he believed that what was required through education was that it should offer the child creative opportunities to discover himself and provide him with tools to relate himself to the society and social needs.  He insisted that the education system should draw out the best in the child rather than making a child a mechanical tool.  The basic education or the Nai Talim emphasizes on the synthesis of the three 'H's -'H' for head, 'H' for heart and 'H' for hand.  The  child should think with his head, react with his heart and work with hands.  So what was required was a combination of these three faculties which would bring out the best in the child and would make the child independent, self-sufficient and creative. 

  1. Adult Education

A country of unlettered and ignorant adults, who are unaware of their duties and rights, leave alone unfamiliar with letters, is a sin and shame.  Gandhi, realizing this, emphasized the value of adult education which should become a social responsibility of every individual.  He did not want the state to undertake adult education programmes.  On the contrary, every educated member has to shoulder the responsibility of involving himself/herself in adult education activities.

  1. Women

In all his campaigns for justice, liberty, human dignity, it might be worth remembering that Gandhi brought women to the front-line of fighters.  Never before in Indian history women joyfully participated in public activities as they did under the clarion call of the Mahatma.  It may not be out of place here to recall the half-humorous comments attributed to Kasturba that women understood Gandhi much better that men.  Gandhi's respect for women was infinite because he believed that they have superior inner capacity for non-violence. Gandhi brought women into the centre stage of the awareness campaign and political struggle against discrimination. He initiated this both in South Africa and India to ensure human rights at a time when the now-familiar and oft-quoted word 'human rights' was not at all in use this shows how he treated women and what his expectations were about the creative role women could play in social life.  His account of Satyagraha in South Africa, particularly about the role the 'Phoenix sisters' and 'Tolstoy sisters'  played in the first major campaign in which motivated women took equal role along with men, is moving.

  1. Education in health and hygiene

Both personal hygiene and public hygiene in the rural and urban areas had been neglected aspects in India.  Gandhiji laid great emphasis on educating particularly the villagers on the urgent need for developing an atmosphere of hygiene by keeping the surroundings and villages clean.  The village will not remain clean unless individual houses, streets and public places are kept clean.  Accumulation of garbage, congested drains, wandering dogs and pigs, swarms of flies, straying cows and buffaloes create an atmosphere of not only utter disgust but many villages in turn also become the breeding grounds of various diseases. 

Provincial languages

A free nation which can boast about her several languages should encourage the various languages to develop.  Gandhi held that provincial languages are the repositories of great wisdom and literature which in turn are the mirror of social life.  No free country can afford to ignore the important role its languages, could play in shaping the destiny of its people. 

  1. National languages

A country like India, which is one if the oldest surviving civilizations in the world, should have a national language which will truly reflect the national sentiments, without prejudice to the provincial language get equal status in the cultural life and day-to-day administration, one language emerging as the national language with the consent of the majority would naturally be an index of the health of a country.  

  1. Economic Equality

Gandhi was very firm in his conviction, without economic equality freedom does not mean anything to the vast multitude of people in any country.  The common man should not be left alone to mend himself and unless his needs for food, clothing and housing are attended to by a sovereign Republic, the talk about freedom becomes meaningless and sounds hollow.  The stability of a democracy depends truly on the extent to which it cares for the common man by giving him opportunities for growth particularly, jobs and equal access to all links of the state.

  1. Kisans

In a country of villages, farming naturally will be the major vocation and source of income in the rural areas.  Besides this, India is an agricultural county and unfortunately the farmers who are responsible for producing the farm goods are not treated with dignity, are not provided with opportunities for proper growth etc.  Because of the lack of awareness and facilities, a large number of the kisans continue to employ old implements and methods for cultivation and unless and until sustained efforts are made to uplift the kisans by offering them not only modern technology and competitive prices for their produce, the kind of revolution the country hopes for in the agricultural field, will remain a distant dream.

  1. Labour

The labour in this country, as in many other developing nations, instead of keeping western models before them should develop non-violent ethics which would help them temper their general behaviour with determination and concern.  Exploitation of labour is a sin which would naturally spread to the main body causing disaffection and distrust. 

  1. Adivasis

The tribals who are known as Adivasis are inheritors of rich culture and they should not be side-tracked in any way.  They should get encouragement for development. Any attempt to exploit them in the name of progress and civilization by depriving them of their livehood by flaunting before them concepts such as modernization will be a crime, Gandhi believed. 

  1. Eradication of Leprosy

Gandhi wrote, "Leper is a word of bad odour.  India is perhaps a home of lepers next only to Central Africa.  Yet, they are as much a part of society as the tallest among us.  But the tall absorb our attention though they are least in need of it.  The lot of lepers who are much in need of attention is studied neglect.  I am tempted to call it heartless, which it certainly is, in terms of non-violence

  1. Students

One remarkable aspect of Gandhiji, both in India and in South Africa, is the manner in which he communicated with the youth and the conviction with which they responded to his call and rallied around him as inspired agents of change.  Gandhi wanted the older generation to trust the youth being given leadership roles. No doubt, Gandhi was against students dabbling in politics. He considered that this would fritter away the hard earned financial resources of their parents and also by doing so the students would be wasting their precious time.  At the same time Gandhi was also against students being reduced to the status of book-worms.  Once he described the students as barometers of social change but to become such barometers the student should develop the right attitude. 

Many scholars found in the Constructive Programmes of Gandhi "The blue print" for a new social order where poverty, illiteracy and many similar social inequalities would become a thing of the past.  Gene Sharp hailed them as the "scaffolding upon which the structure of the new society will be built."  Sharp said "The constructive programme is an attempt to build the beginnings of the new social order while the old society still exists.  The non-violent revolutionary which Gandhi claimed to be-thus begins to build the new even while struggling against the old. 

The relevance of constructive work programme for societal transformation and empowerment of individuals appears to be greater in the emerging national and global scenario.  When concerned humanity agonizingly looks for alternatives to globalization, the Gandhian vision and practice for eco-friendly, holistic and sustainable social order, which ensures justice to all, is now being recognized in several parts of the world as a revolutionary alternative to the market-driven economy and globalization.  What is required perhaps is a creative and realistic adaption rather than blind imitation taking into account the realities of the emerging national and global situation.

The Swachhata Abhiyan, undoubtedly, is India's largest cleanliness drive to date with people form various walks of life such as government employees, school students, and college students from all parts of India participating in  cities, towns and associated rural areas.Prime Minister Shri  Modi has described the campaign "Satyagrah se Swachhagrah" in reference to Gandhi's "Champaran Satyagraha" launched on 10 April 1917.The mantra the PM gave on the launching occasion is also apt: 'Na gandagi karenge, Na karne denge.' 

The message of Swachhata Hi Seva: With citizens now becoming active participants in cleanliness activities across the nation and taking upon the message, Swachhata Hi Seva the dream of a 'Clean India' once seen by Mahatma Gandhi has begun to get a concrete shape.

(The author is Chairman, Gandhi Peace Mission E-mail drnradhakrishnan@ gmail. com. Views expressed are personal)