7 PM Editorial |Lessons for a Human-Centric Development Model from Mahatma Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew| 16th June 2020

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Lessons for a Human-Centric Development Model from Mahatma Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew


COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in economic downturn globally due to lockdown and restrictions on movement. This has triggered a crisis of unemployment.  Migrant labourers are affected severely and India is experiencing a migrant exodus from cities to villages. Faced with returning migrants, respective state governments are trying to create jobs locally and provide home to their citizens.

For designing policies to promote jobs, states should study the human centric model of Lee Kuan Yew which was used in making SIngapore developed nation and Gandhiji’s model of ‘Poorna Swaraj’.

Developing Singapore:

Lee had a clear vision of making Singapore a developed country by raising per capita incomes of its citizens to the same levels as in other advanced economies. This is a different vision from GDP based development model and globalization which privileges migrant capital over migrant labour. In Lee’s vision, citizen centricity is the prime principle..

In pursuance of this vision, steps taken to boost investment are:

  1. Branding Singapore as a strategic location due to proximity to shipping lanes between East and West. Also cheap labour of ASEAN is an attraction to MNC’s.
  2. Policy measures of low taxes, world class infrastructure, efficient administration was promised and delivered. These measures were to counter any flight of investment in response to increasing wage rates.
  3. Investment companies were asked to invest in skill development of SIngapore citizens. This was to promote higher skilled employment and ensure per capita incomes rise.

Due to these, despite initial apprehension by investors, they invested in Singapore in line with this vision. This led to industrial development of Singapore.

Gandhi’s vision of Poorna Swaraj:

Every Indian state is more complex than Singapore(a city state) with villages and cities with large populations. India lives in its villages and now migrant labourers are returning to these villages. These villages have to be empowered to create jobs for returning migrants.

Gandhiji’s ‘Poorna Swaraj’ envisages a free India where Indian villages have economic and social freedoms. Political freedom from British was only the first step. Gandhiji understood the social and economic problems of Indian villages better than many economists. He saw potential Indian poor to contribute to Indian economy rather than viewing them as expendable labour. He believed the economy must serve human needs rather than human beings  becoming fodder of GDP. This is similar to Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore model in privileging per capita incomes over GDP.

Pursuing a human-centric model:

Humans are not tools to produce returns for investors, rather, money is a tool to produce benefits for humans. Every citizen deserves jobs, livelihoods and dignity of life. Hence the test of public policies must be based on what is good for people rather than what is good for GDP or investors.

Principles of Gandhian economics can be pursued under this human centric model. They are:

  1. Human beings and local communities are means to progress and hence progress must have purpose of human well being
  2. Governance must be strengthened at local levels of villages and cities
  3. Wealth is good and wealthy people are trustees of the wealth of communities and not owners of the wealth.
  4. Cooperative capitalist enterprises with workers as owners to reduce alienation of workers.

World has been ‘degloablising’ since the 2008 Global financial crisis. COVID 19 has accelerated it. In the face of disrupted supply chains and barriers on movement of people, localization has become the new norm.  In such a highly disrupted world, India is at a crossroads where we can choose between GDP based development model or more humane Gandhian approach of development. Human centricity must be pursued to achieve Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas.

Source:The Hindu

Mains Question:
  1. What is Poorna Swaraj as per Gandhiji? In context of COVID 19 pandemic, how can India use this concept to pursue inclusive development? [15 marks, 250 words]
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