[June Yojana Summary] Pandemic through Gandhian Principles – Explained, pointwise

Introduction

The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed every aspect of human life. It has altered our consumption pattern, shocked our smart production systems, changed the modes of education and entertainment. Above all, the pandemic also changed the perception, “Man is a ‘social animal”. Ever since the imposition of lockdown, the Gandhian principles started gaining ground.

Gandhian principles like dignity of labour, self-sufficient and strong village economy and the
principle of trusteeship emerge as logical outcomes of the pandemic. Gandhian thought can also provide some critical insights into the post-pandemic world also.

Gandhian principles on economy vs modern economic principles
  • Gandhi’s principles on economics grounded on the premises of non-violence, truth, self-containment, and non-covetousness. This is completely antithetical to the modern economy.
  • In the textbook economy or positive economy, “wants, in general, are insatiable (impossible to satisfy)”. On the other hand, in Gandhian system focus on the “idea of containment of wants”. This is explicit as Gandhi mentioned, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”.
    • According to Gandhi, Greed breeds violence and gives rise to the need to exploit others, which is against the first primal principle of the Gandhian system.
  • Two practical examples of Gandhian principle on the economy are,
    1. Bhoodan movement by Vinoba Bhave: Voluntary distribution of land from wealthy landowners to landless people.
    2. Jajmani system: It is a reciprocal arrangement between craft-producing castes and the wider village community.
The Gandhian principle on technology and industry
  • Gandhiji’s ideas about technology are debatable. But the key idea was to “optimally use the local resources and skills“. In other words, the introduction of machines is useful. But they should not impact the dignity of labour. Gandhiji’s concept of dignity of labour has the following dimensions.
    • No labour is menial: According to him, all the labours in society are equal.
    • Treating labour with decency: Decency includes healthy and clean working conditions, reasonable wages
  • This is reflected in the Ahmadabad Mill strike. There Gandhi attempted to ensure the dignity of labour.
  • According to him, Industries are necessary for progress and the Industries need profit to survive. But the profits belong to society. So, the Industrialist has to redistribute the wealth and act as a mere trustee of wealth.
  • A practical example of the Gandhian principle in the industry is the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Gandhian principles during the pandemic

Though Gandhian principles never fail, there was an opinion that these can only be admired from a distance. This opinion prevented practical experimentation and implementation of Gandhian principles. But the pandemic paved new ways to experiment with Gandhian principles. For example,

Changing consumption pattern based on Gandhian principle

The pattern of consumption has changed significantly, especially during the lockdown periods. Many studies have noted a substantial reduction in ‘discretionary’ consumption. Such as,

  • People not focused on the ‘brand value’ of the products. Few brand conscious people, even distinguish between the essential and non-essential product and avoided non-essential consumption.
  • A majority of the population shifted towards natural and herbal remedies. They even learned about their goodness and lasting effects.
  • Each and every household choose a healthy lifestyle to bolster immunity.
  • Ceremonies reduced and the drastic expenditure on lavish things reduced manifold.
Changing manufacturing pattern based on Gandhian principle
  • Promoting self-sufficiency: Covid-19 pandemic also highlighted the problem of fragmentation of the supply chain. This forced manufacturers to relocate near to the sources of supply. A study “How Covid-19 is Changing Global Value Chains” observes a trend towards the relocation of the GVC (Global Value Chain) in favour of greater use of local skills and materials. This is in line with the Gandhian principle of optimal utilisation of the local resources and skills.
  • Shifting towards green technologies (fulfilling needs, not greed): With the advent of the pandemic, many manufacturers started shifting to green technologies. For example, The Confederation of British Industry has urged the government to invest in green technology and jobs.
    • The UK government has even announced Green Recovery Challenge Fund. 
Change in human empathy towards Gandhian principles
  • Individuals and NGOs supported migrants and the poorest sections of people by providing food packets and other materials
Change in urban development 
  • The pandemic has taught us that an infection anywhere is a threat to health everywhere. This changed the focus of urban development programs. For example,
  • Urban local bodies started improving health and sanitation in slum areas and changed the living condition of people drastically.
Change in Treating labour with decency
  • The pandemic increased reverse migration. This resulted in higher wages in states where migration occurred.
  • Further, manufacturing states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu faced a severe shortage of labour. There are instances where workers have been given air tickets to return to work.
  • If some of these benefits last long enough, then Gandhiji’s intervention in Ahmedabad textile strike will prove fruitful even today.
Read more: Gandhian imprint in the farmer’s protest
Suggestions to strengthen Gandhian principles in the post-pandemic world
  1. Tackle the parallel pandemic in homes: The issue of Domestic Violence and Gender Issues is high during the pandemic. This has to be rectified to empower and develop women. This will facilitate the overall development of mankind and create gender parity.
  2. Reducing Rural-Urban Imbalance: Agricultural sector remains as a resort to migrant workers. This indicates the non-availability of non-agricultural jobs. So, the government has to create the following reforms to create a self-sufficient village economy.
    1. Providing more jobs in the non-agricultural sector and manufacturing sector in rural areas.
    2. Promoting agro-based and related commercial activities such as fisheries and food processing industries to diversify the rural workforce.
  3. More attention to Environment: Lockdown reportedly reduced the air and water pollution substantially. Now it is the time to maintain that level from individual and government. Policies like eco-friendly urban transport and manufacturing systems will further reduce carbon emissions and create employment opportunities also.
Conclusion

Any attempt to engage in greater sustainability is Gandhian in spirit. Further, All the 17 Sustainable Development Goals integrate the Gandhian principle of peaceful and harmonious coexistence of human beings with each other, with nature, and other beings supported by nature. The pandemic has opened up opportunities to tweak our ways of living on this planet in a wiser and more compassionate way. Now it is for us to retain Gandhian principles in everyday life.

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