Name: ALAGAN ANNAMALAI
Name of my Wife: Dr. PREMA, Research Coordinator, Gandhi Study Centre, Chennai
Name of my daughter: Ms. Vallabhi Chellam, final year student of Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy
Date of Birth: 31.07.1960
-M.Sc., (Peace Making)
-M.Phil., (Gandhian Thought & Peace Making)
-Diploma in Inter-Religious Dialogue
-Director, National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi
-Vice-Chairman, Holding Trustee Mandal, Central Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi
-Hony. Director, Gandhi Study Centre, Chennai, Tamilnadu
-Member, Executive Committee, Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai
-Treasurer, Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya Samithi (founded by Mahatma Gandhi), Chennai
-Member, Magan Sangrahalaya, Wardha
-Member, Tamilnadu Gandhi Smarak Nidhi
Presented papers in various National and Interntional Seminars and visited Sri Lanka, Poland, Mauritius
Orgainsing camps for youth and students - "Let us know Gandhi better"
Organised and lead 4 Cycle yatra with 35 youths all over Tamilnadu to probagate Gandhian Ideology
A popular programme aired five days a week in the Pothigai channel of Doordarshan in the name 'Ulaga Uthamarin Uyariya Sindhanaigal (Great thoughts of Gandhi) 2010-2011. Nearly 400 episodes
We have completed "Gandhi In Tamilnadu" project and documented and uploaded Gandhi's visits to Tamilnadu in the www.gandhistudycentre.org wherein we can see dates, details, photos, videos of Gandhi's visit with map
I joined with Mr.T.D.Tirumalai in Gandhi Study Centre 1987 and continued my Ph.D. on Strategies for Employment generation.
In 1990, I decided not to continue my formal studies and left the University to continue Gandhian Activities.
I served as the Director of the Gandhi Study Centre, Chennai from 1994 to 2013.
In November 2013 I assumed office of National Gandhi Museum as the Director.
I served as the Advisor and Joint Secretary of the Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya Samithi from 1994 - 2015.
Organised and Curated many exhibitions on various themes:
1.Gandhi's visits to the States: Gandhi's Bharat Darshan
2.Gandhi and Children
3.Gandhi and His Ashrams
4.Gandhi's "India of My Dream"
5.Gandhi Vision: Freedom and Beyong
6.Women in Gandhi's Mass Movements
7.Special Exhibition "Gandhi's Nonviolence and World Peace"
Activities of National Gandhi Museum:
(i)To collect, preserve and display Gandhiji’s records consisting of his letters, correspondence, books, cine-films, manuscripts, photographs, voice records, personal effects and mementos etc.
(ii)To promote the study, diffusion and under-standing of Gandhiji’s life and message through the establishment of Sangrahalayas, Libraries Auditoriums, Study Centres, Archives, Gandhi Bhavans in Universities, Gandhi Galleries, Gandhi Shelves etc. in places of public interest and through other media of communication.
(iii)To take proper and necessary steps to preserve and protect various places associated with Gandhiji’s life and work.
(iv)To undertake and execute schemes of memorials at the places associated with significant memories of Gandhiji with Columns and Tablets
(v)To publish literature, periodicals, books, brochures, booklets to propagate ideals, thoughts and teachings of Gandhiji or in the aid of the memorials and to arrange film-show etc. in furtherance of the objects.
(vi)To prepare and distribute audio-visual material or replicas thereof as a means of propagating teachings of Gandhiji’s life.
(vii)To undertake, organize and facilitate Study Courses, Conferences, Lectures, Seminars and the like to promote the aforesaid objects.
REVISITING GANDHI – ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
Director, National Gandhi Museum
Rajghat, New Delhi 110002, India
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate and the son of the soil once wrote about Gandhiji: ‘He stopped at the threshold of the huts of the thousands of dispossessed, dressed like one of their own. He spoke to them in their language.Here was living truth at last, and not quotations from books. For this reason, the ‘Mahatma’, the name given to him by the people of India, is his real name. Who else has felt like him that all Indians are his own flesh and blood…At Gandhi’s call India blossomed forth to new greatness, just as once before, in earlier times, when the Buddha proclaimed the truth of fellow feeling and compassion among all living creatures.”
Erosion of Ethical Standard and Corruption:
When there has been deep erosion of moral values in our private and public life, and when ethical principles have all but disappeared, it is good to revisit Gandhiji because the Gandhian values appear to be an effective alternative to the present crisis of the world.He provided not only the political leadership to achieve freedom, but also moral leadership, which is of greater need today.
Violence, Terrorism and Extremism:
Violence and counter-violence of either side could result in more inhuman form of destruction and we risk tit-for-tat violence that looks hard to get out of this vicious circle. Recent attacks in Belgium and France are just an example of the inhuman, unethical form of retaliation but ultimately the sufferers are mostly innocent people.Therefore Martin Luther King Jr observed the usage of violence and its limitation:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate…. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
Gandhi was well aware of the ill effects of the act of violence.He was himself associated with war during Boer War and Zulu Rebellion in South Africa and witnessed two World Wars.Therefore Gandhi evolved carefully and presented to the world the idea of non-violence, the most pragmatic and potent technique of conflict resolution for a civilized society - as an alternative to war and violence. Gandhi's nonviolence is not static, it evolves and adapts to changing situations.He used his non-violent resistance against racial discrimination in South Africa and in India he used non-violent methods to fight against the British Raj.
I would like to quote a few instances of non-violence practiced by Gandhi. In South Africa he tried to present the grievances of Indian residents, who had migrated from India in search of jobs. In the process he had to oppose the various measures formulated by General Smuts. However in 1914, in an act of supreme generosity, Gandhi presented Smuts with a pair of sandals which he had made himself. These were used by Smuts for a few years. But, in 1939, he wanted to return the sandals to Gandhi on his seventieth birthday, saying, “I have worn these sandals for many a summer ... even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man. It was my fate to be the antagonist of a man for whom even then I had the highest respect. ... He never forgot the human background of the situation, never lost his temper or succumbed to hate, and preserved his gentle humour even in the most trying situations. His manner and spirit even then, as well as later, contrasted markedly with the ruthless and brutal forcefulness which is the vogue in our day...”
In the words of Gandhi, “It is the acid test of non-violence that, in a non-violent conflict, there is no rancour left behind, and in the end the enemies are converted into friends.That was my experience in South Africa, with General Smuts.He started with being my bitterest opponent and critic.Today he is my warmest friend”
In another instance, Lord Irwin, who was the Viceroy of India when Gandhiji engaged in a Civil Disobedience Movement through Salt March, once said, “I personally felt I could trust Mr. Gandhi and I did trust him: ‘Now I am going to tell you something and if you let it out, my name is mud. It’s finished. You have got to keep it to yourself.I’ll tell it to you in confidence.’ Never a word to anybody came out of Gandhi.Therefore, I have every reason to have great respect and regard for the name of that very remarkable little man.” Lord Irwin trusted his own enemy! This trust building is essential in resolving conflict through nonviolent method.
For example, due to the growth of the Hand Spinning (Khadi) Movement in India, most of the textile industries in Manchester and Lancashire were closed down and the people became unemployed.When Gandhi went to London in 1931 to attend the Second Round Table Conference, he wanted to meet those unemployed mill workers.He wanted to convey his real meaning of ‘Swadeshi’ to the people of England. Finally he conveyed his views and they also understood Gandhi.This is the power of love and nonviolence.It penetrates into the hearts of even the hardest people.
Spiritual Journey – From ‘God is Truth’ to ‘Truth is God’:
In a country having great diversity of religion, caste and political affiliations, differences are bound to arise. Differences are a reality and that is the beauty – difference is beauty.Whether we are in India or in elsewhere, we have to appreciate the differences among different communities, religions, nationalities and the like. Gandhi’s spiritual journey from ‘God is Truth’ to ‘Truth is God’ is the result of the acceptance and recognition of multi-religious and multi-cultural society. Under normal circumstances, domination by the majority or domination by a few results in the suppression of the rest and this invariably creates unrest in the society. Therefore we should create an environment in which all the stakeholders are able to meaningfully participate in the process of development and in the making of the country.
Gandhi once wrote, “I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. This is the India of my dreams.”
Cultural Fundamentalism and Intolerance:
Gandhiji’s religious pluralism involves a profound transformation in the self-understanding of every religion, particularly those making absolutist claims.It requires them to recognize that although they contain truth, it is neither the whole truth nor nothing but the truth, and that they need to be self-critical and open. While some groups in all religions are moving in this direction, others offer strong resistance.
Basically every religion has its own geographical character.If we insist upon certain conditions on other faiths, naturally they react and resist.Recent incidents on religious intolerance posed a great challenge to the fundamental principles of the constitution of India.Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the fundamental rights of the individual and they cannot be curtailed in a democratic country like India. Some people are trying to interpret nationalism and patriotism in their own way.If we started eliminating people according to our own interpretation, nobody will be left out. Therefore Gandhi said “The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Christians, the Parsis and the Jews should be Indians first and Indians last. Religion is the personal affair of each individual. It must not be mixed up with politics or national affairs.”
Gandhi lived and died for communal unity and oneness of God irrespective of labels like Christian, Parsi, Hindu or Muslim or even an untouchable. He transcended all the barriers of religion, language, nationhood, etc and moved with all the people of different faiths in an equal way.
Poverty, Inequality and Structural Violence:
Economic development includes alleviation of poverty and hunger, adequacy of the supply of basic needs, reduction of inequality in the distribution of income and wealth, reduction of regional disparities in the rates and patterns of development and finally, preservation of acceptable environmental quality and an enhancement of the quality of life.
The percolation theory believes “growth solves every problem including the problem of poverty”.But in reality when growth goes on increasing, more and more families are thrown out at the bottom. This is most vulnerable pointin the modern development model. Then question arises, Development for whom? This is the question of the redistribution of the benefit of growth.
Economics as visualized by Gandhi must be seen in the light of his philosophy of life in its totality. He emphasized the need of production by masses instead of mass production. Mass production is only concerned with the product, whereas production by the masses is concerned with the product as well as the producers, and the process involved in it. If understood in the right context and perspective, his method of production by masses, i.e., decentralized means of production and distribution, would control the growth of centralized mode of ownership, the means of production and the resulting capital formation. Gandhi was not opposed to capital growth but opposed to capital and the surplus concentrated in a few.Instead of accumulating the surplus in the hands of a few, the surplus should be distributed among the masses, thereby bridging the growing gap between the haves and have-nots.
Today’s growth cannot be considered as an organic growth. For example, if you take India, only a few cities are developed.Development of handful of cities cannot solve our economic problems.In fact it will create and increase our problems.This growth pattern increases the gap between the rich and poor and urban and rural.Cities are growing at the cost of the villages causing livelihood problems in the villages, resulting in migration to the cities and living there in inhuman conditions. Gandhi wanted to have an organic growth – inclusive growth - with focus on sustainability. Therefore our development mantra should be sustainability.
When asked if he was against all machinery?Gandhiji said, “My answer is emphatically ‘No’.But, I am against its indiscriminate multiplication…..What I object to, is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.The craze is for what they call labour-saving machinery. Men go on ‘saving labour’, till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation.I want to save time and labour, not for a fraction of mankind, but for all, I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of few, but in the hands of all.Today machinery merely helps a few ride on the backs of millions.The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed.It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might.”
Gandhi was not against machinery or modern technology. He insisted that machinery or technology should be appropriate to our social and economic environment. It should not control the humanity. It should not replace our huge labour force. Rural economy and agro-based industries should be developed and strengthened. It should be environmental friendly.Ultimately it should bring the changes in the living standards of the common people.This is what Gandhi wanted.But we are totally misinterpreting Gandhi, in publicizing that Gandhi opposed modernizing technology.
His economic philosophy is vibrant, ever widening.It is not techno-centred, but people-centred.Due to technological advancements fewer and fewer people are needed to work, because the industrialists want greater productivity. The masters of the money economy want more and more efficient machines working faster and faster, and the result is that men and women are thrown out and become technologically unemployed. Such a society generates rootless and jobless millions, living as dependents of the state or beggers in the streets of the metros.
Gandhi was fortunate in a way that no other leader of the world of his time encountered so many civilizations. He lived, experienced and experimented with these civilizations actively and encountered them very passionately.He was born and brought up in the cultural traditions of India, he went to London to study law where he encountered the western civilization and, finally, he struggled in South Africa where he experienced African civilization. Therefore, it has greater meaning when he says, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.”
Environmental degradation, Pollution and Global Warming:
Environmental issues are posing a great threat to the planet Earth.Our planet is a living organism that acts and responds to everything we do on her. We cannot treat the earth as a non-living thing.Recent heavy rains and floods in Chennai are an example for the erratic behavior of the nature.Slowly natural rhythm – natural cycle – is changing due to various factors including Global warming.It is nothing but the consequential effect of reckless industrialism and consumerism.Through various Earth Summits, countries are now serious in taking corrective measures. Gandhiji’s idea that "nature has enough to satisfy every one's needs, but not to satisfy anybody's greed" becomes one line ethic to modern environmentalism.
Today we are deliberating upon many issues and challenges pertaining to the modern development.Asking right question at the right time is as important as giving the right answer. Hopefully we have raised here right questions, in order to find out appropriate answers.
I conclude my key-note address with the sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable.He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of Peace and Harmony.We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.”
Gandhi is not a spent bullet, he is the creative alternative
Jai Hind!!! Jai Jagat!!
SUSTAINABILITY – MANTRA FOR DEVELOPMENT
Director, National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi
“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”
Mahatma Gandhi has given us this touch-stone as an aid to our decision making process. We are fortunate enough to finish our education either with the help of the government or by the contribution of the community or society.Now we are searching for a reasonable employment with good remuneration in the government sector.What will be our return gift to the development of our own society and the nation at large?
We are running from pillar to post to earn more money by all means.We strongly believe that money will do everything and will bring happiness in our life.In the process of earning the money, normally what happens, the first casualty is our Happiness. We must understand that the happiness is a state of mind and more and more money cannot increase the feeling.It rather produces more and more anxiety.
According to Gandhi, man’s happiness really lies in contentment.He who is discontented, however much he possesses, becomes a slave to his desires.Herein lies the ethics of resource use, need but not greed; comfort but not luxury because our natural resources are very limited.With the limited resources, unlimited growth is not at all possible.If you go on disturbing the natural balance of the Earth, then Earth will react to us.
Our planet is a living organism that acts and responds to everything we do on her. We cannot treat the earth as a nonliving thing.We have to be very serious when we deal with the non-renewable natural resources.Therefore our development mantra should be sustainability.
Today’s growth can not considered as an organic growth. For example, if you take India, few cities and few metros are developed.This growth pattern increases the gap between the rich and poor.The Club of Rome report and World Watch Institute’s report are suggesting that we have to concentrate on organic growth – inclusive growth - and focus on sustainability.
Gandhi is not against machinery or modernizing the technology.But the machinery or technology should be appropriate to our social and economic environment.It should not control the humanity.It should not replace our huge labour force.It should be environmental friendly.Ultimately it should bring the changes in the living standard of the common people.Rural economy and agro-based industries should be developed and strengthened.This is what Gandhi wanted.But we are totally misinterpreting Gandhi.
His economic philosophy is vibrant, ever widening.It is not techno-centred, but people-centred.Development of handful of cities can not solve our economic problems.In fact it will create and increase our problems.Therefore Gandhi concentrated on economic development of the villages.Instead of Mass Production, he suggested production by Masses.Instead of centralized industries, he suggested decentralized small industries. Mass production is only concerned with the product, whereas production by the masses is concerned with the product as well as the producers, and the process involved in it. He had a dream of an Ideal village. Mass production leads people to leave their villages, their land, their crafts, and go to work in the factories. Instead of dignified human beings and members of a self-respecting village community, people become cogs in the machine, standing at the conveyor belt, living in crowded towns, and depending on the mercy of the bosses. Due to technological advancements fewer and fewer people are needed to work, because the industrialists want greater productivity. The masters of the money economy want more and more efficient machines working faster and faster, and the result is that men and women are thrown out and become technologically unemployed. Such a society generates rootless and jobless millions, living as dependants of the state or beggers in the streets of the metros.
Gandhi said "The true India is to be found not in its few cities, but in its seven hundred thousand villages. If the villages perish, India will perish too." Each village should be a microcosm of India - a web of loosely inter-connected communities. Gandhi considered these villages so important that he thought they should be given the status of ‘village republics’. The environmental concern of today was not there at the time of Gandhi, but his perception and attitude on growth, development, technology, self-reliance, Gram Swaraj etc. disclose his developmental model. His developmental model takes care of the Planet Earth as a whole.His concern for living in tune with the nature will solve most of our today’s problems.
Once Kamalnayan Bajaj, son of Gandhi’s close associate Jamnalal Bajaj, and his sister went to get Gandhi’s blessings when he visited Wardha in 1920. Gandhi smiled and asked them whether they liked their dress or his dress (He then used to wear a dhoti, a shirt and a white cap). They remained quiet.But Gandhi repeated the question. Kamalnayan Bajaj replied with a childish pride that he liked his own dress better.He took his cap in one hand and placed a white khadi cap in other and told him how the white cap was simple and beautiful.The point that appealed to him most was that it could be washed and could be kept clean.He asked Kamalnayan whether his cap could be washed.He said “No”. Then Gandhi put the question again: “Now will you tell me which is better – the one which can become dirty, or the one which is washable?”. He agreed that white washable cap is better than his cap.Then Gandhi said to him that the cap he used was such as only the rich could wear.He pointed a finger towards Jamnalalji, and told him that only he could afford a cap like that for his children; that there were many children in the country who could not get such a cap; and that what other children could not get, we ourselves should not wear.Children’s clothes, he added, should be simple, beautiful, cheap and yet washable.He pointed to his dress and said that, though their dress appeared to be bright and colourful, it was, in fact, not beautiful.He said that the colour hid the dirt and brightness was only a show.
Simple living does not mean living in poverty.Gandhi advocated simplicity because whatever resources and facilities are available with us should be equally distributed to all the concerned.When we do so we have to take care of the voiceless and the downtrodden first.Priority should be given to the people who really need such facility.That is why Gandhi suggested the above touch-stone (Talisman) to the policy makers.
E F Schumacher, celebrated author of the book ‘Small is Beautiful’ who was influenced by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, while delivering the Gandhi Memorial Lecture at the Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi (India) in 1973, described Gandhi as the greatest ‘People’s Economist.’ Schumacher identified Gandhi as the people’s economist whose economic thinking was compatible with spirituality as opposed to materialism.
Gandhi is not a spent bullet.He is the emerging reality and creative alternative.
EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EMPLOYMENT
IN RURAL AREAS AS ENVISIONED BY GANDHIJI
In January 1978, Ivan IIIich, author of the concept ‘Deschooling Society’ came to Sevagram to inaugurate a conference. During the stay he spent a great deal of time sitting in Gandhiji's hut. He observed deeply that, “This hut of Gandhi demonstrates to the world how the dignity of the common man can be brought up. It is also a symbol of the happiness that we can derive from practicing the principles of simplicity, service and truthfulness”.
Even after forty years, ‘Bapu Kuti’ in Sevagram represents the dignity of the people. Gandhi worked in multiple areas while introducing Khadi.His concern was to empower the rural masses through gainful employment.He thought that the technology should be simple, affordable, and user friendly.Villagers should be engaged in some form of economic activity in the idle hours.Therefore he reintroduced the Charkha to the Indian villages.He toured all over India and witnessed the utter poverty of the people who were living like animals.He observed, “The more I penetrate the villages, the greater is the shock delivered as a I perceive the blank stare in the eyes of the villagers I meet.Having nothing else to do but to work as labourers side by side with their bullocks, they have become almost like them.It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions have ceased to use their hands as hands.Nature is revenging herself upon us with terrible effect for this criminal waste of the gist she has bestowed upon us human beings.We refuse to make full use of the gift.And it is the exquisite mechanism of the hands that among a few other things separates us from the beast.Millions of us use them merely as feet.The result is that she starves both the body and the mind.
The spinning wheel alone can stop this reckless waste.It can do that now and without any extraordinary outlay of money or intelligence. Owing to his waste, we are living in a state almost of suspended animation.It can be revived if only every house is again turned into a spinning mill and every village into a weaving mill.With it will at once revive the ancient rustic art and rustic song.A semi-starved nation can have neither religion nor art nor organization.”(CWMG., Vol.XXXIII, pp.92-93)
Economic activity through spinning and weaving gave them a confidence.The slave mentality of the masses started vanishing.They experienced the power of economic independence.Agricultural activities were supplemented with spinning and weaving activities.It has a tremendous effect on the minds of the masses.Gandhi said, “I feel convinced that the revival of hand spinning and hand weaving will make the largest contribution to the economic and the moral regeneration of India.The millions must have a simple industry to supplement agriculture.Spinning was the cottage industry years ago and if the millions are to be saved from starvation, they must be enabled to reintroduce spinning in their homes and every village must repossess its own weaver.” (CWMG., Vol.XVIII, p.72)
Gandhi introduced this small “machine” in Indian society when the whole world was going for industrialization.Mass production for higher profit was the sole motive behind industrialization whereas for Gandhi production by the masses was the prime concern. He again and again emphasized that India need not copy the west. He warned India that we should not misguided by the elites. He observed, “… we must not be entrapped by false analogies.European writers are handicapped for want of experience and accurate information.They cannot guide us beyond a certain measure if they have to generalize from European examples which cannot be on all fours with Indian conditions, because in Europe they have nothing like the conditions of India, not even excluding Russia.What may be therefore, true of Europe is not necessarily true of India.We know, too, that each nation has its own characteristics and individuality.India has her own; and if we are to find out a true solution for her many ills, we shall have to take all the idiosyncrasies of her constitution into account and then prescribe a remedy.I claim that to industrialise India in the same sense as Europe is to attempt the impossible.India has stood many a storm.Each has left its own indelible mark, it is true, but she has hitherto dauntlessly maintained her individuality.India is one of the few nations of the earth which have witnessed the fall of many civilizations, herself remaining scatheless.India is one of the few nations on the earth which have retained some of their ancient institutions although they have been overlaid with superstition and error.But she has hitherto shown an inherent capacity for purging herself of error and superstition.My faith in her ability to solve the economic problem that faces her millions has never been so bright as it is today especially after my study of the conditions in Bengal.” (CWMG., Vol.XXVIII, p.32)
Blindly following the West and transplanting the technology developed in these countries into our soil never solve our indigenous problems. Gandhi’s concept of sarvodaya, welfare of all, encompasses the philosophy of life. This is the foundation of the Gandhi’s egalitarian society in which village is the centre. “Khadi is the Sun of the village solar system. The planets are the various industries which can support khadi in return for the heat and the sustenance they derive from it. Without it other industries cannot grow. But during my last tour I discovered that, without the revival of other industries, khadi could not make further progress. For villagers to be able to occupy their spare time profitably, the village must be touched at all points.” (CWMG., Vol.LIX, p.357).Khadi provides employment with dignity and safeguard the life of the millions.
Even during the freedom struggle, the question of following the West was the centre of debate.Gandhi’s own newspapers were the platform to discuss this current issue. Many people wrote to Gandhi of their own point of view.Gandhi published those letters as well as his reply. For one query Gandhi replied, “It is said that through highly industrialized processes every American own what is equivalent to 36 slaves.If we use America as our model, and if we allowed only 30 slaves to every Indian instead of 36, out of our 31 crores of human beings 30 crores must perform hari-kari or be killed off.I know that some enthusiastic patriots will not only not mind such a process, but they will welcome it.They will way that it is better to have one crore of happy, contented, prosperous Indians, armed to the teeth, that to have 30 crores of unarmed creatures who can hardly walk…I can only think in terms of the millions of villagers and can only my happiness dependent upon that of the poorest amongst them, and want to live only if they can live.My very simple mind cannot go beyond the little spindle of the little wheel which I can carry about with me from place to place and which I can manufacture without difficulty.In this connection a friend sends me the following paragraph which is going round the press:
“To relieve unemployment in certain industries the Nazis have ordered the stoppage of the use of machines which were displacing human labour.Commenting on this interdiction The Manchester Guardian remarks: ‘There has been a great deal of discussion about the effects of machinery in aggravating the unemployment crisis, but it has been left to the Nazis to do the logical thing and stop using it.It is only a little while since the world was asked to admire the miraculous triumph of labour saving rationalization in Germany.Now the Government is bent on fighting the machine, either by prohibiting its use or by compelling employers to work shorter hours and employ more men.Mr.Gandhi’s efforts to replace the spinning frame by the handwheel and the mechanical loom by the handloom are being paralleled closely in the German cigar and glass industries’”.
That the village industries in Germany are being revived at the point of the sword is not relevant here.What is relevant is that a country, which has shown the highest technical skill and is amongst the most advanced in the matter of industrialization is trying to go back to village industries for solving the problem of her terrible unemployment.(CWMG., Vol.LVI, pp.147-148)
The choice of technology should also be one of the criteria for suitable development model of our own. The technology which is suitable to our socio-cultural and political conditions may not be suitable to other countries.The way China extracts works from the people may not be suitable to USA and other European Countries.Their use of technology is suitable for them.This appropriateness in using the technology is important and fundamental for development.Choice is ours, whether we are going for a capital intensive technology or labour intensive technology.The decision to select which are the areas we can go with the capital intensive and labour intensive technology solely vests with us.But it needs political will.
“Mechanization is good when the hands are too few for the work intended to be accomplished.It is an evil when there are more hands than required for the work, as is the case in India.I may not use a plough for digging a few square yards of a plot of land.The problem with us is not how to find leisure for the teeming millions inhabiting our villages.The problem is how to utilize their idle hours, which are equal to the working days of six months in the year.Strange as it may appear, every mill generally is a menace to the villagers.I have not worked out the figures, but I am quite safe in saying that every mill-hand does the work of at least ten labourers doing the same work in their villages.In other words, he earns more than he did in his village at the expense of ten fellow-villagers.Thus spinning and weaving mills have deprived the villagers of a substantial means of livelihood.It is no answer in reply to say that they turn out cheaper, better cloth, if they do so at all.For if they have displaced thousands of workers, the cheapest mill cloth is dearer that the dearest Khadi woven in the villages.Coal is not dear for the coal miner who can use it here and then, nor is Khadi dear for the villager who manufactures his own Khadi.”(CWMG., Vol.LIX, p.356)
Gandhi was misunderstood by many for his idea of village economy.Gandhi was critised by some main stream economists that Gandhi was trying to set aside the scientific invention of modern times and he try to convince the people to go back to the past.This is far from truth. Gandhi again and again cleared his stand on science, technology and scientific invention.“I would prize every invention of science made for the benefit of all.There is a difference between invention and invention.I should not care for the asphyxiating gases capable of killing masses of men at a time.The heavy machinery for work of public utility which cannot be undertaken by human labour has the inevitable place but all that would be owned by the State and used entirely for the benefit of the people.I can have no consideration for machinery which is meant either to enrich the few at te expense of many, or without cause of displace the useful labour of many.”(CWMG., Vol.LXI, p.187)
The percolation theory of the modern economic model has failed to distribute the benefit of development to all especially to the lower strata of the society.The reality even today is rich became richer and poor became poorer. The decentralised system of production will certainly lead to equal distribution of income. Rajaji observed, “You cannot distribute the wealth equally ‘after’ producing it.You won’t succeed in getting men to agree to it.But you can so produce wealth as to secure equable distribution ‘before’ producing it.That is Khadi”.
Therefore Gandhi’s proposition is based on the reality.Gandhi was not an ideal dreamer but a practical idealist.He said, “Khadi is the only true economic proposition in terms of the millions of villagers until such time if ever, when a better system of supplying work and adequate wages for every able-bodied person above the age of sixteen male or female, is found for his field, cottage or even factory in every one of the villages in India; or till sufficient cities are built up to displace the villages so as to give the villagers the necessary comforts and amenities that a well-regulated life demands and is entitled to.” (CWMG., Vol.LXIII, pp.77-78)
Therefore Gandhi insisted that the development of the rural areas is possible only through empowering the rural masses through gainful employment with dignity.Cities are over-crowded and slums are increasing day by day by the migrated population from the villages. Therefore Gandhi said, “It was by following this line of argument that I hit upon Khadi as a necessary and the most important corollary of the principle of Swadeshi in it application to society.‘What is the kind of service,’ I asked myself, ‘that the teeming millions of India most need at the present time that can be easily understood and appreciated by all that is easy to perform and will at the same time enable the crores of our semi-starved country-men to live,’ and the reply came that it is the universalization of Khadi or the spinning wheel along that can fulfill these conditions.(CWMG., Vol.XLVI, p.256)
Now most of the clothing needs are met by the few sophisticated mills which employ very less.Once the Textile Industries were labour industries, but now they also mechanized their production. Can Khadi co-exist with Textile Mills.The same question was asked during Gandhi’s time.He clarified very carefully.Gandhi said the following:
·They can standardize their prices, taking the lowest average of a number of top and lean years.
·They can refrain from manufacturing those varieties that can be easily and immediately produced by Khadi organizations, thus freeing their energy for manufacturing more of the varieties they can at the present moment manufacture more easily than the Khadi organizations.
·They can limit their profit to a minimum and let the surplus, if any, be devoted to the improvement of the condition of the labourers.
·This would mean all-round honesty, perseverance mutual trust, a voluntary and honourable triple alliance between labour, capital and the consumer.It would mean capacity for organization on a vast scale.
·In my humble opinion we are eminently fitted for the task.The organization required for the purpose is not unfamiliar to us.The only question is have we the will?Have the mill owners enough vision, enough love of the country?If they have, they can take the lead.”(CWMG., Vol.XXXVI, pp.105-106)
“The ‘khadi spirit’ means fellow-feeling with every human being on earth. It means a complete renunciation of everything that is likely to harm our fellow creatures, and if we are to cultivate that spirit amongst the millions of our countrymen, what a land this India of ours would be!”(CWMG., Vol.39, p.520))Gandhi wanted everybody to have the spirit of khadi and spirit of oneness of human beings.Khadi is not a piece of cloth to cover the body but a philosophy to imbibe and follow.
This is the challenge before us.When we celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, let us think of Khadi, the icon of Indian Independence. India is now ready to observe the great event.Let us try Khadi and atleast 5 per cent of our cloth should be Khadi during this year.It will definitely have tremendous impact on the mindset of the people as well as in the rural economy.“INDIA WEARS KHADI” should be the slogan and we will observe January 30th, the martyrdom day of Mahatma Gandhi by wearing Khadi. Not only you and me, but the whole of India from President, Prime Minister to the masses should wear Khadi on January 30th. Let us make the pledge today.
Let us conclude with the Gandhi’s vision, “If I throw the wheel at the skeletons of Orissa, they will not look at it.But if I begin spinning in their midst, they will take to it like fish to water.The masses do as the great ones do, not as they preach.Hence the necessity for the spinning resolution.It gives us a real sense of responsibility towards the villages, it fills the air with the spinning taste and cheapens Khadi.If the spinning resolution is faithfully carried out by the country, it has a potency of which we have as yet not conception.”(CWMG., Vol.XXIV, p.526)
A.Annamalai, Director, National Gandhi Museum, Rajghat, New Delhi
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
KHADI : ICON OF INDIAN INDEPENDENCE
Director, National Gandhi Museum
Rajghat, New Delhi 110 002
“The ‘khadi spirit’ means fellow-feeling with every human being on earth. It means a complete renunciation of everything that is likely to harm our fellow creatures, and if we are to cultivate that spirit amongst the millions of our countrymen, what a land this India of ours would be!”( CWMG., Vol.39, p.520)) Gandhi wanted everybody to have the spirit of khadi and spirit of oneness of human beings.Khadi is not a piece of cloth to cover the body but a philosophy to imbibe and follow.
It was during the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917, Gandhiji encountered the plight of the farmers of Bihar.He met a woman in the Bhilwara village and during the discussion with the woman he realized that this woman was unable to change her sari simply because she did not have another one. The plant which is the source of indigo dye for clothing was the central issue of Champaran Satyagraha and the same cloth was the costly commodity for the farmers.At one time in the past we were one of the top cotton cultivators. But our cultivators were deprived of the same product of the cotton. The cotton had gone to England as raw material and again came back to India as the finished product as cloth from Manchester and Lancashire.
Where was our glorious past?Gandhiji also came from a place where spinning and weaving culture prevailed.After the East India Company controlled the market of the Indian subcontinent, things changed drastically.To cater to their own needs, English rulers destroyed the textile culture of Indian rural people.
Glorious textile knowledge of the past:
Indian indigo-dyed cotton ikat was found in a Pharoah's tomb, the rose madder cloth was unearthed at a Mohenjodaro site along with spindles, Greek and Roman traders' accounts describe the fine fabrics from Indian sub-continent. Ajanta and Ellora paintings depict the various design and style in textile materials. Each and every part of India had its own style of textile design – design while weaving, dyeing, and printing, etc. The quality of the cloth also varied from region to region.In fact, we have pioneered in the art of textile technology.
India's cloth was the pride and glory and even some countries banned the import of cloth from India! Our cloth decorated the royals of many countries. These were also the hand-spun and hand-woven cloth, Khadi of the past!
Industrial Revolution extended its ugly tentacles and power-loom industries in England crushed Indian textiles. The newly enacted laws in consonance with the British colonial policy had paved way to a new trade practice.All the cotton grown in India was to be exported to England at very low prices while British mill cloth flooded Indian markets, forcing the locals left with any alternative.
Lakhs and lakhs of Indian spinners and weavers became unemployed and were literally thrown out the streets. The pride of India – hand-spun, hand-woven cloth – was forcibly allowed to die, with it, the vast reservoirs of precious traditional textile knowledge too disappeared.
Here comes Gandhiji.“It was in London in 1908 that I discovered the wheel, I had gone there leading a deputation from South Africa.It was then that I came in close touch with many earnest Indians – students and others.We had many long conversations about the condition of India, and I saw as in a flash that without the spinning wheel there was no Swaraj.I knew at once that everyone had to spin.But I did not then know the distinction between the loom and the wheel and in Hind Swaraj used the word loom to mean the wheel.”(CWMG., Vol.37, p.288)
As suggested by Gokhale, Gandhi toured India to have hands on experience with the conditions of the Indian people.He saw face to face the poor conditions of the villages.The farmers were out of employment for almost half of the year.Champaran incident also intensified his feeling and he wanted to identify a supplementary occupation for the farmers which will utilize their time and energy for gainful employment.Spinning and weaving came to his mind. He introduced the weaving in the Ashram with the support of the textile mill owners of Ahmedabad.He soon realized that this process again supported the Indian industries and does not directly benefit the farmers.Gandhi met an energetic lady, Gangabehn Majumdar at the Second Gujarat Education Conference in Broach, and entrusted her the work of finding out the traditional way of spinning and its instruments.That was the situation in India!
“At last, after no end of wandering in Gujarat, Gangabehn found the spinning wheel in Vijapur in the Baroda State. Quite a number of people there had spinning wheels in their homes, but had long since consigned them to the lofts as useless lumber. They expressed to Gangabehn their readiness to resume spinning, if someone promised to provide them with a regular supply of slivers, and to buy the yarn spun by them. Gangabehn communicated the joyful news to me.” (CWMG., Vol.39, p.391)
Reinvention of hand spinning and hand weaving were put in place by Gandhiji through his trusted friends like Gangabehn, Maganlal Gandhi and other ashram friends.Khadi was tested first among the Ashramites and Gandhi decided to take it to a nationwide movement, laton on.
Gandhi introduced the new piece of hand-spun, hand-woven cloth under a new ‘brand name’ Khadi. He also gave a philosophical foundation to Khadi and made it a new programme for the Congress.
Spirit of Swadeshi:
“Khaddar is the concrete and central fact of Swadeshi. Swadeshi without Khaddar is like the body without life, fit only to receive a decent burial or cremation. The only Swadeshi cloth is Khaddar. If one is to interpret Swadeshi in the language of and in terms of the millions of this country, khaddar is a substantial thing in swadeshi like the air we breathe. The test of swadeshi is not the universality of the use of an article which goes under the name of swadeshi, but the universality of participation in the product ion or manufacture of such article. Thus considered, mill-made cloth is swadeshi only in a restricted sense. For, in its manufacture only an infinitesimal number of India's millions can take part. But in the manufacture of khaddar millions can take part.” (Young India, 17-6-1926)
Now he has prepared the ground for the revival of the Swedshi Movement and he insisted his country man to boycott the foreign cloth. He ignited the spirit of nationalism through swedshi movement and make Khadi as the symbol of nationalism. He, through Khadi movement, positioned his nonviolent weapon to strike at the very foundation of the colonial exploitation!
He proposed Khadi as part of the programme to reconstruct the rural economy in a decentralised pattern. It became a part of the freedom struggle. He toured countrywide to popularise Khadi movement.
A major handicap in the introductory stage was the colour of khadi – the white.They could not produce colour sari for women.White sari even without coloured border was considered to be widowhood and no family women would accept this costume.Therefore Gandhi reinterpreted the concept of white as purity and simplicity. He asked his wife Kasturba to wear the white sari and asked other women in the ashram to wear white sari to set an example for the people to follow.
Khadi movement also paved way to the empowerment of the villagers and specially women.One of the major reasons of the large number women’s participation in the Indian freedom movement was certainly the khadi movement.
He said, “Khadi is the only true economic proposition in terms of millions of villagers until such time, if ever, when a better system of supplying work and adequate wages for every able bodied person above the age of sixteen, male or female, is found in his field, cottage or even factory in every one of the villages in India or till sufficient cities are built up to displace the villages, so as to give the villagers the necessary comforts and amenities that a well-regulated life demands and is entitled to.I have only to state the proposition thus fully to show that Khadi must hold the filed for any length of time that we can think of”.(Khadi – Why & How p.39)
The decentralised system of production will certainly lead to equal distribution of income. Rajaji observed, “You cannot distribute the wealth equally ‘after’ producing it.You won’t succeed in getting men to agree to it.But you can so produce wealth as to secure equable distribution ‘before’ producing it.That is Khadi”.
“Khadi is the sun of the village solar system. The planets are the various industries which can support khadi in return for the heat and the sustenance they derive from it. Without it other industries cannot grow. But during my last tour I discovered that, without the revival of other industries, khadi could not make further progress. For villagers to be able to occupy their spare time profitably, the village must be touched at all points.” (Harijan,16-11-1934)
Gandhi also realised the pressure inside the Congress and decided to separate from the organisational support of the Congress.He established All India Spinners Association in 1925.Under the guidance of the All India Spinners Association reached out to corners of India, attracted new supporters and widened its support base throughout India.
Icon of Independence Movement:
Charka became the icon of the independence movement and Khadi became the identity of the nationalism.India witnessed a make shift from colonial power to people’s power. Common people once feared of policemen in this country but with Gandhi’s introduction of nonviolent strategy, policemen feared of the ‘khadi people’. Purely an economic activity became a powerful political weapon!
As observed by Lisa Trivedi in her book, ‘Clothing Gandhi’s Nation’, “Gandhi also transformed the bodies of colonial subjects into national subject-citizens.By inventing a new style of dress, swadeshi proponents provided a simple way through which elites could identify themselves with a broader national community.Adopting new forms of dress both challenged colonial and traditional norms of comportment.The so-called ‘habitual khadi wearer’ celebrated the principle of universal labour and self-sufficiency as the basis of political community… Quite simply, khadi enabled people across colonial India to see each other as members of the same or similar communities.Even if khadi could not completely transform everybody into that of an ‘Indian’, it certainly offered visual rejection of both colonial and traditional norm of comportment”.
“The mission of khadi is not merely to supply the towns people with fashionable khadi that will vie with the mill manufacturers and thus like other industries supply a few artisans with employment, but it is to become a supplementary industry to agriculture. This mission still remains unfulfilled.
In order that it may fulfill this mission, it has to be self-sustained and its use must spread in the villages. Just as the villagers cook their own roti or rice, so must they make their own khadi for personal use. The surplus, if any, they may sell. ”(Harijan,6-7-1935)
Challenge before Us:
Now the greatest challenge for Khadi is how to make it more affordable to the people and how to make it more attractive without compromising the basic philosophy of dignity of labour, decentralization, nonviolence and simplicity.In the absence of powerful influences like ‘freedom struggle’ or ‘swadeshi movement’, now khadi has to stand on its own strength of its philosophical foundation.
No doubt, cotton is environmental friendly, suitable for our weather conditions, good for skin and body and natural product.It is applicable to all cotton products including mill made. But the testing stone will be the production, distribution and consumption.For khadi the production itself is ecofriendly with appropriate technology to suit to the producer.The decentralized production will also help in the distribution of income to masses through which we can increase the purchasing power of the people.
If we want a sustainable, eco-friendly development, khadi should the foundation of all our developmental activities. Khadi movement should become the people’s movement and we should make khadi our national dress.The mindset of the people is mostly created and we have to create a favourable atmosphere to use khadi for our own cloth needs.By using khadi, we are preserving one of the oldest skill of mankind.