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Gandhi for skills, sanitation

Gandhi for skills, sanitation

The nation is celebrating the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi starting October 2, 2018, with a pledge to cleanliness. Stating that the best tribute to Mahatma Gandhi will be to make India clean, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014. From charting the course of the nation to fighting social evils, Gandhi took a keen interest in shaping India as a modern and independent country that takes pride in encouraging the best of social life. Much before the Independence, Indian political leaders began to realise that social reform was necessary to make India reassert itself after centuries of subjugation. The last 15 years of Mahatma Gandhi's life were devoted more to bringing social reforms than to political issues. Gandhi was concerned that caste system was still prevalent and some sections of the society are considered untouchables. The virtue of cleanliness is being forgotten and the new generation of people do not value physical labour. Jealously and enmity were the inherent hallmarks of the Indian village life and sectarian violence was rampant. People were divided on caste and religious lines making it easy for foreign powers to play up with the conflicting interests of the people. In the initial years following the Independence, children were taught about the importance of cleanliness in government schools. Many of the pet concerns of Gandhi were taken up in earnest but with the passage of time, the focus on social issues became weaker. The life of Mahatma Gandhi is a great source of knowledge and inspiration for people in social and political life. Gandhi's firm belief in keeping oneself pure and above board while dealing with adversaries was meant to keep oneself grounded even after a victory over the enemies. For him the means were as important as the end; for a just end, unfair means cannot be justified. He advocated physical work and cleanliness for everyone as a means to purify oneself. But Gandhi's teachings were forgotten too soon in Independent India. And, the results are for everyone to see. The country looks dirty with piles of garbage at every corner throughout the country. In some big cities like Delhi, the problem of filth and garbage is even bigger. It was a good initiative on the part of PM Modi to launch a country-wide cleanliness drive and associate it with Mahatma Gandhi. Cleanliness was Gandhi's one of the pet topics.

Remembering Gandhi on his birthday makes us realise how India has suffered by not following Gandhi's teachings in the social and political life. For example, Gandhi wanted India to be a country of self-sufficient villages. He was one of those leaders who realised that to provide food, shelter and a dignified life to every citizen, India must recognise the skills and products that represent a particular village or region. Then, efforts should be made to market these skills and products in regions where they are in short supply. He specially chose spinning and manufacture of handloom clothes as a means to provide mass employment to people in the rural as well as urban areas. But, India has not quite followed the teachings of the wise man and the result is that a large number of young men and women are unemployed as they lack any employable skill. The condition of villages has become all the worse. The skills that earned the village folk their livelihood have few takers in today's world of mechanised mass production. The farming activities have long become unproductive and farmers are forced to commit suicide after they are caught in the vicious circle of debt from local moneylenders. Hygiene and sanitation are still big issues and the overall look of the Indian village life has little to inspire people from the city to turn to the villages. On the contrary, rapid migration of people from the villages to cities have left both villages and the cities in a disarray. While skilled and semi-skilled workers are missing from the villages, the cities are grappling with overpopulation and shortage of amenities. The Khadi revolution that Gandhi thought could provide decent home-based employment to unemployed men and women has been reduced to a corporate house with Khadi clothes as a product and profit as the only motive. While it is again heart-warming that the government has recognised the importance of employable skills and launched a programme to provide every youth with some skills, the government has not aligned the Khadi Gramodyog with the country's unemployment problem. The Khadi Gramodyog has the potential to become one of the largest employers but the organisation has failed to achieve its potential for want of leadership and guidance.

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