The Gandhian way
The real challenge during Gandhi @150 is to bring the Mahatma’s values to the mainstream of our contemporary social and political lives
Gandhi is more relevant today to India and the world than ever before. Gandhi's values and wisdom are important to men and women, the young and old, rich and poor, the urban and rural. Gandhi is equally important to global politics and the global economy. Fundamentals rooted in human dignity, development, equality, equity, well-being, happiness and prosperity, all define Gandhi even today on his 150th birthday.
Gandhi means different things to different people. To Indians, he is the father of the nation. To the world, he gave a new tool to fight civil obedience. He promoted non-violence, simplicity, sacrifice, service to people and championed for the untouchables, minorities and poorest of the poor. He wore no resplendent uniform, commanded no army, held no government positions and lead the biggest independence movement in the history to ultimately decolonise the entire world.
Four major decisions defined Gandhi's political and social trajectory – Satyagaha of 1905, Textile mill strike of 1918, the salt march of 1930 and fasts during 1922-1946. He was disciplined, creative, respectful, honest, consistence, committed and courageous man who practised what he preached. His life was his message. He was a great communicator who could pick a pinch of salt and galvanise millions in an era deprived of modern media to reach out to people. Gandhi also understood and appreciated the meaning of Maan, Apman, Swaman and Abhiman in building collaboration and cooperation required to manage multiple organisational capabilities. He was a great motivator respected by other leaders around him. He had a moral and ethical foundation to earn respect and recognition.
He was a man of the information age who believed in openness, accessibility, connectivity, networking, democratisation, decentralisation, transparency and accountability. He would have been very comfortable with the internet and smartphones to increase his reach and richness. He believed in decentralisation and would have appreciated the distributed architecture of the affordable, scalable and sustainable mobile telephone Systems and internet.
To me, the essence of Gandhi lies in his deep understanding of people, planet and platforms to deliver development and improve productivity and performance. On people, he emphasised truth, trust, love, simplicity and courage. On the planet, he promoted concern for the environment, focus on needs and not wants, bottom-up as opposed to top-down development, service to life and sacrifice in an interconnected ecosystem to live in peace and harmony with nature. To accomplish his objectives for people and the planet, he believed in global platforms related to democracy, freedom, inclusion, diversity and non-violence. These were not just words to him. He had a deep understanding and moral and ethical commitment to live the life guided by each of the basic values. These basic values defined his approach to development and delivery for prosperity to all. He was clearly focused on inclusion, diversity for equality and freedom as well as democracy to empower people. Gandhi is of value and relevance to the young because he shows a way to build character, morals, ethics and purpose to serve people. He shows that life is not about instant gratification but hard work and commitment to principals.
Unfortunately, in our day-to-day lives, Gandhi is practically forgotten. We only give lip service to Gandhian principals. We have put him on a pedestal to look up but not follow. Gandhi is celebrated by organising events around Gandhi for photo opportunity and media management. Gandhi is claimed by people who do not understand or believe in Gandhi.
Our World, today, is at crossroads with a crisis of leadership. Several global leaders around the world are preoccupied playing with democracy, freedom, human rights, rule of law, security, populist agenda, nationalism, personal promotions and emotions of people. In the process, they openly lie, mistrust, divide people, promote hate and violence, manipulate media, undermine democracy, curb freedom, create fear and use big corporations to launch capital-intensive projects and fund elections. They undermine institutions, try to control the judiciary, intelligence and security to enhance narrow political agenda. They try to manipulate elections, buy voters and give false promises. They attack, humiliate, bad-mouth opponents and use social media to amplify lies and discredit others. In the process, they affect growth, economy, opportunities and employment.
Celebration of Gandhi's 150th birthday will have real meaning if these leaders will review and reflect on Gandhian values and wisdom to change their inner soul, way of operation and personal political agenda and divert their energy and attention to real public service with a focus on people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Today, the world needs peace and prosperity, not war and unemployment. It needs a deeper understanding of inclusion, diversity, democracy and freedom to promote development for all. Politics is not a profession but rather all about public service. Gandhi was all about selfless service to humanity. How do we bring Gandhi and Gandhian values to the mainstream of social and political life is the real challenge during Gandhi @150.
(The author is a telecom engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)