Un-Gandhian approach

The prime minister is promoting high level of consumption by developed countries and only giving lip service against it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never tires of singing praises of Mahatma Gandhi. He says that Gandhi’s model of development was the right one. Gandhi ever stressed the need to reduce consumption of goods. His simple dress is an ample statement of this. But the policies being implemented by the prime minister are in the opposite direction. He is promoting western consumerism.

Harmful goods like pan masala and bottled soft drinks are being served to the people on TV. The prime minister actively solicits the entry of harmful fast food giants like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He is expanding the production of cars in the country not recognising the imited availability of land for making roads and highways; and the load on pollution that these are creating. The government is more interested in taxes obtained from these harmful products than the impact on the people’s health or culture. Just as cigarette companies write ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ yet make every effort to sell more, so the prime minister is saying lifestyles of the rich are harmful yet making every effort to promote the same.

 The prime minister has characterised Gandhi’s thinking to be same as that of sustainable development. The sustainable development movement builds on the idea that ever increasing consumption of goods like air-conditioned buildings and cars is the final objective of life. It only wants to limit this consumption at the present so that it can sustain in the long run.

  Gandhiji’s thinking is not honoured by the use of clean technologies alone as propagated by the sustainable development lobby. Clean technologies help us produce more goods from the same resources. But this comes to a naught if consumption increases yet more. Say, presently our cars are getting an average of 15 km per litre of petrol. There are 100 cars in the town that run 100 km per month.

Now let us say a clean car is available in the market that gives average of 25 km per litre. It would be excellent to adopt this clean car if the travel remains the same at 100 cars and 100 km per month. Monthly consumption of petrol is 667 litres. Then large amount of diesel would be saved leading to less burden on our natural resources.

The situation becomes entirely different if people start driving 200 cars for 200 km per month because running car has become less expensive. The burden on nature actually increases. Consumption of petrol has increased to 1600 litres. We can see this happening in our cities today. Roads have become clogged. It is difficult to walk on the roads. This shows that use of clean technologies which the Western countries are pushing is inadequate to save our environment.

The solution necessarily requires that we reduce consumption. This is what Gandhi taught. He said we must voluntarily limit one’s consumption. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, wants to ever increase the level of consumption.

Goody-goody relationship

The prime minister has objected to the high level of consumption by the developed countries. He wants that consumption of the global natural resources by India should increase. He has no problem with the Western countries maintaining their present high levels of consumption. He seeks a goody-goody relationship with the rich countries. He recognizes that the present model of globalization is stacked against the developing countries. But instead of challenging this unholy world economic order, he is contend to obtain small reliefs like opening of agricultural markets of the developed countries for our exports.

He is not willing to lead a war of economic independence that would lead to the consumption of 80 per cent of the world’s natural resources by 80 per cent of the people in the developing countries. He is happy if the 80 per cent people of the developing countries can increase their share from present 20 per cent to say 22 per cent. He is sending away India’s hard earned income to augment unnecessary forex reserves. The money sent is used by that country to import Basmati rice from India. The prime minister is himself promoting high level of consumption by the developed countries and only giving lip service against it.

 Gandhi did not seek a win-win formula with Britain in demanding India’s independence. The prime minister has called for creation of an economic structure in which the needs of all sections is fulfilled. The prime minister is focused on ‘material needs’; not on self-respect. But Gandhi wanted the voter to be independent for his livelihood from the government. He wanted the voter to rule over the government. He threw out cheap cloth made in Manchester to promote high-cost Khadi produced by our people so that they could secure livelihood along with self-respect.

 The prime minister’s policies are in exactly the opposite direction. He is providing full and free entry to big companies that produce cheap machine-made goods and hitting at the livelihood of the common man in areas such as handloom, rasvanti, oil ghani, etc. Then he wants to tax the big companies and provide 100 days employment to assuage the hurt inflicted by him on the poor. There is no place for self-respecting employment like in Khadi in the prime minister’s vision. His thinking is limited to the provision of food, clothing and shelter to the people. The prime minister only wants to create a façade of his government being pro-people in order to distract their attention from the anti-poor economic policies being implemented by his government.

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