Gandhian Influence on the Indian Political Environment

Second October marks the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly remembered as Mahatma Gandhi. He was a key icon in helping India achieve independence from British rule and his principles have been a great source of inspiration to humans everywhere; from his native homeland in India to South Africa and even England. Gandhi had a lot of views and opinions which helped to an extent to shape and formulate India’s political development. However his views were not shared by all and consequently India did not develop in the manner he wished. This piece gives insights as to what Gandhi’s vision for India was and how his vision guided India’s development.

To begin with, Gandhi believed that development was not measured in terms of economic progress, industrialization, urbanization etc. He maintained an aversion to modern industrial life throughout his long political career. He believed that technology and mass manufacturing lead to the creation of acquisition motives in humans. This consequently could lead to economic exploitation of less privileged men. He believed that Man should resist the use of machinery and instead return to manual labor and production for use.

He wanted to create an alternate model of development which was inspired from the old Hindu ages. This model would help society to not forsake traditional morality that could be lost with the arrival of modern machinery. He believed that the embodiment of this ancient moral glory was still present and could be found in the village communities of India. Gandhi essentially glorified village life. He wanted India post independence, to restore and rebuild village life. He wanted to assign importance to rooting out all social evils that were present in the Indian villages. This included untouchability, illiteracy, disease and debilitating habits such as alcoholism and drug taking. The main focus with village reconstruction was to reestablish the traditional handicraft industries which had succumbed to cheaper machine made products from abroad but had kept the village prosperous and self sustaining in the pre modern times.

His followers and him, argued that if these things were accomplished economic and social inequalities would disappear. The adoption of these simple hand technologies would ensure that production, consumption and distribution of wealth be were simultaneous and prevent disparities in wealth among population. It would lead to a formation of a cooperative economy, where people would produce for use rather than for profit. This would protect the society from competition.

His views of India post independence were against the modern industrial state envisioned by other leaders. They said that Gandhi vision was essentially a road back. Nehru and his colleagues were not persuaded. Majority of Indian intellectuals rejected his social vision. Nevertheless, in light of Gandhi critique of the modern industrial society, modern intellectuals did become concerned about the values and priorities of the modern society they wanted to build. They began to question whether economic modernization was a sufficient end in itself. As a result, in India , the concept of modernity was expanded to add moral growth to the material elements of economic growth.

During this time socialism was developing in Soviet Union. Many intellectuals saw the Soviet pattern as a better system of modernity. Socialism was attractive to the Indian congress as well because of its association with economic planning. It offered a scientific approach to the problem of resource allocation and investment which was much better than the capitalist model. It is said that there are many similarities between Gandhi thoughts and framework of Marx as it relates to the moral basis of economic and political organization. Consequently socialism was brought to India, and India created a unique political condition which combined the capitalism of the USA and Socialism of the Soviet Union, to create India’s own unique political environment.

It is perhaps because of Gandhi influence that India did not take a pure capitalist route of development which was dependent on the market forces of demand and supply. Gandhi abhorred the system of modernization and wanted to develop the Indian villages to make them self sufficient independent units. For this to be possible there had to be a lot of state intervention. The socialist model that was dominating in Russia allowed for this. Gandhi said socialism is quite similar to his thoughts and ideas, he could be given credit as to why to socialism was brought into the country. Due to Gandhi’s opinions, India followed a mixed political system which combined American and Russian ideologies , as opposed to a pure capitalist model that might have been implemented.

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