By Vandana Shiva October 2002 The Gandhian concept of the charkha was a symbol of self-entrepreneurship, which alone can help the nation protect its bio-diversity and provide sustenance to the poorest of the poor Today, when everything is creating disillusionment, people are being drawn to violence. Only Gandhian thoughts can equip the present and the future generations to deal with it without committing violence on themselves. Gandhi picked the charkha (spinning wheel) because the British colonial rule was wiping out India’s textile production. Today’s colonization is around patenting of life, genetic manipulation of food, monopolies over water, seeds, plants and animals. In this context the ‘seed’ becomes the charkha. Gandhi has been an important role model for me. My parents were both Gandhians. In daily parental guidance such as what clothes to wear, how to live, Gandhi’s messages became clear to me. It was my environmental concerns that made me search for viable thoughts, philosophies and actions. I found inspiration nowhere else! Navdanya, our organic farming organisation, has been inspired by Gandhi in three critical ways: · To perceive the seed as the modern charkha. · I started a movement in 1991, when the GATT and the WTO came up with Intellectual Property Rights and patenting of seeds. Again, taking inspiration from Gandhi, we started the Beej Satyagraha, where farmers began to speak up for their rights. Organic farming as a nonviolent system. The present model of development is based on taking away the little the poor have for consumption of the rich. There is a new project sponsored by a multinational, Swayze, to cater to the wasteful needs of Delhi’s public. About 650 million litres of water will be diverted to Delhi through giant-sized pipelines, while thousands of people are being drowned at Tehri and an equal number of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh lose their crops. So you wipe out the civilisation that has existed for ten thousand years so that for two years Delhites can wash three more cars and flush their toilets! So, the choice for these people is not between self-reliance and development. It is self-reliance or annihilation. I believe everyone has a right to live. Gandhi’s diet was based on a principle that is good for the soil, the producer and the consumer. It produces sustainability and livelihood and is good for health. A violent diet destroys the bio-diversity and uproots the farmers. Gandhi had a clear criteria on testing technology and it can be referred to his talisman that anyone who ignores the general masses is not technologically progressive, but humanly regressive. What is called the economics of abundance is economics of scarcity. The Green Revolution was supposed to create abundance but has destroyed one-third of the land in Punjab. It has destroyed the water resources and wiped off thousands of farmers. The ‘economy of scarcity’ is an economy viewed from the blinkers of the monoculture mind who only see what the rich and the powerful can extract. They do not see the wealth in the eco-system. Gandhi encouraged self-entrepreneurship. Navdanya promotes it. We work with farmers to acquaint them with bio-diversity. This generates better income, because of diversity of crops. -As told to Sunit Bezbaroowa Dr Vandana Shiva is a noted physicist, ecologist, activist and author of books like Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge and Staying Alive. She is the founder-director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, New Delhi.
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