By Sanjoy Hazarika October 2002 Gandhi’s charkha may have lost its relevance amidst rapid advancements in technology, but the ideology it symbolizes will continue to spin a spell on generations to come Mahatma Gandhi’s charkha, or the spinning wheel, is a symbol of technology that is simple and can be used by everyone. Today, we have the mushrooming of Internet cafes. The charkha, however, will always be relevant. The charkha is what Gandhi stood for-the promotion of small-scale industries, using one’s natural assets. Ironically, we waste our assets-people, environment and natural resources. Had Gandhi been alive today, maybe he would have found a more computer-savvy charkha. The charkha was used to make one’s own yarn, aimed at promoting the village economy. When Gandhi talked about community living, he did not imply a community living in an ashram. He referred to people of different communities working in unison. Sadly, the incidents in Gujarat, outside the gates of Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram have completely whitewashed his concept of community living. It is an insult to his memory. Khadi was a way of generating employment for millions of unemployed at the time. The village industry offered tremendous scope for self-reliance. Gandhi wanted every village to be self-sufficient and have an independent governing body. Self-reliance does not mean closing our doors and windows to the world. Gandhi used to quote Rabindranath Tagore to bring home the point: ‘I would let the winds of the world blow through the doors and windows of my house but I will not be blown away.’ An economically weak country like India cannot be a great military power and dabble with international issues. In this country, we have people going hungry even when we have surplus stocks. We have abundance co-existing with scarcity because we do not have a good distribution system. To add to the grievances, we do not have sensible politicians and officials. Mahatma Gandhi taught us to think rationally. Gandhi’s philosophies can be easily applied to modern times. His agricultural economics was against feudalism and the zamindari system. But, we are trying to strengthen the weak at the expense of the poor. We want Mandalization, Reservation Bill – all this does not make people strong, it makes them dependent! I do not think one Gandhi can solve our present problems. We need many people like Gandhi. Gandhi came at a divinely appointed time in the history of India and went away at a divinely unfortunate time. It is, however, impossible to find a person who can match him in his ideology. Had Gandhi been alive today, he would have been happy to see the technological breakthroughs the man has made to save humanity. He would have, however, worked more towards changing the mindset of people. Today’s generation is connected to the entire world. But I am not sure whether they identify with Gandhi. Whether people follow his teachings is a different thing, but his ideology will remain relevant for generations to come. -As told to Sunit BezbaroowaSanjoy Hazarika is a research professor at the Centre For Policy Research, New Delhi. A former correspondent for The New York Times, he is the author of various books such as Strangers of the Mist, Rites of Passage and Bhopal, the Lessons of a Tragedy.
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