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Towards An Egalitarian Society

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  • Published
    28th Dec, 2019
  • Mahatma Gandhi was a man of many parts. He was not and never considered himself just as a political leader with a singular mission to free India from the British yoke.
  • With a multi-dimensional mission, he wanted to touch every aspect of our individual National and even International life. In particular his heart and mind remained ever ignited to work for the total regeneration.
  • Of Indian Society be it political, economic, social, cultural, religious or spiritual aspects. In the political field, he applied the old age principles of Truth and non-violence and their derivatives at Agra to build mass movement which ultimately resulted in the freedom of India on 15th August 1947.
  • In the economic field he challenged the every Foundation values of the western model of development in following manner:

(a) It is self-interest that moves man and his society and that (b) It is ever spiraling desires and aspirations of man, which lead to progress of human society.

  • He fervently made a fine distinction between human need and want and underlined the centrality of basic needs in a given social order his idea of trusteeship tried to subsume all these ideas into its fold. He rejected the overemphasis on materialism.
  • As it is singular pursuit corrodes, the finer and higher aspirations of human beings. The religio-cultural field, he stood for Sarva Dharma Samabhava (equal respect for all religions) and rejected the Western concept of secularism i.e a distinction separation of religion and politics.
  • He did not have much faith in state power and ever remain a word tree of Civil Society organizations.
  • In the process he provided three major instruments of social change viz. Eleven vows (Ekadasa Vrata), Constructive program and Satyagraha instead of singular role of state power.
  • It was in Phoenix Settlement (1904) and Tolstoy Farm (1910), that some of his liberal ideas like Sharir Shram (bread labour), Sarva Dharma Samabhava (equal respect for all religions) and Sparsh bhavana (elimination of untouchability) started being practiced in more vigorous way.
  • When he set up Satayagraha/Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad during 1915, he introduced Eleven Vows (Ekadash Vrata) which every inmate of the ashram would have to follow and imbibe in his life and living.
  • These eleven vows were: truth, non-violence, non-stealing, brahmacharya, non-possession, control of palate, fearlessness, elimination of untouchability, bread labour, swadhesh and equal respect for all religions.
  • Bread Labour: The simple meaning of the principle of bread labour is that one must work to live. He might be engaged in any kind of mental work, but he has to put in some amount of physical work to earn his bread
  • Gandhi was aware that the dignity of labour was missing from our sociocultural value system. Hence, he made it a part of the Ekadash Vrata.
  • Gandhi also associated this principle of bread labour with Jajna convept of the Bhagavad Gita.
  • It is said there that anyone who partakes food without performing some sacrifice (Jajna) is nothing short of being a thief.
  • Charkha and Kargha became the symbol of synthesis between mental and physical work. They also were meant to provide employment to the millions of people during their spare time. Getting their own cloths through spinning and weaving, people were to attain self-reliance and indeed their own Swaraj.
  • Sparsh Bhavana (Elimination of Untouchability): He considered the entire spectrum of untouchability as a blot on the fair face of Hinduism.  He launched one of the most vigorous campaign to eliminate the scourge of untouchability from the soil of India. He set up Harijan Sevak Sangh and published a journal called Harijan with the same purpose.
  • The elimination of untouchability amounts to removal of barriers between man and man. Hence, it is a major step towards equalitarian society.
  • He found scavenging as the most essential act in human society. But being confined to a section of people, it has become the symbol of indignity of labour. Hence, he pleaded for self-scavenging.

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