Sunday, July 31, 2011

Socialism of Nehru in the Twenty-First Century: An Analysis*-Dr. Ravindra Kumar

The term socialism gained unprecedented currency in the Nineteenth Century, amidst the escalating industrialization in Europe. It also affected the prevalent European tradition of thinking. However, the premise of socialism is not merely the outcome of the European tradition of thinking or a product of the process of European industrialization. Rather, the concept claims an antiquity in Indian social philosophy. Therein it was rooted in ideas like Sabe Bhoomi Gopal Ki [all land belongs to Gopal, i.e., God], Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam [the whole world is but one family] and Sarvodaya [progress of all].
          In the modern context, under the enormous impact of industrialization in Europe a new dimension was accorded to individualism. Subsequently the labour and intellectual classes came to the forefront to counter it. They stepped forward to struggle against it and this was the time when the word and ideas pertaining to modern socialism emerged and developed vigorously. Henry de Saint-Simon, a French thinker and social reformer [1760-1825], coined the word ‘Socialisme’; socialism is derived from this very word. An analysis of Henry de Saint-Simon’s intent behind the word Socialisme reveals socialism as a system in which:
1. There is large-scale social co-operation, or national-level teamwork, particularly for the development of technology;
2.  Poverty in labour classes is eradicated;
3.  The state is ruled by those who accord a right direction to the labour; and
4.  The society is guided by the science.
           These four points makes apparent that the modern European ‘socialism’ concept is an outcome of the process, which essentially include unprecedented development in the field of science, therefore, industrialization and its one-sided benefit, consequently evoked reactions amongst working classes and their struggle for the change.
           Besides Saint-Simon, contemporary thinkers like utopian socialist Robert Owen [1771-1858]1, German social scientist and industrialist Friedrich Engels [1820-1895], and German philosopher and the father of scientific socialism, Karl Marx [1818-1883], too agreed more or less, in one way or the other, with the above four points. I have used the term more or less here because the economic structure of Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union was centralized. Moreover, in Soviet Union there was the State control over the resources and the one party rule. The same thing could be noticed in case of some other countries also, but I do not think if we need to discuss more about it here.
           As mentioned already, the ancient Indian philosophical tradition was imbued with the concept of socialism. Moreover, its spirit and practice was more or less different from that of the West. In this regard, the first and the most important thing relates to the means to achieve socialism. Contrary to the Western concept recognizing violence as the means to usher in the change, the Indian concept advocated non-violence. Even after accepting right consciousness, full preparation at the mental level and large-scale public co-operation as essential conditions, Indian tradition lays stress on harmony, concord and non-violence based co-operation for the change. Despite being impressed by the series of events in Europe of the Eighteenth-Nineteenth Centuries, Indian tradition remained indigenous and never lost its fundamental character. Jawaharlal Nehru and Rammanohar Lohia, in particular, may be cited as befitting examples in this regard. Mahatma Gandhi may also be regarded as a leading socialist of Indian tradition. He was, as we know, a supporter of decentralization of power in all walks of life. He talked about equal right of the capitalist and labour over capital and production. Further, he was impressed by Ruskin’s ideas of the Christian Socialism and hailed his work ‘Unto This Last’ as an ideal.
           Well! Jawaharlal Nehru was impressed by socialism; it is an established fact. However, socialism was not only an idea for him, but essentially a matter of practice. Indian philosophical tradition and practice served as the undoubted basis of his socialism. It is well proved from his views expressed from time-to-time and also from the measures taken by him during his long tenure of seventeen years as the Prime Minister of the country. He was also influenced by the Western socialism; he loved Marxism, but his ideas related to mixed economy, democratic socialism and his active participation in the non-alignment movement presents a clear picture before us. Besides, Nehru’s agreement with Gandhian social and constructive programmes; his stress on bringing about change through non-violence based democratic process; and his efforts towards  this end well affirms his commitment for the establishment of a socialist society of Indian tradition.
           In principle Nehru was committed to socio-economic equality, the foremost and fundamental feature of socialism. But for this he favoured consent and not a revolution. His dream for the establishment of social democracy was to be realized through equal participation of people in governance. For this, he desired to remove all obstacles of the way to reach the goal. In this regard his following statement is worth quoting here:
           “I am perfectly prepared to accept political democracy, only in the hope that this will lead to social democracy…Political democracy is only the way to the goal and is not the final objective.” The final objective is undoubtedly “social democracy.”
           Further, Jawaharlal Nehru was also committed in both principle and practice, to bring about a fundamental change in the system under prevailing situation of the country and on the basis of available resources so that the mass poverty could be eliminated. Everybody could get an opportunity to rise even at an individual level. Works, particularly, related to land-reforms and schemes started in cooperative sector during his term as the Prime Minister of India, may be referred in this regard. These acts were in fact important to bring a good harmony between the fundamentals of the concept of socialism and prevailing circumstances of a country of diversities like India to fulfill the needs towards establishing a socialist society.
           In this regard those who have any doubt must notice the provisions, particularly, made in the form of allocation of funds for the co-operative sector and programmes related to the development of agriculture and small scale industries in rural areas in the Five Year Plans.2 They should also observe Nehru’s statement in which he had called upon the masses, especially poor, down-trodden and unprivileged of the country to step forward continuously, to strengthen the cause of socialism in India. He had said, “Leaders and individuals may come and go; they may get tired and slacken off; they may compromise and betray; but the exploited and suffering masses must carry on the struggle, for their drill sergeant is hunger.”   
           Urging his party men, Nehru had said, “We have to plan at both ends. We have to stop the cumulative forces that make the rich richer and we have to start the cumulative forces which enable the poor to get over the barrier of poverty.”
           In India approximately forty percent of the total population is still under the poverty line.  Participation of the masses in the governing of the system, control over resources and role in policy making is not satisfactory. In certain fields the situation is rather grim. Moreover, suicides of farmers are shameful and a matter of acute concern. This undoubtedly raises a question mark on our economic policies; in such a situation Jawaharlal Nehru’s warning refreshes our memory. He had said, “If the social and economic burdens of the masses continue and are actually added to, the fight must not only continue but grow more intense.”
           Nehru passed away forty-seven years ago. But his legacy of socialist ideas still survives. After sixty-four years of country’s independence and sixty-one years of its becoming a republic, despite progress in various walks of life, we find people in large numbers facing numerous problems in socio-economic spheres, and find them suffering even for arranging for their two ends’ meal. It is really unfortunate. In this state of affairs the views of Jawaharlal Nehru seem very significant. Along with this, they seem to be calling for refinement as per the demand of time and space.
           Hence, undoubtedly, Nehru’s ideas urge our democracy to be real and people-friendly. Democracy of his dreams, which is in fact a supplementary to socialism, draws our attention towards one of his noteworthy statements in which he had said, “Socialism is the inevitable outcome of democracy. Political democracy has no meaning if it does not embrace economic democracy. And economic democracy is nothing but socialism. Monopoly is the enemy of socialism.”
            Let us ponder over it! Let us do something in this direction!!!                        
*Based on a keynote address at a national seminar organized by DAV Women PG College [of Kurukshetra University], Yamunanagar, Haryana, in March, 2011. 
1. Who besides being a renowned Welsh social reformer was one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement.
2. Particularly, in the First and the Second Five Years Plans.     
3. As per the information 13, 42, 875 peasants have committed suicides in the country between 1991 and 2008.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kakasaheb Gadgil: A Front-ranking Freedom Fighter and Nationalist-Dr. Ravindra Kumar

A great nationalist and an astute parliamentarian, an educationist and organizer Narhar Vishnu Gadgil, affectionately called as Kakasaheb, was among those on the forefront of national liberation movement of India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and one of a dozen leaders engaged to rebuild the nation after freedom.
Born on January 10, 1896 at Malhargarh, Central Province, Narhar Gadgil was the son of Radha and Vishnu Narayanrao Gadgil, belonging to a Chitpawan Brahmin family of Maharashtra. At the time of birth of Narhar his father Vishnu Gadgil was posted at Malhargarh as a railway employee. Due to the sudden demise of his wife Vishnu Gadgil himself took care of primary education of Narhar at Malhargarh. However, in 1909 he could manage for Vishnu to study at Nutan Marathi Vidyalaya of Pune. Later he studied at Ferguson College and the Law College of Pune and after obtaining a Graduate Degree in Law from the Law College of Bombay he finally started practicing in Pune.
The city of Pune was the Karmabhoomi of Lokmanya Tilak, thus the main centre of activities relating to freedom movement of India. Narhar Gadgil, who during studies had filled nationalism and patriotism in him, couldn’t remain unaffected of those activities. Hence, in 1915 he besides meeting Mahatma Gandhi at Pune Railway Station also participated in the Congress Session held in Bombay. 
After the death of Lokmanya Tilak, at the call of the Mahatma he jumped into national liberation movement on August 1, 1920 and soon became one of the staunch followers of Gandhi. His trust in the Mahatma could be observed from a portion of the confidential report sent in 1930 by the Intelligence Department of Bombay State to the Secretary for the Department of Home, India in which it was mentioned, “He [Gadgil] is not ready to listen to anyone except the Mahatma …”      
On the strength of his organizational abilities and tireless efforts in connecting people to freedom movement Gadgil emerged a national leader in a short span of time. Along with becoming a member of the AICC and the CWC he was many times elected as the President of Maharashtra Prantik Congress Committee between 1922 and 1947. The credit goes to Gadgil to connect known people from the Backward Communities to organization and freedom movement. The name of Keshavrao Jedhe can especially be mentioned here in this context.
Kakasaheb Gadgil was a prominent leader of Civil Disobedience Movement [1930], Individual Satyagraha [1940] and Quit India Movement [1942]. Due to his nationalistic activities he was arrested six times during 1930-32, which itself was a record of the history of freedom movement, and is still a source of inspiration for nationalists and patriots.    
He was an astute parliamentarian and noted for his radical views in Parliament [1934-57]. There he became the stoutest champion of progressive causes. He was an able administrator also. As a member of the first Cabinet of independent India [1947-52] he took initiatives for so many known national power-projects including Bhakra-Nangal [Punjab], Hirakund [Orissa], Rihand [U.P.] and Kakarapara [Gujarat]. He played an important role in construction and reconstruction of many national high ways and diplomatic enclaves like Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. Moreover, as a Governor of undivided Punjab [1958-62] he significantly contributed for the maturity of democratic institutions.
Kakasaheb Gadgil was an eminent writer and scholar.  He authored so many books in Marathi and English languages. His services for Hindi and Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, the Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti and the Marathi Sahitya Sabha, along with his contribution to the development of the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Indian Council of World Affairs will be remembered for a long.
Kakasaheb Gadgil left for his heavenly abode on January 12, 1966 in Pune.    

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harekrushna Mahatab-Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab, a journalist-author, an able administrator and social reformer, was one of those leading freedom fighters who at the call of Gandhi had joined the Non-Cooperation and Swadeshi Movement in 1920 to liberate the country from the colonial rule, and who associating themselves to social-constructive works had made public-service and nation-building the goal of their life.
Born on November 21, 1899 at Agarpada village in Bhadrak district of Orissa Harekrushna’s father Krushna Charan Das was a progressive farmer who sent him to study in a local school when Harekrushna was just 3 years old. He completed his secondary-level education from the Bhadrak High School and joined Ravenshaw College of Cuttack for higher studies. But soon after giving a break to his study he jumped into the fight for freedom. His activities pertaining to mass-awakening became a challenge for the administration during the period 1921-2; therefore, he was arrested and sent to jail. Although at that time he was 23 years old, but for his public-contacts and participation in the mass movement he got enlisted himself in the rank of prominent freedom fighters and leaders of the region and the nation. He was in the forefront in Civil Disobedience Movement [1930] and Quit India Movement [1942] and, for which he was arrested to long-terms imprisonments.                  
In 1924, Harekrushna Mahatab created history when at the age of 25 he was elected as the Chairman of Balasore District Board as well as a member of the Bihar-Orissa Council. Further, besides becoming a member of Orissa Legislative Assembly in 1937, 1946, 1967 and 1974 he was also elected to Lok Sabha in 1952 and 1962 where he became the voice of common- man, especially the rural-masses and peasants.  
As an outstanding social-constructive worker and servant of the people, Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab participated in the movement against untouchability in 1934 and played an important role in opening doors of Hindu temples for untouchables. With the sole purpose of human-unity and equality he founded the Gandhi Karma Sthala. It was Mahatab who led the people struggling for the merger of princely-states like Sanada in Orissa and the formation of democracies there. He was responsible for the successful completion of the Hirakund Power Project on the river Mahanadi.
Dr. Mahatab was a well-known writer and a true lover of arts. His role in the development of Sahitya and Sangeet Academies of Orissa as their president remained memorable. He composed a series of three volumes under the title, ‘Gan-Majlis’, the third volume of which was selected for the Sahitya Academy Award. In recognition to his noteworthy literary services the Andhra University and the Utkal University honoured him with the Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Literature respectively. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Law by the Sagar University also.                       
Dr. Mahatab always remained dedicated to the development of democratic values. Just at the age of 23, in 1923, with the purpose of mass-awakening towards democratic process he successfully started a daily named ‘Prajatantra’; edited ‘Jhankar’ monthly since its inception and founded the ‘Prajatantra Sudhar Samiti’ and remained dedicated to this great task until his death on January 2, 1987.
He was a great organizer, party-leader and an able administrator. He held many positions in the Congress organization before and after the freedom of the country. He always remained in direct contact with workers and the masses. The services rendered by Dr. Mahatab as the Chief Minister of Orissa between 1946-50 and 1956-61, the Minister of Commerce and Industries, India between 1950-52, and the Governor of bilingual Bombay State between 1955-6 remained exemplary; they are still the source of inspiration for those who have faith in fair public life and consider public service to be a dharma.    

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gandhi on Value Education- Dr. Ravindra Kumar

     Mahatma Gandhi’s name requires no introduction because of his invaluable contribution to the national liberation movement of India. It was he who awakening millions of people on the strength of non-violent activities, engaging them to an action, challenging the mighty empire of the world, ultimately threw the yoke of slavery. Those who believed that not a single country in the world history had achieved its freedom except by violent means, the action of Mahatma Gandhi compelled them to re-think and also to change their mentality. His reputation as a true nationalist as well as an internationalist shines like sun itself, but in the academic sense of term, he is not considered a great scholar or an educationist. We have not been enlightened by his views on education or on the problems relating to it, through any particular book written by him. Even there is no special research article available, which could have given us a glimpse of his ideas or suggestions on education system, except his occasional articles on the future of education in India written in a very simple and light manner. The same thing applies to the views he expressed on the subject now and then.
          Despite this fact, the few articles that Mahatma Gandhi has written in the simplest manner, and the views he expressed on education as a common man are of utmost importance; they provide us a guide line to proceed towards value education. Not only this, if we apply them even in the modern perspective, they can, definitely, give a new dimension to our education system.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Education means all-round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit.”
          As such, education becomes the basis of personality development on all dimensions – moral, mental and emotional. Therefore, we can say that in the long run education forms the foundations on which the castles of peace and prosperity can be built. Since ancient times, it is said, “SA VIDYA YA VIMUKTAYE”, which means that with education, we finally attain salvation. This small Samskrit phrase essentially contains the thought and essence of Value Education that is relevant in all perspectives. This very concept, when applied to the simple but refined approach of Mahatma Gandhi, can provide us with a new dimension of educational development. As such, while analyzing the views of Mahatma Gandhi, we can observe his views under two main points:
A. Morality and Ethics: Moral and ethical knowledge is the first point on which Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of value education is based. Any education system that lacks these two cannot be termed as good. The reason behind such a thought is that, without morality and without ethics, no student, in real sense, can be considered to be healthy in mental and physical terms, because for it, self-control and good character is essential. A person, who is not a moralist and who does not differentiate between right and wrong, cannot rise to the essential level of a true student. Then, the attainment of spiritual growth that has been described by Mahatma Gandhi, as an essential part of education, can only be gained through morality and ethics. Seeing it through another viewpoint also proves the same thing because when we consider education as a means of attaining salvation and also as a support on the pathway to liberation, then we cannot differentiate it from Spiritualism.
          Mahatma Gandhi laid down some rules for students so as to ensure that morality and righteousness always be considered as an essential and undifferentiable part of education so that every student shall gain in terms of knowledge and spirituality. He said that on one hand where students should gain education under the strict regimen of high morals, self-control and right thinking, on the other they would also be expected to provide service to the society in general. This includes their respect towards mother, father, teachers and elders, adorations towards younger, following of social traditions and constant awareness towards their duties and responsibilities.
          In order to strengthen morality and ethics in students, Mahatma Gandhi advocated the introduction of religious education. This kind of education brings the values of forbearance, tolerance and reverence in one’s character. And in turn, these values are an indivisible part of ethics. Explaining the importance and need of religious education, Mahatma Gandhi writes in the ‘Young India’ of 6th of December 1923:
          “A curriculum of religious instructions should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one’s own. For this purpose the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the doctrine of various great religions of the world in a spirit of reverence and broad minded tolerance.”
          Mahatma Gandhi calls upon all teachers to impart proper education of morality and ethics to students both at school and college levels. In this regard suggesting some guidelines for teachers, he says that it is the duty of teachers to develop high morals and strong character of their students. If teachers fail to do so, it means that they depart from their social and national responsibilities and as such they are also insincere towards their noble profession. He said that a teacher should lay an example, to be followed, before society and students. This can only be done when he himself leads his life with high standards of morality and strong character. An ideal teacher should be free from any addiction. He needs to be polite and should set an ideal example of simple living and high thinking. He should also remember that wasting time is a sin; therefore, he should be aware of his duties towards students and society. Moreover, he should have a good reputation in the society. Therefore, it is the foremost duty of students, as well as of teachers to make it certain that moral and ethical knowledge continues to be the integral part of the education process. By doing so, they can contribute in the development of Value Education.
B. Buniyadi [Basic], Job-oriented or Technical Education: Another important point of Mahatma Gandhi’s value education is basic or technical education. No matter if the word ‘buniyadi’ [or basic], which Mahatma Gandhi used during the 3rd and 4th decade of 20eth century, meant the knowledge or education that could help rural people in promotion of village handicrafts or to establish cottage industries, the ultimate purpose behind his attempt was to make young men and women self-reliant in the economic field.
          Even in modern perspective, his idea of buniyadi or basic education is well-worthy and it has no clash with the concept of today’s job-oriented or technical education.
In fact, Mahatma Gandhi wants to prepare a student for technical knowledge right from the days of his primary level of education. In this regard, his logic is not only important but adaptable; it can prove to be a mile stone in the direction of value education.
          It is not so that Mahatma Gandhi has not talked of all-round or complete education on different occasions. He definitely spoke of imparting education based on curriculum; he, more or less wrote about graduate and post graduate levels of education. Not only this, as I have just discussed, he laid emphasis on moral and ethical knowledge, which is helpful for character building and for the physical and mental development of a student since the very beginning of his education. He clearly believed that without a healthy body, mind could not be developed fully. But even after that he, without any hesitation, said that until and unless education makes a young man or woman self-reliant, it is of no value.
          It is but obvious that when a child starts his formal education, he enters at primary level and, step by step, at an age of twenty or twenty-two, he graduates from a University. And after so many years, if he does not find a necessary goal or if he lacks a direction to begin with his career, then what could be the use of such education. What is the use of the degree for him that he has in his hand?
Reality lies in the fact that after obtaining a degree the students should definitely have a clear direction for their future; they should have no doubt towards their future goal. They should be full of self-confidence. Side by side, they should be self-dependent and capable to tackle unavoidable day to day problems. They must not be worried for a suitable job.
But in reality, these days we see that our younger generation is directionless. Our youths are diverted and a feeling of helplessness and dejection is prevailing on them. According to a survey, there are millions of men and women who, even after completing their studies at graduation, post-graduation and doctorate levels, fail to seek an employment of their choice. Is it not a failure of our social and educational system?
Even after spending the golden years of one’s life in attaining higher education, our youths are not self-dependent. As such how would they be able to get rid of their day to day problems and how would they contribute to their society and the nation? Therefore, it is a challenge not only before the youths of this country but also before the educationists, scholars and those in the government.
To tackle this problematic challenge, Mahatma Gandhi’s views can be of great support. In this reference, he has given us his golden words that there is a need of result-oriented education. He said that every child has some special qualities that can also be termed as inherited traits of personality, so at the very primary level, a student’s quality and worth should be identified by his teacher. A student should gain education according to curriculum and moral guidance and as such also improve his physical strength. But the teacher should watch and identify his quality that could be of help in his later life. 
For that purpose it is necessary that after completing studies to a certain level, he must, in addition to above three kind of education-general [according to syllabi], moral and physical- be provided facilities to gain technical knowledge in accordance with the special trait that has already been identified in his personality by his teacher. Since by nature he has interest in that knowledge, he will easily gain it; he will become an adept in that. Now, when he completes his study up to graduate level and with this extra knowledge comes out of a college or university, he would have a direction. As such, even if he does not get a private or government job, he would manage to get through some sort of self-employment on the basis of his technical knowledge. At least, then, his education would be considered as result-oriented. 
This indeed is Mahatma Gandhi’s view-point pertaining to Value Education if applied in a wider perspective. Its worth lies in the fact that education should necessarily be helpful in employment and its foundations should be laid on morality and ethics. We all who are concerned with it need to think over it deeply. We have to apply Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas according to present circumstances of our country and also as the demand of time. I can again say that Mahatma Gandhi’s unique and refined views about value education are not only important but are worth applying not only in India but also in the rest of the world.