History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] A larger freedom


Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gandhi’s role and initiatives in the freedom struggle

Mains level: Relevance of Gandhian thoughts in current context


Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom experiences

  1. Throughout his public life in India (1915-48), Gandhi devoted his energies to both the political campaign for India’s freedom as well as a range of socio-economic interventions that were clubbed under the rubric of constructive work
  2. Such activities included communal harmony, the removal of untouchability, sanitation, khadi, village industries and basic education or Nai Talim

Factors that influenced Gandhi’s activities

  1. Subsequent to the Poona Pact, in 1933-34, Gandhi undertook a countrywide campaign against untouchability
  2. His experiences and thinking in that period deeply informed the shape of constructive work in the 1930s
  3. First, during his travels, Gandhi witnessed the severe distress across agrarian India that was subjected to the economic consequences of the Great Depression
  4. Second, sharp political differences had emerged between Gandhi and the Congress leadership
  5. Third, Gandhi was influenced by the unhappy experience of running khadi activities under the umbrella of the Congress in the 1920s

Gandhi’s views

  1. Throughout the 1930s, Gandhi was concerned with the quality of freedom to be obtained in a future free India
  2. In a context where ordinary citizens had limited education, skills and resources, the challenge of economic justice demanded that the masses be able to participate as meaningful actors in the economy of the country
  3. It is this demand of justice that lead him to devote his attention to the needs of the village
  4. In order to devote himself to addressing the economic needs of rural India, Gandhi resigned from the Congress in 1934, founded the All-India Village Industries Association (AIVIA) and eventually moved to Sevagram
  5. It is also in the 1930s that Gandhi introduced his radical approach of Nai Talim that sought to make elementary education accessible, affordable and meaningful to all children

Emphasis on constructive work

  1. In and after 1942, in an atmosphere suffused with the potential for violence, Gandhi become increasingly convinced of the efficacy and urgency of constructive work
  2. While Gandhi met with lesser success in his constructive work compared with his political campaigns, he saw them as an indivisible whole
  3. Arguably, constructive work can be thought of as a different mode of politics

Gandhi’s relevance in today’s India

  1. An independent India rejected his economic model that placed the individual and the agrarian economy at the centre and instead took to industrial modernity
  2. But the questions that Gandhi sought to address through constructive work are very much alive today
  3. While the country has witnessed high growth rates in recent decades, both urban and rural India are plagued by the problems of social and economic inequality and injustice as well as the challenges posed by a multitude of environmental crises
  4. Much like his approach to non-violent politics, Gandhi’s thinking on constructive work also offers useful contemporary lessons to those willing to listen and heed
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