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ARTICLES > ECONOMICS > Gandhi - A Unique Practical Economist


Gandhi - A Unique Practical Economist

Dr. Usha Arun Chaturvedi

Mahatma Gandhi had multifaceted personality. His aim in the life was to achieve enlightenment by serving his nation and man kind.  He was born in India and so he was of the opinion that it was his first duty to serve India. He did it through his thoughts, creative activities, different movements, organizations, and his own life- style. His creative activities can be classified in 18 forms which cover mainly political, economical, social, educational, religious as well as medical fields. Out of 18 forms of his activities were related to economic wellbeing of society. He was clear that economic self sufficiency for an individual and for a nation is unavoidable. This led him to think about and study upon various economic problems of the country and device action plans for solving them. This was the root of his economic thinking. His work or discussions or writing therefore, were not educational fancy but were the requirement of time. He knew that the major part of human life is busy in economic activities. In that case economic activities can never be without ETHICS and NONVIOLENCE. Thus he absorbed ethics and nonviolence in economics.

He created a strong background for his economic thought. He studied the history of British India written by R. C. Dutt. He collected information about Indian Economy before British rule and the causes of the decline of Indian Economy during the British rule. He traveled all over India nearly for a year after his return form South Africa in 1915 to understand thoroughly about the Indian condition. He also got understanding regarding the prevailing different economic systems of the world. He studied Wealth of Nations written by the father of western economics Adam Smith to know about conventional economics. He read Das Capital written by Karl Marx to understand socialist thinking. He examined all these ideas in the context of India and Ethics.

With this strong background he had his own unique way of thinking about economics, economy, economic aims, and economic development process. He examined the usefulness and practicability of his economic thoughts by practicing them in the country. After getting favorable results he advocated them.bsp;

He had his original explanation about important concepts and terminologies of economics. He explained that economy did not mean the people of a country having the right to develop with the unlimited use of all the living and nonliving resources available in the country. Economy meant the total living of a country who have got the right to survive with coexistence. That is the cause he was the first man to care for ecology.

He rejected the idea of 'economic man'. He accepted the average man with all his characteristics. He said that an average man lives a satisfied life with his resources. 'Unlimited demand', 'Dissatisfied man ' and 'Limited resources' are wrong concepts. At the same time he explained about the required need. A man should have food worth 3000 calories every day, 15 meters cloth per year, a house of 100 sq. yards and educational and medical facilities. To satisfy such real need the resources are sufficient. God has given enough to satisfy the need not the greed.

Gandhi was aware of the effects of advertisements which misguided and attracted the people for useless and even harmful things in the life. In the context of such advertisements and created demands, the resources are felt limited.

His economic aims were different from conventional economics. His aims were sarvodaya, full employment, use of country's own resources, preservation of ecology, justice in income distribution and opportunities. Every body should be given the right to earn according to his capacity using just means. The rich should serve the society after satisfying his needs. Life is not meant for enjoyment only, but it is meant to help others.

For him the means are as important as the aims. The means must be nonviolent, ethical, and truthful in all economic spheres. He provided the new economic system with those means. He advocated trusteeship, decentralization of economic activities, labor intensive technology, and first priority to rural India. He explained that capitalism and mechanization would lead to unemployment, poverty, and inequality. Communism would not survive as it was inhuman. We have seen the collapse of communism and also observed unemployment, inequality of income and instability of common man even in rich a capitalist society.

He advocated to develop the rural economies with the development of agriculture and village industries. This way full employment for 80% of Indian population can be achieved. Even in the world economy nearly 70 % of the worlds population is rural population. Their development can be made easy by the development of rural economies. There should be small scale and cottage industries in these areas. That will create just distribution of income without special efforts.

The government must give full support regarding finance, technology, and market to village industries. The people of the country must give first priority in purchasing their rural productions. He advocated for Khadi and all other village industries and worked hard till his end. He even left the congress to concentrate fully in this activity since 1934.

He advocated SWADESHI and advised boycott of foreign goods, foreign companies, and foreign capital to maximum possible extent. This was not politically motivated. Not to punish the foreign countries but for the economic betterment of our country.

If we look into history, George Washington advised his countrymen to throw away European goods in the sea for self development. U. K. had passed laws prohibiting all types of Indian clothes during the time of their industrial revolution. Japan had resolved to consume her rough and inferior rice instead of foreign superior rice. These examples prove the importance of Swadeshi attitude even if the home made product is inferior for the sake of economic independence.

He was not an extremist. He was a practical thinker. He accepted the foreign economic relation for unavoidable useful things which could not be produced in the country. He also accepted some basic industry on large scale like mines, cement, electricity etc. He also encouraged big industrialists and big farmers with the expectation that they will develop the attitude of trusteeship. He warned them, that if they fail to accept trusteeship they will have to face bloody revolution. He also explained, with a real experience, about ideal labor union activities.

The agricultural activities should be done with the help of live stock and bio fertilizers. He explained in detail how to produce organic fertilizer without any extra cost and minimum labor. He described the number of benefits which can be achieved from the use of livestock and cooperative farming. Today bio technological revolution, popularity of organic fertilizer, and awareness against harmfulness of chemicals used in agriculture prove the worth of Gandhi's thinking.

He was against the prevailing methods of education as they had the importance of information only, were hardly practical, giving less importance to nationality, and ethical living in life. He suggested work oriented, skill oriented and nationality oriented basic education. He said that there should be a sufficiently big group of translators to translate important, useful knowledge of the world in Indian languages. He advised the development of research and science for helping the country and population at large and not to help a few rich. He also declared a prize for every such useful research.

He suggested that for nearly 50 years India would have to adopt his economic ideas to get economic independence and progress with minimum obstacles.

In this way Gandhi had his original vision in economics. He propagated a novel way of thinking in science of economics. He integrated economic aims and activities with morality and nonviolence. He integrated our successful past experiences with the recent development process. He made the use of labour force and live stocks and rural economy for the nation's smooth progress. He was the first thinker from the east who analyzed and rejected mechanization, capitalism and communism. He was the man who took the advantage of science and machine for the benefit of population at large.

He was the first man in the world who provided a practical alternative economic system against the prevailing economic system. The village based economy of China and Israel, the small scale industry base economy of Japan are nearer to Gandhian ideas in some aspects.

The literature survey of Gandhian economic ideas gives similar conclusions. 258 thinkers, who have reviewed his economic ideas, have been taken into consideration. Among them, London group of Professionals and The Club of Rome are considered as individual thinkers. Even the opinion of 53 noble prize winners is also considered in this literature survey. 96% of these thinkers admire his economic thoughts. They consider his ideas practical, useful and relevant in the present world.

A growth model for economic development is shown on the basis of Gandhi economic thoughts. This model is applicable to developing economies and India. His ideas are helpful for backward and developing economies in the world. His ideas are also useful for solving problems in capitalist economies. This proves Gandhi as a unique and practical economist of the world......