As the world is facing numerous challenges to deal with socioeconomic impact of novel coronavirus, ideals and principles of Gandhiji’s in these times provide a beacon of hope to billions of people on the globe, not only providing answer to several questions of economic upliftment, social inclusiveness, revival of employment opportunities and right of every individual to live life with dignity, but also several other fundamental questions with which humanity is struggling with for several decades, be it terrorism, hunger & poverty, over-exploitation of resources of mother earth and environmental concerns, to name a few.
In year 2018, when Government of India decided to celebrate, 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — a programme which was envisioned to celebrate his principles and philosophy across the globe, none of us had imagined that the culmination of 2 years celebrations will be carried out in a very calibrated and sombre manner, to take care of sentiments of millions who lost their near and dear ones to this covid pandemic and also that we are required to abide with social distancing norms. We vividly recall participation of Heads of State, musicians and followers of Gandhiji who came forward to record his favourite Bhajan “Vaishnava Jana To” in their own voices. We had a number of celebrations and projection of Bapu and his life on the world’s most iconic buildings including Burj Khalifa. There have been umpteen efforts by scholars to get a deep understanding on various principles, life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and still they feel, that much more is yet to be done. All these things indicate that even after 70 years of his passing, Gandhi is still relevant, close to the hearts of all those people who believe in love, tolerance, harmony and most important human dignity and also that Gandhian principles of truth and non-violence are still providing hope for peace and stability in the world.
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For the last nine months, entire political leadership across the globe is busy in finding ways and means for reviving economies and at the same time, there are several institutions who have dedicated all their resources to fast track production of vaccine against coronavirus, including some of them in phase III clinical trials. The World is grappling with the second or third wave of the coronavirus and this has changed so many things in our lives, especially the way of our social interaction, change in priorities of life and to some extent, our inter personal relations as well. It was not like that world was not having problems of poverty, hunger, terrorism and other issues before, but somehow, these bigger issues of various regional conflicts as well as numerous sufferings of those people have been sidelined during the headlines of Covid. There are people dying with hunger, lack of medicine coupled with violence in several parts of the world. A number of people are making desperate attempts to reach to the Western countries from conflict zones across the world. Even economies who are deeply affected by Covid and subsequent lockdowns, vulnerable section of their societies have a tough choice between contracting the virus or dying with hunger in absence of work, Here, Gandhian principles do provide hope and solutions that “the difference what we do and what we are capable of doing, would suffice to solve most of the world problems”. Hence, social inclusiveness and responsibilities of the world powers as a collective force become much more relevant in these tough times.
Gandhiji fought against the apartheid, colonialism, casteism and all other discriminations with which contemporary world suffered from. Despite so many challenges within this own Party and others, he never compromised with principles of truth, peace, non-violence and tolerance. Even during partition, when the entire country was facing sectarian violence, he was on fast in Kolkata for prayers of peace and his Satyagrah for non-violence. In the contemporary world, where means and ways of geopolitics have changed substantially, Gandhian principles still gives hope to millions of people and several leaders who still believe that there is no alternative to peace and non-violence. UAE leadership is an shining example the way they have transformed this country, used resources for well being of residents, not only their own citizens but people from more than 200 countries, who made this country as their second home. Those are such commonalities between principles of Gandhiji and founding fathers of UAE, who believed in love, peace, harmony and tolerance as the basic tenets of governance. The latest developments in the region to bring peace in Middle East is yet another example of progressive thinking and efforts towards conflict resolution and peace building by the UAE leadership.
Gandhiji’s legacy for protection of environment and his thoughts against excessive industrialisation is very well known. He had said that there is enough for everybody on this earth, but not for the greed. Our changed lifestyles and stride for more and more comforts and consumption are directly responsible for global warming, melting of glaciers and ozone layer depletion. Several low lying countries and cities are facing danger of being extinct with rising level of sea. Earth temperature is increasing and also irregular weather patterns have compelled us to think, that we need to do much more efforts to save our environment as compared to what we are doing today. Much before the world got the idea of ‘Common Future’ in Brundtland Commission Report in 1987, it was Mahatma Gandhi who back in early 20th century highlighted these things in his book “Hind Swaraj”. He wrote that “the incessant search for material comfort and their multiplication is such an evil and I make bold to say that the Europeans themselves will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves.”
When the world is looking for solutions in post-pandemic world, be it for vaccine, bringing the economies back on track, and simultaneously dealing with growing challenges of regional conflicts and environmental disasters, entire humanity is seeking refuge in his principles. A book “Surviving the Century: Facing Climate Chaos” edited by Professor Herbert Girardet under the patronage of World Future Council refers about four normative principles — non-violence, sustainability, respect and justice- to survive the century and save planet earth. These principles are core to the Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work. Some people might not co-relate with these ideals fully, but there is growing realisation that by following Gandhiji’s ideals we can make the world a better place to live. The Time Magazine in its 9 April, 2007 issue came out with 51 Global Warming Survival Guides. The 51st Guide earnestly suggests to share more, consume less and simplify life. In other words the world is looking at ideals of Mahatma Gandhi to save the world from the danger of extinction caused by global warming. It is a measure of Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring and deeper significance in the context of attempts to protect the planet earth.
On the occasion of culmination of celebrations of 150 years of birth of Mahatma Gandhi, I look forward to my fellow countrymen to introspect on this auspicious occasion, about their contribution nd responsibility to the country, they are living in, the motherland and mankind at large. We will perhaps find answers to several of our unanswered questions.
Dr Aman Puri is Consul General of India to Dubai and Northern Emirates