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What Happened at The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration Review

at St Ethelburga’s on 30th January 2012

By Mark Hoda, Chair & Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

Mark Hoda addressing The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

It was really heartening to see such a large audience gather at St Ethelberga’s on a cold January evening. They heard  though provoking reflections on the environment and sustainability from a range of faith perspectives as well as on Gandhi’s influence on the green movement today, which continues to draw inspiration from his philosophy and satyagraha strategies.

Anglican Priest Father Ivor opened proceedings with a quote often attributed to Gandhi that “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need buy not anyone’s greed”. He also quoted from Tagore and the Upanishads before offering the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who he said had much in common with Gandhi.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Graham Davey, set out how the Quaker Testimonies of simplicity, truth, equality and peace relate to care for the environment by espousing the values of moderation, sustainability and non violence and concern for the depletion of non renewable resources. The Quaker Book of Discipline calls for us to rejoice in God’s world but to appreciate that we are not its owners but its custodians.

Gandhi Foundation and Environmental Law foundation founder, Martin Polden, offered observations on the teachings of Judaism. He quoted the Old Testament’s injunction to “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and everything that moves on the Earth”. He said this should be read in conjunction  with chapter 2 verses 7-8, where Adam first appears, and is expressed to be ‘planted’ in the Garden of Eden, with a duty to ‘cultivate and keep it’, i.e. serve it and conserve it. Throughout the Torah, there is the injunction to take account of cultivation and obey good husbandry, said Polden.

He explained how Gandhi was influenced by the Jewish community in South Africa and how the 12th century philosopher Maimonides influenced E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Guide for the Perplexed’. As a lawyer, Polden has worked with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmentalists “on issues that concern the region and where each marks the other with respect and recognition of each as human beings, with the key of living together, as distinct from stereotypes”.

Martin Polden also said that our prayers with GF President Lord Attenborough, who is unwell. Trustee John Rowley also collected messages from the audience to send to him.

Reverend Nagase from the London Peace Pagoda, said that in Buddhism, there are two paths open to attain  Buddhahood; creating the  pure land, and to lead the people to the teachings of Buddhism. “When people become peaceful and affectionate, the land in which they live is also bound to become peaceful and affectionate in accordance…It may seem as if the path is separated into two: the land and the people, yet originally both are the realisations of a single truth”.

Reflecting on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year, Rev Nagase said “If the minds of the people are impure, their land is also impure, but  if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure, in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of people’s minds. It is the same with a Buddha and a common  mortal. While deluded, one is called a ‘common mortal’, but once  enlightened, is called a ‘Buddha’. Even a tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel if it is polished”.

Madhava Turumella from the Hindu Forum explained how he stayed at Gandhi’s Sevagram ashram after graduating from university. He said he found serenity there and appreciated the many faiths that influenced Gandhi. This religious pluralism in Turumella’s branch of Hinduism which believes in the universality of humanity and harmony with other belief systems. He echoed previous speakers when he said that the earth does not belong to anyone. He said all life is interconnected and we must not covet or steal its resources. He said that this is precisely what is happening today, however, and it is causing great damage to our world.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Omar Hayat, speaking about Islam, also echoed much of what previous speakers and highlighted the great commonality between faiths. Muslims are guided by the Koran and the teachings and conduct of the Prophet and Hayat gave examples of both to explain the faith’s environmental perspective. The Koran states that man is not at the centre of the world, but just one part of the environment. Islam emphasises the unity of creation and equality of all creation and the role of man as a trustee of the earth and its resources and calls for humility. The current environmental crisis reflects mankind’s spiritual crisis.

The teachings of the Prophet, emphasise that the earth must not be exploited or abused and flora, fauna and animals have equal rights to man as God’s dependants. Hayat concluded with a quote from Prophet Mohammed “Act in your life as though you are living forever and act for the Hereafter as if you are dying tomorrow”.

Green London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson, explained the impact that Gandhi has had on modern environmentalists. Johnson said Gandhi was one of the first public figures to warn of environmental damage, warning of the consequences of pollution of air water and grain, and he described him as “A patron saint of the green movement”.

He said that Gandhi’s contemporary influence was based on his emphasis on sustainability, social justice, democratic participation and non-violence.  Johnson felt that Gandhi would approve of modern London’s multi-ethnic society but not the massive gap between rich and poor. Gandhi would understand the reason behind the current Occupy movement in the capital.

Gandhi’s non-violent methods have inspired civil rights movements across the world and are fundamental to the green movement today. Johnson said that we have a long way to go to realise Gandhi’s vision but his philosophy is as relevant as ever.

John Dal Din, representing the Catholic faith, like Father Ivor, offered a Franciscan prayer – the Canticle of Creation. He talked of the deep links between St Francis and Gandhi.

Ajit Singh explained the influence of the Sikh faith on Gandhi. He posed the question what is the world and our place within it. Quoting Guru Nanak and Sikh morning prayers, he said that God creates and sustains the earth but mankind is responsible for it and all its life forms. All life is interconnected and any damage done to the earth is damage to me, said Singh.

David Fazey from Village Action India talked about a month-long Ekta Parishad (an indian grassroots movement) Satyagraha march in October in India in which 100,000 people will participate. It is inspired by Gandhi and is being staged to highlight the plight of Indian rural communities who are being denied rights to their land, water and forests. This march builds on the Janadesh march in 2007.

Fazey said that if the March is to be successful, it must be witnessed and he called on all those present to raise awareness of the event. A leaflet on the march was circulated and further details are available at www.marchforjustice2012.org

There were further impromptu contributions at the end of the event; Margaret Waterward highlighted a march of 450 slum children dressed in Khadi in Kolkata the previous day, calling for education and a future free of poverty; a from a representative of the Jain faith, Sagar Sumaria, highlighting the environmental damage created by our demand for consumer electronics, such as mobile phones. A peace petition was also circulated on behalf of Newham Mosque.

Mark Hoda concluded the event by thanking Omar Hayat and GF Friend Jane Sill for all their help in organising this year’s Multifaith Celebration.

Speech given by Martin Polden at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Madhava Turumella at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Omar Hayat at the Multifaith Celebration 2012


Living Economy, Living Democracy – by Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva

This lecture was delivered in by Dr. Vandana Shiva in London in November 2007 under the auspices of Jeevika Trust, The Gandhi Foundation’s sister organisation.

“The word jeevika is derived from the word “life” or “life source”. So much in the name of globalization is happening which is not just indifferent to those life processes, but against them.

The large scale takeover of rural land for building construction – supermarkets, hotels and parking lots – is taking away land from farmers. In the corridor from Delhi to Agra there are five new hyper-cities being built. The livestock on that land is the basis of the livelihood of the people. We are building a movement against this process which we are calling the “Corporate Land Grab”. The colonial 1894 Land Act is now being used by the free market, forcing peasants to sell their land. American money, currently so insecure, is looking for security in that peasant land.

India’s stock market index just hit 20,000, and market value is shooting up. But that wealth is being created fictitiously. The women making bamboo mats will never defend that kind of economics in their nation. I started out defending forests in Chipko, and I was struck by the injustice of basket weavers having to pay more for their bamboo than the paper companies. Globalization does not work for everyone.

India is seeing the increased polarization of wealth. The jeevika of rural communities is under threat because the source of their livelihood is ecological wealth. Ultimately humans can only work with what nature has given them – work is a partnership between humans and nature. The issues of poverty and ecology were always the same for me – rebuilding nature means rebuilding people – and if we want sustainability then the resources of the Earth have to stay in the hands of the people.

When I started my work twenty years ago saving seeds it was to defend the livelihoods of the farmers. If the number of seeds drop then there is less biodiversity. Humanity has depended on 8,500 crops to make a living throughout history – producing food, furniture and energy has taken hundreds and hundreds of crops. Today we base our consumption on about eight crops. Monoculture is increasing and the monopoly over that monoculture is increasing.

The word for seed is bija and it has the same root as jeevika – the seed is where life resides; it’s the source of all life. In the hands of companies the seed is a source of death. Because the companies make the seed so it cannot renew, it is reduced to a commodity that the farmers are forced to buy every year.

Nature has given us diversity. After the cyclone of 1998, I gathered the salt resistant rice seeds with the farmers in the area. After the tsunami [in 2004], the scientists said that agriculture in the area would have to be put on hold for five years because too much salt had been washed into the soil, but because we’d saved salt-resistant seed, farmers were able to go on growing crops straight away. That diversity would not be available if seeds were not in the hands of the community – we cannot have seeds in the hands of monopolies.

In 1929 Gandhi wrote an economic constitution. It said that poverty in the world was the result of people being denied access to the resources they needed to work. Natural resources should be available to everyone – the wood, the fish, the bamboo – they belong to us all. This access debate is at the heart of globalization: who controls the resources of the planet?

Navdanya was created in reaction to GATT, which aimed to put a handful of companies in control of the world’s resources. Now companies are getting into energy through biofuels, leaving the goats nothing to graze on – the crops they use for biofuels are just oil berries. We have no deficit of oil-bearing trees but if every one was devoted to producing energy it would not be enough to sustain the fossil fuel economy. This economy is built on the false assumption that we can defeat nature. Food prices have already doubled this year and they are going up further as more land is devoted to producing biofuels. Instead of the land making livelihoods it is now going to run cars.

In Orissa, the steel industry is popping up like pock-marks on the landscape. Do we need that steel? No villager there has a single steel rod in their hut. Steel is being exported – 100% of the material is for export. Why? Because cost-cutting is the logic of globalization. India’s 9% growth rate is hiding destruction. Water from dams is going to steel plants rather than irrigation. Raw material and pollution intensive production is moving to the land which provides livelihoods to the poor – corporations are outsourcing pollution. People talk about the outsourcing of software but the real story is the outsourcing of pollution.

A head of state turns up after talking to five businessmen, he signs a bit of paper and the land is taken away from the people without consultation. The corridor from Delhi to Mumbai is being sold to Japan. There are 1.2 billion people in India – there is no extra land there – but everyone wants to descend there. There is a strong campaign against this corridor, the people and the farmers have protested against it. Our civil disobedience campaign meant that privatization was reversed.

We are defending the flood plains on the river of Delhi. The real estate people just sit there with a map, “Oh yes, there’s a green belt – let’s build there”. The building industry does not understand the flood plain or its role in storing ground water and we will be there to stop its physical construction. Three years ago we had the Bombay floods and the area was too built-up to soak up the water – the result was disastrous.

We need to start distinguishing between those economies that bring life and those that bring death. We’ve got suicidal economies – 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide after the WTO and World Bank’s policies. Why suicide? Corporate seeds aren’t about increasing productivity they are about increasing debt. I call it “Corporate Feudalism” – the corporations are joining with feudal structures we thought we’d left behind after Independence. I’ve sat in front of 2,500 widows in the Punjab, the wives of farmers who have committed suicide. These farmers consume pesticide in the field – “pesticide” ironically translates as “medicine” in our language. The land in that area has turned into a suicide belt. This is the same land where Gandhi started the cotton movement, where he spun for freedom.

We need to give the land back to the farmers so they’ll never have to leave. We need to get them a just price – at present the market price of cotton is one-third the price of production. Our farmers are paying with their lives and the farmers in the UK are facing similar problems.

We can’t deal with climate change without farmers. In any crisis, uniformity is the worst way to respond – diversity is resilience. Secondly, disruption leaves people vulnerable – and they need food to be available during those times. Third, organic farming helps to mitigate against climate change. 200% more carbon is stored in soils that are farmed organically. Yet nobody is talking about how climate change can be solved by organic soils. The floods in Bangladesh saw 2,500 people lose their lives to climate change. Ecological multiples are insurance. In no sustainable economy does everyone do the same thing.

The ecological economy is an economy of renewal where you have six foot of bamboo growing in a few months, or a new goat in seven months. But we’re creating scarcity in an abundant world. Poverty is a human creation – nature doesn’t create scarcity – human systems do. But two processes are making humans more equal: climate change and running out of oil.

But this time brings opportunities as well as challenges. Human beings have never yet been forced to redefine our role as a species on this planet. We have been living off thousands of years of reserves, but now we are running out. Now we are going to have to give back to the Earth. The big shift Gandhi made was to explain that having a lighter footprint on the planet was not to be more primitive, but to be more sophisticated as a species.”

Dr Vandana Shiva is  Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Ecology and Founder of Navdanya Trust

Green Economics – by Matthew Bain

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17

The story of Adam and Eve teaches us about the nature of work: before the Fall, humanity existed in harmony with nature, and our work was to tend the Garden; afterwards our work became a burden and source of suffering, as we found ourselves struggling against nature. The Jewish psychoanalyst Erich Fromm describes the Fall in terms of alienation. Alienation means being out of touch with our own nature, with others, and with our surroundings and environment. The current economic system is both alienated and alienating, and even its so-called ‘winners’ are in fact losers. A psychological study from before the current financial crisis showed that hedge-fund managers

“had high levels of depersonalisation and a staggering two-thirds were depressed. There were similarly high levels of anxiety and sleeplessness. The more they earned, the more likely they were to have these problems. Twice daily, they consumed both alcohol and an illegal substance (mostly cocaine). For relaxation, they chose solitary pursuits: jogging, masturbation and fishing were common.” (Oliver James, writing in The Guardian)

Fallen from paradise indeed. Continuing his analysis, Erich Fromm uses the concept of idolatry. He contrasts worship of the true God – manifesting in the living creativity of productive work – with the worship of the completed, rigid product of work – money. He quotes Goethe:

“the Divine is effective in that which is alive, but not in that which is dead. It is in that which is becoming and evolving, but not in that which is completed and rigid.”

The current economic system is essentially idolatrous, positioning humanity as the servant of money, not the other way round. The purpose of Green Economics is to reverse this injustice, and return money to its proper place as the servant of humanity.

The cause of the current economic crisis is the huge agglomerations of private capital which have developed Frankenstein-like lives of their own and are neither understood nor controlled by their human ‘masters’. This private capital sloshes around the world, engaged in fruitless transactions such as currency speculation, credit default swaps, arbitrage etc, while billions of people remain unemployed or underemployed because of lack of access to even a few dollars worth of equipment. The role of Green Economics is to ‘unfreeze’ this capital, and let its moisture stimulate a grass-roots recovery. Measures such as a Tobin Tax on currency transactions would be welcome sources of funds, especially if channelled correctly.

A good example of Green Economics in action is microcredit, as pioneered by Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Microcredit shows that the lives of families can be substantially improved and the untapped potential of women in particular developed by small loans based on a system of trust and cooperation. It is so refreshing to see economic intelligence focus on the needs of people who were formerly excluded. Does anyone really think that we can revive the global economy by endlessly targetting products at the same wealthy 20%? The answer surely is to include the remaining 80%, by devising products and pricing which are in genuine sympathy with the needs of the developing world. Even if it means a short-term reduction in profits, it can only produce good results in the long-term. A bigger cake would benefit everyone – instead of the economics of envy where we are content as long as our own slice is bigger than our neighbour’s.

Microcredit is an example of ‘small is beautiful’ as articulated in the work of the green economist Fritz Schumacher. In Schumacher’s vision, the distance between people and money must be removed, and money brought into close proximity with people who need it, in practical forms they can use (appropriate technology). Access is more important than ownership, which happily avoids many sterile ideological arguments between Left and Right. Anathema to Schumacher’s vision of access and proximity are current corporate structures with their long chains of command, separation between shareholders, managers and workers, and myopic focus on short term profit. Amongst other ills, these lead to environmentally disastrous and unjustifiable distribution chains like supermarkets which send prawns from Scotland to Thailand for packing before being returned to the UK for sale, or which endlessly transport sheep around the country in search of the cheapest abattoire.

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva points out that it is not enough to stimulate the small and beautiful, we must also fight the big and ugly! The much-trumpeted economic growth in India benefits only a small section of the population, and in fact harms many more. Why should there be a burgeoning steel industry in Orissa when the people there use no steel in their houses? 100% of the steel is in fact for export, and Dr. Shiva argues that Orissa is being used simply because it is convenient for wealthy countries to ‘outsource’ their pollution and exploit the poor conditions and pay of Indian workers. Global trade frameworks such as the WTO seek to increase the opportunities for such exploitation and should be resisted. Instead, the green vision of globalisation requires humane minimum standards for labour throughout the world. In place of the industrial and capital-intensive development agenda foisted on poor countries by organisations like the World Bank and IMF, a people-centred approach is required, as implemented by NGO’s such as Practical Action and the Jeevika Trust.

The life and work of Mahatma Gandhi show how economic activity is a key part of our struggle for genuine freedom, including its spiritual and political dimensions. Many of Gandhi’s most successful campaigns such as the Salt March and the Khadi movement demonstrate the liberating character of work which emphasises self-reliance and the strengthening of community. Perhaps demonstrating his origins in the Modh Bania merchant caste, Gandhi was always delighted to sell Khadi (homespun cotton) to the people who came to see him as he travelled around India by train, contributing funds for the independence struggle. It is important to remember that business and trading are vital expressions of life: but they must be harnessed to serve life, not oppress it.

Genuine entrepreneurship is to be encouraged and nurtured, but our governments must not allow any more of our public services to be cannibalised by big business. Under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), £68bn of public infrastructure has been built in the UK, for which the public is committed to payments of £215bn to private consortia, even though these projects could have been delivered and run 30% more cheaply by the public sector. There is no genuine initiative or entrepreneurship in this ability to divert public money into private coffers, and we can no longer allow our politicians to maintain their supine posture towards big business. The time for strict regulation of big business in the public interest is now – and this same regulation should give our small businesses a space to breathe. Our now publicly-owned banks should be prevented from gambling on derivatives and instead be forced to make credit available to small businesses.

The prospects for Green Economics depend on our ability to protect existing communities in the developing world, and build new types of extended community in the developed world. Community strength is the real solution to consumerism and the creeping commoditisation of our lives. Community bonds built on shared interests and mutual respect enable us to pool scarce resources and use our collective imaginations instead of always relying on cash. The Landshare scheme in the UK is in its infancy, but already boasts 3,600 registered land owners, including the National Trust, who are willing to share some of their land as allotments for 28,000 would-be growers. New cooperatives are forming to buy village post offices and pubs threatened with closure, and revitalise them as centres of community life.

The epic Western “Once Upon A Time in the West” offers a microcosm of modern economic development accompanied by banditry – showing how the railroad pushed across North America, costing many lives. In one scene we are shown that the only thing that can stop a gun is a wad of cash, but the question in my mind is, “how can we stop a wad of cash?” The answer offered by alienated economics is “more cash” – therefore carbon trading schemes are invented to ‘incentivise’ governments and industries not to kill us in their crazy pursuit of money. The actual answer is “love” – only love can stop money. Motivated by love, Green Economics seeks to skilfully and creatively combine our great religious and cultural traditions, which transmit our collective wisdom, with well-selected and appropriate modern technologies. As Greens we should not spend all our effort devising technical solutions, because we should recognise, like Gandhi, that the main change required is of the heart.

Surur Hoda (1928-2003)

Surur Hoda and friend at The Gandhi Foundation Summer School

Surur Hoda and friend at The Gandhi Foundation Summer School

For 25 years Surur Hoda was international secretary of the civil aviation section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF). He was also chief executive of the London-based India Development Group (IDG) and the founder of the Gandhi Foundation. A democratic socialist — he formed the India Socialist Group in London in 1960 and was an active member of Socialist International — his work for the world’s rural poor was based on the precepts of Mahatma Gandhi, Fritz Schumacher and J P Narayan.

Surur was born near Chopra, in Bihar, India, the eldest son of a middle-class Muslim family. He attended Patna University, graduated as a railway engineer and joined the railwaymen’s union. His union activities made it prudent to move to London in 1962, where three years later he joined the ITWF as secretary for railways and civil aviation. Meanwhile, he had become active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, forming lifelong friendships with Fenner Brockway, Philip Noel-Baker and David Ennals.

In the 1970S, when J P Narayan the socialist leader was jailed by the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi during her ‘emergency’, Noel-Baker chaired Surur’s Free JP campaign, which contributed to the effort to restore democracy in India.

By 1970, Surur had joined forces with his brother Mansur, who was with Schumacher’s Intermediate Technology Group. Together they formed the IDG, supported by Indian business and professional people in London, with the aim of equipping Indian villagers with simple technologies.

The birth of independent Bangladesh out of East Pakistan in 1971 led to many Bihari Pakistanis being stranded in the new state. Surur organised a delegation, headed by Ennals and Ben Whitaker, which contributed to nearly 200,000 folk returning to Pakistan. Surur and Ennals also worked to promote Tibetan self-determination and the restoration of Fiji’s democratic government.

After working with the ITWF civil aviation section, Surur headed its Asia/Pacific region. There he fought many cases of human and trade union rights violations.

In 1983 Surur created the Gandhi Foundation in Britain, to promote knowledge about Gandhi’s teaching and relate them to problems of violence, social injustice, environmental destruction and racial and cultural conflict. This, and the IDG, were the focus of his activities in the last 10 years.

His wife Elizabeth’s role in all of Surur’s work was invaluable, and his achievements owe her much. The help of their son Mark was also increasingly important. A man of great charm and warmth, inspired by the teachings and example of great men, Surur inspired his friends and colleagues. In 2000 he was awarded an OBE. He is survived by Elizabeth and Mark, and by his son Firoz and daughter Afshan from his first marriage.

George McRobie

Tributes to Surur Hoda

Richard Attenborough writes:

There would have been no Gandhi Foundation without Surur Hoda. The very concept was his and indeed the inspiration for its creation was his. During the 20 years of our existence there have been both successes and crises. He has always been steadfast believing passionately in the advocacy of all that Gandhiji stood for. Everyone here today will miss him greatly. We all owe him an incalculable gratitude. I knew Surur well, both as a colleague and friend and I shall miss him during the rest of my life.

Diana Schumacher writes:

It is difficult to express the sense of inestimable sorrow and loss all Surur’s friends have experienced at his untimely death in June this year just after his 75th birthday.

I met Surur Hoda together with Lord Ennals and Cecil Evans at the first meeting of the Gandhi Foundation in London in 1983. Subsequently I was asked to serve as a Trustee of both the Gandhi Foundation and the India Development Group (originally founded by Mansur and Surur Hoda together with George McRobie and my late father-in-law, Fritz Schumacher). To have known each of these remarkable men has been an exceptional privilege and in each case one is rnpted to quote M K Gandhi:

“When people walk their own truth with compassion there are no religious boundaries and nothing can impede change.”

Surur, as many of know, was a true Gandhian in spirit and in action — modest, compassionate, courageous, wise and forever championing the cause of the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalised. It was with great reluctance that he was persuaded to take over the Chairmanship of the Gandhi Foundation earlier this year, although through his illness he was unable to attend his first meeting as Chair in February.

Surur had persuaded me, as a guest of the India Development Group to give the first Mansur Hoda Memorial Lecture in New Delhi in January this year in memory of his brother Mansur who had died just over a year earlier. though in extreme pain himself through a back injury, Surur masterminded the entire 16 day visit, even accompanying myself and others to the Schumacher Institute of Appropriate Technology in Lucknow against the advice all his medics and colleagues. He was, however, unable to complete the rest our itinerary and after the main Lecture was over, I and others had to continue with the rest of the programme without Surur. However, it was typical his generosity of spirit that on my last day back in Delhi, on yet another cold grey evening, Surur had staged a farewell party and dinner at the hotel where I was staying and insisted on accompanying me to the airport at some unearthly hour of the morning. That was, poignantly, the last time I saw him, although we had several productive telephone conversations after his return to the UK.

On July 31st in Bristol at the latest meeting of the Board of Directors of the IDG, Dick Gupwell (Delegated Chair) made the following statement:

“The Board of Directors expresses its heartfelt appreciation for the vision, inspiration, Leadership, courage and tireless hard work given by M S Hoda over many years striving to uplift the conditions of the deprived rural population of India on basis of M K Gandhi and E F Schumacher. Expresses its determination to ntinue the work of M S Hoda in promoting the ideals of E F Schumacher with regard to rural development and appropriate technology in India and, thereby, preserve the legacy of its colleague and friend M S Hoda.”

Thank you, Surur, for your generosity of spirit and your spirit of self-sacrifice. We who remain must now all strive with renewed vigour to fulfil the universal vision of the social and environmental justice which your life exemplified at such cost to yourself and family.

Martin Polden writes:

I met Surur some 20 years ago when I became involved and participated in the formation of the original Trust. His energy and devotion to its inception and determination to guide the organisation through days of difficulty as well as those of impressive success, served, in turn to energise us all. He was ever, and so remains, a beacon of light whose life and work exemplified the instruction of the prophet Micah,

“to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with thy God”.

Godric Bader writes:

The immediate compassionate warmth that Surur brought always gave me the necessary support in my often difficult endeavours to pursue Gandhian Trusteeship principles in the growth and development of the Scott Bader Commonwealth. Gandhian Trusteeship purposes gave our Commonwealth foundation its basic building blocks, and to have had the understanding and support of the Gandhi Foundation through its leading light Surur was so valuable and inspiring over the years and continues to be, particularly now in these days of world crisis. Whilst we all sorely miss his bodily presence, his spirit and what he stood for will never be lost.

Arya Bhardwaj writes:

The void created by the sudden demise of dear friend Surur Hoda is an irreparable loss to all those who have had the good luck to come in contact with him during the long spell of his public life of more than half a century. I came in close contact with Surur from the time of the formation of the Gandhi Foundation, UK, but I knew him from 1974 when the JP-led movement for Total Revolution was at its peak and Surur was supporting it from Britain. Surur had been very close to JP ever since he became a socialist in his student days. He became a socialist youth leader in his native Bihar and had then risen at the national and international level when he joined the International Transport union. I was actively involved in the JP movement, being a Sarvodaya worker. During the Emergency when I was in jail, I used to listen on the BBC about the Free JP Campaign launched by Surur with the help of human rights activists like Michael Foot.

When The Gandhi Foundation started a Summer School in 1985, I had the good luck of attending as a resource person invited by Surur. On my visits his home became my home. Surur, Elizabeth and son Mark made me a part of their family during more than 20 visits to their home in Purley. It was here that I came to know Surur’s multifaceted qualities of head and heart. In one line if I have to sum up his life I would say that he was a man of Conscience. He would not leave any stone unturned in serving the cause of others, whether it was the question of Indo-Pak relations, the cause of industrial workers, of the Bihari Muslims discarded by both Pakistan and Bangladesh, of human rights and civil liberties, promoting communal harmony, international understanding, world peace and nonviolence.

Mark Hoda writes:

My family has taken great comfort from the number of tributes from friends and colleagues following Surur Hoda’s passing. Reading through the messages of condolence it is clear that he is remembered for his kindness and commitment to the various people, organisations and causes he worked for during his life. The sentiments expressed also very much reflect the feelings of his family.

I think one of the main reasons for this congruence of emotions is that the affection and commitment Surur showed members of his large family was also very present in his relationships with friends and colleagues.

Surur was born in Chopra, Bihar, India in 1928. As the eldest of six brothers and three sisters he took the responsibility placed on him to look after his siblings and their families very seriously throughout his life. However, he also relied heavily on their love, support and advice.

Settling in London in 1962, some of his family later followed him there, but he remained very close to his extended family which is spread all over the world. Surur led an extremely active life and travelled the world working tirelessly for a large number of organisations and causes. However, his family was extremely important to him and he always found time to be with them.

I have vivid memories from a very early age of always having uncles, aunts, cousins and other relations visiting our home and also visiting family members and friends in the UK and around the world. This left me in no doubt that for Surur and his family spending time together was one of the most important things in life.

This is why Surur’s passing has created a huge void in the lives of his family members. Being the eldest of his generation put him at the apex of the family. We have lost a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle and with it an invaluable source of love, support and advice.

However, we are very conscious and comforted by the feeling that he touched many other people’s lives and that friends and colleagues with whom he worked will miss him greatly but also remember him with a lot of affection.

Cecil Evans writes:

The inspiration for setting up The Gandhi Foundation in 1983 and subsequently sustaining it was largely provided by Surur Hoda. Characteristically, he would claim that the support of many others was also important. His brother, Mansur, for example, was one of the early team until he had to return to India to pursue his interest in intermediate technology.

Richard Attenborough’s film, Gandhi, was, and still is, a constant source of inspiration and he agreed to serve as President. David Ennals, formerly a government minister, was our first Chairman. He had collaborated with Surur on efforts to help the Bihari refugees to return to Pakistan. Hoping to enlist the support of Quakers, Surur and Mansur approached me at Friends House.

Surur told me that friends in India had hoped that a Gandhi Foundation could be established here in the UK, similar to the Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi. We hoped that Richard Attenborough’s film would succeed in capturing the imagination of the public, and particularly young people, for Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. While this goal has not yet been realised, it has never been abandoned!

Surur worked tirelessly through summer schools, lectures and an annual inter-faith service to help make Gandhian ideals a reality. Our lives have indeed been enriched by his pioneering spirit and his friendship. The best tribute we can make to his memory is to continue to work for the objectives of peace, social justice and good inter-faith and community relations, which have been so integral a part of his active life.

Betty Clarke writes:

I was so sad to learn of the death of Surur Hoda, without whom The Gandhi Foundation would never have existed. It was his brainchild, and together with Cecil Evans they worked tirelessly to raise funds. Richard Attenborough became involved because of the depth of his feeling for Gandhi after making his famous film, and thanks to his generous donation of £5000, Surur and Cecil were able to engage me as very part-time secretary (with small ‘s’) and later as Treasurer. We had to beg the corner of a desk and an old typewriter from Kingsley Hall and then we were ‘in business’. I typed the Newsletter from Kathleen Jannaway’s hand written scripts, and together Surur and I photocopied them and posted them to our new members. Meanwhile Cecil was busy fundraising, particularly amongst his Quaker friends.

I worked with Surur for about 10 years, meeting him at least once a week and never, during all that time, saw him other than calm, sweet natured and considerate, although this hid a steely resolve never to accept failure. He was always full of faith and optimism that projects would turn out well.

His commitment to the Gandhi Foundation was shared by his many family commitments, by his active support for his local Labour party and for Gandhian projects in India together with his brother Mansur, who died over two years ago.

How much he is missed by his close family I cannot begin to imagine. He was my dear friend, and will never forget him.

Peter Cadogan writes:

Surur had a rare and special genius for people, for finding the right people to do things and then never interfering in the way they did them. He worked on trust, a great virtue long in decline. I long wondered how he did it, until one day, sitting in a small group of three or four people he told us. He told us the story of his childhood, of the big house he lived in with his grandmother, her sons, their wives and children, a classic extended family. The grandmother was guv’nor. She never gave orders, she simply said what was to be, and so it was. It was the rule of love. It was in that context that he grew up and how his remarkable character was formed. Then the grandmother died, and one by one the families went their separate ways and a great extended family slowly dissolved. But its memory and example did not dissolve, as Surur’s subsequent life and record are our witness.

Schumacher and Trusteeship – by Godric Bader

Godric Bader is Patron of The Gandhi Foundation

We need a nobler economics that is not afraid to discuss spirit and conscience, moral purpose and the meaning of life, an economics that aims to educate and elevate people. – E. F. Schumacher

The words Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) which Fritz Schumacher chose to describe his commitment to helping the ‘third’ world came from his deeply intellectual, but radical and practical, mind. Its essence is now seen to be better understood as Practical Action (ITDG’s recent name change) as these two simple words accurately describe what purpose he wanted the organisation to have. I recall what he said about appropriate technology and “economics as if people mattered” in his last talk, called Caring, for Real which he gave at Caux in Switzerland in 1966 just before he died – all his words were at bottom calling for Practical Action, directly with the people wherever they were on the earth.

So I now understand why he travelled to the small village of Wallaston in Northamptonshire, where the Scott Bader company (producing polyester resins) had evacuated in 1940, when he was in great demand as an adviser by many world governments. Scott Bader was an attempt at putting good ideas into practical action in the world of industry. Ernest Bader, an immigrant Swiss national, had founded a company in London in 1920 but normal ownership had been extinguished when the family company was given freely into a charitable holding company, the Scott Bader Commonwealth Ltd, in 1951.

Fritz came to know my father at a Pacem in Terris Conference in Geneva, and Fritz wanted to encourage the company whose ethos he described in Small is Beautiful as

“the development of the power over the responsibility for a bundle of assets – not ownership”.

That is why Fritz had given me much of his lunch times in London, where we usually met in a small Polish restaurant near the National Coal Board HQ where the waitresses, some from Auschwitz, could still show you their numbers on their arms. He understood the paradigm shift we at Scott Bader were struggling with and could spell it out better than we could. I would like to think that the 21st century description we are beginning to use to describe Scott Bader as a Democratic Trusteeship, with its “responsibility for a bundle of assets instead of ownership of them” has a direct parallel as to how we now urgently have to look at our earthly home.

This is a neat description of how we all have to learn to live on our planet, being responsible for the “bundle of assets” – the air, sea and land – through which nature and our life evolved and is sustained; not to be selfishly fought over, bought, sold and pillaged. The understanding was that there was a way forward by which we could say good-bye to the 150-year-old Company law, with its dominance of ownership, of shareholder money power. Instead there would be life beyond acquisitive capitalist motivation and we would hold the earth and its resources in trust for all its peoples.

Quite early in our discussions for Scott Bader, Fritz suggested that the company should appoint two or three imaginative biologists. We should put them in our research and development labs and leave them alone for at least five years. We would then have our new products and no longer be ‘capital dependent’, for he saw, as an economist, that the world was using up its capital: its fossil fuels and minerals – as income, and literally burning it away instead of using it to construct the means of recyclable and sustainable forms of production and lifestyles. He saw the direct parallel with nature’s ability to run the planet, without piles of waste everywhere. However I was unable to persuade my fellow directors who were all in the tough competitive business world of using petrochemicals for synthesising useful polymers for paints, adhesives and resins for glass fibre boats, pipes, tanks and building products. For them biology was not even a science and was a pointless direction for the company to go. An opportunity was lost.

In business Fritz taught me that the conventional planning process and games with graphs and numbers were too rigid and lifeless. They did not reflect enough reality – if anything tangible at all. As the top Economic Adviser and Director of Statistics at the National Coal Board he learnt that planning the way forward was not a rigid process – one should “stir forward to sense what one would bump up against”, so one had to be widely read and know what was going on in the world, as well as in one’s own sector. As the small poster on my office wall with his picture above reads:

“Economic growth is a quantitative concept and quite meaningless until defined in qualitative terms”.

And to illustrate Fritz’s later ability to put things even more succinctly after he had travelled more widely, he said, when questioned about the importance of Buddhism to him, and its relevance to economics:

“Economics without Buddhism is like sex without love”.

Fritz directed me also to the writings of R H Tawney and such words as:

“It is a condition of freedom that men should not be ruled by an authority they cannot control”.

Scott Bader was on its way to finding, as Tawney put it so well:

“…a principle of justice upon which association for the production and distribution of wealth could be found”.

Fritz however warned

“.. this is only an enabling act … though a necessary one but not yet sufficient condition for the attainment of higher aims … yet everyone in Scott Bader has the opportunity to raise themselves to a higher level of humanity”.

We could not go very much further than encouraging and educating people, for Tawney had said:

“It is obvious, indeed, that no change of system or machinery can avert those causes of social malaise which consist in the egotism, greed, or quarrelsomeness of human nature. What it can do is to create an environment in which those are not qualities which are encouraged.”

In Davos at the European Management Conference, just before it became the World Economic Forum, I claimed that democratic common ownership, as we then called it, created an organisation in which

“man’s spirit can be freer so that he can become more creative, productive and responsible”.

I believe Democratic Trusteeship is a way of releasing the talent, so often frustrated in the present day that many look for other work, or like the Quakers give up industry (eg Cadbury, Rowntree, Huntly and Palmer, Barclays), leaving the less mobile workforces who can then only turn to unionism to speak for them.

Fritz would never have attained the recognition that he was one of the few people who had changed the direction of human thought had he not

“combined scientific thinking at its most rigorous with spiritual commitment at its most compassionate”

to quote The Times. Sadly, this was said only after his death. I well remember his funeral in Westminster Cathedral where Yehudi Menuhin with his young violinists, and speakers from around the world, paid homage. Many people afterwards turned to me including Scott Bader’s Technical Director, saying: “We did not know what we had in the Company”, or “We did not realise he was so widely known”, such was his influence, literally around the world.

Remembering him one cannot forget the highly infectious warmth of his personality. Here was someone who knew where he was in the world. His depth of assurance came from his basic grasp of what humankind’s destiny should be in the world, and how to live out our evolutionary purpose on our planet.

It is difficult to pin down the unconscious influence Fritz had on Scott Bader; his depth of understanding and ability to analyse a situation was always apparent in Company meetings, and often a simple statement or question from him would clarify matters and show the way forward. From the point of view of the Company’s efficiency, and a better life for its workers, one of the most practical things Fritz did was to bring about our transference from coal to gas with the construction of a new gas main from Wellingborough (our local town) to Wallaston.

I was looking forward to having his acceptance to follow me as Chairman in 1978 when he so tragically died in a train when returning from Caux. It was reported:

“Dr Schumacher belongs to the intensely creative minority and his death is an incalculable loss to the whole international community”.

It certainly was to Scott Bader, especially as he was also going to give our 1978 Commonwealth Lecture. In the event his son Christian took over.

Fritz was a true prophet and one the world should have listened to earlier and thus we may have been able to avoid the development of resource depletion and climate change. Fritz would have agreed with the recent slogan which appeared in Time magazine:

“Don’t blow it! Good planets are hard to find!”

Sustainable Development or Sustainable Lifestyle? – by M.R. Rajgopalan

It is now six decades since India became independent. When we start reflecting on our achievements, the scenario is somewhat odd: We have nuclear bombs and missiles and rockets and satellites side by side with bullock carts and hand pulled rickshaws. We have five star hotels with luxuries and comforts matching the best in the world. Right outside the hotels within a walkable distance one can see the poor living on foot-paths. Five to ten percent of our population is leading a luxurious life indulging in hyper consumerism. At the bottom, thirty to forty percent of the population barely manages to get a square meal per day – they often do not have proper shelter or clothing and sleep on empty stomachs. The remaining thirty to forty percent lead lives with various inadequacies and discomforts.

What has gone wrong? We have passed through ten five year plans for industrialising the nation, creating infrastructure facilities and village development. In villages, some roads, some hospitals some school buildings did appear. There was an improvement in farming techniques. Yet only the well-todo section of the villages got the benefits. The landless poor did not benefit from these schemes.

DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM:

Development of any kind – be it urban or rural including sustainable development is problematic. The process of development means setting up of industries and creating job opportunities. There are the problems of environmental pollution, soil degradation, exhaustion of earth’s resources etc. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution development has been proportional to exploitation of the earth’s resources such as cutting down whole forests for charcoal, construction materials, firewood, furniture etc. The smoke emitted by the factories created atmospheric pollution. The use of petroleum fuels – Petrol, Diesel and Kerosene – as energy sources started in the first half of the 20th century and has reached maximum levels now. All of us know that petroleum is nonrenewable and the cars, power stations and factories, even as they play a vital role in development, are the main cause for earth’s pollution to dangerous levels. To quote Ranjit Chaudhuri:

“There is a fear that global famine of resources is impending. It is true that the industrial progress has brought many comforts and made some nations affluent. But it has made the world as a whole poor. Industrialisation has made the earth poor in respect of natural resources, fossil fuel, mineral resources, greenery, maritime resources, sanitation, health and ecology.”

Factories have rendered forests and greenery into deserts. The gulf between the rich and the poor has widened. Peace in the society and health of the people are deteriorating, violence and diseases are flourishing. Viewed in this background even ‘sustainable development’ would be a difficult proposition. That is the reason for the title of this paper. Sustainable lifestyle should be viewed in the perspective of the culture of the nation.

In ancient India, millennia ago, sages and saints lived in forests. The Upanishads containing the essence of Indian Philosophy were created in the forests. The ashrams, which were the places of learning, were located in the forests. Our sages lived in harmony with the plants and animals of the forests. “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The whole earth is a family) concept was born in our jungles. Our forefathers perceived gods in the forces of nature. Air was Vayu Bhagawan, thunder and lightning – Indira, water was Varuna, earth was Prithvi, sun was Sungod, Fire was Agni and so on. In our contemporary world, these gods denote the earth and atmosphere and space. Life on earth is possible because of these forces. Mother earth sustains all life on the earth.

“From the centre of this world, the Sun radiates energy to the whole world – let us worship it” says Rig Veda.

The message from Yajur Veda is “Let there be Peace in space, Peace on this earth, Peace in the atmosphere and may the waterways and all things living prosper”.

Singing these lines if we pray to God will bring peace and happiness in the minds of those who sing and listen. Apart from the Vedas and Upanishads our Puranas and Itihasas like Ramayana and Mahabharata also contain such noble ideas. All these great works were created in verdant forests by great sages who lived in harmony with their surroundings. It is doubtful whether such noble ideas could evolve in multistoried buildings under ceiling fans and air conditioners. In truth, such a phenomenon has not occurred in this world. Gandhiji travelled through the whole of India in bullock carts and in third class compartments of trains. He lived in hutments of the Harijan busties. But for such a way of life he would not have become Mahatma.

Kumarappa, the Gandhian economist, guides us towards a sustainable life style. In his famous work Economy of Permanence he describes five types of economies in nature:

  1. Parasitic economy: Some plants which take nourishment from other plants are called parasites. The host plant which provides the nourishment often dies. While the sheep and cattle live on grass nonviolently, the tiger which eats them is violent and is a parasite. A parasitic economy is both destructive and violent.
  2. Predatory economy: The monkey which feasts on mangoes gets the benefit of its food without contributing to the growth of the trees. That way monkey is a predator. This economy is less violent but destructive.
  3. Economy of enterprise: The honey bee visiting a flower gets pollen and nectar as food. The honey-bee in turn facilitates pollination among flowers leading to the formation of seeds and propagation of plants. This is economy of enterprise – constructive and mutually beneficial.
  4. Economy of aggregation: Continuing with the honey bees, Kumarappa describes how the bees live in colonies and each bee contributes to the welfare of the colony. They have overcome self-interest and act for group interest.
  5. Economy of service: Kumarappa rates this type of economy as the best. He describes how the mother bird makes all efforts to feed young ones and risks its life when faced with enemies.

Sustainable life style could be achieved by adopting the following steps:

  1. Sustainable agriculture: We should give up chemical fertilizers and pesticides and substitute them with bio-manures and bio-pesticides. Vermi culture and vermi compost is a must for restoring the health of the soil.
  2. Khadi & Village Industries are eco friendly. They create employment and help in poverty alleviation. We have to encourage and promote Khadi and products of Village Industries.
  3. Appropriate technologies: We should adopt technologies which are simple and which our villagers are able to comprehend and operate themselves. Use of electricity should be avoided or kept to the minimum extent.
  4. Use of renewable energy sources: Coal and petroleum are nonrenewable energy sources and are getting exhausted very fast. Solar energy is limitless and inexhaustible. We can harness solar energy for heating and lighting. Water and wind energies can also be harnessed for producing electricity.
  5. Sylviculture – or growing trees: Cutting down of trees for fuel and construction of houses is inevitable. Our policy should be to plant two trees for every tree we cut. Trees as a source of energy is non-renewable if we only cut them and do not grow them.

Lewis Thomas has something to say about our attitude towards the earth:

“Except for us, the life of the planet conducts itself as though it were an immense, coherent body of connected life, an intricate system, an organism. Our deepest folly is the notion that we are in charge of the place, that we own it and can somehow run it. We are living part of Earth’s life, owned and operated by the Earth probably specialised for functions on its behalf that we have not yet glimpsed”.

At this juncture I cannot help referring to Gandhiji’s famous saying:

“The earth has enough resources for our needs – not for our greed”.

If we follow Kumarappa’s advice – especially the economy of cooperation of the honey bees and that of service of the birds, keeping Gandhiji’s ideals in mind we can surely achieve a sustainable lifestyle.

Rajagopalan is Secretary of the Gandhigram Trust, Tamil Nadu

Schumacher on Gandhi – by Surur Hoda

This essay first appeared in ‘Gandhi and the Contemporary World’, edited by Antony Copley and George Paxton, and published by the Indo-British Historical Society in 1997. The author, Surur Hoda, was one of the founders of The Gandhi Foundation

Gandhi’s visions of Gram Swaraj (i.e. self-sufficient but inter-linked village republics with decentralised small-scale economic structure and participatory democracy) left him immediately at odds with many in the Indian National Congress and outside who sought to develop India as a ‘modern’ industrial nation state. To Gandhi, political freedom was merely the first step towards attainment of real independence which entailed achieving social, moral and economic freedom for seven hundred thousand villages. ‘If the villages perish India will perish’ he had said. But the majority of academically-trained, so-called modern economists called his vision ‘retrograde’. Some extremists even described it as ‘reactionary’ or ‘counter-revolutionary’ which aimed to put the clock back.

Many of those who admired his skill in leading the struggle for national liberation reluctantly tolerated his views as the price to pay for his political leadership. They were sold on the concept of large-scale urban industrialisation, mass production and economics of scale. They failed to understand Gandhi’s economic insight and criticised him by saying ‘Whatever Gandhi’s merit as “Father of the Nation”, he simply does not understand economics.’

Yet almost a quarter of a century after his assassination, Dr E F Schumacher, when delivering the Gandhi Memorial Lecture at the Gandhian Institute of Studies at Varanasi (India) in 1973, described Gandhi as the greatest ‘People’s Economist.’ In his opening remarks, Schumacher told a story which went something like this. ‘A famous German conductor was once asked who did he consider as the greatest of all composers. “Unquestionably Beethoven” was his answer. He was then asked “Would you not even insider Mozart?” He said “Forgive me.” I thought you were referring to the others.’ Drawing a parallel Schumacher said the same initial question might he put to an economist as to who was the greatest. The reply might come ‘Unquestionably Keynes.’ Would you not even consider Gandhi?’ ‘Forgive me, I thought you were referring to the others.’

Schumacher indentified Gandhi as the people’s economist whose economic thinking was compatible with spirituality as opposed to materialism. He said: ‘Gandhi refused to treat economics as if people did not matter.’ Gandhi had his finger on the pulse of the masses and therefore when someone put it to him that no religion was any good that did not make sense in terms of economics, Gandhi countered that no economics was any good that did not make sense in terms of morality and the poor masses. Schumacher therefore interpreted Gandhian economics as people’s economics and explained the difference between economic reasoning based on ‘people’ as against ‘goods’, as was the case with materialistic economic thinking.

Schumacher explained that economic reasoning based on ‘goods’ would be solely concerned with increasing the supply of goods by means of advanced technology scientific knowledge and modern equipment. Based on this line of thinking industries should be large scale, highly sophisticated, capital intensive and labour saving, even to the point of total automation. From the ‘goods’ point of view, human beings were not ideal agents of mass production because they tended to make mistakes, were unpunctual, argued back and joined trade unions. The ideal therefore was to eliminate the ‘human factor’.

However, if the economic means of development was based on people, as with Gandhian thinking, one had to direct attention to people in need and start asking why are they poor; if it was because their productivity was zero, how then could this he raised?

With this line of reasoning eradication of worklessness was of paramount importance. The most disturbing aspect of most developing countries, Schumacher thought was the fact that millions and millions of people were without work or at such a low level of productivity that it was negligible.

How could these people be helped to help themselves? It was in order to address this issue that Gandhi gave a call for ‘production by the masses’ instead of ‘mass production.’ While giving his prescription to the nation, he said that

‘the salvation of India is impossible without the salvation of the villages and their poor inhabitants.’

The Gandhian Prescription

When asked how Gandhi, were he alive today, would view India’s present situation after three decades of independence, Schumacher pointed out that the number of rich, even very rich, people in India had increased as had the number of desperately poor people. He added that the situation in India reflected the situation of the world as a whole and Gandhi would undoubtedly consider this a sign of grievous failure. The obvious question, Schumacher asked, was

‘Why has it not been possible to help millions of unemployed and underemployed people to help themselves out ot poverty?’

The answer, Schumacher added, was that an approach to economic problems which started from ‘goods’ and therefore aimed to eliminate the human factor from the productive process could not possibly lead to constructive job provision. Gandhi would not have found it difficult to understand this. Schumacher prophesied that if the next twenty-five years in India produced a continuation of the trends of development based on the Western model established since independence, the outlook for the mass of poor people was grim, even hopeless.

Referring to the Western world, Schumacher said that ‘it is now widely accepted that there are limits to growth on the established pattern, so that, in all probability, the trends established over the last twenty-five years could not be continued even if everybody wished to do so. The requisite physical resources were simply not there, and living nature all around us, the Ecosystem, could not stand the strain. Gandhi had always known, and rich countries are now reluctantly beginning to realise, that their affluence was based on stripping the world. The USA with 5.6% of the world population was consuming up to 40% of the world’s resources, most of them non-renewable. Such a lifestyle could not spread to the whole of mankind. In fact, the truth is now dawning that the world could not really afford the USA, let alone the USA plus Europe plus Japan plus other highly industrialised countries. Enough is now known about the basic facts of spaceship Earth to realise that its first class passengers were making demands which could not be sustained very much longer without destroying the spaceship.’

Schumacher summed up Gandhi’s prescription for the salvation of India and in deed for the whole world as follows:

  1. Start all economic reasoning from the genuine needs of the people and help the poor to help themselves out of poverty.
  2. Revitalise and foster not only agriculture as such but also all possible productive, non-agricultural activities in the rural areas such as cottage industries for potters, weavers, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths etc.
  3. Resist the further concentration of the growing population in large cities by reversing the trend of migration from rural to urban areas.
  4. Develop systematic policies, based on the best available knowledge for the mobilisation of all productive resources, the greatest of which is the population itself.

Only by following the above mentioned prescription, Schumacher thought, would developing countries such as India hope to feed, clothe, house and provide the bare necessities of life for their teeming millions.

He then went on to identify the five main pillars of Gandhian economic thinking.

  1. Nonviolent
  2. Simple
  3. Small
  4. Capital Saving
  5. Rural Based (Self Reliant and Employment-Orientated)

1. Nonviolent

Referring to the deep trouble in which the modern world found itself and the ecological crises facing it, Schumacher said that to most people this had come as a sudden shock. However, it would not have come as a surprise to Gandhi were he alive today. Gandhi perceived that the modern urban-based industrial civilisation was exploitative and violent. Gandhi did not employ nor did he require a computer to arrive at his conclusions. Common sense told him that Western style industrialisation was inherently violent and could never be implemented for the whole of mankind.

‘It would strip the world like a locust’

Gandhi had said and had warned that

‘For India to change to industrialism is to court disaster.’

Gandhi abhorred the industrial civilisation because it was based on callous exploitation of non-renewable resources. It made bodily welfare the sole object of life. which reduced man to nothing but a clever animal. It was the tendency of Indian civilisation and Indian philosophy, however, to make man better than he was and Gandhi therefore wanted India to follow a different path of development. Today people particularly the young, in the rich as well as poor countries, are looking for just this: a different path of development, a different type of society, a different lifestyle.

Schumacher, describing ‘Nonviolence’ as a Gandhian term, widened its concept to include not merely the violence of man against man, but also the violence of man in his dealings with living nature around him and violence against the limited and finite resources of the Earth. Taking agricultural research as an example, Schumacher said that this was all based on violence — the use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides. chemical fertilizers and the breeding of plants and animals which depended on the creation of highly abnormal living conditions. As a consequence modern agriculture had become a gigantic battle with nature instead of a careful, devoted striving to gear in with her unbelievably gentle and efficient methods. Organic agriculture based on the strict observance of biological laws, the proper recycling of organic materials, decentralising, diversification and good husbandry, was receiving virtually no support and attention. Yet there could be no disagreement that agricultural systems which depended completely and utterly on cheap availability of non-renewable materials such as oil had no long-term future. But a civilisation ruled almost exclusively by town dwellers was always in danger of forgetting this basic truth.

‘As in agriculture, so in industry and in every other walk of life’, Schumacher went on, ‘we need to give our attention to the developing and perfection of nonviolent methods to find answers to the threefold crises of the modem world the crises of resource exhaustion, the ecological crises and the crises of man’s alienation and dis orientation. All this requires work ie Gandhian work with a spirit of truth and non violence which inspired Gandhi.’

2. Simple

A simple lifestyle was Gandhi’s hallmark. At his death his sole possessions were a pair of slippers, a watch, a pair of glasses and a few loin-cloths. He lived in poverty by choice most of his life in line with his motto

‘Simple living and high thinking.’

Quoting Gandhi’s

‘High thinking is inconsistent with complicated material life’,

Schumacher said that all real human needs were essentially simple, therefore only frivolities and extravagances like supersonic transport were inevitably complex. Complexity had to be seen not as a sign of progress but as a mark of failure. It entailed the need for extreme specialisation so that men became ‘fragmentary’, too specialised to be able to obtain wisdom. Schumacher maintained that the essence of the message of all the prophets and philosophers born in the East was a simple lifestyle.
In an attempt to emphasise this point Schumacher added that in the area of economics modern civilisation was moving at ever-increasing speed towards immense complexity and high capital intensity with the sole object of increasing gross national product, growth rate and per capital income. Referring to his experience in one of the Eastern countries in the early 1960’s, he said:

“This struck me very forcibly in Burma when I considered what my economist colleagues told me that the national income per head in Burma was £20 a year and I recalled wartime England, when a very effective official policy squeezed us down until the pips began to squeak and when the economists added it up, and the income per capital then calculated was £200. Now this is a comparison which ought to arrest our attention: with something in the order of £200 we could only just exist, and in other places of the world, with something called £20 they too can just exist. Are these genuine comparisons? They point not to differences in wealth but to differences in living patterns and life-styles. One pattern manifests and reflects itself in economists’ calculations as £20 per annum per head and another at its minimum level, to basically the same job, ie just to carry the person through the year, manifests in the economists’ book as £200 a head. If it were possible in the economy which has a pattern and is symbolised by the figure of 20 a head, to increase national income so that the 20 would become 30 or 40, while yet adhering to the same life-style, you would have transformed that country into the nearest thing to paradise on earth. But in doubling the national income and allowing the pattern to shift from your indigenous to an American one, which does not begin to function unless it is endowed with, in my symbolical statistics of £200, then the result would be simply disappoint ing although the economist will think that you have doubled the nation al income, but contrary to economists’ estimation the country would rather slip into a slum economy than an economy of affluence, as the £40 a head income under altered conditions cannot even be enough to meet bare needs. Recognising that there are in fact two economics and two life-styles and that is the trickiness of the problem we can recognise a two-fold need, namely to make a success of the westernised sector and to make a success of the rest.”

3. Small

Referring to his book Small is Beautiful, Schumacher said that when Gandhi said

‘Not mass production but production by masses,’

or when he talked about

‘decentralised rural based self-reliant economy,’

or when he demanded that

‘production and consumption must be reunited,’

he was talking the language of Small is Beautiful.

‘Man is small and man is — or ought to be — beautiful and as such only the human scale economy of Gandhi’s dream is appropriate’,

said Schumacher. The greater the size of the production unit, the greater the separation of production from consumption. Reuniting production and consumption units was only possible if production units were small. It would be easy to manage and adaptable to local conditions. One of the enormous advantages of small-scale production, reunited with small-scale consumption, was the minimisation of transport. Mass production entailed increased transport which added to the cost but never added anything to the real value of goods.

Modern economic thinking celebrated high speed and massive goods transport as wonderful achievements and included their costs in the gross national product as an indicator of economic progress. Post-modern thinking, according to Schumacher, would conceive the negative theory of transport, looking upon the need for goods transport primarily as an indicator of failure, proving that goods were being produced in the wrong places. This kind of thinking was already quite familiar to the factory planners and production agencies who strove for the minimisation of transport inside the factory and did not take pride in creating an elaborate infrastructure just for transporting goods from place to place.

The same thinking applied to society as a whole, which would never lose sight of the ideal, that things should be produced where they were needed. To use Gandhi’s language:

‘Production and consumption should become reunited,’

or, to use another phrase of Gandhi’s:

‘Bring work to the people and not people to the work.’

Hence the need Schumacher emphasised for the development of small units, to fit into small scattered markets. ‘Can we utilise science and technology to this end?’ Schumacher asked. It was important to ask our scientists and technologists to use their knowledge and ingenuity not to make production units even bigger — seeking so called economics of scale — but to develop mini-plants so that people living in small communities in rural areas could again become productive, without being dependent on people already rich and powerful to provide ‘job opportunities’ for them.

‘Economics of scale, which may well have been a nineteenth century truth, can be shown to be a twentieth century myth’, said Schumacher.

4. Capital Saving

One of the pillars of Gandhian economic thinking was capital saving. Tragically, Schumacher pointed out, the world was moving at ever-increasing speed into large-scale, immense complexity, high capital intensity, and elimination of the human factor: which was leading mankind into a crisis of survival. One of the reasons for Gandhi’s opposition to capital intensive and complex machinery was the fact that it turned a large number of people into ‘machine minders.’ This did nothing to develop their personalities and merely robbed them of their creative power. Schumacher supporting Gandhi said that, in addition, highly capitalised modern, complex and gigantic technology had proved monstrously inefficient in solving the problems of the world. He added:

‘If an ancestor of long ago visited us today, what would he be more astonished at? The skill of our dentists or the rotteness of our teeth? The speed of our transport or the length of time and the discomfort incurred in our travelling to and from work? The progress of our medicine or the overcrowding of our hospitals’! Our ability to land man on the Moon or our inability to find employment for people wanting work! The efficiency of our machines or the inefficiency of our system as a whole?’

Admiring Gandhi’s sureness of touch, Schumacher said: ‘Gandhi knew that a capital intensive economy could never solve India’s unemployment problem, and went on to explain by giving an example. He said that in order to establish one work place it cost 100,000 Rupees and if you had 100 Crores (1 Crore = Rs. 10,000,000) you could establish only 10,000 work places. If one had to tackle an unemployment problem which ran into hundreds of millions, one could see the problem facing a poor country like India.’

Quoting another example, Schumacher said that he went to see a village potter, who was a marvellously skilled man but who had very primitive technical equipment worth Rs. 50. He then went to a city and met another potter minding a machine tool imported from Belgium, the price of which was in the region of Rs 500,000. Evidently the worker could never afford that kind of money to set himself up in business and as a consequence would be forced to go to a big city like Bombay, where there were already hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. It therefore followed that constructive job provision was only possible if one followed the Gandhian prescription, namely to design work to develop modes of production which fitted into the actually existing conditions in terms of capital availability relative to labour availability. In other words: systematic development of technologies cheap enough in terms of capital to give the chance of work to everybody.

5. Rural Based

As stated earlier, to Gandhi political independence was merely ‘the first step’ towards the attainment of real independence: i.e. social, moral and economic independence in terms of India’s seven hundred thousand villages as distinct from its cities and towns. In a document which has become known as his ‘Last Will and Testament’ he provided a guideline to his followers to follow the Sarvodaya (Welfare of All) Movement for the uplifting of the villages. Quoting Gandhi

‘You cannot build nonviolence on a factory civilisation, the economy which I conceived eschews exploitation, because exploitation is the essence of violence. You have to be rural minded before you can be nonviolent ‘

Schumacher described him as a nonviolent social revolutionary. Schumacher said: ‘The grand objective of the Sarvodaya Movement as conceived by Gandhi and pursued by his followers was the total reconstruction of society. This meant that the village would become the basic unit of politics, economy and society. In such a unit agriculture would remain the basic industry but other small scale village industries using the most modern technology where it did not conflict with human needs would be developed. In short Gandhi’s dream was to develop a decentralised economy in which each basic unit would be self-sufficient in meeting its main material needs — food, clothing and housing.’

Schumacher regretted that the Government of India in the post-independence period did not pay much heed to the Gandhian dream and sought to develop India as a modern, industrialised nation state. Though India was on the way to becoming the tenth largest industrial state, Schumacher thought it remained a predominantly rural based agricultural economy.

Despite the fact that almost 80% of the Indian people lived in the villages, no proper attention was given to improving the quality of life and creating employment opportunities in rural areas. As a result there was a large migration of people in search of employment from the rural areas to the cities where they only swelled the ranks of the slum dwellers. The only way to reverse this trend and save the villages of india from perishing was to create small village industries with the help of appropriate technology, thought Schumacher.

Big city-based industries and mass production methods destroyed the productive capacity of the rural inhabitants and robbed them of their means of livelihood. Citing an example of how villages had been deprived of their employment opportunity, Schumacher said: ‘Once the paddy grown in the village was hand pounded in the village itself and consumed by the villagers, the surplus being sent to the nearest town or area where there was a shortage. Now all the paddy grown is taken by improved means of transport to the rice mills in a large city where it is pounded and sent back to the villages infected with all kinds of diseases. The village workers have lost their jobs and the net result remains the same, if not worse. What ought to have been done is to introduce improved paddy threshing equipment in the village itself. Unless we put all the able-bodied young men and women to productive use in the villages it would not be possible to pull India out of the massive poverty in which it finds itself,’ said Schumacher and quoted Gandhi as follows:

‘If we tap all our resources, I am quite sure, we can again be rich, which we were I suppose at one time. We can repeat the phenomenon if we profitably occupy the idle hours of the millions.’

‘To occupy the idle hours of the millions’ was the most serious challenge facing a country like India, said Schumacher and added that no country could develop without letting the people work. The greatest deprivation that anyone could suffer was to have no chance of making a livelihood. He questioned the wisdom of maintaining an educa tional system with 50 million people in primary school, 15 million in secondary school and roughly 1/2 million in institutions of higher learning unless at the end of the pipeline there was something for them to do. One way to occupy the idle hours of the millions in the village of India was to embark upon self-help projects.

Giving an example of self-help, he said ‘One of the greatest teachers of India, Lord Buddha, included in his teaching, the obligation of every good Buddhist to plant and see to the establishment of one tree every year for five years running. This in five years would give 2,000 million trees. The economic value of such an enterprise, intelligently conducted, would be greater than anything promised by five-year plans. It would produce foodstuffs, fibres, building materials, shade, water — in fact almost anything that is ready needed. And all this would have been done without a penny of foreign exchange and very little investment.’

According to Schumacher, Gandhi identified himself completely with the naked, hungry, starving millions of India and fought all his life to improve their lot. This is evident from the advice he gave to his followers which is know as ‘Gandhi’s Talisman.’

‘Whenever you are in doubt, or when self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: recall the face of the poorest and the weakest person you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to that person. Will that person gain anything by it? Will it restore that person’s control over his or her own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and starving millions? Then you will find doubts and self melting away.’

This talisman is a challenge even today to all the decision makers of Gandhi’s India.

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