Mahatma Gandhi and Environment Protection – by Anupma Kaushik

Mahatma Gandhi never used the words environment protection however what he said and did makes him an environmentalist. Although during his time environmental problems were not recognized as such however with his amazing foresight and insight he predicted that things are moving in the wrong direction. As early as in 1909 in his book Hind Swaraj he cautioned mankind against unrestricted industrialism and materialism.

He did not want India to follow the west in this regard and warned that if India, with its vast population, tried to imitate the West then the resources of the earth will not be enough. He argued even in 1909 that industrialization and machines have an adverse effect on the health of people. Although he was not opposed to machines as such, he definitely opposed the large scale use of machinery. He criticized people for polluting the rivers and other water bodies. He criticized mills and factories for polluting the air with smoke and noise.

What he advocated in place of industrialism and consumerism was a simple life based on physical labour. He implored people to “live simply so that others may simply live”. For he believed that earth provides “enough to satisfy every man’s need but not any man’s greed”. So the rich must not only restrict their wants but must also treat their wealth as a ‘trust’ for the poor and use it for the welfare of the poor. This can be done only if people can distinguish between their real needs and artificial wants and control the later.

To him the real need meant to posses only what is absolutely necessary for the moment. To him this would not only help the unprivileged of today but would help protect the environment for the next generation as to him the earth, the air, the land and the water were not an inheritance from our forefathers but a loan from our children. So we have to hand over to the next generation at least as it was handed over to us.

He also believed that one must “be the change that one wants to see in the world” and hence he practiced what he preached. His life was his message. So he and his wife gave away all their property. They had nothing beyond the clothes that they wore and a change or two. He used scraps of papers to write brief notes and reversed envelopes for reuse to send letters. Even when he used to bathe with water of the free flowing Sabarmati river he consciously used only the minimum water needed for taking a bath. However he did not equate simple living with abject poverty. In fact he believed that to deny a person the ordinary amenities of life is far worse than starving the body. It is starving the soul – the dweller in the body. To him poverty was the most severe polluter. Hence poverty must be eradicated and that can be done only when everybody is taking their own share and not grabbing others’ share by limiting their needs and sharing their resources.

However his concerns were not limited to human beings alone as he had a very strong sense of the unity of all life. He believed that all creatures had the right to live as much as human beings and felt a living bond between humans and the rest of the animate world. He believed that humans should live in harmony with their surroundings.

The best part of Gandhi’s ideas was that they empower the individual. It is up to each and every individual to simplify his or her life; to share his or her resources and to care for his and her surroundings.

Dr Anupma Kaushik is Reader in Political Science, Banasthali University, Rajasthan, India.

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Categories: Living & Environment


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2 Comments on “Mahatma Gandhi and Environment Protection – by Anupma Kaushik”

  1. August 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    India of my dreams
    India of my dreams is built upon the fundamental processes at work, within the Indian society and for whose realisation, many like me, are committed to the last drop of their blood. I dream of India, where I will be proud to say ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’
    A DREAM is the exposition of the subconscious human mind. It symbolises the perfection of aims, ideals and aspirations of the human mind. India of my dreams would be prototype of all that is true, beautiful and egalitarian. The splendour that was India and the potential that is India will fuse together to make my dreams of India come true. India of my dreams will be identifiable with the philosophy of Ram Rajya. It will be perfect, happy blend of old and the new, spiritual and material, urban and rural, the religious and cultural and the scientific and technological.

    Many westerns, who have seen India, call it a continent. There is not a single country in this world with so much diversity. I am still aware of many mysteries and I am sure my whole life won’t be sufficient to know everything about India. India is my country, I love my country. While walking in the streets of Indian cities, I feel a unique sensation, which cannot be felt in any part of the world. It is very painful to see the miserable state of my motherland. India, today, is ridden with many problems. My beautiful country has the potential to become the most beautiful country of the world and I dream of that.

    India is made of diverse traditions. It is fusion of various regions, different religions and many cultures. Our strength is in unity. But we do not understand this simple thing. We continuously fight with one another. For some people, their faith in religion is above their faith in nation. They do not think as a nation, but in terms of their community, caste or religion. This is worrisome. I dream of united India, a stage where people will only think about their nation and will work towards the common goal – development of nation.

    Cleanliness is something, which is considered God. We, Indians do not worship this God. Our dirty cities, dirty rivers tell the reality. We spit where we live. We enjoy throwing empty Pepsi and Coke cans out of our cars. I wonder, when we will stop doing these things. I dream of neat and clean India.

    Two things are omnipresent in India, first is corruption and second is beggary. The net of corruption is spread all over in the public sector, as well as in the private sector. Public sector or the government sector is the two worst affected. Besides, the government and some private organisations, common public is also indulged in the game of corruption. They evade taxes.

    Beggars can be found in every nook and corner of the country. This doesn’t mean India is a very poor country. In fact, many poor people are very lazy and do not want to work. Begging is the easy way to make money, sans any effort.

    I dream of India free from the above two – beggary and corruption. I also dream of the day when India will win sizable number of medals in Olympics. This can happen only if we spend money on sports. And no country can spend money on sports, when its citizens die of starvation or survive on mango kernel. A time will come, when every Indians will get a balanced diet, I am waiting for that day.

    India resides in villages. Villages are the most neglected part of our country. They lack basic necessities of life — electricity, water, roads, proper sanitation etc. A modern Indian village which has all modern facilities is a dream for me.

    One-thirds of our population is still illiterate. But we should soon achieve 100 per cent literacy target. Majority of Indians are still superstitious. They ought to be provided modern,scientific education. Media has to play an important role in this regard. Women are still treated as an object of desire. They should be given their due weight. A girl child should be given an equal opportunity to prove herself.

    About nine per cent of people are still unemployed. I dream of India, where every Indian has an opportunity to work. At the same time, I also want every Indian to adopt family planning measures to check the population growth. Our population has crossed one billion mark, and it is still growing at a very fast speed. We should control our population; otherwise it has the potential to swipe all development.

    I dream of India where good traditions would be patronised and different cultures would be fused. Some popular festivals like Diwali, Eid and Christmas should be declared national festivals. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages should be encouraged.

    I dream of such an India, where transparency is the buzzword for governance. Police should improve their work ethics. It should become people-friendly. Teachers and teaching profession should be respected and well-paid. Every citizen should do something constructive for the nation. The old ‘guru-shishya’ tradition will be rejuvenated. Student’s unrest will be unknown. Useless degrees and examinations will be done away with and only those students with an aptitude and talent for higher education will go in for higher learning. Educational institutions will no longer be a playground for dirt politics, corruption, nepotism, cliques and international rivalries.

    India of my dreams will be based on the system of an egalitarian society. All will have the basic amenities of the life with adequate foods, clothing and shelter. The society will be based on a just and equitable order of no exploitation of the poor by the rich. There will be no barriers of class, caste, region, religion, creed, faith, race, colour or sex. There will be only human beings without their tags of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, white, black, browns and yellows who will live for the cause of humanity.

    All the social evils that plague the society, today, will be banished from India of my dreams. Her people will be self-reliant and will have utmost faith in action, labour and toil. The India of my dreams will not be guided by stars and fate but by dynamic men, who will write their own fate and destiny will only be their factotum. Truth, non-violence, virtue, high moral values of life and above all, the integrity of character will be the hallmarks of the Indian society. An all-round development of the human personality for the achievement of perfection of the human body, mind and soul will be the foremost ideal. Where the mind will be without fear, where the people will be virtuous and prosperous, where there will be no distinction between people and people, where mankind and humanity will be on and live in a spirit of friendship, fraternity and peaceful co-existence that would be India of my dreams.

    The political system of the country will be cleansed of all its dirt and its maladies will be cured. The field of politics will only be a platform for social service and welfare of people and the country. The politics of defection will be a forgotten nightmare.

    Films and other audio-visual media of mass communication will entertain and educate the people and will no more vulgarise life. Crime, criminals and anti-social elements will be unknown to society.

    In India of my dreams, her cultural heritage and its excellence will be the most cherished treasures. Her fine arts, handicrafts, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama, literature, poetry, music – all will have a nimiety of perfect models. Her vast expanses of knowledge, the Vedas, Puranas, scriptures and many other books will be thrown open to the world. The ancient seats of learning Taxila and Nalanda will be reborn. Besides, science and technology and the modern sanctuaries of knowledge and learning will guide and satisfy the human quest for further knowledge and for the betterment, welfare and service of mankind.

    India of my dreams is built upon the fundamental processes at work, within the Indian society and for whose realisation, many like me, are committed to the last drop of their blood and I dream of India when I will be proud to say “Mera Bharat Mahan” to one and all, where India would be an example of peace, calm, prosperity, progress and brotherly co-existence to the whole world


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