NEW DELHI: As India braces up to face continued economic slowdown and farmers distress, many believe Gandhi’s thoughts on the economy may well be part of the solution to the country’s and world’s problems.
In the 150th birth year of the Mahatma, Gandhian thinkers and economists believe that his thoughts on employment creation, localization of food production and need to cut down inequality of income are important to address the current economic slowdown and push the world towards `green economics’.
“Gandhiji had very specific thoughts on the neo-liberal economics which have guided global economics for long. His point was that instead of concentrating on mass production, we need to concentrate on production by the masses, where jobs are created so that demand too could be created. If you notice now creation of jobs and reviving labour intensive sectors has become a priority for us,” said Dr. Satya Narayan Sahu, noted Gandhian thinker and former senior civil servant.
Economists now believe that concentrating on job creation is important as this will create fresh income and demand, needed to revive industry which has been working at below capacity. The Government has decided to concentrate on giving sops to labour-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, handicrafts, small enterprises and to push in order to boost job creation.
“When re-evaluting Gandhi’s thoughts, we realize that huge changes in technology have made some of his ideas more relevant. The scale of production is no longer relevant with new technology, the differences between service sector and manufacturing too have blurred,” said Prof. Ravi Srivastava, former Chairperson, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University. 3D printing, use of artificial intelligence, etc., means that mass production is no longer necessary and the theory of economics of scale can be stood on its head.
Feeding urban centre’s by locally produced food has become a movement in Europe with the green party supporting it as it reduces carbon footprint and makes agriculture far more sustainable. “This in line with Gandhiji’s thoughts on localization of production,” pointed out Dr. Sahu.
However, Prof. Srivastava warned that “ Gandhi’s ideas of localised production has become more relevant because of environmental concerns over carbon footprint but they are not necessarily the autarkic village republic that the Mahatma envisaged.”
Similarly, rising levels of income inequality are also becoming a global concern with many politicians echoing Gandhi’s warnings that this could lead to graver social tensions, said Dr. Sahu. According to a research report by IIFL Harun India Rich List, the combined wealth of the top 25 rich Indians equals 10% of India’s GDP and that of 953 persons on their rich list accounts for 27% of the country’s economy. Globally, millionaire’s account for 45 per cent of the world’s wealth, according to a study by Credit Suisse.
“Paradoxically at one level today’s economic realities have made Gandhi’s economic thoughts far more relevant but not necessarily in the way he had thought it needed to be,” said Prof. Srivastava.