We are still far from attaining Mahatma Gandhi's vision of ‘Swaraj'

Published on Oct 01, 2022 07:33 PM IST

Mahatma Gandhi’s moral weapon was the initiation of "Change of Heart”, a very effective and potent weapon that he had used efficaciously to achieve several successes.

Gandhi Jayanti 2022: This year marks Mahatma Gandhi’s 153rd birth anniversary.(Twitter/@VPSecretariat)
Gandhi Jayanti 2022: This year marks Mahatma Gandhi’s 153rd birth anniversary.(Twitter/@VPSecretariat)

Mahatma Gandhi’s stellar leadership of our freedom movement, based on the moral force of truth and ahimsa, brought us independence. His ideals continue to illumine all, universally. In India, the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 led by Gandhi was a watershed moment in the Indian freedom struggle.

Within a short span of time, Gandhi and his ideas had begun transforming India's social and political life. His charismatic life continues to inspire us with its message of truth as our sole religion and ahimsa, service of humanity and hate the sin not the sinner our main mantras. Glimpses of the profundity of Gandhian thought are evident in various articles of our Constitution and are still foregrounded in our intellectual discourse. Gandhian ideals, viz., Satya, Ahimsa, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya, Swaraj, Trusteeship, Swadeshi, etc. were incorporated into various provisions of our Constitution. Part 4 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Directive Principles of State Policy (Articles 36 to 51) and many of these articles could be easily imputed to being influenced by Bapu’s ideals.

Gandhi’s moral weapon was the initiation of "Change of Heart”, a very effective and potent weapon that he had used efficaciously to achieve several successes. It’s not known why this powerful weapon did not find its due place in our Constitution. It is imperative that this Change of Heart transformational concept finds its legitimate place in the Indian Constitution.

Experts, across the globe, have discovered a new management icon in the Father of our nation. The Mahatma is now being recognised not only as a political leader who gained independence for the nation but also as a master strategist whose work, philosophy and actions - all three of which were in extraordinary ethical synchronicity, have valuable lessons for reforming the administrative culture, particularly in India.

Gandhi believed that actions, founded on moral authority flowing from the "inner voice", should constitute the bedrock of conduct of any public functionary. This ethical conscientious touchstone, which the saintly "Bapu" made his credo, and embodied in every domain of his life, led Albert Einstein to assert: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon the earth."

Gandhi's concept of non-violence and his iconic moral standards are what today's public functionaries and administrators must emulate in order to truly serve the masses and make our nation a true democracy.

Gandhi laid tremendous emphasis on “heart change” and advocated differential treatment towards those public servants/officials who admit their mistakes and want to move forward on an ethical path.

In this context, an incident narrated by Gandhi, of an Indian businessman, Parsi Rustomji, who was a client of Barrister Gandhi and his closest associate in South Africa, is extremely relevant. Rustomji always used to seek and act as per Gandhiji’s advice, but he had the tendency to hide some facts about his business. All the goods that he was trading in, were freighted through Calcutta and Bombay, where he habitually evaded some custom duty on those goods, but he never revealed it to Gandhi. Once, the customs officials caught this theft and Rustomji was sent to jail. Rustomji rushed to Gandhi and narrated the entire episode to him. After hearing it, Gandhi reprimanded him and advised him to admit his crime, even if it meant being imprisoned. Following Gandhi's advice, Rustomji immediately approached the tax authorities and admitted his wrongdoing, vowing never to commit such a crime again in the future. The tax officials were pleased with his courage to accept his misdeed, and his change of heart, and abandoned the idea of prosecuting him. The officer just imposed double the custom duty that Rustomji paid as part of his atonement. After that, Rustomji never repeated any such malpractices and lived a dignified and stress-free life thereafter.

Gandhi valued repentance. To err is human, but not showing remorse is a venal sin. The compassionate message of the Mahatma was those who accept their mistakes and are willing to repent- need to be dealt with differently.

Currently, even if a government official accepts his mistake and is willing to repent, there is no specific provision in the Constitution or law to deal with him differently and give him a chance to reform. As the current provision in Article 311 throws no light on how such a person should be dealt with, it is necessary that the law should make provisions for such an eventuality.

Our country is celebrating “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” currently and on October 2, we will celebrate the birth anniversary of Bapu. We need to remember that we are still very distant from attaining the vision of "Swaraj” enunciated by Mahatma, who taught us to walk the talk and we need to work indefatigably towards that goal eschewing hatred, negativity and violence.

(The author is a research scholar at Delhi University. These are the personal opinions of the author.)

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