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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/1/20

Not symbolism but embodying Mahatma Gandhi in our lives is vital | 150 Years of Gandhi

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Two noted Gandhian leaders: Medha Patkar (left) and Dr Sandeep Pandey (right)
Two noted Gandhian leaders: Medha Patkar (left) and Dr Sandeep Pandey (right)
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It is high time to move beyond mere tokenism when we commemorate Mahatma Gandhi, and begin truly embodying Gandhian values in all aspects of our lives. This rallying call was given by Medha Patkar, who is among the most respected development justice activists today. She was among the keynote speakers of the ongoing Valedictory Week to mark 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi being observed from 26 September to 2 October 2020 by The Public India.

Mahatma Gandhi had said, "I think of the poor of India every time that I draw a thread on the wheel [of 'charkha'/ spinning wheel]." Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and noted Gandhian leader is spinning the Charkha daily, even during this online event. He said that Gandhiji showed us a path of simplicity that would give us a different kind of prosperity which is essential for just and sustainable development. Gandhian economy is the real socialist, sustainable, and equity-based economy. When we want to address the problem of employment, we realize that it could only be through production by masses and not mass production. So, the change must be in everything - in life, lifestyle, and sources of livelihood. If we follow the Gandhian path then the lifestyle changes will again be based upon his conclusions, that the Earth has enough to fulfil every one's need but no one's greed. And hence our lifestyle needs to be based on as minimum resources as possible. Gandhi ji's model becomes even more critically relevant when the world is reeling under financial meltdown and cascading humanitarian crises due to the pandemic.

Medha Patkar questioned if we treat the contractual workers and contracts between companies and the government alike? She said that because of corporate rule and growing dominance across the sectors, labour laws were diluted or abolished - 44 central Acts have been abolished or repealed. Our courts do not even equate the contract labourers with other labourers even if they are carrying out the same work. Social security and support that were granted to the disadvantaged sections within the working class earlier, are slowly vanishing. As the legal framework is being changed it is very clear that the contracts are being very vulgarly carried out between not just the labour and the employer but also between the millionaires or billionaires and the state (government) itself when the public sector units are being finished off.

She stressed that rapid privatisation of public services will also imply an end to the reservation which was to protect interests of the underprivileged and historically marginalised sections of the society. Based on the principle of positive discrimination, the benefits as per our constitution, which were being given as a matter of right, to those who come from underprivileged or needy sections of our population, are being rolled back.

community is the real cooperative

If we are to deliver on the promise of sustainable development goals where no one is left behind, then the only way forward lies in cooperatives. Mahatma Gandhi had suggested that local community is the real cooperative, and he advocated for village republic ('gram swarajya' or self-sufficiency at local level). Medha Patkar said that cooperatives can usher an era towards ending contract-based system which provides the fertile ground for range of exploitation and abuse. Instead we are sinking deeper into contract-based system with the recent push for contract-based farming. Not only we have watered down laws and policies for our farmers, but the government has also got 3 ordinances passed during the lockdown which is going to make life of farmers even more difficult. Whether it was the struggle of Indians for freedom from British Raj or the struggle of landless workers against feudal landlords, Gandhi ji led people from the front in campaigns for social justice. Likewise activists who are deeply rooted in social movements and people's struggles today, will have to step up and stand with those facing injustices.

human rights get primacy over legal justice

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