Gandhiji’s Environment alism by T. N. Khoshoo

T.N. Khoshoo’s breadth of vision and depth of knowledge coupled with broad humanism has made him what he is today, a dedicated strategist for human survival. He is one of the foremost environmental scientist of the country. His environmental canvas widened considerably when he was Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Environment; Fellow of the major science academics in the country, he has to his credit a number of prestigious awards including the Padma Bhushan. His work relating to the managment of resources, the utilization of biodiversity and the need to develop forests for long range ecological security are pathbreaking. Given below is the excerpt of his lecture delivered the IGNCA :

Gandhiji set for himself two objectives. A short-term objective of political independence following the path of ahimsa and satyagraha; and a long-term objective of economic independence for India’s teeming millions based on social economic, environmental, cultural and ethical considerations. The former was achieved in his life time, the latter is still a dream even after forty eight years of independence.

Gandhiji’s environmentalism was based on ethical principles of nonviolence (ahimsa); truth (satya) and sticking to truth (satyagraha); shunning the use of materials obtained by illegitimate means (asteya); celibacy as population control (brahmacharya); non-coveting and amassing materials and wealth beyond one’s need (aparigraha); sanitation of body, mind and surroundings (saucha); contentment (santosh); austerity (tapas); introspection (swadhyaya); and meditation for any dereliction of duty towards nature including human being (ishwar pranidhan). In this process. he controlled himself by himself, because, being a yogi, he had complete control over his body and mind. He did not preach anything that he did not practice. Other principles followed by him were: emancipation and empowerment of women and the weaker sections of the society, self-reliance (swadeshi) and self-governance (swaraja), welfare of the weakest (antodaya) and welfare of all (sarvodaya).

Today the challenge before India is to make a creative synthesis between Gandhian model of rural development and Nehruvian model of industrial development. The former is Economy of Permanence and is based on renewables of the damage close to the environment. While the latter is based on non-renewables and causes much environmental pollution and depollution is costly. Furthermore, rich have become richer, and the poor poorer.

Gandhiji’s views were indeed futuristic and few realized the importance of what he talked then. However, many of his ideas today are increasingly enshrined in the declarations of International Year of Tolerance (1995), UN Social Summit (1995), Conference on Women (1995), Conference on Population and Development (1994), Conference on Human Rights (1993), UN Conference on Envirenment and Development (1992), and Children’s Summit (1990), etc. It is high time that we convert Gandhiji’s value systems and developmental strategies from theory into practice.


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