A GANDHIAN APPROACH
K. Rajvanshi, Director,
Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI),
P.O. Box 44, PHALTAN 415 523, Maharashtra.
(A recent expanded paper on this
theme is at this
- Basis of all life is energy.
- All of us who live in a developing country like India aspire to a
certain quality of life. Sometimes it may be a wrong quality of life.
However pressures to attain it have been exerted by increased global
- With insufficient energy resources in India (per capita energy
consumption of India is 6% that of U.S.A.), a U.S. or European type
quality of life is untenable. There are guestimates that by the year
2025 with the increased rate of automobile consumption in India and
China, major portion of world petroleum products will go to these
countries. The big if is whether these countries will be able
to afford them. Besides creating energy crisis, this will play havoc
with world environment and create conditions for world conflict.
- When there is a great gap between demand and supply of energy,
there are possibilities of conflict and social strife. In coming years
this gap will increase leading to worsening social situation in cities
of India. Already the riots of 1984, 1992 etc. can be traced to the low
quality of life in ghettos of big cities. The spark could be from any
- Quality of life is a function of ò
Ec dt and Epc/capita
where ò Ec dt ( E
) is the cumulative energy consumption of the country and reflects the
energy that was spent in development of its infrastructure. Epc/capita
is the present energy consumption per capita. For historical reasons E
is not available. Hence it is difficult to reach U.S. or
European quality of life even if Epc/capita somehow
by magic becomes available.
- Since the life style in western countries is unattainable, hence
we have to develop an alternative life style in India. Fig. below shows
a possible lifestyle model.
- The Gandhian energy model is difficult to achieve but we can
strive for it. Gandhiji and Einstein showed that with very few needs
and living a simple life they were able to produce highest quality of
thought. That has also been the tradition of our great saints. Thus, spirituality helps in
- Hallmark of evolution of a system is its size reduction; increase
in energy usage efficiency; increase in complexity and its
punctuated equilibrium with its surroundings. Societies are like Prigogine's
dissipative structures and depend on the quality and quantity of
energy passing through them.
- Following this approach we can think that the future of all
societies will be decentralized, high technology-dependent
and rural-based. India is already a decentralized and rural based
society. Rather than going the way of megacity-based development model
it is better to arrest this trend by introducing high technology
systems in rural areas. Probably this was the dream village of
- Intelligent and smart machines with strong man/machine
interaction may power the production systems of rural India. Gandhiji's
vision was similar except he wanted the system to depend on human
labour only. With availability of smart machines a similar thing can
result where human muscle power will interact with very efficient
machines to get high quality output (for e.g. muscle power can be used
to charge batteries for home lighting via very efficient small
generators). The inputs to these systems will be materials, energy and
human intervention. Such smart and small scale manufacturing systems (desktop
manufacturing units) may probably become available in another 10-15
years' time and may form the backbone of multipurpose factories in
- Sustainability is like a chair. Its four legs can be thought of
as 4 E's: Energy, Economic, Environmental and Equity. All of
them have to be equal for comfortable sitting and interconnected to
provide stability. Energy is primary because from it flow all the other
activities. The base has to be of the right size. Too big a base will
make the chair sag. Too small will make it unstable.
- Dynamic systems require critical mass to grow. They grow until
they become unstable and then collapse into smaller systems. These
small systems then coalesce and again form a critical mass and the
- For a sustainable Indian Society, Taluka size seems
to form a critical mass. Hence the focus should be on Taluka as a
developmental model. With Taluka level decentralized energy sources in
place (they could either be biomass based or any other renewable energy
based) there are possibilities of this model forming a basis of
decentralized high technology societies. NARI's work has shown that a
Taluka has enough biomass (from food production) to produce all its
energy needs (electric, cooking, transport, etc.). Hence the Taluka
model can form the basis of food and energy security for the country.
- This model can create substantial wealth for the inhabitants of
Taluka, which will lead to decentralization of economic and political
power. This is the best bet against economic deprivation, corruption
and unaccountable ruling elite. Development and democracy work best in
decentralized power structure.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
- Need for Taluka based energy and materials self-sufficient
- Need for high tech telecommunication systems for Taluka.
Internet provides an example.
- Need for people with education and money to stay in Taluka
towns. They can form the nucleus of change.
- Taluka based system should be independent of single leaders
(e.g. Baba Amte, Anna Hazare, etc.). It should have its own economic
dynamism. Then only will it have the genesis of becoming a truly
- There is a need to get in place the right technologies in rural
areas for economic growth. These technologies will have to be
especially tailor-made for our conditions. The source could be from
anywhere, pointing to a possibility of North-South dialogue. Also this
will help us leapfrog into 21st century.
- There is a need for people who have excelled in their
respective fields to get into politics. Only with high caliber people
getting into politics can a "critical mass" be developed which will
help in producing conditions for better India. Gandhiji's independence
movement depended mostly an excellent people from all occupations.
First presented in Gandhi Seminar in 1996.
Part of Jamnalal Bajaj award speech November 2001