The country will celebrate the 153rd birth anniversary of the “Father of the Nation” on Sunday (October 2). The decision to begin the celebration of “AzadiKaAmritMahotsav” on March 12 last year from the Sabarmati Ashram, the place from where Gandhiji led the historic 24-day-long Dandi March in 1930, is indeed a great tribute to Mahatma Gandhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As the world goes through an unprecedented ecological crisis caused by human greed, unsustainable industrialisation and wide-ranging violence against the environment, the Gandhian principles continue to resonate as a powerful tool to save us from the peril. Taking a cue from the same, PM Modi has sent a message to the world that India’s leadership is guided by Gandhian principles. Recently in the annual summit of the Sanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Modi echoed Gandhi by saying, “Today’s era is not of war” in a bilateral talk with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The international community today understands the relevance of Gandhi in ensuring peace, harmony and ecological balance in the world. Recognising the contributions of Gandhi, on June 15, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that declared October 2 as “International Day of Nonviolence”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of nonviolence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and nonviolence”.
Gandhiji exemplified nonviolent action through symbolic tools in fighting social, economic, political and environmental issues. Imagine his selection of Charkha (the spinning wheel) as an instrument to fight not just the colossal menace of colonialism but to bring back the self-esteem, confidence, self-reliance and sustainability among Indians at a go! Gandhi’s clarion call in the 1920s to use Khadi as an instrument of nonviolent action in India’s freedom struggle infused a new nonviolent blood among Indians for freedom from foreign rule. By adopting Khadi as the symbol, he in a way laid the foundation for sustainable fashion.
Today, a similar mass action seems to be more appropriate at a global scale to fight against unsustainable fashion. Despite many promises, deliberations and declarations, the world has failed to find ways to fight climate change caused by human acts. Thirty years ago in 1992, more than 170 countries came together at the Rio Earth Summit and agreed to pursue sustainable development, protect biodiversity, prevent interference with climate systems and conserve forests. However, nothing has changed since then. Rather, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Albert Einstein once famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need a more radical approach in addressing the problems we created as its impact has become massive.
Gandhi was far ahead of his times and had a deep understanding about the ecology and the impact of human greed on the environment. His immortal words of wisdom “earth has enough to fulfil everybody’s needs but not anybody’s greed” justify his farsightedness and understanding about sustainable development long before the terminology came into existence. After the Dandi March was over, he stated that the aim of the march went beyond the independence of India and embodied in its scope the much broader objective of freeing the world from the immoral greed of materialism. It was a powerful statement in itself that made Gandhi one of the greatest champions and practitioners of sustainable development. In fact, the world is gradually listening to the resonating words of Mahatma Gandhi. People across the globe are taking measures to simplify their life and living to minimise their impact on the environment.
Even though India initially followed a socialist-inspired path of economic development, it has gradually shifted and followed the West. But the country has remained more resilient because of an embedded socio-cultural-economic ecosystem that has never detached from the past. Gandhiji once warned that if India followed the Western model of development, she would require more than one planet to achieve the progress they had attained.
When we are celebrating Gandhi’s 153rd birth anniversary while also celebrating AzadiKaAmritMahostav, let us change the course of our development path that Gandhiji had advocated long back. We have got so much to give to the world today. Let us make a humble beginning with a sector that still upholds the sustainable path for ages, the handloom sector. With more than 500 handloom clusters in the country, there is an opportunity to bring back another non-violent Gandhian revolution against the unsustainable fashion industry in favour of handloom fashion that has ever remained sustainable, equitable and inclusive. This will send a very strong message to the world and surely make an impact on the global community to throw the plastic-based unsustainable fast fashion out of their life and put the world on the path of sustainability through nonviolent means.
(Dr Jena is a Professor at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bhubaneswar and a passionate advocate of sustainable fashion. Email: [email protected])