Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, is recognized the world over for his teachings on peace, non-violence and more importantly self-sustainability. His teachings are therefore even more relevant today, at a time when the world is grappling with an imminent socioeconomic and environmental crisis in the form of poverty, employment, global warming and climate change.
It is interesting that these thoughts have their roots in what was envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi through his 18 Point Constructive Programme – a part of Satyagraha.
Gandhi said, “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.” It is this thinking, which was reflected in the Millennium Development Goals and is now even more central in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). United Nations has always honoured Mahatma Gandhi for his commitment towards humanity and non-violence. It is no doubt that his principles have a constructive effect on the UN in bringing up a paradigm shift in development thinking.
A practitioner of non-violence and truth, Mahatma Gandhi lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore Khadi, woven with yarn which was hand spun on a charkha by him. The charkha was a symbol of self-dependency and decentralization and represented the act of local production and local consumption. Mahatma Gandhi also emphasized on maintaining good health, hygiene and sanitation through his own life.
Mahatma Gandhi had highlighted how water, air and grains are the three basic amenities required by every human being on a daily basis. These resources were to be, therefore, given utmost care. Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi advocated the principle of sustainable development and called for harmony between society, development and environment.
Also, Mahatma Gandhi worked for every section of the society and believed in inclusive development, which is for all and not just for a chosen few. Gandhi’s way of living enlightens us about the connexion between his futuristic thought process towards sustainable development in 1940s and SDGs drafted in 2015.
With the SDGs, UNESCO has a roadmap to the future we want, but action is needed. Setting goals does not in itself lift people out of poverty or provide quality life. Results are achieved only when political will is translated into plans that are financed and implemented. Progress can only be faster when governments, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia form partnerships and work together. Crises and conflicts are a major obstacle that has to be overcome.
If the Sustainable Development Goals are likely to drive India’s planning and development processes, do we have an ideology or principles to make India the front-runner in achieving SDGs by 2030? No one had better grasped the nature of the long and winding road to the sustainable future we want than Mahatma Gandhi.
And, on a precise note, SDGs were generated through four years of participation of millions of people around the world and not by a bunch of experts huddled in a basement. It emphasizes Gandhi’s importance for citizen’s participation in defining India’s priorities.
In the same way, UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) has extended its support for National Agenda Forum (NAF) – an initiative to resurrect the conversation around Gandhi’s 18-point Constructive Programme envisioned to build a new India in 1945. NAF creates a digital platform for every citizen to define India’s top 10 priorities to prepare a national agenda for the leaders to incorporate in their 2019 election year manifesto on the lines of Gandhian principles.
Since all this has already been demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi through his life and teachings, the SDGs and NAF are but a eulogy for the Father of our Nation.