This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Bituprative Boruah. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Is Covid-19 A Sign For Us To Revive The Ideas Of Gandhi?

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Human civilization seems to have reached its peak in the 21st century- all impossibilities of previous centuries are becoming possibilities day by day. In this era of science and technology, we can remain updated about the recent happenings of the world through our smartphones, can listen to the Prime Minister’s address and also can interact with him. We can travel overseas in a single day, more food grains can be produced through hybridization, and even a mother can expect a baby without sexual intercourse.

In the same era of technology, when the human community is busy in planning to develop human civilization on Mars; in India, thousands of migrant workers walked thousands of miles to reach their homes; died on their way; got run over by a train; and a mother even delivered a baby on the roadside, took a one hour rest and began to walk again. Is this a civilization?

What is the main reason behind this problem? While reading ‘Hind Swaraj’ of the Mahatma amid the lockdown, these questions came to my mind.

Mahatma Gandhi
While reading ‘Hind Swaraj’ of the Mahatma amid the lockdown, some questions on our civilisation came to my mind.

Mahatma Gandhi was critical to the ‘modern’ civilization, education, railways, doctors, lawyers etc. In his manifesto ‘Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule’, Gandhi argued that machinery represents a great sin (Chapter-19). The modern civilization, in spite of its possibilities, creates more harm to the human community. Although his views regarding machinery had changed between 1919 to 1947 because of the positive aspects like time and labour saving, he also warned against the negative aspects of it [Anthony J Parel as cited in Rudolf C Heredia. (1999). Economic and Political Weekly.34(24)].

Standing at a place immersed in science and technology, we cannot say ‘no’ to machinery, but the role of machinery in the human community, as well as nature, should be examined. Our earth is going through a critical situation, the level of pollution is increasing, the ozone layer is depleting, bonfires rushed Amazon and Australia, and presently a virus named Covid-19 has affected millions of people.

Is our modern civilization not responsible for it? According to Gandhiji, the root of all problems related to modern civilization is the absence of morality and religion (Hind Swaraj, Chapter- 6). Without the knowledge of morality, the same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to kill him. ‘Modern’ education (i.e. the western kind of education) neither teaches us morality nor gives importance to character building.

Gandhi mentioned about the seven deadly sins among which pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality and science without humanity are also described as dangerous.

The issues of conscience, character, morality or humanity are debatable, but there are some eternal principles of life that are accepted universally and suggested by all religious scriptures to perform as human beings, like – service to others, respect others as himself, harmony with nature, use of conscience, purification of the evil practices etc. Does the modern education system teach us these principles?

In this period of lockdown, all are in a hurry to end their syllabus rather than helping the needy people; and most importantly, there is a lack of introspection regarding the reasons behind these disasters. Institutions are moving towards an online mode of classes neglecting the poor people’s ability to afford it (interestingly, they are the majority), resulting in vehement injustice towards the Right to Education of the majority. How to then observe morality?

Can the observance of morality protect the world from ascertained destruction? Gandhi suggested that by attainment of mastery over our mind and our passions, morality can be observed. We have to limit our satisfaction and indulgences. People should ethically judge their aspirations and interests. Duty is intimately linked with morality. By performing duty only, we can achieve true civilization.

For Gandhi, “civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms.” (Hind Swaraj, Chapter- 13). Are we performing our duties for the benefit of the greater human community and for the sustenance of nature? Are we performing our duties towards the mother Earth? We should avoid such works which would cause greater harm to the human community as well as nature, though these may be seen as steps towards modernity in near future.

People have to fight with the sword of ethics in the war of saving our Mother Earth. The destruction caused by Covid-19 urges human community to reform the so-called ‘civilization’. Gandhian ideas can be a pathway in this regard. Professor Gita Dharampal in an article published in ‘The Indian Express’ (April 20, 2020) urged the Gandhian principles of Swadeshi, Swachhata and Sarvodaya as our guidelines.

The government of India is campaigning the Swachh Bharat Mission to make people aware about health and hygiene. In this critical situation also, only maintenance of hygiene can save us. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on May 12, urged the people to move towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-sufficient India) which can be related to Swadeshi of Gandhi. In this model, will the Indian people and the small and cottage industries get their prominent place as dreamt by Gandhi?

Gandhi’s Talisman.

To achieve the goal of self-reliant India, Gram Swaraj should be a model. What would the position of Sarvodaya (progress of all)  be in Atmanirbhar Bharat that also should be noticed in future? Leaders have to keep in mind the ‘talisman‘ of ‘Gandhi which aims at the benefit of the poorest and the weakest.

Gandhi’s talisman urges the people, “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man (woman) whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him (her)….. In other words, will it lead to swaraj (freedom) for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?.”

Most of all, understanding the meaning of swaraj explained by Gandhi will eternally benefit the human community. Swaraj has two interrelated meanings- self-rule and self-government. Without self-rule, self-government cannot become a success. So, we should learn to rule ourselves. We should not repeat the ‘vices’ we did in the past. We should do our duties in a broader sense which include not only our day to day needs and selfish interests but also the needs and demands of the world and the larger environment. Self-rule would thus mean mastery over ourselves, not over nature and other human beings.

You must be to comment.
  1. Joy Hukai

    Well informative Bitu

More from Bituprative Boruah

Similar Posts

By Accountability Initiative

By Debapriya Mondal

By Bedanta Upadhyay

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below