Kannada journalist Santhosh Thammaiah who recently visited Gujarat, writes how he discovered Gandhiji’s dreams becoming a reality there. Originally published in Kannada newspaper Hosadigantha, it has been translated by Harsha Perla and Vineetha Menon.
Sometime back, a Kannada newspaper carried a special issue commemorating a festival. And in connection with the same, a story writing competition was organized. A fiction that featured in the issue won the top slot for ‘best narration’.
The narrative of the story begins by depicting a white pigeon, which lay wounded on the tombstone of Tipu Sultan, Shreerangapatana, a remote town in Karanataka. It knew that death was imminent and hovered around for a safe place to breathe its last. However, a feeling of deep unrest prevailed in its heart with each spot it selected. Finally it resolved to fly to Gujarat, ‘the land of Gandhi’ in search of peace. But the pigeon was in for a rude shock when it alighted in Gujarat. Strewn everywhere was nothing but blood stains. Shocked and disheartened, the bird decided that the Arabian Sea was a better place to welcome its death and soared towards the ocean.
With the storyline cast thus, the plot is filled with epithets like star on Shwethambara, messenger of peace etc when it came to describing the pigeon. But it was dismal to see a plot with an extremely, dry storyline chosen for accolades. Worst of all, panelists used the very terms that were highlighted, to praise Tipu Sultan and Mahatma Gandhi though out. In sharp contrast, the panelists were quick to point to Sangh Parivar as ‘those being communal in Karnataka’ and Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi as ‘Merchant of Death’.
Thus we see a tale fabricated for the deliberate wafting of a devious message. It almost had the appearance of an advertisement issued by the Congress Party. No wonder it grabbed the first slot. Detractors were quick in grabbing the story. It was used as ample fodder to tarnish the man named Narendra Modi. Using the metaphor of a pigeon, Modi was slandered: Modi, who happens to be a shadow of Gandhi. When the intent is to kill, even the shadow is not spared. Did the detractors ever pause to think how they had vilified the Father of our Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the process?
In reality, Narendra Modi, whom a certain section of people revel in demonizing, happens to be a mere shadow of Mahatma Gandhi. Those who search for the fruition of Gandhi’s dream, Ramarajya, will find the same in Gujarat, the state administered by Narendra Modi. Incidentally, Modi happens to be a progeny of a large family, which has the label killers of Gandhi. But then, he has been industriously working to execute each dream of Gandhi, turning them into reality, one by one. Gandhi’s visions, thoughts and dreams are limited to texts and speeches. But to see them being implemented, one needs to be in Gujarat, to see them being implemented under Modi. So, for the detractors who resorted to ‘star on shwetambara’ to demonize Modi, isn’t the bird, in reality, suffering from incurable prejudice?
Gandhi was a practical dreamer- a visionary, who had clear concepts about society. He would be persistently eloquent about being ‘self – reliant within one’s range’. Without exception, the entire nation supported his views. One of the many concepts Gandhi outlined regarding real independence was that of gram swaraj. He had envisaged an economical system that was based on the study of society at ground level.
According to Gandhi’s vision, the proper way to national progress happens only by elevating the down trodden. And for this, education of every single person and empowering of women are vital. Idealism, adhering to truth, abstaining from alcohol, grooming cultured families, simple living together with exalted thinking, encouraging small scale industries, maintaining clan environment are some of the aspects stressed on by Gandhi. But unfortunately, everything that the ‘Father of the Nation’ stood for vanished into thin air, following transfer of power from Britain.
Sporting the cap donned by Nehru, the famous ‘Gandhi Topi’, the Congress party began their drama of playing politics in his name and beguiling an entire nation. They never implemented a single design carved by Gandhi for his country. The slogan Garibi Hatao continues to echo everywhere, pointlessly. Ramarajya remained a distant dream.
But if Gandhi were to visit Gujarat today, he will experience nothing less than sheer joy. Gandhi was someone who never lived to see his dreams take shape. During his lifetime, he would not even have fathomed that his visions would assume practical wings. But if he were to visit Gujarat today, he would be proud to see each of his visions having sprouted to tall, sturdy, rooted trees.
When Gandhi said about the soul of India resting in villages, he was aware that amidst villagers existed the concepts of Swabhiman and Swavalamb. This was why he made a clarion call for a return of humanity to villages. However, with passage of time, society witnessed a contrary sequence- people leaving villages and flocking to cities. Gujarat was no exception either. The visions of the grand man lay in slumber in his own land.
But with the gathering of the state’s reins by Narendra Modi, the perceptions were revived and rekindled. Modi initiated a series of rural development projects. And as witnessed never before in India, people started making an exodus towards villages. Today, 60% of the entire population of Gujarat lives in villages.
Gujarat’s villages are self contained today. With uninterrupted power supply 24 hours a day, ways of earning a profitable living are undoubtedly numerous. People working in textile mills, diamond factories in cities etc have started their own industries in villages. Funds were allocated judiciously for the setting up of cottage industries.
Under Narendra Modi’s rule, “What are you planning to do, by moving over to villages?” is a question which will never spring. Judging by the current scenario, any stream of work you wish to embark yourself into can be initiated from the villages of Gujarat itself.
Not many women in Gujarat while away their time. Many of them have involved themselves in cottage industries of embroidery, painting and drawing, art with stone, bamboo and other natural products, dairy farming etc. Gujarat projects a face to the entire nation: women are the real strength and clout of the state. When Gandhi uttered the words, “happiness resides where woman are empowered”, little would he have thought that the dreams would be fledged in Gujarat, his own state.
Why is this happening? Reasons are numerous: in Gujarat womenfolk are comparatively at peace. They don’t have husbands who walk in drunk or reeking in alcohol, her sons are cultured, her family is self contained. With all these, there is no room for apprehension. No liquor, no darkness!! Where else can we point to rightly and befittingly as Ramarajya?
Ahmadabad and Surat- two places in Gujarat, which can rightly be stated to be the backbones of the international textile industry!! Get to the root of the industry and you will find ladies wielding the wand.
Both government organizations and NGOs firmly support the competition spinning in these home based enterprises. When it comes to industries like incense sticks, diamonds, etc, ladies play a major role. Gujarati women are known world over for their penchant and innate creativity in producing gold, silver and artificial jewelry. The international market is abuzz with demand for masterpieces- both simple and grand, finely crafted by the hands of none other than Gujarati Bhens. Aren’t these enough and more to showcase the fruition of Gandhi’s dream on empowerment of women?
Creativity is the mantra that would have breathed life into the model of economy conceived of by Gandhi. Coupled with creativity, innovations and simplicity form its soul. The same stands supremely evident in each development work undertaken by Narendra Modi. Let’s take into account, the transport industry of Gujarat, as a classic example. In the four lane roads of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad, you can see an unusual phenomenon when it comes to roads. In the midst of sprawling roads, there runs an inner section of roads, exclusively for buses. They ply separately, without getting knotted in the general stream of traffic.
The bus service that plies in Gujarat is the BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System). The service covers around 58km of the city. The most modern technology is implemented to ensure free flow of traffic and meticulous service. When BRTC was introduced, a large slice of those from the middle class and upper middle class bid farewell to cars and immersed themselves into the convenience of bus journeys. A similar lifestyle was spoken of by Gandhi. Modi gave it life. He envisaged a plan and implemented it too.
Uninterrupted supply of electricity is the factor that makes Gujarat supreme. 24 hours of 3-phase power supply throughout the state. Gujarat has 18,028 villages that are now ‘Jyoti Grams’. Another project Jyoti Kuteer, provides electricity to the areas inhabited by tribal folks. The means and methods implemented by Modi for production of electricity are extensions of the innovative and sustainable development model – exactly the way Gandhi wanted it to be.
Solar power cells on Narmada canal: Clean energy resource, Need of land is reduced, Evaporation of lakhs of litres of water is prevented since the canal will be covered.
Gujarat has the longest coastline in the country- but no one blames coastal erosion. The energy that is meant to be harnessed from there is amply being done so. Travel along the coastal area and you will find windmills at work. Oceans wave are being harnessed to produce electricity. And when there is a shortage in the supply of water, the copious takes care of the same. Solar lamps illuminate areas that witness scanty rain fall. Gujarat is a place that has varied climatic conditions, which means there could be ample wastage of natural resources if not harnessed the right way. But under Modi, Gandhi can assure himself, that no such exhaustion of resources occurs.
Kitchens are provided with solar stoves, villages have sufficient supply of gas, rural areas are blessed with broadband internet connection, Panchayats resort to e-systems: these are some of the numerous specialties you witness in Gujarat. Gandhi wanted ‘knowledge revolution’ in villages: the villages in Gujarat are no way behind in reaping the benefits of internet. Gandhi spoke of the need for higher thinking and global knowledge those days, he dreamed of it. Modi has turned the same into reality.
Solar power cells on Narmada canal to light up rural homes
Gujarat is heads India in terms of irrigation facilities as well. Dams and lakes take care of the watering of around 1 lakh hectare of agricultural land. It almost looks as though the project, so meaningfully named Sujalam Suphalam was embarked upon, with orders implemented by Gandhi.
When the nation struggled for independence, Gandhi stressed, time and again, that no Indian should ever give up their right on salt. He even sat on a Dharna for the same. The very salt with which the foreign imperialists shook the nation’s pride, the very salt that made the nation stand united, is now being exported to Britain from Narendra Modi’s state. Gujarat has given a befitting, yet humble reply to history by being the producer of 75% of India’s salt.
Gandhi made a clarion call for the use of cotton dress, a million times. However, the political party Congress spins the Charka, apparently with no yarn in them. Little did they care to breathe life into his dreams and visions. But look at Gujarat: the state leads the nation in the production of cotton fabric. Gujarat produces ample cotton, more than required, to drape the entire nation of England- the same nation that referred to Gandhi as ‘half naked fakir’. Modi respectfully put at peace, the soul of Gandhi that remained hurt by the antics of Congress.
Development has not deterred Gujarat from the path of clean environment. The place continues to remain fresh, maintains its original charm, absolutely free of pollution. The river Sabarmati continues to flow through Gujarat with discipline. And these river banks have also not been spared by Modi: he has used the same for development. In Gujarat, anyone can witness river banks bustling with tourism; thereby with business. Not just these spheres; Gujarat has moved in leaps and bounds in the realm of engineering, hotel industry, higher education, pipes, clocks, chemicals, fertilizers: the list is endless.
The few days in spent in Gujarat, I realized that Gandhi was more visible than Modi. There was a liveliness that was evident on the faces of people there. Contrary to the popular hate propaganda that has made a swift journey across places, I saw content faces of Muslims- faces that showed deep and genuine respect, without any mask. Yousuf, who runs a paan shop, told me, “I am proud to be a Gujrathi”. Cab driver Imran said, “Modi bhai sabhi goondagarbhi katham kar diya (Modi Bhai put an end to all instances of goondaism)”. My cab driver Nooruddhin, was nonstop. “Kisne Kaha ke Musalman log CM saab ke saath nahi? Hamare area mein pani bilqul nahi tha. Subah subah ek truck aathe the, ilake ke sabhi aurat usmei baitkar paani lane ke liye meelon chalthe the. Lekin jab CM saab aya, ghar ke saamne tap hai, pani ki koi dikkat nahi……….(Who said that the Muslims do not support our CM Sir? There was acute shortage of water in our area. A truck would come to our area early in the morning. My mother and sister had to travel a long way to bring water. But after he took over, there is a tap right in front of our house and there is water 24 hours)” He went on endlessly about how life is comfortable for his mother and sister, who are into small time embroidery business from home. All these would be music to Gandhi’s ears. I wished he could hear it all.
Somewhere, the fragrance of soap emanates all over. Somebody remarks, “Someone is bathing there.” But then, in reality the perfume wafted from a soap factory in the area. The soap factory was, in reality, the source of fragrance, not the person taking bath. The governance of Modi flows on clear visible lines of Gandhi. But foul, blaming mouths never remain shut. They revel in their closet mindset, refusing to discern and gauge the difference between fragrance and stench.
Gandhi said, “Infinite striving to be the best is man’s duty; it is its own reward.” His shadow named Narendra Modi stands nothing short of a living example- tireless and steadfast.