Anna Hazare: A Gandhian or an un-Gandhian
By MOHAN SAHAY
Gandhi is the most misused political icon in India. Do anything un-Gandhian and you can get away with it just by proclaiming yourself to be a follower of the Mahatma. When we talk of Anna Hazare, it must be said that he is, at best, selective in using Gandhi's name.
If Anna has to raise a battle cry against corruption, he becomes a Gandhian; but when it comes to enforcing prohibition, he goes against all tenets of the Mahatma. Anna has proclaimed with a sense of pride that he had turned his village Ralegaon Siddhi into a liquor-free zone. But he stops short of telling his audience what methods he employed to enforce prohibition. The methods, flogging and beating, were violent, something that Gandhi would never have approved of.
Drinking is not a crime; but attracts a stigma in Indian society. Liquor finds mention in the Vedas as 'the drink of Gods'. Jesus Christ drank wine with his disciples in his 'last supper'. Islam does not permit drinking alcohol. Yet, many followers of Islam relish the drink. Then, how on earth can Anna Hazare or anyone else in this free country chain people and rain blows on them for drinking?
Jean Jacques Rousseau said that man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Certainly in Anna-land, if man has the temerity to drink! True, Mahatma Gandhi abhorred drinking; yet, he never advocated coercion or violence against those who drank. In deference to his wishes, the Constitution of India included a separate article on the need to work for total prohibition in the Directive Principles of State Policy. But in the 61 years since we adopted our Constitution, prohibition could not be enforced. Gujarat is the only exception where prohibition has been in force since Independence. But you name any brand of premium whisky or wine, it is available for a price in the whole of Gujarat, including in Gandhinagar.
Bootlegging is a thriving business running into hundreds of crores of rupees. But the state is deprived of revenue in form of excise duty. Maybe, the Mahatma's opinion, as he wrote in Harijan in its edition of September 21, 1947, prevailed when Gujarat decided in favour of total ban on sale of liquor in the state.
Gandhi wrote, "...It is criminal to spend the income from the sale of intoxicants on the education of the nation's children or other public services. The government must overcome the temptation of using such revenue for nationbuilding purposes. Experience has shown that the moral and physical gain of the abstainer more than makes up for the loss of this tainted revenue. If we eradicate the evil, we will easily find other ways and means of increasing the nation's income."
There is an irony. It was an Indian liquor baron who bid for the Mahatma's pair of glasses, a pocket watch and a pair of sandals at an auction in New York in 2009 for $1.8 million (approximately .`9.36 crore at the current exchange rate) to bring the precious belongings of Gandhi back home. It is altogether a different matter that Gandhi would never have approved of this. No government at the Centre or in most states can afford to enforce prohibition, if not for widespread rebellion, for the considerable revenue liquor fetches, much as sale of petroleum products brings huge revenue to the state exchequer. Alcohol consumption is estimated to cross 19,000 million litres by 2015 from the current level of 6,700 million litres, growing at an annual rate of 30%, according to a study by industry chamber Assocham.
The domestic market of alcoholic beverage comprising beer, wine and spirits will increase to Rs 1.4 lakh crore by 2015 from the current level of around Rs 50,700 crore. This rising consumption of alcohol is due to sizeable increase in the numbers of the middle class population accompanied by higher spending power. The sheer volume of revenue that comes to the state's coffer from excise duty on alcoholic drinks supports many state projects and welfare programmes meant for the people. Gandhi was appalled by the state of poverty in the country and the vice of alcoholism, particularly amongst the poor. It was this that he had in mind when he advocated prohibition. Perhaps the Mahatma today would have changed his view, had he been to see the appalling levels of poverty in the country and the amounts of revenue the liquor industry yields for deployment in measures to combat poverty.
To impose prohibition in the name of Gandhi would be to upset the country's macroeconomic balance, widening the states' combined fiscal deficit and squeezing their expenditure as well as people's expenditure out of income transfers.
Widespread corruption by those in positions of power has catapulted Anna Hazare to the current political heights, where his misdemeanours shrink in perspective. However, flogging and beating people is no way to enforce prohibition; such coercion would be a criminal act. Drinking may be a vice if stretched to an addiction but certainly is not a crime.
I would like to find this liquor maker and see if he will allow Gandhiji's personal belongings to be on display at the Mahatma Gandhi Global Library and Book Exchange building, should we ever find a way to build it. Then, over time, we might persuade him to let the items into India for permanent display.
In fact, Gandhiji was a World figure, and I think anywhere his items are displayed, we all stop and think. The items should be best used for Gandhian purposes in a global traveling display, I think. Their very presence could stop a war.
Good idea, Gene! Please contact Mr. Mallya and find out the whereabouts of those items: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijay_Mallya
Thanks for the link, but it looks like he may be beyond my ability to know how to contact him.
“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”
- Walt Disney
so the question is who is a gandhian?
on beating the drunkards- for this stand by anna, we need to understand what was the position in ralegan siddhi, before anna's entry in to the village.please check this link
By 1975, prior to intervention by Mr. Anna Hazare, the village had become quite notorious with all sorts of social evils, moral down fall and with badly shattered economic conditions. In general, the village presented the profile of a poverty-stricken and debt-ridden society. Scarcity of water was key to distress which limited the prospects of agriculture. The water table was below 20 m, most of the wells used to dry up during summer and the drinking water had to be fetched from the neighbouring villages. The high rate of surface run off, due to high degree of slope and lack of vegetative cover had washed away the top fertile layer of the soils. Barely 20 ha of the village area was under irrigation. As a consequence the agricultural production was too meagre to support and sustain the livelihoods of the people particularly the resource poor farmers. Not even 30% of the food grain requirements could be met from rain-fed mono-cropping practised in the village. About 45% of the villagers had a single meal/per day and about one-third of the households missed their meals every alternate day.
The poor farmers and agricultural laborers forced by their poor economic conditions had only two options - either to migrate to nearby cities of Pune and Bombay to find some manual mobs or join the army of laborers working under Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Government by commuting a distance of about 22 km daily. Any short fall in the earnings had to be met by borrowing from the money lenders (Sahukars), the Shylocks of the times. The inability to repay the loans often led to further indebtness and bondage. An enterprising villager being depressed by his impoverished condition went to the neighbouring village and mastered the technique of distilling liquor by using 'Shindi' grass which grew in abundance in the area. His success attracted many more in the trade and by 1975 as many as 40 illicit liquor distilling stills came up. Even school children fell in the den of drinking. The wide spread alcoholism brought many undesirable and anti-social elements and the village emerged prominently on the crime records of the police department who along with money lenders exploited every bit of opportunity for their selfish ends.
The combination of poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, indebtness, mutual suspicion, use of money and muscle power for malpractices, not only shattered the village economy but also degraded the social/community life. Majority of children were denied access to education - hardly 10% children attended schools, drop out rates were high. It was difficult for girls to step out in village streets which were full of rogues and drunkards. Social strife and tension became routine, conflicts and crimes were common. The community was divided along the lines of caste, creed, political following and economic status. Thefts, arrests, extravagance on festivals and marriages, funeral rites, discrimination against lower castes (dalits) and atrocities on women were common. Women had to bear the brunt of drunk males in various forms. Children were denied of their basic rights to minimum needs, women were humiliated and all the old value systems and cultural norms of a civilized society had receded to the rock level.
The devastating drought of 1972 made the situation from bad to worse. The Government in its bid to help fight the drought, constructed a percolation tank but due to faulty design, lack of supervision, and high rate of percolation, it failed to serve the purpose. Another help came from Tata Relief Committee and Catholic Relief Society in the form of construction of check dams, deepening of wells and provisions for medical relief. Despite all these, much could not be achieved in any of these initiatives due to lack of people's participation.//
this was the situation prior to anna's entry in to ralegan.people were not in any listening mood, he slowly worked over the situation.gandhiji's ideals call for- love in place of hate.even this punishment is not to kill or emasculate a person, but indeed it is like a parental conditioning, which is part of culture of india.he chose- violence against cowardice, indifference and inactivity, may be anna's life and experiences made him to think on a strategy.i donot justify this. also - the media highlighting this part alone is indeed a joke, in his 35 years of public life, all his achievements are not because of violence.anna is no gandhi, thats for sure, but doesnt mean that he is a gandhian.
i just wonder why some intellectuals worry that anna's approach is not Gandhian especially in reference to drunkards...but, why they ignore Gandhi himself campaigning for recruiting soldiers village to village for first world war and more in the service of british? world war 1 is not violence for these people but, aggressively disciplining drunkards is the worry for these peace lovers? what you call this hypocrisy or what?