Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

People's movements in the past…


The first RTI movement in India was the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), which began its right to information work in Rajasthan during the early 1990s.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” With this in mind, one cannot help but wonder what kind of person truly feels such strong connection with fellow citizens, society and the world. How many of us even have any idea what would happen to our society if left on its own without these social reformers and activists?

We have had brave activists ready to lay down their lives for their cause, for the fellow citizens and for the country… Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known as Mahatma (Great-Souled), was one of them. His simplicity still persuades many to follow his path. Anna Hazare, the present face of India`s fight against corruption, has been following his footsteps.

Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Shanta Sinha, Baba Amte, Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal, Nafisa Ali, and many more are part of the list who voiced their opinions loudly and were effective in bringing about some change. Let us now look at the few of the top reform movements in India.

Chipko Movement
The Chipko Movement or Chipko Andolan (Chipko means 'to embrace or stick' in Hindi) is a social-ecological movement that followed the Gandhian way of satyagraha and non-violence where protesters (the villagers) embraced or hugged the trees and thus saved them by putting their bodies in the way of the contractors' axes. The first Chipko action took place spontaneously in 1973 and over the next five years spread to many districts of the Himalaya in Uttar Pradesh.

Lokpal Bill Movement
Social activist Anna Hazare initiated a movement for passing a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal (ombudsman) bill in the Indian Parliament on April 05, 2011. His demands included formation of a joint committee of the representatives of the government and the civil society to draft a new bill with stronger penal actions and more independence to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Ombudsmen in the states). After his demands were rejected by PM Manmohan Singh, He began a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The movement gathered significant public support in India. The government accepted all demands of the Lokpal Bill Movement on April 08, 2011 and issued a notification in the Gazette of India on formation of a joint committee on April 09, 2011.

Narmada Bachao Andolan
Narmada Bachao Andolan or ‘Save Narmada Movement’ is a mass movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam being constructed on Narmada River in Gujarat. This movement was initiated in 1985 by rural population including farmers, tribal groups, social activists, environmentalists, etc. The Narmada River in Gujarat is the largest source of water in the western region of India, where people use this water for various occupation and other needs. The Indian government has taken a loan of USD 550 million from the World Bank to construct more than 3000 dams of various sizes across Narmada River. Social activist Medha Patkar initiated and is still working with Narmada Bachao Andolan with a mass base in tribal and peasant communities in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and support groups with more than 30 centres all over India and the supporting coalition of NGOs in more than ten countries, called Narmada Action Committee.

Right to Information (RTI) Movement
The first RTI movement in India was the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), which began its right to information work in Rajasthan during the early 1990s. MKSS's struggle for access to village accounts and transparency in administration is widely credited with having sparked off the right to information movement across India. Tamil Nadu was the first State to enact a right to information law, in 1997, followed by Goa in the same year. A number of states introduced their own transparency legislations before the Freedom of Information Bill was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 25, 2000.

Bharat Jodo Movement
Social activist and Magsaysay award winner Murlidhar Devidas Amte popularly known as Baba Amte. Baba Amte launched the Bharat Jodo or Unite India Movement from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 1985 and Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in 1988. The main objective of the Bharat Jodo Movement was to reinstate peace and raising environmental consciousness.

Bhoodan Movement
The Bhoodan Movement or Land Gift Movement was a voluntary land reform movement in India started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951 started at Pochampally village now known as Bhoodhan Pochampally. The main objective of the movement was to allow wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to lower castes. Bhave walked across India on foot and was followed by crowds nearly everywhere he went. The movement was started in 1951 when Telengana peasant movement on the land issue reached the peak. It was a violent struggle launched by poor peasants against the local landlords. Rural rich must participate in voluntary distribution of land.

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Replies to This Discussion

I remember Vonoba Bhave and his Bhoodan movement in the 1950s, as I had just become a pacifist and was interested in Gandhi and this offshoot movement based on non-violent ideas.

Has anyone statistics on how successful the movement was?

Does it still exist?


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