Substantiating the Techno-Gandhian Philosophy through Vinoba’s philosophy
Acharaya Vinoba was the foremost and principal disciple to Mahatma Gandhi who closely worked with him spiritually. Since 1916, up to Mahatma’s last moment, Vinoba served as a student, sishya (disciple) and as an observer who put Gandhian thought and action as a way of his own life becoming a true successor to Mahatma Gandhi after his death.
Vinoba says “Science is a great force which neither moral nor immoral but amoral and its standard of value must be supplied from elsewhere. It is for spirituality to guide science in the right direction.” The Techno-Gandhian Philosophy (TGP) allows an ordinary man to embrace science and technology along with the assumption of socio-political duties through Gandhian ways.
Vinoba lived Gandhi’s concept of Sarvodaya. He believed that inequalities in society can be eradicated through “welfare for all.” The root cause of inequality erupts from the existing belief of high regard for the mental (intellectual) work and low esteem for physical labour. The wide gap in socio-economic terms between physical labourers and intellectual bodies symbolizes the inequality in today’s world. It was Gandhi and Vinoba who took Sarvodaya to people where everyone should do some physical work however intellectual they are. The development of agro-industrial communities forms the manifestation of such a Sarvodayan dream at the basic level.
According to Vinoba, technology exists in many forms. He categorizes the machines in to three categories, defying the excess use of technology which is being rightly adapted by the TGP.
Time- the saving machines like Airplanes, trains, etc. are welcome to the society. Such machines are used to bring man’s intellectual capacity to the common man’s use. And, they also serve the purpose of man’s basic need i.e., commuting from place to place to seek things for his livelihood.
Destructive machines like bombs, guns, chemical weapons are of never Vinoba’s approval. The technology behind such lethal weapons should be barred and redirected to the better use of them for the benefit of human kind. As nuclear technology been redirected to the use of production of nuclear power and chemical innovations been restricted to the use of only limited processes, all other mortal machines must be re-devised or removed from their use in the world. The TGP took up this concept of the minimum use of any technology emphasizing the need for the focus on humane issues, not much hailing the scientific discoveries.
Productive machines are of another category which can be sub-typed in to two forms: helpful and harmful. Depending on the place, time and circumstances in which it is used, a machine may be seen as helpful or harmful. According to Vinoba, it is only the level unto which machinery can serve the man determines whether it is helpful or harmful. Technology should be used only to supplement the human energy, but not to liquidate or eliminate the human power. The productive machines shall have to lighten the workload of the man, increase the productivity and thwart unemployment.
Vinoba’s call for the use of “appropriate technology” is exemplified in the Techno-Gandhian Philosophy as three different categories namely, indigenous, inter-mediate and innate technologies, which need to be flourished in order to sustain Gandhian thought in modern days. While indigenous technology rouse up the national spirit, the intermediate technologies bring both mechanization and modernization collectively work for the village-side where as the innate technology stand for proclaiming our traditional knowledge in science. As Vinoba perceived, the decision regarding what technology is to be adopted depends on the factors such as the social situation, the population problem, the land-man ratio, the employment situation and the economic needs of the man. While new technologies get their way into our life, they should not lead to the exploitation of others.
The achievement of social equality lies in the heart of Vinoba’s philosophy so as the TGP. Any acceptable technology could lead the way for the welfare for all. Its benefits should be enjoyed by one and all. High-end technologies are not affordable to individuals, instead, governments and large corporations have the capacity to build large and complex systems which require huge funds. Gandhi’s principle of trusteeship calls for the complete renunciation of the ownership of industries and want the rich to become trustees of their wealth and resources. As far as technology is concerned, it should not pave the way for unequal distribution of wealth. The trustees can take possession of a portion of wealth and resources (technology and their innovations) but not the entire organization. And, the TGP argues that the concept of “minimum technology” is very much relevant to the concept of Gandhi’s trusteeship. Gandhi’s principle of “Economics and Ethics go together” is the underlying principle for the TGP as well. Vinoba’s interpretation of trusteeship calls for total abolition of private property or ownership in wealth and land.
In modern days, technology and innovations is very well considered as the resources to run a business. Maximizing the use of technology becomes the means for revolutionary transformation of the society. As a result, people become fanatic to the growing technological breakthroughs which has a dramatic impact on the laws of the government and society. But, what Gandhi and Vinoba wanted is to revolutionize the technology. In 1928, he made an announcement for the award of a prize money of Rs. 1, 00,000 for the invention of spinning wheel that would produce six times as much yarn as the traditional Charkas. Vinoba too supported the move to use eight to ten spindles Charkha run by the electric power in the villages to build a new rural economy.
Hence, technology is not the issue. It is the extent in which it is used that matters. It is the dangerous people who wanted to enslave or manipulate mankind for their own or vested interests that matters. It is to such people who control technology causing the collapse of humanity and morality. The TGP requires the need for restraint and firmness in dealing with such situations through Gandhian means.
As Gandhiji put it, “The supreme consideration must be man, not the machine!” Even while few spineless cowards insisted upon their perception of that there exists a man behind every machine, a dissipated, convenient assumption, still it is not a total deliberation.
David Dickenson in his book, “The politics of Alternative Technology” effectively found the four ways of how technological innovations have been tailored to serve the political purpose of consolidating the control of the upper or dominant class. Many times, technology is used,
Vinoba’s faith on Sarvodaya trounces upon such growing phenomenon of subjugated workforce confined to the capitalist forces. He believed that industrialization led to the increase in greed and selfishness among men resulting inequalities in the society. Gandhi established that the resultant dehumanization out of westernization was due to the violent forces in the society and the same is manifested in the form of industrial culture. The material world has a violent fiber in its roots where as the Dharmic ways shred that off in its essence. The Techno-Gandhian Philosophy is for Dharm-Athma but not for Dhur-Athma.
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