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The absence of a Gandhian spirit in the Panchayat raj system is responsible for its failure to achieve rural empowerment, said Prakash Bhat, secretary, Society for Community Participation and Empowerment.

Delivering a talk on ‘Gandhian model for sustainable development’ at a programme conducted by the Department of Information at Karnatak University Dharwad here on Tuesday, Mr. Bhat felt the biggest drawback of the Panchayat raj system was that it did not focus on empowering people.

Instead of focussing on this objective, the Panchayat raj system gave importance to decentralisation of power, which in turn resulted in decentralisation of corruption and “harmed” village life severely. Things would change for better if efforts were made to instil the Gandhian spirit into the Panchayat raj system, he said.

Referring to the agrarian crisis in the country, Mr. Bhat said according to an estimate, 2,000 farmers gave up farming every day. Today, Indian agriculture is suffering due to “wrong” farm practices which increased expenses.

High external expenses have reduced the profitability of agriculture sharply. However, sustainable farm practices designed on the Gandhian model have proved to be successful in making agriculture a profitable venture, he said.

Today, global warming is posing a serious threat to the very existence of human life on earth. Interestingly, Gandhi was the first person to notice the adverse impacts of the western model of development on the environment. His famous dictum, ‘Earth can fulfil the needs of everyone, but not greed’, was actually a warning against the reckless destruction of natural resources in the name of development.

But what Gandhi said in the 1940s the rest of the world realised in 1980s. The United Nations had formed the Brundtland Commission to study the environmental imbalances stemming from development activities.

The commission, in its report, had suggested going for sustainable development, a concept which corroborates with the Gandhian concepts of growth, he said. Mr. Bhat said there were misconceptions about Gandhian thoughts among the people, especially the youth. One may differ with Gandhi on several other issues, but only a Gandhian model of development could make life better in the future, he said.



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