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Is Mahatma Gandhi still inspires today's youth

The 'Father of the Nation' title given to Gandhi ji was not narrowly based on Gandhian style of politics that helped us gain independence. This was based on Gandhi ji's vision of India, on what he taught Indians and what legacy he left behind for us to follow. 69 years after his death, we need to answer, is his relevance only restricted to the Indian currency or is there something deeper.

A professor once asked his student this question and the student replied that Mahatma's influence has been fading with time. Let us try understanding how and why.

Our education system that takes a child closer to Mahatma and many other great men, is inefficient as proved by Annual survey on education reports (ASER). We burden our children so much that they are forced to merely bolt in data and vomit it on the answer scripts on the examination day. With such weak foundations, how can one expect an individual to understand Gandhian principles?

This faltering is seen in rising individualism in India. Mahatma favored community development and welfare while today we bother merely about ourselves. Mahatma believed if everyone did his/her duties well there would be no rights infringement while today, all we demand is rights without fulfilling our duties. An example in hand is the Jat protests for demanding reservations. They do not understand their duties towards the weaker sections but demand their own welfare

Mahatma believed in oneness of all religions and humans however, increasing Indian participation in Iraq and Syria to fight the "holy war" reveals how love and respect for humans has been lost. This was also revealed by citizens of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who burnt down buses of the other state to protest against water sharing verdict of the apex court.

Another important virtue promoted by Gandhi ji was that of trusteeship wherein, the rich are seen as trustees of the poor's wealth and it is assured that this wealth would be transferred. However, the recent Oxfam report shows top 1% own 53% of India's wealth. This reveals the rich have forgotten their duties towards the society and failure of trusteeship.

Worst is our treatment of animals. Gandhi ji believed the way a nation treats its animals reveals a lot about the nation. However, the recent protests over Jallikattu show quite a contrasting image. Undeniably, continuation of such practices that inflict pain on animals does not reflect a progressive and a scientific society

Another important Gandhian ideology is we should hate the sin and not the sinner. Controversy and protests over declaring the 2012 gang rape perpetrator a juvenile shows we still have not absorbed this ideal well. Government and civil society takes no step forward to counsel the parents of the victim. Should the State not be held responsible for the child's condition? Isn't it the State's duty to ensure every child grows up in a peaceful and good ambiance? We often forget children are blank slates and what as a society we write on them, they replicate. Failure to understand this shows the death of Gandhian principles.

However, is it possible that a glowing candle does not fight darkness? Answer is NO. Similarly, any person's goodness too cannot exist without contagiously affecting someone else. If Gandhi ji was one such candles many other candles were and are being lit by this candle. Instances that can be cited are of Nelson Mandela who owes his belief in non violence and its use in Africa's fight for independence to Gandhiji.

Mahatma's belief in cottage industry has been realized today. He believed in self and mass employment. Projects like Start up and Stand up taken by the Government are steps towards realization of this dream. Youth is coming forward to participate in this initiative and empower their societies.

Gandhiji favored emancipation of the weaker sections. Post Noncooperation movement steps were taken to educate and employ them. Mahatma convinced people in the upper rungs of the social ladder to work for their welfare. This has been replicated in the Constitution in A. 17 which prohibits Untouchability in word and spirit. Besides the judiciary, civil society and social media too has started advocating their rights. Youth today has been significantly contributing towards these institutions.

Fulfillment of Mahatma's dream reminds us of a dream that was very close to his heart- Dream of a 'Clean India'. The Swachh Bharat mission aims to achieve this. The scale of participation of Indian Youth shows their seriousness towards the mission. However, we should also aim cleaning our minds and inculcate values that are humanitarian to achieve this aim holistically.

Evaluating the above arguments, we understand that even today Gandhiji's influence on youth remains. However, there should be changes in our society and education system to enhance the impact of this influence.

- Namrata Rai

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