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Dear Mahatma Gandhi: A Mail to Mahatma Dr. Vijay Bhatkar Chief Mentor, India International Multiversity

Dear Mahatma Gandhi:

A Mail to Mahatma

Dr. Vijay Bhatkar

Chief Mentor, India International Multiversity

Vijay Bhatkar Chief Mentor, India International Multiversity I do not know whether this mail will reach

I do not know whether this mail will reach you. But why not? You are a Mahatma and on that

fateful day of 31 st January 1948, your individual consciousness merged into the universal consciousness that transcends time and space and hence is everywhere. In a way then you are within me. Long back you represented India’s conscious on a journey to nation’s freedom. India is not just its geography or history or polity, India today is its philosophy of Adwaita – oneness of man and God of which you wrote often; oneness of different faiths and religions; oneness of its many languages and mother tongues; its spirit of Mahatma Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi.

I do not know in which world you prefer to dwell now and what kind of internet and web they

have. In that ethereal world it may be just a web of consciousness. In the web that represents the consciousness of the entire ‘virtual’ world, you type Mahatma Gandhi on Google and you are led to three million entries! You may not require extra somatic intelligent devices like mobiles, computers, and the like we have today. By the way, billions are now connected on the web and we are exploring interplanetary internet as we explore the deep space. Even in our India, we are now connected like never before.

The other day I was in Sevagram near Wardha and I saw there a simple, now antic, phone booth and from that one old archaic phone you were connected to the heart of entire India. You spoke and India listened, even the world. Now, you won’t believe this, we have over 600 million connections, mostly mobile and we are adding 20 million every month. Did you ever imagine this? We are called an IT superpower and telecom giant. The word IT was not invented then. Electronics was just born with the invention of transistor at Bell Labs in US. This word Electronics never appears in your writings. Believe it or not IT and Telecom, together called ICT, now contributes 10 per cent of our national income and I guess it would exceed 20 per cent of our economy by 2020, surpassing the contribution of agriculture!

Gandhiji, this IT has changed India like never before. It is compelling us to re-define the word ‘Swadeshi’ that earned us our freedom. Today most of our exports come from software and IT services so much so that the US and UK are talking about ‘Swadeshi’ to protect their local jobs and industries as not only software but manufacturing is also moving to India and China from UK and USA and the so called advanced countries of your era.

Gandhiji, you were a prolific writer. You wrote through Harijan, Hind Swaraj, Young India and through your immortal letters. I wonder in today’s world of internet, web, Google, email, Facebook and Twitter how you would have communicated with the Indians, the British and the world. I do not know whether you would have your own website. People have created some websites on your life and times and some beautiful CDs too. Would you tweet? Some politicians of recent genre have got into trouble due to this new fad. I am sure you would have used the power of internet to get India freedom. People living behind the iron curtain and under repression have used this amazing power of internet for their liberation from oppressive regimes.

As the present National President of Vigyan Bharati which originated as a Swadeshi Science Movement, I have hard time defining or articulating the Swadeshi spirit of India in the contemporary world. I just learnt that Tatas are the biggest employer of Britons in UK with Corus, Jaguar in their fold and of course the presence of software giant TCS there Today British Government runs on software services that are provided from India. We have come a full circle. But for India’s services, British Government and many British industries will come to a grinding halt! And if we take out Indian doctors, engineers, researchers and students from USA and UK, these nations will have hard time to run their institutions, enterprises, utilities and services.

It is so difficult to define the word ‘Swadeshi’ these days. Take computers, for example. chips and parts of software are designed in India, chips more often than not may get manufactured in the foundries of Singapore and Taiwan and the hardware will get assembled in China and then get exported back to India with US brands which then will spin software, content and e-services that will be exported back to US. It’s a different spin. The wheel has come of a full circle. The world is round they say. I will not be surprised if India, US and many European countries will launch their homegrown Swadeshi movements soon. Software is something ethereal. It cannot be burnt as we burnt British made clothes. Incidentally, it is due to this ethereal nature of software we could develop our IT industry as software cannot be seen, touched and taxed by our bureaucracy that we inherited from British that still haunts our progress.

While the definition of Swadeshi is getting fuzzier by the day in today’s interdependent global world, it stood out bright and clear to me when I was working on Swadeshi Supercomputer. I had named it Param, meaning Supreme. US had denied us the supercomputer, even for weather forecasting that is so critical to India’s agriculture economy. And Rajiv Gandhi our young Prime Minister had given a call for the development of Swadeshi supercomputer. And we realized the importance of Swadeshi once again. This happened in our Space and Nuclear Programmes whenever embargos were placed on these critical technologies. But the Swadeshi approach saved us from embarrassment and hopelessness. Today not only we make our supercomputers, launch satellites, build fast breeder reactors, put on road the lowest cost automobile ever conceived but also we might export them to the world. All because of the Swadeshi Movement you charted for us.

Bapuji, you wrote extensively on education – literacy, primary education, women’s education, higher education and on what new education should be – the Nai Talim as you called it. A lot has happened since independence. The literacy has doubled. Now the bill on right to education has been passed. We have lacs of schools. In addition to State mother-tongues, and a de facto national language Hindi, English is being taught everywhere and is a preferred medium of instruction. You won’t believe this, in the coming years we will become the largest English speaking nation of the world! Once after my Royal Society lecture in London, I was asked how did India make the IT magic and I had promptly replied because of you British who imposed English on us, albeit with a sinister motive of ruling over us for millennia. Exactly opposite has now happened. We would be soon teaching British children, not only mathematics and science, but also English grammar! In addition to 3 R’s you talked about, we are trying to make entire India computer literate. We are doing it in an amazing manner using IT itself as a tool for teaching. I am trying to bring education directly to home, transcending the barriers of distance, economic level and language.

Right now, as a nation of young ones, our 200 million students are in the education system. We have 400 plus universities and there is a plan to add thousand more in order to improve the

graduate enrollment ratio. We have some world class institutes like IITs, IISc, IIMs and the like.

A large scale privatization of higher education has taken place and very soon the foreign

university bill will be passed opening doors for international universities to gush in.

Gandhiji, the richest in UK are now no more Britons but our own Indians – Laxmi Mittal, Hindujas, and the like. Our Indians are making into the Forbes list of richest persons on the planet. Never mind the poorest of poor, and millions of them, who live on less than a dollar a day. Some 500 million of them today! But we have a fast growing middle class and this is attracting the world to India. In fact India is now the fourth largest economy of the world in

purchasing power parity term. Our economy has crossed 1 trillion US Dollars and we might soon touch 2 trillion mark. Multiply that by 3.5 and we will get the purchasing power parity. That puts

us in the top five nations of the world!

Gandhiji, you often wrote of India and its 7 lakh villages then. But now our India is going through a huge process of unstoppable urbanization. Sometime back there was a prophecy by National Geography that the world’s largest number and fastest growing cities will now be in India and China. Our villages are getting abandoned and people are migrating to nearby towns, cities and large metros at an unprecedented rate so much so that, the cities might crumble down with the overcrowded slums of migratory populations. At both ends our habitats are getting unviable, in its lakhs of villages and in its overflowing large cities.

Mahatma Gandhi, shall I say MG, do you know we have an MG Road in every major city of India. And this MG Road is often the commercial showcase of that city, full of shops and newly erected malls with all kinds of goods, textiles and entertainment jaunts. You will be almost embarrassed to stroll on these roads today. But people love it. M.G. Roads represent the showcase of resurgent India, with overflowing goods, textiles, automobiles, fashions, restaurants, hotels, you name it. The Mahatma Gandhi that MG represented has vanished from there forever.

A few months back I had picked up some internationally branded undergarments in a mall on the M.G. Road of Pune. Although brand was foreign, I was almost certain that they were actually made in India in a small town called Thirpur in Tamil Nadu. Making hosiery in an incredible cottage industry in this town once upon a time small hamlet which now exports several billions

of underwear items woven on Japanese machines, using Egyptian long staple cotton based on

Italian designs, branded by multinational companies of US & UK origin. This is our Swadeshi magic! But these examples are far and few. Most villages or towns have no industries at all! Some do have oil mills, ginning factories, sugar mills, many of them in cooperative sector.

Gandhiji, you were my icon right from my childhood. I was born in a family of freedom fighters. For both my father and my mother, you were their God! On your instruction, my parents, though highly educated at that time, moved back to our tiny village in Akola district about 100 kms. off Sevagram where they met you. You wanted educated people to go to villages as you felt India belongs to its 7 lakh villages and unless the villages become self-reliant and self-sufficient, there cannot be real progress of the mother land. How much you wrote on villages of India and village industries, plights of farmers & labourers. India of your dream dwelt in villages. I have seen the struggle of my own village with a population of 300; the plight of its farmers and farm labours; the untouchability; successive droughts and all that.

Like many of your ardent followers, my father chased your dream of improving villages and what a struggle it was! After 60 years, a lot has changed though. There is electricity, albeit with huge power cuts. A middle school has sprung up fulfilling my father’s long awaited dream. Many households have colour TVs, young boys flaunt their fashionable mobiles, jeans and Reebok imitation shoes. I still have hard time convincing people to have a toilet in their dwelling than flaunt their mobile and mobikes! Most young one waste their precious youth following their small time political leaders wearing white khadi kurtas and Gandhi topi as they see politics as the fastest route to build riches. Farmers want to get their children admitted to English medium schools and everyone wants to move to cities and marriageable lasses don’t want to marry the lads on the farm; they would rather go to filthy slums in cities as the wives of new immigrated factory worker or an office clerk. But, I must admit a lot has changed in many villages like mine. In Maharashtra, there are many movements like Adarsh Gram Yojana, Sant Gadgebaba Swachhata Abhiyaan, Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Tanta Mukti Abhiyaan, all one way or other inspired by you. And many people, including present Congress leader Sonia Gandhi believe that we must give highest priority to agriculture and rural development. Also, BJP’s visionary and moderate leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee project you as their commitment to India’s rural development. It is entirely different matter the plan allocations hardly reach the end beneficiaries and significant portion is pocketed by self-serving politicians, beaurocrats and middle men. Corruption is rampant across all the sections of society. Fifty per cent of our economy is black economy; the good news is that, we are 5 per cent better off than the number one economy of the world!

Gandhiji, when you left us, our population was 350 million or 35 crores. That itself was large. But now its whopping 120 crores! We have quadrupled in six decades. We are the largest democracy. In spite of all the attendant problems that you identified and many more we brought forth, we are a working multiparty democracy. Thanks to electronic voting machines, we are able to conduct largely peaceful and fair elections. We had three Muslim Presidents and now we have a woman President. The Panchayat Raj of your dreams and devolution of central powers has taken place. The right to information has been passed and our judiciary is largely fair and just, although we also hear of corruption there.

Many adventurous and talented have left the shores of the land and now can be seen in all parts of the world, in USA, UK, Australia, South Africa, almost any country of the world. The Indian Diaspora may be more than 20 million. They are in a variety of garbs, students, teachers, researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses, taxi drivers, labours, you name it. Some of us have also entered the politics and people of Indian origin have become Governors in US, MPs in UK Parliament and Presidents of US universities. Unlike Europeans, however we have not gone there to conquer or plunder these nations, but to create wealth for them. We are building nations in the Gulf, our workers and professionals outnumbering the locals several times. ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ – the whole world is our family continues to be the spirit of India. They also continue to build India and remain essentially ‘Indian’ at their heart. Most of our population is young. We, the most ancient civilization, are the youngest nation of the world. I see in the coming decades millions of our young people residing in USA, UK, Australia, and even Japan, China and Korea, not to speak of Gulf and the African countries going there and supporting the aging population of the world. I am sure you will like this Gandhiji!

Gandhiji, when the 20 th century was closing the internet started pervading even in India. And they wanted to have an internet poll. Who influenced the 20 th century most? And the resounding answer from India was you, Mahatma Gandhi! And why not, you still dwell in the heart of millions of Indians. And the world voted for Einstein – the person of the Century and the Person of the Millennium as well. Einstein had changed our world view completely. But it was Einstein who had paid his greatest tribute to you in his now famous words. For Einstein you were the idol. Indirectly, you are undoubtedly the person of the 20 th Century, nay the 2 nd Millennium as well. Even in the world of computers, you were used as the icon by none other than Apple. Years back while driving through Silicon Valley, I had seen you on Apple’s hoardings – ‘The great one who made the difference to the world like no one else before’.

Gandhiji, when you were studying in UK, scientific and technological revolution had begun in UK and Western Europe, and you had witnessed the process of industrialization there. For India and to solve the problem of massive unemployment, you had taken the stance against mindless mechanization. It was extremely important to provide work to our starving population. Employment still is a big problem for modern India. The picture of modern India is very different in science and technology now. We are now the largest producer of scientific and technological manpower. Manufacturing has moved to India in many sectors. Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, one of the most distinguished scientists of India, has advented a new paradigm called ‘Gandhian Engineering’ – doing more from less for more.

Mahatma Gandhi, its 2010 now. Over 62 years have passed since you left us to merge in the eternity. All your struggles with the mantra of truth and nonviolence to get India freedom and we attained it on 15 th August 1947 and began with our tryst with destiny. Now standing erect in 2010, I can say that India is destined to become the greatest of the nation when we celebrate the centenary of our freedom and pay greatest tribute to you Mahatma for giving us the freedom. I have no doubt India would be the largest economy of the world. Also, in the field of Science & Technology we would be the world leader. India has already become the R&D hub of the world. Perhaps, we will also create great universities and institutes of higher learning; the aspiring learners will come from all over the world and learn in our universities, a sure sign of a great nation. India was great when princes, monks and learners came from all over the world to our Taxashila, Nalanda.

But will the benefits of her riches reach the poorest of the poor, the Daridra Narayan?. I cannot say for sure. Will our tillers of the land continue to commit suicides, I cannot say. Will we overcome the caste system, religious strife between Hindus & Muslims; will Kashmir continue to burn, we do not know. Nevertheless, inspired by your idea, we will continue to struggle.

When India attained freedom, Navajivan Trust published ‘India of My Dreams’ based on passages from your writings and speeches. It was compiled by R. K. Prabhu and had a foreword by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. As I have conveyed to you through this mail, India has changed significantly and many ways completely from what you had dreamt about India. Nevertheless, in essence, we are and we will continue to pursue the essential spirit of India based on the ideals of truth and nonviolence, respect diversity of our languages, culture and people, keeping our doors and windows open for the winds of the world to flow in, but never swaying and getting uprooted from our age-old foundation that sees oneness of man, nature and God. To me and millions like me in India and the world at large, you will continue to remain the embodiment of that universal God that will continue to show us the path of Truth and Peace.

Vijay Bhatkar