Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of ‘Swaraj’ during the British regime. His ideology of ‘Swaraj’ was to empower people and give them the real meaning of self-rule. ‘Swaraj’ is a bigger term. In political terms it talks about the implementation of democracy in its true form right from the grass-root level where at every level there is a public representative, moreover, it is also about the overall development of the nation where every section of the society irrespective of religion, caste, race, sex or economic condition are treated equally
Gandhi’s idea of ‘Swaraj’, in the colonial period was prominently to empower and liberate people and teach them to rule themselves and establish self-control, self-respect and capacities for self-realisation. By teaching people about liberation, Gandhi intended to reject and wholly uproot the British rule in India. But, through the course of time, post-independence, the meaning of ‘Swaraj’ modified to implement better governance in a democratic political structure and promote equality and overall development.
To implement this ideology for making India a true democracy at the grass-root level, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed. As a result, from gram panchayat to the union government there is always a public representative at every level of governance. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments passed by the Parliament in 1992 laid the foundation of local government system in India. The Indian political structure saw a major change after the amendments came intoexistence. The amendments not only described the local governing bodies as basic units of democracy but also put forth a provision that all seats must be filled by direct voting and one-third of total number of seats be reserved for women and one-third for SCs and STs, hence, providing equal opportunities to every section of society and promoting equality factor of Gandhian ideology as well.
Gandhi on ‘Swadeshi and Gram Swaraj’
One of the Mahatma’s major concerns was to make villages self-sustaining and self-contained units. To fulfil this, Gandhi put forth the ideology of ‘Swadeshi and Gram Swaraj’. One of the similar movements we have seen recently taken up the Patanjali Ayurveda – a company creating, promoting and selling indigenously manufactured products – Gandhi in his time promoted the idea saying, “It is your duty and mine to find out neighbors who can supply our wants and teach them to supply them where they do not know how to proceed, assuming that there are neighbors who are in want of healthy occupation. Then every village of India will almost be self-supporting and self-contained unit, exchanging only such necessary commodities with other villages as are not locally produced.”
‘Swaraj’ at present
Gandhi’s definition of Swaraj also focused on regenerating reference points, systems, and structures that enable individuals and collective self-development. Researchers studying Gandhi’s ideology and promoting his views define ‘Swaraj’ as not merely a political structure but an ideology which promotes overall development of a nation. Citizens make the nation and therefore development of each and every individual leads to the development of the nation. Looking at the economically weaker sections of the society today, it can be seen that there are loopholes in the system which restricts the development of poor people on various aspects like skill development, education, hygiene, healthcare, or other aspects.
The Gandhian philosophy has always been the guiding light for the governments to implement the democracy in India and world-wide in an effective manner. Although there are certain loopholes in implementation, the Gandhian ideology, in recent years, has been given prominence and made the very basis of many government schemes and policies launched like Swachh Bharat Mission, Swachhta se Swachhagrahaand more. India is taking baby steps towards creating a nation where people can enjoy Swaraj in its true essence.