This research paper is an attempt to study the Gandhian views on industry, design and industrial design and the application of the same in the modern day.
To sum up the Gandhian Views into these few pages would be an unfair task as Gandhiji has written extensively about almost every topic that would concern the human and the environment around. Therefore to say the research paper deals with the Gandhian vision in totality towards Industrial design is implausible and thus the focus has been to understand his insistence on decentralized economy as means to progress for a country like India.
Today there is a massive bend towards the “international” standards while the national demands and needs are still unsatisfied. It is an on-going debate between major leaders of the world as to what is the effect of ‘globalization’ on national identity. Is name or geographical demarcation the only identity now instead of the more definitive differences in culture borne out of age old traditions and practices? In the search of national identity, the industry and the field of design are also exploited at the hands of the image created by the western global leaders. The standards and methods of production as well as the style of the design today reflect the western influence on the nation.
In case of India, the influence is adopted as well as imposed. As a colonized state western rulers influenced the production system and pattern in India as per their understanding of a developed country. In the years of colonization, India was thus imposed with western Industrial systems. Being a part of the British colony, a generation of our leaders were also exposed to their system of education and believed that their system was the epitome of development. Thus while the British ways of manufacturing and industry were imposed during the period of colonization, at the time of independence these were adopted discarding the traditional methods of production and design.
In the 21st century we can divide the world into two categories: the Capitalist and the Communist. Though in principle and thought they are opposite in nature, both have adopted centralized economic system. While the economies of the capitalist countries are centralized in the hands of a few capitalists, the economies of the communist countries are centralized in the hands of the party.
Decentralized economy refers to distributing the decision making amongst various localized production unit. The principle of decentralized economy is that all the resources in a socio-economic unit which are required for the production should be controlled by the local people.
This allows for a democratic decision making within the economy as maximum people have a say in the system rather than a few powerful people. This system empowers the citizens and is most efficient for a state with a lot manual labor and less employment opportunities. The local units thus have a chance to multiply and grow and employ people while in a centralized economy, the growth is slow and often excludes the people it affects.
Gandhiji always promoted decentralized economy as the best option for a country like India.
The Gandhian Vision
“Gandhi se Gandhi ka vichar bada.”-Mr. Laxmi Dass
As Mr. Laxmi Dass quoted in the interview, “the thought is greater than the man itself” (translated from Hindi). What he meant was though Gandhiji was a great man and his dedication bought us the independence we enjoy today, it were his thoughts which were inherently powerful that brought about the change. Thus even though Gandhiji is no more, the thought continues to live on and influence many. As the time passes and the influence of the West increases, it is more important in such times to read, understand and implement the Gandhian view. It is not in the reading of any book that the reader may appreciate the ideology but one has to dedicatedly read extensively and read the right books. Hind Swaraj was written in an era which was meant for the readers of that time, but if one reads the same book today, he would not value it in the same manner. Thus it is not the book that has to change the language to make it applicable but it is in the way the reader interprets and makes it applicable.
Gandhiji was greatly inspired by Gita as a religious book and said that the book was not religious at all but a spiritual one that guided a man to make moral decisions in his life. The message of the Gita is about the duty and the path a man follows to reach his end. The killing that Krishna refers to is the killing of the evil within the thought system itself and not the living attached to it. Thus Gita is not supporting violence but gives way to cleaner thoughts and thus the atman is cleansed.
“Where there is possessiveness, there is violence” – M. K. Gandhi
Gandhiji believed in the quote “Small is Beautiful”. India is a vast country with age old crafts and tradition that have passed hands through generations of artisans. These artisans are now turning jobless while the ‘developing’ India is in the process of mechanization. Gandhiji believed that for a country like India’s mechanization is not a suitable option since we already have enough hands that can contribute to the system. That is not to say he was against progress and science. Science and technology is an inevitable tool for progress if it should help the man do the work faster but not snatch the work away from him.
Industrial Design today has taken a nasty turn where is strives on the mere greed of people to own and showcase items. Thus the design process has become profit oriented rather than karma oriented and thus leaving us with products that often satisfy and feed on the greed of the people who can afford.
The idea that Gandhiji promoted were development of small scale industries like Malkha: the freedom fabric where they are trying to decentralize the economy and the control of the industry so that maximum number of hands can contribute to the system and earn their living and our country would be a self-reliant country. In the age of industrialization, mechanization has become the god of production and in India they have rendered many people useless.
The Indian economy is a mixed economy with capitalists and the government as the owners of the production systems. In either model, the worker is often ignored and stripped of his talent and creativity. The growing sense of development has accelerated this process and technology has been sought as the primary driver for this. Thus both economic dominants have turned to technology for ‘faster and better modes of production’ so that more goods can be produced in less amount of time. The entire system is thus based on consumerism and idea of who owns how much deciding the superiority of the person. This system creates division in the society socio-economically and hampers the overall growth of the country.
The country is not developed if the economy boost is due to a few industrial sectors while the rest are still struggling for a job. A country is progressive if it is inclusive of all the citizens. Gandhiji envisioned decentralizing as a tool to unify the country and take India forward as one unit, not just a few people.
 Primary Source: Interview with a Living Gandhian- Mr. Laxmi Dass, Director, Harijan Sevak Sanghralay
 Gandhi M.K., Bhagvad Gita According to Gandhi, 2011, Orient Publishing
 Primary Source: Interview with a Living Gandhian- Mr. Laxmi Das, Director, Harijan Sevak Sanghralay