India is facing many challenges:
- a crisis in the agricultural/rural economy
- suicides of farmers in many parts of the country
- “jobless growth”
- Air pollution in Indian cities is the highest in the world
- The health of the soil has been degrading for decades.
- These problems are created by the pattern of growth. More growth will not reduce them. In fact, if the pattern of growth is not changed, the environmental crisis will become worse with more growth. Therefore, one must consider fundamental changes in the prevalent approach to economic growth. Begin with the obvious. That is, the economy, society and ecology are integrated in a system. Changes in any one of these components will affect the others. Components of systems must coordinate with each other for the system to remain healthy. Moreover, there must be harmony amongst the components wherever they come together for the whole system to remain healthy. The blood, the flesh and the bones must be adjusted with each other in all parts of the body. If there is disharmony amongst them in any part, the body becomes ill. Similarly, if society, economy and ecology fall into disharmony in any part of the world, trouble will grow and spread. Disharmony in the Middle East is affecting the whole world. Urban India cannot be well if rural India is not.
- The obvious solution to this systemic problem is to devolve responsibility for the governance of the system to the localities.
- Gandhi’s charkha (spinning wheel) is known as a quaint symbol of local industries. But it is greatly misunderstood because the depth of his knowledge of systems management is not so well known.
- Gandhi understood from extensive experience, on the ground, that local management, at the village level, was the only way that an integrated system, of the economy, society and ecology, would be improved.
- Village enterprises, and village-level governance, are feasible ideas now.
- What is required is a change in mindsets to empower local governance and networks of small enterprises.