Gandhi, in and on Newspapers

It is Gandhi week, and newspapers are full of articles and pieces aIMG_20191001_104301.jpgbout Gandhi, his thoughts and deeds. This year it is with renewed vigour as it marks the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. Being the prolific writer that he was, and the wide spectrum of subjects and areas on which he expressed his thoughts, every writer today can find some words of wisdom from Gandhi with respect to whatever they may choose to contribute for the ‘Gandhi special’ editions.

Gandhi himself was no exception to the pressure of meeting a newspaper deadline. Sometime in the second half on 1917 he wrote: I promised the Editor a contribution for the Diwali number of Hindustan. I find that I have no time to make good the promise, but thinking that I must write something, I place before the readers my views on newspapers. Under pressure of circumstances, I had to work in a newspaper office in South Africa and this gave me an opportunity to think on the subject. I have put in practice all the ideas that I venture to advance here.

Continuing, he went on to express his views on the business and ethics of newspapers of the day.

Newspapers are meant primarily to educate the people. They make the latter familiar with contemporary history. This is a work of no mean responsibility. It is a fact however, that the readers cannot always trust newspapers. Often the facts are found to be quite the opposite of what has been reported.  If newspapers realised that it was their duty to educate the people, they could not but wait to check a report before publishing it. It is true that often they have to work under difficult conditions. They have to sift the true from the false in but a short time, and can only guess at the truth. Even then I am of the opinion that it is better not to publish a report at all if it has not been found possible to verify it.

How interesting that the same debate about Fake news, and news used to provoke and promote dissension and distrust, continues to rage even today, albeit now, in the context not only of the print media, but all other media also.

Equally thought provoking and relevant are his concerns about the potentially dangerous role that newspapers can play.

It is often observed that newspapers publish any matter that they have, just to fill in space. This practice is almost universal. The reason is that most newspapers have their eye on profits. There is no doubt that newspapers have done great service. …But to my mind they have done no less harm. …many are full of prejudices, create or increase ill will among people. At times they produce bitterness and strife between different families and communities. …On the whole, it would seem that the existence of newspapers promotes good and evil in equal measure. 

He continues with his canny observations on how revenue from advertising tends to override other journalistic responsibilities. And this was over a hundred years ago!

It is now an established practice with newspapers to depend for revenues mainly on advertisements, rather than on subscriptions. The result has been deplorable. The very newspaper which writes against the drink-evil publishes advertisements in praise of drink. Medical advertisements are the largest source of revenue, though today they have done and are doing, incalculable harm to people.  I have been an eye witness to the harm done by them. Many people are lured into buying harmful medicines. …No matter at what cost or effort we must put an end to this undesirable practice or, at least, reform. It is the duty of every newspaper to exercise some restraint in the matter of advertisements.

Ironically my newspaper today has ten full-glossy pages creating aspirations of ”dream” lifestyles, and wooing consumers with advertisements of state-of-the art luxurious residences, gadgets, and holidays; and profligate indulgences in food, drink, clothes, cosmetics and more. The other ten pages has the kind of news that Gandhi had been so concerned about (violence, intolerance, discrimination and disparity), along with a sprinkling of pieces about the Gandhian tenets of simplicity, honesty and truthfulness, and introspection! Contradiction, or comfortable and convenient co-existence? Something to think about indeed!

Written by Gandhi sometime before 14 November 1917 (originally in Gujarati) Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.14. https://www.gandhiheritageportal.org

–Mamata

 

National Education Policy Awaits Your Inputs…

Ed Policy

The draft of the National Policy on Education (2019) is out.  The nine-person Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan which put together the report (based on large public consultations), mentions that ‘the guiding principles of the policy are Quality, Affordability and Accountability’. The policy they say, attempts to look at education ‘in a single organic continuum from preschool to higher education and also touched on related sectors that form part of the larger picture’. The education of the next generation concerns all of us. This is an opportunity to give our inputs to strengthen it.

 

The 420+ page document can be seen on https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Draft_NEP_2019_EN_Revised.pdf.

Comments can be given on https://innovate.mygov.in/new-education-policy-2019/.

To get into the reflective mood necessary to do this, here is a quick selection of thoughts and quotes from those in India who have thought deeply about education.

Hope this helps!

FROM TAGORE

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.

Education has its only meaning and object in freedom–freedom from ignorance about the laws of the universe, and freedom from passion and prejudice in our communication with the human world.

Education means enabling the mind to find out that ultimate truth which emancipates us from the bondage of dust and gives us wealth not of things but of inner light, not of power but of love. It is a process of enlightenment. It is divine wealth. It helps in realization of truth.

In education, the most inspiring atmosphere of creative activity is important. Primacy function of the institution must be constructive; scope must be for all kinds of intellectual exploration. teaching must be one withe culture, spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, economic and social. True education is to realize at every step how our training and knowledge have an organic connection with our surroundings.

FROM MAHATMA GANDHI

 

An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.

Unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to be a poor lop-sided affair.

Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.

True education must correspond to the surrounding circumstances or it is not a healthy growth.

I believe that religious education must be the sole concern of religious associations.

A balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul.

The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship.

FROM DR. S. RADHAKRISHNAN

Education aims at making us into civilized human beings, conscious of our moral and social obligations.

Education must develop democratic attitude. Educational institutions should train people for freedom, unity, and not localism, for democracy, not for dictatorship.

Education has for its aims not merely acquisition of information but the capacity for discernment.

FROM INDIAN EDUCATION COMMISSION (KOTHARI COMMISSION) REPORT, 1966

Of all factors which determine the quality of education and its contribution to national development, the teacher is undoubtedly the most important. It is on his personal qualities and character, his educational qualifications and professional competence that the success of all educational endeavour must ultimately depend. Teachers must, therefore, be accorded an honoured place in society.

The academic freedom of teachers to pursue and publish independent studies and researches and to speak and write about significant national and international issues should be protected.

Strenuous efforts should be made to equalize educational opportunity.

The school and the community should be brought closer through suitable programs of mutual service and support.

With a view to accelerating the growth of the national economy, science education and research should receive high priority.

A major goal of examination reforms should be to improve the reliability and validity of examinations and to make evaluation a continuous process aimed at helping the student to improve his level of achievement rather than at ‘certifying’ the quality of his performance at a given moment of time.

FROM JIDDU KRISHNAMURTHY

Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but it does not bring about completeness. A mind that has merely been trained is the continuation of the past, and such a mind can never discover the new.

Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole.

Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity.

The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent.

Education should help us to discover lasting values so that we do not merely cling to formulas or repeat slogans; it should help us to break down our national and social barriers, instead of emphasizing them, for they breed antagonism between man and man.

 

–Meena

Time and Tide…

Time was of utmost value to Mahatma Gandhi. His day was meticulously scheduled, and every minute counted. A typical day when he was in the Ashram would be like this.

4.00 a.m. Get up from bed

4.20 Morning community prayers

5.00-6.10 Exercise and bath followed by study

6.10-6.30 Breakfast

6.30-7.00 Women’s education classes followed by prayer

7.00-10.30 Physical labour, activities and chores in the Ashram (latrine cleaning, helping in the kitchen, spinning)

10.45-11.15 Lunch

11.15-12 noon Rest

12.00-4.30 p.m. Physical labour, classes

4.30-5.30 Reading, meeting people

5.30-6.00 Evening meal

6.00-7.00 Meeting people

7.00-7.30 Prayer

7.30-9.00 Study, correspondence, meeting people

9.00 Go to bed

On Mondays he would maintain silence and complete all his pending work.

Bapu’s trusty personal time-keeper for years was a silver Zenith pocket watch with an alarm function. The watch had been gifted to him by young Indira Gandhi. For a man with few personal possessions this watch became his constant companion. To his great regret, it was stolen from him during a train journey to Kanpur in May 1947. Gandhi wrote in a letter “I may add that the one that was stolen had radium disc as yours has and had also a contrivance for alarm. It was a gift to me. But the cost then was over Rs 40/-. It was a Zenith watch.”

Interestingly, the watch was returned to him six months later by the thief who begged him for forgiveness. Shortly before his death, Gandhi passed on this legendary watch to his granddaughter and assistant, Abha.

The watch subsequently came into the hands of private collectors abroad. In 2009 it came up for auction as part of a lot of the Mahatma’s former belongings including his famous round spectacles, a bowl and dish as well as a pair of leather sandals. It was reported that these were bought by an Indian billionaire and returned to the country of their origin. From the Mahatma to Mallya…how time flies!

–Mamata

 

Bapu

While Gandhiji was the Father of the nation to millions, he was simply Bapu to the many children to whom he was friend, philosopher and guide. Many of these were the children of inmates of the Ashrams that Gandhji lived and worked from. Bapu always had time for the children—they would accompany him on his daily tasks, and he in turn would take them to task! Nothing was too trivial or beneath notice. Even when he was away from the Ashram, Bapu would include letters to the children, individual as well as collective, as part of his voluminous daily correspondence. No letter went unanswered, and every lack of response from a child was duly noted!

Here are just a few of the hundreds of letters that he wrote while he was detained in Yeravda jail in Pune in 1932, which reveal another side of Bapu as he fondly scolds, cajoles and motivates.

Dear Boys and Girls,

…Most of you cannot think what to write in a letter. …You should overcome this weakness. So many things happen every day around you that, if you properly observe them, you would be able to write enough to fill pages.  Why then should you be unable to think of anything to write about when you sit down to write to me? One can write all that one did or saw and thought during a day. You can say in the letter why you felt happy or unhappy on that day as the case may be. You may also say what good or bad thoughts came to you on that day.  It is possible that you are not sure whether you can write about these things in a letter. If so let me tell you that you need have no such doubts. You can write just as you would talk to me.      Blessings from Bapu.

[Letter to Ashram Boys and Girls      February 13, 1932]

 

Dear Boys and Girls,

All or most of you write to me on sheets taken out from exercise books. That is not right. It means waste of paper and slovenliness. You should use writing paper. …Those of you who feel sleepy during prayers should stand up without feeling shy. Even if you do a few pranayamas sitting down the sleepiness will go. One cannot sleep while doing pranayama. …A child may learn to read and write and still remain mentally dull. If you do not understand this fully ask me to explain again. Use your intelligence in doing everything you are asked to do. Even cleaning a lavatory requires intelligence. If you do not know how ask me.  Bapu

[Letter to Ashram Boys and Girls   June 24, 1932]

 

Chi Manu,
I got your letter. Your handwriting is improving now. For increasing your weight you should do exercise in open air and include sufficient milk and ghee in your diet. How much milk do you get? If I can say everything I wish to in a short letter why should I write a long one?     Bapu

[Letter to Mahendra V Desai   June 24 1932]

 

Dear Boys and Girls

…It seems that you have not still understood one special feature of the Ashram. It is that farm work, carpentry etc. are part of your education, and develop your intellect and some of the bodily senses.  If these crafts are taught as part of your education they would do more good, as I have already explained in one of my previous letters to the Ashram than a purely literal education does.  If you have forgotten what I said in that letter or cannot find that letter, let me know and I will write to you again about it, for the point deserves to be understood by all. Do not think that I say this because I wish to run down book learning. I fully understand its value. You will not come across many men who put such knowledge to better use than I do.  My purpose in saying this is to put training in crafts on the same footing as education in letters. …If you understand this fully, all of you will be ready to take out the cattle for grazing.  Bapu

[Letter to Ashram Boys and Girls   December 17, 1932]

[Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi]

On a more personal note. On reading these letters I discovered that I myself had met some of of Bapu’s children, (as friends and relatives of my parents) when I was much younger, and they were much older. They have since, joined their Bapu, but it gives me a frisson of excitement to feel a tiny link to Bapu today!

–Mamata