Monday, October 8, 2007

May Day at the Mahatma Ghandi Labour Institute

This morning, May 1st, 2007, I’m at the Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, where I’m attending a two-day conference timed to coincide with May Day, otherwise known as Labour Day around the world. As with most of my engagements since arriving in India, I’m here at the invitation of a professor who I chanced to meet at a conference elsewhere. In this case, my acquaintance is Dr. Harshida Dave who is a professor of Women’s Studies at this Institute. I met her when she came to SPMVV to attend the International Women’s Day conference held in early March at my university in Tirupati.

The conference here has not yet begun. Its theme is Gandhian Trusteeship, on which subject I’ll be speaking tomorrow morning. As I understand trusteeship in Gandhian terms, it has to do with the responsibility of those who accumulate wealth to share that wealth with the masses of the people, especially the poor. My take on this in my presentation will be that education is key to raising the status and prosperity of the destitute and deprived. In a country such as India, where this community of desperate and deprived people numbers in the hundreds of millions, technology can, I believe, hasten access to education and, therefore, to shared prosperity. All it needs is will and willingness on the part of those in control of wealth—Federal, State and Local government, wealthy individuals, national and international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the like.

These umbrella administrations must be determined in their commitment to supporting the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of good people at the grassroots level in India—philanthropists such as several of my new-found friends in Tirupati, and so many others—who are not themselves poor, nor are they rich, but they are in a position to spearhead the trusteeship work of helping the masses of the poor lift themselves up by their bootstraps from the grinding poverty in which they live out their days.

But these grassroots philanthropists can do no more than scratch the surface of the problem if they are left to work in isolation. So Government at all levels must, in my opinion, reach out, gather together, and recognize such local efforts so that they become, collectively, a mighty force for the alleviation of poverty in India, as elsewhere in this world of ours. Failure to do this will be catastrophic, in my humble opinion. It’s just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, the gathering of Ghandians was impressive. It was quickly clear to me that I was privileged to be amongst national leaders in Ghandian scholarship. As so often since I joined the Indian academic community last December, I have been humbled by the credentials and clear intellectual credibility of the men and women with whom I have been associated in Indian academe. At the conference on Ghandian Trusteeship at the Mahatma Ghandi Labour Institute I made my contribution. I learned much and I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to take part. Thank you, Professor Harshida, for the invitation.

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