Mahatma & Inclusive Growth

Almost sixty years after the death of one of the greatest Human beings ever born on this planet, it appears as if Einstein’s fear about diminishing knowledge about Mahatma that such a person “as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth” may come true. As the humanity moves away from the influence of heart over brain to solve the problems of the world, overwhelming mechanical application of ‘isms’ and the Machiavellian political game being played in the world stage are turning humans into machines and pawns driven by self interest. It is high time that the world pauses to look at the model of real inclusive growth as advocated and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi.

India at sixty, has never been as confident as it is to day. The world is looking with awe the near double digit growth for the last few quarters. Indian business community can certainly take pride in contributing to the current scenario in spite of the obstacles it faced over the years. However, the future may not be as bright as one might think if we let the current mistrust linger. The problems faced by various SEZs, certain government project be it airport expansion or dams, or recent problems faced by TATAs in the so called labor friendly government of West Bengal or Tamil Nadu are just the tip of the iceberg. Even after sixty years of the pro rural policy it has not reached the poor in rural areas; farmers are still committing suicides, Shanty towns are still growing in major metropolis, the bottom half of rural households which account for less than 3.5 per cent of total land ownership.

In the Independence Day speech PM has talked about the ‘Inclusive Growth’. It has become the buzz word. Every one is mouthing it but some how things are moving as usual. The ‘three Ps’ (private – public partnership) have become the modern mantra. The process of inclusive growth is too important to be left to the politician or the government alone. It is high time the business men and the common man understand and practice the inclusive growth. The best way to learn about inclusive growth is to learn it from the best person from the BANIA community MAHATAMA.

When Mahatma came into the freedom movement, INDIA was divided not only by various linguistic groups which numbered several hundreds, but also by number of princely states of 500 to 600. Indian subcontinent was a reflection and a miniature version of the world today. Looking back at the freedom struggle, until Gandhi came into the picture, it was freedom struggle of the elite, educated and the upper classes. It was Gandhi who made it inclusive by involving peasants, ‘Aam admis’, businessmen, the rich, the poor, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and even the English people.

Unlike other countries where the freedom movement was to fight the foreign power, Mahatma included in our freedom movement: the freedom of untouchables (harijans) from upper class domination, freedom from the economic domination of the West through Khadi movement and Swadeshi movement, freedom of women, freedom from the mistrust among castes and religions. It is the inclusiveness of the Freedom movement that makes it stand tall among all the movements, WE ARE STILL A FREE COUNTRY after 60 Years with all our problems, partly because of the inclusive freedom struggle. Gandhi advocated the decentralized power to villages (Gram Swaraj) and Rajiv Gandhi gave life to it in free India

‘TO BE OR NOT TO BE Inclusive’ is not the question.

But ‘How to do it?’ is the question.
In India today we have 250,000 elected bodies and 3.2 million elected representatives (More than the entire population of many countries). It is a real silent revolution of sharing power, without any parallel in the world history. It is high time that we adapt a strategy of inclusiveness by ensuring that not only the benefits of development are shared with the weakest of the weak and poorest of the poor but also sharing the power to make those decisions are shared with them.


Business men to day have learnt to deal with Delhi and Chennai. They should take Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) into confidence simultaneously. Let us just scan statistics why is it important to include Panchayati Raj Institutions. As of 2001 77% is still living in rural India.

In India to day we have 250000 elected bodies, 32 lakhs of elected representatives (More than the entire population of Norway). It is a real silent revolution that has transferred power with out any parallel in the history.

Even in Tamil Nadu which is more urbanized than the others we still have 56% living rural areas which comes under the influence of PRIs. Panchayati Raj in Tamil Nadu controls 350 lakhs sq. km or 56% of the land area and 175 lakhs work force in the rural area forms 62% of the labor.

Had TATAs taken PRIs into confidence in the planning stage itself what we are seeing in southern Tamil Nadu or West Bengal for TATAs would not have happened. If necessary, industry should make appropriate changes in the preliminary stages of the projects it self. This suggestion is also applicable for the State and Central Governments when they are acquiring land for establishing SEZs or expansion of the airports. In order for the project and process to sustain in the long term it has to be win-win for all the parties concerned which include compromises.

Let us have a heart but use the brain. Empathy for all, including the weakest of all the living things in nature, comes from the heart. But the viable, sustainable and the scalable solutions lie in the brain. Let the solutions be win-win, beneficial to the haves and have-nots.

Exporters should explore outsourcing to rural areas: If a job can be outsourced from 8000 Kms away to you, see if you can out source it 80Kms away to a rural area. If you do not do it to day to improve your efficiency, Chinese or Eastern Europe may squeeze you soon. Better now than later!

Re-engineering: It is high time that major companies like TVS and other manufacturing unit look at the process like zero- base budgeting. They should out source the work if it can reduce the cost and improve the efficiency. The management of major enterprises in India should look into appointing a specific task force to look into the existing process to see what can be efficiently and effectively outsourced to rural India.

Build the trust: Business men to day do not trust the politicians and vice-versa. The people of the country do not trust the politicians, bureaucrats, or the business men. The civil societies do not trust both. The countries do not trust each other. It is high time we start building the bridges and most importantly the trust. As we move into the new millennium let us set a new stage with trust, and inclusiveness, casting away the baggage of mistrust, exploitation and others.


There are several individual success stories of businesses in rural areas. However we need to scale it up for a real inclusive growth. Scaling up is something we can learn closer to home from IT industry. We should also look into the Franchise model, Venture Capital Fund model exclusively focused on rural India where the local rural entrepreneur is trained and monitored in all aspects including quality and marketing


For an Inclusive growth it is the organized sector which is the primer just as IT sector priming India for the last decade. Unorganized sector will be the one that will sustain this and carry it forward. We should get away from the old Paradigm Rural India means ‘Low tech – low investment”. Khadi should also be sold as high fashion and promoted by icons like Tendulkar and Hollywood superstars not only for the domestic market but also in the international markets.
The strategies for growth of the developing segments should not be the paradigm of low tech – low investment and environmentally unsustainable. As Gandhi said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. The strategies of IT and telecom sector may hold a key for scaling up.
Let the current day Business Tycoons, State and Central Government learn from the Mahatma to have humility, to trust, to be trustworthy and include every one as this young nation of sixty moves forward.

Prepared by:
‘Americai’ V. Narayanan
Advisor – Ministry of Panchayati Raj
Government of India
Mobile: 98400 india (46342) or 98410 india