Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest thinkers of this century. The magnificent leadership that he provided during the freedom struggle and his humane approach to India’s social problems earned him the title of the “Father of the Nation”. He was a true apostle of Indian culture and tradition. He has profoundly contributed to social, economic and political thought of India. He was an uncompromising idealist. At the same time, he was a down-to-earth realist. He had a practical approach to the solution of various problems. He was at the same time a visionary, a moralist a prophet. He wanted to bring about a socio-economic transformation in India based on truth and nonviolence, which unfortunately he could not complete due to his untimely death.
Gandhiji had certain original economic ideas which are known as Gandhian economics. Actually there is no systematic principle of economics of Gandhiji. “With Gandhiji economics is a part of a way of life. There are no governing principles as applied in the case of ordinary laws that have been enunciated in the text-books on Economics. Only two life principles govern all Gandhiji’s social, political and other considerations, i.e., Truth and Non-violence. Hence Gandhian economics appears to us radically different from the orthodox tenets of Economics with which we are familiar, “Although Gandhiji never claimed to be economist in the conventional sense of the term, his ideas on the subject reveal deep thought and practical commonsense.”
Gandhiji was neither in favour of capitalism nor communism. He disliked capitalism as it was exploitative by nature. It was a system of contradictions which presented acute poverty with great offence. It degraded the position of man. It led to moral and spiritual degeneration of man. It was too materialistic in its approach and did necessarily promote human happiness. Communism was based on hatred, violence and class war. It abrogated the fundamental freedoms of man. Although the end of communism was the establishment of a classless society, yet the means it adopted was not acceptable to Gandhiji.
Therefore, Gandhiji wanted to evolve an economic system of his own, which was rooted in the culture and spiritual tradition of the land. As Shriman Narayan observes : “It is on these four cornerstones of Simplicity, Non-violence, Sanctity of labour and Human value, that Gandhiji builds his ideal economy of decentralised cottage industrialism and self-sufficient village communities.”
By this time we are acquainted with the working of different economic systems. We are conversant with their merits and demerits. An understanding of Gandhian economic system is of special relevance today than ever before. The world is passing through a great crisis. The crisis is multi dimensional. International squabbling are growing. There is tension all round. This crisis is due to lack of international goodwill, understanding and fellow feeling. Our greed for superficial happiness has led us nowhere. All these explain why Gandhian economic system in a modified form might constitute the ultimate form of economic society.