Morality and Ethics in Public Life, a Gandhian View

Published on, by Ravindra Kumar, Delhi, April 28, 2008.

Morality and ethics are interrelated to each other in the sense that both are concerned with the behavior of man. Although many times both are interpreted as synonymous to the other, they are different in their meaning and scope, and thus need to be explained separately. They also need to be applied differently in the day-to-day practices of man. Furthermore, their application in individual and public life remains separate. Simultaneously, as per the demand, it is the subject of time and space; it is a subject of wide discussion and minute analysis …

… Now, what to do? And that too through the noble Gandhian Way! In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, especially Gandhian scholars, the idea of Trusteeship can be helpful to deal with this situation. Trusteeship based on nonviolence is an essential part of the economic setup suggested by Mahatma Gandhi and is worth giving a thought in this regard. In Trusteeship, Mahatma Gandhi’s economic management is fully associated with ethics and morality. In it those who own money are expected to behave like the Trustees holding their riches on behalf of the poor, and in which the labor-owner relationship is like two partners working for the public good.

This very idea could be the guideline for those who are in the public arena, who serve the people, society, and the nation, and who are in fact the custodians of national life. It is based on high morality and morality is a Dharma, a duty, beyond that law that has only legal sanction or legitimacy. But like Ahimsa it is also a plant of slow growth; it demands high courage and awakening from the inside. Therefore, it may seem impractical or the application of it may seem ineffective as far as the matter of improvement in public life is concerned. Even so, without any doubt from a Gandhian perspective it is important and adaptable.

Moreover, the role of all of us, the people, to establish morality and ethics in public life is most important, as we are the makers of our own kings of democracy. We elect our own representatives. We have all the power in our hands. Therefore, our awakening in the matter is of utmost importance. It is the time we must come forward. We must unite and sacrifice – as sacrifice is a must, especially along Gandhian lines – and with introspection individually and collectively make our [political] body, society, and the nation free of this evil or curse. (full text).

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