Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker


Gandhi Jayanti (2nd October) being celebrated as International Day of Non-violence by United Nations.

About Gandhiji:

He is the father of the nation and the tallest architect of Indian freedom struggle.

Timeline of Gandhiji in India:

1915: Gandhi returned from South Africa to India and joined the Indian National Congress. He established the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad.

1917: Champaran satyagraha –  marks Mahatma Gandhi’s first successful application of his method of ‘satyagraha’ in India. The indigo cultivators of Champaran, Bihar were exploited by the planters who were largely European in the tinkathia system. As a result of his campaign, an enquiry was conducted into the conditions of the peasants. This went a long way in giving the indigo cultivators some relief.

1918: Ahmedabad Mill Strike: Gandhiji organised satyagraha in favour of cotton mill workers at Ahmedabad.

1918: Kheda Satyagraha: The people of Kheda were unable to pay the high taxes levied by the British due to crop failure and a plague epidemic.

1919: Young India was a weekly paper or journal in English started by Mahatma Gandhi through which he popularised India’s demand for self-government or Swaraj. Navajivan (a new life) was weekly newspaper published by Gandhi, in Gujarati, from 1919 to 1931, from Ahmedabad.

1920-22: Non-Cooperation Movement – First mass movement, launched against the Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh incident in Amritsar. The campaign involved Indians revoking their cooperation from the British government, with the aim of inducing the British to grant self-governance (swaraj). Gandhi withdrew the non-cooperation movement after the Chauri-Chaura Incident. After the non-cooperation movement ended, Gandhi withdrew from the political platform and focused on his social reform work on untouchability/ upliftment of the depressed class and communal harmony, called Constructive Programme.

1930: Civil Disobedience Movement – The second great mass movement of Indian freedom struggle. Simon Commission came to India in 1928 to look into the functions of the constitutional system in India. As there was no Indian member in it, it was boycotted by all political parties in the country.

Later, in 1929, the Congress under the leadership of Nehru declared ‘Poorna Swaraj’ as its main goal. As nationalist feelings began to rise, Gandhi sent a letter containing eleven demands to Lord Irwin in 1930 asking him to accept it. When he refused, Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement. Civil disobedience implies the active, professed refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, orders, and demands of a government. In the year 1930, Gandhi started this movement (Dandi) by violating the salt law through the Dandi march. The movement was discontinued following the Gandhi Irwin Pact of 1931.

1932:  Communal Award – Ramsay Macdonald announced communal award that provided for a separate electorate for depressed classes. Gandhi condemned this award as it was based on Britishers’ Divide and Rule Policy. He led a fast unto death which ultimately resulted in Poona Pact between Congress and depressed classes headed by B.R. Ambedkar. Poona pact provided for reservation of depressed classes in Hindu joint electorate.

For the upliftment of depressed classes and untouchables. Gandhi founded Harijan Sevak Sangh (All India Anti-Untouchability League) in 1932. He also started a journal named Harijan which means “People of God”.

1942: Quit India Movement – The third great mass movement. It was launched by Mahatma Gandhi on 8 August 1942 at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). When Britishers arrested all major leaders of the congress, pan-India violence by people forced Britishers to concede fresh demands. Following this, Cripps was sent to India to discuss and support the British Government’s Draft Declaration with Indian leaders. Moreover, the declaration also granted India Dominion Status after the war. To which, Congress denied discussing any terms unless given total freedom.

1947: India wins independence but has to undergo partition, creating Pakistan. Gandhi fasts as penance for inter-communal violence following widespread communal violence.

Mahatma Gandhi was attentive of the fact that world peace is not possible without the spiritual growth of humanity. So far, the 22 years of the 21st century have not been peaceful. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents the biggest threat to peace in the world since the end of the Cold War. Many believe that humanity will never attain peace. But we all know that peace is the result of a long process of compassionate dialogue and tireless caring across cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Gandhi considered the problem of peace as an ethical, rather than political, issue. For him, the importance was to be on the side of the just. In a letter published in Harijan on December 9, 1939, he wrote: “The moral influence would be used on the side of peace… My nonviolence does recognise different species of violence — defensive and offensive. It is true that in the long run the difference is obliterated, but the initial merit persists. A nonviolent person is bound, when the occasion arises, to say which side is just. Thus, I wished success to the Abyssinians, the Spaniards, the Czechs, the Chinese, and the Poles, though in each case I wished that they could have offered nonviolent resistance… But who am I? I have no strength save what God gives me. I have no authority over my countrymen save the purely moral. If God holds me to be a pure instrument for the spread of nonviolence… He will… show me the way…”

Gandhian ideas for contemporary society:


  • Satyagraha is a technique developed by Gandhiji to oppose the exploitative policies of British. It was based on Truth and Non-violence. It was based on the philosophy that evil could best be countered by goodness. It is a technique to of resisting adversaries without violence.
  • Satyagraha was a novel and an ideal way of struggle introduced by Gandhiji. It gave the Indian National Movement, a moral strength to oppose the British. Gandhiji’s unique ideas also inspired other civil disobedience movements against colonialism and oppression. His most notable followers were Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, who led movements against apartheid and white supremacy.

Gandhiji on violence and non-violence: A peace strategy:

Gandhi was a consistent thinker on peace. If it is accepted that Gandhi always had a peace strategy even when he wrote on violence over cowardice, we can establish a continuity between his writings on war and peace in different stages of his struggle.

Gandhi wrote: “I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence…But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”

The task of the political

  • For Gandhi, the essential task of the political was to bring moral progress. It was most important that the moral legitimacy of non-violence be a strategy of peacemaking. That is why Gandhi is impossible to classify in terms of conventional categories of peace studies and conflict resolution. Gandhi remains an original thinker in the matter of peace building and also an astute peace builder.
  • From Gandhi’s perspective, nonviolence is an ontological truth that follows from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life. While violence damages and undermines all forms of life, nonviolence uplifts all.
  • Gandhi, therefore, advocated an awareness of the essential unity of humanity, and that awareness required a critical self-examination and a move from egocentricity towards a ‘shared humanity’. This ‘shared humanity’ cannot exist today if it is not aware of its own shortcomings. It needs to strive to remove its own imperfections, in order to be able to foster a pluralistic peace.


In an age of increasing ‘globalisation of selfishness’, there is an urgent need to read and practise the Gandhian social and political philosophy in order re-evaluate the concept of peace.

New York declares polio emergency: should India be worried?


  • Earlier in September, New York declared a State disaster emergency after poliovirus was discovered in wastewater samples from three counties. In India, vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) was detected in the environmental surveillance of sewage samples from Kolkata this year, although the Health Ministry said that such an incident can occur in any country where oral polio vaccines (OPVs) are given.
  • The U.S. has now been put on a list of 30 countries, prepared by the Global Polio Eradication Drive, where either imported wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus, or circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) has been identified. The list also includes Israel, Ukraine, Nigeria and Egypt, among many others. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two countries where polio remains endemic, and hence do not find mention on the outbreak list.

What is polio disease?

  • Poliomyelitis, commonly called polio, is a highly infectious viral disease that can leave patients disabled, and in some cases, even prove fatal. The virus enters the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in just a few hours.
  • Initial symptoms of the infection include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among these, 5-10% die when breathing muscles are affected and immobilised.
  • There is no known cure for polio. It can only be prevented by way of vaccination.

Wild poliovirus (WPV) :

  • WPV has three known strains – types 1, 2, and 3 – each with a slight difference in structure. Immunity to one type does not guarantee immunity to others.
  • According to the Global Polio Eradication Drive, only type 1 of wild poliovirus remains in circulation. Type 2 was declared eradicated in 2015, and type 3 WPV eradicated in 2019.

How does polio virus spread?

  • The polio virus is most commonly spread through the faecal-oral route. It can also spread through contaminated water or food. The virus multiplies in the host’s intestines.
  • Susceptible age groups: Most polio cases are recorded in children under five years of age, but all unvaccinated people can contract the disease.

Types of polio vaccine:

  • Currently, there are two types of vaccines available against poliomyelitis – oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV).
  • IPV was developed in 1955 by virologist Dr Jonas Salk. It consists of inactivated (killed) poliovirus strains of all three types. The vaccine is administered through an intramuscular or intradermal injection. It produces antibodies in the blood against all three types of the poliovirus.
  • OPV uses a weakened (also called attenuated) form of poliovirus, which can either be one strain or a combination, to enable the vaccinated individual to build immunity against the virus. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the attenuated viruses are able to replicate in the intestines but are “around 10,000 times less able to enter the central nervous system than the wild virus”.
  • Since OPVs are administered orally, they are more suitable for mass vaccination campaigns than IPVs that must be administered by qualified health workers. Although both modes of vaccination are safe, the live attenuated virus in OPV can cause vaccine derived polio (VDPV).
  • IPV, on the other hand, induces a very low level of immunity in the intestine. It is usually given to immune-compromised persons or those with low levels of immunity. In such a case, if an IPV vaccinated person is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus can still multiple inside their intestines and be shed in the faeces, risking continued circulation.
  • In some seriously under-immunised communities, the excreted vaccine virus can continue to circulate for a longer time period, with a possibility of undergoing genetic changes. In rare instances, it can mutate into a form that can paralyse people. This is known as cVDPV – the form of virus that put the U.S. on the outbreak list.
  • According to WHO, it takes a long time for cVDPV to occur. Generally, the strain is believed to be in circulation in an under or unimmunised community for at least a year.

Polio immunisation in India:

  • India committed itself to WHO’s goal of global polio eradication in 1988. The Government launched the National Immunisation Day (NID), commonly called the Pulse Polio immunisation programme in 1995, aiming to administer polio drops to all children in the 0-5 years age group. Additionally, Sub-National Immunisation Days are also conducted every year in high-risk areas.
  • In 2012, WHO removed India from its list of endemic countries with active poliovirus transmission. India, along with 10 other countries in the WHO South-East Asia region, was certified polio-free in 2014.

Mission Indradhanush :

  • It is the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) of India which aimed to prevent mortality and morbidity in children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases:
  • Diphtheria, Whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae type B infections, Japanese encephalitis (JE), rotavirus vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and measles-rubella (MR).
  • It is the largest immunisation programme globally where it annually covers more than three crore pregnant women and 2.6 crore children
  • Recently, the Ministry of Health virtually launched Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 4.0. It will ensure that Routine Immunization (RI) services reach unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and pregnant women.
  • Children up to 2 years will be covered in this drive.

Should India be worried about the global resurgence of poliovirus?

  • India’s proximity to polio-endemic countries Pakistan and Afghanistan, and possible gaps in vaccination in the past two years due to Covid-19 are causes for concern. However, according to WHO, there is “no evidence of VDPVs circulating in the community”.
  • In 2021, India had also announced that people returning to the country from Afghanistan would be vaccinated against polio as a preventive measure.
  • In a report outlining the investigation of the Kolkata sewage water sample, WHO said that India’s acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance, along with routine immunisation and NIDs, meets the recommended global standards. Environmental Surveillance (ES), which involves regular collection of sewage water to check for poliovirus in faecal matter, supplements the AFP.


India must not become complacent. We have to strengthen our Disease Surveillance Programmes and Networks and ensure that Immunisation Programmes are not side-tracked in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.


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