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Development as Swaraj - Towards a Sustainable and Equitable Future by Sumanas Koulagi


Sumanas Koulagi is a very thoughtful young scholar. Like most wonderful scholars,Devl-as-Swaraj he is measured in his pronunciations, clear in his views and comprehensive when he chooses to say something.  His book "Development as Swaraj", is perhaps one of the most important publication on Gandhian studies and Swaraj for the year 2023. 

This very complicated book is written in a deceptively simple style - he outlines his framework or theorizing the Swaraj framework in the first section. Subsequently, he expands the outline of the Swaraj as a Vision and then outlines the challenges, issues, and suggestions for reviving of Swaraj in practice using the Khadi example which he has experience of from his third generation involvement with the Khadi and Village Industries movement in his native town of Melkotte in Karnataka.

For me what struck immediately about his framework interpretation is its cost effectiveness, like most Gandhian ideas, this is possible for a poor person to practice as well - the three step approach of Normative, Interpretative and Pragmatic folds is exactly how the crafts person will go through a process of growth. 

His outlining of the vision of swaraj has several gems from the Gandhian Economist J.C. Kumarappa on not just Khadi, but, overall economic re-building as well. The Moral Political Economy (MPE) framework that he outlines is the very crux of the Gandhian - Kumarappa vision of Economy. While the post-SDG economic models that have all emerged from different parts of the world struggle to balance between challenging the ethics of status quo economy and building a localized alternative, majority of them fail in clearly articulating the moral political dimensions. If one were to ignore the cautious ones coming from the existing capitalist economic order, even the radical ones that have emerged, do not challenge adequately the morality of linear consumerist development. The author expands on each one of the aspects of Moral, Political and Economy with multiple examples and expanding and interpreting Kumarappa in each of these areas. 

The second section of the book brings the practical aspects of Swaraj as Development vision, with Khadi as an example that the author is well versed with. He starts with a brief history of Khadi, the evolution of Khadi in the state of Karnataka where he outlines its several challenges today and finally moves to talk about a way forward. His completion with the personal Khadi examples from the  Janapada Seva Trust, provides a first hand insight into the ways and workings of the Khadi movement. 

This book should be compulsory reading for all Social Entrepreneurship courses in India if not the B-schools as well. It brings out the grandness and gentleness of the Swaraj vision and the challenges of our times not merely of the Khadi sector, but, the enviromental, social, economic and political changes and challenges that it has entailed. 

Responding to a question whether Swadeshi is Swaraj, Gandhi writes - "I would say in cent per cent swadeshi lies swaraj.  ...If we tap all our resources, I am quite sure we can be again the richest country in the world, ...if we cease to be idle and profitably occupy the idle hours of the millions. All we need is to be industrious, not like a machine, but like the busy bee.” – Discussion on Village Industries, Harijan, 28-9-1934. This book is an expansion of this conviction and many other related ones sans any unnecessary romanticism or skepticism.