There are few people today who have the rich experience of almost
an entire century and who can talk with their eyes and their mind
set in future. Eighty-six year old Baba Amte is one of them.
Baba Amte received the Rs. 10 million Mahatma Gandhi peace award
on January 14, 2000. In this exclusive interview with IndiaCore,
Baba with his thoughts anchored in the 2nd World War and the suffering
of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki looks to the future with hope
for peace and sufficiency for all.
What is the meaning of Peace in the World today?
Twentieth century was almost soaked in blood, 21st Century will
be a period of conciliation. Nothing is more important than peace
today and Gandhi is going to be more relevant in the 21st century.
The world is realizing the significance of non-violence. The Mudra
(form) of the philosophy of Satyagraha (non-violent struggle) that
Gandhi cast on this world cannot be erased.
The century we leave behind was full of violence and conflicts.
Two World Wars left millions of innocent people dead. Nuclear weapons
of mass destruction were dropped over Nagasaki and Hiroshima bringing
death and destruction to these cities. These bombs were dropped
even though Japan had already been defeated. The real purpose was
to terrorize communist Russia. The cold war with several major conflicts
all over the world resulted in misery for thousands and thousands
What was the purpose of this violence and bloodshed? Now the Soviet
Union has collapsed and this has proved the fallacy in the doctrine
of class struggle and class war. Berlin wall, a symbol of conflict
and struggle of 20th century is now just a museum. Communist China
and former Soviet Union import wheat from America.
I am very hopeful about 21st Century. Despite the growth in violence
and terrorism, revolution will not come from the barrel of the gun.
Your views on nuclear arms race in this sub-continent?
Nuclear arms will never be used now. After Pokhran, we have seen
Kargil and hijacking of an airline. This only shows how potent and
sterile are nuclear weapons in resolving the issues that we face.
I think only madmen handle nuclear weapons.
In this era of globalization and privatization, is the common
man getting a fair deal?
The frolic of a honeybee brings about regeneration and reproduction
of innumerable flowers and plants. Similarly development makes sense
when it is hand in hand with the needs of the people.
In India on the one hand, we set up large projects and sky-scrappers
and on the other hand we have sprawling slums like Dharavi. What
kind of development is this? We all know poverty breeds criminality.
In spite of population explosion, this earth can produce enough
for its needs. There should be sufficiency for all before there
is superfluity for some.
The crisis of hijacking proved how concerned the government was
about 160 lives in the aircraft but what about innumerable lives
that are lost due to negligence of someone or the other on roads,
railway stations, hospitals, police stations etc. What about these
In today's setup there is no democracy but only bureaucracy. The
bureaucracy takes all decisions, whether it is war or floods. Bureaucrats
run the government.
We have so called intellectuals who keep having conferences and
roundtables but achieve nothing. In fact, workshops have become
talkshops. We need to realize we don't need discussions but decisions.
We need to bring about a change. We need to work with the people
rather than for the people. We need to change the system of education
to leverage the minds of the youth. People test you before placing
trust in you. But when common man is aroused with uncommon determination,
he will change the century. I believe 21st century will be common
man's century. We need development with a human face and this will
settle as the way forward in this century.
Your work with the unprivileged and the poor has been restricted
to certain villages in Maharashtra. How can this work expand even
beyond this country?
It is a question whether the work is radiating truth and
transparency. And reason and resolve.
Your views on the Narmada movement?
Narmada is a symbolic struggle against a lifestyle dictated by
consumerism and greed.