How Gandhiji’s philosophy of decentralisation makes sense even in the Internet Age


(image credit: NewsX)

Just outside the Delhi International Airport, a massive wooden charkha has been installed. We might dismiss this as an act of clinging to the past, but if one digs deeper, the presence of that charkha has a lot of relevance. A result of the Industrial Revolution and mass production, we have created giant centralised systems that may be efficient but when it comes to communities and individuals, they tend to do more harm than good. We have become disconnected from a lot of essentials for life like food and clothing, which makes it hard to make sense of the world.

As more and more people realise the disconnect, a movement towards making and self-reliance begins. In a highly connected but disconnected urban environment, more people want to know where their food is coming from, who is making the goods they are buying and what kind of practices are being followed in making anything. All these questions have their root in decentralisation. Indian villages were a prime example of decentralised systems that worked well on their own and needed little input from the outside. The modern information revolution distorted this view and has put us in an interesting situation where the villages want to become smart and the cities want to become simpler.

The same argument can also be extended to the state of Internet today. Built as something that would be open and free with control in the hands of the individuals, the Internet today is anything but that. A few corporations control most of the things that happen on the net and this has given rise to movements on a mission to decentralise the Internet. Also, there are summits on the decentralised web, and questions like who pays for a decentralised web become critical.

What we are talking about here in both the instances is essentially the same thing. The first example about the textile mills and then about the Internet can also be extended to electricity. An invention or discovery followed by massive adoption and then the emergence of a few powers to control the utility. In all the cases, the essence of decentralisation will make a lot of sense to maintain individual sanity. Have a look at this video where a Gandhi Ashram worker talks about the decentralisation philosophy and how we can realise it to be no different than what whistleblower Edward Snowden stands for:

This merger of the old and new is the central theme of our Slow Tech magazine and realising this will enable beauty to flow. Write to us at or to contribute and become a part of this. Also, download the concept edition here.