This one is fairly loaded. I think that books and essays on this topic are abundant. Modern India owes much to Gandhi, if nothing else for providing its present and establishing a course for its future that it still has yet to reach. It is highly unlikely that Indian independence would not have taken the form it did without the leadership that Gandhi provided. Before Gandhi there were avenues to be pursued regarding Indian independence and there were leaders who provided such guidance. Yet, few were able to reach the national scale and display the unifying force that Gandhi did. At the same time, I think that Gandhi's use of nonviolent civil disobedience was a perfect strategy for India to adopt in its struggle for independence because it played to the strengths of what India was capable of at the time. Gandhi understood that assuming a position of moral transcendence was the only way to accomplish the goal of Indian independence. He was one of the first, if the first, leaders to display political independence as secondary to moral liberation.
It is here where Gandhi's significance is felt today in India. Modern India is more in need of the ideas of Gandhi today than ever before. With a proliferation of consumer wealth and a desire to appropriate more in terms of economic prosperity and globalized notions of the good, Gandhi's stress on how moral fiber is needed can only hope to provide a sense of guidance and structure to a nation that is "on the move," but to an unknown direction. The need to eliminate castes was something dear to Gandhi's message, and something that is still needed in terms of its attention to India today. As a great gulf emerges between "rural" India and "urban" India, the teachings of moral discipline and ethical transcendence can help to be the bridge between both realities. Gandhi's significance is a part of this. Interesting enough, Gandhi's importance is reminded daily as his face on the Indian currency helps to remind Indians that the Mahatma's lessons are as needed today as they were in the struggle for Independence.