Voice of Mahatma
Voice of Mahatma
*Khadi* is a controversial subject. Many people think that in advocating *Khadi* I am sailing against a headwind and am sure to sink the ship of Swaraj and that I am taking the country to the dark ages. I do not propose to argue the case for *Khadi* in this brief survey. I have argued it sufficiently elsewhere. Here I want to show what every Congressman, and for that matter every Indian, can do to advance the cause of *Khadi*. It connotes the beginning of economic freedom and equality of all in the country. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Let everyone try, and he or she will find out for himself or herself the truth of what I am saying. *Khadi* must be taken with all its implications. It means a wholesale Swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the necessaries of life in india and that too through the labour and intellect of the villagers. That means a reversal of the existing process. That is to say that, instead of half a dozen cities of India and Great Britain living on the exploitation and the ruin of the 7,00,000 villages of India, the latter will be largely self-contained, and will voluntarily serve the cities of
India and even the outside world in so far as it benefits both the parties.
This needs a revolutionary change in the mentality and tastes of many. Easy though the non-violent way is in many respects, it is very difficult in many others. It vitally touches the life of every single Indian, makes him feel aglow with the possession of a power that has lain hidden within himself, and makes him proud of his identity with every drop of the ocean of Indian humanity. This non-violence is not the inanity for which we have mistaken it through all these long ages; it is the most potent force as yet known to mankind and on which its very existence is dependent. It is that force which I have tried to present to the Congress and through it to the world. *Khadi* to me is the symbol of unity of Indian humanity, of its economic freedom and equality and, therefore, ultimately, in the poetic expression of Jawaharlal Nehru, "the livery of India's freedom".Moreover, *Khadi* mentality means decentralization of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life. Therefore, the formula so far evolved is, every village to produce all its necessaries and a certain percentage in addition for the requirements of the cities.
Heavy industries will needs be centralized and nationalized. But they will occupy the least part of the vast national activity which will mainly be in the villages, Having explained the implications of *Khadi*, I must indicate what Congressmen can and should do towards its promotion. Production of *Khadi* includes cotton growing, picking, ginning, cleaning, carding, slivering, spinning, sizing, dyeing, preparing the warp and the woof, weaving, and washing. These, with the exception of dyeing, are essential processes. Every one of them can be effectively handled in the villages and is being so handled in many villages throughout India which the A.I.S.A, is covering. According to the latest report the following are the interesting figures: 2,75,146 villagers, including 19,645 Harijans and 57,378 Muslims, scattered in at least 13,451 villages received, as spinners, weavers, etc. Rs. 34,85,609 in 1940. The spinners were largely women.
Yet the work done is only one-hundredth part of what could be done if Congressmen honestly took up the *Khadi* programme. Since the wanton destruction of this central village industry and the allied handicrafts, intelligence and brightness have fled from the villages, leaving them inane, lustreless, and reduced almost to the state of their ill-kept cattle.
If Congressmen will be true to their Congress call in respect of *Khadi* they will carry out the instructions of the A. I.S.A. issued from time to time as to the part they can play in Khadi planning. Only a few broad rules can be laid down here:
1. Every family with a plot of ground can grow cotton at least for family use. Cotton growing is an easy process. In Bihar the cultivators were by law compelled to grow indigo on 3/20 of their cultivable land. This was in the interest of the foreign indigo planter. Why cannot we grow cotton voluntarily for the nation on a certain portion of our land? The reader will note that decentralization commences from the beginning of the *Khadi* processes. Today cotton crop is centralized and has to be sent to distant parts of India. Before the war it used to be sent principally to Britain and Japan. It was and still is a money crop and, therefore, subject to the fluctuations of the market. Under the Khadi scheme cotton growing becomes free from this uncertainty and gamble. The grower grows what he needs. The farmer needs to know that his first business is to grow for his own needs. When he does that, he will reduce the chance of a low market ruining him.
2. Every spinner would buy--if he has not his own enough cotton for ginning, which he can easily do without the hand-ginning roller frame. He can gin his own portion with a board and an iron rolling pin. Where this is considered impracticable, hand-ginned cotton should be bought and carded. Carding for self can be done well on a tiny bow without much effort. The greater the decentralization of labour, the simpler and cheaper the tools. The slivers made, the process of spinning commences. I strongly recommend the *dhanush takli*. I have used it frequently. My speed on it is almost the same as on the wheel. I draw a finer thread and the strength and evenness of the yarn are greater on the *dhanush takli* than on the wheel. This may not, however, hold good for all. My emphasis on the *dhanush takli* is based on the fact that it is more easily made, is cheaper than and does not require frequent repairs like the wheel. Unless one knows how to make the two mals and to adjust them when they slip or to put the wheel right when it refuses to work, the wheel has often to lie idle. Moreover, if the millions take to spinning at once, as they well may have to, the *dhanush takli* being the instrument most easily made and handled, is the only tool that can meet the demand. It is more easily made even than the simple *takli*. The best, easiest and cheapest way is to make it oneself. Indeed one ought to learn how to handle and make simple tools. Imagine the unifying and educative effect of the whole nation simultaneously taking part in the process up to spinning! Consider the leveling effect of the bond of common labour between the rich and the goer!
Yarn thus produced may be used in three ways: by presenting it to the A.I.S.A. for the sake of the poor, by having it woven for personal use, or by getting as much *Khadi* for it as it can buy. It is clear enough that the finer and better the yarn the greater will be its virtue. If Congressmen will put their heart into the work, they will make improvements in the tools and make many discoveries. In our country there has been a divorce between labour and intelligence, The result has been stagnation. If there is an indissoluble marriage between the two, and that in the manner here suggested, the resultant good will be inestimable.
In this scheme of nation-wide spinning as a sacrifice, I do not expect the average man or woman to give more than one hour daily to this work.
Other Village Industries
These stand on a different footing from *Khadi*. There is not much scope for voluntary labour in them. Each industry will take the labour of only a certain number of hands. These industries come in as a handmaid to *Khadi*. They cannot exist without *Khadi*, and *Khadi* will be robbed of its dignity without them.
Village economy cannot be complete without the essential village industries such as hand-grinding, hand-pounding, soap-making, paper-making, match-making, tanning, oil-pressing, etc. Congressmen can interest themselves in these and, if they are villagers or will settle down in villages, they will give these industries a new life and a new dress. All should make it a point of honour to use only village articles whenever and wherever available.
Given the demand there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied from our villages. When we have become village-minded, we will not want imitations of the West or machine-made products, but we will develop a true national taste in keeping with the vision of a new India in which pauperism, starvation and idleness will be unknown.
Divorce between intelligence and labour has resulted in criminal negligence of the villages. And so, instead of having graceful hamlets dotting the land, we have dung-heaps.
The approach to many villages is not a refreshing experience. Often one would like to shut one's eyes and stuff one's nose; such is the surrounding dirt and offending smell. If the majority of Congressmen were derived from our villages, as they should be, they should be able to make our villages models of cleanliness in every sense of the word. But they have never considered it their duty to identify themselves with the villagers in their daily lives. A sense of national or social sanitation is not a virtue among us. We may take a kind of a bath, but we do not mind dirtying the well or the tank or the river by whose side or in which we perform ablutions.
1 regard this defect as a great vice which is responsible for the disgraceful state of our villages and the sacred banks of the sacred rivers and for the diseases that spring from insanitation.
Education In Health & Hygiene
Having given a place to village sanitation, the question may be asked why give a separate place to education in health and hygiene? It might have been bracketed with sanitation, but I did not wish to interfere with the items. Mention of mere sanitation is not enough to include health and hygiene. The art of keeping one's health and the knowledge of hygiene is by itself a separate subject of study and corresponding practice. In a well-ordered society the citizens know and observe the laws of health and hygiene. It is established beyond doubt that ignorance and neglect of the laws of health and hygiene are responsible for the majority of diseases to which mankind is heir. The very high death rate among us is no doubt due largely to our gnawing poverty, but it could be mitigated if the people were properly educated about health and hygiene.
*Mens sana in corpore sane* is perhaps the first law for humanity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is a self-evident truth. There is an inevitable connection between mind and body. If we were in possession of healthy minds, we would shed all violence and, naturally obeying the laws of health, we would have healthy bodies without an effort. I hope, therefore, that no Congressmen will disregard this item of the constructive programme. The fundamental laws of health and hygiene are simple and easily learnt. The difficulty is about their observance. Here are some:
Think the purest thoughts and banish all idle and impure thoughts.
Breathe the freshest air day and night.
Establish a balance between bodily and mental work.
Stand erect, sit erect, and be neat and clean in every one of your acts, and let these be an expression of your inner condition.
Eat to live for service of fellow-men. Do not live for indulging yourselves. Hence your food must be just enough to keep your mind and body in good order. Man becomes what he eats.
Your water, food and air must be clean, and you will not be satisfied with mere personal cleanliness, but you will infect your surroundings with the same threefold cleanliness that you will desire for yourselves.
This last is the master key to non-violent Independence. Working for economic equality means abolishing the eternal conflict between capital and labour. It means the leveling down of the few rich in whose hands is concentrated the bulk of the nation's wealth on the one hand, and the leveling up of the semi-starved naked millions on the other. A non-violent system of Government is clearly an impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists. The contrast between the palaces of New Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor labouring class nearby cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor will enjoy the same power as the richest in the land. A violent, and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good.
I adhere to my doctrine of trusteeship in spite of the ridicule that has been poured upon it. It is true that it is difficult to reach. So is non-violence. But we made up our minds in 1920 to negotiate that steep ascent. We have found it worth the effort. It involves a daily growing appreciation of the working of non-violence. It is expected that Congressmen will make a diligent search and reason out for themselves the why and the wherefore of non-violence. They should ask themselves how the existing inequalities can be abolished violently or non-violently. I think we know the violent way. It has not succeeded anywhere.
This non-violent experiment is still in the making. We have nothing much yet to show by way of demonstration. It is certain, however, that the method has begun to work though ever so slowly in the direction of equality. And since non-violence is a process of conversion, the conversion, if achieved, must be permanent. a society or a nation constructed non-violently must be able to withstand attack upon its structure from without or within. We have moneyed Congressmen in the organization. They have to lead the way. This fight provides an opportunity for the closest heart-searching on the part of every individual Congressman. If ever we are to achieve equality, the foundation has to be laid now, Those who think that the major reforms will come after the advent of Swaraj are deceiving themselves as to the elementary working of non-violent Swaraj. It will not drop from heaven all of a sudden one fine morning, But it has to be built up brick by brick by corporate self-effort, We have traveled a fair way in that direction, But a much longer and weary distance has to be covered before we can behold Swaraj in its glorious majesty, Every Congressman has to ask himself what he has done towards the attainment of economic equality.
The programme is not exhaustive. Swaraj is a mighty structure. Eighty crores of hands have to work at building it, Of these *kisans*, i.e., the peasantry are the largest part. In fact, being the bulk of them (probably over 80%) the *kisans* should be the Congress, But they are not, When they become conscious of their non-violent strength, no power on earth can resist them.
They must not be used for power politics. I consider it to be contrary to the non-violent method. Those who would know my method of organizing *kisans* may profitably study the movement in Champaran when *Satyagraha* was tried for the first time in India with the result all India knows. It became a mass movement which remained wholly non-violent from start to finish. It affected over twenty lakhs of *kisans*. The struggle centered round one specific grievance which was a century old. There had been several violent revolts to get rid of the grievance. The *kisans* were suppressed, The non-violent remedy succeeded in full in six months. The *kisans* of Champaran became politically conscious without any direct effort. The tangible proof they had of the working of non-violence to remove their grievance drew them to the Congress, and led by Babu Brijkishoreprasad and Babu Rajendraprasad they gave a good account of themselves during the past Civil Disobedience campaigns.
The reader may also priofitably study the kisan movements in Kheda, Bardoli and Borsad, The secret of success lies in a refusal to exploit the *kisans* for political purpose outside their own personal and felt grievances. Organization round a specific wrong they understand. They need no sermons on non-violence. Let them learn to apply non-violence as an effective remedy which they can understand, and later when they are told that the method they were applying was non-violent, they readily recognize it as such.
From these illustrations Congressmen who care could study how work can be done for and among *kisans*. I hold that the method that some Congressmen have followed to organize *kisans* has done them no good and has probably harmed them. Anyway they have not used the non-violent method. Be it said to the credit of some of these workers that they frankly admit that they do not believe in the non-violent method. My advice to such workers would be that they should neither use the Congress name nor work as Congress-men.
The reader will now understand why I have refrained from the competition to organize *kisans* and Labour on an all- India basis. How I wish that all hands pulled in the same direction! But perhaps in a huge country like ours it is impossible. Anyway, in non-violence there is no coercion. Cold reason and demonstration of the working of non-violence must be trusted to do the work.
In my opinion, like labour, they should have under the Congress, a department working for their specific question.
Ahmedabad Labour Union is a model for all India to copy, Its basis is non-violence, pure and simple, It has never had a set-back in its career. It has gone on from strength to strength without fuss and without show.
It has its hospital, its schools for the children of the mill-hands, its Glasses for adults, its own printing press and *khadi* depot, and its own residential quarters. Almost all the hands are voters and decide the fate of elections. They came on the voters' list at the instance of the Provincial Congress Committee. The organization has never taken part in party politics of the Congress. It influences the municipal policy of the city. It has to its credit very successful strikes which were wholly non-violent. Mill-owners and labour have governed their relations largely through voluntary arbitration. If I had my way, I would regulate all the labour organizations of India after the Ahmedabad model. It has never sought to intrude itself upon the All-India Trade Union Congress and has been uninfluenced by that Congress. A time, I hope, will come when it will be possible for the Trade Union Congress to accept the Ahmedabad method and have the Ahmedabad organization as part of the All-India Union.
But I am in no hurry. It will come in its own time.
The term *adivasi*, like *raniparaj*, is a coined word. *Raniparaj* stands for *kaliparaj* (meaning black people, though their skin is no more black than that of any other). It was coined, I think by Shri Jugatram. The term *adivasi* (for Bhils, Gonds, or others variously described as Hill Tribes or aboriginals) means literally original inhabitants and was coined, I believe, by Thakkar Bapa, Service of *adivasis* is also a part of the constructive programme. Though they are the sixteenth number in this programme, they are not the least in point of importance. Our country is so vast and the races so varied that the best of us cannot know all there is to know of men and their condition. As one discovers this for oneself, one realizes how difficult it is to make good our claim to be one nation, unless every unit has a living consciousness of being one with every other.
The *adivasis* are over two crores in all India. Bapa began work among the Bhils years ago in Gujarat. In about 1940 Shri Balasaheb Kher threw himself with his usual zeal into this much-needed service in the Thana District. He is now President of the Adivasi Seva Mandal.
There are several such other workers in other pacts of India and yet they are too few. Truly, "the harvest is rich but the labourers are few." Who can deny that all such service is not merely humanitarian but solidly national, and brings us nearer to true independence?
Leper is a word of bad odour. India is perhaps a home of lepers next only to Central Africa. Yet they are as much a part of society as the tallest among us. But the tall absorb our attention though they are least in need of it. The lot of the lepers who are much in need of attention is studied neglect. I am tempted to call it heartless, which it certainly is, in terms of non-violence. It is largely the missionary who, be it said to his credit, bestows care on him. The only institution run by an Indian, as a pure labour of love, is by Shri Manohar Diwan near Wardha. It is working under the inspiration and guidance of Shri Vinoba Bhave. If India was pulsating with new life, if we were all in earnest about winning independence in the quickest manner possible by truthful and non-violent means, there would not be a leper or beggar in India uncared for and unaccounted for. In this revised edition I am deliberately introducing the leper as a link in the chain of constructive effort. For, what the leper is in India, that we are, if we will, but look about us, for the modern civilized world. Examine the condition of our brethren across the ocean and the truth of my remark will be borne home to us.
"That village may be regarded as reformed, where everybody wears khadi, which produces all the khadi it needs, in which every inhabitant spends some of his time in one or more processes relating to cotton, which uses only oil produced in indigenous oil-presses, which consumes only jaggery manufactured in the village itself or in its neighbourhood and only hand-milled flour and hand-pounded rice; the village, in other words, where the largest possible number of village industries are flourishing, in which nobody is illiterate, where the roads are clean, there is a fixed place for evacuation, the wells are clean, there is harmony among the different communities, and untouchability is completely absent, in which everybody gets cow's milk, ghee etc., in moderate quantities, in which nobody is without work, and which is free from quarrels and thefts, and in which the people abide by thesevak's advice in all matters. This is possible in the existing conditions. I cannot of course say about the time required."
Letter to Munnalal Shah, 4-4-1941; 73:421
"The villagers can make great progress if they work like this in co-operation with one another. Ours is a small village. We should inquire and find out in which spheres of activity and to what extent we can work on a co-operative basis. Even if all villagers are not inclined to follow the co-operative method we must find out those who are prepared to give it a trial..."
"We should produce all the other necessities in the village itself. Then we should also find out what other industries we can set up here. We ought to press oil and make shoes locally. Similarly we can think of other industries also..."
"We have to think about education in Sevagram. Though you have not asked me any question on this, I may at least tell you that in my opinion there should not be a single illiterate person in Sevagram. I put forward the concept of basic education very late in my life but all the same I attach great importance to it. I had put the following question before the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad : What kind of literature are the writers bringing out for the crores of illiterate villagers? This task is as huge as it is difficult."
"Let me also tell you that our own life, if it is simple and pure, is bound to have its impact on the villagers without our having to tell them in so many words."
Speech at the prayer meeting, Sevagram, 22-10-1941; 75:43.44.
"My idea of village swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity. Thus every village's first concern will be to grow its own food crops and cotton for its cloth. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding ganja, tobacco, opium and the like. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks, ensuring clean water supply. This can be done through controlled wells or tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on the co-operative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded untouchability. Non-violence with its technique of satyagraha and non-co-operation will be the sanction of the village community. There will be a compulsory service of village guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. The government of the village will be conducted by a Panchayat of five persons annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. These will have all the authority and jurisdiction required. Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office. Any village can become such a republic today without much interference even from the present Government whose sole effective connection with the villages is the exaction of the village revenue. I have not examined here the question of relations with the neighbouring villages and the centre if any. My purpose is to present an outline of village government. Here there is perfect democracy based upon individual freedom. The individual is the architect of his own government. The law of non-violence rules him and his government. He and his village are able to defy the might of a world. For the law governing every villager is that he will suffer death in the defence of his and his village's honour."
"The reader may well ask me - I am asking myself while penning these lines - as to why I have not been able to model Sevagram after the picture here drawn. My answer is: 1 am making the attempt. I can see dim traces of success though I can show nothing visible. But there is nothing inherently impossible in the picture drawn here. To model such a village may be the work of a lifetime. Any lover of true democracy and village life can take up a village, treat it as his world and sole work, and he will find good results. He begins by being the village scavenger, spinner, watchman, medicine man and schoolmaster all at once. If nobody comes near him, he will be satisfied with scavenging and spinning."
Harijan, 26-7-1942; 76:308-9.
"My idea of self-sufficiency is that villages must be self- sufficient in regard to food, cloth and other basic necessities. But even this can be overdone. Therefore you must grasp my idea properly. Self-sufficiency does not mean narrowness. To be self-sufficient is not to be altogether self-contained. In no circumstances would we be able to produce all the things we need nor do we aim at doing so. So though our aim is complete self-sufficiency, we shall have to get from outside the village what we cannot produce in the village; we shall have to produce more of what we can in order thereby to obtain in exchange what we are unable to produce. Only nothing of our extra produce would be sent to Bombay or far off cities. Nor would we produce things with an eye to export to those cities. That would run counter to my conception of swadeshi. Swadeshi means serving my immediate neighbour rather than those far away."
"Our outlook must be that we would serve the village first, then the neighbourhood, then the district and thereafter the province."
Discussion with Shrikrishnadas Jaju, 10-10-1944; 78:171.
"My ideal village still exists only in my imagination. After all every human being lives in the world of his own imagination. In this village of my dreams the villager will not be dull - he will be all awareness. He will not live like an animal in filth and darkness. Men and women will live in freedom, prepared to face the whole world. There will be no plague, no cholera and no smallpox. Nobody will be allowed to be idle or to wallow in luxury. Everyone will have to do body labour. Granting all this, I can still envisage a number of things that will have to be organized on a large scale. Perhaps there will even be railways and also post and telegraph offices. I do not know what things there will be or will not be. Nor am I bothered about it. If I can make sure of the essential thing, other things will follow in due course. But if I give up the essential thing, I give up everything."
Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 5-10-1945; 81:320.
1. The crucial question according to you, is how to ensure man's mental, economic, political and moral development. That is my position too.
2. And in doing so every individual should have equal right and opportunity.
3. From this point of view there should be equality between villages and cities. And therefore their food and drink, their way of life, their dress and their habits should be the same. If such a condition is to be brought about people should produce their own cloth and food and build their own houses. So also they should produce their own water and electricity.
4. Man is not born to live in the jungle; he is born to live in society. If we are to make sure that one person does not ride on an other's back, the unit should be an ideal village or a social group which will be self-sufficient, but the members of which will be interdependent. This conception will bring about a change in human relationship all over the world.
Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 13-11-1945; 82:72.
"Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, every village will be a republic or panchayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without."
Harijan, 28-7-1946; 85:32.
"A village unit as conceived by me is as strong as the strongest. My imaginary village consists of 1,000 souls. Such a unit can give a good account of itself, if it is well organized on a basis of self-sufficiency. Do not, therefore, think that unless you have a big union you will not be able to give a good account of yourself..."
"... I have conceived round the village as the centre a series of ever-widening circles, not one on top of the other, but all on the same plane, so that there is none higher or lower than the other. Maine has said that India was a congerie of village republics. The towns were then subservient to the villages. They were emporia for the surplus village products and beautiful manufactures. That is the skeleton of my picture to serve as a pattern for Independent India. There are many faults in the ancient village system. Unless they are eradicated, there will not only be no hope for the untouchables in a free India but for India in the comity of nations."
Harijan, 4-8-1946; 85:79.
Village and Non-violence
"I expect to convert the zamindars and other capitalists by the non-violent method, and therefore there is for me nothing like an inevitability of class conflict. For it is an essential part of non-violence to go along the line of least resistance. The moment the cultivators of the soil realize their power, the zamindari evil will be sterilized. What can the poor zamindar do when they say that they will simply not work the land unless they are paid enough to feed and clothe and educate themselves and their children in a decent manner? In reality the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power. That is how I do not see the necessity of class conflict. If I thought it inevitable I should not hesitate to preach it and teach it."
Harijan, 5-12-1936; 64:73.
"Cast off the cloak of foreign thoughts and ideals, identify yourselves with the villagers. The Western world is giving us destructive knowledge; we want to impart constructive education through non-violence."
Harijan, 30-4-1938; 67:36.
"If the worker going to the village has no faith in nonviolence, our work must fail. If he concerns himself with economics alone and disregards ethics and morality, all our efforts are of no avail. Non-violence is the basis on which our work is to be built. It will not do to ignore it. In the initial stages people might achieve something even without it but ultimately the edifice of swaraj will not be raised without the foundation of ahimsa."
Speech at All India Spinners' Association meeting, Sevagram, 1-9-1944; 78:63.
"There are some big men who hold this view. They think that the teaching of non-violence has proved disastrous. They believe that the way of the spinning-wheel would only take us back to the medieval ages. They think the same of village industries and Nayee Talim. Could it not be that there was something basically wrong with me which led me to have a misguided view of things all through? However, my views are the same as they have always been."
A letter, 14-4-1947; 87:278.
"Whatever effect is produced there will be the fruit of ahimsa. Without ahimsa village uplift seems impossible to me."
Letter to Manibhai Desai, 11-12-1947; 90:210.
Upliftment of Villages
"We are inheritors of a rural civilization. The vastness of our country, the vastness of the population, the situation and the climate of the country have, in my opinion, destined it for a rural civilization. Its defects are well known but not one of them is irremediable. To uproot it and substitute for it an urban civilization seems to me an impossibility, unless we are prepared by some drastic means to reduce the population from three hundred million to three or say even thirty. I can therefore suggest remedies on the assumption that we must perpetuate the present rural civilization and endeavour to rid it of its acknowledged defects. This can only be done if the youth of the country will settle down to village life. And if they will do this they must reconstruct their life and pass every day of their vacation in the villages surrounding their colleges or high schools and those who have finished their education or are not receiving any should think of settling down in villages."
Young India, 7-11-1929; 42:108.
"India does not live in its towns but in its villages. But if the cities want to demonstrate that their populations will live for the villagers of India the bulk of their resources should be spent in ameliorating the condition of and befriending the poor. We must not lord it over them, we must learn to be their servants. When the cities realize that they must live for the welfare of the poor, they will make their palaces and institutions and the life of their inhabitants correspond somewhat to our villages."
Young India, 23-4-1931; 46:12.
"I have no partiality for return to the primitive method of grinding and husking for the sake of them. I suggest the return, because there is no other way of giving employment to the millions of villagers who are living in idleness. In my opinion, village uplift is impossible, unless we solve the pressing economic distress."
"Therefore, to induce the villagers to utilize their idle hours is in itself solid uplift work. I invite the fair correspondent and those who feel like her to go to some villages, live there for some time in the midst of the villagers and try to live like them, and they will soon perceive the soundness of my argument."
Harijan, 30-11-1934; 59:413.
"The true Indian civilization is in the Indian villages. The modern city civilization you find in Europe and America, and in a handful of our cities which are copies of the Western cities and which were built for the foreigner, and by him. But they cannot last. It is only the handicraft civilization that will endure and stand the test of time. But it can do so only if we can correlate the intellect with the hand. The late Madhusudan Das used to say that our peasants and workers had, by reason of working with bullocks, become like bullocks; and he was right. We have to lift them from the estate of the brute to the estate of man, and that we can do only by correlating the intellect with the hand. Not until they learn to work intelligently and make something new every day, not until they are taught to know the joy of work, can we raise them from their low estate."
Harijan, 30-3-1940; 71:335-36.
"India is trying to evolve true democracy, i.e., without violence. Our weapons are those of satyagraha expressed through the charkha, the village industries, primary education through handicrafts, removal of untouchability, communal harmony, prohibition, and non-violent organization of labour as in Ahmedabad. These mean mass effort and mass education. We have big agencies for conducting these activities. They are purely voluntary, and their only sanction is service of the lowliest."
Harijan, 18-5-1940; 72:60.
"If some of you see the villages, you will not be fascinated by the sight. You will have to scratch below the dung heap. I do not say that they ever were heavenly places. Today they are really dung-heaps. They were not like that before. What I say is not from history but from what I have seen myself. I have travelled from one end of India to the other and have seen the miserable specimen of humanity with lustreless eyes. They are India. In these humble cottages, in the midst of these dung-heaps, are to be found the humble Bhangis in whom you find the concentrated essence of wisdom."
Harijan, 20-4-1947; 87:192.
"... besides communal unity I had recommended to the nation only one thing, viz., handspun yarn with which alone we could bring swaraj nearer."
"The spinning-wheel has almost been forgotten. There is all this talk of militarization and industrialization. But it is my conviction that a day will come when they will all see for themselves that for India there is no way other than that of village industries and non-violence. We shall not find a way out unless we develop these. But I am still optimistic."
Talk with C. Rajagopalachari, 25-5-1947; 88:4.
"Take the village people and slum-dwellers in your hands and give them the benefit of your knowledge, skill, insight, constructive work and patriotic spirit. Give the people this true education through the example of your own lives. Let all your activities be directed to the welfare of the people. If that is not done and if the people lose patience, our plight will be much worse than the present slavery. Before the people take to the path of destruction, see that they are given constructive, life-giving training."
Bihar Pachhi Delhi, pp. 14-19; 88:16.
Villages and Spinning
"For the vast bulk of the population, as also the worker in the villages, a museum of industries is simply bewildering. They should have one universal industry. And by a process of exclusion, one arrives at the irresistible conclusion that the only universal industry for the millions is spinning and no other. That does not mean that other industries do not matter or are useless. Indeed, from the individual standpoint, any other industry would be more remunerative than spinning. Watch-making will be no doubt a most remunerative and fascinating industry. But how many can engage in it? Is it of any use to the millions of villagers? But if the villagers can reconstruct their home, begin to live again as their forefathers did, if they begin to make good use of their idle hours, all else, all the other industries will revive as a matter of course... "
" ... national resources must be concentrated upon the one industry of hand-spinning which all can take up now and besides which the vast majority can take up no other. And when the nation's attention is thus rivetted on its revival, we will not have to be in search of a market for khaddar. The energy and money that have today to be devoted to popularizing khaddar will tomorrow be devoted to its greater manufacture and to its improvement. It is the national inertia that blinds us to the possibility of khaddar and thus paralyses our capacity for a grand national effort. It is not enough to say that hand-spinning is one of the industries to be revived. It is necessary to insist that it is the central industry that must engage our attention if we are to re-establish the village home."
Young India, 30-9-1926; 31:463-4.
"It is this spinning of a constructive type that can bring swaraj and it is in this land that the charkha can sing its finest music."
Young India, 29-12-1927; 35:402.
"The charkha understood intelligently can spin not only economic salvation but can also revolutionize our minds and hearts and demostrate to us that the non-violent approach to swaraj is the safest and the easiest. Though the progress may seem slow, it will prove, quickest in the long run."
Harijan, 2-1-1937; 64:195.
"My intellect will continue to develop till the moment I die. The charkha is also the prop for my intellect but it does not stray into wrong paths. I have no time to see, hear or read pleasurable things. I discover Daridranarayana through the charkha and have vision of God. This is the way my intellect has been developing and will continue to develop all my life. The testing of a man is not complete till he dies. If at the moment of death a man's intellect does not retain its brilliance I will say that he has not succeeded... "
"I am not yet able to say where the limits of the constructive programme lie. The instance of the clay image shows only this. In the constructive programme we have all-round development. The charkha is a mantra. When I see those who ply the charkha discouraged, I am baffled."
Speech at Gandhi Seva Sangh meeting, 20-4-1937; 65:126-127.
"People may say I am mad in saying that I wish to die with the charkha in my hand. I do not wish to die holding a string of beads. For concentration the charkha is my beads. God appears to me in thousands of forms. Sometimes I see him in the charkha, sometimes in Hindu-Muslim unity, sometimes in the eradication of untouchability. I move as my feeling draws me. When I wish to enter a room in an institution, I do so and I feel there the presence of God. In the Gita God has said that He looks to the well-being of those who worship Him. You must be firm in this faith if you have understood me."
"I repeat that if untouchability lives, Hinduism and with it India dies. Is that not a programme worth living for, dying for? And the spinning-wheel whose every turn brings India nearer her destiny? Surely it can fully occupy every day of every Congressman. And the wheel being the centre of our solar system it includes all the planets in the shape of village industries... "
"... The wheel brings us at once to the emancipation of India's manhood, kisans, labourers and all those who are weary and heavyladen. If this all-inclusive and mighty programme is not understood and appreciated by Congressmen they do not know the A B C of non-violence nor do they know the elements of C.D."
Statement to the press, Sevagram, 28-10-1941; 75:61-62.
"My idea is that in a well-organized village one person should suffice. For example, one worker may devote two hours to taking in yarn, distributing slivers and spinning tools, and sales of khadi; village industry work might take even less, and the remainder of the time he could give to village uplift and general education. This has not till now been possible because the khadi workers' time has been devoted to teaching people how to spin, etc. But now the time has come when khadi and village products, locally produced, must also be locally absorbed. In that case one person will be able to do all the work. Today it suffices to say that all this work is complementary—and must become one as far as possible. The amalgamation cannot be imposed; it must be a natural growth. I do not, I cannot, apportion any blame to anyone for the existing position. Our plans have progressed as far as our intelligence and experience could have taken them. The creation of khadi vidyalayas is meant to expand and improve the technique of work. We shall learn from them how all departments of village work can be amalgamated."
Harijan, 31-5-1942; 76:38.
"If we are able to adopt the charkha intelligently we can revive the entire economic life of our villages once more."
Speech at All India Spinners' Association, Sevagram, 1-9-1944; 78:66.
"Today we are not really able to help the villagers. By offering the spinners three, four, six or eight annas I comfort myself with the belief that I have given them a livelihood. But it amounts to nothing more than a dole, for the work that I am providing them is not of a permanent nature. In case we get control of the State in our hands and by that means close all mills, it may perhaps then be possible to provide them permanent work. But today I cannot hide from them the truth that I have been only trying to fill their idle hours. If I have to provide them with some money I shall teach them other crafts also. I shall fully acquaint them with the present economic situation and educate them in this regard. No doubt I would wish to give work to every spinner who comes seeking it. But I shall not send the khadi thus produced to Bombay. I shall ask the workers to sell it in the neighbouring villages. But this is not enough. I must investigate what work other than spinning can be provided to them in the village. Only by revising the entire economic life of the village can our work become permanent. Whether for villagers or for us, I agree, cities will always have some sort of attraction. Nevertheless we shall be free from our present day city life: We shall show how in contrast to the cities more amenities can be provided in the villages. But if we merely go on sending to Bombay the khadi produced in the village, this object can never be accomplished, however high a wage we may pay to the village spinners... "
"... I would explain to the people that they could not get khadi like mill-cloth. I would try to bring it home to them that if khadi is dearer the extra money goes to the villager, his family and to the village, and that this provides security to the economy of the village. I would explain to them the moral aspect as well. Besides, I would teach them other methods of earning in the village. I have now given up the idea that villagers can earn their living through doing khadi work alone."
Discussion with Shrikrishnadas Jaju, 12-10-1944; 78-185-87.
"I have distinguished other village industries from khadi and called them planets and the charkha or the spinning-wheel the sun. As a matter of fact there is no real reason for such a distinction, for khadi is also a village industry. But it has acquired a special position, and it is because of this special position which it has acquired that we can now talk about the other village industries."
"Today we are not required to demonstrate the special position acquired by khadi but we are required to discover ways and means of putting it and other village industries on a firm footing."
"One of the ways is to resort to centralized production of necessities through machinery worked by power and requiring the minimum of human labour. This results in increasing the number of the rich few and making it a dharma to multiply the people's wants. Even if all such centralized industries were to be State-owned, it would make no difference to me. For the obligation to increase wants will not only not decrease, but may be strengthened where such industries are owned by the State. Only the task of increasing wants will pass from the hands of small capitalists to the bigger capitalists, or the State, whose action will secure the seal of public support. This is how things are going in England and America. I am purposely leaving out Russia; because their work is still continuing, I shall not at this stage dare to assess the result. I hope that Russia will produce something unique. But I must confess that I have my doubts whether it will truly succeed. I shall consider it a great success if, through it, all the wealth really goes into the hands of the poor, and intellectual and personal freedom is at the same time secured. In that case I will have to revise my present concept of ahimsa."
"Now I come to the main point. In England and America, machinery rules supreme. On the contrary, in India we have village industries, symbolizing the resurgence of human labour. In the West, a handful of persons with the aid of mechanical power rule over others. In India, on the other hand, the great task of bringing out what is best in every individual is being attempted by the A.I.S.A., A.I.V.I.A. and other allied institutions. From this point of view the growth of Western civilization seems to be an easy thing, but to develop and organize the latent capacities of individuals through village industries appears to be a very difficult task."
"Looking at it from another point of view, it may be said that, for a handful of men to rule over other men with the aid of steam and other power will be harmful in the end, as it is bound to multiply injustice. By using the human power available to us by the million, injustice is reduced. And there is no room for failure. For here, along with human power, we rely on divine Power. In the other method, no value is attached to divine Power. In short, if in the case of village industries we do not truly obtain God's help, we are bound to fail. The Western method only appears to be successful, but in truth there is nothing but failure in it. For it destroys the will to work."
Pyarelal Papers. Also Gram Udyog Patrika, June, 1945, Part-I, pp. 344-5; 80:152-153.
"The weavers live in the cities today. The businessman exploits them and keeps them dependent on him. If the people Government could supply them with all the yarn they require it would simplify things for them and put their vocation on a stable basis. They would not then need to live in the cities... "
"... The villagers should develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them will command a ready market outside. When our villages are fully developed there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life worth having which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are barren and desolate and are like dung-heaps. Tomorrow they will be like beautiful gardens and it would be difficult to deceive the people there... "
"... The reconstruction of the villages should be organized not on a temporary but on a permanent basis."
Harijan, 10-11-1946; 86:58-59.
"I find that talk of khadi and village industries does not interest people any more. Here I am sitting in the capital. Refugees are lying all round shelterless and shivering. Thousands are pouring in every day. How long will you feed them without giving them any work? I am sure everyone will remember this old man one day when it is realized that India has no alternative except to develop village industries. Any government formed by any party—Congress, Socialist or Communist—will be forced to accept this truth. We do not realize this today, but we shall realize it after we stumble in our attempts to compete with America or Russia."
Dilhiman Gandhiji, I, 296, 17-11-1947; 90:57.
"... what I want is that the music of the charkha should be heard in every home and no cloth except khadi should be seen anywhere. If this happened, the poverty prevailing in the villages would disappear."
Prarthana Pravachan-II, 189-192; 90:207.
Economy of Villages
"I feel convinced that the revival of hand-spinning and hand- weaving will make the largest contribution to the economic and the moral regeneration of India. The millions must have a simple industry to supplement agriculture. Spinning was the cottage industry years ago and if the millions are to be saved from starvation, they must be enabled to reintroduce spinning in their homes, and every village must repossess its own weaver."
Young India, 21-7-1920; 18:72.
"... All the village industries are gradually slipping out of the hands of the villager, who has become producer of raw materials for the exploiter. He continually gives, and gets little in return. Even the little he gets for the raw material he produces he gives back to the sugar merchant and the cloth merchant. His mind and body have become very much like those of the animals, his constant companions. When we come to think of it, we find that the villager of today is not even half so intelligent or resourceful as the villager of fifty years ago. For, whereas the former is reduced to a state of miserable dependence and idleness, the latter used his mind and body for all he needed and produced them at home. Even the village artisan today partakes of the resourcelessness that has overtaken the rest of the village. Go to the village carpenter and ask him to make a spinning-wheel for you, go to the village smith and ask him to make a spindle for you, you will be disappointed. This is a deplorable state of things. It is as a remedy for it that the Village Industries Association has been conceived."
"This cry of 'back to the village', some critics say, is putting back the hands of the clock of progress. But is it really so?"
"Is it going back to the village, or rendering back to it what belongs to it? I am not asking the city-dwellers to go to and live in the villages. But I am asking them to render unto the villagers what is due to them. Is there any single raw material that the city-dwellers can obtain except from the villager? If they cannot, why not teach him to work on it himself, as he used to before and as he would do now but for our expoiting inroads? ..."
". . ..we shall have to find out whether the villager who produces an article or foodstuff rests content with exporting it and with using a cheap substitute imported from outside. We shall have to see that the villagers become first of all self-contained and then cater for the needs of the city-dwellers."
"For this purpose we shall have to form district organizations, and, where districts are too big to handle, we may have to divide the districts into sub-districts. Each of these—some 250—should have an agent who will carry out a survey and submit a report in the terms of the instructions issued to him from the head office. These agents shall have to be full-timers and whole-hoggers, with a live faith in the programme and prepared immediately to make the necessary adjustment in their daily life. This work will certainly need money, but, more than money, it will need men of strong faith and willing hands."
Speech at Gandhi Seva Sangh, 30-11-1934; 59:409-11.
"Villagers in many parts of India live on dal and rice or roti, and plenty of chillies, which harm the system. Since the economic reorganization of villages has been commenced with food reform, it is necessary to find out the simplest and cheapest foods that would enable villagers to regain lost health. The addition of green leaves to their meals will enable villagers to avoid many diseases from which they are now suffering. The villagers' food is deficient in vitamins; many of them can be supplied by fresh green leaves."
Harijan, 15-2-1935; 60:229
"Indeed, economics that ruins one's health is false, because money without health has no value. Only that economy is true which enables one to conserve one's health. The whole of the initial programme of village re-construction is, therefore, aimed at true economy, because it is aimed at promoting the health and vigour of the villagers."
Harijan, 1-3-1935; 60:268.
"Not that there is not enough land to feed our 35 crores. It is absurd to say that India is over populated and that the surplus population must die. I am sure that if all the land that is available was properly utilized and made to yield up to its capacity, it would surely maintain the whole population. Only we have got to be industrious and to make two blades of grass grow where one grows today."
"The remedy is to identify ourselves with the poor villager and to help him make the land yield its plenty, help him produce what we need, and confine ourselves to use what he produces, live as he lives, and persuade him to take to more rational ways of diet and living."
"We eat mill-ground flour, and even the poor villager walks with a head-load of half a maund grain to have it ground in the nearest flour-mill. Do you know that in spite of the plenty of food-stuffs we produce, we import wheat from outside and we eat the 'superfine' flour from Australia? We will not use our hand-ground flour, and the poor villager also foolishly copies us.
We thus turn wealth into waste, nectar into poison."
Harijan, 11-5-1935; 60:463.
"... compulsory obedience to the law of bread labour breeds poverty, disease and discontent. It is a state of slavery. Willing obedience to it must bring contentment and health. And it is health which is real wealth, not pieces of silver and gold. The Village Industries Association is an experiment in willing bread labour."
Harijan, 29-6-1935; 61:212.
"My definition of swadeshi is old but it is valid. Only by following it can we evolve a new kind of economics. True economics must follow ethics. Even if we fail in this we shall have succeeded."
Speech at Gandhi Seva Sangh meeting, 5-3-1936; 62:241.
"India's villages require to be revivified. Land is parcelled out in holdings, often even less than one acre. The idea, therefore, is to turn waste into wealth. Hence talent that is expensive or that can only express itself in bignesses will not serve my purpose. I want the use of that talent which can see the universe in an atom and, therefore, relates itself to and is rooted in the earth from which we have sprung, on which we are living, to which we have to return. Anyone, therefore, who comes from the West has got to be capable of living the life of the poor. Therefore he must [be] able-bodied and be prepared to live the life of the poorest in the land."
Letter to Dr. Fritz Michaelis, 13-8-1937; 66:41.
"Our worker will have to keep a careful eye on the cattle wealth of his village. If we cannot use this wealth properly India is doomed to disaster and we also shall perish. For these animals will then, as in the West, become an economic burden to us and we shall have no option before us save killing them."
Khadi : Why and How, pp. 161-65; 78:162.
Revival of Village Industries
"In a nutshell, of the things we use, we should restrict our purchases to the articles which villages manufacture. Their manufactures may be crude. We must try to induce them to improve their workmanship, and not dismiss them because foreign articles or even articles produced in cities, that is, big factories, are superior. In other words, we should evoke the artistic talent of the villager. In this manner shall we repay somewhat the debt we owe to them. We need not be frightened by the thought whether we shall ever succeed in such an effort. Within our own times we can recall instances where we have not been baffled by the difficulty of our tasks when we have known that they were essential for the nation's progress. If, therefore, we as individuals believe that revivification of India's villages is a necessity of our existence, if we believe that thereby only can we root out untouchability and feel one with all, no matter to what community or religion they may belong, we must mentally go back to the villages and treat them as our pattern, instead of putting the city life before them for imitation. If this is the correct attitude, then, naturally, we begin with ourselves and thus use, say, handmade paper instead of mill-made, use village reed, wherever possible, instead of the fountain pen or the penholder, ink made in the villages instead of the big factories, etc. I can multiply instances of this nature. There is hardly anything of daily use in the home which the villagers have not made before and cannot make even now. If we perform the mental trick and fix our gaze upon them, we immediately put millions of rupees into the pockets of the villagers, whereas at the present moment we are exploiting the villagers without making any return worth the name."
Harijan, 30-11-34; 59:414.
"The revival of village industries is but an extension of the khadi effort. Hand-spun cloth, hand-made paper, hand-pounded rice, home-made bread and jam, are not uncommon in the West. Only, there they do not have one-hundredth of the importance they have in India. For, with us their revival means life, their destruction means death, to the villagers, as he who runs may see. Whatever the machine age may do, it will never give employment to the millions whom the wholesale introduction of power machinery must displace."
Harijan, 4-1-1935; 60:55.
"The big industries can never, they don't hope to, overtake the unemployed millions. Their aim is primarily to make money for the few owners, never the direct one of finding employment for the unemployed millions. The organizers of khadi and other village industries don't hope in the near future to affect the big industries. They may hope to bring a ray of light into the dark dungeons, miscalled cottages, of the villagers."
Harijan, 14-9-1935; 61:416.
"If we are to re-introduce village articles after being used to the Western style, we shall have to be patient and inventive. That the pen requires constant dipping is a good point. It lessens fatigue. That the fountain-pen saves time is not an unmixed blessing. The village pen and ink undoubtedly admit of improvement. That can only come when you and I use these things."
Letter to Amrit Kaur, 17-4-1937; 65:97.
"At one time cities were dependent on the villages. Now it is the reverse. There is no interdependence. Villages are being exploited and drained by the cities."
"... Under my scheme, nothing will be allowed to be produced by cities which can be equally well produced by the villages. The proper function of cities is to serve as clearing houses for village products."
Harijan, 28-1-1939; 68:259.
"In modern terms, it is beneath human dignity to lose one's individuality and become a mere cog in the machine. I want every individual to become a full-blooded, fully developed member of society. The villages must become self- sufficient. I see no other solution if one has to work in terms of ahimsa."
Harijan, 28-1-1939; 68:266.
"If village industries are revived, millions of villagers will get full wages."
Harijan Sevak, 8-7-1939; 69:239.
"The fact is that we have to make a choice between India of the villages that are as ancient as herself and India of the cities which are a creation of foreign domination. Today the cities dominate and drain the villages so that they are crumbling to ruin. My khadi mentality tells me that cities must subserve villages when that domination goes. Exploiting of villages is itself organized violence. If we want swaraj to be built on non¬violence, we will have to give the villages their proper place. This we will never do unless we revive village industries by using the products thereof in place of things produced in city factories, foreign or indigenous. Perhaps it is now clear why I identify khadi with non-violence. Khadi is the chief village handicraft. Kill khadi and you must kill the villages and with them non-violence. I cannot prove this by statistics. The proof is before our eyes."
Harijan, 20-1-1940; 71:103.
"Village economy cannot be complete without the essential village industries such as hand-grinding, hand-pounding, soap- making, paper-making, match-making, tanning, oil pressing etc." The other village industries cover cattle farming, dairying, farming and compost manure."
Constructive Programme : Its meaning and place, 13-12-1941; 75:153.
Why The Village Movement?
Villagers have suffered long from neglect by those who have had the benefit of education. They have chosen the city life. The village movement is an attempt to establish healthy contact with the villages by inducing those who are fired with the spirit of service to settle in them and find self-expression in the service of villagers. ...Those who have settled in villages in the spirit of service are not dismayed by the difficulties facing them. They knew before they went that they would have to contend against many difficulties including even sullenness on the part of villagers. Only those, therefore, who have faith in themselves and in their mission will serve the villagers and influence their lives. A true life lived amongst the people is in itself an object-lesson that must produce its own effect upon immediate surroundings. The difficulty with the young man is, perhaps, that he has gone to the village merely to earn a living without the spirit of service behind it. I admit that village life does not offer attractions to those who go there in search of money. Without the incentive of service village life would jar after the novelty has worn out. No young man having gone to a village may abandon the pursuit on the slightest contact with difficulty. Patient effort will show that villagers are not very different from city-dwellers and that they will respond to kindliness and attention. It is no doubt true that one does not have in the villages the opportunity of contact with the great ones of the land. With the growth of village mentality the leaders will find it necessary to tour in the villages and establish a living touch with them. Moreover the companionship of the great and the good is available to all through the works of saints like Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, Tulsidas, Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Tukaram, Tiruvalluvar, and others too numerous to mention though equally known and pious. The difficulty is to get the mind tuned to the reception of permanent values. If it is modern thought—political, social, economical, scientific—that is meant, it is possible to procure literature that will satisfy curiosity. I admit, however, that one does not find such as easily as one finds religious literature. Saints wrote and spoke for the masses. The vogue for translating modern thought to the masses in an acceptable manner has not yet quite set in. But it must come in time. I would, therefore, advise young men . . . not to give in but persist in their effort and by their presence make the villages more livable and lovable. That they will do by serving the villages in a manner acceptable to the villagers. Everyone can make a beginning by making the villages cleaner by their own labour and removing illiteracy to the extent of their ability. And if their lives are clean, methodical and industrious, there is no doubt that the infection will spread in the village in which they may be working.
I have not pictured a poverty-stricken India containing ignorant millions. I have pictured to myself an India continually progressing along the lines best suited to her genius. I do not, however, picture it as a third class or even a first class copy of the dying civilization of the West.
If my dream is fulfilled, and every one of the seven lakhs of villages becomes a well-living republic in which there are no illiterates, in wnich no one is idle for want of work, in which everyone is usefully occupied and has nourishing food, well-ventilated dwellings, and sufficient Khadi for covering the body, and in which all the villagers know and observe the laws of hygiene and sanitation, such a State must have varied and increasing needs, which it must supply unless it would stagnate...
What, however, according to my view, the State will not have is an army of B.A.'s and M.A.'s with their brains sapped with too much cramming and minds almost paralysed by the impossible attempt to speak and write English like Englishmen. The majority of these have no work, no employment. And when they have the latter, it is usually clerkships at which most of the knowledge gained during their twelve years of High Schools and Colleges is of no use whatsoever to them.
My Idea of Village Swaraj
My idea of Village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity. Thus every village's first concern will be to grow its own food crops and cotton for its cloth. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding ganja, tobacco, opium and the like. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks ensuring water supply. This can be done through controlled wells and tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on the co-operative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded untouchability. Non-violence with its technique of Satyagraha and non-co-operation will be the sanction of the village community. There will be a compulsory service of village guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. The government of the village will be conducted by the Panchayat of five persons, annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. These will have all the authority and jurisdiction required. Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office.
Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government whose sole effective connection with the villages is the exaction of the village revenue. I have not examined here the question of relations with the neighbouring villages and the centre if any. My purpose is to present an outline of village government. Here there is perfect democracy based upon individual freedom. The individual is the architect of his own government. The law of non-violence rules him and his government. He and his village are able to defy the might of a world. For the law governing every villager is that he will suffer death in the defence of his and his village's honour.
There is nothing inherently impossible in the picture drawn here. To model such a village may be the work of a lifetime. Any lover of true democracy and village life can take up a village, treat it as his world and sole work, and he will find good results. He begins by being the village scavenger, spinner, watchman, medicine man and school-master all at once. If nobody comes near him, he will be satisfied with scavenging and spinning.
Non-violent Rural Economy
You cannot build non-violence on a factory civilization, but it can be built on self-contained villages. Rural economy as I have conceived it, eschews exploitation altogether, and exploitation is the essence of violence. You have, therefore, to be rural-minded before you can be non-violent, and to be rural-minded you have to have faith in the spinning wheel.
Strictly speaking, no activity and no industry is possible without a certain amount of violence, no matter how little. Even the very process of living is impossible without a certain amount of violence. What we have to do is to minimize it to the greatest extent possible. Indeed the very word non-violence, a negative word, means that it is an effort to abandon the violence that is inevitable in life. Therefore whoever believes in Ahimsa will engage himself in occupations that involve the least possible violence… This is not possible without a heart-belief in non-violence. Suppose there is a man who does no actual violence, who labours for his bread, but who is always consumed with envy at other people's wealth or prosperity. He is not nonviolent. A non-violent occupation is thus that occupation which is fundamentally free from violence and which involves no exploitation or envy of others.
Now I have no historical proof, but I believe that there was a time in India when village economics were organized on the basis of such non-violent occupations, not on the basis of the rights of man but on the duties of man. Those who engaged themselves in such occupations did earn their living, but their labour contributed to the good of the community. A carpenter, for instance, ministered to the needs of the village farmer. He got no cash payment but was paid in kind by the villagers. There could be injustice even in this system, but it would be reduced to a minimum. I speak from personal knowledge of life in Kathiawad of over sixty years ago. There was more lustre in people's eyes, and more life in their limbs, than you find today. It was a life founded on unconscious Ahimsa.
Body labour was at the core of these occupations and industries, and there was no large-scale machinery. For when a man is content to own only so much land as he can till with his own labour, he cannot exploit others. Handicrafts exclude exploitation and slavery. Large-scale machinery concentrates wealth in the hands of one man who lords it over the rest who slave for him. For he may be trying to create ideal conditions for his workmen, but it is none the less exploitation which is a form of violence.
When I say that there was a time when society was based not on exploitation but on justice, I mean to suggest that truth and Ahimsa were not virtues confined to individuals but were practised by communities. To me virtue ceases to have any value if it is cloistered or possible only for individuals.
All-round Village Development
A village unit as conceived by me is as strong as the strongest. My imaginary village consists of 1,000 souls. Such a unit can give a good account of itself, if it is well organized on a basis of self-sufficiency.
The villagers should develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them should command a ready market outside. When our villages are fully developed there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life worth having which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be like tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit.
The reconstruction of the villages along these lines should begin right now. The reconstruction of the villages should not be organized on a temporary but permanent basis.
Graft, art, health and education should all be integrated into one scheme. Nai Talim is a beautiful blend of all the four and covers the whole education of the individual from the time of conception to the moment of death. Therefore, I would not divide village uplift work into water-tight compartments from the very beginning but undertake an activity which will combine all four. Instead of regarding craft and industry as different from education I will regard the former as the medium for the latter. Nai Talim therefore ought to be integrated into the scheme.
If rural reconstruction were not to include rural sanitation, our villages would remain the muck-heaps that they are today. Village sanitation is a vital part of village life and is as difficult as it is important. It needs a heroic effort to eradicate age-long insanitation. The village worker who is ignorant of the science of village sanitation, who is not a successful scavenger, cannot fit himself for village service.
It seems to be generally admitted that without the new or basic education the education of millions of children in India is well-nigh impossible. The village worker has, therefore, to master it and become a basic education teacher himself.
Adult education will follow in the wake of basic education as a matter of course. Where this new education has taken root, the children themselves become their parents' teachers. Be that as it may, the village worker has to undertake adult education also.
Woman is described as man's better half. As long as she has not the same rights in law as man, as long as the birth of a girl does not receive the same welcome as that of a boy, so long we should know that India is suffering from partial paralysis. Suppression of woman is a denial of Ahimsa. Every village worker will, therefore, regard every woman as his mother, sister or daughter as the case may be, and look upon her with respect. Only such a worker will command the confidence of the village people.
It is impossible for an unhealthy people to win Swaraj. Therefore we should no longer be guilty of the neglect of the health of our people. Every village worker must have a knowledge of the general principles of health.
Without a common language no nation can come into being. Instead of worrying himself with the controversy about Hindi-Hindustani and Urdu, the village worker will acquire a knowledge of the Rashtrabhasha which should be such as can be understood by both Hindus and Muslims.
Our infatuation for English has made us unfaithful to provincial languages. If only as penance for this unfaithfulness the village worker should cultivate in the villagers a love of their own speech. He will have equal regard for all the other languages of India, and will learn the language of the part where he may be workings and thus be able to inspire the villagers there with a regard for their own speech.
The whole of this programme will, however, be a structure on sand if it is not built on the solid foundation of economic equality. Economic equality must never be supposed to mean possession of an equal amount of worldly goods by everyone. It does mean, however, that everyone will have a proper house to live in, sufficient and balanced food to eat, and sufficient Khadi with which to cover himself. It also means that the cruel inequality that obtains today will be removed by purely non-violent means.
Revival of Village Industries
These (village industries other than Khadi) stand on a different footing from Khadi. There is not much scope for voluntary labour in them. Each industry will take the labour of only a certain number of hands. These industries come in as a handmaid to Khadi. They cannot exist without Khadi, and Khadi will be robbed of its dignity without them. Village economy cannot be complete without the essential village industries such as hand-grinding, hand-pounding, soap-making, paper- making, match-making, tanning, oil-pressing, etc. Congressmen can interest themselves in these and, if they are villagers or will settle down in villages, they will give these industries a new life and a new dress. All should make it a point of honour to use only village articles whenever and wherever available. Given the demand there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied from our villages. When we have become village-minded, we will not want imitations of the West or machine-made products, but we will develop a true national taste in keeping with the vision of a new India in which pauperism, starvation and idleness will be unknown.
pp. 15-16, Edn. 1948
Village tanning is as ancient as India itself. No one can say when tanning became a degraded calling. It could not have been so in ancient times. But we know today that one of the most useful and indispensable industries has consigned probably a million people to hereditary untouchability. An evil day dawned upon this unhappy country when labour began to be despised and therefore neglected. Millions of those who were the salt of the earth, on whose industry this country depended for its very existence, came to be regarded as low classes, and the microscopic leisured few became the privileged classes, with the tragic result that India suffered morally and materially. Which was the greater of the two losses it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate. But the criminal neglect of the peasants and artisans has reduced us to pauperism, dullness and habitual idleness. With her magnificent climate, lofty mountains, mighty rivers and an extensive seaboard, India has limitless resources, whose full exploitation in her villages should have prevented poverty and disease. But divorce of the intellect from body-labour has made of us perhaps the shortest-lived, most resourceless and most exploited nation on earth. The state of village tanning is, perhaps, the best proof of my indictment.
It is estimated that rupees nine crores worth of raw hide is annually exported from India and that much of it is returned to her in the shape of manufactured articles. This means not only a material, but also an intellectual, drain. We miss the training we should receive in tanning and preparing the innumerable articles of leather we need for daily use.
Here is work for the cent per cent Swadeshi lover and scope for the harnessing of technical skill of the solution of a great problem. It serves the Harijans, it serves the villagers, and it means honourable employment for the middle class intelligentsia who are in search of employment. Add to this the fact that the intelligentsia have a proper opportunity of coming in direct touch with the villagers.
The excreta of animals and human beings mixed with refuse can be turned into golden manure, itself a valuable commodity. It increased the productivity of the soil which received it. Preparation of this manure was itself a village industry. But this, like all village industries, could not give tangible results unless the crores of India co-operated in reviving them and thus making India prosperous.
Delhi Diary, pp. 270-71
Given the willing co-operation of the masses of India, this country cannot only drive out shortage of food, but can provide India with more than enough. This organic manure ever enriches, never impoverishes the soil. The daily waste, judiciously composted, returns to the soil in the form of golden manure causing a saving of millions of rupees and increasing manifold, the total yield of grains and pulses. In addition, the judicious use of waste keeps the surroundings clean. And cleanliness is not only next to godliness, it promotes health.
Co-operative Cattle Farming
It is quite impossible for an individual farmer to look after the welfare of his cattle in his own home in a proper and scientific manner. Amongst other causes lack of collective effort has been a principal cause of the deterioration of the cow and hence of cattle in general.
The world today is moving towards the ideal of collective or co-operative effort in every department of life. Much in this line has been and is being accomplished. It has come into our country also, but in such a distorted from that our poor have not been able to reap its benefits. Pari passu with the increase in our population land holdings of the average farmer are daily decreasing. Moreover, what the individual possesses is often fragmentary. For such farmers to keep cattle in their home is a suicidal policy; and yet this is their condition today. Those who give the first place to economics and pay scant attention to religious, ethical or humanitarian considerations proclaim from the house-tops that the farmer is being devoured by his cattle due to the cost of their feed which is out of all proportion to what they yield. They say it is folly not to slaughter wholesale all useless animals.
What then should be done by humanitarians is the question. The answer obviously is to find a way whereby we may not only save the lives of our cattle but also see that they do not become a burden. I am sure that co-operative effort can help us in a large measure. The following comparison may be helpful:
Under the collective system no farmer can keep cattle in his house as he does today. They foul the air, and dirty the surroundings. There is neither intelligence nor humanitarianism in living with animal. Man was not meant to do so. The space taken up by the cattle today would be spared to the farmer and his family, if the collective system were adopted.
As the number of cattle increases, life becomes impossible to the farmer in his home. Hence he is obliged to sell the calves and kill the male buffaloes or else turn them out to starve and die. This inhumanity would be averted if the care of the cattle were undertaken on a co-operative basis.
Collective cattle farming would ensure the supply of veterinary treatment to animals when they are ill. No ordinary farmer can afford this on his own.
Similarly one selected bull can be easily kept for the need of several cows under the collective system. This is impossible otherwise except for charity.
Common grazing ground or land for exercising the animals will be easily available under the co-operative system, whereas today generally there is nothing of the kind for individual farmers.
The expense on fodder will be comparatively far less under the collective system.
The sale of milk at good prices will be greatly facilitated and there will be no need or temptation for the farmer to adulterate it as he does as an individual.
It is impossible to carry out tests of the fitness of every head of cattle individually, but this could easily be done for the cattle of a whole village and would thus make it easier to improve the breed.
The foregoing advantages should be sufficient argument in favour of co-operative cattle farming. The strongest argument in its favour is that the individualistic system has been the means of making our own condition as well as that of our cattle pitiable. We can only save ourselves and them by making this essential change.
I firmly believe too that we shall not derive the full benefits of agriculture until we take to co operative farming. Does it not stand to reason that it is far better for a hundred families in village to cultivate their lands collectively and divide the income therefrom than to divide the land anyhow into a hundred portions? And what applies to land applies equally to cattle.
It is quite another matter that it may be difficult to convert people to adopt this way of life straight away. The straight and narrow road is always hard to traverse. Every step in the programme of cow service is strewn with thorny problems. But only by surmounting difficulties can we hope to make the path easier. My purpose for the time being is to show the great superiority of collective cattle farming over the individual effort. I hold further that the latter is wrong and the former only is right. In reality even the individual can only safeguard his independence through co operation. In cattle farming the individual effort has led to selfishness and inhumanity, whereas the collective effort can abate both the evils, if it does not remove them altogether.
A Samagra Gramasevak must know everybody living in the village and render them such service as he can. That does not mean that the worker will be able to do everything single-handed. He will show them the way of helping themselves and procure for them such help and materials as they require. He will train up his own helpers. He will so win over the villagers that they will seek and follow his advice. Supposing I go and settle down in a village with a ghani, I won't be an ordinary ghanchi * earning 15-20 rupees a month. I will be a Mahatma ghanchi. I have used the word 'Maliatma' in fun, but what I mean to say is that as a ghanchi I will become a model for the villagers to follow. I will be a ghanchi who knows the Gita and the Quran. I will be learned enough to teach their children. I may not be able to do so for lack of time. The villagers will come to me and ask me: "Please make arrangements for our children's education." I will tell them: "I can find you a teacher, but you will have to bear the expenses." And they will be prepared to do so most willingly. I will teach them spinning and when they come and ask me for the services of a weaver, I will find them a weaver on the same terms as I found them a teacher. And the weaver will teach them how to weave their own cloth. I will inculcate in them the importance of hygiene and sanitation and when they come and ask for a sweeper I will tell them: "I will be your sweeper and I will train you all in the job." This is my conception of Samagra Gramaseva.
Alas for India that parties and factions are to be found in the villages as they are to be found in our cities. And when power politics enter over village with less thought of the welfare of the villages and more of using them for increasing the parties' own power, this becomes a hindrance to the progress of the villages rather than a help. I would say that whatever be the consequence, we must make use as much as possible of local help and if we are free from the taint of power politics, we are not likely to go wrong. Let us remember that the English-educated men and women from the cities have criminally neglected the villages of India which are the backbone of the country. The process of remembering our neglect will induce patience. I have never gone to a single village which is devoid of an honest worker. We fail to find him when we are not humble enough to recognize any merit in our villages. Of course, we are to steer clear of local politics and this we shall learn to do when we accept help from all parties and no parties, wherever it is really good. ... I categorically say to the principal worker: 'If you have any outside help, get rid of it. Work singly, courageously, intelligently with all the local help you can get and, if you do not succeed, blame only yourself and no one else and nothing else.'
Shanti Dals in Villages
Some time ago an attempt was made, at my instance, to form shanti dals but nothing came of it. This lesson, however, was learnt that the membership, in its very nature, of such organizations could not be large. Ordinarily, the efficient running of a large volunteer corps based on force implies the possibility of the use of force in the event of breach of discipline. In such bodies little or no stress is laid on a man's character. Physique is the chief factor. The contrary must obtain in non-violent bodies in which character or soul force must mean everything and physique must take second place. It is difficult to find many such persons. That is why non-violent corps must be small, if they are to be efficient. Such brigades may be scattered all over; there may be one each for a village or a mohalla. The members must know one another well. Each corps will select its own head. All the members will have the same status, but where everyone is doing the same work there must be one person under whose discipline all must come, or else the work will suffer. Where there are two or more brigades the leaders must consult among themselves and decide on a common line of action. In that way alone lies success.
If non-violent volunteer corps are formed on the above lines, they can easily stop trouble. These corps will not require all the physical training given in akhadas, but a certain part of it will be necessary.
One thing, however, should be common to members of all such organizations and that is implicit faith in God. He is the only companion and doer. Without faith in Him these Peace Brigades will be lifeless. By whatever name one calls God, one must realize that one can only work through His strength. Such a man will never take another's life. He will allow himself, if need be, to be killed and thereby live through his victory over death.
The mind of the man in whose life the realization of this law has become a living reality will not be bewildered in crisis. He will instinctively know the right way to act.
In spite, however, of what I have said above, I would like to give some rules culled from my own experience.
A volunteer may not carry any weapons.
The members of a corps must be easily recognizable.
Every volunteer must carry bandages, scissors, needle and thread, surgical knife, etc. for rendering first aid.
He should know how to carry and remove the wounded.
Heshould know how to put out fires, how to enter a fire area without getting burnt, how to climb heights for rescue work and descend safely with or without his charge.
He should be well acquainted with all the residents of his locality. This is a service in itself.
He should recite Ramnama ceaselessly in his heart and persuade others who believe to do likewise.
Man often repeats the name of God parrot-wise and expects fruit from so doing. The true seeker must have that living faith which will not only dispel the untruth of parrot-wise repetition from within him but also from the hearts of others.