Gandhian Constructive Programme in social work
All of us agree about the necessity of communal unity. But all of us do not know that unity does not mean political unity which may be imposed. The first thing essential for achieving unity is for every Indian, whatever his religion may be, to represent in his own person Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, Jew, etc. Shortly, every Hindu and non-Hindu has to feel his identity with every one of the millions of the inhabitants of Hindustan.
In order to realize this, every Indian will cultivate personal friendship with persons representing faiths other than his own. He should have the same regard for the other faiths as he has for his own.
Removal of Untouchability
It is unnecessary to dilate upon the necessity of the removal of this blot and curse upon Hinduism. It is something indispensable, so far as Hindus are concerned, for the very existence of Hinduism. If Hindus take up the cause for its won sake, they will influence the so-called Sanatanis far more extensively than they have hitherto done. They should approach them not in a militant spirit but, as be befits their non-violence, in a spirit of friendliness. And so far as the Harijans are concerned, every Hindu should make common cause with them and befriend them in their awful isolation— such isolation as perhaps the world has never seen in the monstrous immensity one witnesses it India. I know from experience how difficult the task is. But its part of the task of building the edifice of Swaraj as the road to Swaraj is steep and narrow.
Gandhi had once said that if he is made Dictator of India only for one hour, he would shut down all liquor shops without giving any compensation. He further said that if we are to reach our goal through non-violent effort, we may not leave to the government the fate of
lakhs of men and women who are labouring under the curse of intoxicants and narcotics.
Medical men can make a most effective contribution towards the removal of this evil. They have to discover ways of weaning the drunkard and the opium-addict from the curse.
Women and students have a special opportunity in advancing this reform. By many acts of loving service they can acquire on addicts a hold which will compel them to listen to the appeal to give up the evil habit. Lasting and healthy deliverance comes from within, i.e. from self-purification. Constructive workers make legal prohibition easy and successful even if they do not pave the way for it.
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 necessities 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 living on the exploitation and the ruin of the 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 taste of many.
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.
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, soapmaking, paper-making, match-making, tanning, oilpressing, etc.
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 dungheaps. The approach to many village 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. 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.
Gandhi regarded 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.
This education is meant to transform village children into model villagers. It is principally designed for them. The inspiration for it has come from the villages. Work as who want to build up the structure of Swaraj from its very foundation dare not neglect the children. Foreign rule has unconsciously, though none the less surely, begun with the children in the field of education. Primary education is a farce designed without regard to the wants of the India of the villages and for that matter even of the cities. Basic education links the children, whether of the cities or the villages, to all that is best and lasting in India. It develops both the body and the mind, and keeps the child rooted to the soil with a glorious vision of the future in the realization of which he or she begins to take his or her share from the very commencement of his or her career in school.
If I had charge of adult education, I should begin with opening the minds of the adult pupils to the greatness and vastness of their country. My adult education means, first, true political education of the adult by word of mouth. Seeing that this will be mapped out, it
can be given without fear. I imagine that it is too late in the day for authority to interfere with this type of education; but if there is interference, there must be a fight for this elementary right without which there can be no Swaraj. Of course, in all I have written, openness has been assumed. Non-violence abhors feat and, therefore, secrecy. side by side with the education by the mouth will be the literary education.
Woman has been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible and in the shaping of which she had no hand. In a plan of life based on non-violence, woman has as much right to shape her own destiny as man has to shape his. But as every right in a nonviolent society proceeds from the previous performance of a duty, it follows that rules of social conduct must be framed by mutual co-operation and consultation. They can never be imposed from outside. Men have not realized this truth in its fullness in their behaviour
towards women. They have considered themselves to be lords and masters of women instead of considering them as their friends and co-workers. It is the privilege of men to give the women of India a lifting hand. Women are in the position somewhat of the slave of old who did not know that he could or even had to be free. And when freedom came, for the moment he felt helpless. Women have been taught to regard themselves as slaves of men.
It is up to men to see that they enable them to realize their full status and play their part as equals of men.
This revolution is easy, if the mind is made up. Let men begin with their own homes. Wives should not be dolls and objects of indulgence, but should be treated as honoured comrades in common service. To this end those who have not received a liberal education should receive such instruction as is possible from their husbands. The same observation applies, with the necessary changes, to mothers and daughters.
Education in 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 to largely gnawing poverty, but it could be mitigated if the people were properly educated about
health and hygiene.
“Mens sana in corpore sano” is perhaps the first law for humanity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is a selfevident 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.
According to Gandhi, our love of the English language in preference to our own mother tongue has caused a deep chasm between the educated and politically-minded classes and the masses. The languages of India have suffered impoverishment. We flounder when we make the vain attempt to express abstruse thought in the mother tongue. There are no equivalents for scientific terms. The result has been disastrous. The masses remain cut off from the modern mind. We are too near our own times correctly to measure the disservice caused to India by this neglect of its great languages. It is easy enough to understand that, unless we undo the mischief, the mass mind must remain imprisoned. The masses
can make no solid contribution to the construction of Swaraj. It is inherent in Swaraj based on non-violence that every individual makes his own direct contribution to the Independence movement. The masses cannot do this fully unless they understand every step with all its implications. This is impossible unless every step is explained in their own languages.
And then for all-India intercourse we need, from among the Indian stock, a language which the largest number of people already know and understand and which the others can easily pick up. This language is indisputably Hindi. It is spoken and understood by both Hindus and Muslims of the North. It is called Urdu when it is written in the Urdu character. In 1925, the common man’s language was called this all-India speech Hindustani.
And since that time, in theory at least, Hindustani has been the Rashtra Bhasha. In 1920 a deliberate attempt was begun to recognize the importance of Indian languages for the political education of the masses, as also of an all-India common speech which politicallyminded India could easily speak and which people from the different provinces could understand at all-India gatherings. Such National languages should enable one to understand and speak both forms of speech and write in both the scripts.
This is the master key to non-violent Independence that is, 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 levelling 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.
Peasants / Kisans
The programme is not exhaustive, Swaraj is a mighty structure. Crores of hands have to work at building it. Of these kisans, i.e. the peasantry are the largest part. 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.
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 millhands, its classes 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 were also put on the voters list. The organization has never taken part in party politics. It influences the municipal policy of the city. It has to its credit very successful strikes which were wholly nonviolent. 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.
Service of Tribes 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 well our claim to be one nation, unless every unit has a living consciousness of being one with every other.
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 neglectly. 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.
Service to the Cow
To Gandhi, the cow is a poem of pity. It is a purest type of sub-human life. Man, through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Cow protection is one of the most wonderful phenomenon in human evolution…. It is gift of Hinduism to the world.
Apart from religious sentiments, the role of cow in human development is unparallel. Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy and cow happens to be the backbone of agriculture. All the cow products namely milk, cow-dung, urine, bullocks, even its bones, horns and skin have multifarious use for nutrition, health, hygiene, fuel along with making of footwear, manure and petty articles like buttons etc. it is a moving plant in itself which is sustainable through local resources.
Cow slaughter and a sin, which should be banned totally and every measure should be undertaken to protect and develop the cow species.