All-round Village Service
THE REAL India lies in the 7,00,000 villages. If Indian civilization is to make its full contribution to the building up of a stable world order, it is this vast mass of humanity that has….to be made to live again.
We have to tackle the triple malady which holds our villages fast in its grip : (I) want of corporate sanitation ; (ii) deficient diet; (iii) inertia . . . They [villagers] are not interested in their own welfare. They don't appreciate modern sanitary methods. They don't want to exert themselves beyond scratching their farms or doing such labour as they are used to. These difficulties are real and serious. But they must not baffle us…
We must have an unquenchable faith in our mission. We must be patient with the people. We are ourselves novices in village work. We have to deal with a chronic disease. Patience and perseverance, if we have them, overcome mountains of difficulties. We are like nurses who may not leave their patients because they are reported to have an incurable disease.
Villages 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 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 kindness 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, economic, 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 villages in which they may be working.
A Samagra Gramaseva 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 (village oil press), I won't be an ordinary GHANCHI (oil presser) earning 15-20 rupees a month. I will be a Mahatma GHANCHI. I will be a Mahatma GHANCHI. I have used the word 'Mahatma' 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 me 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. You may tell me that I will never find a GHANCHI of this description in this age. Then I will say that we cannot hope to improve our villages in this age. . . . After all, the man who runs an oil mill is a GHANCHI. He has money but his strength does not lie in his money. Real strength lies in knowledge. True knowledge gives a moral standing and moral strength. Everyone seeks the advice of such a man.
The villages will be surveyed and a list prepared of things that can be manufactured locally with little or no help which may be required for village use or for sale outside, such for instance as GHANI-pressed oil and cakes, burning oil prepared through GHANIS, hand-pounded rice, TADGUD, honey, toys, mats, hand-made paper, village soap, etc. if enough care is thus taken, the villages, most of them as good as dead or dying, will hum with life and exhibit the immense possibilities they have of supplying most of their wants themselves and of the cities and towns of India.
Arts And Crafts
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 shout, 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.
In my writing on cent per cent Swadeshi. I have shown how some aspects of it can be tackled immediately with benefit to the starving millions both economically and hygienically. The richest in the land can share the benefit. Thus, if rice can be pounded in the villages after the old fashion, the wages will fill the pockets of the rice-pounding sisters and the rice-eating millions will get some sustenance from the unpolished rice instead of pure starch which the polished rice provides.
Human greed, which takes no account of the health or the wealth of the people who come under its heels, is responsible for the hideous rice-mills one sees in all the rice-producing tracts. If public opinion was strong, it will make rice-mills an impossibility by simply insisting on unpolished rice and appealing to the owner of rice-mills to stop a traffic that undermines the health of a whole nation and robs the poor of an honest means of livelihood.
...I would say that, if the village perishes, India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited. Industrialization on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing come in.
Therefore, we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only, they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.
You cannot build nonviolence 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.
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 nonviolence, we will have to give the villages their proper place.
Since the economic reorganization of the villages has been commenced with food reform, it is necessary to find out the simplest and cheapest foods that would enable the villagers to regain the lost health. The addition of green leaves to their meals will enable the 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. An eminent doctor told me a proper use of green leaves is calculated to revolutionize the customary notions of food and much of what was today being supplied by mild may be supplied by green leaves.
If we could have electricity in every village home, I should not mind villagers plying their implements and tools, with the help of electricity. But then the village communities or the State would own power-houses just as they have their grazing pastures. But where there is no electricity and no machinery, what are idle hands to do.
I regard the existence of power wheels for the grinding of corn in thousands of villages as the limit of our helplessness. I suppose India does not produce all the engines or grinding machines..... The planting of such machinery and engines on a large scale in villages is also a sign of greed. Is it proper to fill one's pocket in this manner at the expense of the poor? Every such machinery puts thousands of hand-CHAKKIS out of work and takes away employment from thousand of housewives and artisans who make these CHAKKIS.
Moreover, the process is infective and will spread to every village industry. The decay of the latter spells too the decay of art. If it meant replacement of old crafts by new ones, one might not have much to say against it. But this is not what is happening. In the thousands of villages where power machinery exists, one misses the sweet music, in the early morning, of the grinders at work.
Source: The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi