As far as was possible we placed each school in charge of one man and one woman. These volunteers had to look after medical relief and sanitation. The womenfolk had to be approached through women.
Medical relief was a very simple affair. Castor oil, quinine and
sulphur ointment were the only drugs provided to the volunteers. If
the patient showed a furred tongue or complained of constipation,
castor oil was administered, in case of fever quinine was given
after an opening dose of castor oil, and the sulphur ointment was
applied in case of boils and itch after thoroughly washing the
affected parts. No patient was permitted to take home any medicine.
Wherever there was some complication Dr. Dev was consulted. Dr. Dev used to visit each
centre on certain fixed days in the week.
Quite a number of people availed themselves of this simple relief.
This plan of work will not seem strange when it is remembered that
the prevailing ailments were few and amenable to simple treatment,
by no means requiring expert help. As for the people the arrangement
Sanitation was a difficult affair. The people were not prepared to
do anything themselves. Even the field labourers were not ready to
do their own scavenging. But Dr. Dev was not a man easily to lose
heart. He and the volunteers concentrated their energies on making a
village ideally clean. They swept the roads and the courtyards,
cleaned out the wells, filled up the pools near by, and lovingly
persuaded the villagers to raise volunteers from amongst
themselves. In some villages they shamed people into taking up the
work, and in others the people were so enthusiastic that they even
prepared roads to enable my car to go from place to place. These
sweet experiences were not unmixed with bitter ones of people's
apathy. I remember some villagers frankly expressing their dislike
for this work.
It may not be out of place here to narrate an experience that I have
described before now at many meetings. Bhitiharva was a small
village in which was one of our schools. I happened to visit a
smaller village in its vicinity and found some of the women dressed
very dirtily. So I told my wife to ask them why they did not wash
their clothes. She spoke to them. One of the women took her into her
hut and said: 'Look now, there is no box or cupboard here containing
other clothes. The sari I am wearing is the only one I have. How
am I to wash it? Tell Mahatmaji to get me another sari, and I
shall then promise to bathe and put on clean clothes every day.'
This cottage was not an exception, but a type to be found in many
Indian villages. In countless cottages in India people live without
any furniture, and without a change of clothes, merely with a rag to
cover their shame.
One more experience I will note. In Champaran there is no lack of
bamboo and grass. The school hut they had put up at Bhitiharva was
made of these materials. Someone – possibly some of the neighbouring
planters' men – set fire to it one night. It was not thought advisable
to build another hut of bamboo and grass. The school was in charge
of Sjt. Soman and Kasturbai. Sjt. Soman decided to build a pukka
house, and thanks to his infectious labour, many co-operated with
him, and a brick house was soon made ready. There was no fear now of
this building being burnt down.
Thus the volunteers with their schools, sanitation work and medical
relief gained the confidence and respect of the village folk, and
were able to bring good influence to bear upon them.
But I must
confess with regret that my hope of putting this constructive work
on a permanent footing was not fulfilled. The volunteers had come
for temporary periods, I could not secure any more from outside, and
permanent honorary workers from Bihar were not available. As soon as
my work in Champaran was finished, work outside, which had been
preparing in the meantime, drew me away. The few months' work in
Champaran, however, took such deep root that its influence in one
form or another is to be observed there even today.