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.)