Exploitation of Villages by Cities
"The half a dozen modem cities are an excrescence and serve at the present moment the evil purpose of draining the life-blood of the villages. Khaddar is an attempt to revise and reverse the process and establish a better relationship between the cities and the villages. The cities with their insolent torts (sic) are a constant menace to the life and liberty of the villagers.
"Khaddar has the greatest organizing power in it because it has itself to be organized and because it affects all India. If khaddar rained from heaven it would be a calamity. But as it can only be manufactured by the willing co-operation of starving millions and thousands of middle-class men and women, its success means the best organization conceivable along peaceful lines."
(Young India, 17-3-1927; 33:166.)
"I have believed and repeated times without number that India is to be found not in its few cities but in its 7,00,000 villages. But we who have gathered here are not villagers. We are town-dwellers. We town-dwellers have believed that India is to be found in its towns and that the villages were created to minister to our needs. We have hardly ever paused to inquire if those poor folks get sufficient to eat and clothe themselves with and whether they have a roof to shelter themselves from sun and rain. Now I do not think any Congress worker has travelled through the length and breadth of India as much as I have done during the past twenty years. That in itself is hardly a thing to be proud of. I, however, humbly claim, as a result of those peregrinations, to know the Indian villages more than any other Congress worker or leader. I have found that the town-dweller has generally exploited the villager, in fact he has lived on the poor villager's substance. Many a British official has written about the conditions of the people of India. No one has, to my knowledge, said that the Indian villager has enough to keep body and soul together. On the contrary they have admitted that the bulk of the population live on the verge of starvation and ten per cent are semi-starved, and that millions have to rest content with a pinch of dirty salt and chillies and polished rice or parched grain. You may be sure that if any of us were to be asked to live on that diet, we should not expect to survive it longer than a month or should be afraid of losing our mental faculties. And yet our villagers go through that state from day to day. The Village Industries Association was formed last year in order to study the conditions in which they lived and the state of their handicrafts, and to revive such village arts and crafts as may be revived."
(Harijan, 4-4-1936; 62:298.)
"Today our villages have become a mere appendage to the cities. They exist, as it were, to be exploited by the latter and depend on the latter's sufference. This is unnatural. It is only when the cities realize the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and sustenance which they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them, that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up, and if the city children are to play their part in this great and noble work of social reconstruction, the vocations through which they are to receive their education ought to be directly related to the requirements of the villages. So far as I can see, the various processes of cotton manufacture from ginning and cleaning of cotton to the spinning of yarn answer this test as nothing else does. Even today cotton is grown in the villages and is ginned and spun and converted into cloth in the cities. But the chain of processes which cotton undergoes in the mills from the beginning to the end constitutes a huge tragedy of waste in men, materials and mechanical power.
"My plan to impart primary education through the medium of village handicrafts like spinning and carding, etc., is thus conceived as the spearhead of a silent social revolution fraught with the most far-reaching consequence. It will provide a healthy and moral basis of relationship between the city and the village and thus go a long way towards eradicating some of the worst evils of the present social insecurity and poisoned relationship between the classes. It will check the progressive decay of our villages and lay the foundation of a juster social order in which there is no unnatural division between the 'haves' and 'have- nots' and everybody is assured of a living wage and the right to freedom. And all this would be accomplished without the horrors of a bloody class war or a colossal capital expenditure such as would be involved in the mechanization of a vast continent like India. Nor would it entail a helpless dependence on foreign imported machinery or technical skill. Lastly, by obviating the necessity for highly specialized talent, it would place the destiny of the masses, as it were, in their own hands."
(Harijan, 9-10-1937; 66:169-70.)
"The cities are not only draining the villages of their wealth but talent also."
(Harijan, 31-3-1946; 82:365.)
"I will have no regrets if the money invested in these machines is reduced to dust. True India lies in its seven lakh villages. Do you know that big cities like London have exploited India and the big cities of India in turn have exploited its villages? That is how palatial mansions have come up in big cities and villages have become impoverished. I want to infuse new life into these villages. I do not say that all the mills in cities should be demolished. But we should be vigilant and start afresh wherever we happen to make a mistake. We should stop exploiting the villages and should closely examine the injustice done to the villages and strengthen their economic structure."
(Talk with Manu Gandhi, 18-4-1947; 87:303.)
"In the scheme of reconstruction for Free India, its villages should no longer depend, as they are now doing, on its cities, but cities should exist only for and in the interest of the villages. Therefore, the spinning-wheel should occupy the proud position of the centre round which all the life-giving village industries would revolve."
(Harijan, 30-8-1947; 89:82.)
"But for the last 150 years the trend has been for cities to exist only to squeeze wealth out of the villages. They took raw material from the villages, carried on trade with foreign countries and made crores of rupees. This money did not go to the villagers, or only a very small fraction of it did. The bulk of it went to millionaires and the mill-owners. Towns exist to exploit the villages. The city culture does not therefore fit into the framework of villages. A woman worker from a town should not carry to the villages the atmosphere and the ways of towns. May be she has a lot of money and articles of luxury. May be she has a motor car, cosmetics, dresses of velvet and toothpastes, foreign or indigenous, tooth brushes, dainty shoes and sandals. If she takes all these things along with her, how can she serve the villages? If with these things she sets the standard for the villagers they will devour the villages. The cities should be for increasing the prosperity of the villages, for making money available to them for developing the village culture."
(Prarthana pravachan II pp. 185-8; New Delhi, 9-12-1947; 90:201.)