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VILLAGE ECONOMY > Gandhiji on VILLAGES > Village Sanitation
"It is scarcely necessary to enlarge upon the rule that dirt must not be thrown on the street. Disposal of refuse is also a science. Glass, iron, etc., should be buried deep. Twigs and sticks used for cleaning teeth should be washed, dried and used for fuel. Rags may be sold. Left-over food, peelings, etc., should be buried and turned into manure. I have seen many a heap of manure prepared in this way. Paper can be made from rags. It should not be necessary to employ anyone to remove refuse in a village, because there is very little of it and most of it can be converted into manure.
"Near the village or dwellings, there should be no ditches in which water can collect. Mosquitoes do not breed where water does not stagnate. Where there are no mosquitoes, the incidence of malaria is low. At one time, water used to collect around Delhi. After the hollows were filled, mosquitoes were greatly reduced and so also was malaria."
(Navajivan, 2-11-1919; 16:273.)
"Naturally a village worker must find happiness in a simple and frugal life. Let no one think that I have sketched what is an impossible requirement. I have not. The technique though it reads formidable is by no means so for a patient student. Purity of character must be a foregone conclusion in any of this work. And no village worker can help falling a prey to some disease or other if he does not know and observe in his own person the laws of sanitation and does not know domestic treatment of simple diseases. The spinning organization is capable of accommodating any number of workers who can satisfy the simple test laid down above."
(Young India, 10-3-1927; 33:152.)
"Villagers today have no practical knowledge in many fields and we find, instead, that often ignorant superstition has established a hold over them.
". . . From the standpoint of health, the condition of villages is deplorable. One of the chief causes of our poverty is the nonavailability of this essential knowledge of hygiene. If sanitation in villages can be improved, lakhs of rupees will easily be saved and the condition of people improved to that extent. A sick peasant can never work as hard as a healthy one. . .
". . . In my opinion based on experience, our poverty plays a very small part in our insanitary condition."
(Shikshan Ane Sahitya, 18-8-1929; 41:295.)
". . . Hence the primary duty of a village worker is to educate villagers in sanitary habits. . .
". . . This is so because these insanitary habits have taken such deep root that the villagers are not prepared to listen to the volunteers, and, even if they do so, show a singular lack of enthusiasm to act accordingly. . .
". . . Hence it is the dharma of the volunteers to give object- lessons. Only if they themselves perform the tasks that have to be performed by the villagers, will the latter follow their example; then doubtless they will positively do so. . .
". . . We should never get into the habit of defecating on the road. It is uncivilized to do so in the open in public and to make even little children do so. We are aware of the uncivilized nature of this act, for we avert our eyes if anyone happens to pass at that moment. Hence every village should have the most inexpensive water-closets built at one place. The spot at which the dunghill is located can itself be used for this purpose. Farmers can share among themselves the manure accumulated in this manner. And so long as they do not start making such arrangements, volunteers should clean dunghills in the same way as they clean streets. Every morning after the villagers have performed this function, they should go to the dunghill at an appointed hour, clean up all the filth and dispose of it in the manner mentioned above. If no field is available, one should mark out the place where the excreta may be buried. If this is done, it will facilitate the task every day and when the farmers get convinced of the matter, they can make use of the manure that is collected there."
(Shikshan Ane Sahitya, 22-9-1929; 41:445-47.)
"I would, therefore, expect every one of you who has cherished the ideals of the Vidyapith and who is pledged to serve it to go straight to the villages and start living those ideals there. Each one of you will thus be a peripatetic Vidyapith, teaching the ideals by means of his own personal example. . .
". . . The village worker will thus be a living embodiment of industry. He will master all the processes of khadi, from cotton- sowing and picking to weaving, and will devote all his thought to perfecting them. If he treats it as a science, it won't jar on him, but he will derive fresh joy from it everyday, as he realizes more and more its great possibilities. If he will go to the village as a teacher, he will go there no less as a learner. He will soon find that he has much to learn from the simple villagers. He will enter into every detail of village life, he will discover the village handicrafts and investigate the possibilities of their growth and their improvement. He may find the villagers completely apathetic to the message of khadi, but he will, by his life of service compel interest and attention."
(Harijan, 31-8-1934; 58:305-307.)
"I am of opinion that a good deal of medical help is given only in order to make people more helpless. Medical help, in most cases, is practically thrown at them, and so it is lost on them. Some of my co-workers are going to a village close by where the streets are covered with filth. No wonder if the eyes of the children there are bad and there are all kinds of diseases. Just now our workers' efforts do not seem to make any impression on the villagers; but when they find that, as a result of their village having become cleaner and free from filth, they are also comparatively free from disease, they will appreciate the difference. Now, if you had a free dispensary there and were giving doses of medicine to all that came, you would make no headway. Tackling the village sanitation is the only really substantial work. There is an evil at our doors which is perfectly preventible, and yet we have suffered our villagers to tolerate it for scores of years. It is an uphill task, whilst the distribution of free medicines is much easier. But I am asking my co-workers to avoid the easy thing and cheap applause. We must first concentrate on the prevention of disease, we can tackle the disease itself later on."
(Harijan, 29-3-1935; 60:324.)
"The task of rural sanitation is no easy one, it means nothing less than raising the village Bhangi to the status of an ideal Bhangi. The whole subject is unexplored; the profession, far from being a dirty one, is a purifying, life-protecting one. Only we have debased it. We have to raise it to its true status."
(Harijan, 5-12-1936; 64:105.)
"1. An ideal Indian village will be so constructed as to lend itself to perfect sanitation. It will have cottages with sufficient light and ventilation built of a material obtainable within a radius of five miles of it. The cottages will have courtyards enabling householders to plant vegetables for domestic use and to house their cattle. The village lanes and streets will be free of all avoidable dust. It will have wells according to its needs and accessible to all. It will have houses of worship for all; also a common meeting place, a village common for grazing its cattle, a co-operative dairy, primary and secondary schools in which industrial education will be the central fact, and it will have panchayats for settling disputes. It will produce its own grains, vegetables and fruit, and its own khadi. This is roughly my idea of a model village. In the present circumstances its cottages will remain what they are with slight improvements. Given a good zamindar, where there is one, or co-operation among the people, almost the whole of the programme other than model cottages can be worked out at an expenditure within the means of the villagers including the zamindar or zamindars, without Government assistance. With that assistance there is no limit to the possibility of village reconstruction. But my task just now is to discover what the villagers can do to help themselves if they have mutual co-operation and contribute voluntary labour for the common good. I am convinced that they can under intelligent guidance, double the village income as distinguished from individual income. There are in our villages inexhaustible resources not for commercial purposes in every case but certainly for local purposes in almost every case. The greatest tragedy is the hopeless unwillingness of the villagers to better their lot.
"2. The very first problem the village worker will solve is its sanitation. It is the most neglected of all the problems that baffle workers and that undermine physical well-being and breed disease. If the worker became a voluntary Bhangi, he would begin by collecting night-soil and turning it into manure and sweeping village streets. He will tell people how and where they should perform daily functions and speak to them on the value of sanitation and the great injury caused by the neglect. The worker will continue to do the work whether the villagers listen to him or no.
"3. The spinning-wheel should be the central theme of all such village exhibitions and the industries suited to the particular locality should revolve round it. An exhibition thus arranged would naturally become an object-lesson for the villagers and an educational treat when it is accompanied by demonstrations, lectures and leaflets."
(Harijan, 9-1-1937; 64:217-18.)
"If rural reconstruction were not to include rural sanitation, our villages would remain the muck-heaps that they are today. Village sanitation is a vital part of village life and is as difficult as it is important. It needs a heroic efforts to eradicate age-long insanitation. The village worker who is ignorant of the science of village sanitation, who is not a successful scavenger, cannot fit himself for village service.
"It seems to be generally admitted that without the new or basic education the education of millions of children in India is well-nigh impossible. The village worker has, therefore, to master it, and become a basic education teacher himself.
"Adult education will follow in the wake of basic education as a matter of course. Where this new education has taken root, the children themselves become their parents' teachers. Be that as it may, the village worker has to undertake adult education also."
(Harijan, 18-8-1940; 72:380.)
"Village sanitation, domestic cleanliness, personal hygiene and health care have the first place and also full scope, the underlying idea being that this done there can be no disease."
(Letter to D.D. Joshi, 1-8-1946; 85:105.)
"Mirabehn had called a conference which was attended by a large number of people. They came to the conclusion that all the cow-dung, human faeces and vegetable-waste available in villages could be turned into rich manure. It requires not expenditure but a little labour and it increases the fertility of the soil. . .
"... I do not know how clean you keep your village. But it is your paramount duty to make yourselves strong. You must keep yourselves clean externally and internally. Your village should be free of dirt and dung in every way. And it should be free from foul smells. You should follow the rules of sanitation."
(Speech at a prayer meeting, 27-12-1947; 90:306-307.)