Extinction of village industries would complete
the ruin of the 7, 00,000 villages of India.
I have seen in the daily press criticism of the
proposals I have adumbrated. Advice has been given to me that I must look for
salvation in the direction of using the powers of nature that the inventive
brain of man has brought under subjection .The critics say that water, oil and
electricity should be fully utilized as they are being under subjection. The
critics say that water, air, oil, and electricity should be fully utilized as
they are being utilized in the go-ahead West. They say that control over these
hidden powers of nature enables every American to have thirty-three slaves. They
say that control over these hidden powers of nature enables every American to
have thirty – three slaves.
Repeat the process in India and I dare say that it
will thirty- three times enslave every inhabitant of this land, instead of
giving every one thirty–three slaves.
Mechanization is good when the hands are too few
for the work intended to be accomplished. It is an evil when there are more
hands then required for the work, as is the case in India. I may not use a
plough for digging a square yard of a plot of land. The problem with us is not
how to find leisure for the teeming millions inhabiting our villages. The
problem is how to utilize their idle hours, which are equal to the working days
of six months in the year. Strange as it may appear, every mill generally is a
menace to the villagers. I have not worked out the figures, but I am quite safe
in saying that every mill-hand does the work of at least ten laborers doing the
same work in their villages. In other words, he earns more than he did in his
village at the expense of ten fellow-villagers. Thus spinning and weaving mills
have deprived the villagers of substantial means of livelihood. It is no answer
in reply to say that they turn out cheaper, better cloth, if they do so at all.
For, if they have displaced thousands of workers, the cheapest mill cloth is
dearer than the dearest Khadi woven in the villages. Coal is not dear for the
coal miner who can use it there and then, nor is Khadi dear for the villager who
manufactures his own Khadi. But if the cloth manufactured in mills displace
thousand of poor women workers, but damage the health of the whole population in
the bargain. Where people have no objection to taking flesh diet and can afford
it, white flour and polished rice may do no harm, but in India, where millions
can get no flesh diet even where they have no objection to eating it if they can
get it, it is sinful to deprive them of nutritious and vital elements contained
in whole wheat meal and unpolished rice. It is time medical men and others
combined to instruct the people on the danger attendant upon the use of white
lour and polished rice.
I have drawn attention to some broad, glaring
facts to shown that they way to take work to the villagers is not through
mechanizations but that it lies through revival of the industries they have
The idea behind the village industries schemes its
that we should look to the villages for the supply of our daily need and that,
when we find that some need are not so supplied, we should see whether with a
little trouble and organization they cannot be profitably supplied by the
villagers. In estimating the profit, we should think of the villager, not of
ourselves. It may be that in the initial stage we might have to pay a little
more than the ordinary price and get an inferior article in the bargain. Things
will improve, if we will interest ourselves in the supplier of our needs and
insist on his doing better and take the trouble of helping him to do better.
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 and marketing come. 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
We have to make a choice between India of the
villages that are as ancient as her and India of the cities which are a creation
of foreign domination. To day the cities dominate and drain the villages so that
they are crumbling to ruin. My Khadi mentality tells me that cities must sub
serve villages when that domination goes. Exploiting of villages is itself
organized violence. If we want Swaraj to be built on non-violence, we will have
to give the villages their proper place.
Khadi to me is the symbol of unity of Indian
humanity, of its economic freedom and equality and, therefore, ultimately, in
the poetic expression of Jawaharlal Nehru, “the livery of India’s freedom”.
Moreover, Khadi mentality means decentralization
of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life. There for, the
formula so fare evolved is, every village to produce all its necessaries and a
certain percentage in addition for the requirements of the cities.
Heavy industries will needs be centralized and
nationalized. But they will occupy the least part of the vast national activity
which will mainly be in the villages.
Production of Khadi includes cotton growing,
picking, ginning, cleaning, carding, slivering, spinning, sizing, dyeing,
preparing the warp and the woof, weaving, and washing. These, with the exception
of dyeing, are essential processes. Every on of them can be effectively handled
in the villages and is being so handle din many village throughout India which
the A.I.S.A. is covering.
Since the wanton destruction of this central
village industry and the allied handicraft, intelligence and brightness have
fled from the villages, leaving them inane, lusterless, and reduced almost to
the state of their ill – kept cattle.
Constructive Program me, P.12
Other village industries
These stand on a different footing from Khadi.
There is not much scope for voluntary labor in them. Each industry will take the
labor of only a certain number of hands. These industries come in as a handmaid
to Khadi. They cannot exist without Khadi, and Khadi will be robbed of its
dignity without them. Village economy cannot be complete without the essential
village industries such as hand-grinding, hand-pounding, soap-making, paper
making, match-making, tanning, oil-pressing, etc. Congressmen can interest
themselves in these and, if they are villagers or will settle down in villages,
they will give these industries a new life and a new dress. All should make it a
point of honor to use only village articles whenever and wherever available.
Given the demand there is no doubt that most our wants can be supplied from our
villages. When we have become village-minded, we will not want imitations of the
West of machine-made products, but we will develop a true national taste in
keeping with the vision of a new India in which pauperism, starvation and
idleness will be unknown.
Constructive Programme, p. 15
Given the willing co-operation of the masses of
India, this country can not only drive out shortage of food, but can provide
India with more than enough. This organic manure ever enriches, never
impoverishes the soil. The daily waste, judiciously composted, returns to the
soil in the form of golden manure causing a saving of millions of rupees and
increasing manifold, the total yield of grains and pulses. In addition, the
judicious use of waste keeps the surrounding clean. And clean-lines is not only
next to godliness, it promotes health.
Village tanning is as ancient as India itself. No
one can say when tanning became a degraded calling. It could not have been so in
ancient times. But we know today that on e of the most useful and an
indispensable industry has consigned probably a million people to hereditary
untouchability. An evil day dawned upon this unhappy country when labor began to
be despised and therefore neglected. Millions of those who were the salt of the
earth, on whose industry this country depended for its very existence, came to
be regarded as low classes, and the microscopic leisured few became the
privileged classes, with the tragic result that India suffered morally and
materially. Which was the greater of the two losses it is difficult, if not
impossible, to estimate. But the criminal neglect of the peasants and artisans
has reduced us to pauperism, dullness and habitual idleness. With her
magnificent climate, lofty mountains, mighty rivers and an extensive seaboard,
India has limited resources, whose full exploitation in her villages should have
prevented poverty and disease. But divorce of the intellect from body-labor has
made of us perhaps the shortest-lived, most resource less and most exploited
nation on earth. The state of village tanning is, perhaps, the best proof of my
It is estimated that rupees nine cores worth of
raw hide is annually exported from India and much of it is returned to her in
the shape of manufactured articles. This means not only a material, but also an
intellectual, drain. We miss the training we should receive in tanning and
preparing the innumerable articles of leather we need for daily use.
Here is work for the cent percent Swedish lover
and scope for the harnessing of technical skill to the solution of a great
problem. It serves the Harijans. It serves the villagers, and it means honorable
employment for the middle class intelligentsia who are in search of employment.
Add to this the fact that the intelligentsia has a proper opportunity of coming
in direct touch with the villagers.
How to Begin
Correspondents have been writing, and friends have
been seeing me, to ask me how to begin the village industries work and what to
The obvious answer is, “Begin with yourself and do
first that which sis easiest for you to do.”
This answer, however, does not satisfy the
enquirers. Let me, therefore, be more explicit.
Each person can examine all the article of food,
clothing and other things, that he used from day to day and replace foreign
makes or city makes, by those produced by the villagers in their homes or fields
with the simple inexpensive tools they can easily handle or mend. This
replacement will be itself an education of great value and a solid beginning.
The next step will be opened out to him of itself. For instance, say, the
beginner has been hitherto using a tooth-brush made in a Bombay factory. He
wants to replace it with a village brush. He is advised to use a babul twig. If
he has weak teeth or is toothless, he has to crush one end of it, with a rounded
stone or hammer, on a hard surface. The other end he slits with a knife and uses
the halves as tongue-scrapers. He will find these brushes to cheaper and much
cleaner than the very unhygienic factory made tooth-brush. The city-made
tooth-powder he naturally replaces with equal parts of clean, finely-ground
wood-charcoal and clean salt. He will replace mill-cloth with village-spun Khadi,
and mill husked rice with hand-husked, unpolished rice, and white sugar with
village-made guru. These I have taken merely as samples already mentioned in
these columns. I have mentioned them again to deal with the difficulties the
question with me.