The Village Worker
The village work frightens us. We who are town-bred find it trying to take to the village life. Our bodies in many cases do not respond to the hard life. But it is a difficulty which we have to face boldly, even heroically, if our desire is to establish Swaraj for the people, not substitute one class rule by another, which may be even worse. Hitherto the villagers have died in their thousands so that we might live. Now we might have to die so that they may live. The difference will be to die so that they may live. Now we might have to die so that they may live. The difference will be fundamental. The former have died unknowingly and involuntary. Their enforced sacrifice has degraded us. If now we die knowingly and willingly, our sacrifice will ennoble us and the whole nation. Let us not flinch from the necessary sacrifice, if we will live as an independent self-respecting nation.
Yong India, 17-4’24
There is no school equal to a decent home and no teachers equal to honest, virtuous parents. Modern (high school) education is a dead-weight on the villagers. Their children will never be able to get it, and thank God, they will never miss it if they have the training of a decent home. If the village worker is not a decent home, he or she had better not aspire after the high privilege and honour of becoming a village worker… What they need is not a knowledge of the three R’s but a knowledge of their economic life and how they can better it. They are today working as automations, without any responsibility whatsoever to their surrounding and without feeling the joy of work.
Villages have suffered long from neglect by those who have had the benefit of education. They have chosen the city life. The village movement is an attempt to establish healthy contact with the spirit of service to settle in them and find self-expression in the service of villagers… Those who have settled in villages in the spirit of service are not dismayed by the difficulties facing them. They knew before they went that they would have to contend against many difficulties including even sullenness on the part of villagers. Only those, therefore, who have faith in themselves and in their mission will serve the villagers and influence their lives. A true life live amongst the people is in itself an object-lesson that must produce its own effect upon immediate surroundings.; The difficulty with the young man is, perhaps, that he has gone to the village merely to earn a living without the spirit of service behind it. I admit that village life does not offer attractions to those who go there in search of money. Without the incentives of service village life would jar after the novelty has worn out. No young man having gone to village may abandon the pursuit on the slightest contact with difficulty. Patient effort city-dweller and that they will respond to kindliness and attention. It is no doubt true that one does not have in the villagers the opportunity of contact with the great ones of the land. With the growth of village mentality the leaders will find it necessary to tour in the villages and establish a living touch with them. Moreover the companionship of the great and the good is available to all through the works of saints like Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, Tulsidas, Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Tukaram, Tiruvallavar, and others too numerous to mention though equally known and pious. The difficulty is to get the mind turned to the reception of permanent values. If it is modern thought-political, social, economical, scientific-that is meant, it is possible to procure literature that will satisfy curiosity. I admit, to procure literature that will satisfy curiosity. I admit, however, that one does not find such as easily as one finds religious literature. Saints wrote and spoke for the masses. The vogue fro translating modern thought to the masses in an acceptable manner has not yet quite set in. But it must come in time. I would, therefore advise young men… not to give in but persist in their effort and by their presence make the villages more livable and lovable. That they will do by serving the villages in a manner acceptable to the villagers. Every-one their own labour and removing illiteracy to the extent of their ability. And if their lives are clean, methodical and industrious, there is no doubt that the infection will spread in the villages in which they may be working.
Essential items of Village work
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 effort 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 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 parent’s teachers. Be that as it may, the village worker has to undertaken adult education also.
Woman is described as man’s better half. As long as she has not the same rights in law as man, as long as the birth of a girl does not receive the same welcome as his mother, sister or daughter as the case may be, and look upon her with respect. Only such a worker will command the confidence of the village people.
It is impossible for an unhealthy people to win Swaraj. Therefore we should no longer be guilty of the neglect of the health of our people. Every village worker must have a knowledge of the general principles of health.
Without a common language no nation can come into being. Instead of worrying himself with the controversy about Hindi-Hindustani and Urdu, the village worker will acquire a knowledge of the rashtrabhasha which should be such as can be understood by both Hindus and Muslims.
Our infatuation for English has made us unfaithful to provincial languages. If only as penance for this unfaithfulness the village worker should cultivate in the villagers a love of their won speech.
He will have equal regard for tall the other languages of India, and will learn the languages of the part where he may be working, and thus be able to inspire the villagers there with a regard for their own speech.
The whole of this programme will however, be a structure on sand if it is not built on the solid foundation on sand if it is not built on the solid foundation of economic equality. Economic equality must never be supposed to mean possession of an equal amount of worldly goods by everyone. It does not mean, however, of worldly goods by everyone. It does mean, however, that everyone will have a proper house to live in, sufficient and balanced food to eat, and sufficient Khadi with which to cover himself. It also means that the cruel inequality that obtains today will be removed by purely non-violent means.
(The following are some qualifications prescribed by Gandhiji for Satyagrahis. But as a village worker was according to him also t be a true Satyagrahi, these qualifications may be regarded as applying also to a village worker.)