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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section VII : Economic Ideas > Self-sufficiency

43. Self -sufficiency

Man is not born to live in isolation but is essentially a social animal independent and inter-dependent. No one can or should ride on another’s back. If we try to work out necessary conditions for such a life, we are forced to the conclusion that the unit of society should be a village or call it a manageable small group of people who would, in the ideal, be self-sufficient (in the matter of their vital requirements) as a unit and bound together in bonds of mutual co-operation and interdependence.

Mahatma Gandhi-The Last Phase, Vol. II, (1958), p. 548

In other words, there should be equality between the town-dwellers and villages in the standard of food and drink, clothing and other living conditions. In order to realize this equality today people should be able to produce their own necessaries of life, i.e., clothing, foodstuffs, dwellings and lighting and water.

Mahatma Gandhi-The Last Phase, Vol. II, (1958), p. 547

Truth and non-violence from the foundation of the order of my conception. Our first duty is that we should not be a burden on society, i.e., we should be self-dependent. From this point of view self-sufficiency itself is a kind of service. After becoming self-sufficient we shall use our spare time for the service of others. If all become self-sufficient, none will be in trouble. In such a state of affairs there would be no need of serving anybody. But we have not yet reached this stage and therefore we have to think of social service. Even if we succeed in realizing self-sufficiency completely, man being a social being, we will have to accept service in some form or other. That is, man is as much self-dependent as interdependent. When dependence becomes necessary in order to keep society in good order it is no longer dependence, but co-operation; there is no one weak or strong among those who co-operate. Each is equal to the other. There is the feeling of helplessness in dependency. Members of a family are as much self-dependent as inter-dependent. They are all co-operators. So also when we take a society, a nation or the whole of mankind as a family all men become co-operators. If we can conceive a picture of such co-operation we shall find that there would be no need of support from the lifeless machine. Instead of making the greatest use of machinery we shall be able to do with the least use thereof and therein lies the real security and self-protection of society.

The Ideology of the Charkha, (1951), pp. 86-88

My idea of self-sufficiency is that villages must be self-sufficient in regard to food, cloth and other basic necessities. But even this can be overdone. Therefore you must grasp my idea properly… Self-sufficiency does not mean narrowness. To be self-sufficient is not to be altogether self contained. In no circumstances would we be able to produce all the things we need. So though our aim is complete self-sufficiency, we shall have to get from outside the village what we cannot produce in the village; we shall have to produce more of what we can in order thereby to obtain in exchange what we are unable to produce.

Khadi- why and How, (1959) p. 166

As for food, India has plenty of fertile land, there is enough water and no dearth of man power… The public should be educated to become self reliant. Once they know that they have got to stand on their own legs, it would electrify the atmosphere.

Harijan, 19-10-47, p. 379

Self sufficiency is a big word… Villages will be swept away, if they are not self-sufficient as to their primary wants and self reliant as to their protection against internal disruption by dissensions and disease and external danger from thieves and dacoits. Self-sufficiency, therefore, means all the cotton processes and growing of seasonal food crops and fodder for cattle. Unless this is done there will be starvation. And self-reliance means corporate organization ensuring adjustment of internal differences through arbitration by the wise men of villages and cleanliness by corporate attention to sanitation and common disease. No mere individual effort is going to suffice. And above all, villagers must be taught to feel their own strength by combined effort to make their villages proof against thieves and dacoits. This is the best done by corporate non-violence. But if the way to non-violence does not seem clear to workers, they will not to hesitate to organize corporate defence through violence.

Harijan, 5-4-42, p. 107

Every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world.

Harijan, 28-7-46, p. 236