49. Village Industries
Now I have no historical proof, but I believe that there was a time in India when village economics were organized on the basis of such non-violent occupations, not on the basis of the rights of man but on the duties of man. Those who engaged themselves in such occupations did earn their living, but their labour contributed to the good of the community. A carpenter, for instance, ministered to the needs of the village farmer. He got no cash payment, but was paid in kind by the villagers. There could be injustice even in this system, but it would be reduced to a minimum. I speak from personal knowledge of the life in Kathiawad of over sixty years ago. There was more luster in people’s eyes, and more life in their limbs, than you find today. It was a life founded on unconscious Ahimsa.
Harijan, 1-9-40, pp. 271-72
Bit by bit village people are being confined only to the hand-to-mouth business of scratching the, earth. Few know today that agriculture in the small and irregular holdings of India is not a paying proposition. The villagers live a lifeless life. Their life is a process of slow starvation. They are burdened with debts...
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 than required for the work, as is the case in India…
But if the cloth manufactured in mills displaces village hands, rice mills and flour mills not only displace thousands 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 flour and polished rice…
The way to take work to the villagers is not through mechanization but that it lies through revival of the industries they have hitherto followed.
Hence the function of the All-India Village Industries Association must, in my opinion, be to encourage the existing industries and to revive, where it is possible and desirable, the dying or dead industries of villages according to the village methods, i.e., the villagers working in their own cottages as they have done from times immemorial. These simple methods can be considerably improved as they have been in hand-ginning, hand-carding, hand-spinning and hand-weaving.
Harijan, 16-11-34, p. 316
We shall have to see that the villagers become first of all self-contained and then cater for the needs of the city-dwellers.
Harijan, 7-12-34, p. 341
I am not asking the city-dwellers to go to and lives in the villages. But I am asking them to render unto the villagers what is due to them. Is there any single raw material that the city-dwellers can obtain except from the villager? If they cannot, why not teach him to work on it himself, as he used to before and as he would do now but for our exploiting inroads?
Harijan, 7-12-34, p. 340
Involuntary and voluntary idleness of villagers make them a perpetual prey of exploiters, foreign and indigenous. Whether the exploiter is from outside or from the Indian cities, their state would be the same, they would have no swaraj. So I said to myself, “Let these people be asked to do something else; If they will not interest themselves in Khadi, let them take up some work which used to be done by their ancestors, but which has of late died out.” There are numerous things of daily use which they used to produce themselves not many years age, but for which they now depend on the other world. There are numerous things of daily use to the town-dweller for which he depends on the villagers, but which he now imports from cities. The moment the villagers decide to devote all their spare time to doing something useful and town-dwellers to use those village products, the snapped link between the villagers and the town-dwellers would be restored.
Harijan, 7-12-34, p. 340
Khadi is the sum of the village solar system. The planets are the various industries which can support Khadi in return for the heat and the sustenance they derive from it. Without it, the other industries cannot grow. But during my last tour I discovered that, without the revival of the other industries, Khadi could not make further progress. For villagers to be able to occupy their spare time profitably, the village life must be touched at all points.
Harijan, 16-11-34, p. 317
Other village 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 honour to use only village articles whenever and wherever available. Given the demand, there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied from our villages. When we have become village-minded, we will not want imitations of the West or 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, (1961), pp. 16-17
The revival of village industries is but an extension of the Khadi effort. Hand-spun cloth, hand-made paper, hand-pounded rice, home –made bread and Jam, are not uncommon in West. Only, there they do not have one hundredth of the importance they have in India. For, with us, their revival means life, their destruction means death, to the villagers, as he who runs may see. Whatever the machine age may do, it will never give employment to the millions whom the wholesale introduction of power machinery must displace.
Harijan, 4-1-35, p. 372
The pursuit of the Charkha must become the mainspring of manifold other activities like village industries, Nai-Talim-1 etc. If we are able to adopt the Charkha intelligently we can revive the entire economic life of our villages once more.
Khadi-Why and How, (1959),p. 151
I regard Charkha as the centre of village uplift. In addition, the worker will have to see what other village crafts can prosper in his village. The first in order among these crafts will be the bullock oil-press. Our workers would have to know its technique which has now been scientifically improved at Maganwadi. Another industry which may be introduced is hand-made paper. This has to be learnt not with the view of supplying paper to the whole country but in order to make the village self-sufficient and capable of earning a little income.
Next to oil and hand-made paper we must revive the hand-chakki (grinding stone) -a vital thing in every village. Otherwise flour-mills which have been a source of anxiety to me for several years will be our fate. Similarly in regard to rice, we must get our people in the villages to take to hand-pounding of rice or hand-chakkis for husking paddy, for it is a well-established fact that the white polished rice put out by mills is harmful to health.
Khadi Why and How, (1959), pp. 161-62
Now we have to do the work anew with the objective of all-round village uplift. Let us see how far we can go. Even if our present activities have to be slackened or reduced to nought for sometime on account of these changes, it does not matter. We have created some sentiment about Khadi among the people. But if there is some error in what we told the people about the significance of Khadi we must pause. If ours was a wrong claim we must declare our error openly and withdraw our claim.
I would ask city-dwellers to produce their own Khadi. I would forgo the temptation to supply Khadi to them. We shall go and settle in the villages. In case workers want to leave us on account of this change we shall let them go. Unless our head and heart are converted to this extent we cannot achieve the desired result. We of the A.I.S.A. will merely direct policy. By decentralizing our work as much as possible, we shall free ourselves from day to day Khadi work completely. Thereafter we shall concentrate our energy and attention on the other activities or crafts carried out in the vicinity of the village we settle in. Only then will the real substance of our work be realized…Today our main concern should be to lay the foundation for this work as deep as possible.
Khadi –Why and How, (1959), p. 177
I am thinking of ways and means of improving the condition of the people through a rehabilitation of agriculture, cattle-breeding and all other village industries. My problem will be solved, if I succeed even in half a dozen villages, for as is the part so is the whole.
Khadi-why and How, (1959), p. 181
1. Literally, new education; basis education, the aim of which is to develop the whole man; education through handicrafts.