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Constructive Programme Towards Twenty First Century

By S. Narayanaswamy

We are racing towards the twenty first century. The closer we get to the next century the greater becomes the need to understand what awaits us in the future and to foresee it in order to be better prepared for thecountry. There are many institutions in the world that conduct forecasts of the future. Gandhian Institutions, in particular must be faced with addressing the issues relating to the Constructive Programmes as designed by Gandhiji in the fourth decade of the 20th century. It will be almost sixty. years by 2000 A. D. since the Constructive Programme of Gandhiji came into practice. The core of the programme is the synthesis between the material and moral advancement of human society.

Present Scenario

Serious and sustained threats to the survival of the environment and the well-being of human kind pose the greatest challenge to the 21st century. There is perhaps no other hope for the strife-torn world, not only in the 21st century but for all centuries to come, but to accept the Gandhian paradigm for establishing a qualitatively better, sustainable social order nationally and globally. Let us enter the dawn of the twenty first century, realizing the need of constructive programmes and resolving to do what we can to improve the quality of human life. What a different 21st century it would be, if constructive programmes are in full swing.

Nelson Mandela's prophetic words that the twenty first century belongs to Gandhi appear to be more than a mere ripple among today's intelligentia. The International Community is increasingly turning to Gandhi who was a phenomenon of this century. There is greater awareness of the Gandhian model of development and almost everywhere, political pundits, economic experts and even religious leaders are analyzing the Gandhian model and Constructive Programmes with considerable interest. No doubt, Constructive Programmes would be the heart of Gandhian revolution in the centuries to come. According to Gandhi, the Constructive Programme is the truthful and non-violent way of winning Purna Swaraj. If the Constructive Programme could be successfully worked out, the end of it would be the wholesome independence we want. Gandhi launched a movement of Constructive Programme for economic betterment and improving the tenor of social life for generation after generations. The Gandhian Constructive Programme was a movement of the people, by the people, for the people. Sarvodaya movement headed by the Gandhi Peace award winner A. T. Ariaratne in Sri Lanka is a living example for constructive programme. There are some outstanding Gandhian Institutions in India to show the way for constructive work.

Creative Programme

The constructive Programme was the instrument of creative revolution. Gandhi's creative revolution was a political, economic, educational, social and moral revolution - the grandest creative revolution the world has ever seen culminating in one of the greatest political triumphs of history- without blood-shed and without rancour. For half a century and more the Gandhian Constructive Programme was the only testament of hope for our village masses and they have never once gone back to their earlier past of despair. Gandhi himself drew immense strength from the awakened masses of the villages as she stroke blow after blow at the might edifice of British rule in India and ultimately shattered it. The memory and experience of the Constructive Programmes never died out from the memory of the people. The Constructive Programme is central to the understanding of Gandhi's concept of Swaraj, which was for him a step towards the ultimate goal of "ramraj", the kingdom of God, where an equal share was given "even unto this last". In short, Constructive Programme was a revolutionary programme which changed the landscape of life.

Principles of Constructive Programme

  1. It is performed on its own accord. It is purely a moral action which strengthens morality in man.

  2. Co-operation and mutual aid are the importance of constructive work. Voluntariness and sharing are the core of constructive activities.

  3. Self-reliance and self-help is another important principle of Constructive Programme.

  4. The principle of Constructive Programme is building from below.

  5. Constructive Programme is the concrete expression of the spirit of non-violence.

  6. Decentralisation is another important principle of Constructive Programme.

The Content

Constructive Programme is an integral part of non-violence and it is essentially village work. The eighteen items which Gandhiji included in the programme were indispensable for the emancipation of the nation through non-violence. Gandhi wrote a small booklet, titled Constructive Programme Its Meaning and Place on the train from Sevagram to Bardoli. He had listed the following original thirteen items in the year 1941: (1) Communal Unity (2) Removal of Untouchability (3) Prohibition (4) Khadi (5) Village Industries (6) Village Sanitation (7) Nai Talim or Basic Education (8) Adult Education (9) Uplift of Women (10) Education in Health and Hygiene (11) Provincial Languages (12) National Language (13 ) Promotion of Economic Equality. In 1945, Gandhi added five more items1) Kisans 2) Labour 3) Adivasis 4) Lepers 5) Students.

Alter Gandhiji's death, the following items were added by his followers to strengthen the movement: 1) Cow Protection 2) Nature Cure 3) Bhoodan 4) Gramdan 51 Shanti Sena. Gandhi's Constructive Programme was the blue-print for social resurgence, the espousal of Sarvadharma Samabhava (equal respect for all religions), the craft based, skill oriented, value creating Nai Talim (new education), the trusteeship concept, decentralized planning, local self-government, village self-sufficiency all of which were all embracing frame of the nonviolent revolution aimed at a new social order.

New Items in the Future

Moreover, the list is not complete and new items can be added as and when necessary. The items may be named which required equal attention towards the twenty first century. 1. Population Control 2. Resource Exhaustion 3. Pollution 4. Afforestation 5. Restoration of Ecology. 6. Prevention of Profiteering 7. Prevention of Hoarding 8. Prevention of Black Markets 9. Prevention of Smuggling 10. Prevention of Corruption 11. Electoral Reform 12. Prevention of Aids 13. Moral or Spiritual Education 14. Home for the Homeless 15. Prevention of Disability and Welfare of the Disabled 16. Removal of Hunger 17. Service to Refugees 18. Rehabilitation of Prisoners 19. Child and Bonded Labour 20. Family Welfare 21. Prevention of Female Infanticide 22. Care for the Aged 23. Prevention of Beggary 24. Protection for the Victims of Inter-caste Marriage 25. Prevention of Suicides 26. Uplift of Slum Dwellers 27. Rain Water Harvesting.

Significance of the Programme

Of these Gandhiji attached the greatest importance to the economic items and particularly to Khadi. Gandhiji considers economic problems in terms of the moral well being of man. His economic outlook is determined by the ideals of non-possession, non-stealing, bread-labour and Swadeshi. India's future lies in the practice of Swadeshi. The future of India is intrinsically connected with the future of its villages. There are ever increasing problems. With courage, conviction and abiding faith in the teaching of Gandhi, we have to tackle the problems of poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, insanitary condition, population explosion and the caste system. In every village, there should be a body of servants of the nation engaged in constructive work to achieve social, moral and economic freedom. It should be organised democratically from the bottom upwards. Five adult Constructive Workers should form a Unit. Two contiguous Panchayats should elect a leader. Fifty first-grade leaders should elect a second-grade leader and so on fill they covered the entire country'. In this way, Panchayati Raj bodies can playa vital role in the constructive work and service. In the centuries to come, we may encourage "Service-Worship" instead of "Leader-Worship" so as to make the upcoming centuries as "Constructive Service". In order to imbibe the spirit of service among youths, "Indian Constructive Service (ICS)" cadre may , be created in schools, colleges and villages. The existing "National Service Scheme (NSS)" in colleges and schools may be renamed as the "National, Constructive Service (NCS) or "Indian Constructive Service (ICS)", in the future. Further, we may observe 21st century of Constructive programmes as an integral part of Non-violence.

In Conclusion, it may be emphasised that the lamp of life will burn high in the huts of the World Community only when the Constructive Programmes are in full swing.

(Ajit Kumar is research scholar affiliated to the department of Gandhian studies Chandigarh)

[Source: Mine & Metal Worker, Gandhi Jayanti Number, 1998.]

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