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20. Wheat and Gur

Last week I dealt with rice. Let us now take up wheat. It is the second most important article of diet, if not the first. From the nutritive standpoint, it is the king of cereals. By itself, it is more perfect than rice. Flour bereft of the valuable bran is like polished rice. That branless flour is as bad as polished rice is the universal testimony of medical men. Whole-wheat flour ground in one's own chakki is any day superior to, and cheaper than, the fine flour to be had in the bazars. It is cheaper because the cost of grinding is saved. Again, in whole-wheat flour there is no loss of weight. In fine flour there is loss of weight. The richest part of wheat is contained in its bran. There is a terrible loss of nutrition when the bran of wheat is removed. The villagers and others who eat whole-wheat flour ground in their own chakkis save their money and, what is more important, their health. A large part of the millions that flour-mills make will remain in and circulate among the deserving poor when village grinding is revived.

But the objection is taken that chakki grinding is a tedious process, that often wheat is indifferently ground and that it does not pay the villagers formerly to grind wheat themselves. If it paid the villagers formerly to grind their own corn, surely the advent of flour-mills should make no difference. They may not plead want of time, and when intelligence is allied to labour, there is every hope of improvement in the chakki. The argument of indifferent grinding can have no practical value. If the chakki was such an indifferent grinder, it could not have stood the test of time immemorial. But to obviate the risk of using indifferently ground whole-wheat flour, I suggest that, wherever there is suspicion, the flour of uneven grinding may be passed through a sieve and the contents may be turned into thick porridge and eaten with or after chapati. If this plan is followed, grinding becomes incredibly simple, and much time and labour can be saved.

All this change can only be brought about by some previous preparation on the part of workers and instruction of villagers. This is a thankless task. But it is worth doing, if the villagers are to live in health and elementary comfort.

Gur is the next article that demands attention. According to the medical testimony I have reproduced in these columns, gur is any day superior to refined sugar in food value, and if the villagers cease to make gur as they are already beginning to do, they will be deprived of an important food adjunct for their children. They may do without gur themselves, but their children cannot without undermining their stamina. Gur is superior to bazaar sweets and to refined sugar. Retention of gur and its use by the people in general means several crores of rupees retained by the villagers.

But some workers maintain that gur does not pay the cost of production. The growers who need money against their crops cannot afford to wait till they have turned cane-juice into gur and disposed of it. Though I have testimony to the contrary, too, this argument is not without force. I have no ready-made answer for it. There must be something radically wrong when an article of use, made in the place where also its raw material is grown, does not pay the cost of labour. This is a subject that demands local investigation in each case. Workers must not take the answer of villagers and despair of a remedy. National growth, identification of cities with villages, depend upon the solution of such knotty problems as are presented by gur. We must make up our mind that gur must not disappear from the villages, even if it means an additional pice to be paid for it by city people.

Harijan, 1-2-1935