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Constructive Programme - Its Meaning and Place

Constructive Programme - Its Meaning and Place

 

By Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

 

First published 1941, revised and enlarged edition in 1945.

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

This is a thoroughly revised edition of the Constructive

Programme which I first wrote in 1941. The items included in

it have not been arranged in any order, certainly not in the

order of their importance. When the reader discovers that a

particular subject though important in itself in terms of

Independence does not find place in the programme, he should know 

that the omission is not intentional. He should

unhesitatingly add to my list and let me know. My list does

not pretend to be exhaustive; it is merely illustrative. The

reader will see several new and important additions.

 

Readers, whether workers and volunteers or not, should

definitely realize that the constructive programme is the

truthful and non-violent way of winning Poorna Swaraj. Its

wholesale fulfilment is complete Independence. Imagine all

the forty crores of people busying themselves with the whole

of the constructive programme which is designed to build up

the nation from the very bottom upward. Can anybody

dispute  the  proposition  that  it  must  mean  complete

Independence in every sense of the expression, including the

ousting of foreign domination? When the critics laugh at the

proposition, what they mean is that forty crores of people

will never co-operate in the effort to fulfil the programme,

No doubt, there is considerable truth in the scoff. My answer

is, it is still worth the attempt, Given an indomitable will on

the part of a band of earnest workers, the programme is as

workable as any other and more so than most. Anyway, I

have no substitute for it, if it is to be based on non-violence.

 

Civil Disobedience, mass or individual, is an aid to

constructive effort and is a full substitute for armed revolt,

Training is necessary as well for civil disobedience as for

armed revolt. Only the ways are different. Action in either

 

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case takes place only when occasion demands. Training for

military revolt means learning the use of arms ending

perhaps in the atomic bomb. For civil disobedience it means

the Constructive Programme.

 

Therefore, workers will never be on the look-out for civil

resistance. They will hold themselves in readiness, if the

constructive effort is sought to be defeated. From one or two

illustrations it will be seen where it can be, and where it

cannot be, offered. Political pacts we know have been and

can be, but personal friendship with individuals cannot be,

prevented. Such friendships, selfless and genuine, must be

the basis for political pacts. Similarly, centralized khadi can

be defeated by the Government, but no power can defeat

individual manufacture and use of khadi. The manufacture

and use of khadi must not be imposed upon the people, but it

must be intelligently and willingly accepted by them as one

of the items of the freedom movement. This can be done

only from the villages as units. Pioneers even in such

programmes can be obstructed. They have had to go through

the fire of suffering throughout the world. There is no Swaraj

without suffering. In violence, truth is the first and the

greatest sufferer; in non-violence it is ever triumphant. More-

over, men composing the Government are not to be regard-

ed as enemies. To regard them as such will be contrary to

the non-violent spirit. Part we must, but as friends.

 

If this preliminary observation has gone home to the

reader, he will find the constructive programme to be full of

deep interest. It should prove as absorbing as politics so-

called and platform oratory, and certainly more important

and useful.

 

Poona, 13-11-1945

M. K. Gandhi

 

CONTENTS

 

FOREWORD................................................ 3

INTRODUCTORY. .......................................... 7

1. COMMUNAL UNITY ...................................... 8

2. REMOVAL OF UNTOUCHABILTY ............................ 10

3. PROHIBITION ......................................... 10

4. KHADI ............................................... 11

5. OTHER VILLAGE INDUSTRIES ...........15

6, VILLAGE SANITATION ..........................15

9. NEW OR BASIC  EDUCATION................15

8. ADULT EDUGATION. ............................17

9. WOMEN...................................................18

10. EDUCATION IN HEALTH AND HYGIENE ............... 19

II. PROVINCIAL LANGUAGES................... 20

12. NATIONAL LANGUAGES .................... 21

13. ECONOMIC EQUALITY.. ..................... 22

14. KISANS ................................................. 23

IS. LABOUR .................................................24

16. ADIVASIS. .............................................25

17. LEPERS ..................................................26

18. STUDENTS....  .......................................27

     PLACE OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE ........29

     CONCLUSION ........................................31

APPENDICES: ............... 

I. IMPROVEMENT OF CATTLE ................ 32

II CONGRESS POSITION............................ 32

 

 

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INTRODUCTORY

 

The constructive programme may otherwise and more

fittingly be called construction of Poorna Swaraj or complete

Independence by truthful and non-violent means.

 

Effort for construction of Independence so called through

violent and, therefore, necessarily untruthful means we know

only too painfully. Look at the daily destruction of property,

life and truth in the present war.

 

Complete Independence through truth and non-violence

means the independence of every unit, be it the humblest of

the nation, without distinction of race, colour or creed. This

independence is never exclusive. It is, therefore, wholly

compatible with interdependence within or without. Practice

will always fall short of the theory, even as the drawn line

falls  short  of the  theoretical  line  of Euclid.  Therefore,

complete Independence will be complete only to the extent

of our approach in practice to truth and non-violence.

 

Let the reader mentally plan out the whole of the, con-

structive programme, and he will agree with me that, if it

could be successully worked out, the end of it would be the

Independence we want. Has not Mr. Amery said that an

agreement between the major parties, translated in my

language, any agreement after communal unity which is only

one item in the constructive programme, will be respected?

We need not question his sincerity, for, if such unity is

honestly, i.e., non-violently, attained, it will in itself contain

the power to compel acceptance of the agreed demand,

On the other hand there is no such thing as an imaginary or

even perfect definition of Independence through violence,

For, it presupposes only ascendancy of that party of the

nation which makes the most effective use of violence. In it

perfect equality, economic or otherwise, is inconceivable.

 

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But for my purpose, which is to convince the reader of the

necessity of following out the constructive programme in the

non-violent effort, the acceptance of my argument about the

ineffectiveness of violence for the attainment of independ-

ence is not required. The reader is welcome to the belief that

Independence of the humblest unit is possible under a

scheme of violence, if this effort enables him also to admit

that it is a certainty through the complete execution of the

programme by the nation.

 

Let us now examine the items,

 

1. COMMUNAL UNITY

 

Everybody is agreed about the necessity of this unity. But

everybody does not know that unity does not mean political

unity which may be imposed. It means an unbreakable heart

unity. The first thing essential for achieving such unity is for

every Congressman, whatever his religion may be, to re-

present in his own person Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Zoroa-

strian, Jew, etc., shortly, every Hindu and non-Hindu. He has

to feel his identity with every one of the millions of the

inhabitants of Hindustan. In order to realize this, every

Congressman will cultivate personal friendship with persons

representing faiths other than his own. He should have the

same regard for the other faiths as he has for his own.

 

In such a happy state of things there would be no disgrace-

ful cry at the stations such as "Hindu water" and "Muslim

water" or "Hindu tea" and "Musrim tea". There would be no

separate rooms or pots for Hindus and non-Hindus in schools

and colleges, no communal schools, colleges and hospitals.

The beginning of such a revolution has to be made by

Congressmen without any political motive behind the

correct conduct. Political unity will be its natural fruit.

 

We have long been accustomed to think that power comes

only through Legislative Assemblies. I have regarded this

belief as a grave error brought about by inertia or hypnotism.

 

 

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A superficial study of British history has made us think that

all power percolates to the people from parliaments. The

truth is that power resides in the people and it is entrusted for

the time being to those whom they may choose as their

representatives.  Parliaments  have  no  power  or  even

existence independently of the people. It has been my effort

for the last twenty-one years to convince the people of this

simple truth. Civil Disobedience is the storehouse of power.

Imagine a whole people unwilling to conform to the laws of

the legislature, and prepared to suffer the consequences of

non-compliance! They will bring the whole legislative and

executive machinery to a standstill. The police and the

military are of use to coerce minorities however powerful

they may be. But no police or military coercion can bend the

resolute will of a people who are out for suffering to the

uttermost,

 

And Parliamentary procedure is good only when its

members are willing to conform to the will of the majority. In

other words, it is fairly effective only among compatibles.

 

Here in India we have been pretending to work the

parliamentary system under separate electorates which have

created artificial incompatibles. Living unity can never come

out of these artificial entities being brought together on a

common platform. Such legislatures may function. But they

can only be a platform for wrangling and sharing the crumbs

of power that may fall from rulers whoever they may be.

These rule with a rod of iron, and prevent the opposing

elements from flying at one another's throats. I hold the

emergence of complete Independence to be an impossibility

out of such a disgrace.

 

Though I hold such strong views, I have come to the

conclusion that so long as there are undesirable candidates

for elective bodies, Congress should put up candidates in

order to prevent reactionaries from entering such bodies.

 

 

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2. REMOVAL OF UNTOUCHABILITY

 

At this time of the day it is unnecessary to dilate upon the

necessity of the removal of this blot and curse upon

Hinduism. Congressmen have certainly done much in this

matter. But I am sorry to have to say that many Congressmen

have looked upon this item as a mere political necessity and

not something indispensable, so far as Hindus are concerned,

for the very existence of Hinduism. If Hindu Congressmen

take up the cause for its own sake, they will influence the so-

called *Sanatanis* far more extensively than they have hitherto

done. They should approach them not in a militant spirit but,

as befits their non-violence, in a spirit of friendliness. And so

far as the Harijans are concerned, every Hindu should make

common cause with them and befriend them in their awful

isolation-- such isolation as perhaps the world has never seen

in the monstrous immensity one witnesses in India. I know

from experience how difficult the task is. But it is part of the

task of building the edifice of Swaraj. And the road to Swaraj

is steep and narrow. There are many slippery ascents and

many deep chasms. They have all to be negotiated with

unfaltering step before we can reach the summit and breathe

the fresh air of freedom.

 

3. PROHIBITION

 

Although like communal unity and removal of untouch-

ability prohibition has been on the Congress programme

since 1920, Congressmen have not taken the interest they

might have taken in this very vital social and moral reform. If

we are to reach our goal through non-violent effort, we may

not leave to the future government the fate of lakhs of men

and women who are labouring under the curse of intoxicants

and narcotics.

 

Medical men can make a most effective contribution

towards the removal of this evil. They have to discover ways

 

 

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of weaning the drunkard and the opium-addict from the

curse .

 

Women and students have a special opportunity in advanc-

ing this reform. By many acts of loving service they can

acquire on addicts a hold which will compel them to listen to

the appeal to give up the evil habit.

 

Congress committees can open recreation booths where

the tired labourer will rest his limbs, get healthy and cheap

refreshments, and find suitable games, All this work is

fascinating and uplifting. The non-violent approach to

Swaraj is a novel approach. In it old values give place to new.

In the violent way such reforms may find no place. Believers

in that way, in their impatience and, shall I say, ignorance,

put off such things to the day of deliverance. They forget that

lasting and healthy deliverance comes from within, i.e. from

self-purification. Constructive workers make legal prohibi-

tion easy and successful even if they do not pave the way for

 

4. KHADI

 

*Khadi* is a controversial subject. Many people think that in

advocating *Khadi* I am sailing against a headwind and am

sure to sink the ship of Swaraj and that I am taking the

country to the dark ages. I do not propose to argue the case

for *Khadi* in this brief survey. I have argued it sufficiently

elsewhere. Here I want to show what every Congressman,

and for that matter every Indian, can do to advance the

cause of *Khadi*. It connotes the beginning of economic

freedom and equality of all in the country. "The proof of the

pudding is in the eating." Let everyone try, and he or she will

find out for himself or herself the truth of what I am saying.

*Khadi* must be taken with all its implications. It means a

wholesale Swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the

necessaries of life in india and that too through the labour

andintellect of the villagers. That means a reversal 6f the

 

 

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existing process. That is to say that, instead of half a dozen

cities of India and Great Britain living on the exploitation

and the ruin of the 7,00,000 villages of India, the latter will be

largely self-contained, and will voluntarily serve the cities of

India and even the outside world in so far as it benefits both

the parties.

 

This needs a revolutionary change in the mentality and

tastes of many. Easy though the non-violent way is in many

respects, it is very difficult in many others. It vitally touches

the life of every single Indian, makes him feel aglow with the

possession of a power that has lain hidden within himself,

and makes him proud of his identity with every drop of the

ocean of Indian humanity. This non-violence is not the

inanity for which we have mistaken it through all these long

ages; it is the most potent force as yet known to mankind and

on which its very existence is dependent. It is that force

which I have tried to present to the Congress and through it

to the world. *Khadi* to me is the symbol of unity of Indian

humanity, of its economic freedom and equality and, there-

fore, ultimately, in the poetic expression of Jawaharlal

Nehru, "the livery of India's freedom".

 

Moreover, *Khadi* mentality means decentralization of the

production and distribution of the necessaries of life. There-

fore, the formula so far evolved is, every village to produce

all its necessaries and a certain percentage in addition for the

requirements of the cities.

 

Heavy industries will needs be centralized and nationaliz-

ed. But they will occupy the least part of the vast national

activity which will mainly be in the villages,

 

Having explained the implications of *Khadi*, I must

indicate what Congressmen can and should do towards its

promotion. Production of *Khadi* includes cotton growing,

picking, ginning, cleaning, carding, slivering, spinning, sizing,

dyeing, preparing the warp and the woof, weaving, and wash-

ing.  These,  with the exception of dyeing, are essential

processes. Every one of them can be effectively handled in

the villages and is being so handled in many villages through-

 

 

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out India which the A.I.S.A, is covering. According to the

latest report the following are the interesting figures:

2,75,146 villagers, including 19,645 Harijans and 57,378

Muslims, scattered in at least 13,451 villages received, as

spinners, weavers, etc. Rs. 34,85,609 in 1940. The spinners

were largely women.

 

Yet the work done is only one-hundredth part of what

could be done if Congressmen honestly took up the *Khadi*

programme. Since the wanton destruction of this central

village industry and the allied handicrafts, intelligence and

brightness have fled from the villages, leaving them inane,

lustreless, and reduced almost to the state of their ill-kept

cattle.

 

If Congressmen will be true to their Congress call in

respect of *Khadi* they will carry out the instructions of the

A. I.S.A. issued from time to time as to the part they can play

in Khadi planning. Only a few broad rules can be laid down

here:

 

1. Every family with a plot of ground can grow cotton at

least for family use. Cotton growing is an easy process. In

Bihar the cultivators were by law compelled to grow indigo

on 3/20 of their cultivable land. This was in the interest of the

foreign  indigo  planter.  Why  cannot we  grow cotton

voluntarily for the nation on a certain portion of our land?

The reader will note that decentralization commences from

the beginning of the *Khadi* processes. Today cotton crop is

centralized and has to be sent to distant parts of India.

Before the war it used to be sent principally to Britain and

Japan. It was and still is a money crop and, therefore, subject

to the fluctuations of the market. Under the Khadi scheme

cotton growing becomes free from this uncertainty and

gamble. The grower grows what he needs. The farmer needs

to know that his first business is to grow for his own needs.

When he does that, he will reduce the chance of a low

market ruining him.

 

2. Every spinner would buy--if he has not his own--

enough cotton for ginning, which he can easily do without

 

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the hand-ginning roller frame. He can gin his own portion

with a board and an iron rolling pin. Where this is considered

impracticable, hand-ginned cotton should be bought and

carded. Carding for self can be done well on a tiny bow

without much effort. The greater the decentralization of

labour, the simpler and cheaper the tools. The slivers made,

the process of spinning commences. I strongly recommend

the *dhanush takli*. I have used it frequently. My speed on it is

almost the same as on the wheel. I draw a finer thread and

the strength and evenness of the yarn are greater on the

*dhanush takli* than on the wheel. This may not, however,

hold good for all. My emphasis on the *dhanush takli* is based

on the fact that it is more easily made, is cheaper than and

does not require frequent repairs like the wheel. Unless one

knows how to make the two mals and to adjust them when

they slip or to put the wheel right when it refuses to work, the

wheel has often to lie idle. Moreover, if the millions take to

spinning at once, as they well may have to, the *dhanush takli*

being the instrument most easily made and handled, is the

only tool that can meet the demand. It is more easily made

even than the simple *takli*. The best, easiest and cheapest

way is to make it oneself. Indeed one ought to learn how to

handle and make simple tools. Imagine the unifying and

educative effect of the whole nation simultaneously taking

part in the process up to spinning! Consider the levelling

effect of the bond of common labour between the rich and

the goer!

 

Yarn thus produced may be used in three ways: by

presenting it to the A.I.S.A. for the sake of the poor, by

having it woven for personal use, or by getting as much

*Khadi* for it as it can buy. It is clear enough that the finer and

better the yarn the greater will be its virtue. If Congressmen

will put their heart into the work, thej will make improve-

ments in the tools and make many discoveries. In our

country there has been a divorce between labour and

intelligence, The result has been stagnation. If there is an

indissoluble marriage between the two, and that in the

 

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manner here suggested,  the resultant good will be

inestimable.

 

In this scheme of nation-wide spinning as a sacrifice, I do

not expect the average man or woman to give more than one

hour daily to this work.

 

5. OTHER VILLAGE INDUSTRIES

 

These stand on a different footing from *Khadi*. There is

not much scope for voluntary labour in them. Each industry

will take the labour of only a certain number of hands. These

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 them-

selves 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.

 

6. VILLAGE SANITATION

 

Divorce between intelligence and labour has resulted in

criminal negligence of the villages. And so, instead of having

graceful hamlets dotting the land, we have dung-heaps. The

approach to many villages is not a refreshing experience.

Often one would like to shut one's eyes and stuff one's nose;

 

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such is the surrounding dirt and offending smell. If the

majority of Congressmen were derived from our villages, as

they should be, they should be able to make our villages

models of cleanliness in every sense of the word. But they

have never considered it their duty to identify themselves

with the villagers in their daily lives. A sense of national or

social sanitation is not a virtue among us. We may take a

kind of a bath, but we do not mind dirtying the well or the

tank or the river by whose side or in which we perform

ablutions. 1 regard this defect as a great vice which is res-

ponsible for the disgraceful state of our villages and the

sacred banks of the sacred rivers and for the diseases that

spring from insanitation.

 

7. NEW OR BASIC EDUCATION

 

This is a new subject. But the members of the Working

Committee felt so much interested in it that they gave a

charter to the organizers of the Hindustani Talimi Sangh

which has been functioning since the Haripura session. This

is a big field of work for many Congressmen. This education

is meant to transform village children into model villagers. It

is principally designed for them. The inspiration for it has

come from the villages. Congressmen who want to build up

the structure of Swaraj from its very foundation dare not

neglect the children. Foreign rule has unconsciously, though

none the less surely, begun with the children in the field of

education. Primary education is a farce designed without

regard to the wants of the India of the villages and for that

matter even of the cities. Basic education links the children,

whether of the cities or the villages, to all that is best and

lasting in India. It develops both the body and the mind, and

keeps the child rooted to the soil with a glorious vision of the

future in the realization of which he or she begins to take his

or her share from the very commencement of his or her

career in school, Congressmen would find it of absorbing

interest benefiting themselves equally with the children with

 

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whom they come in contact. Let those who wish, put them-

selves in touch with the Secretary of the Sangh at Sevagram.

 

8. ADULT EDUCATION

 

This has been woefully neglected by Congressmen. Where

they have not neglected it, they have been satisfied with teach-

ing illiterates to read and write. If I had charge of adult

education, I should begin with opening the minds of the adult

pupils to the greatness and vastness of their country. The

villager's India is contained in his village. If he goes to

another village, he talks of his own village as his home.

Hindustan is for him a geographical term. We have no notion

of the ignorance prevailing in the villages. The villagers

know nothing of foreign rule and its evils. What little know-

ledge they have picked up fills them with the awe the

foreigner inspires. The result is the dread and hatred of the

foreigner and his rule. They do not know how to get rid of it.

They do not know that the foreigner's presence is due to

their own weaknesses and their ignorance of the power they

possess to rid themselves of the foreign rule. My adult educa-

tion means, therefore, first, true political education of the

adult by word of mouth, Seeing that this will be mapped out,

it can be given without fear. I imagine that it is too late in the

day for authority to interfere with this type of education; but

if there is interference, there must be a fight for this ele-

mentary right without which there can be no Swaraj. Of

course, in all I have written, openness has been assumed,

Non-violence abhors fear and, therefore, secrecy. Side by

side with the education by the mouth will be the literary

education. This is itself a speciality. Many methods are being

tried in  order to shorten  the period of education,  A

temporary or permanent board of experts may be appointed

by the Working Committee to give shape to the idea here

adumbrated and guide the workers. I admit that what I have

said in this paragraph only points the way but does not tell

 

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the average Congressman how to go about it. Nor is every

Congressman fitted for this highly special work. But

Congressmen who are teachers should find no difficulty in

laying down a course in keeping with the suggestions made

herein.

 

9. WOMEN

 

I have included service of women in the constructive

programme,  for though satyagraha has automatically

brought India's women out from their darkness, as nothing

else could have in such an incredibly short space of time,

Congressmen have not felt the call to see that women

became equal partners in the fight for Swaraj. They have not

realized that woman must be the true helpmate of man in the

mission of service. Woman has been suppressed under

custom and law for which man was responsible and in the

shaping of which she had no hand. In a plan of life based on

non-violence, woman has as much right to shape her own

destiny as man has to shape his. But as every right in a non-

violent society proceeds from the previous performance of a

duty, it follows that rules of social conduct must be framed

by mutual co-operation and consultation. They can never be

imposed from outside. Men have not realized this truth in its

fulness in their behaviour towards women. They have

considered themselves to be lords and masters of women

instead of considering them as their friends and co-workers.

It is the privilege of Congressmen to give the women of India

a lifting hand. Women are in the position somewhat of the

slave of old who did not know that he could or ever had to be

free. And when freedom came, for the moment he felt help-

less. Women have been taught to regard themselves as slaves

of men. It is up to Congressmen to see that they enable them

to realize their full status and play their part as equals of men,

 

This revolution is easy, if the mind is made up. Let

Congressmen begin with their own homes. Wives should not

be dolls and objects of indulgence, but should be treated as

 

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honoured comrades in common service. To this end those

who have not received a liberal education should receive

such instruction as is possible from their husbands. The same

observation applies, with the necessary changes, to mothers

and daughters.

 

It is hardly necessary to point out that I have given a one-

sided picture of the helpless state of India's women. I am

quite conscious of the fact that in the villages generally' they

hold their own with their men folk and in some respects even

rule them. But to the impartial outsider the legal and

customary status of woman is bad enough throughout and

demands radical alteration.

 

10. EDUCATION IN HEAL.TH AND HYGIENE

 

Having given a place to village sanitation, the question

may be asked why give a separate place to education in

health and hygiene? It might have been bracketed with

sanitation, but I did not wish to interfere with the items.

Mention of mere sanitation is not enough to include health

and hygiene. The art of keeping one's health and the know-

ledge of hygiene is by itself a separate subject of study and

corresponding practice. In a well-ordered society the citizens

know and observe the laws of health and hygiene. It is

established beyond doubt that ignorance and neglect of the

laws of health and hygiene are responsible for the majority

of diseases to which mankind is heir. The very high death

rate among us is no doubt due largely to our gnawing

poverty, but it could be mitigated if the people were properly

educated about health and hygiene.

 

*Mens sana in corpore sane* is perhaps the first law for

humanity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is a self-evident

truth. There is an inevitable connection between mind and

body. If we were in possession of healthy minds, we would

shed all violence and, naturally obeying the laws of health, we

would have healthy bodies without an effort. I hope, there-

 

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fore, that no Congressmen will disregard this item of the

constructive programme. The fundamental laws of health

and hygiene are simple and easily learnt. The difficulty is

about their observance. Here are some:

 

Think the purest thoughts and banish all idle and impure

thoughts.

Breathe the freshest air day and night.

Establish a balance between bodily and mental work.

Stand erect, sit erect, and be neat and clean in every one of

your acts, and let these be an expression of your inner

condition.

Eat to live for service of fellow-men. Do not ~ive for

indulging yourselves. Hence your food must be just enough

to keep your mind and body in good order. Man becomes

what he eats.

Your water, food and air must be clean, and you will not be

satisfied with mere personal cleanliness, but you will infect

your surroundings with the same threefold cleanliness that

you will desire for yourselves.

 

11. PROVINCIAL LANGUAGES

 

Our love of the English language in preference to our own

mother tongue has caused a deep chasm between the educat-

ed and politically-minded classes and the masses. The

languages of India have suffered impoverishment. We

flounder when we make the vain attempt to express abstruse

thought in the mother tongue. There are no equivalents for

scientific terms. The result has been disastrous. The masses

remain cut off from the modern mind. We are too near our

own times correctly to measure the disservice caused to

India by this neglect of its great languages; It is easy enough

to understand that, unless we undo the mischief, the mass

mind must remain imprisoned. The masses can make no

solid contribution to the construction of Swaraj. It is in-

herent in Swaraj based on non-violence that every individual

 

21

 

makes his own direct contribution to the Independence

movement. The masses cannot do this fully unless they

understand every step with all its implications. This is im-

possible  unless every  step is explained  in  their own

languages.

 

12. NATIONAL LANGUAGE

 

And then for all-India intercourse we need, from among

the Indian stock, a language which the largest number of

people already know and understand and which the others

can easily pick up. This language is indisputably Hindi. It is

spoken and understood by both Hindus and Muslims of the

North. It is called Urdu when it is written in the Urdu

character. The Congress, in its famous resolution passed at

the Cawnpore session in 1925, called this all-India speech

Hindustani. And since that time, in theory at least, Hindu-

stani has been the Rashtra Bhasha. I say 'in theory' because

even Congressmen have not practised it as they should have.

In 1920 a deliberate attempt was begun to recognize the

importance of Indian languages for the political education of

the masses, as also of an all-India common speech which

politically-minded India could easily speak and which

Congressmen from the different provinces could understand

at all-India gatherings of the Congress. Such National

languages should enable one to understand and speak both

forms of speech and write in both the scripts.

 

I   am   sorry   to   have   to   say   that   many   Congressmen   have

failed to carry out that resolution. And so we have, in my

opinion, the shameful spectacle of Congressmen insisting on

speaking in English and compelling others to do likewise for

their sakes. The spell that English has cast on us is not yet

broken. Being under it, we are impeding the progress of

India towards her goal. Our love of the masses must be skin-

deep, if we will not take the trouble of spending over learning

Hindustani as many months as the years we spend over

learning English.

 

22

 

13. ECONOMIC EQUALITY

This last is the master key to non-violent Independence.

Working for economic equality means abolishing the eternal

conflict between capital and labour. It means the levelling

down of the few rich in whose hands is concentrated the bulk

of the nation's wealth on the one hand, and the levelling up

of the semi-starved naked millions on the other. A non-

violent system of Government is clearly an impossibility so

long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry

millions persists. The contrast between the palaces of New

Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor labouring class

nearby cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor

will enjoy the same power as the richest in the land. A violent,

and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a

voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give

and sharing them for the common good.

 

I adhere to my doctrine of trusteeship in spite of the

ridicule that has been poured upon it. It is true that it is

difficult to reach. So is non-violence. But we made up our

minds in 1920 to negotiate that steep ascent. We have found

it worth the effort. It involves a daily growing appreciation of

the working of non-violence. It is expected that Congress-

men will make a diligent search and reason out for them-

selves the why and the wherefore of non-violence. They

should ask themselves how the existing inequalities can be

abolished violently or non-violently. I think we know the

violent way. It has not succeeded anywhere.

 

This non-violent experiment is still in the making. We have

nothing much yet to show by way of demonstration. It is

certain, however, that the method has begun to work though

ever so slowly in the direction of equality. And since non-

violence is a process of conversion, the conversion, if

achieved, must be permanent. a society or a nation con-

structed non-violently must be able to withstand attack upon

its structure  from without or within.  We  have  moneyed

 

23

 

Congressmen in the organization. They have to lead the way.

This fight provides an opportunity for the closest heart-

searching on the part of every individual Congressman. If

ever we are to achieve equality, the foundation has to be laid

now, Those who think that the major reforms will come after

the advent of Swaraj are deceiving themselves as to the

elementary working of non-violent Swaraj. It will not drop

from heaven all of a sudden one fine morning, But it has to

be built up brick by brick by corporate self-effort, We have

travelled a fair way in that direction, But a much longer and

weary distance has to be covered before we can behold

Swaraj in its glorious majesty, Every Congressman has to ask

himself what he has done towards the attainment of

economic equality,

 

14. KISANS

 

The programme is not exhaustive. Swaraj is a mighty

structure. Eighty crores of hands have to work at building it,

Of these *kisans*, i.e., the peasantry are the largest part. In

fact, being the bulk of them (probably over 80%) the *kisans*

should be the Congress, But they are not, When they become

conscious of their non-violent strength, no power on earth

can resist them.

 

They must not be used for power politics. I consider it to

be contrary to the non-violent method. Those who would

know my method of organizing *kisans* may profitably study

the movement in Champaran when *satyagraha* was tried for

the first time in India with the result all India knows. It

became a mass movement which remained wholly non-

violent from start to finish. It affected over twenty lakhs of

*kisans*. The struggle centred round one specific grievance

which was a century old. There had been several violent

revolts to get rid of the grievance. The *kisans* were suppres-

sed, The non-violent remedy succeeded in full in six months.

The *kisans* of Champaran became politically conscious with-

out any direct effort. The tangible proof they had of the

 

24

 

working of non-violence to remove their grievance drew

them to the Congress, and led by Babu Brijkishoreprasad and

Babu Rajendraprasad they gave a good account of them-

selves during the past Civil Disobedience campaigns.

The reader may also priofitably study the kisan movements

in Kheda, Bardoli and Borsad, The secret of success lies in a

refusal to exploit the *kisans* for political purpose outside

their own personal and felt grievances. Organization round a

specific wrong they understand. They need no sermons on

non-violence. Let them learn to apply non-violence as an

effective remedy which they can understand, and later when

they are told that the method they were applying was non-

violent, they readily recognize it as such.

 

From these illustrations Congressmen who care could

study how work can be done for and among *kisans*. I hold

that the method that some Congressmen have followed to

organize *kisans* has done them no good and has probably

harmed them. Anyway they have not used the non-violent

method. Be it said to the credit of some of these workers that

they frankly admit that they do not believe in the non-violent

method. My advice to such workers would be that they

should neither use the Congress name nor work as Congress-

men.

 

The reader will now understand why I have refrained from

the competition to organize *kisans* and Labour on an all-

India basis. How I wish that all hands pulled in the same

direction! But perhaps in a huge country like ours it is

impossible. Anyway, in non-violence there is no coercion.

Cold reason and demonstration of the working of non-

violence must be trusted to do the work.

In my opinion, like labour, they should have under the

Congress, a department working for their specific question.

 

15. LABOUR

 

Ahmedabad Labour Union is a model for all India to copy,

Its basis is non-violence, pure and simple, It has never had a

 

25

 

set-back in its career. It has gone on from strength to

strength without fuss and without show. It has its hospital, its

schools for the children of the mill-hands, its Glasses for

adults, its own printing press and *khadi* depot, and its own

residential quarters. Almost all the hands are voters and

decide the fate of elections. They came on the voters' list at

the instance of the Provincial Congress Committee. The

organization has never taken part in party politics of the

Congress. It influences the municipal policy of the city. It has

to its credit very successful strikes which were wholly non-

violent. Mill-owners and labour have governed their relations

largely through voluntary arbitration. If I had my way, I

would regulate all the labour organizations of India after the

Ahmedabad model. It has never sought to intrude itself upon

the All-India Trade Union Congress and has been unin-

fluenced by that Congress. A time, I hope, will come when it

will be possible for the Trade Union Congress to accept the

Ahmedabad method and have the Ahmedabad organization

as part of the All-India Union. But I am in no hurry. It will

come in its own time.

 

16.  ADIVASIS

 

The term *adivasi*, like *raniparaj*, is a coined word. *Rani-

paraj* stands for *kaliparaj* (meaning black people, though

their skin is no more black than that of any other). It was

coined, I think by Shri Jugatram. The term *adivasi* (for Bhils,

Gonds, or others variously described as Hill Tribes or ab-

originals) means literally original inhabitants and was coined,

I believe, by Thakkar Bapa,

 

Service of *adivasis* is also a part of the constructive

programme. Though they are the sixteenth number in this

programme, they are not the least in point of importance.

Our country is so vast and the races so varied that the best of

us cannot know all there is to know of men and their condi-

tion. As one discovers this for oneself, one realizes how diffi-

cult it is to make good our claim to be one nation, unless every

 

26

 

unit has a living consciousness of being one with every other. 

The *adivasis* are over two crores in all India. Bapa began

work among the Bhils years ago in Gujarat. In about 1940

Shri Balasaheb Kher threw himself with his usual zeal into

this much-needed service in the Thana District. He is now

President of the Adivasi Seva Mandal.

 

There are several such other workers in other pacts of

India and yet they are too few. Truly, "the harvest is rich but

the labourers are few." Who can deny that all such service is

not merely humanitarian but solidly national, and brings us

nearer to true independence?

 

17. LEPERS

 

Leper is a word of bad odour. India is perhaps a home of

lepers next only to Central Africa. Yet they are as much a

part of society as the tallest among us. But the tall absorb our

attention though they are least in need of it. The lot of the

lepers who are much in need of attention is studied neglect. I

am tempted to call it heartless, which it certainly is, in terms

of non-violence. It is largely the missionary who, be it said to

his credit, bestows care on him. The only institution run by an

Indian, as a pure labour of love, is by Shri Manohar Diwan

near Wardha. It is working under the inspiration and

guidance of Shri Vinoba Bhave. If India was pulsating with

new life, if we were all in earnest about winning independ-

ence in the quickest manner possible by truthful and non-

violent means, there would not be a leper or beggar in India

uncared for and unaccounted for. In this revised edition I am

deliberately introducing the leper as a link in the chain of

constructive effort. For, what the leper is in India, that we

are, if we will, but look about us, for the modern civilized

world. Examine the condition of our brethren across the

ocean and the truth of my remark will be borne home to us.

 

27

 

18. STUDENTS

 

I have reserved students to the last. I have always culti-

vated close contact with them. They know me and I know

them. They have given me service. Many ex-collegians are

my esteemed co-workers. I know that they are the hope of

the future. In the heyday of non-co-operation they were

invited to leave their schools and colleges. Some professors

and students who responded to the Congress call have

remained steadfast and gained much for the country and

themselves, The call has not been repeated for there is not

the atmosphere for it. But experience has shown that the lure

of the current education, though it is false and unnatural, is

too much for the youth of the country. College education

provides a career. It is a passport for entrance to the charm-

ed circle. Pardonable hunger for knowledge cannot be satis-

fied otherwise than by going through the usual rut. They do

not mind the waste of precious years in acquiring knowledge

of an utterly foreign language which takes the place of the

mother tongue, The sin of it is never felt. They and their

teachers have made up their minds that the indigenous

languages are useless for gaining access to modern thought

and the modern sciences, I wonder how the Japanese are

faring. For, their education, I understand, is all given in

Japanese. The Chinese Generalissimo knows very little, if

anything, of English.

 

But such as the students are, it is from these young men

and women that the future leaders of the nation are to rise.

Unfortunately they are acted upon by every variety of influ-

ences. Non-violence offers them little attraction. A blow for a

blow or two for one is an easily understandable proposition.

It seems to yield immediate result though momentary. It is a

never-ending trial of brute strength as we see in time of war

among brutes or among human beings. Appreciation of non-

violence means patient research and still more patient and

difficult practice. I have not entered the list of competitors

for the students' hand, for the reasons that have dictated my

 

28

 

course about *kisans* and Labour. But I am myself a fellow

student, using the word in its broader sense. My university is

diflerent from theirs. They have a standing invitation from

me to come to my university and join me in my search. Here

are the terms:

 

1. Students must not take part in party politics. They are

students, searchers, not politicians.

2. They may not resort to political strikes. They must have

their heroes, but their devotion to them is to be shown by

copying the best in their heroes, not by going on strikes, if

the heroes are imprisoned or die or are even sent to the

gallows. if their grief is unbearable and if all the students feel

equally, schools or colleges may be closed on such occasions,

with the consent of their principals. If the principals will not

listen, it is open to the students to leave their institutions in a

becoming manner till the managers repent and recall them

On no account may they use coercion against dissentients or

against the authorities. They must have the confidence that

if they are united and dignified in their conduct, they are sure

to win.

3. They must all do sacrificial spinning in a scientific

manner. Their tools shall be always neat, clean, and in good

order and condition. If possible, they will learn to make them

themselves. Their yarn will naturally be of the highest

quality. They will study the literature about spinning with a

its economic, social, moral and political implications.

4. They will be *khadi*-users all through and use village

products to the exclusion of all analogous things, foreign or

machine-made.

5. They may not impose *Vande Mataram* or the National

Flag on others. They may wear National flag buttons on

their own persons but not force others to do the same.

6. They can enforce the message of the tricolour flag

their own persons and harbour neither communalism nor

untouchability in their hearts. They will cultivate real friend-

ship with students of other faiths and with Harijans as if they

were their own kith and kin.

 

29

 

7. They will make it a point to give first aid to their injured

neighbours and do scavenging and cleaning in the neighbour-

ing villages and instruct village children and adults.

8. They will learn the national language, Hindustani, in its

present double dress, two forms of speech and two scripts,

that they may feel at home whether Hindi or Urdu is spoken

and nagari or urdu script is written.

9. They will translate into their own mother tongue every-

thing new they may learn, and transmit it in their weekly

rounds to the surrounding villages.

19. They will do nothing in secret, they will be above board

in all their dealings, they will lead a pure life of self-restraint

shed all fear and be always ready to protect their weak

fellow-students, and be ready to quell riots by non-violent

conduct at the risk of their lives. And when the final heat of

the struggle comes they will leave their institutions and, if

need be, sacrifice themselves for the freedom of their

country.

11. They will be scrupulously correct and chivalrous in

their behaviour towards their girl fellow-students,

 

For working out the programme I have sketched for them,

the students must find time. I know that they waste a great

deal of time in idleness. By strict economy, they can save

many hours. But I do not want to put an undue strain upon

any student. I would, therefore, advise patriotic students to

lose one year, not at a stretch but spread it over their whole

study. They will find that one year so given will not be a

waste of time. The effort will add to their equipment, mental,

moral and physical, and they will have made even during

their studies a substantial contribution to the freedom

movement.

 

PLACE OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

 

I have said in these pages that Civil Disobedience is not

absolutely necessary to win freedom through purely non-

 

30

 

violent effort, if the co-operation of the whole nation is

secured in the constructive programme, But such good luck

rarely  favours  nations  or  individuals.  Therefore;  it  is

necessary to know the place of Civil Disobedience in a

nation-wide non-violent effort.

 

It has three definite functions:

 

1. It can be effectively offered for the redress of a local

wrong.

2. It can be offered without regard to effect, though aimed

at a particular wrong or evil, by way of self-immolation in

order to rouse local consciousness or conscience. Such was

the case in Champaran when I offered Civil Disobedience

without any regard to the effect and well knowing that even

the people might remain apathetic. That it proved otherwise

may be taken, according to taste, as God's grace or a stroke

of good luck,

3. In the place of full response to constructive effort, it can

be offered as it was in 1941. Though it was a contribution to

and part of the battle for freedom, it was purposely centred

round a particular issue, i.e. free speech. Civil Disobedience

can never be directed fur a general cause such as for

Independence. The issue must be definite and capable of

being clearly understood and within the power of the

opponent to yield. This method properly applied must lead

to the final goal.

 

I have not examined here the full scope and possibilities of

Civil Disobedience. I have touched enough of it to enable the

reader to understand the connection between the con-

structive programme and Civil Disobedience. In the first two

cases, no elaborate constructive programme was or could be

necessary. But when Civil Disobedience is itself devised for

the attainment of Independence, previous preparation is

necessary, and it has to be backed by the visible and con-

scious effort of those who are engaged in the battle. Civil

Disobedience is thus a stimulation for the fighters and a

challenge to the opponent. It should be clear to the reader

that Civil Disobedience in terms of Independence without

 

31

 

the co-operation of the millions by way of constructive effort

is mere bravado and worse than useless.

 

CONCLUSION

 

This is not a thesis written on behalf of the Congress or at

the instance of the Central Office. It is the outcome of

conversations I had with some co-workers in Sevagram,

They had felt the want of something from my pen showing

the connection between the constructive programme and

Civil Disobedience and how the former might be worked, I

have endeavoured to supply the want in this pamphlet. It

does not purport to be exhaustive, but it is sufficiently indi-

cative of the way the programme should be worked.

 

Let not the reader make the mistake of laughing at any of

the items as being part of the movement for Independence.

Many people do many things, big and small, without connect-

ing them with non-violence or Independence, They have then

their limited value as expected, The same man appearing as a

civilian may be of no consequence, but appearing in his

capacity as General he is a big personage, holding the lives of

millions at his mercy. Similarly. the charkha in the hands of a

poor widow brings a paltry pice to her, in the hands of a

Jawaharlal it is an instrument of India's freedom. It is the

office which gives the charkha its dignity. It is the office

assigned to the constructive programme which gives it an

irresistible prestige and power,

 

Such at least is my view. It may be that of a mad man, If it

makes no appeal to the Congressman. I must be rejected. For

my handling of Civil Disobedience without the constructive

programme will be like a paralyzed hand attempting to lift a

spoon,

 

Poona, 13-11-1943

 

32

 

APPENDICES

 

I

 

IMPROVEMENT OF CATTLE

(This is what Gandhiji wrote sometime ago about adding

Goseva as one more item in the Constructive Programme.

J, Desai)

 

Extract from a letter written by Gandhiji to Shri Jivanji

Desai:

Sodepur,

16-1-'46

 

"...You are right: cow service (goseva) should be

included as one more item in the Constructive Programme. I

would phrase it as improvement of cattle. I think it should not

have been left out. We shall see about it when the next

edition is out."

 

II

 

CONGRESS POSITION

 

Indian National Congress which is the oldest national

political organization and which has after many battles

fought her non-violent way to freedom cannot be allowed to

die. It can only die with the nation. A living organism ever

grows or it dies, The Congress has won political freedom, but

it  has  yet  to  win  economic  freedom,  social  and  moral

freedom. These freedoms are harder than the political, if

only because they are constructive, less exciting and not

spectacular. All-embracing constructive work evokes the

energy of all the units of the millions,

 

The Congress has got the preliminary and necessary part

of her freedom. The hardest has yet to come. In its difficult

ascent to democracy, it has inevitably created rotten

boroughs leading to corruption and creation of institutions,

popular and democratic only in name. How to get out of the

weedy and unwieldy growth?

 

33

 

The Congress must do away with its special register of

members, at no time exceeding one crore, not even then

easily identifiable. It has an unknown register of millions who

could never be wanted. Its register should now be co-

extensive with all the men and women on the voters' rolls in

the country. The Congress business should be to see that no

faked name gets in and no legitimate name is left out. On its

own register it will have a body of servants of the nation who

would be workers doing the work allotted to them from time

to time.

 

Unfortunately for the country they will be drawn chiefly

for the time being from the city dwellers, most of whom

would be required to work for and in the villages of India.

The ranks must be filled in increasing numbers from

villagers.

 

These servants will be expected to operate upon and serve

the voters registered according to law, in their own surround-

ings. Many persons and parties will woo them. The very best

will win. Thus and in no other way can the Congress regain

its fast ebbing unique position in the country. But yesterday

the Congress was unwittingly the servant of the Nation, it was

*khudai khidmatgar*--God's servant. Let it now proclaim to

itself and the world that it is only God's servant-nothing

more, nothing less. If it engages in the ungainly skirmish for

power, it will find one fine morning that it is no more. Thank

God, it is now no longer in sole possession of the field.

 

I have only opened to view the distant scene. If I have the

time and health, I hope to discuss in these columns what the

servants of the Nation can do to raise themselves in the

estimation of their masters, the whole of the adult population,

male and female.

 

New Delhi, 27-1-'48

M, K. Gandhi