GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com                                    

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Salaries and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

The railways depend on the poor for their existence and you owe your salaries largely to the money received from them. Some booking clerks abuse the poor, address them slightingly, and on top of that delay issuing tickets to them as long as they can. This is no way of showing one’s importance. Issuing a ticket without delay to anyone asking for it saves the latter’s time and you lose nothing by doing so. 1 Yes, it is quite right to pay the salaries from the Ashram reserves. We shall see what to do when some one donates money for the school. The teachers’ quarters will also be constructed out of the Ashram funds. They should, if they can, pay rent at the rate of six per cent, or any other rate which may be considered reasonable, onthe cost of the land and all the other expenses. This answers all your points. 2

Childhood is the most important period of one’s life. Knowledge received during this period is never forgotten. But this is the period during which the child is allowed the least time for learning and is held prisoner in no matter what manner of school. I hold that, in our equipping high schools and colleges, we incur expense which this poor land can hardly bear. If, instead, primary education were to be given by well-educated and experienced teachers of high character, in surroundings which would reflect some regard for the beauty of Nature and safeguard the health of the pupils, we would see good results in a short time We would not succeed in bringing about the desired change even if we double the monthly salaries of the present teachers. Big results cannot be brought about through such small changes. The very pattern of primary education must change. I know that this is a difficult proposition and that there are several obstacles in the way. All the same, it should not be beyond the power of the Gujarat Kelavani Mandal to find a solution to this problem. 3

If you send a reply to this letter address it to Sabarmati. I write this from Bombay. The teachers’ salaries are undoubtedly low. But I do not know if you have taken the steps that ought to be taken before launching satyagraha. It is necessary moreover to know whether those who wish to experiment with Satyagraha have the requisite strength. It is better not to start a satyagraha thoughtlessly and without the strength for it than to abandon it in the middle out of cowardice and give it a bad name. I cannot find anything special or meritorious in teaching without a salary. Teachers do not teach for the sake of teaching but for earning a livelihood. If they do not get a salary at all or are inadequately paid, they can give up their jobs without bothering about what would become of the pupils. Normally a month’s notice should be given before quitting service for starting a satyagraha or for any other reason. If I take up only your two questions then I feel certain that you should tender your resignation after giving due notice. In a satyagraha of this kind, the result hoped for cannot be achieved without unity. Perhaps it would be better for you not to resign if a majority of the teachers are not of one mind. But before giving any positive opinion on the subject, I should know many more things. Before taking any step it would be better if as many of the teachers as possible could see me at the Ashram. 4

It is not suggested at all in our friend’s scheme that no salaries should be paid. It provides for the teacher’s livelihood, but a teacher who cannot fix a limit for his income cannot identify himself completely with the school. If anyone from the educated classes of Gujarat wish to devote their life to such education, they should write to the Secretary, the National Education Section. If we get teachers of the right kind, we shall shortly see in Ahmedabad such a school imparting national education. The children attending this school will live in their homes; they will attend school only during school hours. The same may be understood for the teachers. The National School running as part of the Satyagraha Ashram will have no connection with our friend’s scheme save that the same educational pattern will obtain in both. In the Satyagraha Ashram school, the aim is to obtain complete control of the pupils and train teachers from among them. The object of the school now under consideration will be merely to impart primary education to children in Ahmedabad. 5

Our teachers have indeed lost manhood. They do under force what, otherwise, they would not do. No physical force is used on them, but they are subjected to a subtle kind of pressure. Teachers get frightened by threats from their superiors, by threats or hints of cuts in their salaries or stoppage of increments. We are now faced with a situation in which teachers both men and women should risk their lives, their belongings and their salaries and, courageously, put the situation before the students as it is. If they cannot do so, they should give up teaching as their means of livelihood. My task for the day will be done when I have explained this to the teachers. A great teacher like Shri Shastriar is in the opposite camp. Even Pandit Malaviya, founder of an institution like the [Benares] Hindu University, is of the opinion that I am leading the public on the wrong path. Those who belong to the nationalist camp also have their doubts. Even so I believe I am right.  Gujarat will be as good as free today if teachers come to be fired with heroism and feel that they cannot accept salaries from a Government which does not do justice and does not feel penitent for its misdeeds. If they courageously declare that they would impart only such education as is truly national, even though they may have to beg for the purpose, the very gods in heaven would come down to witness what they did and rain money on them. 6

Personally, I am convinced that the present salaries of primary school teachers are very low. All the same, I cannot at present advise them to agitate for higher salaries. Even if teachers were to be paid adequately, to my mind all schools run by the Government deserve to be shunned like poison, by both teachers and pupils. If, therefore, the primary school teachers have sufficient national consciousness and moral strength, they should leave, at any cost to themselves, these schools in which the pupils are educated, above everything else, for slavery and should work to educate the people, even begging for their maintenance, as teachers used to do in ancient times. But, personally, I am certain that, if teachers give up Government service in all sincerity and with full faith in themselves, the public will not fail to provide for them. 7 

And that brings me to the existing system of government. The country is the poorer for the Reforms. The annual expenditure has grown. A deeper study of the system has convinced me that no tinkering with it will do. A complete revolution is the greatest need of the time. The word revolution displeases you. What I plead for, however, is not a bloody revolution, but a revolution in the thoughtworld, such as would compel a radical revision of the standard of life in the higher services of the country. I must frankly confess to you that the ever-increasing rate of salaries paid to the higher branches of the Civil Service fairly frightens me, as I hope it would frighten you. Is there any correspondence between the life of the governors and of the governed millions who are groaning under their heels? The bruised bodies of the latter are a standing testimony to the truth of my statement. You now belong to the governing class. Let it not be said that your heels are no softer than your predecessors’ or your associates’. Must you also rule from Simla? Must you also follow the policy that, only a year ago, you criticized adversely? It is under your regime that a man has been sentenced to transportation for life for holding certain opinions. 8

On the basis of its capacity to pay, Gujarat’s share cannot be just 10 lakhs. If it has not contributed towards public work in the past, the reason is that it did not want to. It has had its eyes always fixed on Bombay and, therefore, lacks faith in itself. How can Viramgam rest satisfied with a contribution of Rs. 12,000? And Wadhwan with six or seven thousand? These figures are indications of our apathy towards public work. There was, however, a time when it wold have been difficult to collect even these amounts in Viramgam or Wadhwan. If it has been possible to collect them, it should be possible to collect even more in these two places and so too in other towns. Every big town should estimate its capacity and collect the amount falling to its share. In any case, the standards for collectiong which, after consulting friends, I have recommended to the public must be applied. No person wih a fixed salary should give less than 10 per cent of his monthly pay. People getting big salaries should of themselves give more and thus cover others whose salaries are low. Business men, lawyers, doctors and others like them should pay not less than 12 per cent. For top men among lawyers and doctors, though, how can there be a fixed percentage? 9

The councillors want their fares and extras, the ministers their salaries, the lawyers their fees, the suitors their decrees, the parents such education for their boys as would give them status in the present life, the millionaires want facilities for multiplying their millions and the rest their unmanly peace. The whole revolves beautifully round the central corporation. It is a giddy dance from which no one cares to free himself and so, as the speed increases, the exhilaration is the greater. But it is a death dance and the exhilaration is induced by the rapid heartbeat of a patient who is about to expire. 10

if we calculate the salaries of all of them at market rates. they will surely amount to at least Rs. 1,000 a month. That works out to Rs, 60,000 for five years. Now you will see that a saving of Rs. 50,000 is no very big achievement. If the number of subscribers to Navajivan were not as small as it is, if there were no loss in the publication of books as at present, if Young India and Hindi Navajivan were to pay their way, a sum larger than Rs. 50,000 could easily have been saved. If any profits should accrue hereafter, we intend to distribute them every year. Swami Anandanand does not like to deposit even a pie in the bank. He believes, and I agree with him, that public insti-tutions should accumulate no surpluses with them. He tries to act in obedience to God’s law, as far as possible. God always provides daily food for all created beings. If many people had not hoarded food in excess of their needs, no one would have died of hunger in this world. Moreover, public institutions have no right to subsist on reserves. A public institution ought to exist only as long as it is popular. When the people stop supporting it, it must close down. 11

The salaries paid to them are included in the sum of Rs. 3,50,000 I have mentioned. We nave two colleges, and also a Puratatva Mandir. I have heard in this connection that such work is being done nowhere else in the country. There are three living institutions which support us and are being supported by us. These are the Dakshinamurti Vidyarti Bhavan, the Charotar Kelavani Mandal and the Broach Kelavani Mandal. Their founders and managers will grant that, if those institutions have, by joining the Non-co-operation movement, added to its prestige, they have also gained vitality from it.  I have been informed that the Navajivan Prakashan Mandir has brought out a number of books. People do not know that I am not its proprietor. It belongs to Swami Anandanand. He informs me only after everything has been printed off. I have received complaints that Anandanand has deceived Gujarat, that he has persuaded Navajivan to donate Rs. 50,000, but do I know, they ask me, how much he has swallowed? To that I shall reply that I have no such swindlers staying with me and that, if there are any, I do not know them. In this institution, some draw no salaries and some take as much as they need; if, however, I allow a reasonable rate of payment, I estimate that the figure would exceed Rs. 50,000. 12

If it is so, how can we expect that the teachers’ worth will ever rise? Can anyone raise the salaries of seven lakh teachers in seven lakh villages? If the salaries of so many teachers do not rise and if it is considered necessary to raise them, we should rest content with employing high-paid teachers in a few villages and allowing the rest to go without education. We have been doing this since the establishment of British rule. We realize that this practice is wrong. Hence let us find out a scheme which can cover all villages. Under this scheme, teachers will not be valued according to their salaries and work. Teachers themselves will place more value on their teaching work than on their salaries. In short, teaching should be regarded as the teachers’ dharma. The teacher who takes his food without performing that sacrifice should be looked upon as a thief. If that is done, there will be no shortage of teachers and yet they will be valued a million times higher than millionaires. By changing his outlook, every teacher can enjoy that position even today. 13 Salaries of the civil and military service should be brought down to a level compatible with the general condition of the country. 14

All these young men are educated. Many of them were professors and drew big salaries. They do not regret their sacrifice. On the contrary, they feel joy in it. Were it not so, they would not be able to keep up the extremely difficult sacrifice they have made. When I think of their sacrifice, Gujarat’s sacrifice, what little there has been, seems insignificant by comparison. The sacrifices which I see here made by the educated class can only be compared with similar sacrifices in Maharashtra. 15 I thank God for giving me the strength to attend this function. This is one of the few surviving national schools and I congratulate its teachers on their selfless dedication to the work. Just now I have learnt that the teachers have voluntarily reduced their salaries by fifteen per cent. It is also extremely gratifying that the principal works entirely gratis. I hope that the public will appreciate and encourage this school. 16

The teachers are inspired by a spirit of self-sacrifice. They have voluntarily agreed to a cut of fifteen per cent in their salaries. The head master himself serves in an honorary capacity There is an Educational Association too, with Shri Revashankar Jagjivan Jhaveri as its President. The accounts of the Association seem to be well maintained. It is but proper that people should help a school such as this in which the education is liberal, the teachers are patriotic and the accounts in proper order by giving it financial assistance and by enrolling pupils in it. 17 A sixth tells me that money is being freely used which can only be described as bribery. Men who were never worth much are today getting handsome salaries merely because they can speak and because they are supposed to wield some influence in their own districts. They have no opinions of their own. Some of them are brazen-faced enough to own that they are only acting as agents and that they would champion any policy, as a lawyer champions for money any cause that he gets, irrespective of morals. 18

The second question that came up for anxious consideration was that of remuneration. The Khadi Service is designed for meeting the need of paupers. It is impossible to hold out bright pecuniary prospects in such a service. I have no doubt whatsoever that the scale of salaries devised by the Government is out of all proportion to the condition of India’s masses. It has relation to the requirements of the inhabitants of a rich island and therefore means an almost unbearable burden upon the poor millions. Let no one, therefore, compare the remuneration offered under the Khadi Service with that obtainable under the Government service. At the same time, I make bold to say that the start offered is as good as that offered by the Government. Where the Khadi Service fails in comparison is in the ultimate prospect. The maximum attainable under the Government may reach four figures whereas Khadi Service offers an increase amounting to Rs. 20 at the most. For those, therefore, who have received an English education to enter this service is undoubtedly a sacrifice. But is it too much to ask the English-educated youths of the country to make what after all is a very small sacrifice? I consider it to be very small, for it should be remembered that they have received their English education at the expense of the masses. It is an exclusive education which the masses can never get. And it is an education which, if it has given us a few self-sacrificing patriots, has also produced many more men who have been willing accomplices with the Government in holding India in bondage. 19

My own reason refuses to work in this matter. You may therefore use your reason and come to a decision leaving the responsibility to me. About Gariyadhar, do what you think best on the whole. As regards the Panch Talavadi matter, if your reason does not approve of either Maneklal or Chhaganlal, pay them their due salaries and ask them to stand on their own feet. About Vajeram, do what you think proper. Draw the money that you may need from the khadi account in the Ashram. If the total amount exceeds Rs. 1,000, ask me. 20 In some cases, he says, the salaries of municipal teachers are in arrears. Their incomes are really inadequate for the work before them. Their sanitary measures have to be held in abeyance for want of funds. Compulsory education schemes are shelved for similar reasons. He adduces in support of many of his statements his own painful experience, and he severely criticizes the Government’s niggardly policy in connection with Municipalities. 21

If I was the editor-in-chief of your magazine, nine-tenth of what I read in the specimens you sent me I should score out, and I would require you to rewrite fortifying it with concrete facts, and then I would perhaps still further condense it. Just think what a saving of time it would mean for the busy reader and saving of expense in printer’s ink, compositors’ and proof-readers’ salaries, etc., and the matter thus printed would pass muster even in scientific scale and if it was reasonable, it would sell like hot cakes. 22 Let the defaulters please realize that each reminder costs at least half an anna over and above the salaries of men employed in attending to the writing and despatch of reminder cards. It has been suggested that some postpone sending their quota till several months’ contributions are collected, so as to save postage. The saving of postage is a proper consideration. But those who would save postage should send their contributions in advance. To spin 12,000 yards in a month’s time is not a very great strain as must be abundantly clear to every reader of these pages. And if after having sent one lot in advance, the spinners continue to give 30 minutes regularly to the wheel, they will never be in arrears, and they will never feel the strain of the work, no matter how busy they may be otherwise. And if punishment has any appeal to them, let them remember that at the end of the first five years of the existence of the All-India Spinners’ Association, it will descend surely and swiftly upon them, when the time comes for revising the constitution and conferring further privileges upon members. 23

Today I wish to write about one point in your previous letter. Why should Nimu not do independent work? You know that millions of our poor people work like that. We have become sweepers and scavengers! What about Ramjibhai and Gangabehn? In countless peasant families both husbands and wives earn. In factories both men and women work. Here both Anna and his wife Gomatibehn take salaries and also do the Hindi work. By following this practice your family life will become not difficult but smooth and you will become an ideal couple. Thousands of people have children while they work. Yes, it is true. that they are not able to live in comfort. But you must ask me for further clarification on this point. I wish you to have a happy, simple, useful and interesting life. The circumstances are also favourable. Everything depends on your education and Nimu’s. I wanted to train her but could not manage it. There were obstacles in the way. I fell ill and on returning to the Ashram could not cope with three obstacles at the same time. But Nimu is herself a good girl and hence I am not worried. The only question is how far your body will co-operate. 24

The salaries amount in all to Rs. 2,300 per month, the house rent is Rs. 425 per month. The total monthly expenditure is Rs. 4,800. The regular income, including boarding fees Rs. 1,300, is Rs. 2,700. There is thus a deficit of Rs. 2,100. This was somehow met whilst Hakim Saheb was alive. Before the teachers create for themselves a name and a prestige enough to command help, the deficit must be met by the public. And the memorial cannot be considered lasting till the Jamia has a building of its own. The subscribers will, therefore, in deciding the amount of donation bear in mind what is required. 25 In Government primary schools, their teachers, with the minimum amount of knowledge, are employed without regard to their character and on the minimum salaries possible, whereas in national primary schools, the teachers being self-sacrificing and persons of character and learning (and not because they are in in a sorry plight), should accept the smallest salaries. 26

All this amounts to a policy of bheda. I do not mean to say that anyone specifically plans this so. But a policy based on these four tactics operates by itself. All those who are in the Government’s service know that rise in their salaries and their position is implicit in their being amenable to the policy of the Government. Bhishma, Drona and others too had to point to their stomach before Yudhishthira. Hence, as the movement gathers momentum, the policy of alienation will be intensified. All satyagrahis should avoid this snare. They should give credence to no rumour. They should put before Sardar whatever they come to hear and should then forget all about it. A satyagrahi should have only one consolation. His task is accomplished when his pledge is fulfilled. More he should not ask for and with less he should not be satisfied. He should be resolved to sacrifice what is dearest to him at the altar of his pledge. What could such an individual have to do with rumours? Moreover, need he be misled or tempted by the words of anyone who has the audacity to make an outsider of their beloved Sardar? Sardar will tell them when a settlement is about to be made. 27

The main thing was to rid the agriculturists of their fear by making them realize that the officials were not the masters but the servants of the people, inasmuch as they received their salaries from the taxpayer. And then it seemed well nigh impossible to make them realize the duty of combining civility with fearlessness. Once they had shed the fear of the officials, how could they be stopped from returning their insults? And yet if they resorted to incivility it would spoil their satyagraha, like a drop of arsenic in milk. I realized later that they had less fully learnt the lesson of civility than I had expected. Experience has taught me that civility is the most difficult part of satyagraha. Civility does not here mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good. These should show themselves in every act of a satyagrahi. 28

As an old English adage says you cannot eat your cake and have it. Similarly you cannot leave off service in a mill and yet have your one hundred per mensem. A close scrutiny of all highly remunerative professions in India will reveal the fact that they are almost all of them essentially products of British rule in India, and aresuch as serve in a more or less degree to sustain that rule. A country where the average daily income per head is seven pice cannot afford to pay high salaries, for the simple reason, that it would mean so much additional burden upon the toiling millions of the land who are already well-nigh crushed by their poverty. It follows therefore that the only course for a person, who wants to escape from the system of exploitation which the mills represent, would be drastically to reduce his family budget. This can be done in two ways: by a radical simplification of one’s life and by reducing the number of dependants that one has to support. Every grown-up, able-bodied member of a family ought to be made to contribute his or her quota towards the upkeep of the family by honest industry. We have a number of domestic crafts that can be easily learnt and practised at home without the investment of any large capital. If he is not prepared to do any of these two things, he had better stick to the job in which he is engaged and do whatever service he can. Let him, if he is employed in a mill, try to make a close and sympathetic study of the hardships and miseries that are a mill-labourer’s lot and do whatever is possible in the circumstances to alleviate them. Let him cultivate an exemplary purity, honesty and uprightness of conduct, and infect his fellow-employees with his ideals. If the subordinate employees are all upright in their conduct, they will thereby create a pure atmosphere which is bound to tell on their masters in the end and enable them to obtain justice from them for the mill-labourers. 29 

As a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, officers have increased their salaries, consolidated their own positions, added to the expenditure of the army and strengthened the roots of their own businessmen. Hence caution will be necessary to see to it that the hopes that the letter from the Government has raised in regard to reforms in the land revenue system are realized. Bardoli has shown the way and cleared it. Swaraj lies on that route alone and that alone is the cure for starvation. 30 I do think that the association of high salaries with efficiency and public honesty is an hypnotic effect produced by the rulers. The sooner we get out of it the better it will be for us. The present civil service is open to influences which are far more subtle and deadly than open bribery. Nor do I consider the administration to be efficient except in so far as it guarantees at the point of the bayonet safety for the lives of the European population but certainly not of the masses. I think that we have patriotic men and women enough in the country who, when we come to our own, will gladly give their services for maintenance money that will easily bear comparison with the average income of the toiling but starving millions. Poverty, if it is due to ignorance, is no less due to heartless unparalleled exploitation. 31

Complaints have come to me to the effect that the Spinners’ Association in Tamil Nadu has been monopolized by Brahmin employees. The unprejudiced sceptic may know that recruitment is never being made on grounds of caste but workers are employed purely on grounds of fitness. As things stand, there are 53 sale and production centres in Tamil Nadu. Of these the managers of 28 are non-Brahmins, as against 25 wherein the managers are Brahmins. Excluding servants drawing a monthly salary of less than Rs. 15 who are almost all non-Brahmins, the salaries paid by the A.I.S.A. in Tamil Nadu are shown below: Rs., 50 and above : 10 Brahmins; 5 non-Brahmins. Below Rs. 50 : 53 Brahmins; 121 non-Brahmins. Total : 63 Brahmins; 126 non

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