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-Brahmins. The total amount of the salaries distributed per month among Brahmins is Rs. 2,576; non-Brahmins: Rs. 3,102. The total amount disbursed to hands drawing less than Rs. 15 per month is Brahmins:Rs.31; non-Brahmins: Rs. 725. Of the ten Brahmin hands drawing salaries over Rs. 50, two have put in a service of over seven years and six have put in a service of five years and over. The other two have served three years. Of the five non-Brahmins drawing salaries over Rs. 50, three have put in five years’ service and two have put in three years’ service. But for the fact that there is the Brahmin-non-Brahmin question in the South, I should have declined to publish these statistics. The readers in the South should know, if it is of any consequence, that the Association is manned chiefly by non-Brahmins, for the chief workers it is a labour of love. What is more, it exists purely and simply to serve the dumb and starving millions who are overwhelmingly non Brahmins and include Mussalmans and Christians also. 32

This correspondent seems to have taken it for granted that, as high salaries will be reduced, the small ones also will go down. The existing position is that while the big salaries are excessively high, the small ones are too low for the employees’ livelihood. Under swaraj the low salaries will probably be raised, instead of being reduced. In one way at any rate they will seem to have increased. As a result of the reduction in salaries, there will be simplicity in people’s way of living. The effect of this will be felt universally and the earners of small salaries will feel a sense of contentment. The fear of increase in corruption expressed by the correspondent will not be shared by those who know the salary scales in Japan and other countries. There is very little connection between corruption and the size of salaries. When the consciousness of dharma spreads and people are inspired by a sense of public service, they do not demand or accept bribes. Giving high salaries for fear of spread of corruption would be, as the saying goes, like killing the buffalo for its skin. In other words, it means that for preventing a man from taking a bribe occasionally, he should be paid a permanent bribe in the form of a big salary! 33

No item of the Fundamental Rights resolution passed by the Congress at Karachi has come in for so much notice as the resolution limiting the salary of Government servants to not more than Rs. 500 per month or Rs. 6,000 per year. Had we not been accustomed by this foreign Government to high salaries for servants in the Public Department, the limit of Rs. 500 would not have produced any shock. There is no sanctity about the high-ruling salaries. All the 46 Congress Presidents and the 46 Congresses have mourned over the ever-growing public expenditure both military and civil. Many Presidents have laid special emphasis on the high salaries. The Karachi Congress gave concrete shape to the half-century old complaint. The way to examine the justness of the Congress conclusion is to find the proportion between the salaries and the average income of India’s millions, and secondly to compare both with the salaries and the average income of other countries. I have been trying to secure the figures for the principal countries of the world. The readers of Young India have had the average income of the principal countries but not the salaries. I have now before me some figures about the Japanese Public Service, both superior and subordinate. Its Governor-General gets less than Rs. 1,000 per month, that is to say, anything between Rs. 10,000 and 10,700 per year, a Governor less than Rs. 600 or Rs. 800 per month, the Secretariat staff anything between Rs. 150 and Rs. 500 per month, President of the Supreme Court less than Rs. 1,000 per month, other judges anything between Rs. 150 to Rs. 700 per month, Chief of Police slightly over Rs. 700 per month, subordinate services Rs. 250 to slightly over Rs. 300 per month, a Police Constable from Rs. 60 to Rs. 80 per month, a Police Sergeant from Rs. 70 to Rs. 80. The average daily income of the Japanese per head is about four annas. Compared then with the Japan figures, the Rs. 500 limit put by the Congress is over-generous. 34

So far as the salary is concerned, you will laugh, naturally, but the Congress does believe that it is an impossible thing for the Congress, which represents a nation of dwarfs, to vie with the English nation, which represents today giants in wealth. India, whose average income is 2d. per day, can ill afford to pay the high salaries that are commanded here. I feel that it is a thing which we will have to unlearn if we are going to have voluntary rule in India. It is all very well, so long as the British bayonet is there, to squeeze out of these poor people salaries of Rs. 10,000 a month or salaries of Rs. 5,000 a month or salaries of Rs. 20,000 a month. I do not consider, however, that my country has sunk to such an extent that it will not be able to produce sufficient men who will live somewhat in correspondence with the lives of the millions and still serve India nobly, truly and well. I do not believe for one moment that legal talent has to be bought if it is to remain honest. I recall the names of Motilal Nehru, C. R. Das, Manomohan Ghosh, Badruddin Tyabji and a host of others, who gave their legal talent absolutely free of charge and served their country faithfully and well. The taunt may be flung in my face that they did so because they were able to charge princely fees in their own professional work. I reject that argument, for the simple reason that I have known every one of them with the exception of Manomohan Ghosh. It was not that they had plenty of money and therefore gave freely of their talent when India required it. It had no connection with their ability to have ease and luxury. I have seen them living the life of poor people and in perfect contentment. I can point out to you several lawyers of distinction who, if they had not come to the national cause, would today be occupying seats on the High Court Benches in all parts of India. I have therefore absolute confidence that, when we come to conduct our own affairs and so on, we will do so in a patriotic spirit and taking account of the miserable state that the millions of India occupy. 35 

And now about the expenses on the salaries and travelling allowances of the workers engaged in propaganda activities. Most of such workers would be caste Hindus. They, however, would never ask for any payment. What effect can the speeches of paid workers have on the people? Their travelling expenses should not have to be borne by the institution employing them but should be met by the people. That is to say, the reception committees of the places which have invited them should bear the expenses. The permanent body may arrange these things but should not bear their expenses. And lastly about the office expenses, the salary of the accountant, the travelling expenses of the secretary, the rent for the building, etc. This expenditure should not exceed ten per cent of the total budget. Any institution whose administrative expenses total up to more than ten per cent should be looked upon as a self-destroying and useless organization. 36 The agent is of the opinion that the bhandar does not have the capacity to bear the burden of the number of workers employed there. The award I have given above does not preclude any changes in the bhandar, reduction in the number of workers engaged or in their present salaries. I myself wish to make some suggestions regarding the way in which all khadi bhandars are being run, and it has become necessary to state them now. 37

The best way is for those who have grown accustomed to the new policy to train workers from among villagers and persons who do not know English. We shall need innumerable workers if the policy of self-sufficing [khadi] is to be made widespread. This poor country cannot afford them salaries if these happen to be large. If workers are trained only from amongst the English-educated persons they would demand large salaries as their needs have increased. They no longer possess a hardy constitution. And, in a sphere where a knowledge of the English language is not essential they cannot be said to be particularly useful. Very often, their usefulness has indeed declined. For instance, they do not like living in villages and they try to import city-life into the villages. Their bodies are less supple and only in rare cases can they become skilled craftsmen. Even when they learn a craft, they can seldom compete with ordinary craftsmen. I only want to suggest here that we should give up the craze of looking for workers who know English. This does not mean that we should boycott or despise those who know English. We should welcome any such person who is available. They are all right where they belong. The only purpose of saying this is to rid ourselves of the false notion that only those who know English are fit to be workers. If a village worker’s services are available, he will bring in greater returns than the amount paid to him. An allowance of not more than Rs. 10 to 15 should be required for such a worker. And he can easily bring in by way of return that amount every month. Organizers should train such workers wherever there are khadi centres and to that extent enlarge their field of work. Workers should acquaint themselves with all the processes starting from growing cotton right up to making khadi. And if those who are in charge of these centres are themselves efficient, they can readily produce such workers at no cost. 38

Of course, we have not the staff of teachers who can cope with the new method. But that difficulty applies to every new venture. The existing staff of teachers, if they are willing to learn, should be given the opportunity of doing so, and should also have the immediate prospect of a substantial increase in their salaries if they will learn the necessary subjects. It is unthinkable that for all the new subjects that are to become part of primary education separate teachers should be provided. That would be a most expensive method and so wholly unnecessary. It may be that some of the primary school teachers are so ill-equipped that they cannot learn the new subjects within a short time. But a boy who has studied up to the matriculation standard should not take more than three months to learn the elements of music, drawing, physical drill and a handicraft. If he acquires a working knowledge of these, he will be able always to add to it while he is teaching. This presupposes, no doubt, eagerness and zeal on the part of the teachers to make themselves progressively fit for the task of national regeneration. 39

It is reported to me by persons of status that money is being spent like water in the name of the war. Men who have enjoyed fat salaries in their respective jobs are being taken up for the war at much higher salaries and given ranks to which they have never been used before. The largest number of these are said to be Europeans or Anglo-Indians. If patriotism is the deciding factor, these gentlemen should take, and be given, no more than just enough to keep them and their dependants. 40 Soldiers too are covered by the present programme. I do not ask them just now to resign their posts and leave the army. Soldiers come to me, Jawaharlal and to the Maulana and say: “We are wholly with you. We are tired of the governmental tyranny.” To these soldiers I would say: “You may say to the Government, ‘Our hearts are with the Congress. We are not going to leave our posts. We will serve you so long as we receive your salaries. We will obey your just orders, but will refuse to fire on our own people. 41

After finishing your training here you will go back to your respective Provinces to propagate this New Education. You will keep this ideal of devotion to Truth before you. Your work will be that of pioneers. There will be no one to help or guide you with his previous experience. You shall have to grope your way all by yourselves. It is, therefore, not an easy task that you have before you. Then this New Education will not help you to get big jobs carrying high salaries and emoluments. But yours will be the privilege to go among and serve the villagers in their villages. Palatial buildings and costly equipment can, therefore, have no place in your scheme of work. The school of my conception is one where classes are held in the open under the shade of a tree. I know that it cannot be realized at present. Some shelter will be necessary, perhaps always for protection against the sun, wind and rain. True education can only be given under conditions of utmost simplicity. 42

Ministers and members of the provincial assemblies are in their respective places as servants of the people in every sense of the term. The British scale of pay cannot be copied by them except at their cost. Nor need all draw payments because a certain scale is allowed. The scale fixes the limit up to which they may draw. It will be ludicrous for a monied man to draw the full or any payment. The payments are meant for those who cannot easily afford to render free service. They are representatives of the poorest people in the world. What they draw is paid by the poor. Let them remember this salient fact, and act and live accordingly. 43

I have to pay heavily for the caution with which I wrote the other day the paragraph in Harijan1 in regard to increase in ministerial salaries. I have to go through long letter bewailing my caution and arguing with me to revise my view. How can ministers make large increases in their own original fat salaries when the poor chaprasis and clerks get an increase which hardly meet the occasion? I have reread my note and I claim that the short note includes all that various correspondents desire. But, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I expand my meaning. I have been twitted for not referring to the Karachi Resolution. The lower scale of ministers’ salaries rests on much higher ground than the authority of a resolution. In any event, so far as I am aware, the Congress has never varied that resolution. It is as binding today as it was when it was passed. I do not know that the increases in the salaries is justified. But I must not offhand condemn the increase without knowing the case of the ministers. Critics should know that I have no authority over them or anyone else except myself. Nor am I present at all the meetings of the Working Committee. I attend only when required by the President. I can only give my opinion for what it is worth. And, if it to have any weight, it must be well-conceived and based on ascertained facts. The question of the hideous inequality between the rich and the poor and the lower services and the higher is a separate subject requiring drastic and well-thought-out method and could not be merely incidental to the lowering of the salaries of the few ministers and their secretaries. Both subjects require to be dealt with on merits. The question of salaries could be and should be easily disposed of by the ministers concerned. The other is a much vaster subject requiring a thorough overhauling. I would any day agree that the ministers should tackle the subject in their provinces without delay and that the lower ranks should before everything else have their salaries fully considered and increased wherever necessary. 44

I personally feel that a barrister and a scavenger should get equal wages. But it is easier said than done. And it is not something that can be accomplished through strikes. We should for the time being accept and assimilate the rise in salaries recommended by the Pay Commission1 and then proceed to build up public opinion in favour of the principle of equality of wages. Strikes too are governed by a logic. Nothing is gained by indiscriminate strikes. Today unfortunately strikes are sweeping the country. There are strikes even where people have their own governments. I think that under British rule we did not have so many strikes. Today I have received a telegram from Calcutta and I also see from newspapers that the employees of the Accountant-General’s office have gone on a pendown strike. The strike includes the employees of the Post and Telegraph department which operates not for the good of any particular individual but for the good of the community. It is true that it has some big officers getting huge salaries and it is unjust that the members of the subordinate staff should be paid such low salaries. Why should the difference in salaries be so great as it is? This was started by the British and we liked it and continued it. But if people were to put down their pens, what would become of India? If through strikes they bring about a little rise in salaries it would not be a great thing. The method is wrong and is harmful to the country. The present plight of India brings to my mind the story of the goose that laid golden eggs. The owner of the goose wishing to have all the eggs at once killed her. As a result not only did he get no more eggs but he lost the goose as well. The administration that has come into our hands in somewhat like that goose. If we want to get out of it all the eggs together it will surely die and so shall we. 45

 

References:

 

  1. Mahatma Gandhini Vicharsrishti
  2. Letter to Maganlal Gandhi, June 1, 1917
  3. Mahatma Gandhini Vicharsrishti
  4. Letter to Bhimjibhai Naranji Nayak, February 7, 1919
  5. Navajivan, 21-9-1919
  6. Navajivan, 3-10-1920
  7. Navajivan, 10-10-1920 
  8. Young India, 8-6-1921
  9. Navajivan, 12-6-1921
  10. Young India, 9-3-1922
  11. Navajivan, 6-4-1924
  12. Navajivan, 3-8-1924
  13. Navajivan, 10-8-1924
  14. Young India, 26-12-1924
  15. Navajivan, 24-5-1925 
  16. Navajivan, 13-12-1925
  17. Navajivan, 13-12-1925
  18. Young India, 4-11-1926
  19. Young India, 23-12-1926
  20. Letter to Narandas Gandhi, After April 25, 1927
  21. Young India, 21-7-1927
  22. Letter to J. W. Petavel, July 24, 1927
  23. Young India, 11-8-1927 
  24. Letter to Ramdas Gandhi, December 22, 1927
  25. Young India, 19-1-1928
  26. Navajivan, 20-5-1928
  27. Navajivan, 10-6-1928
  28. Chaper XXIV : ‘The Onion Thief’
  29. Young India, 1-8-1929
  30. Navajivan, 21-7-1929 
  31. Letter to Surendra Singh, April 26, 1931
  32. Young India, 16-7-1931 
  33. Navajivan, 26-7-1931  
  34. Young India, 30-7-1931
  35. Indian Round Table Conference: Proceedings of Federal Structure Committee and Minorities Committee, Vol. I, pp. 267-8 
  36. Harijanbandhu, 26-3-1933
  37. An Award, June 18, 1935
  38. Harijanbandhu, 20-10-1935
  39. Harijan, 11-9-1937
  40. Letter to Lord Linlithgow, July 26, 1940
  41. Mahatma, Vol. VI, pp. 164
  42. The Hindu, 5-12-1944
  43. Harijan, 14-4-1946 
  44. Harijan, 9-6-1946 
  45. Prarthana Pravachan–I, pp. 281

 

 

 

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