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
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Social services and Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was a one of the best social work. He did social services through constructive works. His ashrams were its laboratories. That this Conference is of opinion that the measures adopted by the Government and certain associations for the education and elevation of the depressed classes have served the purpose of drawing public attention to the existence of degrading social inequality and to their detrimental influence on the general progress of the country. But in the opinion of this Conference, the measures hitherto adopted are quite inadequate to meet these evils. This Conference, therefore, urges upon the Government and Social Reform Bodies (1) to provide greater facilities for the education of the depressed classes, and (2) to enforce equality of treatment in all public institutions so as to remove the prejudice and disabilities of untouchableness. 1 It seems to me then that I cannot do better than draw attention to some branches of social service which we have hitherto more or less ignored. The greatest service we can render society is to free ourselves and it from the superstitious regard we have learnt to pay to the learning of the English language. It is the medium of instruction in our schools and colleges. It is becoming the lingua franca of the country. Our best thoughts are expressed in it. Lord Chelmsford hopes that it will soon take the place of the mother tongue in high families. This belief in the necessity of English training has enslaved us.
It has unfitted us for true national service. Were it not for force of habit, we could not fail to see that, by reason of English being the medium of instruction, our intellect has been segregated, we have been isolated from the masses, the best mind of the nation has become gagged and the masses have not received the benefit of the new ideas we have received. We have been engaged these past sixty years in memorizing strange words and their pronunciation instead of assimilating facts. In the place of building upon the foundation, training received from our parents, we have almost unlearnt it. There is no parallel to this in history. It is a national tragedy. The first and the greatest social service we can render is to revert to our vernaculars, to restore Hindi to its natural place as the national language and begin carrying on all our provincial proceedings in our respective vernaculars and national proceedings in Hindi. We ought not to rest till our schools and colleges give us instruction through the vernaculars. It ought not to be necessary even for the sake of our English friends to have to speak in English. Every English civil and military officer has to know Hindi. Most English merchants learn it because they need it for their business. The day must soon come when our legislatures will debate national affairs in the vernaculars or Hindi, as the case may be.
Hitherto the masses have been strangers to their proceedings. The vernacular papers have tried to undo the mischief a little. But the task was beyond them. The Patrika reserves its biting sarcasm, The Bengalee its learning, for ears tuned to English. In this ancient land of cultured thinkers, the presence in our midst of a Tagore or a Bose or a Ray ought not to excite wonder. Yet the painful fact is that there are so few of them. You will forgive me if I have carried too long on a subject which, in your opinion, may hardly be treated as an item of social service. I have however taken the liberty of mentioning the matter prominently as it is my conviction that all national activity suffers materially owing to this radical defect in our system of education. Coming to more familiar items of social service, the list is appalling. I shall select only those of which I have any knowledge. Work in times of sporadic distress such as famine and floods are no doubt necessary and most praiseworthy. But it produces no permanent results.
There are fields of social service in which there may be no renown but which may yield lasting results. In 1914, cholera, fevers and plague together claimed 4,639,663 victims. If so many had died fighting on the battle-field during the War that is at present devastating Europe, we would have covered ourselves with glory and lovers of swaraj would need no further argument in support of their cause. As it is, 4,639,663 have died a lingering death unmoored and their dying has brought us nothing but discredit. A distinguished Englishman said the other day that Englishmen did all the thinking for us whilst we sat supine. He added that most Englishmen basing their opinions on their English experience presented impossible or costly remedies for the evils they investigated. There is much truth in the above statement. In other countries, reformers have successfully grappled with epidemics. Here Englishmen have tried and failed. They have thought along Western lines, ignoring the vast differences, climatic and other, between Europe and India. Our doctors and physicians have practically done nothing. I am sure that half a dozen medical men of the front rank dedicating their lives to the work of eradicating the triple curse would succeed where Englishmen have failed. I venture to suggest that the way lies not through finding out cures but through finding or rather applying preventive methods. I prefer to use the participle “applying”, for I have it on the aforementioned authority that to drive out plague (and I add cholera and malaria) is absurdly simple.
There is no conflict of opinion as to the preventive methods. We simply do not apply them. We have made up our minds that the masses will not adopt them. There could be no greater calumny uttered against them. If we would but stoop to conquer, they can be easily conquered. The truth is that we expect the Government to do the work. In my opinion, in this matter, the Government cannot lead; they can follow and help if we could lead. Here, then, there is work enough for our doctors and an army of workers to help them. I note that you in Bengal are working somewhat in this direction. I may state that a small but earnest band of volunteers is at the present moment engaged in doing such work in Champaran. They are posted in different villages. There they teach the village children, they give medical aid to the sick and they give practical lessons in hygiene to the village folk by cleaning their wells and roads and showing them how to treat human excreta. Nothing can yet be predicted as to results as the experiment is in its infancy. This Conference may usefully appoint a community of doctors who would study rural conditions on the spot and draw up a course of instructions for the guidance of workers and of the people at large. Nothing perhaps affords such splendid facility to every worker, whole time or otherwise, for effective service as the relief of agony through which the 3rd class railway passengers are passing.
I feel keenly about this grievance not because I am in it, but I have gone to it as I have felt keenly about it. This matter affects millions of our poor and middle-class countrymen. This helpless toleration of every inconvenience and insult is visibly deteriorating the nation, even as the cruel treatment to which we have subjected the so-called depressed classes has made them indifferent to the laws of personal cleanliness and the very idea of self-respect. What else but downright degradation can await those who have to make a scramble always like mad animals for seats in a miserable compartment, who have to swear and curse before they can speak through the window in order to get standing room, who have to wallow in dirt during their journey, who are served their food like dogs and eat it like them, who have ever to bend before those who are physically stronger than they and who, being packed like sardines in compartments, have to get such sleep as they can in a sitting posture for nights together ? Railway servants swear at them, cheat them. On the Howrah-Lahore service, our friends from Kabul fill to the brim the cup of the misery of the third-class travellers. They become lords of the compartments they enter.
It is not possible for anyone to resist them. They swear at you on the slightest pretext, exhaust the whole of the obscene vocabulary of Hindi language. They do not hesitate to belabor you if you retort or in any way oppose them. They usurp the best seats and insist on stretching themselves full length even in crowded compartments. No compartment is deemed too crowded for them to enter. The travellers patiently bear all their awful impertinence out of sheer helplessness. They would, if they could, knock down the man who dared to swear at them as do these Kabulis. But they are physically no match for the Kabulis and every Kabuli considers him more than a match for any number of travellers from the plains. This is not right. The effect of this terrorizing on the national character cannot but be debasing. We the educated few ought to deliver the travelling public from this scourge or forever renounce our claim to speak on its behalf or to guide it. I believe the Kabulis to be amenable to reason. They are a God-fearing people. If you know their language, you can successfully appeal to their good sense. But they are spoilt children of nature.
Cowards among us have used their undoubted physical strength for our nefarious purposes. And they have now come to think that they can treat poor people as they choose and consider themselves above the law of the land. Here is work enough for social service. Volunteers for this class of work can board trains and educate the people to a sense of their duty, call in guards and other officials in order to remove over-crowding, see that passengers leave and board trains without a scramble. It is clear that until the Kabulis can be patiently taught to behave themselves, they ought to have a compartment all to themselves and they ought not to be permitted to enter any other compartment. With the exception of providing additional plant, every one of the other evils attendant on railway travelling