The much-talked-of Reforms Bill* will become the law of the land within a few days and in due course the new.
legislatures will take the place of the old. H. E. the Viceroy has announced that he is going loyally to abide by the new scheme and that he will try to make it a success. I have refrained from expressing an opinion on' the report of the Joint Committee for I do not feel sufficiently interested in it. It is not possible to be enthused over .a thing which when analysed means little for the people. So far, therefore, as the Reform Scheme is concerned, I would simply urge that we should take the fullest advantage of it and, like the Viceroy, loyally work to make it a success. That it is an improvement upon the original measure is admitted by all.
But the real reform that India needs is Swadeshi in its true sense. The immediate problem before us is not how to run the government of the country, but how to feed and clothe ourselves. In 1918 we sent sixty crores of rupees out of India for buying cloth. If we continue to purchase foreign cloth at that rate, we deprive the Indian weaver and spinner of that amount from year to year without practically giving him or her any other work in exchange. No wonder a tenth at least of the population is cruelly half-starved and the majority of the rest underfed. He who has eyes may see for himself that the middle-class people are already being underfed and our babies are not getting enough milk for themselves. The Reform Scheme, no matter how liberal it is, will not help to solve the problem in the immediate future. But Swadeshi-Gan solve it now.
The Punjab has made the solution still clearer to me. God be thanked that the beautiful women of the Punjab have not yet lost the cunning of their fingers. High or low, they still know the art of spinning. They have not yet burnt their spinning-wheels as many Gujarati women have done. It is to me a perfect delight to find them throwing balls of yarn into my lap. They admit they have time at their disposal for spinning. They admit that the khaddar woven from their band-spun yarn is superior to the machine-spun yarn. Our forefathers were well able to clothe themselves with little effort and with perfect comfort without having to buy from the foreign markets.
This beautiful art - -and yet so simple-is in danger of being lost if we do not wake up betimes. The Punjab gives proof of its possibilities. But the Punjab too is fast losing her hold of it. Every year witnesses a decrease in the output of band-spun yarn. ' It means greater poverty in our homes and greater idleness. The women who have ceased to spin are not utilizing their time in any other or better manner than gossiping.
But one thing is needful to undo the mischief. If every educated Indian will realize his clear primary duty, he will. straightway present the women of his household with a spinning-wheel and provide the facilities for learning the art of spinning. Millions of yards of yarn can be produced from day to day. And if every educated Indian will con. descend to wear the cloth produced from such yarn, he will support and assist ill rebuilding the only possible cottage industry of India.
Without a cottage industry the Indian doomed. He cannot maintain himself from the the land. He needs a supplementary industry. Spinning is the easiest, the cheapest and the best.
I know this means a revolution in a mental outlook. And it is because it is a revolution that I c aim that the way to Swaraj lies through Swadeshi. A nation that can save sixty crores of rupees per year and distribute that large sum amongst its spinners and weavers in their own homes will have acquired powers of organization and industry that must enable it to do everything else necessary for its organic growth.
The dreamy reformer whispers, "Wait till I get responsible government and I will protect India's industry, without our women having to spin and our weaver having to weave." This has been actually said by. thinking men. I venture to suggest that there is a double fallacy underlying the proposition. India cannot wait for a protective tariff and protection will not reduce the cost of clothing. Secondly, mere protection will not benefit the starving millions. They can only be helped by being enabled to supplement their earnings by having a spinning industry restored to them. So whether we have a protective tariff or not, we shall still have to revive the hand-spinning industry and stimulate hand-weaving.
When the war was raging, all available hands in America and England were utilized in the naval yards for building ships and they- built them, too, at an amazing pace. If I Would have my way, I would make every available Indian learn spinning or weaving and make him or her do that work for a certain fixed portion of every day. I would start with schools and colleges presenting as they do ready-made organized units.
Multiplication of mills cannot solve the problem. They will take too long to overtake the drain and they cannot distribute the sixty crores in our homes. They can only cause concentration of money and labour and thus make confusion worse confounded.
- Young India, 10-12-1919
* The Government of India Act, 1919, embodying the Montagu - Chelmsford proposals for constitutional reforms