Modern Civilization

Gandhi's Views On Environment
Modern Civilization

Gandhiji wrote to Sir Danial Hamilton in a letter on 15-2-1922 from Bardoli:

"India does not need to be industrialized in the modem sense of the term. It has 7,50,000 villages scattered over a vast area 1,900 miles long, 1,500 broad. The people are rooted to the soil, and the vast majority are living a hand-to-mouth life. Whatever may be said to the contrary, having travelled throughout the length and breadth of the land with eyes open and having mixed with millions, there can be no doubt that pauperism is growing. There is no doubt also that the millions are living in enforced idleness for at least 4 months in the year. Agriculture does not need revolutionary changes. The Indian peasant requires a supplementary industry. The most natural is the introduction of the spinning wheel, not the handloom. The latter cannot be introduced in every home, whereas the former can, and it used to be so even a century ago. It was driven out not by economic pressure, but by force deliberately used as can be proved from authentic records. The restoration therefore, of the spinning-wheel solves the economic problem of India at a stroke...It is the most effective force for introducing successful co-operative societies. Without honest co-operation of the millions, the enterprise can never be successful, and as it is already proving a means of weaning thousands of women from a life of shame, it is as moral an instrument as it is economic...I hope you will not allow yourself to be prejudiced by anything you might have heard about my strange views about machinery. I have nothing to say against the development of any other industry in India by means of machinery, but I do say that to supply India with cloth manufactured either outside or inside through gigantic mills is an economic blunder of the first magnitude, just as it would be to supply cheap bread through huge bakeries established in the chief centres in India and to destroy. the family stove."

Clarifying his views on objection to machinery Gandhiji wrote in a letter dated 4-10-1929 to Giri Raj from Gorakhpore camp:

"The main consideration about machinery is that it should not displace the labour of those who cannot otherwise be employed. You will find that this one argument answers all objections. We do not want to displace hand processes. We want to cultivate hand processes to perfection but where it is found to be absolutely necessary let us not hesitate to introduce machinery. Do you know that some of the most delicate life-saving appliances would have been impossible without the aid of some machinery? After all the simple Charkha is also a machine. What we must dread is huge machinery run not by hand but by non-human power such as steam, electricity, etc. But even this need not be tabooed."

Discarding the possibility of adopting urban civilization Gandhiji firmly expressed his views, in Young India on 7-11-1929:

"In my opinion the two questions are intertwined and both can be solved, if the youth can be persuaded to make village life their goal rather than city life. We are inheritors of a rural civilization. The vastness of our country, the vastness of the population, the situation and the climate of the country have, in my opinion, destined it for a rural civilization. Its defects are well known but not one of them is irremediable. To uproot it and substitute for it an urban civilization seems to me an impossibility, unless we are prepared by some drastic means to reduce the population from three hundred million to three or say even thirty. I can therefore suggest remedies on the assumption that we must perpetuate the present rural civilization and endeavour to rid it of its acknowledged defects. This can only be done if the youth of the country will settle down to village life..."

Gandhiji expressed his views in Harijan on 7-9-1934 regarding urbanization of India:

"It is a process of double drain from the villages. Urbanization in India is slow but sure death for her villages and villagers. Urbanization can never support ninety per cent of India's population, which is living in her 7,00,000 villages. To remove from these villages tanning and such other industries is to remove what little opportunity there still is for making skilled use of the hand and head. And when the village handicrafts disappear, the villagers working only with their cattle on the field, with idleness for six or four months in the year, must, in the words of Madhusudan Das, be reduced to the level of the beast and be without proper nourishment, either of the mind or the body, and, therefore, without joy and without hope.

"Here is work for the cent-per-cent Swadeshi-lover and scope for the harnessing of technical skill to the solution of a great problem. The work fells three apples with one throw. It serves the Harijans, it serves the villagers and it means honourable employment for the middle-class intelligentsia who are in search of employment. Add to this the fact that the intelligentsia have a proper opportunity of coming in direct touch with the villagers."