CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMMES & THE CONGRESS

Ever since the advent of Gandhiji and the transformation that had followed in the Congress, politics had assumed a new meaning and content. Swaraj, according to Gandhiji was not merely the transfer of power from the British to the Indians, but a moral and material regeneration of the people.

The Congress now followed a triple programme, ‘Direct Action’ or non-violent defiance of particular laws; constructive work; and constitutional agitation in the Legislatures.

The Constructive Work was mainly concerned with reconstructing the villages, where the people of India lived. In a country where poverty had assumed such proportions as in India, the economic programme was the main work in any scheme of uplift. “God for the masses is their bread”. In the programme of economic reconstruction khadi was the pivotal item of work. The charkha mixed up with the revolutionary doctrine of non-co-operation looked like a fad. But it was a piece of the whole set of the Gandhian idea and activity.

The Congress sessions came to hold exhibitions which were a visual education in better village life and work. These sessions were themselves an object lesson in simple and clean living within the reach o'f the people, and were later held in gigantic camps in the countryside.

Soon the work developed to a stage when separate expert organisations had to be set up to take charge of special items of work. These new organisations were an integral part of the revoluntionary machine of the Congress. The years of crisis when a Satyagraha movement moved, this yet country from end to end were few and far between. Only a few were occupied in the Councils or local and central governments. The mass of the selfless and more persistent workers, that had been the main strength of the Congress, were all along busy in villages and towns in what looked like small and insignificant activity, but was building the sanctions behind the militant movements and were transforming life of the people.

Khadi

The special session of the Congress at Calcutta in 1907 had prescribed hand-spinning and weaving of Khadi as a “measure of discipline and sacrifice for every man, woman and child” and this resolution was later clarified at Nagpur. Later, the A. I. C. C. drew up a programme including 20 lakhs of charkhas along with a crore of men and money. After Gandhiji’s arrest in 1922. Working Committee laid great stress on constructive work and a special department for khadi work was set up, as an expert organisation unaffected by politics.

Village Industries

Khadi was only the central item of economic regeneration of the languishing villages. There still remained all arts and crafts that make up the life of the people in the villages. To this end the Congress set up the All-India Village Industries Association at Wardha in 1934, as a self-acting, independent and non-political organisation, having for its object-village reorganisation and reconstruction, including the revival of village industries and the moral and physical development of the villages of India. A Board was set up with Dr. Kumarappa, as secretary, to work under the guidance of Gandhiji.

The Association started with an immediate programme which aimed at improving village sanitation, diet and village industries. Its main success lay in the expert research and direction that this body gave in these matters generally for the benefit of even such efforts as were being made outside its developing organisation. Its headquarters at Wardha, besides running various small industries imparted training to village workers.

Hindustani Talimi Sangh

Another great problem in India was of education. The literacy figures had been so low and stagnant chiefly on account of lack of funds in the British Indian budget for coping with this colossal work and also for the utter unsuitability of the system of instruction for the mass of Indian boys. It was once again the genius of Gandhiji which devised a new system of education-the Basic National Education.

At the Haripura session, the Congress passed a resolution on national education. It said: "It is essential to build up national education on a new foundation and on a nationwide scale. As the Congress is having new opportunities of service and of influencing and controlling State educaton, it is necessary to lay down the basic principles which should guide such education and to take other necessary steps to give effect to them. The Congress is of opinion that for the primary and secondary stages a basic education should be imparted''.

The Hindustani Talimi Sangh (All- India Education Board) came into existence in April, 1938.

It made good progress. Two provinces, C.P. and U. P. accepted it as their official policy of primary education. Training Centres were set up by the Governments in Bihar, Orissa, Bombay, Madras, Kashmir, and other places, besides such private centres as the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi and at Masulipatam and Gujarat, as well as schools for the children.

A scheme of ‘Nai Talim’ was later inaugurated at Wardha, with the help of the leading educationists for educating the people of all age groups, from infancy to death. This was another name for training for a new way of life. Adult education was its more important part, and it progressed much further than the blue-print-stage.

Wardha was also the centre for such organised activity as building up the common Hindustani language, as India's national language.

Removal of Untouchability

Removal of untouchability had been taken up by the Congress as one of its main work from the start of its new career. After the fast and Poona Pact, Gandhiji devoted most of his time to this work. A separate organisation and fund was organised to specially look after Harijan work, with widespread branches and some of our best social workers were put in charge of mainly this activity.

Hindustani Seva Dal

In 1938, the Congress entrusted the work of training and organising volunteers to a special body, the Hindustani Seva Dal with its headquarters in the province of Karnatak. An Academy for physical culture and training was set up and training camps were opened at various places throughout the country. The Seva Dal under Dr. Hardikar played an important part in the Civil Disobedience movement, specially in enrolment of Congress members, picketing and in providing the Congress with a peaceful militia.

Mandatory Programme for Congressmen

Besides the work done by these bodies directly, there were various other activities that drew its inspiration and guidance from Gandhiji and the Congress. Later Gandhiji while making it obligatory on Congressmen to do one or other of the Constructive work items expanded the scope and formulated various new items that are given below in his own words and with his comments.

Communal Unity: Political unity will be the natural fruit of a social revolution which will altogether eliminate communal feelings and ways of life. To make a beginning of such a revolution every Congressman must feel his identity with everyone of the millions of the inhabitants of Hindustan.

The separate electorates in India have created artificial incompatibles and living unity-an unbreakable heart unity, can never come out of these artificial entities being brought together on a common platform in the legislatures. Nevertheless, Congress should put up candidates for elective bodies in order to prevent reactionaries from entering them.

Removal of Untouchability is not merely a political necessity but something indispensable, so far as Hindus are concerned, for the very existence of Hinduism. In a spirit of non-violence Hindu Congressmen should influence the so called “Sanatanists” far more extensively than they have hitherto done. It is part of the task of building the edifice of Swaraj.

Prohibition: Medical men have to discover the ways of weaning the addicts from intoxicants. Women and students by acts of loving service have a special opportunity in advancing this reform. Congress committees can open recreation booths for the tired labour. The Constructive workers make legal prohibition easy and successful even if they do not pave the way for it.

Khadi must be taken with all its implications. It means a wholesale swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the necessaries of life in India and that too through the labour and intellect of the villagers.

This needs a revolutionary change in the mentality and tastes of many.

Moreover Khadi mentality means decentralisation of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life. Heavy Industries will, of course, need be centralised and nationalised. But they will occupy the least part of the vast national activity which will mainly be in the villages. Every family with a plot of ground can grow cotton at least for family use. Every spinner would buy-if he has not his own-enough cotton for ginning, which he can easily do with a board and an iron rolling pin. For spinning, Gandhiji strongly recommends the Dhanush Takli.

Other Village Industries: Village economy cannot be complete without the essential village industries such as hand-grinding, hand-pounding, soap making, paper making, match making, tanning, oil pressing etc. Congressmen can interest themselves in these.

Village Sanitation: If the majority of Congressmen were derived from our villages, as they should be, they should be able to make our villages models of cleanliness in every sense of the word.

New or Basic Education is a big field of work for many Congressmen. This education is meant to transform village children into model villagers. It develops both the body and the mind, and keeps the child rooted to the soil with a glorious vision of the future in the realization of which he or she begins to take his or her share from the very commencement of his or her career in school. Let those who wish, put themselves in touch with the Secretary of the Sangh at Sewagram.

Adult Education means primarily true political education of the adult by word of mouth. Side by side with the education by the mouth will be the literary education. Many methods are being tried to shorten the period of education

Education in Health and Hygiene: The art of keeping one's health and the knowledge of hygiene is by itself a separate subject of study and corresponding practice. In a well ordered society the citizens know and observe the law of health and hygiene. No Congressman should disregard this item of the Constructive Programme.

Women: Though Satyagraha has automatically brought India's women out from their darkness, Congressmen have not felt the call to see that women become equal partners in the fight for Swaraj. It is a privilege of Congressmen to give the women of India a lifting hand, to help them to realise their full status as honoured comrades in common service.

Provincial Languages: It is inherent in Swaraj based on non-violence that every individual makes his own direct contribution to the Independence movement. The massess can do this only where every step is explained in their own languages.

National Language: Hindi is indisputably the language for all-India intercourse, because the largest number of people already know and understand it and which others can easily pick up. Unless our love of the masses is skindeep we should spend as many months to learn Hindustani as the years we spend over learning English.

Economic Equality is the master key to non-violent Independence. Working for economic equality means abolishing the eternal conflict between capital and labour. It means the levelling down of the few rich in whose hands is concentrated the bulk of the nation's wealth on the one hand, and the levelling up of the semi-starved naked millions on the other. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good.

Kisans : When the Kisans become conscious of their non-violent strength, no power on earth can resist them. But on no account thay should be used for power politics. Those who would know Gandhiji’s method of organising Kisans may profitably study the movement in Champaran, in Kheda, Bardoli and Barsad.

Labour: Ahmedabad Labour Union is a model for all India to copy. Its basis is non-violence pure and simple. It has its hospital, its schools for the children of the mill hands, its classes for adults, its own printing press and khadi depot and its own residential quarters. It has to its credit very successful strikes which were wholly non-violent. Mill owners and labour have governed their relations largely through voluntary arbitration.

Adivasis : Service of advasis though occurring as the 16th number in the Constructive programme is not the least in point of importance.

Lepers : The only institution run by an Indian, as a pure labour ot love, is by Manohar Dewan near Wardha. It is working under the inspiration and guidance of Vinoba Bhabe.

Students:

1.  must not take part in party politics

2.  may not resort to political strikes.

3.  must all do sacrificial spinning.

4.  will be users of khadi and village products.

5.  may not impose Vande Mataram or the National Flag on others.

6.  will cultivate command unity.

7.  should give first aid to neighbours.

8.  will learn the national language, Hindusthani, in its present double dress.

9.  will translate into their own mother tongue everything new they may learn and transmit it in their weekly rounds to the surrounding villages.

10.  will do nothing in secret and be always ready to quell riots by non-violent conduct at the risk of their lives. And when the final heat of the struggle comes they will leave their institutions and, if need be, sacrifice themselves for the freedom of their country.

11.  will be scrupulously correct and chivalrous in their behaviour towards their girl fellow-students.