Village Reconstruction model: in the views of Gandhi, Tagore & Aurobindo

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To discuss with the notion of Swaraj, we also have to state about its other important auxiliaries, e.g. the national self-help scheme and self development procedure. Village reconstruction is thought to be a part of National self-help and National Self-development programme. Now if we investigate properly, then we could find out that the actual aim of the British rule was to destroy the social strength of India. How this foreign rule gradually destroyed Indian social life-structure, is vividly depicted in Sri Aurobindo’s own writings – ‘…the Village samiti is the seed of Swaraj…when a nation is in a natural condition, growing from within and existing from within and in its own strength, then it develops its own centres and correlates them according to its own needs. But as soon as for any reason this natural condition is interrupted and a foreign body draws to itself all the sources of nourishment and the natural centres, deprived of their sustenance, fail and disappear. It is for this reason that foreign rule can never be for the good of a nation, never work for its true progress and life, but must always work towards its disintegration and death…We in India had our own instruments of life and growth; we had the self-dependent village; we had the Zamindar as the link between the village units and the central governing body and the central governing body itself was one in which the heart of the nation beat. All these have been either destroyed or crippled by the intrusion of a foreign organism. If we are to survive as a nation we must restore the centres of strength which are natural and necessary to our growth, and the first of these, the basis of all the rest6, the old foundation of Indian life and the secret of Indian vitality was the self-dependent and self-sufficient village organism. If we are to organise Swaraj we must base it on the village.’
Sri Aurobindo on Village Reconstruction:
Hence for the revival of our beloved motherland Sri Aurobindo dreamt of reconstructing our villages. Now what are the steps of village reconstruction? There must remain some necessary steps in this regard. To find out them again we have to look into Sri Aurobindo – ‘The village must not in our new national life be isolated as well as self-sufficient, but must feel itself bound up with the life of its neighbouring units, living with them in a common group for common purposes. Each group again must feel a part of the life of the district, living in the district unity, so each district must not be engrossed in its own separate3 existence but feel itself a subordinate part of the single life of the province, and the province in its turn of the single life of the country. Such is the plan of reconstruction we have taken in hand, but to make it a healthy growth and not an artificial construction we must begin at the bottom and work to the apex. The village is the call of the national body and the cell-life must be healthy and developed for the national body to be healthy and developed. Swaraj begins from the village’. Thus it seems that as villages remain as the basis of an entire nation, so that we have to raise the cry for Swaraj from the villages.

Gandhi vs. Aurobindo on Village Reconstruction:
In this above context we can discover the enormous similarity of Gandhian thought with that of Sri Aurobindo. Actually Gandhi gave much more practical explanation of how to reconstruct a village thoroughly. Gandhi vividly demonstrated the true nature of self-sufficient village communities by mentioning – ‘My [Gandhi’s] idea of village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic….Thus every village’s first concern will be to grow its own food crops and cotton for its cloth. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding Ganja, tobacco, opium and the like. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks ensuring clean water supply. This can be done through controlled wells or tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on the co-operative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded un-touchability. Non-violence with the technique of Satyagraha and non-co-operation will be the sanction of the village community. There will be a compulsory service of village guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. The government of the village will be conducted by the Panchayat of five persons annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. These will have all the authority and jurisdiction required. Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office. Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government, whose sole effective connection with the neighbouring villages and the centre if any’. This is the purpose of Gandhi’s creation of Village Government.

Tagore on Rural Reconstruction:
We also find out the Rural Reconstruction model even in the writings of Tagore. His familiarity was as a renowned poet, but he was also considered as one of the pioneer of rural development programme. He started rural reconstruction project at Sriniketan in 1921 aiming to make villagers self-reliant and able to use all rural resources fully. Tagore realized that this problem of rural reconstruction were manifold and it was co-related with health, economy, education etc. essential parts, and these parts are as well as inter-linked with each other. The objectives of the programme, in the words of Elmhirst depicted as follows – ‘from the outset, we had two main objectives, to survey the economic, social and scientific needs of the cultivator in his home, village and fields, and secondly to carry out our own laboratory experiments in health, education, craft, cultivation and animal husbandry’. Accordingly Tagore laid emphasis on economical background of villagers. Regarding economic development Tagore’s aspiration was to make the peasants self-developed and he truly realized that economic advancement should be done on the scientific ground. In this procedure, he considered education as one of the important corollaries, because the educational development of rural children remains as the foundation of the rural reconstruction programme. Without proper education nobody can be able to realize the essentiality of the village reconstruction procedure. And the village welfare department of the institute [Sriniketan] from the very beginning took the programme of health and sanitation in the surrounding villages. In the year 1929, the institute treated 6760 patients [Lal, Premchand, Reconstruction and Education in Rural India, London : George Allen and Unwin, 1932, p. 78]. Tagore firmly believed that poverty, disease, depopulation, joylessness and backwardness of rural area could be removed only through co-operative efforts of village reconstruction. In this regard, we can discover his theory is quite bit similar with that of Gandhi.

However unlike Gandhi Tagore was never so much fascinated with the idea of Charkha. He also tried to develop village life-style from the grass-root level near Shantiniketan, but not by Charkha. His theory is much more intense in its nature.

When Tagore took up this huge responsibility of rural reconstruction on his own shoulder, Birbhum region was fully backward area and the real situation of the villages under its head are worser than other villages of West Bengal.  The soil quality was poor. Peasant’s wage-earning is very much critical for their own sustenance.

For example, total 1,500 acres [1 acre= almost 2.5 bighas] of lands, in Birbhum district, are divided in the following table – 

Area
Bigha (s)

Wasteland and Khowai (eroded)
2,748.36

Homesteads
42.00

Tanks
42.00

Fallow & left for grazing
201.00

Under Cultivation
457.00

Other Lands
255.64

Tagore’s Model of Rural Reconstruction: Tagore Realized the main situation of villages and their several problems regarding health, sanitation, economy, livelihood, education, poverty etc. All of them are inter-related with each other. Tagore laid emphasis on the economic [agricultural and handicrafts] growth, education, health and sanitation, village organization etc in the villages around Birbhum. Sriniketan is the first example of such organization founded by Tagore. His main intention was as follows –

To solve the economic problems of Bengal peasants and to increase their life-structure;
To employ the agricultural knowledge of the students of Sriniketan out of the classroom; 
To develop the wage-earning procedure of the poor peasants in several/many villages around Santiniketan, district Birbhum.

Tagorean Model
Programmes :
Economic; Educational; Information Communication; Health Programmes; Village Organizations; Research & Training;
Implementations :
Social Workers : Gram Karmi; Samaj Karmi

Economic Programmes :
Industrial Activity : organization of creation & sale; training for village artisans : wood work, leather work, poultry, weaving & tailoring, embroidery
Agricultural Activity
Dairy & Poultry
Food Stores
Afforestation
Leather Work & Fishery
Flood Relief etc Multiple Activity
Educational Programmes:
Night school,
Shiksha satra & charcha,
Lok shiksha sansad,

Information communication:
Seminar,
Feeder club,
Mobile library [Chalantika],
Village fair, celebration of festivals

Health programmes:
Anti-malarial activity;
Public health work;
Welfare : Leprosy control, Maternity, Birth control, Child health care etc

Village organization:
Women’s society;
Yugasangah;
Child organization;
Yatra club

Training programmes:
Rural survey;
Agricultural training;
Training for village women & midwives;
Vocational training;
Social work programmes;
Land tenure programme;
Teacher’s training

All these are, unbelievably, part of Tagore’s educational programme schedule. 
Village Reconsruction & Swaraj:
Thus village reconstruction is one of the important organizations of National Self-help movement. For the development of a strong nation, the village also has to be developed. So village samiti appears as an indispensable instrument of the National development procedure. What is the process of the so-called development of Palli Samiti? In its answer we have to quote from Sri Aurobindo – ‘It is to set up village schools in which our children will grow up as good citizens and patriots to live for their country and not for themselves or for the privilege of dependent life in a dependent nation. It is to take up the work of arbitration by which we shall recover control of the administration of justice, of self-protection, of village sanitation, of small local public works, so that the life of the village may again be self-reliant and self-sufficient, free from the habit of dependence rooted in the soil. Self-help and self-dependence, the first conditions of Swaraj depend for their organisation on the village Samiti’.

Sri Aurobindo mainly wanted to develop the life-structure of Indian masses from the grass-root leve. And for this we need to develop the villages, the cetre of our national life, from inner as well as outer potentia. Hence for the fulfillment of swaraj theory, we need to concentrate on the Palli Unnayan programmes as following Sri Aurobindo, Tagore, Gandhi etc contemporary Indian  thinkers.
Necessites of Village Reconstruction:
Hence we could discover two such necessities of village reconstruction as following Sri Aurobindo. The first one is, for the true attainment of Swaraj, we must awake the political sense of the masses. In this endeavor, the reconstruction programme seems mandatory, as it will help to develop the lives of the villagers. Thus we should start our mission of political reconstruction from the grass-root level, i.e. the villages. In a democratic state the villages remain as the core of the nation and without the development of rural masses, the development of urban people as well as that of the entire nation seems impossible. Without evoking the political sense of common masses, the dream of attaining Swaraj cannot be fulfilled at all. And Palli Samiti is alone compatible in work of evoking the political sense of rural India. ‘The work of the village Samiti will be to make the masses feel Swaraj in the village, Swaraj in the nation. They cannot immediately rise to the conception of Swaraj in the nation, they must be trained to it through the perception of Swaraj in the village. The political education of the masses is impossible unless you orgainse the village Samiti’.

Actually Sri Aurobindo’s main intention was to make India as the spiritual guide of other nations. And for doing this, India’s political mastery seems very much essential. However for making a whole nation politically developed, we have to develop the political sense of the masses. Most people of a nation reside in villages, so we should develop the political sense of the villagers at first of all. By the improvement of village life-structure, and then by the mandatory advancement of that of cities, we can be able to develop the life-structure of the entire India. Hence the development of Palli Samiti remains as an indispensable part of India’s political advancement. This is the first necessity according to him.

The second necessity is this reconstruction of village Samiti will be helpful enough to destroy the separative attitude between Hindu and Muslim races. It also seems helpful in uniting them not only from the political stand-point, but also from the bottom of their heart. The foreign rule truly destroyed this so-desired Hindu-Muslim unity as it conceived this one as a great threat against its rule of two decades over India.  The ancient Hindu rule, even the Muslim eras were different from this British era not only in their thought and culture, but also on its nature. The Hindu and even the Muslim rajas and jamindars, in the ancient time, felt themselves as parts of the ruled persons and so mutual love, trust and worship remain between both the ruler and the ruled. They strictly maintained the unity between both the Hindu and the Muslim these two completely separate sects as it seemed mandatory for their self-preservation. But the foreigners advocate diversity bet5ween these two sects; so that they will become powerless by constant fighting and quarrelling among them and never could even try to preach for the necessary political liberty. Sri Aurobindo very wisely advocated the importance of Palli Samiti in this regard – ‘It will destroy the aloofness, the separateness of our lives and bring us back the sense of community, the habit of mutual assistance and mutual beneficience…It will introduce arbitration courts and, by healing our family feuds and individual discords, restore the lost sense of brother hood. It will seek out the sick and give them medical relief. It will give justice, it will give protection and when all are thus working for the good of all, the old unity of our lives will be restored, the basis of Swaraj will have been laid in the tie which binds together the hearts of the people’. Thus by spreading communal love by sharing every work, every happiness, every custom little bit each other, Hindu-Muslim unity could be achieved and when religious as well as social unity will be attained in this way, then the political unity of entire India cannot remain far behind.

Formation of Village Samiti is therefore urgently necessary in the view of Sri Aurobindo. Village Samitis are, therefore, conditions to be fulfilled for the achievement of Swaraj or political freedom. Because for political freedom, the arousal of political sense of common masses along with the most desired and even the most controversial Hindu-Muslim unity seem mandatory. And Palli Samitis are the criterion to make these two essential goals possible. Hence for attaining Swaraj, we need to advance our national self-help or national self-development programmes along wit6h our on-going national movements. Thus the formation of Palli Samitis must remain as our practice of Swaraj. In the Kishoregung Speech (Kishoregung area is situated in Mymensingh district, East Bengal) Sri Aurobindo ordered the entire Bengal to guide entire India in this endeavor.

In brief, this is Sri Aurobindo’s thesis regarding the several necessities of village reformation.
Relation between Village & Nation:
Now, in this context, we can search for the answer of the stated question – what is the relation between a nation and its constituent, i.e. the villages? Actually the national life cannot proceed towards a glorifying future without the advancement of its rural life. In the article named “Back to the Land” Sri Aurobindo clearly depicted that – ‘It is an ascertained principle of national existence that only by keeping possession of the soil can a nation persist; the mastery of the reins of government or the control of the trade and wealth of a country, does not give permanence to the people in control. They reign for a while and then the virtue departs out of them and they wither or pass away and another takes their place; but they tillers of the soil, ground down, oppressed, rack-rented, miserable, remain, and have always the chance of the day overthrowing their oppressors and coming by their own. When a small foreign oligarchy does the trading and governing and a great indigenous democracy the tilling of the soil, it is safe to prophesy that before many generations have passed the oligarchy of aliens will be no more and the democracy of peasants will still be in possession’.   

So it can be easily seen that the village is, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, the basis in where the cry for swaraj is basically rooted.

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