Deepesh' Blog

Just random……..

GANDHI’S CHARKHA (a glimpse of his mind)

We often find Mahatma Gandhi’s photographs wth his charkha (spinning wheel). Charkha was his revolutionary idea. What was his thoughts behind the charakha movement?

Mahatma Gandhi himself had written about it in magazine Young India in issue dated 21.08.1924. This article titled “Waste of Energy?” was written in order to address criticism on his hand-spinning movement.  Let us get a glimpse of Gandhi’s mind.

Waste of Energy? – by Mahatma Gandi 

A   friend     has     invited     my     attention     to     an     article     in     the Welfare of May last which is an examination by Mr. M. N. Roy   of Acharya Ray’s       address at the opening of the khaddar exhibition at Cocanada.   The   copy   has   been   lying   among   my   papers   for   fully two months. I am sorry that I have not been able to read the article before now. Having read it I feel that Mr. Roy’s refutation of Dr. Ray’s   contentions   has   been   often   refuted   in   these   pages.   But   as readers have short memories, it is perhaps as well for me to re-state the arguments in a connected form. Dr. Ray’s critic considers that all the effort made on behalf of the charkha is “a waste of energy”. The central   point   in   Dr.     Ray’s   argument   is   that   the   charkha     has     a message specially for the peasant in that it enables him to utilize his idle hours. The critic contends that the peasant has not any idle hours to utilize. What leisure he has, he needs. If he is idle for four months, it is because he has over-worked himself for eight months and that if he   is   made   to   work   the   four   months   at   the   wheel, his   efficiency for eight months’ work will deteriorate from year to year. In other words, according   to   the   critic,   the   nation     has     no   leisure   for   the charkha.

It appears to me that the critic has little if any experience of the peasantry of India . Nor has he been able to picture to himself the way the charkha would work, and indeed is working today. The peasantry does not need to slave at the charkha. It affords a pleasant variety and recreation after hard toil. As a permanent institution, it is presented to the women   of   India .   They   will spin   during   odd   moments.   If   the majority of the toilers were to give on an average half an hour per day they would spin enough yarn for themselves and to spare for the rest. Such worker would add to his or her income at least Rs. 1-11-0 per year—not a bad addition to the income of a starving person.   It   is admitted that there are enough handlooms and weavers today in India to weave all the cloth we may require. The only question is therefore that of hand-spinning. If the peasantry would take to it, the problem could be solved without any great outlay of capital, of India becoming self-supporting for her cloth. This would mean at least sixty million

rupees circulating among the millions of spinners and thousands of carders and weavers of India working in their own cottages and to that extent raising the earning capacity of the peasantry.

It   is   the   experience   all   the   world   over   that   peasants   need   a subsidiary occupation to supplement their earnings or occupy their leisure hours. It must not be forgotten that not very long ago India ’s women spun during spare hours all the yarn it required. Revival of spinning has demonstrated the truth of the statement in a most striking manner. It is an error to suppose that the movement has failed. The workers have indeed partly failed. But wherever they have done their work well, it has continued. It is   true   that   it   has   not   yet   acquired stability. This is because of incomplete organization and also because the spinners are not yet sure of being steadily employed. I invite Mr. Roy to study the conditions in the Punjab , Karnatak, Andhra, parts of Tamilnad and he will find out for himself what possibilities spinning has.

India is a land of famines. Is it   better   that   men   and   women should   break   stones,   or   card   and   spin?   Through   chronic   famine conditions, the people of Orissa have been reduced to beggary. It is the most difficult thing now even to make them work. They are slowly dying out. Revival of spinning is their only hope.

Mr. Roy lays stress upon improved agriculture. This is neces- sary. But spinning is not to replace the contemplated improvement. On the contrary it will herald it. This improvement has tremendous difficulties in its way. We have to surmount the unwillingness of the Government,   the   want   of   capital   and   the   obstinate   refusal   of   the peasant to take to new methods. What is claimed for spinning is that

1.     it supplies the readiest occupation to those who have leisure and are in want of a few coppers;

2.     it is known to the thousands;

3.     it is easily learnt;

4.     it requires practically no outlay of capital;

5.     the wheel can be easily and cheaply made. Most of us do not yet know that spinning can be done even with a piece of tile and a splinter;

6.     the people have no repugnance to it;

7.     it affords immediate relief in times of famine and scarcity;

8.     it alone can stop the drain   of   wealth   which   goes   outside India in the purchase of foreign cloth;

9.     it automatically distributes the millions thus   saved   among the deserving poor;

10. even the smallest success means so much immediate gain to the people;

11. it is the most potent   instrument   of   securing   co-operation among the people.

The difficulties in the way are want of faith among the middle- classes which alone can supply the required number of workers. The greater difficulty still is the disinclination of the people   to   take   to khaddar   in   the   place   of   the   fine-looking     mill-made    cloth.   The dearness   of   khaddar   during   the   transition   stage   is   an   additional difficulty.   If   the     people     respond     to     the     spinning    resolution   in sufficient numbers, khaddar can be made to compete with mill-made cloth . There is no   doubt   that   the   movement   does   require   for   its success a little sacrifice on the part of the people. Even this   direct sacrifice will not be necessary if we had our own Government mindful of the wants of the peasants and determined to protect them against foreign competition. Voluntary sacrifice for a time by the   middle- class can do that the Government would do if it was national.

There is no question of waste of energy. Have the thousands of our sisters, to whom Dr. Ray was previously giving doles of charity and is now giving honourable employment and making them partly or wholly self-supporting, wasted their energy? They have no other occupation save that of begging or starving. Is it waste of energy for young men to be going to the villages, studying their wants, feeling for   them   and   helping     them   onward?   Is   it   waste   of     energy     for thousands of well-to-do young men and women to think of the poor half-fed   millions   and   for   their     sakes     to   set   apart   half    an     hour religiously to spinning on their behalf?   If one man or woman spins for a few pice, when he or she has no other occupation, it is so much gain; if one man or woman spins as a sacrifice, it is also so much gain. If there is one activity in which it is all gain and no loss, it is   hand- spinning.

August 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

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    Comment by Otelia Eddens | June 3, 2011 | Reply


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