Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

Garbage and Mahatma Gandhi
They only want to demonstrate that the function of removing garbage and filth is a necessary and sacred function and its performance can impart grace even to a Vaishnava. Those who pursue this vocation are not, therefore, degraded but entitled to an equal measure of social privileges with those pursuing other callings; their work protects the country from a number of diseases. They, therefore, deserve the same respect as doctors. 1 Let us examine the state of our villages from this standpoint. Many of these are found to be like heaps of garbage. People urinate and defecate at all places in the villages, not excluding even their own courtyards. Where this is done, no one takes care to cover up the faeces. The village roads are never well maintained and one finds heaps of dust everywhere. We ourselves and our bullocks find it difficult even to walk on them. If there is a pond, people wash their utensils in it, cattle drink, bathe and wallow in it; children and even adults clean themselves in it after evacuation; they even defecate on the ground near it. This same water is used for drinking and cooking purposes. 2
Hence the volunteer should explain this matter to cultivators and, if permitted to do so, should bury it in their fields. If any farmer, through ignorance, disregards the sanitary methods suggested by the volunteer, the latter should find a spot in the dunghill and bury the excreta there. Having completed this task, the volunteers should now approach the garbage heap. Garbage is of two types. The first is suitable material for manure, such as peels and skins of vegetables, grain, grass, etc. The other type includes bits of wood, stones, sheets of iron or tin, etc. Of these, the first type should be kept in fields or at places where manure from it can be collected, and the second should be carried and buried at places where pot-holes, etc., need to be filled in. As a result of this, the village will remain clean and people who walk bare-footed will be able to do so fearlessly. After a few days’ labour, the people will surely realize the value of it.
And once this realization dawns on them, they will start helping and finally start doing things on their own. Every farmer will utilize in his own fields the excreta of his own family, so that no one will find anyone else being a burden to him and everyone will go on enriching his own crop. When I speak of burying excreta we should understand that there should be a large square or rectangular pit for it. For, no further excreta is to be put on that already buried and the pit is also not to be opened up soon. Hence the following day there would be ready another small square pit near where the excreta was buried the previous day. The earth removed from it would have been kept on one side. All that would have to be done the next day would be to bury the excreta, cover it up with the earth, level it properly and go away. Garbage consisting of peels of vegetables, etc., should be turned into manure on a spot near the above. This is so because human excreta and peels of vegetables, etc., should be turned into manure on a spot near the above. This is so because human excreta and peels of vegetables, etc., cannot be turned into manure by burying them together. Worms do not operate on the two in the same manner. It must now have been clear to volunteers that the place at which they bury excreta will always remain clean, will have an even surface, and look like a newly ploughed field. 3
But I am aware that there is another question behind the above question, viz, khadi work is all very well, but if a man finds it uninteresting, what should he do? Such men should remove the filth in villages; they should instead of making speeches for that purpose, take up a broom and clean up roads and latrines, stop garbage heaps from forming and spread rules of sanitation among the people. Although the women will do picketing, they will need much help in doing so; that help should be given by men; if the men are competent enough, they should sit under trees in villages and without any books run schools for children as also start night schools for adults. For anyone who is bent on serving, the field is limitless. And everyone should realize that, when the time for launching the struggle comes again, the strength for it will be generated only through such activities. 4
The next question deals with body-labour. What I have said earlier includes my reply on this point also. Each person will function within his own individual limits. We cannot lay down more than this. Let every man put in the maximum body-labour he can. One worker wrote to me that he managed to earn his livelihood in the village; but all his time was spent in doing body-labour. He had resolved to take to spinning and also planned to make a living by spinning. But he found no time to do anything else. I have written to him that, if he continues his work with devotion, people will have a lesson to learn even from this. If the people of the village desire to accept his services, he can educate their children, clean up the garbage and in return earn his bread from them. If he puts his heart in his work, he will be able to earn his livelihood. But he must take only what is necessary. He may be able to have sweets, ghee, fruits, etc., if he asks for them. But he should not accept these things even if the people offer them on their own. I go round with the thought of the village in my mind, and so other problems do not arise for me. There can be no question at all of drawing the maximum out of public funds. 5
Even in England some persons have to sweep the streets and carry away garbage. That occupation is not regarded as demeaning by anyone there. Any vocation scientifically pursued is as interesting as any scientific pursuit. It is in our country that society has not allowed the vocations to grow into sciences by looking down upon them. Hence, the carpenter does not compile technical documents on carpentry. We import these from the West. At present Dr. Fowler is doing the work of a Bhangi in Bangalore. He collects all the garbage in the hotel where he stays and is minutely studying how to convert it into manure in the simplest way. In the West the disposal of the garbage in the big cities is demanding work. Those who do it and devise new methods for doing it are also Bhangis, aren’t they? In Darjeeling and Simla, enormous sums are spent on the disposal of garbage. Is it not a matter of shame and sorrow that none among our Bhangi brothers have acquired any knowledge of this? This is a heinous sin on the part of those who are said to belong to the higher castes. Our looking down upon Bhangis has made them the object of the disdain of the world. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that there cannot be any happiness or independence, whether economic, social or political, in the country as long the Bhangis do not get the same respect as the Brahmins. What I have said here is not about ideals—but purely about what is practicable. I ask for respect for the Bhangi as he is today. When a Bhangi gains knowledge of the Brahman, we shall perforce worship him. But we shall become purified only when we recognize a Bhangi as our own brother even as he is. 6
So long as enough attention is not paid towards sanitation of villages, the inhabitants will never have purity of heart and their condition will be symbolized by the garbage dumps one finds in the villages. Therefore, sanitation in villages is an equally important item in village reconstruction. 7 Under Mirabehn’s inspiration and through her efforts a Conference was called in Delhi this month to popularize such manure among the people. It was presided over by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. It was attended by Sardar Datar Singh, Dr. Acharya and others who are experts in this field. After three days of deliberation they passed several important resolutions. In these resolutions they have pointed out what should be done in cities and in the seven lakh villages. The Conference has suggested the method of mixing human and animal excreta, garbage, rags and factory waste, in rural and urban areas. For this purpose a small sub-committee has been formed. 8


1. Bapu aur Harijan
2. Shikshan ane Sahitya, 18-8-1929
3. Shikshan ane Sahitya, 22-9-1929
4. Navajivan, 31-5-1931
5. Gandhi Seva Sangh ke Dwitiya Adhiveshan ka Vivaran, pp. 32
6. Harijanbandhu, 20-12-1936
7. Biharni Komi Agman, pp. 162
8. Harijanbandhu, 28-12-1947

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