The East Indian Community

Original Inhabitants of Bombay, Salsette & Thana.

 

Rural Reconstruction

By Paul Pereira, Orlem

 


 

Whether or not the impartial historian of the near future will regard Mahatma Gandhi as an inspired statesman or merely an astute and sagacious politician is a matter relative to which Mahatmaji himself is supremely indifferent. Any yet, in any investigation of current conditions within this great imperial peninsula, there emerges the undoubted fact that this dynamic leader has well and truly placed the village “on the map”. As a result of this marvelous man’s propaganda we find that “village uplift” village industries and stock improvement, plus rural dental and midwifery services are major topics for learning editors. From his Excellency the Viceroy down through provincial governors to those learned seigneurs who happen to preside over Local Boards, we find an almost irritating desire to land the agriculturist as being the true salt of the earth. Why, in the more advanced of the Native States we find similar phenomena: Mysore, Hyderabad, Baroda, have all been infected or affected by an amazing spate of sadly delayed interest in “The Man with The Hoe”.

 

As I write these lines I learn that here in Bombay our Government has determined to uplift the rural dweller by purchase of wireless outfits. It is a matter for both gratitude and congratulation that our administrators have been quickened in this matter of village life, rural amenities and agricultural distress. For let us accept, without any qualification whatever, the postulate that our great agricultural population lives in a state not only of chronic poverty but actual distress. Indeed, it is in no way straining the truth to declare without any mental reservation that here in India those who produce the greater part of the national food supply are themselves in a condition of chronic hunger just one remove from actual destitution.

 

Aid to the ryot is indeed a most pressing problem of national magnitude, but it is essential that such assistance should be upon a national basis, intelligently conceived, broad in this scope and above all adequately administered; for all these things ample precedent can be found within our own times.

 

One of the first steps to be taken by an enlightened and humane executive is in the direction of extortion and oppression by that curse of our national life – the money usurer. To establish agricultural banks is a step in the right direction, but here again we come up against the problem of administration. To erect a bureaucratic banking caste surrounded with rules and regulations and entirely divorced from all humanitarian considerations in their operations will be fatal. In at least two of the major Australian States there exists an Advance to Settlers Boards. The Government of India could study with great profit the organization and the conduct of those Boards.

 

In what particular manner can immediate aid be extended to the Man on the Land ? The most crying and urgent need is in the direction of communications. This in turn resolves itself into two parts, both equally important roads and transport. The slow moving bullock wagon traversing untended tracks is today the main method of marketing agricultural produce. Briefly, we are in the middles ages as regards reaching any market. Why, f the revenues of this Presidency were bonded for the next half century to provide adequate means of communication such action would be justified. It is perfectly clear – indeed it is elementary that the countryside cannot advance while roads and transport remain in the present condition of chaos. Such betterment is absolutely fundamental to any adequate, permanent or substantial improvement in that most interesting primary unit of our national life – The Village.

 

As these lines are being written my attention is directed to the proceedings of the annual meeting of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce. It is indeed most heartening to read the inspired words with which our illustrious Governor deals with the great question of communications. His Excellency Lord Brabourne definitely declared that the matter of railway dividends was quite secondary to the greater question of rural rehabilitation. Our Governor must be quite well aware of the magnificent road services established throughout Great Britain. He will certainly have the most detailed knowledge of what has occurred in North America. Today, it is possible to proceed by road bus from New York to San Francisco – a distance of 3000 miles. In another sphere of transport activity, the old fashioned tram is giving place to the more rapid and flexible service of the motor bus. Millions of capital have been ruthlessly “written off” in scores of English cities where the motor bus has competed with and ultimately eliminated the tram.

 

The villager is and uncomplaining soul. Indeed, his patience, his resignation, his indomitable optimism well might challenge credulity. He demands so very little and let us remember that upon his ill paid labor and ill-requited industry the nation, in the final analysis depends. The Man with The Hoe is long last receiving some small part of the consideration that most certainly is his due. There is one further factor in village life that is also obtaining a slight recognition and that is the development of cottage industries.

 

The fame of Indian designers and workers is known and recognized around the civilized world. Japan and China are both in the grip of mechanical industrialism. Here is the last home of the craftsman. Can he survive ? Can he with his naked hands fight hitherto invincible machine ? I think this possible. Certainly the signs are most propitious. There exists evidence that the hand weaver is actually increasing his output. With appropriate assistance and direction and instruction much is possible.

 

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