AGRICULTURE AND CATTLE DEVLOPMENT
To improve the economic condition of the masses who mostly live in the villages, it was natural for the Nidhi to be greatly interested in agriculture improvement, and it was included in the “samagra seva” in which village workers were engaged. This happened simultaneously with the development of the Gramseva Centers.
Shri Pranlal Kapadia, a constructive worker from bombay, during his visit to Japan, had an opportunity to observe the Japanese method of paddy cultivation. He felt that the method would suit India as well. When returning to India he experimented with it in his space, Kora Kendra of of Borivli, Bombay. The results were excellent.
Cowdung Gas Plants and Bone-Crushers
Connected with the Japanese method were the problems of suitable implementation and the use of manure. It was decided that the manufacturing of them should not be concentrated at any one centre, and hence arrangements were made to manufacture them at several places. As far as manure was concerned, it was found that the green manure and compost mixed with bone shavings yielded good results. Subsequently, the Nidhi started encouraging the installation of cowdung gas plants and bone crushers. As an incentive, it sold the equipment at a reduced cost: one-third for the installation of a medium size bone crusher and one-fourth for a gas plant. The GSN supported the installation of 100 bone-crushers and 25 gas plants.
Kasturba Gram Mixed Farming Scheme
The Agricultural Extension Scheme of the Nidhi, under which the Japanese method of paddy cultivation was being popularized, was discontinued in 1955, as a result of the Government taking up the initiative. As a result, five Lakhs, that was set aside for developing the manufacturing plants prior to the government intervention, still remained. So, the Nidhi got an opportunity to embark on a second experiment, which was not confined to agriculture alone but included both farming and animal husbandry, and also served as a training centre for the workers.
Cow Welfare: Goseva
Besides the reverence in which the cow is generally held in India, it has also been occupying an important place in the Indian economy. This aligned with Gandhiji’s vision and he was adamant about saving the cows. In the economic order advocated by him, the cow and her calves were indispensable. But knowing that mere reverence would not do, he founded the All-India Goseva Sangha to scientifically confront the problem and to work to save the cows.
Gandhiji attached very great importance to the programme of the eradication of alcohol, which he considered to be the evil drink. He even went to the length of saying, ‘I would rather have India reduced to a state of pauperism than have thousands of drunkards in our midst. I would rather have India without education [if] that is the price to be paid for making the country dry.” It was because of him that the Congress Ministries of 1937 had introduced either total or partial prohibition in their provinces, and the Fathers of the Indian Constitution accorded the initiative a place in its ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’. Nidhi seriosuly took up the cause of prohibition after l962.
It assisted the prohibition movement by a grant of Rs. 9,36,273.22. Of this the amount distributed by the Central Office was Rs. 7,05,020.00. The Akhil Bhartiya Nashabandi Parishad of Delhi received, Rs. 1,94,000.00, the Nahashabandi Mandal of Bombay got Rs. 2,91,000.00 and Gujarat, Rs. 2,15,000.00. A few of the State Nidhis also gave considerable amounts of financial support. Additionally, the Nashabandi Mandal of Poona received Rs. 1,23,750.00 from the Maharashtra State Nidhi, and the Bombay Mandal got Rs. 35,100.00 from the Bombay Nidhi besides cooperation in the work. The Bihar Nidhi assisted the Bihar Nashabandi Mandal by a grant of 25 thousand, and the Madhya Pradesh Nidhi gave approximately 18 thousand.
Gandhiji suffered martyrdom for the cause of communal harmony and the manner of his death did much to quench the flames of communal- ism raging in this country as a result of partition and its aftermath. With the establishment of a secular and democratic state in the country both, in theory and practice, the communal feelings of the people further subsided and whatever remained was not openly expressed.
However, on special occasions communal tendencies did reveal themselves. Examples of this include, 1964 when the Hindus of East Bengal (Pakistan) were driven away from their homes by the atrocities of their Muslim brothers, and in 1965 during the Indo-Pakistan War.
The condition of the refugees of East Bengal in 1964 had aroused the communal feelings of the Hindus from those areas where the refugees were staying. The Indo-Pakistan war aroused suspicion about many Muslims, including that the Muslims were acting as the spies from Pakistan. In that atmosphere, rampant with fear and psychosis, baseless rumours came to be believed, and otherwise law-abiding citizens responded and acted on the rumors.
On all such occasions, the Gandhian workers of those regions came forward to protect the minorities, to dispel baseless suspicions about them and to create an atmosphere of communal amity. The State Nidhis of the concerned States cooperated in this matter with Sarvodaya workers and official agencies working for the maintenance of law and order. The States chiefly affected by such troubles were Bihar, Orissa and Bengal.
Welfare of the Weaker Sections
“Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starved millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.”
Such is the famous Talisman of Gandhiji, and it shows his interest in the welfare of the downtrodden. The aim of every item of Ghandiji’s Constructive Programme was to uplift the downtrodden. Among these, the worst condition had been, and still is, of the Harijans, the Aboriginal Tribes and the Nomads. According to the census of 1961, out of the total Indian population of 43,42,34,771, the Harijans represented 6,45,11,313 and the Aborigines, 2,98,03,470. Thus taken together they constituted about 22% of population of India. Under these circumstances, it was only natural for the Nidhi to direct its special efforts towards their welfare.
Gandhiji’s concern for the welfare of the Harijans is well known. It was a practice for him to put forth efforts to raise money for them. He used the proceeds from selling autographs as contributions for the Harijan Fund.
Understandably, the Harijan Sevak Sangh suffered most by his death. Hence it was natural for the Nidhi to come to its assistance and, as has already been pointed out, the Sangh was one of the organizations which started receiving financial assistance from the Nidhi, from 1950 onwards. Before the formation of the State Nidhis, this assistance was given to the All-India Harijan Sevak Sangh, but after their formation the State Harijan Sevak Sanghs directly received grants on the recommendations of their State Nidhis. Besides the Sangh, some other local organizations and institutions working for and among the Harijans also received aid from time to time.
Practically in every State of the country there are pockets of aboriginal tribes living in partial isolation from others and barely getting by. These pockets exist in inhospitable regions where they had sought shelter, and safety, from the advance of the ‘civilized’ peoples. They are mainly found in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam and Uttar Pradesh. From the time of Gandhiji, the Bhartiya Adimjati Sevak Sangh has been working for their welfare, and it was one of those organisations to whose assistance the Nidhi starting from 1900. Up to 1970, it had received, from the Central Nidhi, grants amounting to Rs. 3,07,035.25, which constituted some 10% of total spending by the Central and State Nidhis together on the welfare of the tribal peoples.
Welfare of the Nomads
It is not uncommon in India to see a group of families carrying their household belongings in carts, staying for a few days at some roadside place and then moving on to another. They usually have practical skills, some handicraft or another, and earn their living by selling their products. They are found speaking among themselves a language which is not understood by the people of the locality. Generally, these nomad tribes have their original homes either in Rajasthan or Maharashtra. An all-India organisation interested in their welfare is the Ghumuntu Jan Sevak Sangh, which was established in 1962. Their main activities include running primary schools and training people in handicrafts. It received from the Central Nidhi aid of Rs. 24,381.09. The State Nidhis of Maharashtra and Rajasthan also spent Rs. 16,417.32 and Rs. 3,469.95 respectively. Thus the total expenditure under this head came to Rs. 44,268.36.
At the very beginning of the collection of the Gandhi Memorial Fund, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had in February 1949 advocate the idea of building national memories of Mahatma Gandhi in a large number of villages in the form of what he named ‘Mahatma Gandhi Panchayat Ghar’ to serve both as a service and culture-center of a village or a group of villages.
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"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."