WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8612

Date uploaded in London – – – –2 SEPTEMBER 2020   

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                                            Chapter 13 Part 1


                 Our Constitution: A Fraud on Mahatma Gandhi?


In leading the struggle for Independence for 30 years, Gandhiji never forgot that the

object of Independence was the emancipation of the villages.
Gandhiji wrote:

India is not Calcutta and Bombay. India lives in her seven hundred thousand


” India does not live in its towns but in villages. But if the cities want to

demonstrate that their populations will live for the villagers of India the bulk

of their resources should be spent in ameliorating the condition of and

befriending the poor. We must not lord it over them, we must learn to be

their servants.”

Young India, 23-4-1931

In the nearly 90 years since these lines were written, India has continued to live in villages.

According to 2011 census, there were 6,49,481 villages of which 5,93,615 were inhabited.

83 crore people or 68.8% of our population still lived in villages. There has been large scale

migration towards the towns and cities. Such migration continues. Still most Indians live in

But do these villages live? What sort of life do they lead? Are they villages or illages?


When the British came to India, India was a nation of prosperous village republics. Kings

and kingdoms, big and small, existed. But the villages lived on their own. Each had its own

system of finance, public services, education, administration of justice. These have been

well documented by the British themselves. [See the previous articles.] They had survived

invasions and onslaughts by Muslims and others. Charles Metcalfe wrote:

Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down. Revolution succeeds to revolution. Hindoo, Pathan,

Mogul, Maharatha, Sikh, English are all masters in  turn but the village communities remain

the same. In times of trouble they arm and fortify themselves. A hostile army passes

through the country. The village communities collect their cattle within their walls, and

let the enemy pass unprovoked.


The village communities are little republics having nearly everything that they want

within themselves. They seem to last where nothing else does.

“This union of the village communities, each one forming a separate little state in itself,

has, I conceive, contributed more than any other cause to the preservation of the people

of India, through all the revolutions and changes which they have suffered and is in a high

degree conducive to their happiness and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom

and independence.”  

[Care: This does not mean that the villages were isolated. They were economically

independent but socially, religiously, culturally cohesive.]

India lived on through all these changes because the villages were prosperous and lived.


The British system of administration drastically changed this.They lived in cities and

fortifications. Their aim was to suck the wealth of India and send it to England, which

they did for well nigh two centuries. To this end, they changed land taxation, which took

away all surplus. The local communities were left without resources to continue public

services like medical care, education, etc . When taxation became excessive, they

abandoned farming and migrated to cities and towns. But the British took over local trade,

and closed down industries, in order to promote their own goods. Industries also declined,

and along with it employment. Vast numbers were shoved into poverty, and famine struck.

This is how India lost its freedom.

Among all our leaders, Mahatma Gandhi alone realised this from the beginning. He knew

that it was impossible to create jobs for all the seekers in the towns and cities. The jobs

had to go to where people lived. The villages had to be revived. Thus ‘village swaraj’

became the building block of Indian Swaraj. Three items in his 18-point Constructive

programme directly related to villages: village industries, village health, and improvement

of the lot of agriculturists.

Gandhiji was not idealising or idolising the village. He was fully aware of the shortcomings

and defects of village life. But he knew that these were the direct result of the British

model of top-down administration, where the village survived to serve the urban economic

monster. The villages were sucked to feed the town and the city. Villagers toiled so that

urbanites might prosper. The village and villager were mere numbers. Only cities and urban

elites mattered.
                                                          * To be continued

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