Once, Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya got down at a railway station. Since it was night and no vehicle was available, he started walking to the destination along with his associates. When they felt thirsty at night, they saw a hamlet. There was also a well near the hamlet. A person was sleeping on a cot near the well. A lady was also sleeping along with her son near him on the ground. Deendayalji awakened the man and asked him for the rope and the pot to take out water from the well. The man immediately woke up and offered to provide water himself. As he was to offer the water, his wife stopped him. She went inside the hamlet and brought some pieces of gud. She gave the gud to all of them to eat before drinking water. This hospitality of that woman touched Deendayalji’s heart. He gave a five-rupee note for her son but the lady refused to accept saying, “You are our guest”. Tears started rolling down the cheeks of Deendayalji after hearing these words from that rural lady. Such incidents are common in villages. It proves that our Bharatiya values are still alive in villages. People there are the living example of inter-complementarity. They are happy to welcome even a stranger as guest any time. The village life is full of happiness rather than the life in urban areas. They may be economically weak but the values of Indian culture have truly been preserved by them.
Once our villages were self-contained. No hand was without work. Each task had a person assigned to it. All were complementary to one another. There were architects and sculptors; there were carpenters for wood work, blacksmiths for metal work, jewelers for making ornaments, masons for house construction, weavers for making clothes, tailors for stitching garments, dye makers for colouring, cobblers for making footwear. Each of them was a specialist in his craft. There was no service for which people had to go outside the village. Whether it was hair dressing or bangle making, laundering or upholstering, there were local craftsmen available to do it. Oil, ghee, jiggery, sugar – everything was locally available. There were schools too – with this difference that the tutor never accepted fees. The local doctors served the people without fees. For exchange or purchase there was the humble local grocer; for worship the temple; for exercise the gymnasium. All commanded respect. There was land for cultivation, trees for fruits, gardens for flowers, cowherds for milk, ploughs for tilling, and bullock-carts for transportation. The list can go on endlessly. The entire village was like one family. From the sweeper to the Pandit, all were looked upon with respect. Even the modes of addressing others were full of regard and affection – Baba (father), Dada (grandfather), Chacha (uncle), Chachee (aunt), and so on. All shared in joy or sorrow. A wedding in a family was a function of the entire village.
While all were free to do as they pleased, how come that there was such constant sharing of life? Who organised it all? The fact is that each house was in fact a Samskar Kendra and Vidyalaya for ensuring that Bharatiya values are reflected in day-to-day life. From the young age all were taught to have reverence for mother, father, guests, village deity and also for nature’s elements, like trees, water, fire, mother earth, etc. It is from such villages that invocation of universal well being emanated. It is in such environs that high ethical norms, such as regarding all beings as extensions of oneself and non-coveting, were nourished.
It is in order to re-awaken such sentiments that Swami Vivekananda gave a call to social workers to go from one end of the country to another, from one village to another, and make the people aware of their duty and tell them, “Arise, awake!”. He realised that Bharat lived in its villages. This does not mean that 82 per cent lived in the villages but the cultural heritage of Bharat forms the true image of our motherland. He said, “Let her arise out of the peasants’ cottages, grasping the plough, out of the huts of the fishermen the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop form beside the over of the fritter seller. Let her emanate from the factory from marts and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests from hills and mountains.” The same is the impact of Maharshi Aurobindo’s declaration that the village is the soul of our social life.
Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya too had exhorted: “Let there be assemblies of the wise in each village. Let auspiciousness pervade each village through Harikathas. May schools and gymnasia flourish everywhere. Let every week be festive.”
Thakkar Bapa worked for it and Sant Tukdoji Maharaj sang this rural development in his bhajans. He very deeply thought over all aspects of rural life. It is to regenerate that rich life Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya drew attention to the basics—“Let there be work for all able hands. Let each field have plenty of water.” He laid emphasis on local employment using local raw-material. He said repeatedly: “It is when villages become self-respecting and self-reliant that the picture of the country can change. Change has to take place from bottom upwards, and not the other way.” Sant Vinoba Bhave started the Bhudan Andolan. Sant Pandurang Athavale of Gujarat also carried various marvellous experiments in farming. Shri Anna Hajare presented an ideal example of development in his village Ralegan Sindi in Maharashtra. Nanaji Deshmukh started various experiments of rural development in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Unlike these dreams of our great personalities the picture of the rural areas is deteriorating day-by-day. The annadata of the country is forced to commit suicide and leave the tradition of farming. The policymakers know very well that the total rural economy is based on agriculture, but agriculture is getting less profitable these days because of costly machines and chemical-fertilizers, pesticides and scarcity of human labours. The village people are still in dearth of facilities in health, education, employment and other amenities of life. The rural population is swelling the city’s thinning rural areas. The city population according to 1951 census was 18.39 whereas the city population reached 28.8 per cent in 2001 census. Why so? This exodus from villages to cities varies from province to province.
Some state governments too have taken some initiatives in rural development. But the major difference between the steps taken by the government, individual or organisational level is that the government concentrates only at the materialistic development. This type of work has only partial effect. No effort is made on the part of the government agencies to provide samskars for families, self-respect, moral education, health, etc. What the villages today need holistic development and not the partial one. Until the life of the people living in villages is developed on the basis of Indian values of life, they will not achieve all-round development.
The legacy of savants inspired the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to promote rural development activities in countless villages. For the last more than one decade that the Sangh took this herculean task with many unique experiments in the country. All activities of rural development inspired by the RSS workers are aimed at achieving integrated development. Initiating the rural developmental activities, the former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Rajju Bhaiya, had declared in 1995 that the utmost priority should be at making the villages hunger-free, disease-free and literate (Kshudha mukta, roga mukta, tatha shikshayukt). Today, there are over 100 villages where the rural development work done by swayamsevaks has inspired the people of surrounding villages and their experiments are being emulated by those people. We are trying to inculcate the feeling among villagers that their field of work is not limited to their self but their entire village. They must participate in the village activities and should know about the developmental work going on in their villages.
The first and foremost requisite for development is that the people of the village have mentality of development. We ensure that the house of our activist becomes the practical source of inspiration for others. Making the village addiction-free is also at our top priority. The addiction becomes the reason of disputes and if we have to make the village dispute-free we have to achieve total prohibition. We make all efforts so that disputes of the village are resolved in the village itself. At the time when there are fights over reservations and getting more benefits from the government, the people of Dhagewari village in Maharashtra formally wrote to the local administration requesting to delete their names from the Below Poverty Line list as they their economic condition has improved and they now do not need the benefit of BPL category. The change in the mentality has come due to the efforts of Sangh swayamsevaks. This type of rural reconstruction activities are going on all over the country.
(The writer has developed his own village Mohad as a model village in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh. He is also the former Akhil Bharatiya Gram Vikas Pramukh of RSS. He can be contacted at Village and Post: Mohad, Tehsil Kareli, District Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh.)