We have immortalized our Bapu, we have erected huge statues so that he maybe commemorated and his preaching be remembered. True, we do not indulge in the lowly physical labor and make the statue ourselves, but we sure do love and respect him. If he was alive, wouldn’t Gandhi be proud of us? Never mind that the foremost thing he preached was equality and dignity of labor.
As years pass, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s ideals are being more and more misinterpreted and often, misused. I particularly wish to focus on his theory of Bread Labour. In his opinion, one could earn his living only if he did physical labour. While he did not disregard the intellectual professions, he felt that all men must engage in some physical labor and service so that they can rightfully earn their daily bread. By this, he had sought to bring about dignity of labor. (It is sad that women do not come into the picture and that their household work is not regarded as labor. If it were, then they might have earned their bread three times over, for ‘what are wives but glorified servants.’)
His views were largely for men and they were more in terms of service to the society. Even a slight glance can betray how much we disregard what he preached.
The caste distinctions seem to have been diminished at least in the urban areas, but clearly, disrespect for physical labor has not. If earlier the lowest in the caste system were delegated this work for mere pittance, the same work is now delegated to the lowest strata of the economic class structure. It is dimaying to see that those people who toil in the harshest conditions do not get enough to feed even themselves, let alone their family. It is they who need adequate food to replenish their body for another day’s rigorous toil and yet it is we, engaged in mental labor, who get the luxury of wasting food. What a construction worker may earn in a year may equal the amount a professional might earn in a few hours. The disparity speaks for itself.
Of course, as Gandhi also asserted, there is no denying the fact that no intellectual professions are a peace of cake. However, it is also true that neither is physical labor. Both need to be respected as they compliment the other’s function and are equally important for the proper working of the society.
Naturally, it would be illogical to put a blanket equal pay for all types of jobs, but the huge gap that currently exists between them must be reduced. There has to be moderation, a sense of dignity in the jobs and respect for the people who engage in them.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wanted an hour to be committed each day for bread labor. In the current scenario, it would not be feasible, as one cannot be expected to commit an hour daily owing to long working hours. Further, making it compulsory by law will only do more harm. The feeling must come from within. One can be helped to develop it during one’s most formidable time – the school years. Like Gandhi who made it mandatory for physical labor to be undertaken by his pupils at the Tolstoy Farm, our schools must also do the same. It would help in instilling a sense of dignity of labor at a tender age and also help them become better human beings. Our future generation can, perhaps, make up for what lacks in us.
If we truly want Bapu to be the Father of our Nation, then we must uphold his principles. Much of the poverty can be alleviated if there an egalitarian structure whereby all jobs are treated at par with each other and hard physical labor is given its due. If we really want to be Gandhi’s children, then we must remove poverty and the widespread inequality for, I quote Bapu himself, “Poverty is but the worst form of violence”.