Assistant Professor & Head, JNRM

While I was studying in  Gandhigram Rural Institute, Gandhigram, Tamilnadu,  I stayed five years as a student and exposed various Gandhian Activities which include Village Adoption and Rural Reconstructive Programmes. Every week we used to visit the adopted village and the task entrusted on us to motivate the Rural Youth to form Youth Club and Mahila Mandal for womenfolks. We believed through this forum only we can attain total sanitation in the village including eradicating the habit of open air defecation. Initially struggled to interact with the targeted group people, but slowly acclimatized. Sometime among ourselves in a student group we use to have chat on in the present day of globalised and faster growth of economy why to bother about village, rather build a urbanized model which will attract the villages to listen us. We have also carried this outcome of our discussion to the Gandhian Though Class which is compulsory for all students of Gandhigram. When discussion round came one of my fellow friend opened up our previous outcome to the eminent faculty member. The very evening without hesitating the professor took us to the village and asked us to observe the happenings as mute spectator till dusk without disturbing anybody. The next day again we have assembled and were asked to present the previous day learning. Some  says Villagers are pity and poor, few opined government ignored them, and some said the place is not suitable to live in. etc.,

Based on the outcome of our first visit to the village, we decided to visit the village to conduct Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) which is a tool to identify the problem and solution from the people and we are just facilitator. After the PRA exercise the top priority and urgent felt need realized by the women and adolescent girl was sanitation. That time remembered a Gandhian Thought lecture i.e “ When there is both inner and outer cleanliness , it becomes next to godliness”. After learning from the villagers about what they want exactly, we felt that’s what Gandhiji emphasized long back. Bapuji know the pulse of the rural areas and  villagers, that’s why he gave top priority for sanitation and cleanliness during his stay in South Africa and in India through his constructive programmes. When he came back from South Africa he visited Kolkatta that time congress session was in progress. Gandhiji was unhappy and appalled by the filth and unsanitary conditions at the meeting site. Instead of lecturing he cleaned the drains and organized the volunteers to dispose the filth and he personally cleaned and covered the pit latrines. Instead of addressing the delegates he taught the lesson by showing example.  Regarding the bad habit of spitting babuji once with humor commented “if all Indians were to spit all together at the same time, India would drown”.  The Young India dated April 25th 1929, Gandhiji commented on our habit of keeping the home clean and dumping the surroundings dirt, filth. Way back through this he insisted everybody to shoulder the responsibility of making clean India

So, Cleanliness  can not be achieved by warnings, laws or punishments, it would be achieved only as a matter of habit. Long back Gandhiji wrote in Young India, dated November 19th 1925 “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.