(GIST OF YOJANA) Staircase to Swaraj [NOVEMBER-2018]

(GIST OF YOJANA) Staircase to Swaraj


Staircase to Swaraj

A Young man from central Maharashtra who cleared the ICS preliminary exam met Gandhi at his Sevagram Ashram to seek his blessings. Gandhi asked ‘why do you want to be ICS?’ ‘to serve India’, responded the Young man . ‘Going to village and doing sanitation work is the best service to india,’advised Gandhi. And the ICS aspirant Appa Patwardhan turned out to be one of the finest freedom fighter, specialising in the art of ‘Safai’. In the school of freedom struggle, ‘safai’ and ‘swachata, was the test to graduation. Vinoba bhave, Thakkar Baba, JC Kumarrapora and innumerable youngsters with sparkling brilliance joined the freedom struggle and took the safari and swachata root to independence.

Development Prerequisite

Development has been a faithful companion of human civilisation. . From a prehistoric hunter-gatherer to the sophisticated urbane human, we have improvised life a great deal. Development is seen as a betterment that innovation brings about in any facet of life. The notion of human development incorporates all aspects of individuals’ well-being’: food security, clean and fresh air, safe drinking water, health and sanitation, access to wherewithal and to ensure all these, quality education and freedom of choice.

Much of these components of development can be classified as physiological need fulfilment, as Abraham Maslow would put it. As a developing community, we have taken great pains to build mechanism to take care of one side of the physiological need, the supply side, to the utter neglect of another side, the disposal has scarcely been in the scheme of the development agenda.

Truth Realisation

For Gandhi, sanitation was not just a biological requirement; it was a way of life, an integral part of Truth realisation. His understanding of cleanliness stems from his realisation of the universal oneness of Truth. Gandhi who worshipped Truth as God, saw the Absolute, the all encompassing truth as Pure and hence equated cleanliness with godliness. He accorded ‘sanitation’ the status of an essential step to freedom incorporating it into the list of eighteen Constructive Programmes.

The seeker after Truth, saw life as the closest manifestation of Truth, therefore, he equated life with Truth or God. All the processes that are part of life and its conduct are also part of the Truth realisation. In this sense, Gandhi believed, sanitation cleanliness of inner and outer self are means of God realisation. “We can no more gain God’s blessing with an unclean mind. A clean body cannot reside in an unclean city.”


Gandhi’s holistic perspective about freedom of Indian led him to understand the unique place of sanitation in India’s pursuit of swaraj.

Demanding the right of Indian Home Rule, Bal Gangadhar Tilak roared, ‘Swaraj’ was more profound in its implication. He started in young India, “ swaraj is a sacred word, a vedic word, meaning self-rule, self-restraint and not freedom from all restraints which ‘independence’ often means.’Self restraint from all indulgence, not to mention, from littering, not to mention, from littering public places. He went on further, “Swaraj of my dream is the poor man’s swaraj”, and the self-restraint needs to sleep up to the the last man. Addressing the grand audience on the occasion of the inauguration of banaras hindu university, he referred to the filth that smothered the hole city. “No amount of speeches will ever make us fit for self-government (freedom). It is only our conduct that will fit us for it” Cleanliness has been a ‘swaraj Yojana’ for him.

This ‘self-restraint’ he evoked i individual conduct of personnel and public life, both physical and attitudinal facets of living. Talking on the disposal mechanism Gandhi stated, ‘Swaraj is not poorna Swaraj, until all the ordinary amenities of life are guaranteed to every human under it.’

Staircase to Swaraj

Spearheading the freedom struggle, he explained the dimensions of freedom and highlighted the importance of and highlighted the importance of ‘clean behaviour’ . In this context he stated “before we think of self-government, we shall have to do necessary plodding”. From the standpoint of health, gandhi temed the condition of villages as deplorable. “ One of the chief causes of our poverty is the non-availability of this essential knowledge of hygiene. In this sense he stated, Swaraj is not ‘freeing India merely from the English yoke… but from any yoke whatsoever.’ On another occasion he stated, swaraj will be a fruit of incessant labour and intelligent appreciation of the environment.

An act of Sublime Joy

Gandhi, who saw non-violent living as the best means to worship God and truth, saw every act that serves life as a way to God, He deemed cleaning as an act of purification and drew immense joy from it. Pyarelal, Gandhi’s secretary , gives an interesting anecdote on this, from Noakhali where Gandhi was walking the length and breadth to build harmony between Hindus and Muslims. He writes, “Even for Noakhali, it had been an expectation dewy night, and the narrow footpath by which Gandhiji wa sto proceed had been rendered extremely slippery when on the morning of January 19, 1947, he left Bagalkot for Atakara. Twice col. Jiwan singh accustomed to difficult marches, lost his walking stick to pull himself up the slippery slope.

The footpath was narrow so that the party could walk on it only in single file. All Of a sudden the column came to a dead stop. Gandhi was removing excreta from the footpath with the help of some dry leaves. The footpath had again been dirtied by some communal urchins . ‘Why did you not let me do it ? Why do you put us to shame like this?” Manu asked. Gandhi laughed: “ You little know the joy it gives me to do such things.”


Village, the centre of all primary produce and sustenance, is the heart of India. I the life of villages rests the life of India, Gandhi believed. Hence, he equated hind-Swaraj-Indian Home Rule, with ‘Grama-rajya. Visualising villages of free India, Gandhi stated, That village may be regarded as reformed, which has every kind of village industries to produce each of her requirements in which nobody is illiterate, where the roads nobody is illiterate, where the roads are clean, there is a fixed place for evacuation, the wells are clean..” Gandhi proposed ‘An ideal Indian village will be so constructed as to lend itself to perfect sanitation . It will have cottages with sufficient light and ventilation built of a material obtainable within a radius of five males of it’. Lamenting over the present despicable state of villages, he wrote,”If sanitation in villages can be improved, lakhs of rupees will easily be saved and the condition of people improved to that extent. A sick peasant can never work as hard as a healthy one.”

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Response to sanitation Issue

Responding to the sanitation woe, he proposed, ‘ Every village should have the most inexpensive water closets built at one places. The whole subject (sanitation) is unexplored; the profession, far from being a dirty one, is a purifying, life-protecting one. Only we have debased it. We have to raise it to its true status.

Gandhi called Satyagraha and constructive programme as two wings of the same bird, without one the other has no sense. The irrevocable connections Gandhi built between constructive programme such as sanitation and the freedom struggle was evident all over the country . Toilet cleaning and sanitation work became the qualification of a satyagrahi. Every public meeting, whether a call for Satyagraha against the British or a initiative of social reform, had ‘village cleaning’ as an inalienable beginning.

A section of Indians known as scavengers or bhangis were engaged for generations in the task of removing night soil (feces) from the old-style basket-type(dry) latrines and were, therefore looked down upon even by other Harijans. Gandhiji was very concerned with the suffering of these people because he felt that, though they were considered to be at the bottom society , they executed the most important tasks of organising community sanitation and health “He is the social leper shunned by all, yet hr belongs to the one group more indispensable than any other for the sanitary well-being of society and therefore, its very physical existence” The Bhangari brethren were made to use their hands to clean and carry feces containing baskets without any measure to protect him/her from parasites and bacteria.In order to give them dignity, he proposed that we all have to be ‘Bhamjees to ourselves’. And, invariably every time he went to Delhi, he either stayed with them in Bhangi Colony or visited them.

Following Gandhi’s vision, innumerable institutes took up on Gandhi’s call and started ‘safai’ campaign; Safai Vidyalaya- dehu Road,Nirmal Gram Nirman Kendra, Nasik are some of them that took it religiously .

Harijan Sevak Sangh established safai Vidyalaya (Sanitation Institute ) in 1963 at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with the purpose of liberating the scavengers from this kind of work. The primary objectives of Safai Vidyalaya are:upliftment of sweepers and scavengers upgradation of rural and urban health and sanitation.


Gandhi worshipped Truth as God and non-violence as the way.It is the ‘way of living’ . Between the ‘way’ and he ‘goal’, Gandhi said, ‘Because the former is in my mind command, I would consider the ’way’ more important in the functional sense, the end.’ ‘If you take care of the means the end will take care of the means the end will take care of itself, he stated . In that sense, India as a notion that marches towards glory in the world arena must take up the ways of making her pure and clean, and the end ‘glory’ would follow suit. ‘The splendor of the spring is reflected in every tree, the whole earth is then filled with the freshness of youth. When the Swaraj spirit has permeated the society, there is an energy in every walk of life,’ he maintained .

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