Village Swaraj

Chapter-21: Village Transport

A Plea for the Village Cart
Shri Ishvarbhai S. Amin of Baroda sends me a long note on animal power v. machine power. From it I copy the following relevant portion:
"Animal power is not costlier than machine power in fields or short distance work and hence can compete with the latter in most cases. The present-day tendency is towards discarding animal power in preference to machine power.
Take for example a bullock-driven cart, costing Rs. 100 and Rs. 200 for the bullocks. The bullocks can drive the cart at least 15 miles per day with a load of 16 Bengal maunds on rough sandy village roads. This service will cost Re 0-12-0 for two bullocks, Re 0-6-0 for the cartman and Re-0-4-0 for cart depreciation, in total Re 1-6-0 per day. A one-ton motor lorry will cost for 15 miles at least one gallon of petrol, some lubricating oil, huge repair and upkeep expenses, and a costly driver. For 15 miles' run the lorry will cost Re 1-12-0 for petrol including lubricating oil, Re 0-12-0 for maintenance at the rate of Rs 6 per day of eight hours' service and Re 0-8-0 for the driver, cleaner and extra men required to load and empty the lorry. Hence the total cost is Rs 2-12-0 i.e. Re 1-6-0 per cartload of 16 Bengal maunds. One bullock cart is able to carry 7 to 8 cartloads of manure in one day from the village site to the field which is about ½ mile away and will cost only Re 1-6-0 plus Re 0-6-0 for the extra man required to help the cartman to fill and empty the cart. While a motor lorry to do this job will not cost in any way less. A motor lorry may compete when it has to carry loads at a stretch for a long distance on a good metal road, where bullock carts seem too slow and uneconomical. It is also not desirable to take animals long distances at one stretch as it tells much upon their energy and strength. Bullock carts, however, have been found toiling long distances all day and night in competition with motor lorries from railway stations to far-off interior places, but the physical condition of these bullocks is pitiable, because the owners give them less food in proportion to the low earning. It is the slowness only which goes against the bullock cart, when rapid transport of goods or the movement of men from one place to another is considered important. Villagers, however, to whom spare time brings no money and time saved by motor is of no importance, should make it a point to walk for short distances and use carts for long journeys. If a farmer has his own cart and travels in it, he has not to spend anything in the form of ready money but uses the produce of his own field in producing power by feeding bullocks. Really grass and grain should be looked upon by the farmer as his petrol, and the cart the motor lorry, and bullocks the engine converting grass into power. The machine will neither consume grass nor will it yield manure, an article of vast importance. Then the villager has to have his bullocks; in any case he has his grass. And if he has a cart, he is maintaining the village carpenter and the blacksmith; and if he is keeping a cow, he is maintaining a hydrogenation plant converting vegetable oil into solid butter or ghee and also at the same time a bullock manufacturing machine—thus serving a twofold purpose."
The invasion of the motor lorry may or may not succeed. It would be wisdom if intelligent workers will study the pros and cons and definitely guide the villagers. Shri Ishvarbhai's note should provoke the thought of all village workers in the direction indicated in it.

H., 3-7-’37, p.168

Motor V. Cart
Gram Udyog Patrika for August (1946) examines the respective merits of motor vans and carts for village propaganda. Those who will read the whole argument should send for the Patrika. I give below the most important part of the argument:
"We have been asked whether District Boards and other such local bodies, who wish to set apart a certain amount of money for village work will do well to invest in motor vans for propaganda work of various kinds in villages. It is a happy sign that institutions such as these are beginning to realize their duty to the villages and are seeking to bridge the gulf that now exists between towns and villages and between the literate and the illiterate. The question is whether speeding up matters by the use of motor vans which can visit more than one village in a night will suit the purpose.
In all our expenditure, especially when that expenditure is undertaken expressly for the benefit of the village people, it is necessary to see that the money spent goes back to the villager. District and Local Boards obtain their money from the people, and their purchases must be such as will help to circulate money among the people. If on the other hand the money taken from the villagers by way of rates and taxes is sent out of the locality, it must necessarily result in impoverishment of the people, and this will perforce mean that there will be less and less money in the coffers of District and Local Boards.
A Local Board does not set apart more than a few thousands of rupees for village work. If it decides to buy even one motor van for the purpose, it means about Rs 5,000 sent out of the locality to pay for the van and, in addition, constant expenditure on tyres and other spare parts, besides day to day expenditure on petrol, all of which are imported and to pay for which money has to be drained out of the locality. The manifest object of this expenditure is rural welfare, but, in order to be able to hear occasional lectures on agriculture, health, prohibition, child welfare and such like, or to listen to the gramophone or the radio, the villager has to bear this heavy expenditure when he and his family have to live on about Rs 2 a month. What the villager needs above all is profitable employment. We steadily deprive him of employment by buying imported articles, and by way of compensation give him lectures, magic lantern shows and tinned music all at his expense, and pat ourselves on the back that we are working for his welfare. Can anything be more absurd?
Compare with this what happens if in the place of the motor van the much despised bullock cart were used. It will not make so much stir nor so effectively declare to all the world that something wonderful is being done for the villages. But if mere stage-acting and trumpet-blowing are not intended but real quiet constructive work, then we submit that the bullock cart will do much better. It can reach the most remote villages which a motor lorry cannot do. It costs only a fraction of the money required for a van, so that many bullock carts can be bought, if necessary, to serve groups of villages in the district. The money spent on them goes to the village carpenter, blacksmith and cart- driver. Not a pie of it need go out of the district. The cart itself may be made an exhibit if it is scientifically constructed with disked wheels, proper steel bearings, and axles with well placed and designed hubs, spokes and felloes. The expenditure on equipment consequently instead of draining wealth out of the village will direct it into it. A motor is necessary where speed is of the essence of the work to be done. But nothing of the kind can be claimed for propaganda to be carried on in villages for rural welfare. On the other hand, slow, steady methods will be of greater avail. It will be an advantage not to be able to rush from one village to another but to spend some time in each place. Only thus can the life and the problems of the people be properly understood, and the work directed to meet those problems be effective.
Rural work and motor vans appear, therefore to go ill together. What is required is steady, constructive effort, not lightning speed and empty show. We would commend to Local Boards and public institutions genuinely interested in village welfare to start by using only village-made goods, to study the conditions which are steadily producing poverty in the villages, and concentrate on removing them one by one. When every side of village life needs intensive, well- considered effort, it seems a waste of public money to throw it away on methods which attempt to bring about village uplift overnight."
It is to be hoped that those who interest themselves in village welfare will take to heart the obvious argument advanced in favour of the cart. It will be cruel to destroy the village economy through the very agency designed for village welfare.

H., 16-9-’39, p.276

Bullocks as Means of Transport
The bullocks are the means of transport everywhere in our villages and have not ceased to be such even in a place like Simla. The railway train and the motor car go there, but all along the mountain road I found bullocks trudging up and down dragging heavily-laden carts. It seems as if this means of transport is part of our lives and our civilization. And the bullock has to endure if our handicraft civilization is to endure.
You have to find out whose animals are the best and to discover how he manages to keep them so well. You will find out whose cow gives the largest amount of milk and discover how he keeps her and feeds her. You may fix some prize for the best bullock and the best cow in the village. Without model cattle we cannot have a model village.

H., 15-9-’40, p.282