(*) Address to Coffee Planters and Industrialists
WE are assembled here to think out what solid contribution we can make towards the cause of resuscitation of our Dharma and our society, which is, I am sure, dearest and nearest to the hearts of us all. I shall give the example of the tea planters in Assam to make a few points clear.
There are some plantations owned by the English. How does the English planter behave with his workers? He goes to their houses, pats their children and personally looks to their medical needs. He builds up a human relationship with the entire family of the workman. He does not stop at that. He builds a chapel or a church in his estate. He and his managerial staff and their families go there every Sunday morning without fail. They also encourage the workmen to attend the Church prayers. They offer some extra benefits to those who attend. They engage a priest to give weekly sermons to the church-goers. By such inducements and persuasion they have succeeded to a large extent in converting their workers to Christianity.
By contrast, there are also our own countrymen, Hindus, owning tea plantations, whose relations with their workers are anything but cordial. They only try to squeeze out as much work from them as possible. The workers resent and revolt and demand more wages and better amenities. The tension is increasing day by day. The tension is not limited merely to the economic aspect. There is absolutely no social intercourse between the two. The owners display no human touch at all in their dealings with their workers. They hardly visit the workers abodes, much less share their joys and sorrows.
Take a Lesson from Them
How tragic that foreigners can have such humane relationship with the native people, although for sinister purposes, but our own men should be high-browed and high-handed towards our own people! It is high time that our countrymen such as planters and industrialists who employ a large number of workers recognise the signs of the times and become aware of their responsibilities towards their workers – their own kith and kin in society. Their human touch will go a long way in wiping the tears of sorrow and suffering arising out of both economic and social debilities, which are weighing heavily upon the workers. Also they should build a temple in each estate or labour colony and arrange for weekly bhajan and worship, religious discourses and Harikathas.
Trust the Inherent Goodness
Some owners argue that if they show human consideration, the workers become unruly and take undue advantage of it. I do not think that normally it is so. If the workers feel that you are sincere, and not merely exhibitive, in your humane intentions and actions, then they are bound to respond in course of time. I can never conceive that our people are so devoid of inherent goodness as not to respond to noble and humane virtues. Even our day-to-day experience belies that argument. Once, when I was in Banaras University, our household servant was arrested at his native place for possessing some valuable article. The police let him off upon my assurance that the article was given by me and that the servant had been honest throughout. The servant thereafter gave up whatever dishonesty he had previously and served us with exemplary honesty and gratitude.
Often the question is asked, “How are we to face the Communists? Once the workers are indoctrinated by the Communist thought, they will view all our actions, good-intentioned though they may be, with suspicion.” Even to this I say, the Communists can get a foothold only where there is no human touch. There is no ‘ism’ which can outbeat the appeal of the human heart. After all the workers are human beings first and then, if at all, Communists.
How Heartless We are!
It is in this, the factor of human touch, that we are falling short. This shortcoming is to be found not merely in plantations or factories; it is in villages, it is in the cities, it is in the everyday life of our entire people. For instance, there are persons in affluence who engage maidservants for their household menial work. Often the maid-servant comes with her child to the master’s house, leaves her child in a corner and engages herself in the household work. It is also quite a common sight that the small babes left uncared for cry and cry themselves hoarse. But is it also not commonly observed that the mistress of the house turns a deaf ear to the weeping child? Nor does she ask the maid-servant to take a few minutes off the work and first soothe the crying babe.
In every province of our country there are vast areas where our people are ill fed, ill clothed, illiterate and devoid of any opportunities to cultivate religious devotion. And all this is exploited by the Communists and Christian missionaries. Even in the advanced parts we find that the Christian missionaries have spread into deep interiors.
An Example to Emulate
It they, the foreign Christian missionaries, having come from far-off lands and working with ulterior motives could do it, we with positive love for our people and our dharma certainly do it better. There is the small experiment of Idinthakarai, a village in Tamil Nadu. Some 500 years ago the entire village had been converted to Christianity by fraud. But recently the entire village population decided to return to their ancestral Hindu fold. One of our Swamijis went there and carried out the coming-back ceremony. But those people had plenty of problems. Firstly, the problem of unemployment was there. They are all poor fishermen. During the rainy season they cannot go out to the seas. They have no work and so nothing to eat. The Mangalore Ganesh Beedi proprietors came forward and started a small centre, which could give work to ladies and boys and make them earn a living. Then some other generous friends came forward to give them fibres for nets. Some of our Swamijis promised donations for a temple. People from surrounding villages often visit those people and they feel comforted they have been received with warmth. And this example of Idinthakarai has generated a similar healthy trend in other surrounding villages too. That is the magic of the human touch.
For a Big Heart.
Such ventures could be undertaken in all provinces. And for all such projects vast resources are doubtless needed. It is up to those who are by the Grace of God in affluent circumstances, to come forward and support them with the necessary material resources.
Proper upkeep of temples should also be the special responsibility of such people. Local bodies should be established to look after the arrangements for daily worship, for its cleanliness and sanctity. An overall trust can be formed later on to control and guide the affairs of the temples in the spirit for which the temples are built. The present state of neglect and dilapidation of many of our temples is a sad reflection on our callousness towards our gods and goddesses. Look at the Muslims. They see to it that even a pile of bricks in the name of some peer in some out-of-the-way roadside is properly whitewashed twice a year and a green flag kept fluttering over it.
And for all this, it is the devotion, the heart, that is all-important. If the heart is large, funds and every other kind of resource will flow automatically. And it is intense love for our society and the yearning to see our Hindu society rise once again in full prosperity and glory, that will make the heart generous and devoted.