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I have now been in India for over two years and a half after my return
from South Africa. Over one quarter of that time I have passed on the
Indian trains travelling third class by choice. I have travelled up
north as far as Lahore, down south up to Tranquebar, and from Karachi to
Calcutta. Having resorted to third class travelling, among other
reasons, for the purpose of studying the conditions under which this
class of passengers travel, I have naturally made as critical
observations as I could. I have fairly covered the majority of railway
systems during this period. Now and then I have entered into
correspondence with the management of the different railways about the
defects that have come under my notice. But I think that the time has
come when I should invite the press and the public to join in a crusade
against a grievance which has too long remained unredressed, though much
of it is capable of redress without great difficulty.

On the 12th instant I booked at Bombay for Madras by the mail train and
paid Rs. 13-9. It was labelled to carry 22 passengers. These could only
have seating accommodation. There were no bunks in this carriage whereon
passengers could lie with any degree of safety or comfort. There were
two nights to be passed in this train before reaching Madras. If not
more than 22 passengers found their way into my carriage before we
reached Poona, it was because the bolder ones kept the others at bay.
With the exception of two or three insistent passengers, all had to find
their sleep being seated all the time. After reaching Raichur the
pressure became unbearable. The rush of passengers could not be stayed.
The fighters among us found the task almost beyond them. The guards or
other railway servants came in only to push in more passengers.

A defiant Memon merchant protested against this packing of passengers
like sardines. In vain did he say that this was his fifth night on the
train. The guard insulted him and referred him to the management at the
terminus. There were during this night as many as 35 passengers in the
carriage during the greater part of it. Some lay on the floor in the
midst of dirt and some had to keep standing. A free fight was, at one
time, avoided only by the intervention of some of the older passengers
who did not want to add to the discomfort by an exhibition of temper.

On the way passengers got for tea tannin water with filthy sugar and a
whitish looking liquid mis-called milk which gave this water a muddy
appearance. I can vouch for the appearance, but I cite the testimony of
the passengers as to the taste.

Not during the whole of the journey was the compartment once swept or
cleaned. The result was that every time you walked on the floor or
rather cut your way through the passengers seated on the floor, you
waded through dirt.

The closet was also not cleaned during the journey and there was no
water in the water tank.

Refreshments sold to the passengers were dirty-looking, handed by
dirtier hands, coming out of filthy receptacles and weighed in equally
unattractive scales. These were previously sampled by millions of flies.
I asked some of the passengers who went in for these dainties to give
their opinion. Many of them used choice expressions as to the quality
but were satisfied to state that they were helpless in the matter; they
had to take things as they came.

On reaching the station I found that the ghari-wala would not take me
unless I paid the fare he wanted. I mildly protested and told him I
would pay him the authorised fare. I had to turn passive resister
before I could be taken. I simply told him he would have to pull me out
of the ghari or call the policeman.

The return journey was performed in no better manner. The carriage was
packed already and but for a friend's intervention I could not have been
able to secure even a seat. My admission was certainly beyond the
authorised number. This compartment was constructed to carry 9
passengers but it had constantly 12 in it. At one place an important
railway servant swore at a protestant, threatened to strike him and
locked the door over the passengers whom he had with difficulty squeezed
in. To this compartment there was a closet falsely so called. It was
designed as a European closet but could hardly be used as such. There
was a pipe in it but no water, and I say without fear of challenge that
it was pestilentially dirty.

The compartment itself was evil looking. Dirt was lying thick upon the
wood work and I do not know that it had ever seen soap or water.

The compartment had an exceptional assortment of passengers. There were
three stalwart Punjabi Mahomedans, two refined Tamilians and two
Mahomedan merchants who joined us later. The merchants related the
bribes they had to give to procure comfort. One of the Punjabis had
already travelled three nights and was weary and fatigued. But he could
not stretch himself. He said he had sat the whole day at the Central
Station watching passengers giving bribe to procure their tickets.
Another said he had himself to pay Rs. 5 before he could get his ticket
and his seat. These three men were bound for Ludhiana and had still more
nights of travel in store for them.

What I have described is not exceptional but normal. I have got down at
Raichur, Dhond, Sonepur, Chakradharpur, Purulia, Asansol and other
junction stations and been at the 'Mosafirkhanas' attached to these
stations. They are discreditable-looking places where there is no
order, no cleanliness but utter confusion and horrible din and noise.
Passengers have no benches or not enough to sit on. They squat on dirty
floors and eat dirty food. They are permitted to throw the leavings of
their food and spit where they like, sit how they like and smoke
everywhere. The closets attached to these places defy description. I
have not the power adequately to describe them without committing a
breach of the laws of decent speech. Disinfecting powder, ashes, or
disinfecting fluids are unknown. The army of flies buzzing about them
warns you against their use. But a third-class traveller is dumb and
helpless. He does not want to complain even though to go to these places
may be to court death. I know passengers who fast while they are
travelling just in order to lessen the misery of their life in the
trains. At Sonepur flies having failed, wasps have come forth to warn
the public and the authorities, but yet to no purpose. At the Imperial
Capital a certain third class booking-office is a Black-Hole fit only to
be destroyed.

Is it any wonder that plague has become endemic in India? Any other
result is impossible where passengers always leave some dirt where they
go and take more on leaving.

On Indian trains alone passengers smoke with impunity in all carriages
irrespective of the presence of the fair sex and irrespective of the
protest of non-smokers. And this, notwithstanding a bye-law which
prevents a passenger from smoking without the permission of his fellows
in the compartment which is not allotted to smokers.

The existence of the awful war cannot be allowed to stand in the way of
the removal of this gigantic evil. War can be no warrant for tolerating
dirt and overcrowding. One could understand an entire stoppage of
passenger traffic in a crisis like this, but never a continuation or
accentuation of insanitation and conditions that must undermine health
and morality.

Compare the lot of the first class passengers with that of the third
class. In the Madras case the first class fare is over five times as
much as the third class fare. Does the third class passenger get
one-fifth, even one-tenth, of the comforts of his first class fellow? It
is but simple justice to claim that some relative proportion be observed
between the cost and comfort.

It is a known fact that the third class traffic pays for the
ever-increasing luxuries of first and second class travelling. Surely a
third class passenger is entitled at least to the bare necessities of

In neglecting the third class passengers, opportunity of giving a
splendid education to millions in orderliness, sanitation, decent
composite life and cultivation of simple and clean tastes is being lost.
Instead of receiving an object lesson in these matters third class
passengers have their sense of decency and cleanliness blunted during
their travelling experience.

Among the many suggestions that can be made for dealing with the evil
here described, I would respectfully include this: let the people in
high places, the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief, the Rajas, Maharajas,
the Imperial Councillors and others, who generally travel in superior
classes, without previous warning, go through the experiences now and
then of third class travelling. We would then soon see a remarkable
change in the conditions of third class travelling and the uncomplaining
millions will get some return for the fares they pay under the
expectation of being carried from place to place with ordinary creature


[1] Ranchi, September 25, 1917.


It is to be hoped that Dr. Mehta's labour of love will receive the
serious attention of English-educated India. The following pages were
written by him for the _Vedanta Kesari_ of Madras and are now printed in
their present form for circulation throughout India. The question of
vernaculars as media of instruction is of national importance; neglect
of the vernaculars means national suicide. One hears many protagonists
of the English language being continued as the medium of instruction
pointing to the fact that English-educated Indians are the sole
custodians of public and patriotic work. It would be monstrous if it
were not so. For the only education given in this country is through the
English language. The fact, however, is that the results are not all
proportionate to the time we give to our education. We have not reacted
on the masses. But I must not anticipate Dr. Mehta. He is in earnest. He
writes feelingly. He has examined the pros and cons and collected a mass
of evidence in support of his arguments. The latest pronouncement on the
subject is that of the Viceroy. Whilst His Excellency is unable to offer
a solution, he is keenly alive to the necessity of imparting instruction
in our schools through the vernaculars. The Jews of Middle and Eastern
Europe, who are scattered in all parts of the world, finding it
necessary to have a common tongue for mutual intercourse, have raised
Yiddish to the status of a language, and have succeeded in translating
into Yiddish the best books to be found in the world's literature. Even
they could not satisfy the soul's yearning through the many foreign
tongues of which they are masters; nor did the learned few among them
wish to tax the masses of the Jewish population with having to learn a
foreign language before they could realise their dignity. So they have
enriched what was at one time looked upon as a mere jargon - but what the
Jewish children learnt from their mothers - by taking special pains to
translate into it the best thought of the world. This is a truly
marvellous work. It has been done during the present generation, and
Webster's Dictionary defines it as a polyglot jargon used for
inter-communication by Jews from different nations.

But a Jew of Middle and Eastern Europe would feel insulted if his mother
tongue were now so described. If these Jewish scholars have succeeded,
within a generation, in giving their masses a language of which they may
feel proud, surely it should be an easy task for us to supply the needs
of our own vernaculars which are cultured languages. South Africa
teaches us the same lesson. There was a duel there between the Taal, a
corrupt form of Dutch, and English. The Boer mothers and the Boer
fathers were determined that they would not let their children, with
whom they in their infancy talked in the Taal, be weighed down with
having to receive instruction through English. The case for English here
was a strong one. It had able pleaders for it. But English had to yield
before Boer patriotism. It may be observed that they rejected even the
High Dutch. The school masters, therefore, who are accustomed to speak
the published Dutch of Europe, are compelled to teach the easier Taal.
And literature of an excellent character is at the present moment
growing up in South Africa in the Taal, which was only a few years ago,
the common medium of speech between simple but brave rustics. If we have
lost faith in our vernaculars, it is a sign of want of faith in
ourselves; it is the surest sign of decay. And no scheme of
self-government, however benevolently or generously it may be bestowed
upon us, will ever make us a self-governing nation, if we have no
respect for the languages our mothers speak.


[2] Introduction to Dr. Mehta's "Self-Government Series".


It was not without great diffidence that I undertook to speak to you at
all. And I was hard put to it in the selection of my subject. I have
chosen a very delicate and difficult subject. It is delicate because of
the peculiar views I hold upon Swadeshi, and it is difficult because I
have not that command of language which is necessary for giving adequate
expression to my thoughts. I know that I may rely upon your indulgence
for the many shortcomings you will no doubt find in my address, the more
so when I tell you that there is nothing in what I am about to say that
I am not either already practising or am not preparing to practise to
the best of my ability. It encourages me to observe that last month you
devoted a week to prayer in the place of an address. I have earnestly
prayed that what I am about to say may bear fruit and I know that you
will bless my word with a similar prayer.

After much thinking I have arrived at a definition of Swadeshi that,
perhaps, best illustrates my meaning. Swadeshi is that spirit in us
which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings
to the exclusion of the more remote. Thus, as for religion, in order to
satisfy the requirements of the definition, I must restrict myself to my
ancestral religion. That is the use of my immediate religious
surrounding. If I find it defective, I should serve it by purging it of
its defects. In the domain of politics I should make use of the
indigenous institutions and serve them by curing them of their proved
defects. In that of economics I should use only things that are produced
by my immediate neighbours and serve those industries by making them
efficient and complete where they might be found wanting. It is
suggested that such Swadeshi, if reduced to practice, will lead to the
millennium. And, as we do not abandon our pursuit after the millennium,
because we do not expect quite to reach it within our times, so may we
not abandon Swadeshi even though it may not be fully attained for
generations to come.

Let us briefly examine the three branches of Swadeshi as sketched above.
Hinduism has become a conservative religion and, therefore, a mighty
force because of the Swadeshi spirit underlying it. It is the most
tolerant because it is non-proselytising, and it is as capable of
expansion today as it has been found to be in the past. It has succeeded
not in driving out, as I think it has been erroneously held, but in
absorbing Buddhism. By reason of the Swadeshi spirit, a Hindu refuses to
change his religion, not necessarily because he considers it to be the
best, but because he knows that he can complement it by introducing
reforms. And what I have said about Hinduism is, I suppose, true of the
other great faiths of the world, only it is held that it is specially so
in the case of Hinduism. But here comes the point I am labouring to
reach. If there is any substance in what I have said, will not the great
missionary bodies of India, to whom she owes a deep debt of gratitude
for what they have done and are doing, do still better and serve the
spirit of Christianity better by dropping the goal of proselytising
while continuing their philanthropic work? I hope you will not consider
this to be an impertinence on my part. I make the suggestion in all
sincerity and with due humility. Moreover I have some claim upon your
attention. I have endeavoured to study the Bible. I consider it as part
of my scriptures. The spirit of the Sermon on the Mount competes almost
on equal terms with the Bhagavad Gita for the domination of my heart. I
yield to no Christian in the strength of devotion with which I sing
"Lead kindly light" and several other inspired hymns of a similar
nature. I have come under the influence of noted Christian missionaries
belonging to different denominations. And enjoy to this day the
privilege of friendship with some of them. You will perhaps, therefore,
allow that I have offered the above suggestion not as a biased Hindu,
but as a humble and impartial student of religion with great leanings
towards Christianity. May it not be that "Go ye unto all the world"
message has been somewhat narrowly interpreted and the spirit of it
missed? It will not be denied, I speak from experience, that many of the
conversions are only so-called. In some cases the appeal has gone not to
the heart but to the stomach. And in every case a conversion leaves a
sore behind it which, I venture to think, is avoidable. Quoting again
from experience, a new birth, a change of heart, is perfectly possible
in every one of the great faiths. I know I am now treading upon thin
ice. But I do not apologise in closing this part of my subject, for
saying that the frightful outrage that is just going on in Europe,
perhaps shows that the message of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Peace,
had been little understood in Europe, and that light upon it may have to
be thrown from the East.

I have sought your help in religious matters, which it is yours to give
in a special sense. But I make bold to seek it even in political
matters. I do not believe that religion has nothing to do with politics.
The latter divorced from religion is like a corpse only fit to be
buried. As a matter of fact, in your own silent manner, you influence
politics not a little. And I feel that, if the attempt to separate
politics from religion had not been made as it is even now made, they
would not have degenerated as they often appear to have done. No one
considers that the political life of the country is in a happy state.
Following out the Swadeshi spirit, I observe the indigenous institutions
and the village panchayats hold me. India is really a republican
country, and it is because it is that, that it has survived every shock
hitherto delivered. Princes and potentates, whether they were Indian
born or foreigners, have hardly touched the vast masses except for
collecting revenue. The latter in their turn seem to have rendered unto
Caesar what was Caesar's and for the rest have done much as they have
liked. The vast organisation of caste answered not only the religious
wants of the community, but it answered to its political needs. The
villagers managed their internal affairs through the caste system, and
through it they dealt with any oppression from the ruling power or
powers. It is not possible to deny of a nation that was capable of
producing the caste system its wonderful power of organisation. One had
but to attend the great Kumbha Mela at Hardwar last year to know how
skilful that organisation must have been, which without any seeming
effort was able effectively to cater for more than a million pilgrims.
Yet it is the fashion to say that we lack organising ability. This is
true, I fear, to a certain extent, of those who have been nurtured in
the new traditions. We have laboured under a terrible handicap owing to
an almost fatal departure from the Swadeshi spirit. We, the educated
classes, have received our education through a foreign tongue. We have
therefore not reacted upon the masses. We want to represent the masses,
but we fail. They recognise us not much more than they recognise the
English officers. Their hearts are an open book to neither. Their
aspirations are not ours. Hence there is a break. And you witness not in
reality failure to organise but want of correspondence between the
representatives and the represented. If during the last fifty years we
had been educated through the vernaculars, our elders and our servants
and our neighbours would have partaken of our knowledge; the discoveries
of a Bose or a Ray would have been household treasures as are the
Ramayan and the Mahabharat. As it is, so far as the masses are
concerned, those great discoveries might as well have been made by
foreigners. Had instruction in all the branches of learning been given
through the vernaculars, I make bold to say that they would have been
enriched wonderfully. The question of village sanitation, etc., would
have been solved long ago. The village panchayats would be now a living
force in a special way, and India would almost be enjoying
self-government suited to its requirements and would have been spared
the humiliating spectacle of organised assassination on its sacred soil.
It is not too late to mend. And you can help if you will, as no other
body or bodies can.

And now for the last division of Swadeshi, much of the deep poverty of
the masses is due to the ruinous departure from Swadeshi in the economic
and industrial life. If not an article of commerce had been brought from
outside India, she would be today a land flowing with milk and honey.
But that was not to be. We were greedy and so was England. The
connection between England and India was based clearly upon an error.
But she does not remain in India in error. It is her declared policy
that India is to be held in trust for her people. If this be true,
Lancashire must stand aside. And if the Swadeshi doctrine is a sound
doctrine, Lancashire can stand aside without hurt, though it may sustain
a shock for the time being. I think of Swadeshi not as a boycott
movement undertaken by way of revenge. I conceive it as religious
principle to be followed by all. I am no economist, but I have read some
treatises which show that England could easily become a self-sustained
country, growing all the produce she needs. This may be an utterly
ridiculous proposition, and perhaps the best proof that it cannot be
true, is that England is one of the largest importers in the world. But
India cannot live for Lancashire or any other country before she is able
to live for herself. And she can live for herself only if she produces
and is helped to produce everything for her requirements within her own
borders. She need not be, she ought not to be, drawn into the vertex of
mad and ruinous competition which breeds fratricide, jealousy and many
other evils. But who is to stop her great millionaires from entering
into the world competition? Certainly not legislation. Force of public
opinion, proper education, however, can do a great deal in the desired
direction. The hand-loom industry is in a dying condition. I took
special care during my wanderings last year to see as many weavers as
possible, and my heart ached to find how they had lost, how families had
retired from this once flourishing and honourable occupation. If we
follow the Swadeshi doctrine, it would be your duty and mine to find out
neighbours who can supply our wants and to teach them to supply them
where they do not know how to proceed, assuming that there are
neighbours who are in want of healthy occupation. Then every village of
India will almost be a self-supporting and self-contained unit,
exchanging only such necessary commodities with other villages where
they are not locally producible. This may all sound nonsensical. Well,
India is a country of nonsense. It is nonsensical to parch one's throat
with thirst when a kindly Mahomedan is ready to offer pure water to
drink. And yet thousands of Hindus would rather die of thirst than drink
water from a Mahomedan household. These nonsensical men can also, once
they are convinced that their religion demands that they should wear
garments manufactured in India only and eat food only grown in India,
decline to wear any other clothing or eat any other food. Lord Curzon

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