Take for instance a village in Gujarat. Those substantial houses in the centre belong to the well-to-do landowners. The cultivators or tenants have their quarters close alongside. The group of huts belonging to the weavers is easily distinguishable by the rude looms and apparatus for the manufacture of the common country cloth. The tanners’ quarter is equally well marked, and yonder the groups at work with mud and wheel and surrounded with earthenware vessels of various shapes and sizes, remind you that you are among the Potters.
On inquiring into the interior economy of the village a system of payment in kind and exchange of goods for labour and grain is found to prevail exactly similar to that suggested by General Booth. Only here we have the immense advantage that instead of having to explain and institute a radical reform in the existing system, we have to deal with millions of people who are thoroughly imbued with these principles from their infancy.
For instance one of the staple articles of food in the village consists of buttermilk, which is distributed by the high caste among the low caste from year’s end to year’s end in return for petty services. One of the usual ways in which the high caste will punish the low, for any course of conduct to which they object is by the terrible threat of stopping their supply of “chas,” which means usually nothing short of starvation.
Here then is our model in good working order and in exact accordance with the ideal sketched out by General Booth. We cannot do better than adhere to it as closely as possible.
Probably the first industrial settlement which we shall establish, in addition to the labor yards and suburban farms already referred to, will consist of a colony of Weavers in Gujarat.
For this we shall have special facilities, as we have now 150 Officers at work in that part of the country, as well as more than 2,000 enrolled adults, a large proportion of whom have been in our ranks for several years. From amongst these we shall be able to select thoroughly reliable superintendents (both European and Native), and shall be able to take full advantage of their local experience.
But how far we shall consider it wise to confine our first settlement to one particular caste or to include within it from the outset some other useful village industries such as have been above referred to, I am not as yet prepared to say. Much will necessarily depend on the course that events may hereafter take. For the present I can only say that we will adhere as closely as possible to our Indian model.