DIGNITY OF LABOUR
No work is superior or inferior in itself. Work is work. It is absolutely wrong to consider any work as high or low. The work itself is a dignity. Every work has some dignity attached to it. It is improper for anybody to think that a certain kind of work is undignified or below his status. No work is mean or low. Since the very dawn of civilization man has been doing all kinds of work without any hitch and hesitation. All the religions of the world have enjoined man to do his work honestly. All the philosophers of the world have preached that no work is such as to undermine the dignity of man. “Thou shalt eat thy bread by the sweat of thy brow” was the curse of God upon the first man, Adam. God himself ordered man to work and work hard. All great men of the world have themselves acted according to this dictate of God. We in India have the example of our Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who used to do every kind of work in his ashram. Not only he but all the inmates of the ashram were required to do all kinds of work with their own hands. Sweeping, cleaning, spinning, washing and even disposal of nightsoil was done by the inmates of the ashram. And nobody in the ashram thought that any of these things was below his dignity or would lower him in the eyes of others.
The dignity of labour means that every kind of work is dignified. It also implies that dignity can be achieved only by hard work. The dignity of labour does necessarily cover manual labour I.e., physical labour or work done with hands. Great men have said that work is worship. The spirit of the dignity of labour has been niilpluccd in India. There is a very wrong notion that labour or manual work is not meant for urban educated, rich and intellectual men ; it is meant only for rural, uneducated and poor people. This false notion is very deep root ed among the urban elite. They think that manual work is the poor man’s means of livelihood. They are so much under the influence of this false notion that they shun manual work.
We often see that a rich housewife would sit idle and waste time, but would not like to work in her own kitchen. She would consider it a status symbol to engage a cook to cook for her. She would not mind spending money on a domestic servant to do all the chores in the house. Why is it so ? Because she thinks it below her dignity to work in the kitchen or to attend to other domestic work. Not only that, a wealthy mother would consider it not in keeping with her dignity and self-respect even to look after her own child. She would rather engage a nurse and entrust the child to her cure. Similarly a graduate would accept a white collar job of rupees fifty but would not like to accept a job involving manual work even though it could fetch him rupees two hundred. The reason is obvious. He thinks that working with his own hands would bring lu’m indignity and lower him in the eyes of others.
This false notion is the result of man made distinction between one kind of work and another. As a matter of fact work is work and it cannot be classified as high or low. The work of a sweeper is as high, important and dignified as that of a doctor, engineer or teacher. This aversion to manual work has done great harm to our country. This has created an artificial division in the society. Those doing manual work are looked down upon. They are considered as low people. Some sort of taboo or indignity is attached to persons who do manual labour. Carpenters, mechanics, masons, porters, and riksha pullers are looked down upon as inferior creatures. One of the important causes of the present problem of large scale educated unemployment is this spirit of aversion to manual labour.
If we look towards other nations of the world, we would find that the countries which have aversion to manual labour have remained undeveloped and poor. As against this the countries where people love to do manual work have made impressive progress. Aversion to manual labour brings misery, poverty and backwardness, while manual labour brings wealth, happiness and progress. India’s progress has suffered retardation as a result of this mentality.
Every work is respectable, dignified and important. There is nothing wrong in the nature of any work ; what is imortant is how one looks at it and does it. A dignified work becomes undignified if it is done in a wrong way and by unfair means. Similary even a so-called undignified work becomes dignified if it is done in a decent manner and by honest means.
Those who are engaged in manual labour should not suffer from any inferiority complex. They should have a devotion to work and faith in the sacredness of the work that they do. Rich and educated people owe a great responsibility in this regard. They must give up this false notion and should inculcate in themselves the idea of the dignity of labour. By doing so they would be doing a great service to themselves, their society and country.