The Gandhi-King Community

For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No.- 09404955338, 09415777229;


Social work and Mahatma Gandhi


Mahatma Gandhi was a true social worker. There was based of it his constructive works. He did a lot of social works. He fought against evils of society. He told always, if you want to do social work, you start it yourself. He was very worried to poverty of India. His political movements were also a type of social work. You can see it in Champaran, Kheda etc. movements.  Poverty was the main focus of early social work, it is intricately linked with the idea of charity work, but it must now be understood in much broader terms. For instance it is not uncommon for modern social workers to find themselves dealing with the consequences arising from many other 'social problems' such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on age or on physical or mental ability. Modern social workers can be found helping to deal with the consequences of these and many other social maladies in all areas of the human services and in many other fields besides. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Your fear about my being engrossed in the political strife and intrigues may be entirely set aside. I have no stomach for them, least at the present moment, had none even in South Africa. I was in the political life because there through lay my own liberation. Montagu said, “I am surprised to find you taking part in the political life of the country!” Without a moment’s thought I replied, “I am in it because without it I cannot do my religious and social work,” and I think the reply will stand good to the end of my life.”1

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “It has been suggested that this programme turns the Congress into a purely social reform organization. I beg to differ from that view. Everything that is absolutely essential for swaraj is more than merely social work and must be taken up by the Congress. It is not suggested that the Congress should confine its activity for all time to this work only. But it is suggested that the Congress should for the coming year concentrate the whole of its energy on the work of construction, or as I have otherwise described it, the work of internal growth.”2 Whereas social work started on a more scientific footing aimed at controlling and reforming individuals (at one stage supporting the notion that poverty was a disease), it has in more recent times adopted a more critical and holistic approach to understanding and intervening in social problems. This has led, for example, to the reconceptualisation of poverty as more a problem of the haves versus the have-nots rather than its former status as a disease, illness, or moral defect in need of treatment. This also points to another historical development in the evolution of social work: once a profession engaged more in social control, it has become one more directed at social empowerment. That is not to say that modern social workers do not engage in social control and many if not most social workers would likely agree that this is an ongoing tension and debate. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “The hospital started under such auspices with fairly ample funds at its disposal should grow day by day and supply the need of the middle class women of Bengal. This hospital reminds us of the fact that social work was as dear to the Deshbandhu as political. When it was open to him to give away his properties for political work he deliberately chose to give them for social service in which women’s service had a prominent part.”3

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “We realize, they say, that our real work lies in villages, and that while doing this work we can also do other social work among the villagers. By popularizing the use of the spinning-wheel we can convince people what a terrible disease their idleness is. Wherever the volunteers work in a spirit of service, they succeed in creating a sense of brotherhood among the people. And the difficulty of selling khadi, they point out, is avoided by following the method of getting people to stock their own cotton and produce khadi for their needs.”4

Social Work is the professional activity of helping individuals, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating societal conditions favorable to this goal. Social Work practice consists of the professional application of Social Work values, principles, and techniques to one or more of the following ends: helping people obtain tangible services; counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups; helping communities or groups provide or improve processes. The practice of Social Work requires knowledge of human development and behavior; of social, economic, and cultural institutions; and of the interactions of all these factors. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I understood from another visitor this afternoon that you are without any organization here for doing this class of social work or political work of any nature whatsoever, and indeed nothing would please me better than to find that as one of the results of this meeting, you had such a working organization manned by selfless workers.”5 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Mr. Diwan A. Mehta brought a collection (Rs. 270) made from among the Indian passengers on board s.s. Pilsna to be handed to me on the condition that if the Bardoli struggle was over the money should be utilized for some social work of my choice. I have earmarked the donation for untouchability work, and I thankfully make this acknowledgment here as it could not very well appear in the Bardoli fund collection list that is printed from week to week as supplement to Young India.”6

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “He, who lives in the social group, must have no aversion to social work, that is, collective prayer. He who loses himself in God, sees the whole world as God. It may be said that collective prayer is the first step in social work for attaining such a state of mind. From the Negroes to the Christians of Europe, from the Muslims of Arabia to the Hindus of Bharatavarsha, none of them has been able to do without prayer. If the churches, the mosques and the temples were to be demolished, the society, too, would go down with them. Divine music is going on all the time where God is and we can only imagine what it is like. Collective prayer is a rationally inexplicable attempt to join in that music, and he who joins in that music is for ever in a state of bliss. I take it that you will be able to deduce the rest from this. If you cannot do so and doubts remain, go on asking me again and again.”7

Social Work is concerned and involved with the interactions between people and the institutions of society that affect the ability of people to accomplish life tasks, realize aspirations and values, and alleviate distress. These interactions between people and social institutions occur within the context of the larger societal good. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “We in Gujarat have a unique Vidyapith. I am not exaggerating if I say that it is a centre of Gujarat’s public life and social work.”8 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Not much work could be done for long years. Meanwhile the Calcutta Congress passed a resolution appointing the Anti- untouchability Committee and the work was entrusted to Jamnalalji who was able to achieve some result and the credit for it went to the Congress. It is not the main work of the Congress to take full responsibility for social work. It should at the same time promote it. The Congress is a political body in which there are bound to be frequent differences of opinion. I would urge to have a far-sighted vision and to create these Committees and to let them do good work by organizations which are of their own making and with money which they collect.”9

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I had explained this even at the time I asked for donations from you. You had remarked that my work was of a political and social nature. After this was made clear, you gave me this money for social work. Likewise you accepted my views generously. It is not proper that you should now demand a hand in the management. I ask you to have a committee of inspection. If you feel that the work is not being carried on properly, you may stop your donations. Even the Government does not participate in the management though it does supervise. You too can do what you like as inspectors. Even then if you do not like to donate funds, I shall make another suggestion. The people are filled with admiration for the school that is being run there, the Montessori school. Donate money to him to Prof. Miller. The labourers need that money. You talk of the increase in the wages of labourers. I must tell you that even sons of big men study there and do not pay full fees. You seem to desire that this school should be run on the small sum that the labourers save. Do the labourers collect money for the purpose of fighting? You should be thankful to me because they do not collect funds to launch a fight.”10

Social work in its various forms addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments. Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change. As such, social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. Social work is an interrelated system of values, theory and practice. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I suggested to them that my work of social reform was in no way less than or subordinate to political work. The fact is, that when I saw that to a certain extent my social work would be impossible without the help of political work, I took to the latter and only to the extent that it helped the former. I must therefore confess that work of social reform or self-purification of this nature is a hundred times dearer to me than what is called purely political work.”11 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Whilst I criticize this part of missionary work, I willingly admit that missions have done indirect good to India. There is no doubt about this. But for my having come under Christian influence, some of my social work would not have been done. My fierce hatred of child marriage I gladly say is due to Christian influence. I have come into contact with many splendid specimens of Christian missionaries. In spite of differences I could not possibly help being affected by their merit. And so you will find growing up in my Ashram unmarried girls, though they are free to marry if they wish. I am speaking not of university women but of girls who belong to the uneducated class.”12





Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “The women certainly do social work, but as individuals. I should like them to assume responsibility as a body, for some social service. This will create in them capacity for organization. When such capacity has been created, individuals may come and go but the organization will remain. God has given such capacity only to human beings. In our country, women have not cultivated it so far. The blame for this lies with the men. But that is a question with which we need not concern ourselves just now. If we believe that women must acquire this capacity for organization, we should try to cultivate it in them. It does not matter if we commence only with my writing a letter to their Association and their replying to me. Slowly (no matter, if very slowly) we may take up other activities. If you have fully understood what I have suggested and if the suggestion has appealed to you, if the other women also approve of it and if they are ready to take interest in carrying it out, you may take up this work. If, however, you see difficulties in carrying it out or see no meaning in it, you may drop the idea.”13

Social work grew out of humanitarian and democratic ideals, and its values are based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. Since its beginnings over a century ago, social work practice has focused on meeting human needs and developing human potential. Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action. In solidarity with those who are disadvantaged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote social inclusion. Social work values are embodied in the professions national and international codes of ethics. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I wonder if you were able to pass on my letter about the opening ceremony to Vinayakrao. He has certainly done very good social work in Ratnagiri, and it must have been a very serious disappointment to him, as also to Sjt. Kir that you were disabled from performing the opening ceremony.”14





Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I hope to be able shortly to issue a statement1 about the Village Industries Association. I might have issued it earlier, but, in spite of my getting up at half past two in the morning, I have not yet overtaken the arrears. But I shall presently put on speed. Of course, I shall want your assistance and that of all solid workers who would come forward. The resolution aims at moral uplift. Therefore, it includes social work so far as it can be advanced through village industries. If Jagannath offers his services and if he is allowed to do so, he will have to be a whole-timer.”15

Social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development and behaviour and social systems to analyses complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I have now heard from Dr. Jayaram. He has come to the conclusion that Bhole never had any tuberculosis but whether he had any or not he is certainly now entirely free and that he should now leave the Sanatorium and take to some social work or continue his studies so as to take his mind off himself.”16

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Since you have time to spare, meet Narandas Gandhi and ask him to give you some light social work.”17 Social work addresses the barriers, inequities and injustices that exist in society. It responds to crises and emergencies as well as to everyday personal and social problems. Social work utilizes a variety of skills, techniques, and activities consistent with its holistic focus on persons and their environments. Social work interventions range from primarily person-focused psychosocial processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These include counseling, clinical social work, group work, social pedagogical work, and family treatment and therapy as well as efforts to help people obtain services and resources in the community. Interventions also include agency administration, community organization and engaging in social and political action to impact social policy and economic development. The holistic focus of social work is universal, but the priorities of social work practice will vary from country to country and from time to time depending on cultural, historical, and socio-economic conditions. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Valji’s nephew Rasik is studying in Shamaldas College. College students are often found doing silent social work while studying. See if you can tempt Rasik. If he comes forward, he may also be able to draw his friends into the work.”18

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I have no doubt that untouchability is going. It can go quicker, but we have not got a corps of social workers adequate to the task. It is social work indeed, but more than that it is great spiritual effort. If untouchability remains, Hinduism perishes and with it Hindu culture. And if that calamity comes, the whole face of India will be changed. The ruining of Hindu culture is fraught with incalculable harm for the general culture of India. But I am firm in my faith that untouchability is bound to go, it is going. Here you will see I am surrounded by untouchables. We have, for instance, for our cook an untouchable boy. He never knew cooking; certainly he did not know how to cook hygienically. He is now learning it. He is a fine boy, eager to learn, and hard-working. This process is going on throughout India. The best of our workers are trying to work amongst the untouchables in this fashion. That is the complete reform.”19 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “There is no direct relation between Harijan workers and khadi. Even those who wear foreign clothes can serve Harijans. Therefore keep on doing social work without paying any heed to the criticism.”20

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Of course what is true of the Army is more or less true of all Christian Missions. Their social work is undertaken not for its own sake but as an aid to the salvation of those who receive social service. The history of India would have been written differently if the Christians had come to India to live their lives in our midst and permeate ours with their aroma if there was any. There would then have been mutual goodwill and utter absence of suspicion. But say some of them, If what you say had held good with Jesus there would have been no Christians. To answer this would land me in a controversy in which I have no desire to engage. But I may be life. He called men to repentance. It was he who said, not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”21

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “A gathering of some workers of Kathiawar was held some time ago in Bhavnagar. After a great deal of discussion, a resolution was passed, at the instance of Shri Nanabhai, that they should do social work under my guidance and be governed by the restrictions imposed by me.”22 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “It is my keen desire that you should take up some social work with this idea in your mind, if for no other reason, that you are thus identifying yourself with the poor.”23 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Your work seems to be progressing well. The important thing is that you are at peace there and have got independent social work. You should take up sanitation work. If you succeed in cleaning up Mahua, you will deserve a medal.”24

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Perhaps you do not know that I felt compelled to come into the political field because I found that I could not do even social work without touching politics. I feel that political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress. In democracy no part of life is untouched by politics. Under the British you cannot escape politics in the good sense. It embraces the whole life. All who breathe must pay a tax. That is British rule in India. Take the salt tax for instance. It concern everybody. The collector of revenue and the policeman are the only symbols by which millions in India’s villages know British rule. One cannot sit still while the people are being ravaged.”25

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Intellectual work is important and has an undoubted place in the scheme of life. But what I insist on is the necessity of physical labour. No man, I claim, ought to be free from that obligation. It will serve to improve even the quality of his intellectual output. I venture to say that in ancient times Brahmins worked with their body as with their mind. But even if they did not, body labour is a proved necessity at the present time. In this connection I would refer to the life of Tolstoy and how he made famous the theory of bread-labour first propounded in his country by the Russian peasant Bondaref."26 Social work emerged as a profession out of the early efforts of churches and philanthropic groups to relieve the effects of poverty, to bring the comforts of religion to the poor, to promote temperance and encourage thrift, to care for children, the sick, and the aged, and to correct the delinquent. Orphanages and homes for the elderly were typical results of these activities. The word charity best describes the early activities, which were aimed at the piecemeal alleviation of particular maladjustments. In such charitable work the principal criterion in determining aid to families was worthiness, while the emphasis in later social work was on restoring individuals to normal life both for their own sake and for the sake of the community.





  1. VOL. 17 : 26 APRIL, 1918 - APRIL, 1919, Page- 124
  2. VOL. 29 : 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924, Page-  501
  3. VOL. 34 : 11 FEBRUARY, 1926 - 1 APRIL, 1926, Page-  446
  4. VOL. 36: 8 JULY, 1926 - 10 NOVEMBER, 1926, Page-  66
  5. VOL. 40 : 2 SEPTEMBER, 1927 - 1 DECEMBER, 1927, Page-  398
  6. Young India, 30-8-1928
  7. VOL.45 : 4 FEBRUARY, 1929 - 11 MAY, 1929, Page-  175
  8. VOL.45 : 4 FEBRUARY, 1929 - 11 MAY, 1929, Page-  224
  9. VOL. 48 : 21 NOVEMBER, 1929 - 2 APRIL, 1930, Page-  155
  11. VOL. 53 : 2 JULY, 1931 - 12 OCTOBER, 1931, Page-  168
  12. VOL. 53 : 2 JULY, 1931 - 12 OCTOBER, 1931, Page-  469
  14. LETTER TO M. R. JAYAKAR; February 25, 1933
  15. LETTER TO DR. GOPICHAND BHARGAVA; November 6, 1934
  16. LETTER TO RAMACHANDRAN; March 10, 1935
  18. LETTER TO CHHAGANLAL JOSHI; September 25, 1935
  19. VOL. 69: 16 MAY, 1936- 19 OCTOBER, 1936, Page-  284
  20. LETTER TO MEHRABEHN ZABWALA; August 22, 1936
  21. Harijan, 12-6-1937
  22. VOL. 72 : 6 JULY, 1937 - 20 FEBRUARY, 1938, Page-  103
  23. LETTER TO S. K. VAIDYA; May 25, 1944
  24. LETTER TO MANU GANDHI; August 19, 1946
  25. VOL.92 : 9 AUGUST, 1946 - 6 NOVEMBER, 1946, Page-  230
  26. Harijan, 23-2-1947






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