Vinoba Finds out Fair Wage for Spinners
When Vinoba was still very new at Sevagram some workers started an organization to promote spinning and weaving as means of earning a living. One very important question was what would be the fair wage for a full day’s work. There were many different opinions and often-heated discussions. Everyone of course wanted to be fair to the workers, but some more than others.
Vinoba spoke few words. When asked he said he had no basis for suggesting a fair wage for a full day’s spinning at a hand operated wheel. He would want to know how much it cost to buy the basic necessities and how much yarns an average spinner could produce per day. To find that out would require long fieldwork. Nobody had time for that. Some people thought Vinoba was being too sticky. They needed to come to some figures before the end of their discussions. So they did just that.
Vinoba did not protest, but he was clear what he was going to do to find out the right answer. After the meetings he started spinning about 8 hours a day and continued for six months.
He sold the yarn every day to the shop set up by the khadi organization (predecessor to today’s Khadi and Village Industries Commission). He bought his food and other minimal necessities with the money he earned.
In the next meeting of the organization Vinoba gave detailed report of his experiment. What struck the members very deeply was his observation that all of six months he could afford only one meal a day. It is up to us he said, to change or not to change the figures we agreed on in our last meeting.
Vinoba’s diet even at that time was quite meager. We know that he lived on 600-700 calories per day in the second half of his life.
February 5, 2005