Labour, as we all know, means work. What do we give an accent to this word and say dignity of labour. We can recall different kinds of work – from the physical labours of a farm-hand to the white-collar job as an executive in a large organisation. The highly placed executive, after years of successful career, begins to attach much dignity and self- respect to his job.
If he has travelled for years in a car, he thinks it is below his dignity to travel in a bus. One cannot expect such a person to do the job of an attendant even when it necessitates him to carry his own luggage. Though it may not affect any other individual, yet there is something in human about his sense of dignity and self-respect.
To know the true sense of the phrase, we should study the lives of some of our great leaders. We all know of an incident when an Englishman who was in search of a porter at a railway station to carry his luggage, when a humble man volunteered to carry his luggage. After depositing the luggage in the train, the man walked away. The man was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, one of the freedom fighters in the days of the British rule.
Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, cut his own hair, washed his own clothes, cooked his own food and went on foot from place to place. He travelled with the mass in a third class railway coach.
In many homes we can find elderly men washing their clothes and cleaning their dishes themselves. These examples, give us ample evidence that doing manual labour is not below the dignity of an educated person. Today, the Indian society is charged with the gusto of trade unionism.
Even a cobbler thinks that his profession is his god. This feeling dignity in one’s profession is carried to such heights that one feels insulted if due respect is not given to the person doing that profession.
Dignity and self-respect are important but when they are social relationship, it is better not to have such a dignity. Dignity of labour is essentially a Western concept. Here, in India the caste system allotted certain duties and trades to each caste.
Performing religious rites, for example, doing yagnas and chanting Vedas were done by the Brahmins, to look after the welfare of the people and to defend the province was the job of Kshatriyas, Vaishyas were responsible for the trade and commerce, and Shudras were destined to do menial jobs.
Thus, in Hindu culture and lifestyle the system of Varnashrama was an accepted social system. With the intrusion and colonisation of the western people our outlook changed and its impact on our society has come down heavily. It has become necessary to understand the new concept and change our outlook according to it.