The word “labour” generally implies manual labour or work that is done with hands. It is distinguished from mental work because in doing mental work we exercise our mind whereas our hands are still. In ancient times manual labour was looked down upon, society treated the manual worker as an inferior being. Even in the Greek city-states there was a small number of free citizens. These citizens were engaged in fine works of art and literature. They had at their disposal slaves in order to do their manual work. This gave rise to a feeling of contempt, for manual work. It was disgraceful for a person to be a mason, a carpenter or a mechanic. Though it was in the ancient Greece that political thought originated and preached individual liberty and self-government. Slavery existed in almost all the countries a hundred year ago. A labourer, thus was a victim of mockery and hatred.
In modern times slavery has been abolished by almost all the civilized countries, but still a few people belonging to upper classes think it below their dignity to do their work themselves. These people employ servants to look after their children. The result is that their children are spoiled and do not prove to be good citizens. It is only due to the fact that they do not feel dignity in doing the work of their children with their own hands. In die modem world labour and that too manual labour is no more looked down upon. Free citizens realize the worth of labour. No stigma is attached to a person who does manual labour. It is only the leisured classes or upper middle classes, who still avoid to do manual labour. Business magnets or person having a taste for salaried posts still do not realize the dignity of labour.
Gandhiji preached dignity of labour in the Sabarmati Ashram, when the dwellers of the ashram were taught to clean night soil with their own hands. Work, whatever its kind may be, if it is honest work is worthy of praise and credit. A beggar who goes from door-to-door begging alms has to face scorn and listen to filthy language only because he avoids doing manual work. Manual work is in no way inferior to mental work. Monuments, forts and historical buildings were built by persons who were adept in manual labour. They worked miracles with their hands. When mind and hands combine together, the results are really surprising. A sculptor after having ideas from his mind is able to produce immortal work of art-only because he feel dignity in doing manual work.
We must learn that honest work of all types is dignified and worthy of respect. Even the humble sweeper who does unpleasant task is worthy of respect from the society. Our government is going to take a step when these persons will no more do this unpleasant work. In that case, everyone will have to do this type of work with his own hands. The only thing we should be ashamed of is idleness arid to live without labour. Work is worship and to work is the real prayer that we can offer to our creator. We must salute the honest labourer and give him due honour. “‘His brow is wet with honest sweat He earns what ever he can; And looks the whole world in the face, For he owns not any man.”