Gandhiji on Trusteeship
February 26, 2011 7 Comments
Following are some of Gandhiji’s favourite quotes from the Gita:
Na twaham kamep rajyam na swarnam na puparbhavam
Kamaye dukh taptanam praninamarti nashwam
Neither I desire a Kingdom nor do I crave for heaven or salvation, I simply desire the end of miseries of all creatures who are afflicted with grief.
Javata Priyate Dehuh Tavatsatva Hidehinam
Adhikam yo bhibhanayat sa stano Dand marhati
As much as is necessary for one’s own living only that much is one entitled to have. One who has excess of this is a thief and deserves punishment.
Ishtan bhogan hi wo deva dasyante yagna bhavitah
Tairdattan pradaryabhyo yo bhangyakte sten aiv sah
Fostered by sacrifice (hard work) you will get all enjoyments. He who enjoys it without sacrifice and giving in return is undoubtedly a thief.
These words from the Gita shaped Gandhiji’s thoughts on his concept of trusteeship of wealth.Following is an explanation of the concept in his own words:
‘Suppose I have earned a fair amount of wealth either by way of legacy or by means of trade and industry. I must know that all that belongs to me is the right to an honorable livelihood no better than what is enjoyed by million of others, the rest of my wealth belongs to the community and is to be used for the welfare of the community.’
Trusteeship was his non-violent solution for reducing the excessive economic inequality of pre-independence India.Gandhiji recognized the importance of the skills of the wealthy to make money but he also accepted the justice in many of the demands of labourers.The contrast between his and the Communist thinking of the time is apparent in the following words.
‘We invite the capitalist to regard himself as a trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention and the increase of his capital. Nor need the worker wait for his conversion. If capital is power, so is work. Either is dependent on the other. Immediately the worker realizes his strength, he is in a position to become a co-sharer with the capitalist instead of remaining his slave.If he aims at becoming the sole owner, he will most likely be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs……Not need I be afraid of some one else taking my place when I have non-co-operated. For I expect to influence my co-workers so as not to help the wrong-doing of my employer. This kind of education of the mass of workers is no doubt a slow process, but as it is also the surest, it is necessarily the quickest. It can be easily demonstrated in the end of the worker and as no human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption, no human being is so perfect as to warrant his destroying him whom he wrongly considers to be wholly evil.’
Gandhiji also recognized the differences in individual abilities and was in favour of equality of opportunity not absolute equality.So he was comfortable with a degree of difference in individual wealth situaltions.In his words:
‘My idea of society is that while we are born equal, meaning thereby that we all have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the some capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible. For instance, all cannot have same height, colour or degree of intelligence. Therefore, in nature of things, some will have ability to earn more and others less. Normally, people with talents will have more. Such people should be viewed to exist as trustees and in no other terms.’
Gandhiji was ever the pragmatist and trusteeship was his way of creating a more egalitarian world without strife.The following passage shows how he saw the state ensuring the operation of trusteeship of wealth.
‘Trusteeship provides a means of transforming the present capitalist order of society into an egalitarian one. It gives no quarter to capitalism, but gives the present owning class a chance of reforming itself. It is based on the faith that human nature is never beyond redemption.It does not recognize any right of private ownership of property except so far as it may be permitted by society for its own welfare.It does not exclude legislative regulation of the ownership and use of wealth.Thus under State-regulated trusteeship, an individual will not be free to hold or use his wealth for selfish satisfaction or in disregard of the interests of society.Just as it is proposed to fix a decent minimum living wage, even so a limit should be fixed for the maximum income that would be allowed to any person in society. The difference between such minimum and maximum incomes should be reasonable and equitable and variable from time to time so much so that the tendency would be towards obliteration of the difference.Under the Gandhian economic order the character of production will be determined by social necessity and not by personal whim or greed.’