ARTICLES : Gandhian view on Trusteeship

Read articles written by very well-known personalities and eminent authors about Gandhian view on Trusteeship and it's relevance today.

Trusteeship Today

Prof. Rukaiya Joshi

The change in man is basic to the change in Society : A concept paper prepared by Prof. Rukaiya Joshi, S. P. Jain Institute of Management on 22nd December 2008.

Professional management based on the segregation of executive power from ownership, in the best traditions of western Democracies, is what made it possible for our well known multinational companies to adapt their corporate objectives and management practices to our changing environment, and thus achieve sweeping success in terms of growth, diversification, profits and social acceptance.
Gandhian Principle of Trusteeship:
Trusteeship principle advocated by Gandhiji provides a means of transforming the present capitalist order of society into an egalitarian one. It is in many ways different from the concept from socialism as Gandhiji did not believe in using force either by the individual or by the state. Trusteeship, as a concept is not absolute but relative in time and space to the needs of the society. The essence of trusteeship as a moral principle however is not relative but absolute: what is relative or tentative is the frame work of practical economic arrangements based on the moral philosophy.
Macro Perspective:
The concept of property, compromising productive assets, is central to capitalism, socialism productive assets, is central to capitalism, socialism and trusteeship. The three elements in the concept of property, ownership, its management and rewards from ownership and its use vary in all the three.
At an time the gains from economic use of assets that is used in business results in

Social Personal Gain chart

In history, the civilizations which had lesser between wealth and ethics had less class conflicts and survived long.
Trusteeship is freedom of ownership, of property in the hands of community and the state but as a trustee of the masses. It does not rest at providing “ equal opportunity”. It believes in generating wealth with efficiency where the index of measurement is not wealth accumulation but wealth distribution in the society.
Its means are non-violent and therefore does not believe in forceful methods adopted but the states for reducing class conflicts.
Gandhiji envisaged an egalitarian society free from exploitation of man by man. It believes in class collaboration.
Micro perspective:
Irrepressible desire to acquire wealth and power is at the root of all individual, social, economical and political conflicts. Gandhiji however believed that restructuring of institutions would be of no avail unless men who operate these institution accept , within their own volition, the implicit ethics of the new system. He believed that the change in the man is the basic to the change in the society. The freedom, the choice the Swaraj must come from within.
Ghandhiji therefore put primary emphasis on change of mind and secondarily, but not less specifically on material forces of production. For it is the mind from which emanates not only intellectual (competence) to mange material forces but also attitude, social behavior etc. which determine whether to use the power of possession for good or bad, to exploit or to serve those who do not possess, to be compassionate or cruel, to accumulate for personal gain or to use for social good. Once the right attitude to the use of possession of material-economic power is established, the ownership becomes a matter of secondary importance.
How will you bring about trusteeship? Was the question repeatedly asked to which he replied “not merely by verbal persuasion. My means are non-co-operation with recalcitrant.”
The idea of holding wealth as a trust may be visionary or even utopian. But a thought does not become irrelevant because of an element of a distant vision in it. Truth in personal life and non violence in the affairs of nation do not become irrelevant because they are almost impossible to practice.
We must not underrate the business talent and know-how which the owning class has acquired through generations of experience and specialization. They should be allowed to retain the stewardship of their possession and use their talents to increase their wealth.
When the principle of trusteeship is accepted by any individual voluntarily and without any reservation, certain concomitants flow from such acceptance:-

  1. Simplicity of life style, the rejection of all extravagance and the flaunting of wealth is the first and the immediate result.
  2. It rules out any wrong means outside the legal and moral framework, in his pursuit of wealth. Even surplus wealth already in one’s possession is regarded as wealth held in trust for society by an individual, to be utilized only for the benefit of society.
  3. Where then is the question of acquiring more wealth by adopting unfair or unjust or unfair means?
  4. Any activity harmful to society (although it may result in wealth to particular institution or individual) has thus to strictly avoided.
  5. One has to treat others as human beings and not as units of labour to be purchased at the lowest price for increasing production and maximizing profits.
  6. One stands committed to giving full opportunities to workers in the enterprise, to learn to take greater responsibility, and to participate in decision making at all levels, according to the in actual and potential capacities. This includes the decision, of the formula for apportioning profits and surpluses generated by the institute.
  7. Since trusteeship presupposes voluntary acceptance, all violence is scrupulously avoided. Trusteeship is to promoted only by love and persuasion.

Insights :
Trusteeship can be viewed as an attitude to life. The trustee has to so behave that he can command the confidence of others in his honesty, integrity and in the reasonable frame of mind he brings to his work and behavior. The nearer a person’s attitude and behaviour as to the trusteeship ideal. The greater the confidence others are likely to have in him.
This command over the people he comes into contact with, gives him not merely mental and spiritual happiness, but in fact very much material benefit also. Without depriving others of their just share, he shares with them increased benefits.
Gandhiji is seen as a “practical visionary” he never approved the use of legislation for implementation of his views. Trusteeship means personal gain together with social gain. Paths to achieve the goal:

Paths to achieve the goal

Scott Bader Common Wealth of the U.K. was successfully converted an organization based on the Capitalist, free enterprise system of organization and management into pioneering Trusteeship concern permeating all its activities. They appointed a distinguished Social Worker a M. P. and the Economic Adviser and director of statistics of the National Coal Board as Trustee. The maximum ratio between the lower and the highest salaries stood at 1:7. As a registered charity it distributed its income for various charitable causes.
Indian experiences of Aditya Birla Group, Jamana Lal Bajaj, Amul, Tata House (JRD) and Infosys as some of the examples display the different experiments conducted by individuals and/or companies which are committed to the larger goal of what Gandhiji said “Sarvodaya”. To conclude:
The doctrine of trusteeship is Gandhiji’s contribution towards the peaceful transformation of Indian Society, or any society. It is a call for peaceful revolution, a new social order. It requires an integrated political, moral and economic approach.
A struggle both by masses and the leaders.

Areas of debate and Research:
  • The belief that men create wealth for self gratification beyond their basic needs is not universally true. Quite often the basic urge the joy of creation, the urge to achieve and the acclaim of success.
  • It is possible for one man or a group of men to harm another without also harming himself / themselves.
  • Generation of wealth with efficiency in trusteeship like capitalism
  • Developing equi-poised mind to serve the society.
  • “Most revered men do not put a price on what they gave to mankind”. People like to be like the whom they revere.
  • Not rights but the obligations were the basis of moral life, and one’s rights were embedded in and grew out of others’ discharge of their duties.
  1. Bharatan R. K. (Edited), Trusteeship: The Indian Contribution to a new Social Order, Shriniketan, Madras, 1979.
  2. Trusteeship-The Gandhian Alternative, Editor, J D Sethi
  3. Dantwala M. L., Trusteeship an alternative Idiology
  4. Hingorani, Anand T. (Complier), My theory of Trusteeship: M. K. Gandhi, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1970
  5. Lata R. M. The Creation of Wealth
  6. Newsletters of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and Trusteeship foundation