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ARTICLES > TRUSTEESHIP > Trusteeship - A technique of Social Change


TRUSTEESHIP - A Technique of Social Change

C. S. Dharmadhikari

M. J.  Builders Pvt. Ltd.


Radheshyam Sahu

(AIR 1999 Supreme Court - page 2468)

“Mahanagarpalika is the Trustee for the purpose of management of the Park. When true nature of the Park, as it existed is destroyed it would be violative of the doctrine of public trust. Public trust doctrine is par­t of Indian Law.”

‘’In America public trust doctrine was applied to public properties.... As to here doctrine works it was stated... that the idea of a public trusteeship rests upon the related principles. First, that certain interests like the air and the sea - have such importance to the citizenry as a whole that it would be unwise to make them the subject of private ownership. Second, that they Partake so much of the bounty of nature, rather than of individual enterprise; that they should be made freely available to the entire citizenry without regard to economic status. And finally, that it is a principal purpose of Government to promote the interests of general public goods from broad public goods from broad public uses to restricted private benefit… This public interest doctrine in our country, it would appear has grown from Article 21 of the constitution.”

Capitalism means an order of things in which the basis of distribution is purchase or barter. Unless you have the purchasing power, you are unable to get anything that you need; even food for hungry. It is an irony of fate that things can only be bought, forcibly snatched or acquired, but nobody can get it because they are  just “needed”. This is why, in the present day social order, needy persons are deprived of the primary amenities of life. Therefore everything has got exchange value, that is price. It is a price based economy and not a need based or value based economy. It is a diabolical social order.

There is of course scope for charity. Human dignity cannot be preserved on charity if those who live in perpetual misery are condemned to live on the sufferance of those who are well to do, then it is difficult to preserve human dignity and the whole civilization will come to an end sooner or later. Charity is a weapon invented by capitalists to preserve capitalism and protect their property by gaining sympathy of the poor class. Therefore Gandhiji invented and preached trusteeship, as a technique of social change. He called it, the technique of change of heart.

Gandhi gave us symbols of revolution. The Spinning Wheel and Broom-stick. Spinning wheel is a symbol for productive labour which contemplate face-to-face community based on dignity of labour. He wanted to transform the existing relationship between production and distribution. He was against depersonalisation and dehumanisation in the process of production and distribution. Today there is no relationship between the producer and the consumer. Gandhi wanted  to end the Kingdom of non-producers.

Broom-stick is the symbol of social equality. It reminds us of our relationship with the lowliest and the lost, the Antyodaya, which should be the foundation of even economic growth.

Gandhi derived a new definition of Swadeshi. He said: “Swadeshi means neighbourliness.” You produce for your neighbour. Production for sale is capitalism hence, Gandhi advocated production for home consumption and not for sale or export only.

For Gandhi, Khadi and Village Industries meant decentralization of production and distribution of the necessaries of life. Khadi, to him was the symbol of unity of Indian humanitv, of its freedom and equality and therefore, ultimately in the poetic expression of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “The livery of India’s freedom.”

For him, Khadi is the central sun around which the other village industries revolve like so many planets. Even today as the statistics go about sixty lakhs of people are employed in the production of Khadi and village industries i.e. Gramodyog. If each and every citizen of India uses one khadi dress in a year, about one crore people will get employment. I do not think any industry, how so ever big it may be, or multinational can provide such an employment. Unemployment is bound to destroy our whole culture. Empty hands are bound to cause destruction and violence. They will destroy the very fabric of our nation.

It is a misunderstanding that, using khadi is very costly. Today it is noticed that a large number of divorcee Muslim women are employed in the production of khadi. Cottage industries provide employment to lakhs of women. While calculating the price, the cost of cotton produce, the living wages for the labouring class are taken into consideration. It is a social cost which is most reflected in the price of khadi. It is value based rather than price based. Exploitation is always cheap. The mute question is whether “exploitation” should be tolerated and encouraged.

The centre of Gandhiji’s economics was man. For him man was the measure of everything. He wanted production by masses and not mass production. He wanted production by men and not at the cost of men. He was interested in ‘Man Power’ and not ‘Horse Power’. For him foundation of economy should be man; Gandhi believed in humanism even in the economic field. The system of production and the system of distribution should be coupled with the cultural development of human being. The Human personality should be capable of being developed through this process, which means that the system of production and distribution should be conducive to the growth of all human faculties. He was not against machines. In a sense, the spinning wheel is also a machine. Use of tools should be as an extension of our limbs. The hammer is the extension of man’s fist. It is Upakaran ’upa’ in Sanskrit means samip i.e. next, upakaran is one which is next to sense. Hence tools or machines should not be as substitute for human power, but to augment it, to extend it. We should not allow tools or machines to replace human power. If glasses replace eyes, the very eyesight is lost. The man machine relationship should not mis-match. For Gandhi man is the measure of all things. He is above technology or science. Man is greater than technology.

In his economy, nature and animal had an honourable place. For him culture is the art of living with others. This means our planning should be such which will give ample scope for the development of faculties of the animal. For him nature is our ally. Natural resources are not meant for exploitation only. It is not our enemy. We are not interested in conquering nature or exploiting it. We want to co-operate with nature and animals to enrich our life. To make life richer, greater and more beautiful.

Gandhi’s principle of non-violence was basically based on non-exploitation of man by man, or of nature. It is not a negative concept but a dynamic positive principle of life. For Gandhi ‘live and let live’ was not enough, he wanted that people should also help others to live. It was a positive, living, dynamic non-violence. For him exploiting villages and villagers is in itself organised violence. As rightly said by Martin Luther King, “Nothing in our glittering technology, can raise a man to new heights, because material growth has been made an end in itself, and in the absence of moral purpose, man himself becomes smaller as the works of man become bigger.”

Gandhi wanted a change in basic mechanism of ownership, production and distribution. He wanted freedom from the rule of merchandise and nationality in the productive and distributives system on human relationship.

Thus, fundamental principles of his economics were simplicity, non-violence sanctity of human labour. He was against the craze for machines and its indiscriminate multiplication to replace men. He was against inventing labour saving devices but wanted to provide employment to forced idleness. His plan was for peace, security and progress rather than war & exploitation. He wanted growth in national wealth for men and not at the cost of men. 

Notes and References

  1. For a very useful discussion of Voegelin’s concept of Phenomenalism, see Barry Cooper, Eric Voegelin and the Foundation of Modern Political Science (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), pp.108-113

  2. Needless to say that such a mode of reconstruction of reality equates historiography with something that is and must be organised around a rationalistic ideal of history. This idea stresses the need to lay bare the objective conditions under which human actions take place. This is tantamount to reconstructing men and societies as natural objects and applying “medical rationalism to exploring historical conditions in which men lived and worked.” This means a rigorous and objective construction of the historical conditions that constitute not only the context but also conditioning, limiting factors for human action. Such a historical account requires that one must steer clear of a set of a a prioristic ethical principles for a better understanding of historical process as it unfolds. For a very useful example of this mode of writing, see Thomas Hobbes, Eight Books of Peloponnesian War by Thucydides (London: the Author, 1629: This is available also in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmsbary, ed. William Molesworth and published in London in 1893-45 as Vol. VII).

  3. For a good example of this, see D. R. Nagraj, The Flaming fac,: A study of the Dalit movement in India (Banglore : South Forum Press,1993); See Ramashray Roy, “Gandhi and Ambedkar Collision of Two Worldviews,” in politics and society: A New Perspective (Delphi: Shipra Publication,2002) for a critique of Nagraj’s approach to the relationship between Gandhi and Ambedkar.

  4. Eric Voegelin, quoted in Ramshray Roy, “Purush, Purana, and Itihas: A Spiritual Perspective,” am unpublished paper.

  5. Needless to say that these categories of language are not neat classification; they overlap each other. Moreover, substantively speaking, if the saintly language is separated from either the traditional the modern language, it leads to certain adverse consequences. For examples, the traditional language loses its significance, if it is disrupted from its spiritual or saintly source. Similarly, modern language depicts a world that rests on hubris.

  6. Eric Voegelin, History of political idea. The Middle Ages to Acquinas, ed. and intro. by peter Von Sivers ( Columbia:Missouri University press,1997) Vol.2, p.126

  7. David Walsh, Introduction to Eric Voegelin, History of political ideas: The latter Middle Ages (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), Vol.3,P.17.

  8. Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches (Bombay: Education department, Government of Maharashtra, 1982), pp.222-23 (To be cited hence forth as Writings and Speeches).

  9. Ibid. It is, however, very difficult to justify this claim on two grounds. First, Ambedkar did embrace Buddhism but very late in his life. However, his references to the central importance of these seminal modern political ideas go earlier in time. Second, in his expositions of Buddhist philosophy, he superimposes on Buddhism a battery of liberal ideas and makes Buddhism not so much the instrument of the spiritual transformation of man, but of socio-economic emancipation of the depressed and deprived segments of the people in India, especially the Untouchables, which he called the bahiskrit samaj (the outcast).

  10. Taking part in the Bombay Legislative Council debates on 2 October 1939, Ambedkar strongly underlined that his loyalty to his country was not in any way lesser than anybody else. However, he also underscored the fact that he had another loyalty, “loyality to which I am bound and which I am bound and which I can never forsake; that loyalty is to the community of the Untouchables, in which I was born, to which I belong and which I hope never to desert.” Writings and Speeches, II, P.258. He also wanted to make it clear that whenever there was any conflict of interests between the country and the interest of his community, he would always give precedence to the latter. “As between the Depressed Classes, Depressed Classes will have precedence, the country will not have precedence. “Ibid.,Vol.2 pp. 503-504

  11. For a very useful discussion on the central role of freedom and equality in the life of man in modern times , see Charles Taylor, “Growth, Legitimacy, and Modern Identity, “Praxis International 1, 2 July 1981

  12. H. V. Desai, My Interview with Eminent Personalities, P.26 Quoted in Dhananjay Keer, Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1954), p.389.

  13. For a very useful discussion on Ambedkar; economic thought see Sukdeo Thorat, Ambedkar’s Role in Economic Planning and Water policy (Delhi: Shipra Publications 1998).

  14. Government of India, Reconstruction Committee of Council (1944); Record of the First Meeting of the Policy Committee, No, 3C (Public Work and Electronic power) held at Delhi on 23 September 1943, Magazine Government of India.

  15. For a very insightful discussion in this regard, see Fred Hirsh, Social limits to Growth (Londan: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977).

  16. Ibid., pp.10.

  17. See Pierre Manent, “Modern Democracy as a System of Separation.” Journal of Democracy, Vol.14 No.1 (January 2003).

  18. Martin Buber, Pointing the way : Collected Essay: Quoted in Roy Oliver, The Wanderer and the way: Hebrew Tradition in the Writing of Martin Buber (Ithaca, Cornell : Cornell University Press, 1968), p.53

  19. Writing and Speeches, Vol.2, pp. 222-23

  20. Ibid., p.222.

  21. Ambedkar’s address at Poona (22 December 1952) while unveiling the portrait of L. R. Ranada in Poona District Law library. Quoted in Keer, Dr Ambedkar : life and mission, P.442.

  22. Writing and speeches, p.442.

  23. Bombay Legislative Assembly Debates, 27 October 1939 in Writings and speeches, vol.2, p.529.

  24. A. K. Comaraswamy, The Living Thoughts of Gautam the Buddha (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1958),p.29.

  25. Anguttara Nikaya, IV: 445: Dhammapada, 5,223.

  26. Ibid. 261.

  27.  Dhammapada, 160.

  28. 28. Ibid.,pp.379,380 It is argued by many that Buddhism does not merely deny the self but also the self. This denial is, to say the least, simple-minded. Note, for examples, that one cannot be selfless without having a self. As Edward Conze admits, the doctrine of anatta is very deep. One must assume that is will need more than a life time to get to the bottom of Buddhism. Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (New York: Harper Torchlooks, 1959), P.19. The Buddhist doctrine of nibbana is akin to Meister Eckhart’s saying: the Kingdom of God is for none but thoroughly dead, “And, as Coomaraswamy notes, “ Nirvana is a death, a being finished (both in the meaning of ended and of “perfected”) “ The living Throughts of Gautam the Buddha, P.28. The means employed to get nibbana are not themselves nibbana; The means are directed to taming, Conquiring, Curbing and rejecting the self (atta) and making it quiet. Thus, for Buddha, the Archant is one “whose self (atta) has been cast off (atta-jaha), his burden, has been laid down (ahit-bharo), and what there is to done, has been done (katam-Karaniyam),” Ibid. What needs to be stressed here is the fact that Buddhism does talk of the distinction between the Great self (mahatma) and the little self (alpatment), natho ( The self alone is the Lord of the self 380, attahi, natho gato (The Self alone is the destiny of the self) Thus Buddhism recognises many selves but only one Self). That is why it insist, just as Jainism does, that it is the one that many are to find.”He who conquers many Banarsidas (1964), Part I Of the Akrang Sutra, Tr Herman Jacobi ( Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas(1964), Part I of the Akrang Sutra, The Kalpasutra, Vol. XXII of the Sacred Books of the East).

  29. Anguttara Nikaya, III: 444.

  30. Dhammapada, 276.

  31. Samyutta Nikaya, IV:298.

  32. C. Plato, Republic, 515c 7-9.

  33. Timothy Fitzgerald, “ Ambedkar, Buddha and the Concept of relidgion,” in S.M.Michael, ed.,Dalits in modern India, Op. Cit., p.126.

  34. Undoubtedly Ambedkar believed in the liberation of the individual. However, he argued that this liberation should no more refer to its traditional spiritual meaning emphasising the need to renounce the worlds; it must now the liberation from social institutional bondage. Ambedkar argues the latter are not only those karmic hindrances which condition the individual’s consciousness from one birth to the next, they are also institutionalised realities, sympotomatised for example, by they are also caste system. These institutionalised realities prove injurious to the interests of the Untouchabilities; these too need to be modified. This requires an appropriate political situation that can prove efficacious in improving life chances (in the material sense) of the poor and the deprived, especially the Untouchables. See Fitagerald, op. cit, pp. 199-20.

  35. Jati pratha Unmulan (Aannihilation of caste) In Baba sahib Ambedkar : Sampurna Vargamay, ed Shyam Sing Shastri( New Delhi: Ambedkar Pratisthanm, Ministry of welfare, Government of India, 1993), I, p. 99.

  36. D. R. Jatav, “Dr Ambedkar’s Philosophy of Religion” In Ambedkar and Social Justice (New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India, 1992 II, P. 91, a volume prepared under the auspices of Dr B. R. Ambedkar Birth Centenary Celebration Committee, Ministry of welfare, Government of India.

  37. Fitzgerld, P.124. For a fuller discussion on Ambedkar’s effort to secularise Buddhism, see Ramashray Roy, Gandhi and Ambedkar A Study in Contrast, Ch.5

  38. S.C. Gail Omvedit, when she argues that Ambedkar saw modernity from a perspective quite contrary to that of Gandhi. As Omvedit puts it, “He looked to the values underlying it as the revolutionary aspirations to liberty, equality and community. Modernisation was something that he sought, not feared. “Democratic Movements and Environmentalism: Gandhi, Ambedkar and the Polarities of Revolution in India. “Fourth World, April 1997.

  39. Competition for scarce resources creates inequality in the life condition and life chances; this inequality gets frozen into social order that institutionalises what Johann Galtung calls “structural violence. “Structural violence is discernible within society as well as in the interrelationship of nations.

  40. This has a reference to Gandhi’s comment on a cartoon published in English Journal, The NewAge, in 1910 under the caption, “March of civilisation. “This cartoon depicted an army on March under a general with a grotesque figure, with a gun in one hand and swords dripping with blood and a cross in the other hand.

  41. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi: The Publication Division, Government of India), LXIII, p.241. To be cited as CWMG hereafter.

  42. Note what john Locke has to say in this regard: We are not born in heaven, but In this world where our being is to be preserved with meat, drink and clothing, and other necessaries that are not born with us must be got and kept with forecast, care and labour, and therefore we cannot all be devotion, all praises and hallelujah, and perpetually in the vision of things above. Quoted in Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision (Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1960), p.298

  43. For an excellent discussion about it, see Darrel Dobbs, “Choosing Justice: Socrates’ Model City and the Practice of Dialectics,” The American Political Science Review, 88,2(June1984). See also Ramashray Roy Political Science Review,88,2(June 1984).See also Ramashray Roy, Political Order : The Vedic Perpective (Shimla : Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 2003), pp.68-69.

  44. CWMG, VOL.7 P.243.

  45. Alcibiades 131B

  46. Sriman Narayan, ed., Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi ( Ahmedabad : Navajivan Publishing House,1969), Vol.6,pp.110-11. To be cited as SWMG hereafter.

  47. CWMG, Vol.37, p.18.

  48. Ibid.,Vol.34,p.506

  49. Ibid., 55,p.62.

  50. SWMG,Vol.6,p.95

  51. CWMG,Vol.6,p.95

  52. CWMG, Vol.57, Appendix, p.440.

  53. Ibid.

  54. Ibid., P.439.

  55. John H.Schaar, Escape from Authority: The Perspective of Erich From on (New York: Basic Books, 1969), p.296.

  56. Jhrgln Glebhart and Thomas A. Hollwec,eds., Eric Voegelin, History of political Ideas: The New Order and Last Orientation (Columbia:Missouri University Press, 1999),P.194.

  57. Ibid., p.197

  58. Ibid., p.198

  59. Ibid., Loc cit.

Source : Gandhi Today, Vol. 4, 2007