Gandhiji's Concept of Trusteeship
Trusteeship is not merely a principle not even a philosophy. Some witty philosopher has defined 'philosophy' With withering humour, "it is a labyrinth of dead-end streets and blind alleys leading, from nothing to nowhere·"
To Promote Relationship
Trusteeship is the very stuff of life, the material of which life is made because life ultimately consists of relationships. There is no life without relationship. Relationship is the essence of life and trusteeship is calculated to promote relationship among men whose interests and whose roles seem to be conflicting. That, to my mind, is the very fundamental truth about trusteeship. So trusteeship is the very condition of our existing together.
Neighborliness in all walks of life
That's the basic idea on which the scheme of trusteeship has been based. It is not merely neighbourliness in certain walks of life, because in Gandhiji's concept, life could not be divided into water-tight compartments. Life has been conceived as whole, which can not be divided into compartments. So trusteeship is not merely for business relations, but for all relationships of men as they go in everyday affairs of life.
A means of Radical Social Change
There is one more aspect of trusteeship. Trusteeship is a means of revolution or radical social change. In the economic field there is the idea of description, which has been propagated by Marxist revolutionaries. There is the method of confiscation of all property by the state. Then there is the accepted method of taxation which has been universally accepted even in the democratic countries. But all these methods agree in not bringing men closer to each other. This process of social change, to my mind, is a process of accent and all ascent must ultimately result in approach. So trusteeship is designed with a view to eliminate the distance between men and bring them, not only in body but also in mind, as close together as possible.
Change of heart
Trusteeship was Gandhiji's peculiar contribution to the technique of social change. He called it "the technique of change of heart."
Expropriation, confiscation and taxation are not calculated to conduct to this change of heart. Gandhiji is often quoted as saying that in the Ramarajya of his dream the status of the prince and the pauper will b- the same. If Gandhi means that in the Ramarajya of his dream the prince as well as the pauper will exist as prince and pauper, the be the same as long as status of the prince and the pauper can never the prince is prince and pauper is pauper. The prince and pauper will come together only when the prince is shorn of his royalty and the pauper is able to live a richer life, a fuller life. So Gandhiji's idea of trusteeship should not be linked with the idea of class-collaboration, We stand for the elimination of classes with the co-operation of men but collaboration of men for the elimination of classes. This idea of class-collaboration is not only vicious in principle but also abnoxious in practice. There can be no class-collaboration as long as the employer-employee relationship continues. You convert the whole people into a nation of government employees. That's not the idea of trusteeship. Trusteeship; my being responsible for my life, as well as for the life of my neighbour. This mutuality, mutual responsibility, is real trusteeship.
Now let us think who really feels the pinch? It is the underdog, who lives a life of perpetual misery, drudgery and humiliation. It is for him that social change is the immediate need and it is necessary that this should come mainly through his efforts.
Human Dignity and 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, I think no human dignity could be preserved and civilisation will come to an end sooner than later. So, this social change must in the main come through the efforts of those who are in misery and who need social change immediately.
If this does not happen I think this idea of trusteeship will lapse with the device of charity i.e. giving alms to the poor. The Christian scriptures say that the poor shall never cease from out of the land. Trusteeship does not conceive of a society in which the from out of the land.
Mutuality and Well-being
Trusteeship does not conceive of a society in which the poor shall remain poor and the rich shall remain rich. Both poverty and affluence for a few shall be eliminated. Mutuality and well-being shall be the rule of the society, in which men learn to live together in goodwill for one-another. That's trusteeship as I understand it and that is trusteeship as I think Gandhiji enunciated. Gandhiji was not, obscurantist, nor did he stand for statism. He believed in antyodaya -'the coming up of the last man.'
Relationship is the oxygen of life. Trusteeship is calculated to promote relationship. That is why trusteeship is the vital breath of all our social relationships, more particularly our industrial relationships. I am reminded of the words of Daniel Defoe with which I shall conclude. These words are as true of labour as of capital. I do not like the crew, I shall not sink the ship. Rather I shall do my best and save it from disaster at the cost of my life. You see, w, are all in the same craft and sail or swim together." That is the basic idea which lies at the root of this scheme of trusteeship.