Gandhian Principle of Trusteeship

  • This principle evolved in Gandhi’s mind because of his spiritual development, which he owed partly to his deep involvement with and the study of theosophical literature and the Bhagvad Gita. His familiarity with the maxims of equity in western legal tradition also made him aware of the implications of the principle of trusteeship.
  • On an individual plane, he realized that those who sought to attain God through social service, even if they controlled vast possessions, should not regard any of it as their own. They should rather hold their possessions in trust for the benefit of those less privileged than themselves.
  • On the social plane, this principle implied that the wealthy could not justly claim their possessions to be theirs entirely. The reason was that they could not accumulate their wealth without the labour and cooperation of workers and the poorer sections of society.
  • Adoption of this doctrine on an individual and national scale was, he believed, the only way to form an egalitarian and non-violent society.
  • He defines trusteeship in simple terms: “The rich man will be left in possession of his wealth of which he will use what he reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for society.”
  • Gandhi did not believe in inherited wealth for he was of the view that a trustee has no heir but the public. He did not favour compulsion in the surrender of riches because he believed that forcible dispossession of the wealthy would deny to society the talents of people who could create national wealth.
  • His method was to persuade the wealthy to act as trustees, failing which Satyagraha could be adopted. But by the 1940s, he had come to believe that state legislation would be necessary to ensure compliance with the principle of trust­eeship.
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