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8.1 Introduction

8.2 Trusteeship in Industry

8.3 Meaning of Trusteeship

8.4 Gandhiji and the Trade Union Movement

8.5 Gandhian Approach

8.5.1 Gandhiji's Concept of Industrial Relations and its

Influence on Indian Labour Policy

8.6 The Ahmedabad Experiment

8.7 Gandhian Perspective on Capital Labour Relationship

8.8 Gandhian Ideology in Action

8.9 Conclusion

8.1 Introduction

T h ~ schaptcr discusses the Gandhian vision of industry and trade

unionism. It explains the suggestions of Mahatma Gandhi to solve the trade

union problems. The purpose of this chapter is to develop from what Gandhi

wrote and spoke, a framework of Industrial Relations system which could be

regarded as Gandhian and to outline the prospects that the future holds out for

the adoption of Gandhan model of industrial relations and trade unionism in

the land of Mahatma Gandhi.

"In his lectures, letters written to or editorials in Young India and

Harrjan he made references to the prevailing industrial relations situation

with his own comments and appeals added to them".'

'This is an attempt to place these bits of writings together to project

what Gandhi thought was an ideal industrial relations system for India. The

limitations on such an attempt are self evident - particularly of those flowing

fiom quoting Gandhi's statements taken out of contexts.

The twenties and the thirties witnessed the emergence of a new

ideology in the trade union movement, the Gandhian ideology, Gandhi

emphasized that the ideologies of his socialist and communist contemporaries

in India were essentially alien to the Indian tradition and he therefore sought

to evolve "a truer socialism and a truer communism than the world has yet

dreamed o f Z
Gandhiji's vlews on industrial relations are based on some of his

hndamental principles which constitute the core of his philosophy. These

principles are ( l ) Truth and non-violence (2) Aparigraha i.e. non possession.

It is from these principles Gandhi evolved his concepts of non-co-operation

and trusteeship, which are fundamental to his model of industrial relations

and trade unionism.

8.2 Trusteeship in lndustry

The modern society is in the midst of confilsion. As it is confronted

with many complex problems, such as poverty, exploitation, unemployment,

inequality, inflation, conflicts, conuption and violent outbreaks, the people are

frustrated and they have lost hope in the existing socio-economic order and

political system. Capitalism is mainly held responsible for all these evils.

"The modem world is faced with the problems of social injustice,

economic disparity and concentration of economic power, problems that have

arisen out of the capitalist system of economic order. It is accepted on all

hands that the capitalist economy of our times had a historical role to play in

the process of economic growth, In helping the release of factors and powers

of such a growth at its proper stage, the capitalist system had its validity and

justification. But with a further advance in the process of economic

development the capitalist economy, in the opinion of all thinking people, of

whatever shade or colour of thinking, has out lived that validity and
justification. Hence, the system stands challenged and alternative solut~onsto

replace it have been suggested from time to time."

'The notable defects of the w o r h g of capitalism are the concentration

of wealth and income in the hands of a few, vast disparity between rich and

poor, exploitation of the working class by the owners of the means of

production and the commercialization of every dealing in the society.

On the one hand, a large section of the people want to destroy

capitalism and create a new social order based on the principle of equality.

But they are prepared to adopt any means to achieve thcir ends. They even

suggest bloody revolution. On the other hand, the rich people prefer to

maintain the status quo by strengthening their economic and political power

and giving few benefits and privileges to the poor. We find that both these

approaches are not helpful in solving the problems of capitalism and trade


As Gandhi wanted to create a new social order, namely sarvodaya, in

which the welfare of all would be looked after, he thought about the ways and

means of transforming the existing capitalistic society and evolved his grand

theory of Trusteeship. He believed in the theory of continues evolution of

individual and society and expected that the rich man in the society would

realise their soc~alresponsibility. He had developed the theory of trusteeship

as an alternative to private ownership.

The trusteeship theory envisages a new society and has a distinct

philosophy of its own. it stands for the reconstruction of the society on the

twin principles of truth and non-violence.

8.3 Meaning of Trusteeship

J.D. Sethi says "of all Gandhiji's ideas and concepts, Trusteeship was

the most original as it was also the most tentative since he did not have time

to experiment with it on a scale that would match the grandeur of the concept.

He did not have time enough to even define it precisely, not to speak of

spelling out its implications in concrete terms".4

The term trusteeship was first used in relation to property and its

ownersh~p.In our country the "Trustee" is used in connection with temples

and mutts the word "Trustee" means a person who manages the property of

the temple without any selfish interest.

Trusteeship has in its origin jurisprudence in western countries. U.N.

Dhebar says "this western concept of trusteeship implies that there should be

first of all property. Secondly, that there should be a legal owner of property

who has the right to take decisions about the use of such property He is

termed in law as the author of the trust. Third, he has to fix, settle and

determine the objects of such use. These are called the objects of the trust.

Fourth, he has to decide for whose benefit such property would be used.

Those for whom the property is to be used are called the beneficiaries. Fifth,
he decides about the trustees and their rights and obligations, their powers

and functions" '

E;. Arunachalam points out, "Mahatma Gandhi, whose concern was

with setting right human relationshps in all fields on the basis of truth and

non-violence, was also attracted towards the doctrine of trusteeship. He gave

a new meaning and interpretation to the word "trusteeship" and

recommended the idea of the princes, landed aristocracy and propertied

capitalist for adoption. As a matter of fact he wanted everyone to be a


Gandhi has widened the meaning of trusteeship. When others use it in

connection with property only, he used it in a broader sense to indicate a

man's attitude to his entire life. The attitude of trusteeship involves our

identification with the entire humanity.

J.D. Sethi observes, "there are three important aspects of trusteeship

which correspond to Gandhian values. First, it demands transfer of ownership

fiom individual, either directly or via the state. Also from the state to common

ownership among those who would run an enterprise, those would consume

its products and those who will represent larger against sectional interests,

with all the built in provisions for social priorities. Second, trusteeship is not a

limited economic exercise; it is a non-violent movement or method of

dispossessing the owners of wealth and property, the details of which have

been given by Gandhi himself, but in actual practice they have to be worked
out in each -different situation. Third, the trusteeship will have to satisfy

conditions of ethical economics, i.e., create those conditions of production and

consumption economics which do not permit greed, conflict or alienation

among different classes of the society, including the workers."'

Gandhi came to the conclusion that the basis of all relationships is

trust and faith. He accepted the concept of Satyagraha 'as it enabled one to

fight or resist the root cause without hating the doer or human being. One

must resist evil but not hate the person who becomes its victim or perpetrates

it. If power, wealth, skill or knowledge are owned by society then there is no

cause or room for conflict. Society or people' do not mean a crowd. It means

a living entity, a sum total of relationship. Since the root cause of conflict is

the concept of ownership and authority or power inherent in it, Gandhi tried

to find a way of extinguishing the concept. This way is called "Trusteeship".

The way of emancipating ourselves from the concept of ownership is

trusteeship. Our concepts of "owner", "employer", "employee", "wealthy

labourer" and so on cannot build harmonious human relationships. Only an

attitude of sharing and co-operation can eliminate classes and discrimination.

In theory, everyone accepts Gandhiji's trusteeship. But the real

problem is that no one wishes to take the responsibility of bnning it into

practice. We all want "tieedom" but not responsibility. George Bemard Shaw

once said "Liberty means responsibility, that is why most men dread it."
Gandhiji oflen said, "My life is my message". And so in seeking

Gandhiji's principles of peace making and non-violence let us turn to his life

and understand what he stood for and on what thought and ideas he based his


The key to an understanding of Gandhian principles is to comprehend

his revolutionary mode of actions namely "Satayagraha" and his challenging

goal of "Sarvodaya", the good of all a fuller and richer concept of "peoples"

democracy than any we have yet known. The central figure in all these is the

individual, the human being of soul, mind and body, the three-dimensional

being. Therefore the individual is the one supreme consideration with his

conscience and will together with h s reason to affect change.

B. Kumarappa was underscoring the aspect of Gandhian thought

when he said "while pacifism hopes to get rid of war chiefly by refusing to

fight and by canying on propaganda against war, Gandhiji goes much deeper

and sees that war cannot be avoided so long as the seeds of it remain in man's

breast and grow and develop in his social, political and economic life.

G a n a ' s cure is, therefore, very radical and far-reaching. It demands nothing

less than rooting out violence from oneself and from one's environment"."

The "right m i n d that Gandhlji envisioned is universal, inclusive, non-

exclusive. It is not a mind of intolerance, of accusation, of d~vision.Rather it

is a mind of unity, understanding and infinite love that works for harmony, for

peace. It is a spirit that would heal division. Gandhiji knew the reality of
hatred and intolerance because he had experienced them in his own life in

south Ahca, In British dominated India, in the caste-ridden society of India of

his time. Indeed, he succumbed to the reality of intolerance and hatred when

his life was taken on January 30, 1948. No peace could be built on

excluvism, absolutism and hardness of hearts, which must result if individuals

made no efforts to rediscover the "right m i n d .

Peace cannot be built on vague slogans or pious programmes. There

can be no peace on earth without the kind of inter change that restores man's

mind to the fact that all life is one emanating from one universal self- "what

thought we have many bodies? We have but one soul. The rays of the sun are

many through refraction. But they have the same source9

The greatest of man's spiritual needs is the need to be released from

evil and untruth that are in hunself and in society. Individual freedom and

preservation of individual integrity were high in Gandhiji's values. But it did

not seek elevation of individual ego. "Individual in society" not individual per

se, stands out in Gandhian thought. However, if this individual in society

becomes an automation, the society would be adversely affected. "One may

live in a cave in certain circumstances, but the common man can be tested

only in society" ''

Gandhiji thus developed a method to create possibilities, to conquer

violence and to involve oneself in acts of "ethical existence" within the

context of relationships transforming them toward a new, restructured,

reintegrated pattern He called this technique or way of life "Satyagraha".

'This word was coined during the resistance movement led by Gandhiji

in South Afnca while protesting against the Asiatic Law Amendment

Ordinance introduced in Transwall Legislative Council in 1906. As the

struggle continued he became aware that a new principle had emerged and

was operating. He wanted to give a name to this principle and through his

newspaper, "Indian opinion" he announced a prize for the best name

suggested. The name that was suggested was "Sadagraha". But Gandhiji felt

the word did not fully express the whole idea . . . . . . . "I therefore corrected it to

"Satyagraha" Truth (Satya) implies love and f i m e s s (agraha, engenders and

therefore serves as a synonym for force . . .. . . that is to say the force which is

born of truth and love or non-violence"."

"Satyagraha" has within itself the Gandhian concept of truth, non-

violence (ahima), self-suffering (tapasya). It is essential to understand

"Satyagraha" fully in order to grasp Gandhij's principles of peace making.

The ingredients of satyagraha include truth - nothing "is" or exists in reality

except truth which in Sanskrit means "sat" - "is ness" or "being" "sat" or

truth is perhaps the most important name of god. In fact, it is more correct to

say truth is god, than to say that god is truth.'' To hlm truth and god were

convertible terms - "I came to that conclusion &er a continuous and

relentless search after truth which began filly years ago.""

The truth which is not absolute, which is not for Gandhiji- God, relate

everybody's life to human beings in terms of the community of which he is a

member, in terms of the society of which he is a part. Thus, "truthful dealings

even in the least things of life, is the only secret of a pure life. Quest for truth

cannot be prosecuted to a cave.14 Thus, when conflict arose, Gandhiji resorted

to the dynamics of interrelationships for judging the truth of the situation.

PLhimsa (love or non-violence). How does truth become a force in life,

in field of action, in a situation of conflict? Gandhiji held that "it excludes the

use of violence because man is not capable of knowing the absolute truth and

therefore, not competent to punish.'5 Thus truth has its inter-relationship with

non-violence as an operative principle. There is no way to find truth except

through the way of non-violence. "I then found that the nearest approach to

truth was through love".16 Therefore, "ahlmsa" is our supreme duty. Non-

violence becomes the supreme value.

Gandhiji did not consider non-violence as a matter of tactic although it

was certainly effective in liberating India's people from an alien rule. On the

contrary, he believed that the essential spirit of non-violence springs, from a

deeper, Inner realization of spiritual unity in one's own self. Therefore, it is as

much a means of achieving unity as the h i t of the inner unity already

achieved. Gandhiji's non-violence was not a sentimental religiosity or a

denial of the reality of evil. The first duty of a real satyagrahi is to bring to

light the evil, the wrong, the injustice that he knows of even if he has to suffer
by so domg "There is no limit whatsoever to the mcasurc of sacrifice that onc

may make in order to realize this oneness with all life.'' Love and non-

violence must be the means because truth is the end and because truth and

love are "the law of our being". "If love or non-violence be not the law of our

being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces"."

Man cannot be free if he is not aware of the fact that he is subject to

necessity. All forms of necessity can contribute to man's freedom material

need, economic need and spiritual need.

Gandhiji repeatedly warned of the dangers involved in focussing upon

the misdeeds of the opponent. He observed, "no one is wicked by nature -

and if others are wicked, are we the less so?"" Thus non-violence extends

the area of rationality. There is a high level of responsibility toward the

"other" who is not an "enemy", but an "opponent", the one who "disagrees".

The act and the reaction are not automatic but conscious. They have the

strength of conviction and of being able to convince.

Self suffering:- "Tapasya", once again a Sanskrit word, which means austerity

and has within it implied both self discipline and self restraint. Gandhiji

believed that in the satyagraha mode of action self suffering is the chosen

substitute for wolence to others. To punish and destroy the oppressor is to

initiate a cycle of violence and hatred. Self suffering, Gandhiji held, enables

life and morally enriches the world. There is an arresting paradox in this that

one can overcome evil by suffering it. The only way truly to "overcome" the
adversary is to help him become other than an enemy. This is the kind of

wisdom one finds in Gandhijis principles.

Besides truth, non-violence and self suffering, ends-means relationship

is very important in G a n h a n principles of peace making. Ends alone can,

never justify the means. It was Gandhiji's firm conviction that means are as

important as, and often even more important than, ends. The inseparable

combination of truth and love in Gandhian principles form the basis of

Gandhian solution to problems. Non-violence and truth ahimsa and satya",

are so intertwined that it is almost impossible to say where one begins and the

other ends. "They are like two sides of a coin, or rather of a smooth,

unstamped metallic disc." No action is worthy of human effort if it degrades

man even if the outcome is a spectacular success. "They say means are &er

all means. I would say means are after all everything. As the means so the

end. There is no wall of separation between means and end."

The Gandhian experiments suggest that if man is to free himself from

fear and threat alike, he must set himself to the task of conquest of violence by

moral means that must conform to the test of truth and non-violence. In

today's world a separation of ends and means is assumed. Success has

become the touchstone of ends, thus proceeding to eclipse means

consideration by over emphasizing concern for ends. The cornerstone of the

Gandhian basis of ends and means centres upon the utter necessity of

reconciling ends and means consciously through a philosophy of action deeply

rooted in truth (Satyagraha) that can face the penetrating test of the highest

ethical values

It is clear that Gandhiji called "Sarvodaya" the good of all as his goal.

The good of all without any distinction between high and low, rich and poor,

strong and weak, even the good and the bad. "Savodaya" literally means

''uplift of all". Following the political independence in India, "Sarvodaya"

became the primary Gandhan objective, it also became a part of his

principles necessary for achieving peace and keeping harmony. It calls for

self-giving in socially beneficial labour. It is also a means for working for

economic equality, abolishing conflict. Gandhiji's philosophy offers a

practical way to peacefbl social revolution to improve the quality of life. Every

form of self giving enriches human relationship. In essence, that is


8.4 Gandhiji and Trade Union Movement

Gandhiji is known as the greatest political leader of our country. But

the fact that he was also the greatest trade union leader of our country is not

so well known. 7he history of the national trade union movement started with

the struggle of the Ahmedabed textile workers, organized under the

leadership of Mahatma Gandhi as an epic struggle of the worhng class to

achieve them just demands through methods peculiar to the Indian tradition.

"The smke commenced on February 22, 1918; every day Gandhi used to

address the workers under the shadow of a Babul tree on the bank of the
Sabarmati river in Ahrnedabad, to remind them to their pledge and to

continue the strike peacehlly till the 35 percent increase in wage was

secured. It was from the Babul tree that the story of the struggle of Indian

labour really began".zz The struggle ended in a success to both and

demonstrated for the first time the efficiency of the new technique

propounded by Gandhiji to govern labour management relations. The manner

in which Gandhi conducted the strike and the method of its settlement were

unique in the histoly of Industrial relations and probably in the history of

industrial relat~onsanywhere. For Gandhi the struggle was only a particular

application of the weapon of "Satyagraha" which he had devised not only as a

means for furthering the cause of Indian nationalism but as a means for the

attainment of "truth" and "justice".

For Gandhi's followers in the trade unions, the methods used at

Ahmedabad in 1918 constituted an ideal to be applied as far as possible to the

settlement of industrial disputes elsewhere.

For Gandhi the stoppage of work at Ahmedabad was not a mere strike,

but a "Satyagraha", a striving for truth. According to John Bondurant,

"Satayagraha" is characterized by adherence to a stated truth by means of

behaviour which is not violent but which includes self-suffering. It seeks to

effect change and it operates within a conflict situation2'. Thus the satyagraha,

when applied in the field of labour, can be distinguished from an ordinary

strike and the settlement reached at the end of a satyagraha is not a mere


The first distinguishing feature of Gandhian method in lndustrial

relations is that only "truthful" claims should be made.

A strike is a form of "satyagraha" a striker, therefore, would not

submit to superior force or hardship; once he resolves, he keeps firm to it and

even at the cost of privations including starvation, he sticks to the resolutionz4.

A stick was justified in Gandhi's view only if other means fo

settlement had failed. Firstly, the parties should try to convince each other of

the truth of their claims. Secondly they could agree to appoint a respected

arbitrator. Gandhi was prepared to respect the interpretation of truth reached

by an arbitrator even if it did not measure up to his own version. Finally if the

employers refused to accept arbitration, the workers had to go on s h k e which

would continue until their demands were met. The objectives of a strike was

not the coercion of the employers but their conversion. By being stead fast in

their behaviour the workers would show to the employers that truth was on

the worker's side. Gandhi did not want the employers to relent because of

losses due to the stnke or for other such practical reasons, but because they

had been convinced that the works claims were just.

Gandhi's recognition that different men might sincerely take a

different view of truth, implied for him the use of non-violent means.2s
Non-violence was also implicit in Gandhi's theory of trusteeship.

Naturally, if the employers were to be considered as "trustees" in this sense

there could be no justification for the use of violence against them. The lesson

Gandhi taught was that the workers should always respect the good in their

opponent.26 Khandubhai Desai has explained that in a strike "the workers are

fighting the evil in the employers, and not the employer personally?7

K h ~ d u b h a iDesai has summed up what is expected of the worker

who follows Gandhian principles when he is on strike. "While on strike, the

worker should be truthful, courageous, just, and free from hatred or malice

towards anybody, and should be prepared for the voluntary sacrifice putting

his faith in g o d Z X

Thus the essence of Gandhian methods when applied to trade union

questions is its emphasis on persuading the employers rather than on coercing

them, the strict adherence to non-violence, and a willingness to bear any

suffering rather than to betray a principle. For Gandhi the trade union's

functions did not end at the factory gate.

Supporters of the Gandian approach to industrial relations tried to

regard the concept of voluntary arbitration as his main contribution to

industrial relation. This approach is regarded as "indigenous" and sometimes

as uniquely Indian. In fact the Gandhian approach is not distinguished from

the western approach by this concept which of course is quite compatible with

the western approach. The differences go much deeper and concern attitudes
more than the formal machinery of settlement. A western trade unionist would

be quite prepared to accept voluntary arbitration if, in the circumstances, he

thought it would lead to hlgher wages or better conditions, but he would be

equally prepared to use other tactics if the circumstances were different.

Although in practice Gandhian trade unionists do use other methods, they

tned to believe that voluntary arbitration is somehow superior. The western

trade unionist is concerned with results. The Gandhian is concerned with

means and ideally would be prepared to sacrifice results if the means were not

entirely pure

Sound trade union movement is based on democracy and democracy is

based on truth and non-violence. He advocated the theory of trusteeship. The

theory of trusteeship ultimately means that both the employers and the

employees are equal partners in a joint endeavour for the good of the

community. They hold the industry in whlch they are worlung, in trust for the

community. They are equal partners, co-workers neither is superior nor

inferior to the other. When that approach is assimilated the whole prospect of

looking at the industry changes. The whole mental outlook is revolutionized.

It is clear that Gandhji wanted to treat the society as an integral

whole. Society cannot be broken up and treated piece-meal. No section can

think in terms of isolation. If one t M s good of the society we cannot treat

life in parts.
8.5 Gandhiji's Approach

Mahatma Gandh~philosophy is based upon the "Sarvodoya" principles

of truth, non-violence and trusteeship, in which class harmony prevails. He

considers trade unions as essentially reformist organizations and economic

institutions, which must be organized on the basis of the assumption that

capital and labour are not antagonistic but are supplementary to each other.

He observed, "my ideal is that capital and labour should supplement and help

each other. They should be a great family living in unity and harmony capital

not only looking to the material welfare of the labourers but their moral

welfare also- capitalists being trustees of the welfare of the labouring classes

under them"

Gandhiji's view was that trade unions should not only undertake the

functions concerned with improving the economic conditions of workers, but

must also try to raise the moral and intellectual standards of labour and should

bring about an all-round development through internal efforts. They should

also undertake programmes for teaching supplementary occupations to their

members so that uncertainty of employment during a strike may be reduced to

the minimum. He declared "the working class would never feel secure or

develop a sense of self assurance and strength unless its members are armed

with unfailing subsidiary means of subsistence to serve as a second stnng to

their bow in cris~s".

Accord~ngto Mahatma Gandhi, the aims objectives and policy of

unionism are "it is not anti-capitalist. The idea is to take from capital labour's

due share and no more, and thls, not by paralyzing capital but by reform

among labourers from within and by their own self-consciousness: not again

through the cleverness of non-labour leaders, but by educating labour to

evolve its own leadershp and its own self restraint, and its self-existing

organization. Its direct aim is not in the least degree political. Its aim is

internal reform and evolution of internal strength. The indirect result of this

evolution when and if, it ever becomes complete, will naturally be

tremendously political.29

Gandhiji said that " . . . .while it's quite proper to insist upon (worker's)

rights and principles, it is imperative that they should recognize the obligation

that every right carries with it ... .. the workers should treat the business of

their employers as if it were their own business and give it their honest and

undivided attention- (They should) fight, if they must, on the path of

righteousness "

As a matter of fact, Gandhiji was never against strikes as such. He had

himself led some smkes in Ahmedabad and declared that a strike was an

Inherent right of the worlung men for the purpose of securing justice, but it

must be considered a crime immediately the capitalist accept the pr~ncipleof

arbitration. Accordmg to Gandhiji, stnkes might be permitted and would

succeed if these conditions are fulfilled.

(A) The causes of a stike must be just and only for redressal of genuine

grievances, strikes should be organized. He &d not want workers to

resort to strikes for unreasonable demands which the capitalist cannot

meet without impairing the production unit.

(B) There should be practical unanimity among the strikers

(C) Strikes should be peacehl and non-violent- i.e., the worker should

refrain from assaulting or abusing capitalist or their agents and avoid

violence against the non-strikers. Even damaging capitalist property is

considered by Gandhi as violence.

(D) Workers should undertake stnkes only &er taking up alternative jobs for

their living during the strike period.

(E) Workers should go on strike only after the capitalist failed to respond to

moral appeals and only as a last resort &er exhausting all other means of

persuading the capitalist to concede their just de~nands".'~

Gandhiji did not favour unions takmg part in political activities for two

reasons. First, because the workers were not enlightened, and second,

because political parties exploited the workers for their own ends.

Regarding sympathetic stikes, he advocated that such strikes should

be organized in sympathy if workers who were for a just cause after

exhausting all other means of settling disputes and were following the non-
violent path. He, however, disapproved of strikes organized by workers do~ng

essential services. He conceded that "one had every right to lay down .. .,. ..

condit~onsof service (but) the laying down of conditions is not an absolute

right. Even if such an absolute right would be permitted, it might not be

proper to use it under certain circumstances".

He insisted that such, strikes should be resorted to with a "fair notice"

being given to the authorities and &er "every other legitimate means has

been adopted and failed".

Thus, it would be evident that Gandhiji insisted that strikes should be

undertaken only after adopting the legitimate means of settling disputes.

These means in his views were;

(a) Moral appeals to the conscience of employers to concede their just

demands and.

(b) When moral appeals failed, resort to voluntary arbitration, Gandhiji

would not like the parties to declare a strike or a lockout without, first

trying to refer the dispute to an umpire who would give a decision on the

dispute which would be binding on both the parties.

Accordmg to Gandhiji, the unions should raise the moral and

intellectual heights of labour and such qualities in the labour will make them

master of the means. He always demanded equal status for capital and labour.

He desired that capital and labour should be mutual trustees as well as

trustees of the consumer class. One must not look after his own interest but

should safeguard the interest of others. In this manner, interest of both the

classes will be safeguarded. He wanted to develop clear understanding and

co-operation between the two and the two must help each other. No one

should have any kind of misunderstanding or distress. They should decide the

matters themselves. Labour supplement and help each other . It should be a

large family living in unity and harmony. Capitalist being trustees for the

welfare should not only look to the material welfare of the labourers but this

moral welfare also. Gandhiji never advocated the agitational role of labour.

There is no place for coercion in Gandhian scheme for trusteeship. He feels

proud in him to identify himself as labourer because without labour nothing

can be done.

Gandhiji did not yield himself to Marxian concept of class struggle

and he advocated class-collaboration, mutual confidence and self-sacred

heartedness as the pillars of the relations between capital and labour. If

workers are properly organized, they have more wealth and resources through

their own labour than the capitalist through their money.

Gandhiji was in favour of organizing trade unions. According to him

the thoughts and methods of western thinkers would fail to solve, the

problems of our country. The structure of the trade unions inevitably leaves its

stamp on the character of its member workers. The union should make labour

the master of the means of productions. The union should enlighten the
worker, so that they can earn livelihood. The welfare, and safeguard of the

workers entirely rests or the trade unions. In a country like India education is

the maJor obstacle in the way of development of strong union, moreover, to

keep harmony, it is realized that there should be one union in the industry.

Union should not wait and seek help from outside and the workers from

within should be invited to share the work of the unions as far as possible.

The actual strength of the unions is within itself in spite of the outside

guidance. But it has been observed that the worker in India has an ingrained

tendency to let others rule his destiny and settle his disputes.

GandhiJi suggested that the unions should expand its activities to

increase the welfare of the members. This will enhance their will power to

participate more in the working and hnctioning of trade unions. Gandhiji

spelled out the duties of the trade unions as:

(a) To make arrangement for educating both men and women. This is to be

regularly undertaken through night schools.

(b) Children of the labourers should be educated.

(c) There should be a hospital and creche and a matem~tyhome attached to

every centre

(d) Labour should be able to support itself during the strikes. GandhiJi

advised the workers that while forming their unions, they must select their
rcpresentat~vcscarefully. He writes: "I caution you once again, by all

means set up organizations, establish your unions but see that you frame

rules and select your representatives men to whom you will entrust your

interests with a full understanding of your responsibility. You will keep a

watch over them not only about the finance and management of your

afiairs but also to know what they have actually done in your name and

where they have singed on your behalf You will have to go into all these


The workers have the full right to strike but it should bot be exercised

indiscriminately. It should be the last weapon of the workers to solve their

problems. Gandhiji laid down the conditions under which the strike should be

resorted to.

The cause of the stnke must be just. There should be practical

unanimity among the strikers. Strikers should never depend upon public

subscription or other charity but should occupy themselves in some useful and

productive temporary occupation. A stnke is no remedy when there is enough

other labour to replace strikers. Strikers must fix an unalterable minimum

demand and declare it before embarking upon their strike. There is no room

in a non-violent stnke for violence in the shape of intimidation.

A sbike should not be manipulated. It should be organized under no

compulsion. It should be characterized by perfect co-operation amongst the

strikers. It should be non-violent and there should be no show of force. There

should be no room for goondaisrn and looting. The strikers should take up

some work elther singly or in co-operation with each other so as to earn their

bread during the strike period. Strikers should not lose patience under all

circumstances after going on stnke. But the strikers should not intimidate,

those who do not join the strike. In Gandhiji's own words, "The labourers

have a right to go on strike if the arbitrators do not give their award or if

(the)workers do not go to arbitrators; or if the owners do not act according to

the solution (decision) of the arbitrators".

The stnkers should stick to their demands until they are fulfilled by the

factory owners. Gandhiji laid down the following code of conduct for the

workers to follow during the period of strike. Never to resort to violence,

never to molest black legs; never to depend upon alms; and to remain firm.no

matter how long the strike continues and to earn bread during the strike by

any other honest labour.

8.5.1 ( h d h i a n Concept of Industrial Relations and its Influence on

Indiun 1,ahour Policy

M . K . Gandhi's personality was vast; he devoted his life for the

promotion of human, dignity and welfare, particularly of the under privileged

sections of the community. He made significant contribution to labour-

management relations which has influenced Indian Labour Policy since the

time the Indian National Congress (congress) took the reigns of government

In the states and at the centre.

Gandhi's main aim was to eliminate the conflict potential inherent in

the economlc system by making it shed, to the extent practicable,

acqu~sitivenessand the spirit of discord between employers and workers. He

worked for the golden mean of compromise not only in their mutual interest

but also for promoting the welfare of the community by making uninterrupted

production possible.3' Gandhi's ideas of worker's right to organize for

themselves and to strike work in the last resort, his advocacy of the tripartite

principle for peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, his concept that

employers should function as trustees of labour and both of them as

custodians of the interests of the community, were being experimented in the

textile industry of Ahmedabad at the time the Internatlnal Labour Conference

came into existence in April 1919." G a n h considered industrial relations as

part of human relations and dealt with them at the normative level. He set

norms of behaviours for both employers and workers, the observance of

whlch would ensure smooth industrial relations and increased production.

Before analyzing Gandhi's norms of industrial behaviour, his ideas on

industrialization may briefly be stated. HISstrong conviction gravitated to the

resuscitation of the rural economy. He believed in the potency of the spinning

wheel not only to make the village, Self-sufficient but also to relieve the

poverty of the rural masses. In reply to a question, Gandhi said that he was not

opposed to mass production provided it was done in individual homes and

with simple machine^.'^ Even so, he reckoned with the fact that by the
twenties the textile mills had come to stay despite handicaps to industrial

progress. Though opposed to mechanization, he was pragmatic to recognize

the problems emerging from factory production and propounded a self-

regulated system of labour management relations to meet the extant situation.

His attitude to industrialization had gradually undergone change, as he later

on felt that cottage industries and large scale industries could be harmonized

"if they are planned to help villages" and that "key industries which the nation

needs, may be centralized." Thus, Gandhi reconciled himself to dualism in

the economy Industrial development, to the extent it was unavoidable,

should, according to him, centre mostly round the "model consumer" apart

from the key industries which he agreed should be "centralized".

The principles which Gandh~wanted labour to observe in its dealings

with management were truth and non-violence. He expected the workers, in

the event of differences, to take up only genuine issues with the management

for peaceful settlement. This normative approach to industrial relations was

an empirical test by the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (TLA) under

Gandhi's guidance. Gandhi wanted labour to unite and emphasized labour's

right to withhold co-operation when its interests were in jeopardy. He felt that

"if labour were to understand the workmg of non-violence the power

generated by combination would any day exceed the power of dead metal in

the hands of the cap~talists.'~

Gandhi, however, wanted labour to be organized "along Indian lincs,

or if you will, my lines"." He exhorted workers to be truthful, since he

believed that even if only one side adhered to truth the struggle for it was

bound to succeed." This anchorage of industrial relations to "truth" had

introduced an ethical element raising the plane on which collective bargaining

had to be conducted. In this way, Gandhi applied the principles of non-violent

non-cooperation, which he adopted in the political sphere, to industrial

relations. But before resorting to the extreme course of strike action, Gandhi

made it incumbent on workers and those who guided them to explore and

exhaust all possibilities of a peaceful and "honourable" settlement. Gandhi

observed: "I know that strike is an lnherent right of the worlung men for the

purpose of securing justice; but it must be considered a crime immediately

capitalist accept the principle of arbitration."

According to Gandhi, the right to strike arises only when employers

arc adamant not only to concede the legitimate rights of labour but also to

agree to the reasonable course of arbitration of the issues at dispute. Subject to

these qualificat~ons,labour disputes that may arise would obviously be those

in respect of which employers resort to unfair and stubborn unilateral action.

Not only did Gandhi hedge, the right to strike with arbitration as a pre-

condition for resolving differences and disputes, he also laid down imperative

norms of industrial discipline to be observed by workers who followed him.

Workers had. thus, rights with countervailing obligations as "part-proprietors"

to collaborate w~thmanagement in production. Gandhi's advice to labour


"You ought to take personal interest in the work which you may be

doing whilst you have a perfect right to demand from your employers good

treatment, adequate wages and decent conveniences, it is expected of you that

you will render proper honest service for the wages you get. If you will only

think a little, you will find that by reason of your being employed as labourers

in any individual concern you become part proprietors of that concem

precisely as are those who invest money in that concern." 39

As illiteracy and unenlightened approach might make workers un-

responsive to such dedicated responsibility expected of them, Gandhi laid

emphasis on proper education of workers.

"What are your duties and what are your rights?. It is simple to

understand that your right is to receive higher wages for your labour. And it is

equally simple to know that your duty is to work to the best of your ability for

the wage you received . . . . . . If we find that we are not adequately paid or

housed, how are we to receive enough wages and good accommodation? Who

is to determine the standard of comfort required by the labourers? The best

way no doubt is that you labourers understand the method of enforcing your

rights and enforce them. But for that you require a little previous training-

The education of workers has a significant place in the Gandhian

concept of industrial relations which lays considerable emphasis on the means

to be adopted for achieving modest and just ends. While duly discharging

their responsibilities workers were required to have a balanced approach in

their relations with employers characterized by restraint and constructive

spirit of compromise which they acquire partly by instinct and partly by


Gandhi's advice for a sense of responsibility and restraint was by no

means one-sided. He expected capitalists to hold their wealth as trustees and

to make workers contented. The scheme of thls trusteeship theory was not

spelt out.41The trusteeship concept was left only to the goodwill and social

conscience of the capitalists.42

Gandhi wanted that workers should have access to the working of

mills and their business transactions. This was a natural corollary to the

trusteeship concept and the idea of considering workmen as part-proprietors.

One of Gandhi's arbitration awards regarding an industrial dispute in

Ahmedabad contained the following significant sentence: "it is vital to the

well-being of the industry that workmen should be regarded as equals with

the shareholders and that they have, therefore, every right to posses on

accurate knowledge of the transaction of the mills".43

Gandhi believed that if employers turn into trustees of their wealth and

consider workers as partners in a joint enterprise there would be no occasion

for labour disputes, and in such an ideal state labour might lack interest to

organize itself as a viable group poised for conflict.

Gandhi's trusteeship concept considered not only capitalist but also

labourers as the custodians of public interest. This is based on the assumption

that both employers and workers would develop an enlightened, constructive

and non-violent out look in the discharge of their productive functions and

mutual obligations to promote the interests of the community. The following

observations by Gandhi make this aspect clear:

"The realization of their (worker's) strength combined with adherence

to non-violence would enable them (workers) to co-operate with capital and

turn it into proper use. Then they will not regard it as a conflicting interest,

they will not regard the mill and the machinery as belonging to the exploiting

agents gnnding them down but as their own instruments of production, and

will therefore protect them as well as they would their own property They

will not steal time and turn out less work, but will put in the most they can. In

fact, capital and labour will be mutual trustees and both will be trustees of

consumers. The trusteeship theory is not unilateral, and does not in the least

imply superiority of the trustee.""

It is evident from these observations that Gandhi's aim was to make

trade unlons shed some of their syndicalist characteristics such as violent class

struggle, cont~nuous strikes, sabotage, etc. and make workers adopt

constructive methods of collective action, settling their difference with

employers as far as possible by negotiation and arbitration.

8.6 The Ahmedabad Experiment

Gandhi did not merely propound his concept of industrial relations and

leave it to his followers. As a pragmatic labour leader he put his ideas into

practice. For an appreciation of his influence on the labour movement a brief

account of the labour dispute he sponsored and got settled by a fastidious

application of the principles of "Satyagarha' and arbitration may be relevant.

In the first half of 1918 an industrial dispute regarding the quantum of

"plague bonus" paid to textile mill workers at Ahmedabad had arisen. They

were paid 70 to 80 percent of their wages for inducing them to stay at work

even when plague broke out. Though the plague had subsided, the war-time

inflationary prices of necessaries of life did not abate. Therefore, the bonus

was continued. But the workers had misgivings that the mill-owners were

thinking of discontinuing it. They demanded that if the bonus was to be

discontinued they should be given a 50 percent increase in deamess

allowance in lieu of the bonus. Gandhi was requested by a mill-owner

(Ambalal Sarabhai) to intervene in the dispute. It was agreed by the

representatives of the parties to the dispute that the issue should be settled by

arbitration. The arbitration board consisted of representatives of mill-owners

and workers45 in equal numbers, with the district collector as the umpire.

While Gandhi was away from Ahmedabad the workers of some mills
precipitated a strike. On hearing about the strike, Gandhi returned to

Ahmedabad and apologized to the mill owners for the precipitate action and

offered to dissuade workers from continuing the strike. But the mill-owners

took the stand that since the workers struck work after the appointment of the

arbitration board, the arbitration stood cancelled and that they were free to

deal with the workers who were reluctant to work with 20 percent increase in

wages offered by them.4"

During this period of stalemate that followed, Gandhi made a

meticulous study of the financial position of the mills, thc wage levels

prevailing m Ahmedabad and Bombay, and the economic condition of

workers, and concluded that workers should not demand more than 35

percent increase. Before broaching the proposition to workers, he mooted it

with the management which neither accepted the proposal nor agreed to refer

it to the arbitration board. The mill-owners declared a lockout from 22

February 1918 for 25 days. During its pendency, Gandh~ exhorted the

workers to maintain themselves by alternative employment. The mill-owners

attempted at breaking the strike by ending the lockout on 12 March 191 8 and

by announcing that the mills would be open for those willing to accept the 20

percent increase. With the lifting of the lockout, a strike had commenced.

Gandhi, sensing that workers were giving away, commenced his historic fast

on 16 March 19 18 which finally led to the acceptance of arbitration by the

mill-owners on 20 March 1918.47 The arbitrator gave an award for 35 percent

increase in wages

In announcing the settlement, a leaflet anal~zedits implications thus

(I) "If a serious dispute arises between parties it should be settled not by resort

to a strike but by arbitration", (11) 'since the settlement has come about

through arbitration it is presumed that on a similar occasion in future also an

arbitrator will be appointed', (111) It should not be taken that "An arbitrator

will be appointed even in regard to trifling differences", since (IV) "it will be

humiliating to both parties if a third party, has always to intervene whenever

there is a d~fferencebetween the employers and the ~orkers".~"us

emerged certain principles for the settlement of industrial disputes, namely,

the need for bipartite negotiations for resolving differences, avoidance of

refemng trivia for arbitral settlement; the condition that arbitration of a

dispute should precede strike action, and the application of tripartite principle

as the fulcrum of industrial democracy. And the tripartite principle for the

resolution of industrial disputes gained ground. Commenting on this event,

Louis Fischer observed.

"The principle of arbitration is essential to Gandhiji's philosophy. It

eliminates vlolence and compulsion even in peacehl struggle. It teaches

people tolerance and conciliation. G a n h j i fasted in Ahmedabad labour strike

not for anybody or against anybody, but for a creative idea".4"

At Gandhi's suggestion, the president of the Ahmedabad mill owner's

Association (Ambalal Sarabhai) called a joint meeting of the managing

committee of the association and representatives of the TLA on 18 December

1919 for exploring ways of setting up a permanent machinery for the

settlement of industrial disputes. On 12 January 1920, a tentative scheme was

drawn up providing for a board of referees with seven members from each

side who were to elect a chairman from among themselves for deciding all

disputes. This was referred to a sub-committee. Finally, it was however,

proposed to create a permanent arbitration board composed of Gandlu and the

chairman of the Ahmedabad mill-owner's association. On 14 April 1920 the

association resolved that:

"lf any dispute or difference of opinion arises between the mill owners

and working people and if they are not able to settle it among themselves,

such dispute shall be settled by Mahatma Gandhi and Seth Mangaladas

(president of the Ahmedabad mill owner's Association). For doing so they are

invested with such powers as are ordinarily given to arbitrators on each

occasions." "'

Gandhi did not endorse compulsory arbitration. He suggested that in

the first instance there should be negotiation and discussion between the

accredited organizations of employers and labour and if they proved

infructuous there should be conciliation. If mediation did not succeed,

reference might be made to a single arbitrator or to a board of arbitrators and

their decision should be binding. If for any reason the result was inconclusive

the question should be referred to an umpire whose decision would be final.

If, however, the umpire was unable to give his decision, either of the parties

might resort to direct action, i.e., lockout by employers or strike by workers.

Suitable arrangements for the settlement of individual grievances are

necessary so that they may be mopped up to the satisfaction of the workers

concemed in early stages without allowing them to accumulate. A grievance

procedure is often prescribed for thls purpose. Such a procedure which plays

a useful role in a sound industrial relations system was prevalent in the

Ahmedabad textile mills at the time the royal commission on labour reported.

The working of the Ahmedabad industrial relations machinery was described

by the royal commission on labour (1931) in the following words:

"All grievances are, in the first instance, discussed between the

workers themselves, and the management of the mills concemed. If any

worker has a grievance, he reports to a member of the council of

representatives f ~ o mhis mill. The member speaks to the head of the

department and the agent of the mill, if necessary. If the gnevance is not

redressed a formal complaint is recorded in the labour association. The

association offic~alusually the secretary or the assistant secretary goes to the

mill, ascertains the correctness of the complaint and requests the mill officer

or the agent to redress the grievance. If no settlement is arrived at during this

stage, the matter is reported by the labour association to the mill-owner's

association, The secretary of the mill-owners association speaks to the mill

concemcd anti tries to settle the matter amicably. If the workers do not get

redress after the matter has been discussed between the mill-owner's

association and the labour association, it is finally referred to the permanent

arbitrations board. In case of disagreement between the arbitrators, the dispute

is referred to an umpire acceptable to both and the decision is binding."

With few exceptions, the system of voluntary arbitration had ensured

from 1920 to 1957 that there was no serious strike but for one in 1923 for

about ten weeks5' M.A. Pate1 of the Ahrnedabad mll-owner's Association

whlle mentioning about advantages of arbitration to the textile industry

wrote: "The bonus dispute from 1920-1923, the wage disputes of 1930 and

35 and such others were amicably settled. It (arbitration) prevented loss of

millions of man-days, loss of wages to workers, and loss of profits to the

industry. With this spirit of co-operation, it was also possible to accept the

principle of rationalization in 1935, as well as the introduction of

standardization of wages in 1938 which, in some cases, meant a decrease in


Gandhi held the TLA as model saying that if he had his way he would

pattern all the labour organization in the country after it. He continued, till his

death in 1948, to be a member of the advisory committee of the TLA.

It cannot be said that in Ahmedabad the relations between employers

and labour were always idyllic. There were instances of anti-unionism and
non-compliance with awards on the part of mill-owners. The union initially

reacted by striking work instead of seeking redress through established

procedure.5 4 There were hying times which put considerable strain on the

arbitration machinery The early period (from 1920 to 1923) was riddled with

a series of strikes. A prolonged strike took place on the wage cut of 20

percent effected by the mill-owners association owing to the worsening trade

situation. Gandhi was in prison at the time. The strike lasted from 1 April to 4

June, 1923. It affected 56 mills and 43,113 workers and resulted in a loss of

2,370,933 men-days. The strike weakened the union which finally agreed to a

1 5 -percent. wage Despite occasional strikes, however, the Ahmedabad

experiment in labour-management relations has, by and large, been a shining

example of smooth industrial relations. For this, the leadership and guidance

of Gandhi and the dedicated work of a band of trade unionists who have been

associated for a number of years with the TLA are largely responsible. In a

study of the Ahrnedabad experiment, Gandhi's role has been succinctly

summed up as follows.

From one point of view the most important contribution of Mahatma

Gandhi in Ahmedabad was to supply first principles. He provided the workers

and Ahmedabad Textile labour association with principles for trade union

action and he offered the mill-owners, the principles of respect for the

worker's right to organize, of joint &scussion with labour and of voluntary

8.7 Gandhian Perspective on Capital- Labour Relationship

The Gandhian ideology of industrial relations advocates a system of

conciliation and arbitration in resolving industrial disputes. In this ideology,

capital and labour are not regarded as antagonistic but as interdependent, and

this interdependence is justified through the concepts of morality and ethics. It

is no wonder that it had been regarded as a reactionary ideology, which

restricts the development of class forces.

A close examination of the Gandhian ideology indicates that the above

is too simple an analysis. Though Gandhi eventually wanted capital and

labour to evolve an interdependent relationship, he had simultaneously

identified some crucial areas of conflict between capital and labour. These

were related to the necessities governing the basic conditions concerning the

existence of workers. In the Gandhan system, these needs were considered

workers rights and a struggle for these rights was given legitimacy. However,

Gandhian ideology was not able to reconcile the two positions-that of

advocating interdependence and mutuality between capital and labour, and

that of emphasizing the right of workers to struggle to obtain their basic


This inherent inconsistency in the ideology makes a possible formation

of two alternative movements; one, a working class movement which

articulates radical demands and advocates continues struggle against capital,

and two, a trade union movement whose basic objective is to evolve an

understanding with capital and obtain those demands that capital is willing to

give. A semblance of the first alternative occurred in Ahrnedabad during the

period, 1920-23, after which took place the growth of the second alternative.

The first part of this section will spell out the basic contours of h s

philosophy, while the second will highlight some of these inconsistencie~.~~

Until the dispute of 1918, Gandhi had not spelt out his thoughts on the

capital labour relationship in industries. As late as in December 1917, he had

evaluated the problem of capital-labour conflict as that of a familial conflict

between the brother and sister Amhernabad Ansaya ~ a r a b h a s . ' ~However,

once he had identified himself with the issues raised by the workers, he

devoted his full mind to explicating the issue. The pamphlets he wrote and the

speeches he made to the workers during and after the dispute of 1918,

indicate the extent to which he developed his ideas.

The core of the Gandhian ideology of Industrial relations lies in his

conceptions of morality and ethics built on such concepts as justice, honour,

dignity and self-respect. These provide normative guidelines for interaction

between the two groups.

Gandh~,very early, recognized that both capital and labour had their

respective "strengths"; the mill owners had money, the workers their hands

and feet. While other social philosophers had highlighted the unequal nature

of these "strengths, Gandh~emphasized a mutuality between capital and

labour. For him, the wealth of the capitalist was useless without the workers,
for there would be no hands to make the mills work. Similarly, without the

mill owners the workers would be useless; there would be no mills for them

to work in."

Like many philosophers who made distinctions between the East and

the West, Gandhi also made an effort to highlight certain spiritual and inward

looking dimensions of the East as against the materialistic and outward

looking dimensions of the west. He justified his concept of mutuality in

capital-labour relationship by emphasizing the "eastern" notion of justice as

against the western notion of justice. To Gandhi, what was distinctive of the

East was the sense of justice based on notions of fellow feeling, compassion

and mercy. These notions determined relationships between groups in society.

In traditional society, this sense of justice was reflected in the master-servant

relationship. Servants who had been associated with the masters' family for

generations were always regarded as part of the family. As a result, conflicts

between master and servant were settled mutually.6n

Gandh~extended this argument to fit the modern industrial sector in

the East. If, what was distinctive of the East was its notion ofjustice, then this

sense of justice should become the guiding norm in the industrial sector of the

East. Capital and labour in the east had to understand this notion of justice

and govern themselves according to the rules of mutuality. They should not

imitate the west whose conception of justice was different- formal,

unemotional, and individualistic, so that continuous conflicts between capital

and labour evolved and were encouraged to develop.6'

On what basis should this mutuality lknction? Here, Gandhi developed

a notion of rights and obligations of the two groups towards each other. He

also specified the distinct spaces in which both groups could operate. The

right of the worker was to demand and obtain for himself a decent human

standard of living by which his economic, social and cultural needs would be

realized. These were adequate food and clothing for a family, housing, and

educational facilities, and enough wages for a satisfactory living. These rights

of the workers become in turn the obligations of the employer would be to

expect the workers to be considerate in their demands and relate these to the

health of the industry. This in turn,became the obligation of the workers." By

attachng these rights and obligations to the roles of both the mill owners and

the workers, Gandhi was able to reinforce the theme of "mutuality" he had

spelled out earlier.

But what do the workers do when their rights are not given to them?

Here Gandhi appended to the other rights also the right to strike. This right,

was in fact, a weapon in the hands of the workers through which they could

realize their other rights. However, he was cautious about its applicability. It

was a potentially dangerous weapon that had to be used with discretion.

Therefore, the decision to allow the workers to go on strike was vested in the

hands of the advisers extended to the industry who, because they understood
and supported the principles of huth, justice and non-violence, would be able

to take a f&r decision.'"

For Gandhi, it was important that the second course- that of struggle

through strikes- should not be undertaken lightly while it meant a triumph of

justice, it also meant suffering; whle it meant the realization of truth, it also

meant v~olcncc.Therefore, he imposed a critical function on the role of the

advisers who, while acting in the interests of the workers, while dissuading

them from striking would also pressurize the mill owners into accepting the

demands of the workers. It was then natural for Gandhi to argue that these

advisers should help the workers kom a union to represent their demands (in

the context ot' their rights) to the mill owners and thus to curtail their

impulsive action of resorting to strike by channelling these actions through

non-violent means- the advisers, in the Gandhian ideology adopted the role of

mediators whose goal was to defuse the conflicts between capital and

labour '"

Having provided the justification for the interdependence of capital-

labour relationship, Gandhi stipulated the means through which the disputes

between capital and labour would be settled. Arbitration was the answer. But

the Gandhian arbitration board would not function as a normal arbitration

board whose decision would be binding on the parties. Instead, the 'panch',

as he called it was to be a board in which the representation of the employees

and employers would have consultations and would try to come to a decision.
If these consultations failed to generate an agreement, then an empire would

be nominated whose decisions would be binding on both the parties.65 In

this manner, Gandhi evolved a system of arbitration on conciliation to guide

the conflicts in the relationships.

Gandhi's notion of need was very ambiguous. He defmed the worker's

needs generally including among these economic, social, cultural (including

health and education) and religious needs. Gandhi himself did not define

these needs clearly. They got defined by the workers with the help of the

advisers, when they started formulating their demands. Gandhi, early in 1918,

had defined, economic need by postulating a correlation between price

increase and wages.66 Housing was defmed as part of the economic need.

Educational need was defined as creation of schools for education of worker's

children and adult education classes for the workers.

I'he definitions of economic need raised problems, especially as

Gandhi had associated it with the health of the industry. Gandhi had defined

this notion very broadly, distinguishing only between profits and losses.

Nevertheless, as the movement progressed, the concept of economic need-

i.e., of higher wages- changed to a demand for linking wages to profits and/

or profit distribution, a demand which was perceived as a threat by the mill

owners and which, ultimately, led to the stnke of 1923

To emphasize interdependence between the contending classes,

Gandhian ideology converted rights of the workers into obligations of the mill
owners. 'This made the workers direct all their demands to the mill owners.

This led to an increase in confrontations between the mill owners and

workers. Gandhi had insisted that strikes should be used to obtain better

conditions of living and for obtaining, the other rights which were part of the

basic needs of the workers.67 As a result, in the early years of the growth of

the movement, the workers continued to use this strategy to press more


But should the movement always use the strategy of confrontation to

demand improvements in working and living conditions, when its ultimate

aim is to establish a harmonious relationship with capital? Would not the

strategy, of confrontation with capital, destroy the evolving harmonious

relationship between capital and labour and invite a backlash from capital?

Gandhi was not conscious of these problems. He left the decision to the

advisors whose role thus became critical. They became a decisive force in

guiding the movement whether through a confrontation strategy or through a

conciliatory strategy. In the period between 1920-23, it was a strategy of

confrontation that was adopted by the movement.

This strategy had already been adopted earlier by Gandhi in the

dispute of 1918 The momentum of building the movement in the context of

the relative liberal attitude of the mill owners in granting wage demands,

because of the need to continuous uninterrupted production and the absence

of trade union leaders to give a direction to the movement had made possible
the growth of a working class movement which had adopted a strategy of

confrontation with capital.

On the other hand, the general strike of 1923 and the collapse of the

militancy of the movement led to the growth of a conciliatory strategy.

8.8 Gandhian Ideology in Action

On the basis of the teaching, e t i n g s and experiments of Gandhi of

which a reasonable though feeble account is attempted in the preceding

pages, the researcher has made an empirical study of the relevance of the

basics of Gandhian principles and the scope of their applications in the

present day trade union movement which can prove vital to the sustenance

and growth of this country's industry. The ills and ailments within the trade

union area contributing to the adverse industrial climate in the country are

systematically analysed by eliciting the views of a cross section of the

workers, trade union leaders and managerial personnel. Though no concrete

or definite treatments for the problems may be forthcoming in many cases it

has been found possible to study the symptoms in most cases. It is not over

optimism to say that further systematic studies will lead to concrete, definite

and fruithl results. To many a problems Gandhian solutions have emerged as

the only solutions and their relevance even more understood today.

The analysis of the studies is given below. During the early stages of

growth of trade unions nurtured by Gandhi external advisers played a role

in educating the ignorant workers and guiding them in whatever they

needed. External advisors as contemplated by Gandhiji are no more in

existence now Responses to the statements are given in the tables 8.1 and

Table 8.1
Opinion of the Workers on External Advisers as Contemplated by

41.3% 38.0% 14%


1 1
: :3 43,' :8.

40.4% 41.2% 10.8%

Source: Primary data

A large majority of workers(81.696) either strongly agreed or agreed

that external advisers as contemplated by Gandhi are non- existent now.

There is not much variation in the responses of INTUC, ClTU and other

unions workers though agreement is maximum among other union workers.

This observation by large majority of workers is probably an

expression that something which they want is missing. A force to foster

fraternity among workers and a near friend, philosopher or guide to help them
in times of need, to give a piece of advice when they are in trouble, to console

them in times of difficulty: this may be what every average worker would

happily look forward to. This may be a group of dedicated trained people,

different from the trade union leaders leading the trade union organizations.

They will render a human touch to the day to day genuine problems of the

workers. This is probably the indirect meaning of workers response.

Table 8.2

Opinion of the Trade Union Leaders on External Advisers as

Coatemplated by Gandhiji

No Percentage

I l

Agree 50 SOYO

2 Strongly Agree 26 26%

3 No oplnion 4 4%

4 Disagree 14 14%

5 Strongly Disagree 6 6%

Total 100 100

Source: Primary data

50% of the leaders agreed that the kind of external advisers as

contemplated by Gandhiji are no more in existence while 26% strongly agreed to

it. 4% did not give any opinion and 14% disagreed. 6% strongly disagreed.

While majority agreed that outside advisers are non-existent and only a

minority disagreed. It is not clear whether the majority is failing to see the
external advisel-s whom the minority is capable of seeing. The relevance of the

outside advisers is neither debated nor disputed in this context.

Workers as well as leaders joined hands in agreeing that external

advisers as contemplated by Gandhiji have almost become extinct. We can only

guess what the course of trade union history would have been if the external

advisers contemplated were allowed to hnction and continued to exist

Possibly many good developments would have taken place in the trade union

scene if Gandhiji's dreams in these lines were concretized

Candhian idea offinding out alternative work during strike period

Table 8.3
Opinion of the Workers about Gandhixn idea of Finding out
Alternative Work during Strike Period

Trade Fighting Opportunity Allernative Workers may Other Total

Union spirit will to raise funds jobs are not not return to reasons
bc lost would be lost available the original

ClTU 56 13 49 4 122

45.9% 10.7% 40.2% 3.2% - 48.6

INTUC 39 14 31 3 2 89

43.8% 15.7% 34.8% 3.4% 2.2% 35.6%

Others 23 2 12 2 - 39

59.0% 5.1% 30.8% 5.1% - 15.6%

Total 118 29 92 9 2 250

47.2% 1 1.6% 36.8% 3.6% 0.8% 100%

Source: Primary Data

The reason given by the highest percentage of workers of all union for

not taking up alternative job during strike period as advised by Gandhi is that
fighting spirit of the workers would be lost. This may be true to some extent

as only if the workers concentrate on the agitation and involve in them

directly good results would come. It may be noted that loss of fighting spirit is

given as the reason by about 61% of the members of other unions. That means

the real fighting spirit is with thamGandhi had in mind the all round growth

of the individual worker including proper upbringing of the family , in mind

when he advised workers taking up alternative job. The second reason given

by workers is non-availability of jobs which is given by as high as 40.3%

CITU workers. They seem to be well aware of the unemployment problem

which probably had not reached the present dimensions during Gandhiji's

time. Had this not been a living problem many workers would have taken up

alternative jobs and then some might not return also.

L.oss of fund raising opportunity is not given us a major cause for not

encouragmg taking up alternative employment. But it may be noted that it is

highest among INTUC workers and next comes CITU with other unions

contibuting only as low as 2 % share .

Table 8.4

Opinion of the Trade union Leaders about Gandhian idea of Finding

oltt Alternative Work during Strike Period

Gandhian idea of finding out alternative work during strike period is not

appealing to the present day leaders.

N = 100
Multiple Responses
St. 1 Responses 1 No I Percentage (
A Fighting spirit of the workers will be lost 64 64%

B Opportunity to raise h d s for supporting 2 2%

the striking workers
C Alternat~veemployment are not available 72 72%

D Workers may not return to original work 34 34%

E I Other reasons 6 1 6% I
Source: Primary data

Gandhiji suggested that workers should find out alternative jobs but the

present day labour leaders are not taking this seriously. The reasons for this were

sought from the union leaders. According to a bigger share of 72% union

leaders, non availability of alternate jobs was the main reason why workers did

not take up such jobs. According to 64% of them fighting spirit of the workers

will be lost if they take upon alternative job. Only 2% of the leaders stated that

they did not take it seriously because it will not be possible to collect hnds from

them in that case. A minority of 34% leaders gave the reason that the workers
niay not rcturn to their original work and that is why they did not encourage

their taking up new job. A small minority of 4% gave other reasons.

It is clear that no union leader is against the above Gandhian idea but the

conditions prevailing in this country now are not conducive to taking up new

jobs. For example non-availability of alternative jobs or workers not returning to

their original job. These are very serious situations the present dimensions of

which possibly Gandhiji did not foresee.

While majority of workers gave loss of fighting spirit as the reason

for finding out alternative work as not appealing while non-availability of

alternative job is given as the reason by majority of leaders. Employment

opportunities as visualized by Gandhiji during his times and the present

availability of employment opportunities have different and diverging

dimensions today. Hence evaluation of the responses pose a different


Another statement regarding Gandhian socialism was put before the

workers, leaders as well as managers. "Gandhiji aimed to convert the

capitalist order of society into an egalitarian one in which no property would

be held by any one except on behalf of the people and for the people." The

responses are analysed below.

Table 8.5

Opinion of the Workers about Gandhian Socialism

Strongly I Total I

Source: Primary data

Collective ownership of property for common benefit is now

universally accepted. Communists accepted it, irrespective of the mode

adopted for implementing the principle. Gandhiji advocated it through truth

and nonviolence. For this he advocated the philosophy of Aparigraha. ie. non-

possession where individuals are encouraged to renounce worldly

possessions. 7'hls would facilitate equitable distribution of wealth on the

principle of 'Love Thy Neighbour'.

The workers response to the question of collective ownership of

property and Gandhian socialism is found to be overwhelming. 78.7% CITU

workers affiliated to Communist party agreed to it as their own philosophy of

socialism when 79.7% workers belonging to INTUC found socialism in

another cup as Gandhian socialism, a voluntary renouncement of private

ownership of property, as agreeable. The largest percentage of

agreement(87 1%) came from workers of other unions affiliated to other

different political parties or non-affiliated. All these may be the result of basic

human instinct to love and share, rather than to hate or separate. Man as a

social animal has no existence in isolation. Workers may be gradually

realising and accepting it. It is probably this type of Gandhian socialism only

that can equate the workers to managers(capita1) and leaders. This should in

turn lead to universal brotherhood.

It may be noted that a sizable percentage(] 5.2%) of workers have not

expressed the~ropinion on this vital question. During the present age of

globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation when countries of the world are

on cross-roads, a principle parallel to lake faire doctrine, it is only natural that

some are hes~tantto express in favour of socialism of any kind. Those

opposing socialism are however a minute minority

Table 8.6
Trade Union Leaders Opinion about Gandhian Socialism
Opinion No Percentage
Agreed 62 62%
Strongly agree 22 22%
No opinion 2 2%
Disagree 12 12%
Strongly disagree 2 2%
Total 100 100%
Source: Primary data
62% leaders agreed to Gandhiji's idea while 22% strongly agreed. 2%

leaders did not want to give their opinion. 12% disagreed and 2% strongly


This is a question on which trade union leaders are sharply divided.

Though majority of union leaders agree to the Gandhian idea of collective

ownership of property ,a good section of the leaders, probably with capitalistic

aftiliation, are strongly against the idea. It is probably fear of loss of popularity

that makes a big majority of leaders agree to Gandhian socialism.

Table 8.7

Opinion o f the Managers about the Gandhian Socialism

Opinions Number Percentage

Agee 15 30

Strongly agree 11 22

Disagree 10 20

No opinion 14 28

Total 50 100
Source: Primary data

A large majority of workers and their leaders wholeheartedly agreed

and aflirmed the Gandhian vision of socialistic pattern of society. Majority

of managers also agreed to this, but their percentage is lower. Gandhi's

basic tenet of non-possession, aparigraha, is enshrined in the above vision.

It is only natural that a cross section of the group predominantly managers

are not in favour of common ownership of all properties as some of them are
possessed with their possessions. But for a stable social order some

sacrifices are mevitable.

"According to Gandhiji truth and non-violence must be the touch

stones of the means to be adopted, while the socialists and the communists

emphasised the results and would use force, if necessary to achieve them." To

this statement the opinions are table below.

Table 8.8

Workers opinion about Gandhiji's idea of using truth and non-violence

as the means to be adopted

Trade Strongly Agree No Disagree Strongly Total

Union Agree opinion disagree

ClTU 54 25 23 18 2 122

44 3% 20 5% 18 8% 14 8% 1 6% 48 8%

INTUC 32 15 8 24 10 89

360% 169% 90% 27 0% 112% 356%

Others 10 8 3 11 7 39

25 6% 205% 77% 28 2% 179% 156%

Total 48 34 53 19 250

384% 192% 136% 21 2% 7 6% 100%

Source Pnmary data

Those who strongly agree to the idea of using truth and non-violence

as the means to be adopted to achieve goals is maximum. This means that

those who know and feel it do so strongly. Majority of workers are agreeing to

adoption of truth and non-violence. It can be understood that the ideology of

the party to which a union is affiliated is not always influencing the means to

be adopted by the trade union. That is why CITU, which is affiliated to

communist party, emphasizing the result and using force if necessary to

achieve their goals is leading in adopting truth and non-violence. This is

probably the result of their experience that violence and force has never led

to an effective and lasting solution to any industrial problem. It is truth alone

that prevails. It is peaceful, non-violence, negotiations and collective

bargaining that has brought glory to the trade unions and positive gains for

workers. Though militancy may bring some positive gains, like workers

rallying round the leaders, lasting peaceful solutions emerge only from

negotiated settlements, which usually satisfy both workers and the

management. Both parties also realise their roles in arriving at a peaceful

solution to the problems.

However, those disagreeing and strongly disagreeing to adopting truth

and non-violence, as the means also are a sizeable number 28.8%. This might

be because, experience taught them that no fruitful purpose will be served by

truth and non-violence. It might be the arrogance and non flexible attitude of

the management towards some of the workers that led to such wnclusions.

Peaceful methods have more social acceptability and legal sanctions.

Table 8.9
Opinion of the Trade Union Leaders about Gandhiji's idea of using
Truth and Non-violence as the Means to be adopted

Opinion I NO 1 Percentage

Agree I 24 1 24%

Strongly agree l 10

No opinion 8 8%

Disagree 48 48%

Strongly disagree 1 10 1 10%

Source: Primary data

24% agreed to the communist and socialist principle that end justified the

means while 10% of them strongly agreed to it, 8% leaders did not give their

opinion. 48% disagreed while 10% strongly disagreed to the socialist and

communist principle to give support to Gandhian principle based on truth and


The above result shows that political undercurrents and ideologies are

strongly influencing the trade union leadership. Both factions are expressing for

and against principles dearer to them.

Table 8.10

Opinion of the Managers about Gandhiji's Idea of using Truth and

Non-violence as the Means to be Adopted

1 Opinions I Number 1 Percentage I

Agree 20 40

Strongly agree 12 24

Disagree 10 20

No opinion 8 16

Total 50 100
Source: Primary data

It can be observed that the mass of the working class want to express

their solidarity with Gandhi's adherence to truth and non-violence. At no

point Gandhi is willing to abandon these basics which are dear to him.

Majority of the managers are apparently agreeing to this. While coming to

leaders they seem to be more practical and aware that achievement of

results i.e. realization of goals, is what makes their role a success. For them

their end is most important and any dispute about means cannot stand in

their way. But experience has shown and will show that any success

achieved through un-Gandhian means will be short lived.

"Gandhiji warned labour to reject the principle that "Might is right"

and upholds the dictum that "Truth alone conquest, that truth knows no
mishap, that the strong and the weak allke have a right to secure justice". To

this statement the opinions are tabled below.

Table 8.1 1

Opinion of the Workers regarding Gandhian View of Justice

Trade Strongly Agree No Disagree Strongly Total

Union agree opinion disagree

CITU 65 51 3 2 I 122

53.3% 41.8% 2.5% 1.6% 0.8% 48.8%

INTUC 44 40 3 2 - 89

49.4% 44.9% 3.4% 2.3% - 35.6%

Others 22 13 1 3 39

56.4% 33.3% 2.6% 7.7% 15.6%

Total 131 104 7 7 l 250

52.4% 41.6% 2.8% 2.8% 0.4% 100%

Source: Primary data

The sense of justice inculcated in the minds of the working class is

evident in their response to the statement that strong and weak alike have a

right to secure justice. This fundamental principle is what attracts the workers

towards trade unions. About 94% workers irrespective of union membership

have expressed agreement to the statement affirmed by Gandhi that truth

alone conquests and truth knows no mishap. They are also prepared to reject

the principle that might is right.

This establishes the fact that all workers are basically peace loving and

that they want all issues to be settled peacefully to the satisfaction of all
without prejudice to membership in any particular union. There is no

significant variation in the thinking expressed by workers of all union though

the members of other union have expressed maximum strong agreement. This

shows that there is strong approval for Gandluji's view of justice even from

unions which have not adopted socialism as their motto. This reveals the

goodness of the method to secure justice and welfare for all and its universal

acceptability. Fight among strong and weak will only lead to discontent and

disparity. It will widen the gap between the haves and havenots, the

management and the workers. Only harmonious creativity using the weapon

of truth will secure justice for all. This only will lead to lasting solutions to the

problems faced by industry. Trade union can also &ty a creative role only if

they adopt these principles. The minority not agreeing to these peaceful

methods are probably yet to realise that they are treading on dangerous path.

Here one can observe, that a majority of workers are by any means for

achieving their goals though they are not prepared to disregard Gandhiji's

weapons of Truth and Non-violence which form part and parcel of the path to


Gandhiji warned labour to reject the principle that "Might is Right" and

upholds the dictum that "Truth alone conquest, that truth knows, no mishap, that

the strong and the weak have alike a right to secure justice". To this statement

the opinions are elicited below.

T-LI- '! 4-

lrding Gandhian View of

56% of leaders agreed to the above statement while 32% strongly agreed
to the statement 8% disagreed and 4% strongly disagreed.
The big majority of agreement shows that most of the union leaders are

for securing justice to all classes irrespective of whether weak or strong.

Gandhiji wanted unions to abhor violence and force for securing these ends to

which most of the union leaders are agreeable. Only a small minority has

expressed disagreement, as they may be having definite goals.

Table 8.13
Opinion of the Managers regarding Gandhian View of Justice
Opinions Number Percentage
Agree 18 36
Strongly agree 28 56
I Disagree I 4 I 8
No opinion - -
Total 50 100
Source: P n m w data
The workers, leaders and managers are near unanimous in agreeing to

Gandhi's rejection of the dictum "Might isright". Ultimate victory of truth

as proclaimed and advocated by Gandhiji is unacceptable only to a minute

minority Justice cannot be denied to anyone whether he be strong or weak.

Truth alone will prevail and that alone will secure justice to all. In Gandhi's

own words "truth and non-violence are as old as the hills". No workers,

no leader nor any manager can overlook this truth and disagree to the above

Gandhian princ~ple.

"Gandhiji was opposed to the intrusion of politics into trade unionism,

even though he readily conceded that labour, as it inwardly developed, would

become the tremendous political force in the nation". To this statement the

opinions are tabled below.

Table 8.14

Opinion o f the Workers about Gandhian views o f lntr~rsiono f

Politics into trade Unionism
Trade Strongly Agree No Disagree Strongly Total
IJnion Agree opinion disagree

INTUC 33 48 6 1 1 89

39% 54.0% 6.7% 1.2% 1.2% 35.6%

Others 16 20 2 1 . 39
41% 51.2% 5.1% 2.6% - 16.6%
Total 109 117 16 5 3 250
43.6% 46.8% 6.4% 2.0% 1.2% 100%
Source: Primary data
This shows that a great majority of employees accept the fact that

Gandhiji could foresee the role of politics in trade unionism as well as its

inevitability and the futility of opposing entry of politics into trade unionism.

Gandhiji was never in favour of mixing up politics with trade

unionism. He was well aware of the fact that labour as it developed became a

tremendous force with limited potential. He had expressed his unhappiness

over intrusion of politics into trade unionism. Over 90% have expressed

agreement with Gandhiji's view on this matter. Members of other union

whch are possibly less politicised have expressed more agreement(over 92%)

with Gandhiji's views.

Gandhiji allowed politicians to enter the trade union field very

reluctantly. He could probably foresee the bad results that would follow. He

might have been also aware of the inevitability of the politicians intruding into

this area. Working class unitedly agree to the views expressed by Gandhiji

probably after seeing for themselves the lund of games politicians play to

exploit the working class to meet their own political ends. Much of the rotten

rubbish that accumulated in the trade union arena in the last few years seem

to have resulted fiom the decaying political culture of the parties to which the

trade unions are affiliated. Workers may be loohng forward to a time when

trade unions can free themselves from the clutches of political forces and still

continue to perform their functions effectively without any strings attached to

their movements.
'The force of unity and integrity are lost in multiplicity and

fragmentation following political polarisations. The need for a delinking of

trade union from politics is felt may majority of workers, it appears

Table 8.15

Opinion of the Trade Union Leaders about Gandhian views of Intrusion

of Politics into Trade Unionism

Opinion No Percentage

Agreed 76 76%
Strongly agreed 14 14%

No opinion 4 4%

Disagree 4 4%

Strongly disagree 2 2%

Total 100 100

Source: Primary data

76% of the leaders agreed to the above statement and 14% strongly

agreed while 4% did not have any opinion. Only 4% each disagreed and

2%strongly disagreed.

Gandhiji was against, like any independent critic or observer intrusion of

politics into trade unionism but at the same time Gandhiji was very sure of the

inevitability of politics intruding into trade union arena as the labour movement

was bound to develop and expand into a huge force engulfing the other forces

controlling politics. No union leader can now deny this truth as this situation has
already come about. So it is natural that majority of union leaders have agreed

to the above statement

Table 8.16

Opinion of the Managers about Gandhian views of Intrusion of Politics

into Trade Unionism

Opinion Number Percentage

Agree 20 40

Strongly agree 18 36

Disagree 10 20

No opinion 2 4

Total 50 100

Source: Primary data

The democracy in India grew up side by side with labour

movement. GandGi had the foresight and wisdom to predict this. The

tremendous inherent powers of the labour movement and the influence of

their undercurrents on the political scene were a matter of history. However

Gandhiji was opposed to politicians intruding into the trade union arena as

he wanted the labour movement to stand up on its own and develop its own

organs without any strings. Managers who do not support this idea of

Gandhi are the people who thnk trade unions cannot have an existence

without politics in our highly politicized country. But what Gandhiji thought

and expressed was in the best interest of the country to take the labour to the

heights he expected.
According to Gandhi "rights originate from duties". How far this is

acceptable to the Indian workers and their leaders? An attempt was made to

find out this. The results are tabled below.

Table 8.17

Opinion of the workers about 'rights originate from duties'

Trade Strongly Agree No Disagree Strongly Total

Union Agree opinion disagree

ClTU 60 58 3 1 - 122

49.2% 47.5% 2.5% 0.8% - 48.8%

INTUC 37 48 2 2 . 89

41.5% 53.9% 2.3% 2.3% 35.6%

Others 20 18 - 1 39

51.3% 46.1% - 2.6% 15.6%

Total 117 124 5 4 - 250

46.8% 49.6% 2.0% 1.6% - 100%

Source : Primary data

Big majority of workers are very well conscious of their duties that

they have to perform before they ask for their rights.

This is a very ancient Indian thought and philosophy that Gandhiji

imbibed by the study of Dharma concept in Hindu Philosophy. Though the

linkage of rights and duties is there in western thinking, rights originate in

duties, or rather, "do your duty first and rights will automatically follow" is

essentially an Indian thinking. The overwhelming majority of workers (96%)

joining hands with Gandhi in agreeing to the statement shows how strongly
deep rooted are these concepts in Indian minds. This may also point to the

fact that workers may be well conscious of their place on this planet earth and

their roles. Performance of his duty should be the first priority. Work should

be hls worship. Good h i t s will flow from hard work and his share of the

fruits may be his rightful share. No one can get a share of the fruits of hard

work without being actively involved in performing duties

The fate of those who indulge in absenteeism and run away from dub

becomes clear from the views expressed by the huge majonty Only those

who contribute the~rshare of work is to be rewarded. Duty comes first to

oneself, to his family and then to society.

Table 8.18

Opinion of the leaders regarding "rights originate from the duties"

Opinion No. Percentage

Agree 56 56%

Strongly Agree 40 40%

No opinion - -

Disagree 2 2%

Strongly Disagree I 2 I 2% 1
Total 100 100
Source: Primary data

While 56% of the leaders agreed to the above Gandhian principle 40%

strongly agreed showing that a big majority is in agreement with Gandhiji's

opinion on this principle. 2% disagreed and strongly disagreed respectively.

This is an ancient Indian thinking that everyone must do his duty first and

his right will be taken care of Most of the union leaders do not want to deviate

from this basically Indian philosophy which Gandhiji has adopted. Only a

minority having strong opposite political affiliation may be expressing

disagreement to this principle.

In ancient legal as well as social thoughts and philosophy one's duty

comes first and foremost. After performing his duties he does not even have to

ask for his rights. Rights will be automatically protected or taken care of It is the

duty of the kin3 to protect the rights of duty bound citizens. These principles

have been adopted during the course of our historical development and find a

prominent place even in our constitution. The workers and their leaders seem to

adopt and accept the same through the responses and rightly so. But how far we

can perceive this in their practical approaches is highly disputable.

"Gandhi placed before the trade union the purpose of raising the

moral and intellectual height of labour and thus make it capable not merely

of bettering its material condition, but also of becoming master of the means

of production instead of being a slave to it". To the above statement the

responses of the workers, leaders and managers are tabled below.

Table 8.19
Opinion of the workers regarding the Gandhain vision of raising 'the
moral and intellectual heights' of labour

Trade Strongly Agree No Disagree Strongly Total

Union Agree opinion disagree

CITU 59 50 7 2 4 122

48.4% . 41% 5.7% 1.6% 3.3% 48.8%

W C 34 41 6 7 1 89

38.2% 46.1% 6.7% 7.8% 1.1% 35.6%

Others 16 17 1 4 1 39

41 .O% 43.6% 2.6% 10.3% 2.6% 15.6%

Total 109 108 14 13 6 250

43.6% 43.2% 5.6% 5.2% 2.4% 100%

Source: Primary data

It is evident from the table that a great majority of workers of all

unions are agreeing with what Gandhi wanted the workers to strive to seek

Gandhji wanted labour to reach its proper place. Though a down trodden

class, workers are also human beings and securing justice for working class

was past of attainment of universal justice. Securing better living wnditions

from where they standard was the primary goal of the trade union. Improving

on those material conditions remains the goal. But the ultimate goal should be

to make him the master of the means of production. Man is the roof and

crown of god creation. The means of production are creations of man. So first

the worker has to become master of man's own creation. He cannot remain a

slave of mans own creation which are the means of productions.

First he has to scale the moral and intellectual heights. By constant and

continuous education (learning) and refinement his moral and intellectual

heights have to be raised. He should be educated to understand where he

stands. That is, self-realisation should come.

Gandhi~i'svision of real equality is e n s h n e d in his idea. There should

be equality between man and man. The working class should not remain

down- trodden Their uplifiment lies in their moral upliftment. This is not

possible without their intellectual u p l i h e n t for which proper education and

training of mind is essential Transparency of Gandhi's intentions are visible to

the working class. That is the reason why a great maJority is agreeing with


"Gandhiji placed before the trade union the purpose of raising the moral

and intellectual height of labour and thus make it capable not merely of bettering

its material condition, but also of becoming master of the means of production

instead of being a slave to it".

Table 8.20
Opinion of the leaders regarding the Gandhain vision of raising 'the
moral and intellectual heights' of labour
I Agreed I 76 I 76% I
I Strongly agreed I 12
I 12%
I No opinion l 8
l 8%
( Disagree 1 2 I 2% 1
Strongly disagree 2 2%

Total 100 100%

Source: Primary data
76% of leaders agreed and 12% strongly agreed to the above statement.

8% did not have any opinion. 2% disagreed and 2% strongly disagreed.

Gandhiji knew that labourers started almost as slaves of the capitalist. He

did not want them to continue in that status. He wanted their material condition

to improve and gradually reach a position where he is the master of his own

destiny and captain of the ship. His position had to be no where below that of the

management- Gandhiji made this position very clear also. Then how can the

labour leaders disagree to it. Those disagreeing might be doing so, not on

principles, not suspecting Gandhiji's intentions but for different political reasons.

Table 8.21

Opinion of the managers regarding t h e Gandhian vision of raising 'the

moral and intellectual heights' of labour

Opinion I Number I Percentage I

Yes 29 58

No 21 42

Source: Primary data

A big majority of leaders and workers agreed to the above while only

a simple rnajor~tyof the managers agreed. This is a point where Gandhi's

philosophy and Karl Marx's ultimate purpose meet and fuse to build up a

society where workers are not only in no mean position but in a position to

shape and control his own as well as the destinies of h s fellowmen. It is only

natural that a minority of managers who think that they are in a superior and

comfortable position in the present set up are not inclined to accept a change
where the workers whom they consider their subordinates become their

equals or even superior. But time will prore that the change is inevitable

when the moral and intellectual heights of the labour are raised to the

appropriate level

Accord~ngto "Gandhiji in the event of disputes between capital and

labour the union was to endeavour not to achieve victory but to secure a

just solution. He asked the members to take a pledge with God that they

would stand by their declaration". Will you also make an earnest effort for

such a just solution? To the above question the following responses are


Table 8.22
In the event of disputes between capital and labour the union
was to endeavour not to achieve victory but to secure a just solution -
opinion of the workers

Trade Yes No Total


ClTU 112 10 122

91.7% 8.3% 48.8%

INTUC 83 6 89

93.8% 6.2% 35 6%

Others 37 2 39

94.9% 5.1% 15.6%

Total 232 18 250

92.8% 7.2% 100%

Source: Primary data
'The table shows that what workers want, irrespective of union

affiliation is justice. The ultimate goal of many civilized society or social

organisation is justice. These forces no trade union can keep aside securing of

justice to the worlung class f?om among its objectives. The workers are not

for a victory, which is not a victory of justice. The minority of workers

belonging to all unions who are disagreeing to the above are those who are

unable to accept defect at any cost. They are not able to forego their

immediate gains to place justice on the high pedestals or which our great fore

fathers and Gandhiji's placed. This minority needs education for a proper

understanding of the concept ofjustice and its high values.

In the event of a dispute between capital and labour the road to

solution is never through confrontation. It has to be via conciliation,

compromise, arbitration etc. it is with a spirit of cooperation and self sacrifice

that the parties should meet. Securing justice for all should be the moto. Rule

of law in almost any country demands that securing justice to all humans is

the ultimate aim. Fighting should, there fore, always be for justice and not

necessarily for victory. We should always see victory in the victory of justice.

The workers seem to agree to this

Gandhiji always wanted that justice should prevail whether it be a

dispute between management and labourers or it be on some other issue.

Great majority of workers wanted to stand by Gandhiji in his effort in this

Table 8.23
In the event of disputes between capital and labour the union was to
endeavor not to achieve victory but to secure a just solution - opinion of
the leaders
Opinion Number Percentage

Yes 90 90%

No 10 1 0%

Total 100 100%

Source: Primary data

90% of leaders replied 'Yes' to the above question and only 10% replied


In case of a dispute between management and workers, compromise is

the only solution. No one should go for confrontation or fight for success. The

solution emerging out of any compromise formula should have justice as the

"hallmark. This is what Gandhiji wanted and a huge majority of union leaders

agreed to it seeing the practical worth of it. It means that patience and

perseverance only will bring lasting results. The minority standing against should

also realize this.

Table 8.24
'In the event of disputes between capital and labour the &on was to
endeavour not to achieve victory but to secure a just solution'-opinion of
the managers
Opinion Number Percentage

Yes 29 58

No 21 42

Total 50 100

Source: Primary data

Compromise and sacrifice are the keynote of success for finding out

solutions to any problems. Gandhiji wants his own idea of self sacrifice to be

copied out by labour a s well as management. He appeals to workers to choose

any decision keeping in mind true principles of justice and to stand by it till

the end. By this Gandhiji has proved that he always wants to stand by the side

of justice whether it be the victory of the stand of labour or otherwise. Large

majority of workers, leaders and managers seem to agree to what Gandhiji

stood for

"The Core of Gandhian ideology of industrial relations lies in his

conception of morality and ethics built on such concepts as justice, honour,

dignity and self -respectn. Are these principles relevant even today? To this

question the following responses are given.

Table 8.25

Opinion of the workers-Gandhian ideology of morality and ethics

Source: Primary data

Majority of workers of all Union agree that Gandhian conception of

morality and ethics built or concepts like justice honour dignity and self

respect and his ideology of industrial relation based on the above are relevant

even today. The fraction of workers agreeing are 213'~ in both ClTU and

INTUC. But members of other unions agreeing are even higher.

Gandhiji had highest regard for more superior human values. He had

faith in the ultimate goodness of man. His life was his message. His lifetime

was spent in experimenting with truth. His idea of justice honour and self-

respect were evident in what ever he did and wherever he went. Industrial

relations is an area where these ideals were put to test and Gandhiji himself

proved the merits of the ideals. Workers themselves seem to have realised

how these ideals are finding practical application in honourable and lasting

solution to problems. These concepts and ideals also seem to reveal basic

human instinct of highest regard for his fellow human beings expressed and

propagated by great thinkers of all time. Gandhiji was always willing to adopt

those ideals and innovate on them, finding their practical applicability even


This shows that a high percentage of workers considered Gandhiji's

ideology of industrial relations and the conceptions and concept on which the

same was based relevant even today. It may be noted that the percentage of

workers upholding the above values of Gandhiji are the highest in the

members of other unions.

Opinion of trade union leaders was sought on the same question and

their responses are as stated below.

Table 8.26

Opinion of the leaders Gandhian ideology of morality and ethics

Opinion Number Percentage

Yes 76 76%

No 24 24%

Total 100 100%

Source: Primary data

Out of 100 leaders 76% replied as "Yes" and only a minority of 24%

replied as "No". Gandhiji considered the core of industrial relations, like his

other principles and ideals, truth, non-violence, justice, honour dignity and self-

respect. These are basic principles on which human society is built up. This

morality and values are relevant as long as human society exists in a healthy

manner. Therefore the majority of human leaders cannot but agree to what

Gandhi stood for in labour management relations. Though there was a stage in

the development of trade union movement when these Gandhian ideologies were

thought to be put aside, we have reached a stage where we have learned by

experience that there is no alternative to these ideas. The opinion of the union

leaders by majority is an expression of it. Those denying its relevance might be

lacking in experience and maturity.

Table 8.27

Opinion of the managers on Gandhian ideology of morality and ethics

Opinion Number Percentage

Yes 34 68

No 16 32

Total 50 100
Source: Primary data

The percentage of workers accepting the relevance of Gandhian

conceptions and perceptions even today are higher than the percentage of

leaders and managers accepting the same.

Gandhijl's conceptions of morality and ethics based on concepts like

justice, honour, dignity and self-respect which are like truth and non-violence,

as old as the hills are here to stay as long as human race remains. From times

immemorial society flourished adopting the above principles. No one can

imagine a stage where the above principles can be given up. The minority

disagreeing to this are either misled or keeping their eyes shut towards reality.

8.9 Conclusion

It is evident that in the midst of his varied and more important

activities Gandhi could devote his time and energy to the cause of Industrial

labour. His work as a labour leader was confined mostly to the textile labour

of Ahmedabad But his concepts are of general validity. The success of

Gandhian concepts depends much on the human element, and it is for this

reason that he appealed always for maintenance of standards of behaviour and

cultivation of a spirit of compromise without recourse to extreme steps as far

as possible.

As a firm believer in Gandhian techniques, Gulzarilal Nanda

assiduously attempted to introduce Gandhlan ideas in the labour policies and

programmes he formulated first in the erstwhile Bombay province and later

for the entire country as the union minister for labour and employment

The framework devised by the government to protect the interests of

labour and to promote their collective bargaining strength is not wanting in

vision and understandmg. The d u e n c e of Gandhian concepts on the Indian

Labour policy is profound. But ultimately it is the employers and workers who

have to make a fruitful use of these devices and benefit by them. This is an

imponderable factor.

1. M. K. Gandhi, Socialism ofMy Conception, a Collection of Gandhi's

Writings, ed. by Ananad T. Hingorans ,Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
1957, p.265,

2. Ibid.

3. P. N. Mathur, Introduction to the Book, New Fbrms of Ownership in

Indzd.~try,Folkert Wilken, Sarva Seva Sangh, Prakashan, Varanasi 1 969,

4. J. D. Sethi, "The Grand Alternative" in the book 7i?isleeslzip, Edited by

R.K. Bharatan .Sriniketan Madras, 1979, p.63.

5. The Relevance of iriusteeship ro Ownership andManagement , Tarnil

Nadu Sarvodaya Sangh , p.9-10

6. K. Arunachalam, Khadi Economics - A*\v A.yects ,Koodal Publishers,

Madurai , 1974, p.23.

7. J.D. Sethi, (;andhian Values and 2dhCenttiry Challenges , Publication

Division, Govenunent of lndia, New Delhi, 1979, p.38

8. B. Kumarappq Editor :r role in Gandhi for Pacifists, Navajeevan,

Ahmedabad ,1949, p. 147

9. N. K. Bose, Selections from Gandhi, Navajeevan, Ahmedabad, 1957,p.25.

10. J.C. Chander ,(ed.) Teachings ofMahatma Gandhi, Lahore, 1945, p.494.

1 1 . D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Vol. 1, Publication Division, Government of

India, Bombay, 1952, p.312.

12. Young lndia - July 30, 1931, p.196.

13. D.G. Tendulkar, op. cit, , p. 176.

14. Yozmng India, December 25, 1925, p. 102

15. M.K. Gandh~,Speeches and Writings ofMaha/ma Gandhi, Asia
Publishing House, Bombay, p. 506.

16. Young India, December 3 1, 1931

17. M. K. Gandhi, Hindu Dharma, Navajeevan, Ahmedabad, 1958, p.36

18. M. K. Gandhi, Principles ofNon-violence, Navajeevan, Ahmedabad,

1960, p.121

19. D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma Vo1.V. Publication Division, Government of

India, Bombay, 1957, p.328.

20. Gandhi: %m Yeravda Mandir :Ashram observances , Navajeevan

Publishing House, 1957, p.19.

21. N.K. Bose, ed. Selectionfrom Gandhi, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay
1957, p.36.

22. G. Ramanujan - Indian LabourMovemeni, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

New Delhi, p.29

23. Bondurant John, V., Conquest of Violence, The Gandhian Philosophy of

Conflicts. Oxford University Press, London, 1958, p.36

24. M. Desai, Day-to-day with Gandhi, Sarvaseva Sangh, Prakashan,

Varanasi, 1957, p.7

25. Ibid

26. During the dispute at Ahmedabad, Gandhi expressed his admiration for
the mill-owner's leader Ambalal Sarabai. "His resolute will and
transparent sincerity were w o n d e h l and captured my heart. It was a
pleasure to be pitched against him". Gandhi ,n. 18, p.432.

27. Desai, Op. cit., p.7

28. Ibid, p 8
29. Quoted in "The Ahmedabad Experiment in Labour Management
Relations'' In/ernational 1,ahour Review, 1959.

30. C. 13. Memoria and S. Memoria ,ljynantics oflndztslrial I<ela/ionsin

India., Himalaya Publishng House, Delhi, p.86.

3 1. D. G. Tendulkar, Op. cit, p.32. In his interview with Pierre Ceresole in

1935 Gandh~jiobserved "With non-violence as the rule, life will no doubt
be a series of compromises. But it is better than an endless series of

32. The Paris Peace Conference appointed on 1 January 1919 a Commission

on International Labour Legslation which recommended the establishment
of a permanent International Labour Organization. The commission's
document was adopted by the peace conference. It became part XI11 of the
Versailles treaty which embodied the constitution of the International
Labour Organization (1.L.O). The I.L.0 was thus born on 11 April 1919.

33. D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Vol. 1111, p.169. For a vivid account of
Gandhi's views on mechanization, see D.P. Mukerp, "Mahatma Gandhi's
views on Machines and Technology" in UNESCO, Social Change and
Economic Ljevelopment, 1963.

34. D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Vol. V, p. 10.

35. M.K. Gandhi, Ii'conomic and Indrrstrial llfe and Relations. Vol.111,
Complied and edited by V.B. Kher, Ahmedebad, Navajeevan Publishing
House, p. 145

36. D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Vol.11, p.340.

37. Ibid, Vol.111, p.126

38. R.J. Soman, Peacejitl Industrial Relations, Their Science and Techniqtte:
Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahtnedebad, p.247
39. M.K. Gandhi, i?conomics and indtt.~triallfe and Relalions, op. cit, pp.59-

40. Ibid, p.61

41. M. Desai, Op. cit. p. 126.

42. D.G. Tendulkar, Op. cit, Vol. IV., p. 14

43. M. K. Gandhi, Economic and Industrial Relations, Navajeevan

Publishing House, Ahemadabad, 1945, p.61.

44. Ibid., p. 126

45. The representatives of mill-owners were Amhalal Sarabhai, Jagabhai

Dalpathai, and Chendulal. Labour was represented by Gandhi,
Vallebhabhai Patel, and Shenkgilal Banker.

46. M.K. Gandhi, Economics and Industrial Life and Relations, Op.cit, p.61

47. Ibid, p. 126.

48. The representation of mill-owners were Ambalal Sarabhai, Jagabhai

Dalpathai, and Chendulal. Labour was represented by Gandhi,
Vallebhabhai Patel, and Shenkgilal Banker.

49. R.J. Soman, op.cit, pp.234-235

50. Ibid., p.242

51. Ibid

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. Intemalional Labotrr Review, Vol. X X I X , No.4, p.53 1

55. Ibid., p.363

56. Ibid., p527

57. S. C. Biswas , Gandhi Theory and Practice, Social impact and
(:ontemporary Relevance, Indan Institute of Advanced Study, Simla,
1969, p. 23 1

58. Desai, op. cit, p.47.

59. Ibid., p.49

60. Ibid., p.48.

61. Ibid pp.164-7.

62. M. Desai, Op.cit., p.42. "Condition of Labour CWMG, Volume XVII,

1920, pp.17-20, and speech at meeting of mill hands, Ahmedabad,
CWMG, Volume. XVII, 1920, p.47-5 1.

63. Ibid

64. Speech at the settlement of mill strike, Ahmedebad, CWMG, Volume,

XVII, 1920, p448

65. Ibid., pp.447-449

66. Representation by the workers to the Arbitration Board of Ananad

Shanker Dhmv in M Desai, 1951, op.cit, p.84.

67. M. K. Gandhi, Strikes, CWMG, Vol. 19, Navajeevan Publishing House,

Ahmedabad, 1961, pp.365-7.