What were Gandhi’s Views on Trusteeship?

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Gandhiji differed from the Marxian concept of property. When Marx advocated a classless society and State-ownership of property, Mahatma Gandhi viewed that property should not be snatched away from the rich or capitalist people; rather they should consider themselves as trustees of the property. This would bring a lasting benefit to the society and State at large.

Meaning of trusteeship:

Trusteeship occupied a prominent place in the Gandhian thought. Gandhi wanted to abridge the gap between the rich and the poor. However, by this, he never meant absolute equality between the haves and have-nots. He envisaged that food, cloth and shelter are the basic needs of the human beings. So, the excess wealth or property of the rich can add welfare to the society.

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The wealth and talent should be considered as a trust of the whole society and as ‘trustee’ the individuals should handle it for the betterment of society. It has the following features:

Trusteeship; a hammer for capitalism:

Trusteeship aimed at reforming the capitalist society. It advocated that rich people should change themselves and should come forward to use their property for the betterment of society.

State regulation of trusteeship:

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The State should come forward to regulate the system. In that case there would be no discrimination. The wealth or the rich will be appropriated by the State and regulated by the order of the State. It will be done in the most peaceful way so that violence will not occur.

No use of wealth for self-satisfaction:

Under trusteeship, any rich man can use his extra wealth for his satisfaction. He also cannot use the wealth for promoting anti-social activities. The State should guide the rich how to utilize the wealth for the benefit of the State.

No private ownership:

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The wealth should not be won by any private fellow. It can only be done by the consent of the people in the society at large. Further, social welfare must form a part of this programme which the State or the people in the society will direct.

Fixed maximum income:

Under this system, a maximum income will be fixed by the State. A fair wage should be fixed for the working class people. The State should see that there exists a reasonable balance between the maximum income and minimum living wage.

Social welfare:

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The trusteeship system should aim at social welfare. Under no circumstance, the welfare of the society will be hampered. The rich people should come voluntarily to join their hands with the common people and decide measures for the welfare of the society by the appropriation of the extra wealth possessed by the rich people.

Production as per social requirements:

The production should cater to the need of the society. No personal choice of the rich should guide the production pattern. On the other hand, keeping in view the necessity of the large bulk of Indian population, things will be manufactured.

Gandhi gave a threat that in case the capitalists do not produce goods as per the requirement of the people, the State should come forward to intervene in the matter, and the workers will be given share in the management of production.

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However, Gandhian concept of trusteeship was quite difficult to apply in a democratic set-up like India. It had reduced a man to a slave who should be pawn in the hands of the State for fulfilling the latter’s desire. The positive side of this was that, it tried to abridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

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