Gandhiji Approach to Industrial Relations

Gandhiji Approach to Industrial Relations:

Another subject which had drawn Gandhi’s attention and on which he had written and spoken considerably was the peaceful approach to industrial relations based on some of his fundamental principles which constitute the core of his philosophy. These principles are-

  • Truth and non-violence.
  • Aparigraha i.e. non-possession.

It is from these principles that Gandhi evolves his concepts of non-cooperation and trusteeship which are fundamental to his model of industrial relations system.

As applied to industry, trusteeship meant that the capitalist should use only that much wealth as was absolutely necessary to satisfy his wants. The wealth that was found in excess of this should be held by him in trust for the benefit of all. Thus, while addressing a meeting of the mill-owners and workers in Ahmedabad, he advised the former, “What I expect of you is that you should hold all your riches as a trust to be used solely in the interest of those who sweat for you and to whose industry and labour you owe all your position and prosperity”.

Another point that is implied in the trusteeship principle is that there is no room for conflict of interests between the capitalists and the labourers. For though legally wealth belonged to its owners, morally it belonged to the society.

The basic aim of the Gandhian philosophy is the realization of Sarvodaya, i.e. the good of all- the ‘good’ to percolate even ‘unto this last’ meaning that it should reach even the lowest stratum of the society. As applied to industry this actually means peaceful co-existence of capital and labour. However, where conflicts exist, as they should in a society governed by self-interest, the means adopted to resolve the conflict, according to Gandhi, should be Satyagraha, i.e. non-violent non-cooperation. Satyagraha postulates the conquest of the capitalist by suffering in one’s own person. What is, therefore, implied is that labourers can have their grievances redressed by resorting to non-violent non-cooperation which actually amounts to peaceful strikes in ordinary parlance. As a matter of fact, Gandhi was never against strikes as such. He had himself led some strikes in Ahmedabad and declared that strike was an “inherent right of the working men for the purpose of securing justice”. But he would permit strikes only under certain conditions, viz.

  • The cause of the strike must be just and address only redressal of genuine grievances.
  • There should be practical unanimity among the strikers.
  • Strikes should be peaceful and non-violent.
  • Workers should undertake strikes only after taking up alternative jobs for their living during the strike period (this is an important condition for ensuring the success of strike).
  • Workers should go on strike only after the capitalists fail to respond to moral appeals.
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