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Gandhi's idea of Trusteeship


Gandhi believed that God is the owner of all wealth and the material universe. According to him, wealth does not 'belong' to the man; rather, he is the person charged with managing riches for the sake of society - a 'trustee.' And only by sharing his money with others who are less fortunate can a man genuinely contribute to the community. According to Gandhi, an economy based on social justice promotes the benefit of everyone, even the weakest, and is hence required for a decent living.

“Since property becomes the cause of quarrels and tempts us to do wrong things, we should give it up, and so long as we are not ready to renounce it completely, we should, as its trustees, use it for the good of others and make the minimum use of it for our own enjoyment.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Essentially, trusteeship is based on the idea of ‘ahimsa’. The natural corollary of ahimsa is ‘satyagraha’, that is, if the wealthy and the capitalist do not part with their wealth voluntarily, then the weapon of satyagraha is to be used. Gandhiji was repeatedly asked the process of bringing about trusteeship. Persuasion and non-cooperation was Gandhi’s answer.

Justice and Human Dignity

Gandhi's economic theories were part of his larger campaign against poverty, exploitation, socioeconomic injustice, and declining moral standards. Gandhi was a populist economist. His approach was based on respect for human dignity. His economic theory is the outcome of several experiments he carried out throughout the course of his life. The safeguarding of human dignity, rather than simple material prosperity, is at the heart of Gandhian economic thinking. He strived for human growth, upliftment, and enrichment rather than a greater level of living with little regard for human and societal values. His economic theories were influenced by fundamental ethical ideals.

Is CSR Trusteeship

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the buzzword in the corporate world and the Government. Some in business and even the public at large believe that the government has gained momentum for Gandhi's vision of Trusteeship by enacting legislation requiring corporations and businesses to invest 2% of their profits towards a social cause. It is referred to as CSR. Gandhi's concept, on the other hand, is more profound. Gandhi also had something to say about corporate ethics. He had firm beliefs about how persons involved in trade and business should conduct themselves in order to contribute to nation-building and the formation of a nonviolent harmonious society.

The theory of aparigraha, non-acquisitiveness, tend not to acquire and consume things that are useless to an individual. Gandhi introduces the concept of limiting personal demands/needs. A responsible trustee would monitor and control his or her own consumption. After meeting the necessities for a reasonable living, the remainder of the resources must be used for the greater good. Gandhi was opposed to philanthropy. There is a distinction to be made between a philanthropist and Mahajan. The Mahajan tradition is thought to have originated in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Mahajan is a trustee who generates and owns more money than he or she needs, understands it, lives a simple lifestyle, and utilizes the fortune for socially useful reasons.


Beginning the process with the fundamental idea of aparigraha, a non- acquisitive life by the trustee, the creator and holder of wealth, would have a positive impact on the whole society. The vision must evolve. Gandhi's Trusteeship becomes important and a possibility within his broader vision of a nonviolent society, swadeshi, a decentralized economic system, and Swaraj as self-rule.


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