Seminar: "The Ahmedabad Mill-Hands’ Strike and Gandhiji" by Prof.Sudarshan Iyengar.
Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi, Distinguished Visiting Professor, HSS Dept, IIT Bombay will Chair the Session.
The Ahmedabad Mill-Hand’s strike happened during February-March 1918. The event left deep impact on the city of Ahmedabad and of course the Mill owners and workers. A new chapter was to be written in the trade union world. By the beginning of twentieth century Ahmedabad was coming to be known as Manchester of India. 40 per cent of the city’s population of about three lakhs was constituted by Mill hands and their family. In 1917 Ahmedabad was gripped badly by plague. Hundreds died every month. Mill workers were affected too. They started fleeing the city. The owners gave rise of almost 70 per cent in the wages to retain them. It was known as Plague bonus. It continued for a while even after the Plague epidemic subsided, but then the bonus was suddenly withdrawn. Inflation had hit new heights till then and Mil workers were severely hit. This led to millworkers protest and ultimately strike and lock out. Gandhiji was forcibly drawn into this for settlement. Mill owners invited to him to help, the Collector suggested doing so and Gandhiji accepted but took the workers’ side. The leader of the workers was Ansuyaben Sarabhai who was elder sisterof Ambalal Sarabhai who represented the mill owners. Gandhiji suggested workers to go on strike as the mill owners refused to rise the wages by 35 per cent which was the demand. The owners also resorted to lock out in some cases. Gandhiji had made workers take pledge to strike work with being completely nonviolent until their demand was met. A methodology was developed and applied. But the will of the workers wilted and Gandhiji took upon himself the moral responsibility and declared fast until settlement. Mill owners read this as coercion on them. Gandhiji clarified his position.Finally, arbitration was set up and the strike ended. The strike was unique with complete absence of violence and negotiations that were done with respect and cordiality that surprised the English Collector. The model of joint settlement process came to be established and Majoor Mahajan Sangh – Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association was founded. The event showed to the world a new methodology of dispute settlement within the capitalist mode of production. Elements of Trusteeship could be seen in the event too. A critical analysis of the event will be presented in the seminar.
About the Speaker:
Professor Sudarshan Iyengar, Ph.D. Economics, served as the Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, (2005-14). He was Director of the Centre for Social Studies, Surat (2004-05), and Director of Gujarat Institute of Development Research (1999-2004). The major focus ofhis research have been Gandhian thought in new perspective, natural resource development and management, people’s institutions, and role of non-government organisations in development. He has participated in rehabilitation of tribal people displaced in the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project. He was a volunteer in relief activities in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake in Kachchh. He has published research articles in professional journals in English, Hindi and Gujarati, and contributed to book chapters, in addition to several co-authored and edited books. He is currently Vice Chairman, High Level Dandi Memorial Committee, and Member, Gandhi Heritage Mission, Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Prof. Iyengar is the Visiting Chair Professor in Gandhian Philosophy, HSS Department, IIT Bombay.