Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Salt Tax and Mahatma Gandhi
The recommending of the laws for civil disobedience is a most difficult task. In the present state of the country, when it is highly debatable whether the spirit of civil disobedience replacing and entirely superseding criminal disobedience has been understood by the masses, I am unable to advise civil disobedience of the revenue laws, i.e., the salt tax, land tax and the forest laws. I also feel that the satyagrahis may not disobey any orders issued by the Government regarding processions and mass meetings. 1 Why is there this chorus of condemnation of the doubling of the salt tax and other taxes on the necessaries of life? Wonder is expressed that now there is no apology even offered for the terrific military charges of sixty-two crores. The fact is, it is impossible to offer apology for the inevitable. The military charges must grow with the growing consciousness of the nation. The military is not required for the defiance of India. But it is required for the forcible imposition of the English exploiters upon India. That is naked truth. Mr. Montagu has bluntly but honestly stated it. The retiring President of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce has said it and so has the Governor of Bombay. They want to trade with us not upon our terms, but upon their terms. It is the same thing whether it is done with the kid glove on or without it. The Councils are the kid glove. We must pay for the glove. The reforms hang upon us like an incubus. They cover a multitude of defects including the blood-sucking salt tax. 2
What are the workers of Kathiawar doing about this? Is not this one task enough to engage their energy produce khadi and see that people wear it? If they give up busying themselves with other activities, things will soon get right. If population of twenty-six lakhs spins, cards and weaves to the value of no more than Rs. 10 per head every year, even then its work would produce goods worth two crore and sixty lakhs rupees. This would come to less than two pice per head daily. But drop by drop the lake is filled, as they say; in like manner, the result which can be brought about by an increase of two pice in everyone’s earnings should be seen to be believed. A postcard costing a pice, a tax of two pies on a rupee-worth of salt, railway fares at the rate of three or four pies a mile, this is how Government’s Postal Department makes a profit and the Post Master General gets an annual salary of thousands, the salt tax yields crores and the railway company earns lakhs from railway fares calculated at the rate of a few pies a mile. 3
If we only think how much everyone will suffer by the increase of a pie in a rupee in the salt tax, we shall see no reason to be seriously upset. But when we calculate the total revenue yielded by this impost, we shall be astounded by the figures. Loss of this kind is like a prick by the cobbler’s needle. It is felt by the society as a whole. We can deduce from this the effect on every individual. 4 The supersession of Sir Abdur Rahim, the passage of the Supplementary Ordinance, the restoration of the salt tax, tell us in plainest language that the British rulers propose to rule in spite of our opposition. In fact, they tell us by their action as clearly as possible, that they can and will rule without our assistance. Shall we not have the negative courage of doing without their assistance? We have seen that we can, when we do not quarrel. It is possible, if we have some courage, to do without that assistance even if we quarrel. It is any day better to stand erect with a broken and bandaged head than to crawl on one’s belly in order to be able to save one’s head. I can see Hindu-Muslim unity issuing out of our street fights without Government intervention. I should despair of real unity if we would fight under the shadow of the British uniform and perjured evidence before British Courts. We must be men before we would rule ourselves. 5
Needless to say the hartal in Bombay was a complete success. Full preparation had been made for starting civil disobedience. Two or three things had been discussed in this connection. It was decided that civil disobedience might be offered in respect of such laws only asT3 easily lent them to being disobeyed by the masses. The salt tax was extremely unpopular and a powerful movement had been for some time past going on to secure its repeal. I therefore suggested that the people might prepare salt from sea-water in their own houses in disregard of the salt laws. My other suggestion was about the sale of proscribed literature. Two of my books, viz, Hind Swaraj and Sarvodaya (Gujarati adaptation of Ruskin’s Unto This Last), which had been already proscribed, came handy for this purpose. To print and sell them openly seemed to be the easiest way of offering civil disobedience. A sufficient number of copies of the books were therefore printed, and it was arranged to sell them at the end of the monster meeting that was to be held that evening after the breaking of the fast. 6
India has been ruined economically. The revenue derived from our people is out of all proportion to our income. Our average income is seven pice (less than 2 pence) per day. The taxes we pay are 2.5 pies per day and of these the land revenue derived from the peasantry is 20% and the salt tax, which falls heaviest on the poor, is 3% of the total. 7 A paragraph appeared in the Press that I would advise non-payment of the salt tax to begin with. The manufacturer of the canard did not know, perhaps, that the salt tax was so ingeniously devised that it would not yield to easy non-payment. Nevertheless there was this truth in it, that I was contemplating some method of attacking this nefarious monopoly. The garbled report has however resulted in most valuable information having been supplied to me by known and unknown writers. Among the publications thus received is the monograph issued by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce on salt. It is a valuable publication giving an authentic history of the process of killing by wicked methods salt manufacture in Bengal and dumping down Liverpool salt on a soil which could produce good salt for only a little labour. This history of the evolution of the salt tax furnishes by itself complete condemnation of the British Government. Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life. It is the only condiment of the poor. Cattle cannot live without salt. Salt is a necessary article in many manufactures. It is also rich manure.
There is no article like salt outside water by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. The tax constitutes therefore the most inhuman poll tax that ingenuity of man can devise. The wholesale price per mound of 82 lbs. is according to Government publications as low as 10 pies, and the tax, say, twenty annas, i.e., 240 pies. This means 2,400 per cent on sale price! What this means to the poor can hardly be imagined by us. Salt production like cotton growing has been centralized for the sake of sustaining the inhuman monopoly. The necessary consequence of the willful destruction of the spinning-wheel was destruction of cottage cultivation of cotton. The necessary consequence of salt monopoly was the destruction, i.e., closing down of salt works in thousands of places where the poor people manufactured their own salt. A correspondent writes to me from Konkan, saying that if the people had freedom, they could pick up salt from the deposits made by the receding tides on the bountiful coast. But he sorrowfully adds that officers turn the salt over into the sea as fast as nature deposits it. He adds however, that those who can successfully evade the salt police do help themselves to this sea salt. Gujarat workers report the existence of many places where, but for the prohibition; people can get their salt as easily as they can dig out earth for many household purposes. Bengal free can today manufacture all the salt she can ever need. And yet she is forced to import all the salt she eats. Here is what a retired salt officer writes without disclosing his name:
Under the law the manufacture of salt includes every process by which salt is separated from brine or earth or any other liquid or solid substance and also every process for the purification or refinement of salt. Contraband salt means salt or salt earth which has not paid duty, Interior and retaining it. The people of the presidency or at least the men and women of the older generation firmly believe that locally manufactured sea salt is healthier than Kharaghoda salt, and they would love to have it, while everyone would like to have cheap salt. The poor people on the coast will join to get salt from Government salt-works without paying duty would be stealing or robbery, an act of First Class Himsa that would justify even shooting down of the offenders if they persisted in the act. I have given the letter as it was received. When salt can be manufactured much more easily than it can be taken from salt depots, I am not likely to advise people to help themselves to the article from salt pans or storehouses. But I do not share the salt officer’s characterization of such helping as first-class himsa. Both the helping from pans and manufacturing contraband salt are statutory crimes heavily punishable. Why is the manufacturing without license a virtue and taking salt from a manufacturing pan a vice? If the impost is wrong, it is wrong whether in connection with manufactured salt or the crude article. If a robber steals my grain and cooks some of it, I am entitled to both the raw and the cooked grain. I may draw a distinction for the sake of avoiding inconvenience between in the collection of salt spontaneously in these days of unemployment. Trying manufactured and crude salt, and adopt the easier method of manufacturing salt. But that does not alter the legal position in the slightest degree. When therefore the time comes, civil resisters will have an ample opportunity of their ability to conduct their campaign regarding the tax in a most effective manner. The illegality is in a Government that steals the people’s salt and makes them pay heavily for the stolen article. The people, when they become conscious of their power, will have every right to take possession of what belongs to them. 8
This seasonable item is from the public Press. Eight annas fine for poor people is no joke. The magistrate might have discharged the men with a caution or he might, as magistrates have done before now, have paid the fine from his own pocket, and if he felt that he was bound to impose a penalty. It is likely of course that in that case, he might have laid himself open to the charge of cowardice under the Salt Act. Be that as it may, the fact that the men “threw themselves at the mercy of the court,” and “submitted that they were too poor to buy salt,” and that the magistrate rejected the plea of the villagers, is eloquent testimony in favour of the civil disobedience campaign. No milder agitation would have answered the purpose. Moreover, the salt tax is but a sample from the mountain of such grievances, from which it is the duty of every Indian who knows the wrongs being done to India to strain every nerve to free her. A correspondent writes to say that there is no salt tax in Portuguese India, that Daman is quite near Pardi, that salt is sold at 2 annas per mound in Daman, and that any quantity may be imported from Daman and payment of tax refused on passing the British border. A similar suggestion has come too from Kathiawar. There also there is no tax, though there is the State monopoly which makes the salt dearer than the cost price. Nevertheless it is much cheaper than in the British territory. Thus a maund (cutcha) costs, I understand, Rs. 1-4 in Ranpur whereas the same quantity outside Ranpur will cost probably no more than 10 annas, if that. Anyway, when the instructions for civil disobedience on a mass scale are issued, there is no doubt that the salt law is the easiest to break. The Government is naturally preparing to combat the civil law breakers after its usual fashion. Every police officer above the rank of a constable in the Bombay Presidency except in Sind and Aden has been appointed a salt officer. These men, armed with new powers, may be fully expected to give a good account of them. And when they have stained their hands with innocent blood, there will be no doubt the usual inquiry followed by a repeal of the Salt Act. But this time the object of civil disobedience is double—the repeal of the tax and the repeal of the British bondage of which the salt tax is but an offshoot. No inquiry merely into the Salt Act followed by its repeal can stop the campaign of civil disobedience. It behooves all who want the repeal of the salt tax to join the agitation at least to that extent, unless they would have the tax rather than success of civil disobedience even for a specific grievance. 9
The sense of the word Ramarajya is this that under such a rule the poor will be fully protected, everything will be done with justice, and the voice of the people will always be respected. But in order to attain Ramarajya all must help. But in order to achieve this khadi alone is the universal and constructive instrument. But in order to increase the power of the people something else with a wider appeal was needed. That something is salt tax. Both the poor and the rich use salt equally and because a tax is levied on this universally useful thing, one that is necessary for everyone, one and all can offer civil disobedience against the salt tax law and thus strengthen their power. The power that we shall gain by this sort of civil disobedience will, because of its civil and peaceable nature, help us in securing Ramarajya. There are many other taxes like the salt tax which weigh heavily on the people and in resisting which people can get a good training, and their strength can increase. Ramarajya, by such means, will become easy to establish. No one can predict when we shall attain full Ramarajya. But it is the duty of every one of us to contemplate it day and night. And true contemplation is that in which proper methods also have been used for the establishment of Ramarajya. It should be remembered that in order to establish Ramarajya no learning is necessary. The necessary talent is found in all—men and women, young and old, and in people of all religions. The only sad thing is that not all perceive its presence now. Cannot every one of us, if we want, today give proof of qualities such as truth, non-violence, propriety of conduct, bravery, forbearance, courage, etc.? The fact is we are under a delusion and for this reason we are not able to perceive what is in us, and instead we strive, in vain, to understand things that are beyond us. Undoubtedly this is a very sad thing. But even then I shall request the readers of Hindi Navajivan that in this great yajna which has been started in the country today they should be prepared to do their full share. 10
The Chaukidari tax laws have been suggested for possible disobedience. This tax does not in my opinion comply with the conditions that the salt tax fulfils. The idea is to disobey such laws as are bad for all time as far as can be seen today. We do not want the salt tax even under Swaraj. Chaukidari tax is perhaps not such a tax. We may need chaukidars even under Swaraj. If such is the case, it may be wise not to touch that tax so long as we have other taxes or other laws to combat. 11 If we are to depend for Swaraj on what has been done so far, it will take us very long to win it, because it cannot be secured by mere attendance at meetings or by large numbers joining the civil disobedience movement against the salt tax. The achievement in the field of constructive work is very meagre in other districts indeed, but here also it is just as poor. We have not achieved complete boycott of foreign cloth and have not succeeded in popularizing khadi. The entry in the column for the quantity of khadi produced is nil. You have a rich crop of cotton in this district, but you put it to no use yourselves. Consumption of liquor has spread widely. Even in these circumstances, however, I have the hope that this movement will bring about a great awakening among us. The use of khadi is spreading widely in the whole of India. If, in consequence of this, there is shortage of khadi, you can even help in producing more of it. After I leave this place they may or may not let me reach Dandi, but take it from me that the salt tax is gone. If you start doing all that I have suggested, I believe we shall have stormed and won not merely the fort of the salt tax but many other forts as well. As I have the blessings of you all, this monstrous salt tax—no adjectives can be strong enough to describe it—is bound to be abolished. If you produce and spread the required climate by boycotting foreign cloth, we will win the next fort. That is, we shall win Rs. 60 crores. Through liquor and opium we have been throwing away Rs. 25 crores for the privilege of becoming mad. That third fort also we will certainly win, but only if you give up drinking. Rs. 60 crores for foreign cloth, Rs. 25 crores for intoxicants and Rs. 6 crores for the salt tax if we save all this money our faces will beam with luster and Swaraj will be won in no time. The salt tax is as good as gone, and hence those of you who do not wish to join the present movement should all co-operate and help in these two matters. I request all brothers and sisters here to give up foreign cloth and wear khadi. Understand what your true duty is. 12
Tomorrow we shall break the salt tax law. Whether the Government will tolerate that is a different question. It may not tolerate it, but it deserves congratulations on the patience and forbearance it has displayed in regard to this party. If the civil disobedience movement becomes widespread in the country and the Government tolerates it, the salt law may be taken as abolished. I have no doubt in my mind that the salt tax stood abolished the very moment that the decision to break the salt laws was reached and a few men took the pledge to carry on the movement even at the risk of their lives till Swaraj was won. If the Government tolerates the impending civil disobedience you may take it for certain that the Government, too, has resolved to abolish this tax sooner or later. If they arrest me or my companions tomorrow, I shall not be surprised; I shall certainly not be pained. It would be absurd to be pained if we get something that we have invited on ourselves. What if I and all the eminent leaders in Gujarat and in the rest of the country are arrested? This movement is based on the faith that when a whole nation is roused and on the march no leader is necessary. Of the hundreds of thousands that blessed us during our march and listened to my speeches there will be many who are sure to take up this battle. That alone will be mass civil disobedience. We are now resolved to make salt freely in every home, as our ancestors used to, and sell it from place to place, and we will continue doing so wherever possible till the Government yields, so much so that the salt in Government stocks will become superfluous. If the awakening of the people in the country is true and real, the salt law is as good as abolished. But the goal we wish to reach is yet very far. For the present Dandi is our destination but our real destination is no other than the temple of the goddess of Swaraj. Our minds will not be at peace till we have her darshan, nor will we allow the Government any peace. Those Headmen who have resigned their posts should prove themselves true to their word and should regard it as a sin to serve this Government till freedom is won. For the last four or five days, I have been speaking about other constructive activities also, and they should be taken up immediately in this Jalalpur taluka. Surat district is notorious for the drink habit, and the Jalalpur taluka is particularly so. Now that the wind of self-purification is blowing here, it should not be a difficult task to eradicate the drink evil altogether.
There is sin in every leaf of the palm tree. Its only value lies in the ruin it brings us. This plant is like poison to us. All palm trees should therefore be cut down. There should not be a single person in Jalalpur taluka wearing foreign cloth. Everyone who comes to Dandi should come with the intention to participate in, and offer his mite to, this Swaraj yajna. I would not like anyone coming to Dandi wearing foreign cloth. If it is our wish to turn Dandi into a place of pilgrimage or a bulwark of Swaraj, everyone coming here should be dressed exclusively in khadi. I know that the stocks of khadi in the khadi stores are about to be exhausted, and if, therefore, you fail to get a full-length sari or dhoti and come wearing only a khadi langoti, you will be welcome here as a civilized person. If, ignoring my suggestion, any of you comes to Dandi wearing foreign cloth, I shall have to place at the points of approach to Dandi, volunteers who will kneel before you and request you to wear khadi. If you feel offended by their doing so and slap them in the face, those satyagrahis will let themselves be slapped. Dandi was chosen not by a man but by God. How otherwise could we have chosen for the battle-field of satyagraha such an out-of-the-way place a place where no food grains are to be had, where there is scarcity of water, where thousands can assemble only with difficulty, walking ten miles from the railway station, and where if you are travelling on foot, you have to negotiate creeks full of slush and mud? The truth is that in this struggle we have to put up with suffering. You have made the road from Navsari to Dandi famous throughout the world by arranging for free drinking-water at frequent intervals all along it.
If this struggle did not have your approval, your blessings, why would you be doing this? Dandi should be a sacred ground for us, where we should utter no untruth, commits no sin. Everyone coming here should come with this devout feeling in his heart. If you brothers and sisters come forward as true volunteers and commit civil disobedience of the salt law, no matter what force the Government threatens to use against you, and if you do whatever else you may be required to do, we shall have in us the power to attain in a single day what we hold to be our birthright. Time was when I was infatuated with British rule, as British law taught that the person of every individual is sacred. According to that law, the police cannot kill or manhandle a man even though he might be guilty of murder. It is the duty of the police to produce the man alive before the court. Nor has the police any authority outside the jail to seize from person even goods alleged to have been stolen. But here the very opposite is true. How otherwise can the police have the authority to decide whether I hold a handful of salt or pebbles? Every man’s house is his castle. Our body also is a fort of a kind. And once salt has entered that fort, it should not be allowed to be forced out of it even if horses are made to trample on your heads. From today we should begin cultivating the strength of will to see that a fist holding salt does not open even if the wrist should be cut off.
Unauthorized entry into a house is a barbarous act. It is for a judge to decide whether I hold in my hand salt or dust. The English law holds the human person to be sacred. If every official assumes the authority of a judge and enters our homes, he would be acting as a robber. But the officers in India, when they feel impelled, throw the English laws to the winds or ignore them completely at their sweet will and, resorting to the Act of 1818, render them all ineffective. They have started arresting one leader after another. But according to the principle of this struggle, that the leader is one who endures the utmost suffering, one of those left outside should assume leadership and take the movement forward. This is a struggle not of one man but of millions of us. If three or four men can fight and win Swaraj, they will rule the country afterwards. Hence, in this struggle for Swaraj millions should offer themselves for sacrifice and win such Swaraj as will benefit the vast masses of the country. The Government is taking away from us all the eminent leaders one after another. If we get ready to follow in their footsteps and do the duty shown by them, we can smile at what the Government is doing, but if we fail to do our duty we should feel ashamed. The leaders are behind the bars, and now we in our turn should take their place. It is true that many of the leaders in and outside Gujarat have been jailed, that many volunteers have been wounded because they would not part with the salt in their hands, and that, at places; some were beaten so hard that they became unconscious.
But I remain unmoved. My heart now is as hard as stone. I am in this struggle for Swaraj ready to sacrifice thousands and hundreds of thousands of men if necessary. Since we have embarked upon a movement which will send thousands to jail, how can we weep over their imprisonment? In this game of dice we are playing, the throw has been as we wanted. Should we then weep or smile? This is God’s grace; let us remain unmoved and watch His miracles. If in spite of our breaking several salt laws the Government takes no notice of the camp here till the 13th, we shall disband it after that date and go somewhere else. But this plan depends entirely on the Government. For the present, we can but take what the Government gives. If you have not yet gone out to remove salt, let the whole village get together and go. Hold the salt in your fist and think that you are carrying in your hand salt worth Rs. 6 crores. Every year the Government has been taking away from us Rs. 6 cores through its monopoly of salt. You can today take the pledge not to eat salt supplied by the Government. You have a mine of salt right at your doorsteps. There is at Rohtak a humble, brave and selfless public worker named Lala Shyamlal.
At the time of the non-co-operation movement in 1921 he gave up his law practice but resumed it when the tide was low and earned thousands of rupees. However, his heart melted once more after the Lahore Congress and he pleaded to be taken into the Ashram. He also expressed his eagerness to join this march of satyagrahis to Dandi. But why should I exchange this gold mohur for a mere pice? So I sent him back to Rohtak. As he writes to me, he took leave of me after he had understood the value of non-violence better than before. He has now vowed never to give up non-violence and never to prove disloyal to the Ashram principles. This Lala Shyamlal has now been arrested on a charge of spreading disaffection against the Government. He must have made some speech on the lines of my writings in Young India in which I preach disaffection as our moral duty. In the first place, they should apply Section 124A to the person who has been every moment praying for the destruction of the Empire and has also been attempting to destroy it apply it, that is, to myself. But the true position is that Section 124A can be applied only to a person who wishes to overthrow the Government by rebellion or armed action. It can never apply to a person who wishes to destroy the Empire through self-suffering by following the path of non-violence and truth. But I am no judge. I have even been disbarred. 13
The attitude taken up by the Viceroy over the very mild proposal made by us regarding the salt tax affords a further painful insight into the Government’s mentality. It is as plain as daylight to us that, from the dizzy heights of Simla, the rulers of India are unable to understand or appreciate the difficulties of the starving millions living in the plains whose incessant toil makes Government from such a giddy height at all possible. 14 The people here in the slums round about live as well as the middle class in India. When I think of the poverty in which the peasants live, I feel ashamed that I have fruit to eat and fruit juice to drink. We can do nothing so long as we have this octopus bleeding us white, draining us and taxing us all the time. Why, they even tax our salt—a necessity of life, only less necessary than air and water. It ought to be free as they are. I know you pay a rate for water in England. But this salt tax is worse than a rate. It’s a monopoly. The idea of a thing so natural and necessary after air and water the one thing necessary, the idea of it being taxed! Nature bestows it on us and we may not use it. There’s the salt beside the sea and they forbid us to gather it. Salt is a small matter. What really matters is the excise on toddy and opium. That is really a big proportion of the revenue. There’s no way of filling that gap, unless we can cut down the cost of the army. That is the octopus that is strangling us. This terrible drain must come to an end. Indian Round Table Conference (Second Session): Proceedings of Federal Structure Committee and Minorities Committee, Vol. I, pp. 252- When I agreed roughly to the source of revenue to be common, I had in mind undoubtedly that I should be able to press for total repeal of the Salt Tax, merely by way of instance; but I should not in any way bind myself to the other taxes. I know that legally I do not do so; but if there is a recommendation on the part of the Committee, or if there are some calculations based upon the rigidity of the taxes that are enumerated there, I should again feel that I had not done justice to the cause that I represent. 15
The salt tax causes great hardship to the poor. Therefore, wherever salt can be made, poor people may certainly manufacture it for themselves and risk the penalty. 16 Its abolition would be a gesture the poorest peasant could understand. It would mean even more to him than independence itself. Salt in this climate is a necessity of life, like air and water. He needs it for himself, his cattle and his land. This monopoly will go, the instant we get independence. Then why not abolish it today? By such acts the Government could have created a feeling among the masses that the new era has already dawned. 17 The other affects the masses. I refer to the salt tax. As a means of raising revenue, it is insignificant. As a means of harassing the masses, it is a measure of which the mischief is indescribable. The masses will hardly appreciate independence, if the burden of the salt monopoly continues to affect them. I must not weary you with argument. I mention the two measures as a preparation of the Indian mind for independence. They will produce a psychological effect. I may mention that I discussed both the measures in a different setting with Mr. Casey, and I am now in correspondence with the present Governor of Bengal. I may add that I have today heard from Mr. Abell in regard to the salt tax that “the Government does not find them able to accept the suggestion.” 18
I am asked when the salt tax will be removed; and why it has not been removed already. The question implies impatience. The Cabinet has only been in office for eight days. The Finance Member has not yet taken charge of his office. We must wait. The Cabinet must do everything after full deliberation. It is I who should be impatient, for it was I who initiated the fight for the abolition of this tax. I also know how the loss of revenue can be made up for. Nevertheless I think we should not be impatient. We should not hustle the Cabinet. The Cabinet is of the people and works under their mandate. We must have faith that the salt tax will go and he who has faith can afford to be patient. There are many other things that the Cabinet has to do for the people as quickly as possible. If we continue to give it our support it will surely do all that should be done for the good of the masses. 19
Prof. Brij Narain has devoted two columns of the Lahore Tribune in support of the salt tax. I dare not combat his arguments though they make little appeal to my lay mind. He has come to the gratuitous conclusion that I ask for repeal on grounds of sentiment rather than reason. He reminds me of armchair politics and philosophy. Salt tax hits not only men, women and children, but also fish and cattle. Reason demands its immediate repeal. It is not the amount of the tax that kills, it is the monopoly and all it means that kills the poor villager and his cattle. Imagine what would happen if the poor were prohibited from breathing air or drinking water without permission of the Government. The condition as to salt is not radically different. The scientist has not taken the trouble to study what this prohibition to prepare salt even for one’s own consumption has cost India. 20 You have rightly said that the removal of the salt tax will drive home to the millions of villagers the truth that our Sarkar has now the reins of Government in its hands. Will they not also realize this truth, if the villages have cotton delivered at their homes on the easiest terms possible so that with a little corporate labour they can clothe themselves without difficulty? 21
If they can do this much Rajendra Babu’s helplessness in providing food for the people would be removed. I have received a letter which says that even though I had the salt tax repealed, salt is now costlier than before. How is that? I say after the repeal of the salt tax we should get salt almost free. For such a thing to happen the traders will have to do business for the sake of India instead of for their own sake. They should forget black-marketing altogether. When that happens, the ministers of the Interim Government would be able to carry out their respective tasks, and Rajaji, Rajendra Babu, Jawaharlal, Matthai, Bhabha and all the four League Ministers would be able to serve you in every way. Even after that, if India cannot have enough food and clothing and there is no progress in the country, you can remove them from office. 22 Today I wish to say something about salt. People say there was a time when I had marched to Dandi for salt but today there is no salt to be had or, if there is, an exorbitant price has to be paid for it. I can only bow down my head in shame. People say that although salt tax has been abolished it has not affected the price. Salt is not rationed but there is black-marketing in it. Traders are so mean that they derive huge profits even from salt. But we have become lazy. 23
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