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Day 5 – Q 5.What role did the business class play in India’s freedom struggle? Discuss. What role did Mahatma Gandhi envisage for the business community? Elaborate.

5. What role did the business class play in India’s freedom struggle? Discuss. What role did Mahatma Gandhi envisage for the business community? Elaborate. 

भारत के स्वतंत्रता संग्राम में व्यापारी वर्ग की क्या भूमिका थी? चर्चा करें। महात्मा गांधी ने व्यवसाय समुदाय के लिए क्या भूमिका सुझाई थी? विस्तृत करें।


The business class emerged in late 19th century played major role in freedom struggle supporting the nationalist cause by supporting the swadeshi movement and took major part realization of congress policies. The Business class participation remained minimal till the entry of Gandhiji. They played active role in Non-cooperation movement, civil disobedience movement and quit India movement.



Capitalists suffered by the economic policies of British stood with Congress and lobbied for favorable economic policies. Most of the industrialists saw the colonial policies of restricting business activity as oppressive and wanted them to be removed so that trade and industry could flourish, thus, contributing to the growth of Indian economy.

Role played by Business class:

  • Criticism of British economic policies: Purshotamdas, Thakurdas and G.D Birla attacked colonial control over the Indian economy and supported the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Financial assistance and support: 
    • Policy support: FICCI refuse to negotiate with British in economic or political issues without the participation or approval of Congress.
    • Funding the Indian National Congress in organizing protests, conferences. 

e.g. Chidambaram Pillai funded the INC branch of Madras state.

  • Swadeshi enterprises: they established industries and produced swadeshi goods which provided alternatives after boycotting foreign goods.

e.g. Swadeshi textile mills, soap and match factories, tanneries,

banks, insurance companies etc., 

  • Self-reliance: indigenous enterprises helped in self-sustenance of Indian economy. It provided employment opportunities to those who quit British industries after protesting to support the freedom struggle.  
  • Lobbying: they lobbied for favorable economic policies which would promote indigenous enterprises. Per se, they advocated import protection and tax benefits for Indian enterprises.
    • FICCI was formed as an interest group which played major role in economic policies negotiations.
    • Indian Industries and Commercial Congress was formed in 1920 which became a discussion body and put forth the demands of Industrialists.
  • Economic Planning: in 1944 and 1945, Bombay plan was formulated by a small group of influential business leaders in Bombay for the development of the post-independence economy of India. These were in lines of philosophy of Indian freedom struggle.

Role envisaged by Gandhiji:

Gandhiji envisaged a role for business community more than in the economic sphere.

  • Critical role against British policies: The business community must resist the small term economic benefits provided by the British and struggle for long term sustainable economic policies which would help India and the Indians.
  • Swadeshi promotion: Gandhiji viewed business community participation as vital in success of swadeshi idea of struggle. Business class has major role to play in promotion of Indian and traditional products like Khadi and so on.
  • Trusteeship: the business community has the social responsibility alongside profit and must help in sarvodaya and antyodaya. Further,
    • A long-term vision beyond one generation making the business sustainable.
    • Fostering trust and build reputation will all the sections of the society. Thus, create a value for community.
  • Employment: Gandhiji was against blind mechanization to be imitated by the business community. This would result in the loss of jobs. Thus, he recommended business community to invest in labour intensive industries.
  • Rural development: Gandhiji believed that the real India lives in villages and therefore it is also the responsibility of the Business community in ensuring village development.


Though most of business class community supported the freedom struggle, they were skeptical of the unconstitutional means to carry it. So, they advocated legal methods and followed negotiations to pursue freedom struggle. But it goes without saying that they actively helped Indian freedom struggle. Industrialists like Tata, Chidambaram Pillai and others played the role of trustees as envisaged by Gandhiji as well.

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