Salt Satyagraha – UPSC GS1

Historical Background of the Salt Satyagraha

  • From the very beginning of British Rule in India, the salt tax was considered to be a good source of income.
  • The beginning was made in the form of ‘land rent’ and ‘transit charges’, and in 1762, it was consolidated into duty.
  • As a result of the duty, India and in particular Bengal and its surrounding provinces were rendered dependent upon imported salt from Liverpool and elsewhere.
  • The indigenous industry oppressed with the burden of extravagant charges was unable to compete with its English rival.
  • The salt tax/duties on the annual requirement of a family amounted at one time up to nearly two months’ wages of a labourer.
  • The Indian National Congress from the very inception opposed the salt tax.
  • Nationalist leaders such as Dadabhai Naoroji and GK Gokhale had particularly raised their voice against it.
  • Gandhiji had begun raising opposition to oppressive duties on common salt right from his student days in London.
  • All these culminated in Gandhiji selecting Satyagraha against salt taxes as the key issue in 1930 while leading the civil disobedience movement for India’s freedom from the British colonial rule.
  • The Salt tax was chosen by Gandhi during the civil disobedience movement because it not only appeared to be basically unjust in themselves but also because it symbolised an unpopular, unrepresentative alien government.

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