The Salt March: How Economic Disruption Weakened the Raj

Table of Contents

Mahatma Gandhi leading the Salt March

Mahatma Gandhi leading the Salt March

source: Wikimedia Commons

What was the Salt March?

The Salt March (a.k.a. the Salt Satyagraha, Dandi March, and the Dandi Satyagraha) refers to the nonviolent civil protest in India against the exploitative British salt tax. 

The venerable Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, along with 78 close volunteers, led the twenty-four-day march (2 March 1930 to 6 April 1930). He traveled by foot 240 miles from his religious retreat in Sabarmati Ashram all the way to Dandi

Map tracing the Salt March

Map tracing the Salt March

source: Maps of India

Gandhi inspired tens of thousands of Indian citizens to march with him, as well as millions to violate British salt laws. The widespread civil disobedience resulted in nearly 60,000 arrests but also growing resistance against British colonial Rule. 

It should be noted that the Salt March, one of Gandhi’s greatest nonviolent campaigns, tackled economic injustice. He recognized that gaining some degree of economic freedom for Indian citizens would help bring actual independence from the Raj. The Salt March inspired many of the world’s most respected activists, including our very own Martin Luther King Jr. 

We at the Zero Theft Movement are dedicated to eliminating the rigged parts of the U.S. economy in order for the healthy, ethical parts to thrive. Corrupt corporations and political officials might be colluding in order to unethically and sometimes illegally boost their profits by ripping off the public. Gandhi’s Salt March serves as an example of how fighting against nationwide economic injustice can start bringing about change for the better.

Satyagraha & the Indian Salt Tax 

Prior to the Salt March the Indian National Congress had declared independence, or Purna Swaraj, on January 26, 1930, Gandhi, nevertheless, understood that the British would not willingly cede control and thus revolution had to occur for India to actually achieve true freedom. 

A clear way forward would not present itself until a month had passed.  

It became clear to Gandhi that the independence movement needed to be nonviolent. This decision marked the inception of Satyagraha (‘passive resistance’), the foundations of all of Gandhi’s efforts in the future.  

With the approach established, the question remained: what exact injustice would the Indian National Congress address first? 

The 1882 British Salt Act

At the time, India had yet to industrialize. Meaning most citizens worked as farmers, or other agricultural professions. Due to the nation’s extremely hot and humid climate, Indian citizens needed salt for their bodies to function properly. To have the necessary minerals to maintain muscle function and hydration. 

The legislation established a British monopoly on the production and sale of salt, enabling the Raj to levy an exorbitant salt tax. The British did not satisfy a lack of supply. Indian citizens had easy access to the salt that formed in the low-lying coastal areas of the nation. If they used the abundant and free supply of salt, they would have been violating the law. 

Salt was such a vital commodity that affected virtually all Indian citizens. Gandhi, in a stroke of genius, had an inkling that protesting the Salt Act had a good chance of appealing to countless Indian citizens—across regions, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class.

In 2018, the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held nearly 80% of all oil reserves in the world. Many have debated whether OPEC operates as a cartel (groups formally colluding). See whether the Zero Theft community has found strong evidence that the U.S. public is getting ripped off.

The First Steps of the Salt March 

On March 2, 1930, Gandhi sent a letter informing the Viceroy Lord Irwin that Indian citizens would begin breaking the provisions in the Salt Act in 10 days if the Raj refused to repeal it. 

Gandhi stated, “It is possible for you to prevent this raid, as it has been playfully and mischievously called, in three ways: By removing the Salt Tax; By arresting me and my party, unless the country can, as I hope it will, replace every one taken away; By sheer goondaism unless every head broken is replaced, as I hope it will.” 

According to the docuseries A Force More Powerful, Viceroy Lord Irwin did not respond to Gandhi. Instead he wrote the following in a letter to London: “At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night.” Irwin showed little apparent concern for Gandhi’s Salt March. 

True to his word, Mahatma (or ‘the Great Soul’) embarked from his ashram (religious retreat) on March 12, 1930, with some of his loyal followers. He famously held his slender walking stick and wore his humble yet soon-to-be iconic shawl and sandals. Thus began the 240-mile journey to Dandi, a town by the Arabian coast.

Scenes from the Salt Satyagraha

Gandhi made full use of the Salt March, stopping at villages along the way to educate Indian citizens. About the exploitative salt taxes instituted by the Raj, his philosophy of peaceful resistance, and even the injustices of the Indian caste system particularly to the ‘untouchables.’ 

At the city of Naidad, he notably urged government workers to quit: “I wish all Government servants to give up their jobs. What is Government service worth after all? A Government job gives you the power to tyrannize over others. And what do you earn in the job? By dint of independent labour a man can earn thousands if he chooses to do so.”

As Gandhi had predicted, the Salt March quickly picked up thousands of followers as the growing group slowly made its way toward the western coastline. The line of protestors supposedly extended past a mile. Furthermore, major news outlets around the world (including The New York Times) documented Gandhi’s peaceful revolution, heaping a mountain of unexpected bad press on the British government. 

While the Great Soul had expected to be arrested or even assaulted during the march, the global attention perhaps made the British wary of acting in any way that would spark public backlash. The Raj just observed as the march continued to inch towards the final destination.

two months into the Dandi March

About two months into the Dandi March

source: Wikimedia Commons

The Technology CEO Council, formed by chief executives from Motorola, Dell, and Intel, published a report in October 2010 on inefficiencies in government contracting supply chains. The council estimated potential savings over ten years could exceed $700 billion, given the streamlining of the supply chain and the elimination of fraud. 

If the government does not put in an effort to streamline their contracting supply chains, are they ripping off the public?

The End of the Salt March

The line of tens of thousands of protestors reached Dandi on April 5, with Gandhi still out in front. After taking the night to rest, he led prayers early the next morning and went to the beach to harvest salt.

Perhaps finally realizing just the power of Gandhi’s movement, the British police had supposedly attempted to crush the salt deposits into the mud. The paltry effort did little to thwart Gandhi, of course, as he waded into the clear waters of the Arabian Sea and collected a small lump of natural salt left in the mud. 

In the company of thousands of journalists and supporters, he lifted the salt and announced, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” 

Mahatma Gandhi harvesting salt

Mahatma Gandhi harvesting salt

source: Wikimedia Commons

The Salt March had ended, but the Salt Satyagraha continued. Gandhi’s ‘crime’ had triggered a massive movement that lasted for a few weeks. Men and women around the country started journeying to the seaside in order to harvest salt. In fact, women played a major part in disrupting the limited British salt supply. For example, many boiled seawater to get the salt and then sold it at city markets. 

The British Raj eventually retaliated by arresting nearly 60,000 people, including Gandhi.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact 

In January 1931, British officials released Gandhi from prison. He later discussed the Salt Act with Viceroy Lord Irwin. They brokered a deal, known as the ‘Gandhi-Irwin Pact,’ wherein the Indian people would end the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London meeting on India’s future.

Picture of Viceroy Lord Irwin, taken in 1944

Picture of Viceroy Lord Irwin, taken in 1944

source: Dutch National Archives

Representing the Indian National Congress, Gandhi attended the meeting in August. Little came of the conference, but the British knew that its control over India would likely face strong opposition in the years to come. 

Connecting the Salt March to the Zero Theft Movement

Even though we have little connections to India, the Zero Theft Movement takes many lessons from Gandhi’s work and the Salt March in particular.

Beyond the civil rights injustices the Indian people suffered, the considerable economic ones should not be forgotten. Economist Utsa Patnaik went back and tried to calculate how much the British Raj took from the Indian people. She claims: “Between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to 9.2 trillion pounds ($45 trillion), taking India’s export surplus earnings as the measure, and compounding it at a 5 per cent rate of interest.”

The Salt Tax shows just how legislation can work against the public, how it can lead to citizens getting ripped off. Perhaps you have wondered why drug prices in the U.S. are, on average, 256% higher than in other similarly developed countries. Maybe you’ve questioned why individuals have paid 86% of the government’s taxes, while some multinational companies have allegedly managed to pay a whopping $0 in federal taxes. Or why ‘too big to fail’ corporations still got bailed out by the Fed even when others offered to buy shares for firesale prices.

Big industries, through lobbying, could be getting Congress to sell out across the economy. 

But it’s up to us to identify them and provide evidence proving our claims. That’s why the Zero Theft Movement, along with our growing community, works to calculate the best estimate for the monetary costs of corruption in the U.S. Corporate, political, and everything in between.

We have built a safe and independent platform where you and your fellow citizens work together to investigate and debate potentially rigged areas across the economy. You vote on whether

  1. theft is or isn’t occurring in a specific area of the economy, and
  2. how much is being stolen or possibly saved. Through direct democracy, we can collectively decide where the problem areas are and start working on addressing them systematically.
Standard Disclaimer

The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.   

Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.  

The public has spoken! See how much the rigged economy is ripping off from you…

Explore the Problem Hierarchy

We have primers on potential problem areas of the economy. Before you start voting, it’s important you get a basic understanding of the issues at hand, so you can be as helpful as possible to other community members. Take a few minutes and come prepared.

Serve your fellow citizens as a citizen investigator

The success of our movement rests in your hands, the leaders willing to dedicate time to conduct investigations into potentially rigged areas of the economy. Lead the movement and help create an ethical economy.

Heroism made easy

All it takes is twenty minutes every day for you to help eradicate the rigged layer of the economy. Just review a proposal and vote! Our reports will only gain legitimacy and power with your contributions.

Commitment to nonpartisanship

The rigged layer causes all of us to suffer, regardless of our political allegiances. If we are to eliminate rigged economy theft, we have to set aside our differences and band together against crony capitalists and corrupt officials. 

Free Educational Content

An educated public is an empowered public. 

We regularly publish informational articles on that teach you all about the rigged layer of the economy, in short, digestible pieces. You can better protect yourself and others from the schemes of crony capitalists by reading our articles.