In 1918, Gandhi interfered in the dispute between Ahmedabad mill owner and workers. Ahmedabad was known for its textile industry. The steady growth in cloth production from 1913-14 to the 1916-17 year and 1918-19 production declined in the textile industry.
Mill worker was in demand to keep pace with rising in production. But the outbreak of plague in 1917 Ahmedabad affected the worker to leave that place to save them from the plague. The mill owner paid a bonus as high as 75% of their pay. But after the plague was over, the mill owner decided to stop the plague bonus from February 2018. The workers were demanding a rise of 50 per cent in their wages to manage in the time of wartime inflation caused by the British’s involvement in World War I. The mill owner was ready to give only a 20 per cent wage hike.
Due to this, Gandhiji organised another satyagraha movement in Ahmedabad to support mill workers problems. The mill worker met to Anusuya Sarabhai for help in fighting for justice. Anusuya Sarabhai was the sister of Ambalal Sarabhai, one of the mill owners and the Ahmedabad Mill Owners Association president for help in fighting for justice. Anusuya Sarabhai went to Gandhi and asked him to intervene to resolve the issue. She later formed the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association in 1920. Gandhiji studied the situation and suggested that the worker demand a 35 per cent increase in wages instead of 50 per cent.
Gandhiji guided the workers to remain non-violent while on strike. When negotiations with mill owners did not progress, he himself undertook a fast unto death (his first) to strengthen the workers’ resolve. This was the first hunger strike of Gandhi. This put pressure on the mill owners, who finally agreed to submit the issue to a tribunal. The worker withdrew the strike. In the end, the tribunal awarded the workers a 35 per cent wage hike.
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