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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 48, November 14, 2009

Nehru for Today

Tuesday 17 November 2009

[ November 14 this year marks Jawaharlal Nehru’s one hundred and twentieth birth anniversary. On this occasion we are publishing the following excerpts from Panditji’s speeches carried in Jawaharlal Nehru: An Anthrology (edited by Sarvepalli Gopal). Thereafter we reproduce three pieces written on Nehru by Shyam Benegal, one of the country’s leading filmmakers, eminent historian Bipan Chandra and veteran diplomat A.K. Damodaran included in the volume Nehru—The Nation Remembers (Tributes from Members of the National Committee for the commenoration of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary). We also reproduce N.C.’s editorial in Mainstream (May 26, 1984) brought out on the occasion of Nehru’s twentieth death anniversary. —Editor ]

The Socialistic Pattern

Yesterday I had the honour to present a resolution before you, which you passed. In it we stated that we wanted it to be clearly understood that we aim at a socialistic pattern of society….

We talk about planning. As you all know, planning is essential, and without it there would be anarchy in our economic development. About five years ago, planning was not acceptable to many people in high places but today it has come to be recognised as essential even by the man in the street. Our First Five-Year Plan is now about three years old, and we are now thinking about our Second Five-Year Plan. A phrase in this resolution says that the Second Five-Year Plan must keep the national aims of a welfare state and a socialistic economy before it. These can only be achieved by a considerable increase in national income, and our economic policy must, therefore, aim at plenty and equitable distribution. The Second Five-Year-Plan must keep these objectives in view and should be based on the physical needs of the people. These are really the important and governing words of the resolution and ought to be the controlling factors in drawing up the Second Five-Year Plan. Before going on to other aspects of the question may I say that a welfare state and a socialistic pattern of economy are not synonymous expressions? It is true that a socialistic economy must provide for a welfare state but it does not necessarily follow that a welfare state must also be based on a socialistic pattern of society. Therefore the two, although they overlap, are yet somewhat different, and we say that we want both. We cannot have a welfare state in India with all the socialism or even communism in the world unless our national income goes up greatly. Socialism or communism might help you to divide your existing wealth, if you like, but in India, there is no existing wealth for you to divide; there is only poverty to divide. It is not a question of distributing the wealth of the few rich men here and there. That is not going to make any difference in our national income. We might adopt that course for the psychological good that might come out of it. But from the practical point of view, there is not much to divide in India because we are a poor country. We must produce wealth, and then divide it equitably. How can we have a welfare state without wealth? Wealth need not mean gold and silver but wealth in goods and services. Our economic policy must therefore aim at plenty. Until very recently economic policies have often been based on scarcity. But the economics of scarcity has no meaning in the world of today.

Now I come to this governing clause which I just referred to with regard to the Second Five-Year Plan, namely, that the Second Five-Year Plan should be based on the physical needs of the people…. The conception of planning today is not to think of the money we have and then to divide it up in the various schemes but to measure the physical needs, that is to say, how much of food the people want, how much of clothes they want, how much of housing they want, how much of education they want, how much of health services they want, how much of work and employment they want, and so on. We calculate all these and then decide what everyone in India should have of these things. Once we do that, we can set a about increasing production and fulfilling these needs. It is not a simple matter because in calculating the needs of the people, we have to calculate on the basis not only of an increasing population but of increasing needs. I shall give you an instance. Let us take sugar. Our people now consume much more sugar than they used to, with the result that our calculations about sugar production went wrong. Now, why do they eat more sugar? Evidently because they are better off. If a man getting a hundred rupees finds his income increased to a hundred and fifty, he will eat more sugar, buy more cloth, and so on. Therefore, in making calculations, we have to keep in mind that the extra money that goes into circulation because of the higher salaries and wages, affects consumption. So we find out what in five years’ time will be the needs of our people; including even items needed by our Defence Services. Then we decide how to produce those things in India. In order to meet a particular variety of needs we have now to put up a factory which will produce the goods that we need five years hence. Thus, planning is a much more complicated process than merely drawing up some schemes and fixing a system of priorities.

Behind all this is another factor—finance. Finance is important but not so important as people think. What is really important is drawing up the physical needs of the people and then working to produce things which will fulfil such needs. If you are producing wealth, it does not matter very much if you have some deficit financing because you are actually putting money back through goods and services. Therefore, it does not matter how you manipulate your currency so long as your production is also keeping pace with it. Of course, there is the fear of inflation. We must avoid it. But there is no such fear at present in India. On the other hand, there is deflation. Nevertheless, we have to guard against inflation. We have to produce the equivalent of the money pumped in. Sometimes there is a gap between investment and production, when inflation sets in. For example, let us say we put in a hundred crores of rupees in a river valley scheme which takes seven or eight years to build. During the years it is being built we get nothing out of it but expenditure. This can be balanced in cottage industries, in which the gap in time is not large. The additional money that you have put in is not locked up for long. Therefore in planning we have to balance heavy industry, light industry, village industry and cottage industry. We want heavy industry because without it we can never really be an independent country. Light industry too has become essential for us. So has cottage industry. I am putting forward this argument not from the Gandhian ideal, but because it is essential in order to balance heavy industry and to prevent the big gap between the pumping in of money and production.

But production is not all. A man works and produces something because he expects others to consume what he produces. If there is no consumption, he stops production. Therefore whether it is a factory or a cottage unit, consumption of what is produced should be taken care of. Mass production inevitably involves mass consumption, which in turn involves many other factors, chiefly the purchasing power of the consumer. Therefore planning must take note of the need to provide more purchasing power by way of wages, salaries and so on. Enough money should be thrown in to provide this purchasing power and to complete the circle of production and consumption. You will then produce more and consume more, and as a result your standard of living will go up.

[An Address to the Indian National Congress, Avadi, Madras, January 22, 1955]

The Public Sector and the Private Sector

We have said that our objective is a socialistic pattern of society. I do not propose to define precisely what socialism means in this context because we wish to avoid any rigid or doctrinaire thinking. Even in my life I have seen the world change so much that I do not want to confine my mind to any rigid dogma. But broadly speaking, what do we mean when we say ‘socialist pattern of life’? We mean a society in which there is equality of opportunity and the possibility for everyone to live a good life. Obviously, this cannot be attained unless we produce the wherewithal to have the standards that a good life implies. We have, therefore, to lay great stress on equality, on the removal of disparities, and it has to be remembered always that socialism is not the spreading out of poverty. The essential thing is that there must be wealth and production.

There is a good deal of talk about ceilings, and one naturally tends to agree with it because one wants to remove disparities. But one has always to remember that the primary function of a growing society is to produce more wealth; otherwise it will not grow, and one will have nothing to distribute. If in the process of fixation of ceilings or in any other method of producing some kind of equality, you stop this process of wealth accumulation, then you fail in your objective. Therefore, whether it is in industry or agriculture, the one and the primary test is whether you are adding to the wealth of the country by increasing the production of the country. If not you become stagnant in that field. In order to reach equality, as I hope we shall, sometime or other, we need not follow the road of some artificial fixation of ceilings but a hundred paths which gradually take us there. An artificial attempt may indeed prevent us from reaching it….

May I say here that while I am for the public sector growing, I do not understand or appreciate the condemnation of the private sector? The whole philosophy underlying this plan is to take advantage of every possible way of growth and not to do something which suits some doctrinaire theory or imagine we have grown because we have satisfied some textbook maxim of a hundred years ago. We talk about nationalisation as if nationalisation were some kind of a magic remedy for every ill. I believe that ultimately all the principal means of production will be owned by the nation, but I just do not see why I should do something today which limits our progress simply to satisfy some theoretical urge. I have no doubt that at the present stage in India the private sector has a very important task to fulfil, provided always that it works within the confines laid down and provided always that it does not lead to the creation of monopolies and other evils that the accumulation of wealth gives rise to.

…While the public sector must obviously grow—and even now it has grown, both absolutely and relatively—the private sector is not something unimportant. It will play an important role; though gradually and ultimately it will fade away. But the public sector will control and should control the strategic points in our economy. The private sector, as we have stated in the Industrial Policy Resolution, will be given a fairly wide field subject to the limitations that are laid down. It is for us to decide, from time to time, how to deal with that sector. The point is that since we are an under-developed country, the scope for industrialisation and advance is very vast…..

The way a government functions is not exactly the way that business houses and enterprises normally function. A government rightly has all kinds of checks, as it deals with public money. Usually it has time to apply these checks. But when one deals with a plant and an enterprise where quick decisions are necessary, which may make a difference between success and failure, the way a government functions is not sometimes suitable. I have no doubt that the normal governmental procedure applied to a public enterprise of this kind will lead to the failure of that public enterprise. Therefore, we have to evolve a system for working public enterprises where, on the one hand, there are adequate checks and protections, and, on the other, enough freedom for the enterprise to work quickly and without delay. Ultimately it has to be judged by the results, though one cannot judge a government by financial results alone. In judging a big enterprise, one has to judge by the final results.

[A Speech in the Lok Sabha, May 23, 1956]

A Gradual Evolution

I look upon socialism as a growing dynamic conception, as something which is not rigid, as something which must fit in with the changing conditions of human life and activity in every country. I believe that socialism can be of many varieties. Socialism in a highly developed industrial community may be of one type, while in an agricultural country it may be of a somewhat different type. I do not see why we should try to imitate another country, although we should take advantage of the experience gained elsewhere. If I wish to industrialise my country, I have to learn not only higher techniques of industrialisation from the countries where such techniques have been adopted and are flourishing, but many other things, such as the way they industrialised. It would sometimes be useful to avoid it. I do not see why I should be asked to define socialism in precise, rigid terms. What I want is that all individuals in India should have equal opportunities of growth, from birth upwards, and equal opportunities for work according to their capacity.

Much can be said about socialism, but I should like to stress one thing. The whole of the capitalist structure is based on some kind of an acquisitive society. It may be that, to some extent, the tendency to acquisitiveness is inherent in us. A socialist society must try to get rid of this tendency to a acquisitiveness and replace it by co-operation. You cannot bring about this change by a sudden law. There have to be long processes of training the people; without this you cannot wholly succeed. Even from the very limited point of view of changing your economic structure, apart from your minds and hearts, it takes time to build a socialist society. The countries that have gone fastest have also taken time. I would like you to consider that the Soviet Union, which has gone fast in industrialisation, has taken thirtyfive years or more over it. Chairman Mao of the People’s Republic of China—which is more or less a communist state—said, about three or four years ago, that it would take China twenty years to achieve some kind of socialism. Mind you, this in spite of the fact that theirs is an authoritarian state, and the people are exceedingly disciplined and industrious. Chairman Mao was speaking as a practical idealist. We must realise that the process of bringing socialism to India, especially in the way we are doing it, that is, the democratic way, will inevitably take time.

We have definitely accepted the democratic process. Why have we accepted it? Well, for a variety of reasons. Because we think that in the final analysis it promotes the growth of human beings and of society; because, as we have said in our Constitution, we attach great value to individual freedom; because we want the creative and the adventurous spirit of man to grow. It is not enough for us merely to produce the material goods of the world. We do want high standards of living, but not at the cost of man’s creative spirit, his creative energy, his spirit of adventure; not at the cost of all those fine things of life which have ennobled man throughout the ages. Democracy is not merely a question of elections. The question before us is how to combine democracy with socialism, through peaceful and legitimate methods.

[A Speech at the AICC Session, Indore, January 4, 1957]

The Human Factor

One thing that distresses me very greatly is that, although I am convinced that the great majority of our population have bettered their economic condition a little, with more calories and more clothes, yet, there is a good number of people in India who have not profited by planning, and whose poverty is abysmal and most painful. I do think that some method should be found to remedy the situation.

The normal planner proceeds like this; he makes a theoretical approach. It is very good in theory, but it sometimes ignores certain human factors. He says that for this item we want production, and the best way to have production is, say, to put up a factory or something at a place where it will yield most results. The result is that they go on gathering factories and suchlike things at special locations. As they gather production units, it becomes easier to start yet another factory there. That may be logical, and that may yield more production, but it is not a very human approach, considering the size of India.

I begin to think more and more of Mahatma Gandhi’s approach. It is odd that I am mentioning his name in this connection. I am entirely an admirer of the modern machine, and I want the best machinery and the best technique, but, taking things as they are in India, however rapidly we advance towards the machine age—and we will do so—the fact remains that large numbers of our people are not touched by it and will not be for a considerable time. Some other method has to be evolved so that they become partners in production, even though the production apparatus of theirs may not be efficient as compared to modern technique, but we must use that, for, otherwise, it would be wasted. That idea has to be kept in mind. We should think more of the very poor countrymen of ours and do something to improve their lot as quickly as we can. This problem is troubling me a great deal.

Ultimately, it is a question mostly of the agricultural masses, and I think that agriculture, unless it is allied to some other industry, will often not bring rapid results. I think that animal husbandry is one such thing which is allied to agriculture. Also, there can be small industries in the rural areas.

There are many things that can be done, and we hope we shall try to do that. But I also hope that the House would remember the magnitude of the task before us. It is stupendous, and we must approach it in the proper spirit. We should not approach it with frustrated minds. We have to approach this task with confidence, with strength and belief in our people. We should also try to put this faith across to them. If we have this faith in an ample measure, the people will also be affected by it.

[A Speech in the Lok Sabha, December 11, 1963]

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