Friday, July 1, 2011

The idea of Development as Growth in Nehruvian modern India

The idea of Development as Growth in Nehruvian modern India

In The Discovery of India (1943), J.N.M.F., O.U.P., New Delhi, Foreword by Mrs Indira Gandhi 4th November 1980, Eleventh Impression 1991, p.226),  at the end of Chapter Five, Jawaharlal Nehru is incisive in observing,

"The Indian Social structure (and I shall consider this more fully later) had given amazing stability to Indian civililization. It had given strength and cohesion  to the group, but this came in the way of expansion and a larger cohesion . It developed crafts and skill and trade and commerce, but always within each group seperately. Thus particular types of activity became hereditary and and there was a tendency to avoid new types of work and activity and  to confine oneself to the old groove, to restrict initiative and the spirit of innovation. It gave a measure of freedom  vwithin a ceretain limited sphere, but at the expense of the growth of a larger freedom  and at the heavy price of keeping large numbers of people permanently at the bottom of the social ladder, deprived of the opportunities of growth. So long as that structure avenues for growth and expansion , it was progressive; when it reached the limits of expansion open to it, it became stationary, unprogressive, and, later, inevitably regressive... Because of this there was a decline all along the line -- intellectual, philosophical, political, in technique and methods of warfare, in knowledge of and contacts with the outside world, and there was a growth of local sentiments and feudal, small-group feeling at the expense of the larger conception of India as a whole, and a shrinking economy. Yet, as later ages were to show, there was yet vitality in the old structure and an amazing tenacity, as well as some flexibility and capacity for adaption. Because of this it managed to survive and to profit by new contacts and waves of thought, and even progress in some ways. But that progress was always tied down to and hampered by far too many relics of the past.""

So here Nehru had an idea: he would revolutionize the old system. This was the beginning of the industrial revolution in modern India made to run on the tracks laid by the British but with new vision and dimensions of growth as development.

This is a summing up of Nehru’s philosophy for the development of modern India. He was dismayed by India’s ancient traditions which he felt kept the masses backward. In his Glimpses of World History, (1934), (J.N.M.F., O.U.P., New Delhi, Foreword by Mrs Indira Gandhi, 4th November 1980, Fifth Impression 1988, p.68-69) Nehru praises the Chin Emperor Huang-Ti also known as “The First Emperor”, who in 246 B.C.  had all books in China giving an account of the past history and Confucian classics etc. burnt and destroyed. He writes, “A nice kind-hearted and amiable person he must have been, this First Emperor !  I remember him  always, and not without some sympathy, when I hear too much praise of the past in India. Some of our people are always looking back to the past, always glorifying it and always seeking inspiration  from it … But it does not seem to me to be healthy for any person or for any nation to be always looking back.”

To understand modern India it is necessary to understand Nehru’s vision  for independent India. The Nehruvian vision has remained through India’s journey from Independence in 1947 uptil today built on the view that growth of the economy through industrial development is the only way forward. A series of Five-Year-Plans designed upon targets of expenditure rather than achievement accompanied this model of growth and development and continues to do so. Conservation of natural resources or the fate of those societies which had for generations  protected them – India’s Adivasis or Tribals – was not taken into consideration even though the nation’s growth and development was ostensibly undertaken for their development. Vast areas of India have been mined, deforested, desertified and laid barren, millions of the poorest people have been displaced This has remained the conundrum of modern India and its plans for development of the nation.  

      25th June, 2011                                                                              Bulu Imam

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