Nehru’s Word: Starting from scratch, our progress rate is heartening
"The cost the Chinese have paid for economic progress has been a very heavy one in individual and personal liberties"
Jawaharlal Nehru, in his long continuous tenure of almost 17 years as the prime minister, faced only one no-confidence motion in August 1963. He calmly sat through the debate that went on for four days, and replied to all the issues raised, even though he had an overwhelming majority and his government faced no threat. This is the last instalment of his reply given in the Lok Sabha on 22 August 1963.
The basic thing, the main thing in India is the peasant: how to change his mental outlook; how to make him use the modern tools and modern ideas to get him out of the rut in which he is living from ages past. With that end in view, we started community development. We succeeded to some extent and then they fell into a rut.
There is an enormous capacity in Indian people, whatever goodwill they have, to fall into a rut. I may confess that even the governments have that habit; certainly, the governments have that habit and the Opposition has it even more. I will tell you why: not that the government is better than the Opposition; of course not.
The government has to deal with day-to-day problems that force them to think. The Opposition has not got to think of them, and it thinks in terms of slogans and criticism and lives where it is. It does not advance at all…
I have ventured to state the main approach of the government regarding the domestic policy… We are thinking in perspective. We are thinking in terms of 15 years ahead. Acharya Ranga does not believe in planning, he thinks it is a laughing matter for us to look at it. Enough for the day is the evil thereof. But I suggest if he reads even the Third Five Year Plan Report, he will get some glimpses into our thinking.
The planning itself involves very important aspects. There is education which is essential. People grow by education and all other social measures. One of the happiest things that has happened in India is the growth of education. At present 70 per cent of the boys and girls of school-going age are going to school and it will be 76 per cent in two years’ time. That is what is expected to be.
Unfortunately, this emergency and menace from China has slightly impeded the progress we are aiming at. So, if you look at India, you will see many things which break one’s heart: poverty, misery and all that, and yet you will see something which is heartening and that is this. All stagnation has gone, or is going, and a certain dynamism has come into life in India.
I do not at all wish to miss the fact of the poverty and horrors of the Indian scene even now, but it is changing; that is the main thing. It has got out of the old rut and I think it will change pretty soon. The rate of the change will become faster than in the past.
And all this has been done with the democratic structure of government. In fact, if I may say so with all respect, the very fact of the no-confidence motion that we are debating today is a proof of that structure.
It will be a good exercise for us to look around a little to the other countries of Asia and elsewhere, especially the newly independent countries and compare what we have done with what they have done or are doing. A few of them have maintained democracy. But, even apart from that, let us see how far they have progressed on the economic and social plane.
I am not going to compare India with China now, partly because I do not know enough about China, about the progress made by China, because the reports are often conflicting. But I do know that the cost that they have paid for this economic progress has, to some extent, been a very heavy one in individual and personal liberties. I do not want to take that kind of cost into account while comparing us with other countries.
When we compare us with other countries excluding China, the rate of our progress has been heartening. It is no good comparing our rate of progress with, let us say, Germany, Russia or Japan. Shri Masani talked of the miracle of Germany. It is all very good to speak about the miracle of Germany, but Germany was a highly industrialised State before the War with everybody almost an engineer, a trained person, so that when they sat down after the War to build up, there was material on which to build up. So, they built on it. Japan did the same.
Russia, which is a socialist or communist State, did almost the same, because it had the background, the industrial complex behind it and the trained people. We have to suffer because we have not got that complex. We are trying to build it. We have built it up partly.
So, I would submit that in spite of the poverty in India, no doubt there is greater welfare in India—except in some pockets—than ever before. We can see that in the food they eat. In fact, they eat more and they eat better food. They wear more clothing of which they had precious little previously. They have better housing. Schools are growing everywhere and health facilities are growing…
The broad picture is that the rate of progress has increased after every 5-Year-Plan. I have no doubt that the progress of the Third Plan period will be substantially higher than that achieved in the Second Plan. In terms of the key growth potential, that is, the infrastructure, the progress has been creditable. National income over a 10-year period has risen by 42 per cent as against the growth of population by 21 per cent. Per capita income has increased by 16 per cent. That is not enough, I admit, but it is not so bad as somebody would think…
The honourable minister of food and agriculture has said that foodgrains have gone up from 52 million tonne to 80 million tonne and I expect it to go up in the next three years to 95 million tonne or even to 100 million tonne. Industrial production has shown remarkable progress. There is no doubt about that. So has transport and so has power.
In technical education, the degree level intake which was 4,100 in 1950-51, is nearly 14,000 now and is likely to be over 21,000 in 1965-66. For the diploma level the intake has risen from 5,900 to 25,000 and will be 46,000 and so on.
(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.)