Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Nanda’s views on planning

Gulzarilal Nanda, a Punjabi politician twice interim prime minister of India, was born 120 years ago today. As a young follower of Gandhi, he was imprisoned a couple of times for non-violent protest, but later he served the new independent nation’s government in various roles for more than 20 years. There is very little information about him readily available in English, but a biography (available to preview at Googlebooks) was published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, and this refers to, and quotes from, diaries he kept.

Nanda was born into a Hindu family on 4 July 1898 in Sialkot, Punjab, then a Province of British India but now part of Pakistan. He studied in Lahore, during which time he married Lakshmi. They would have three children. He also studied at Amritsar, Agra and Allahabad, taking up a social studies research post at Allahabad before being appointed Professor of Economics at National College in Bombay in 1921. He joined the Non-Cooperation Movement that same year, and the following year become Secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (for which he worked until 1946). He was imprisoned for Satyagraha (a form of Gandhian non-violent resistance) in 1932 (and again between 1942 to 1944). In 1937, he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly, subsequently serving in various capacities. He is credited with launching the Indian National Trade Union Congress, and, later, he became its President. In 1947, he went to Geneva, Switzerland as a government delegate to the International Labor Conference.

In 1950, Nanda was made vice-chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, and the following year he was appointed Planning Minister in the Indian Government. After being elected to the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) in 1952, he was reappointed as Minister for Planning, Irrigation, and Power. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha through several general elections up to and including one in 1971, though for different constituencies, serving in several ministerial positions (Union Minister for Labour and Employment during 1962-1963, and Minister for Home Affairs during 1963-1966). Most significantly, he was Prime Minister on two occasions, each time for 13 days, the first after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, and the second after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1997. He died in 1998, aged 99. There is a little further biographical information available online in English, at Wikipedia, PM India, or History of India for example. However, there is also a biography of Nanda by the journalist Promilla Kalhan which is available to view at Googlebooks: Gulzarilal Nanda: A Life in the Service of the People. This was first published in 1997 by Allied Publishers for the Indian Association of Social Science Institutions.

Nanda was a diarist, although there is very little information about his diaries readily available online. Certainly, there is no sign they have been edited or published. However, Kalhan does mention them several times in her biography, and she quotes from them occasionally. Here are several relevant extracts from her narrative (those which include quotations from Nanda’s diary).

Pages 30-31
‘Nanda’s views on planning are spelt out in short notes he jotted down in his diary during the 1950s in his inimitable style - short, crisp and indicative. The following are some of the extracts from his diary on the subject of the Five-Year Plans:

“Planning: The people of the country have taken to planning, from the start - accepted it... At the top there were doubts, differences. Now the acceptance of planning is almost unanimous in the country.

The importance of industrialization has always been accepted. Gandhiji’s emphasis on cottage industries... Cottage industry, however, will not suffice. He said - produce cloth in the country and dispense with foreign machines etc. for producing cloth. But whatever foreign machinery cannot be dispensed with must be produced in the country e.g. for Railways etc. Even for development of cottage industries at a higher level the help of steel, electricity, irrigation is needed.

There are however differences still regarding the kind and degree of planning. Those are related more or less to some basic differences in the objective of planning or the relative emphasis inter se - or a kind of economic and social set up we are working for.

Two chief aims of planning:
(i) Best utilization of resources, i.e. no under-utilization and no waste.
(ii) The utmost realization of the objectives i.e. programme should be on lines calculable to activities and objectives in the optimum manner.” ’

Page 34
‘Moreover, as he pointed out in jottings in his diary, a shift from the private to the public sector was not without its dangers. If allowed to function unchecked, the bureaucracy could end up by ushering in state capitalism which would be difficult to dislodge. It could result in a kind of dictatorship, like that of Hitler or Stalin. It would lead to centralised power rather than democratic socialism. New habits of work through co-operatives had first to be formed. The aims of the working class could not be achieved by strikes and a slow down but by assuming greater responsibility and producing better results. Employment for everyone with a suitable level of income was an important step towards ushering in socialism.

Jawaharlal Nehru had said that he could not expect to see socialism established in his lifetime. But Nanda did not see why this should not be possible during the course of a few years, given the right outlook, promulgating the right institutions and leadership. He wrote in his diary: “Success of public enterprises is not simply a matter of internal efficiency, but adjustment to an environment so that a public enterprise can function effectively in conformity to social objectives of making the best use of all resources, human and material”. He had in mind employment and cottage industries among other needs. “In all this effort”, Nanda added “corruption is a serious hindrance to the development of a socialist pattern. The Prime Minister (Nehru) had described the problem in terms of food, clothing, shelter, education, medical aid and equal opportunity. When there is scope for corruption, there cannot be equal opportunity.” He said that “Some attention has to be paid to the well-being of women, landless labourers and tribals among others - and equality of opportunity to all children. The ideology underlying a socialistic pattern is not an exclusive concern of any one Party. It is the concern of the whole nation. Loyalty to the community is important to promote its abiding progress. Loyalty to one’s immediate personal interests comes later. Democratic socialism is a way of expressing it. Gandhian socialism is more expressive. Sarvodaya has a great deal to do with it. But it is better not to call it Sarvodaya. Its implications are far wider and deeper.” ’

Page 41
‘Prohibition found a place in the Second Five-Year Plan. In an entry in his diary dated January 1956 Nanda had this to say :“Prohibition: We have to make it successful. To whatever extent we go forward it must be attained effectively. We are told that only a very small percentage drink in India. That should be an added reason for carrying out prohibition because it should be easier to make it successful. When large numbers drink there is no strong public opinion against it. But if ninety per cent do not, it is a reservoir of public opinion which if utilized properly is a guarantee of success of prohibition.” ’

Page 90
’Nanda was in the habit of keeping a diary, to be exact, not one diary but notes on various subjects and therefore a number of diaries.’

Page 173
‘The last page of the diary, his most recent jotting consists of one word, repeated several times. The word is: Gayatri [famous Hindu mantra addressed to Savitr, the sun god].’

As notes in his earlier diaries reveal, Nanda was interested in Kurukshetra, starting colleges, possibly even a University devoting itself to the teaching of Indian culture and research. This not only became a reality but today the Kurukshetra University has become a full-fledged institution teaching other subjects as well.

Nanda’s diary indicates that he has been deeply concerned with the future governance of various institutions and welfare work started in Kurukshetra by him. He mentions the names of various people, including Sadhus he knew there, who might take over the responsibility. Nanda also bought some land in Kurukshetra with money he borrowed from one of his two sons, to set up some welfare projects. That he has been responsible for the upliftment of Kurukshetra is recognised by everyone.’

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