Progress by Consent: Speech by Jawaharlal Nehru

Speech by Jawaharlal Nehru in Lok Sabha, December 21, 1954 

If we travel all over India we see an enormous variety of population in various degrees of development. We see many cultural, political, social and economic disparities. We want to put an end to these disparities and inequalities. But remember, there is a limit to the amount of compulsion that we can exercise, apart from the desirability of compulsion. We have to go by consent, not everybody’s consent, but the consent of the community as a whole. Apart from this ineluctable factor, so far as our country is concerned, we have followed a policy in our political field which is somewhat unique. In our political struggle, by and large, we have adopted peaceful methods.

An example is the way we put an end to the princely order in this country. We paid for it. But remember this: what we paid for it, however heavy, was very little compared with the cost of a conflict. In the economic field, similarly, we want to do away with classes, but by the method of winning over people. I admit class struggle, but I do not want to aggravate it. I do not want to be obsessed with it. I want to get rid of it as far as possible without aggravating the struggle.

I dislike comparing my country with others to our advantage or disadvantage, because I do not want to criticize other countries. But I venture to point out that where upheavals occur, they are products of history, and the violence, defeat and civil war govern the subsequent events. Some hon. Members seem to think that in order to have progress, they must destroy. They think that by increasing the conflict and bitterness they can have a clean slate to write upon. No country has ever had a clean slate to write upon, not even after the biggest of revolutions. No one should deliberately destroy something which is worthwhile in order to build something which may be good in certain circumstances. I am prepared to compare what has been done in India in the last few years with what has been achieved in any other country. We may have achieved less; I am prepared to admit that. But we must take into account the peaceful and co-operative method of our approach. You may say that even taking this peaceful, co-operative method of approach we might have gone faster. But the House must be clear whether we want the peaceful, co-operative and democratic method or whether we want some other method.

The word democracy, I know, can mean many things, but I am talking of what is called parliamentary democracy. There are other methods which may equally be democratic but which are different. Why have we chosen parliamentary democracy? Because we think that in the long run it produces the best results. If we come to the conclusion that it does not produce the best results, well, we change it, obviously because we want results. What are the results we are aiming at?

National well-being, and the happiness of the millions and millions of our people. We have, at the present moment, a country which is industrially not developed, although we are industrially more developed than any other country in Asia, apart from Japan. I am not at the moment taking into consideration the Soviet regions of Asia. Apart from these two exceptions, India is industrially better developed than any country, certainly more than China. Nevertheless, we are an undeveloped country. Our standard of living is low. We have got to raise that, and in raising that we have got to find employment for all our people. What are our objectives? We may define them in many ways, but perhaps one way which is more important than others is to find progressively fuller employment till we reach full employment through increased production. You may also say that greater production ought to imply better distribution.

If that is our approach, how are we to do it in this very complicated situation that we are in, with an under-developed economy and with very little surplus to invest? We cannot compare our problems with those of the industrialized West, because they have had centuries, or at any rate, generations of growth. We cannot compare ourselves with Soviet Russia. The only country which, in a sense, is comparable is China, which also has a vast population, unemployment, very low standards and under-development of industries. Therefore, it is conceivable that as they achieve progress according to their ways, we may be able to learn something from them.

But China has passed through forty years of civil war and international war. We had, fortunately, a peaceful transfer of power in this country, with a running machine. A running machine has its advantages and disadvantages. I prefer the advantages. The disadvantage may be that you are tied up with certain processes which take time to change. The advantages are obvious—that you do not destroy and start from scratch. We started at a higher level, as I said, compared to most countries in Asia. Although at present the industrial conditions in India are better, it does not mean that China may not make greater progress. That is a different matter. But is there any comparison between the stability—political, economic and social—that we have achieved in this country and the progress we are making, and the conditions in other countries? It may be slow, but there is no doubt about our progress and the impression we have made in the wide world.

It is an extraordinary thing that our critics abroad come from certain very reactionary parties in the West who do not like India’s progress. We have also critics among our own countrymen. Let us have criticism galore, but let us always remember that if India is going ahead, it is not because the Government of India is very bright but because the people of India function.

It is not right for us always to be running down what the people of India are doing. Take the Community Projects or the National Extension Service. I think it is one of the biggest things that any country has undertaken, and I think that it is succeeding in a very large measure. It is an amazing thing how we are building it up from the grass-roots, and not imposing it from above.

And what has been the reaction of many of our friends on the opposite benches? They not only refuse to co-operate with it, but they run it down. They forget that it is not a governmental effort, but the people’s effort. They keep away and they keep others away. In fact, they obstruct the progress that might be made.

Professor Meghnad Saha has said that all the figures that the Finance Minister has given about the industrial and other progress that we have made were completely wrong. It is difficult for me in a short space of time to go into these detailed figures. Most of the figures, hon. Members know, have been given in the Planning Commission’s progress report and other papers. But I really am surprised at Professor Saha challenging figures which are obviously right.

The index of industrial production (which was 100 in 1946) rose from 105 in 1950 to 111 in 1953. In July this year it was 149. It is a big jump from 105 to 149. There has thus been an increase of over 33 per cent since 1953. It is a very good increase. Shri Asoka Mehta spoke about its being lop-sided. But let us remove the lop-sidedness. It is true, of course, that judged in terms of our needs and what we should do, this increase is not enough. We admit that. But the point is that there has been a marked increase in industrial production, whether it is output of cloth by 25 per cent or cement by 50 per cent; and Sindri has reached capacity production and we are now on the verge of starting one or two more Sindris. I agree, of course, there is no question of Government feeling complacent. We are not complacent, but what I do say is that we are not frightened by the problem. We are going to face it and solve it. I am talking of all of us together and the country. The slightest weakening, the slightest element of complacency, will come in our way.

We started planning, as the House will remember, three years or four years ago, with very little data. It is very difficult to plan without data. Gradually, we have collected data. Gradually, we have made the States and the people in the States plan-conscious. All the time, we have had to face the terrific problem of food shortage in this country. We came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that in the First Five-Year Plan, the most important thing was the agricultural front. Of course, we are carrying on with the river valley schemes, and we have put up the Sindri and Chittaranjan factories and many other kinds of plants. But, essentially, we realized that food shortage was the big problem and we concentrated on that. We did that because we felt that unless we had a strong food basis, our industrial efforts might well be bogged down.

Hon. Members who have studied the history of other countries probably know that too much stress on heavy industries has produced difficult problems in those countries. In fact, the price paid for rapid industrialization has been terrific in some socialistic countries. I am certain that no country with any kind of parliamentary democracy can possibly pay it. Maybe, where there is a dictatorship with an army behind it, they may be able to do it. But even a dictator cannot go too far without the consent of the people. Real progress must ultimately depend on industrialization. That industrialization ultimately depends on heavy industries.

Even to preserve our national independence, and, much more, to raise our standards of living, heavy industries arc essential. But if we go in for heavy industries alone and not think of the other factors, it is quite possible that our problems will become much more difficult. It is possible also that unemployment will grow. We have to face the problems which China has to face. Of course, we hear many kinds of reports about China. There are good accounts and true accounts. There is terrific unemployment in China. Their own leader says so. They are trying to face it, perhaps in a different way. The same problem comes up before us. We want higher techniques. We cannot progress without higher techniques. But the moment we think of higher techniques, we cause unemployment. We do not want unemployment; we want more employment.

People talk about the public sector and the private sector. Does the House realize that the biggest and the overwhelming part of the private sector is the private sector of the peasants in India? That is the real private sector in our country, not the few factories we have.

There is much discussion about the public sector and the private sector. I said the other day—and have said it more than once—that I attach great importance to the public sector. The pattern of society that we look forward to is a socialist pattern of society which is classless, casteless. So far as the Congress is concerned, for a long time past, it has laid down its objective as a casteless, classless society, which, obviously, can be attained only in a socialistic pattern. But I would beg of you not to imagine that because socialism conceives of nationalized industry, therefore you must have all industry nationalized. I think that as the socialist pattern grows, there is bound to be more and more nationalized industry, but what is important is not that there should be an attempt to nationalize everything, but that we should aim at the ultimate result, which is higher production and employment. If by taking any step you actually hinder the process of production and employment from growing, then that does not lead you to the socialistic pattern. In a country like India, where money, trained personnel and experience are lacking, we have to take advantage of such experience, training and money as we have. We want to make this business of building up India a co-operative enterprise of all the people. We try to avoid conflicts and try to avoid taking steps which have a chilling effect on this pattern. We want to go ahead in regard to production and employment. That is the vital thing. And in order to attain that, we have to create the right atmosphere and encourage initiative.

In regard to the public and the private sector, it is obvious that with the limited resources we have in the hands of the State, we cannot do all that we want to do at the present moment. We shall, of course, try to do as much as we can. But some people suggest that we must prevent the private sector from functioning in the field of industries. I think such an idea comes from confused thinking. I do not understand this attitude. I want a socialist society in India. I want to get out of this framework of an acquisitive society, but I am not going to get it by merely passing resolutions and raising slogans. I want India to move in that direction, carrying a large number of people with it.

It is obvious there is no question of seeking everybody’s consent. We do not especially go and seek the consent of the landlords before we have land legislation. Nevertheless, we have land legislation in a way so as not to throw the landlords to the wolves. That is, we try to fit them into our future structure. As a matter of fact, hon. Members might know that hundreds of thousands of landlords in U.P. have been badly hit by the land legislation; but we have not made them enemies. The other approach is to make people your enemies, call them names, and, instead of getting help from them, actually get obstruction.

Some people might talk about private enterprise and laissez faire, but practically nobody now believes in laissez faire. There is regulation and control all over the world in regard to industry and imports and exports. Everywhere, even in the most highly developed countries of the capitalist economy, the State functions in a way which possibly a socialist fifty years ago did not dream of. I am not saying that we should follow a slow course. Let us go swiftly and definitely in the direction of a socialistic economy, but let us go in a balanced way. Let us get as much help as we can. I do not see any harm at all— in fact I see a lot of good—in the private sector functioning. But it is obvious, in a country as undeveloped as ours, that we cannot progress except by State initiative, except by enlarging the public sector, and except by controlling the private sector at important points. I cannot obviously go into the question of where the line should be drawn. But the line will ever be a changing one, because the public sector will be a growing one. The important thing is that the strategic points must be controlled by the State. Having said that, I shall add : if you leave something to the private sector, give them freedom to function within those strategic controls; it is absurd to ask them to function, denying them room to function, denying them the initiative. We have the private sector because we think they will add to our common good. And if we deny them any initiative in the sphere demarcated for them, then they become useless and helpless; it is better to take the whole thing into the public sector.

If I may repeat, our policy must inevitably be one of raising production and increasing employment as rapidly as possible. In doing that, it is essential that the public sector should grow as rapidly as possible. I think that under the present circumstances in India, it is very necessary that the private sector should function under certain broad strategic controls, but, otherwise, with freedom and with initiative. The private sector is a part of the Plan, a co-ordinated part; this is where the strategic controls come in. I do not want to limit the public sector at all anywhere. But our resources are limited. It is no good my preventing somebody else from doing something which I cannot do myself; that is folly, because thereby we lose something which might be created. 

The Finance Minister calls this a pragmatic approach. It is pragmatic in the sense that the pragmatic approach itself looks in a certain direction and has certain objectives. Otherwise, it it is based on an objective consideration of things as they are.

Previous Post Next Post