Jawaharlal Nehru's speech: Place of the Big Machine

By Jawaharlal Nehru

Speech at the inauguration of production at the Integral Coach Factory, Perambur, Madras, October 2, 1955

You have invited me here on an auspicious day [of Gandhiji’s birthday] for this auspicious opening ceremony. I have come here gladly for a variety of reasons. Perhaps some people might wonder what is the connection between Gandhiji and this great factory, for he was apparently not enamoured of great factories. He thought much more of the village and the home. And yet, I feel that this idea is due to a basic misapprehension. I am quite sure that if it had been our good fortune to have Gandhiji with us today, he would have been glad at the opening of this factory. This factory, like all factories, does not come in the way of his basic desire to develop the village industries and generally raise the standard of our vast rural and urban population. Some people take rather a narrow and lop-sided view of Gandhiji. None of us perhaps is fully capable of understanding all the aspects of his many sided character. We cling to one or two aspects not realizing that we do not see the whole of that remarkable personality. Many, I suppose, took the letter of what he said and paid little attention to the spirit, to the underlying philosophy for which he stood. You will remember that often he let us have some glimpses into his mind which would show that that mind was deep and wide and looked not only at the millions of our people but at the whole of humanity.

Functioning at a particular moment in India as the leader of a great struggle against a mighty empire, he brought methods and tools into play which were particularly suited for that struggle as well as for the constructive activity of the nation. Fie laid stress on village industries and, curiously enough, even those who were critical of him, who were sceptical about village industries and the like, today stand for village industries and the development of our rural areas. Others have arrived only gradually and through painful processes of reasoning at the conclusion he arrived at intuitively. And there is no conflict between that conclusion and this factory or other big factories that we might build because we try to co-ordinate the two approaches. There can be no real wellbeing or advance in material standards in India without the big factory.

I shall venture to say that we cannot even maintain our freedom and independence as a nation without the big factory and all that it represents. Nor in my opinion can there be well-being and large-scale employment in India, at least for a very considerable period to come, without widespread groups of village industries.

We cannot keep pace with the modern world unless we adopt the latest techniques, whether it is for the big factory or the small, or for village industry. We cannot keep pace with the modern world unless we utilize the sources of power that are available to the modern world. Today, we stand on the threshold of the atomic age. Enormous new resources of power have been placed at the disposal of man. Whether he uses them for good or ill only the future will show. What we do know is that the power is there and we cannot ignore it. We shall have to use this new source of atomic energy when the time comes. At the same time, everything has ultimately to be judged in terms of human welfare, and the only real yardstick we can employ is the happiness of our three hundred and sixty million people. Therefore, I see no incongruity in my coming here on Gandhiji’s birthday and performing the opening ceremony of this great factory.

I go about from end to end in India, seeing new factories come up, great schemes take shape and great river valley projects develop, giving power and nourishing water to our fields. I see the Community Projects and National Extension Service spread in our rural areas with a speed which is remarkable and without precedent in history. Remember this, that perhaps the biggest scheme in India is not this big factory or a hundred other factories, but the hundreds and thousands of Community Projects that are changing the face of India. That is the great revolution that is taking place in the village, and in the heart of India. I see all this and as I see it, I feel excitement creeping over me.

I am impressed by this magnificent structure, which has been built with considerable rapidity and, to the layman's eye, built efficiently, attractively and imposingly. I should tell you that my first approach to this factory was not a pleasing one. I saw a huge ten- or twelve-foot wall. I do not like walls and am allergic to them—I have had too much of walls in my life—and this horrid twelve-foot wall mile upon mile, without a break, almost gave me a headache when I was coming here. I am told that a great part of this wall is not part of this factory at all but a relic of the great repair shop that was here once. Evidently the builder of this factory has carried on the tradition because I saw the wall being continued right up to the main gate. I do not know if this was necessary but if something is necessary, it need not be a plain wall which gives a headache to anyone who sees it. Why must not our factories be beautiful to look at? I must say that it was a pleasant change to pass that wall and come inside. The lay-out of this factory, the shape, the trees, created a much happier sensation. I like the wide open spaces. Old factories are apt to be crowded and grimy but this is not a bit grimy and will not, I hope, be allowed to get grimy. There should be space and air and light, and I see that provision has been made for them.

All the factories that are coming up in India are interesting in themselves, but to me they are rather symbols of something bigger that is taking place. You are making these integral coaches by processes of welding. Some of us in our own way are also engineers, human engineers, trying our utmost to weld and integrate. There are so many odd pieces in this country which require welding together. There are so many odd things within ourselves, each individual or group, which require integration. Often I feel that we, as a nation, suffer from a kind of split personality. We talk in terms of the highest ideals and act in completely the opposite way. No one in the wide world talks of higher ideals than we do, but our practice does not hold at all with our talk.

There are always two forces at work—the powerful forces that make for integration and unity, and the other forces that constantly work for destruction and disintegration. Everywhere there is a conflict between such forces, more especially in India, where we have just got out of a condition of subjection and have to build anew our country, a country with almost every phase and century of civilization.

I am glad to come here because this was a great dream of my dear friend and colleague, Shri Gopalaswamy Iyengar. I am happy to be here to see the fulfilment of a dream of his. I am glad to come here because I knew that this factory is likely to represent a fairly big advance in our march towards industrialization. And yet, when I see the big machines working, and I see also that most of these machines come from foreign countries, then the obvious thought comes to me that there can be no real progress or real industrialization in this country until the machine itself is made in this country.

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