Economic reconstruction of India
Patel, Jacob Samuel Kanakikoppa
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Among the progressive countries of the world, India is the most poverty-stricken. And yet India is a country rich in natural resources, capable of supplying all the necessary raw materials for various kinds of manufacture. Neither is she lacking in manpower nor in potential supply of capital. What, then, is the cause for her economic backwardness? First and foremost is the excessive dependence of India on agriculture; nearly 73 per cent. of the population being dependent on the soil. In spite of the development of joint stock enterprises in the country, large-scale industries are comparatively few and they maintain barely ten per cent. of the people. Social and religious traditions and prejudices have also contributed their share to the prevailing poverty among the masses. From time immemorial it has been the privilege of the few well-to-do aristocratic families to enjoy all the comforts and luxuries of life and to hold the masses in perpetual poverty. The religious injunction that the material comforts of life keep one away from God and that the less one has in this life the more he will have in the after-life, has constrained the people to be content with the satisfaction of a few wants. In addition to all these, the tropical climate of the country makes possible the minimum need for clothing and shelter, and so contributes to a disinclination for work. Finally, the one-sided economic development sponsored by the British Government whereby India has become a raw material exporting and manufactured-goods importing country is another vital reason for economic poverty. In recent years efforts have been made for the abolition of poverty. Especially have energies been directed to improving agricultural methods and practices: canals have been constructed, various kinds of agricultural financing agencies have been started, experimental farms have been established in different rural centres, and so on. But so long as the excessive dependence of the population on the soil is not reduced, much relief cannot be obtained. Similarly, those who are interested in large-scale production have done a good deal toward ameliorating the condition of the labourers and in exploring the possibilities of new enterprises. Another group of people, apprehending the evils of large-scale production, have emphasised the importance of cottage industries and have directed their energies toward reviving them. However meritorious and well intentioned these schemes may be, they all lack a co-ordinated approach. None of these efforts singly can bring the much-needed relief to the country. All have to be viewed in their different perspectives, but with a common objective. Unless there is a co-ordinated approach to the problem of poverty, these different schemes may counteract one another. For example, to improve the condition of the cottage producer it may be desirable to lessen or even to abolish the duty on imported yarn, which, in turn, might prove harmful to large-scale cotton production. Furthermore, economic reconstruction plans, in order to be fruitful, should take into consideration the historical and social background. In spite of the strong national movement, there are in India communal differences which have acted as barriers to the realisation of the freedom of the country. A motive force which has blended the different national, racial and religious groups into one nation in the United States of America is industry and commerce. In the cosmopolitan world of industry and commerce there is neither Jew nor Gentile; all have equal rights and privileges. But in India the communal differences cannot effectively be bridged unless all the parties concerned develop a common purpose. The high ideal of freedom has not allured the different communities to iron out their differences and work in unison. If the rioting communities in India were directed to spend their force in the industrial and commercial development of the country, they would not only improve their economic status but would have a unity of purpose--increasing the individual and national wealth of the country. Thus a comprehensive economic plan, the objective of which is the abolition of poverty is to be carefully thought out. In my plan of economic reconstruction, there is a definite scheme for lessening the pressure of population on the soil by establishing large-scale industries; these industries need not be concentrated but should preferably be decentralised. Until such time as the Indians develop their investing habits, the capital for the promotion of these industries should be invited from abroad both indirectly, by allowing the foreigners to buy securities in the Indian companies, and directly by permitting the foreign companies to start industries in the country on a definite agreement. That large-scale production does not completely eliminate the existence of small industries can be seen from the study of a few highly industrialised countries like England and the U. S. A. We may conclude that in India, too, the cottage industries need not completely be eliminated. Their special place should be realised, especially in the realms of art and handicraft. But more important than the plan itself are the methods and policies to be adopted in order to effect its operation. The prevailing systems of the economic order in the Western countries may be broadly classified under three heads-Capitalism, Communism and Fascism. Which one of these systems will best fit India is a point worth considering. Both Communism and Fascism have brought about an economic revolution for the better in the countries in which they have been adopted; but unfortunately, coercion has been their chief weapon. In adopting one of these methods, considerable good might be accomplished; but will a country which has all along practised non-violence as its creed ever appreciate the economic benefits of force? Capitalism in its present form has brought about class antagonism. India has had enough of this. Gandhism, which believes in village industries and considers large-scale production a poison, is ill-suited to modern conditions. It is, therefore, necessary to adopt a plan where, under the direction of the State, free individual enterprise is carried on in the country without effecting a considerable disparity in the wealth distribution. Briefly, my plan of economic reconstruction can be stated as follows: The development of large-scale industries of various kinds so as to reduce the pressure of population on the soil; the rebuilding of the agricultural industry so that there may be larger production; the encouragement of cotton industries wherever it is necessary; an extensive development of means of communication and transportation; a greater emphasis on the widening of internal markets; a more comprehensive financial organization; and finally, an increased share of the activity of the Indians in foreign trade and commerce and in shipping. This development would be under the control of a government commission whose function it would be to develop a plan which would protect the Indian people and at the same time attract foreign capital. Here is the crux of the whole reconstruction plan. When this plan and method are applied to the different phases of economic life there will be increased production of wealth not only in manufacture but also in agriculture. Both for production of wealth and its distribution means of communication and transport are essential adjuncts. In India today there is more need for development of roads than of railways; there is also need for co-ordinating the various means of transport. The economic progress of the country also envisages the necessity for more markets. Although international trade is necessary for the satisfaction of many wants, the internal market will be the most important for the country. For the successful carrying out of all these different aspects of the plan there must be a spirit of cooperation between the people and the government.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University