What went wrong with Indian Independence? chapter - 7
A SECOND PARTITION
The problem of raising capital
The development of Industry pre-supposes development in a large number of diverse fields. In the countries that are today considered as industrially developed, agricultural, transportation and Commercial revolutions preceded the commencement of the industrial revolution. A series of discoveries and innovations accompanied by the advent of technology propelled the wheel of economic development. The unequal trade with the colonial possessions and direct brutal expropriation resulted in extraordinary profits, thus providing the initial capital.
In the India of 1947, industrialism had not even made its early beginning. Cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras had made some little progress in Trade and Commerce because of their location at major ports. A number of English companies procured raw materials from all over the country, brought it to the port cities and exported them abroad. The colonial government had erected the infrastructure of the Railway network, post office and telegraphs for their benefit. Some enterprising men from the traditional trading communities had entered this commerce. Further in cases where value addition could procure higher profits, these men had taken the lead to start primary processing industries. The Civil War in the United States gave a book boost to the demand for Indian cotton As a result, the export of cotton increased and a large number of ginning, spinning and weaving mills had sprung up. At another extreme, Tatas had a large iron and steel mill at Jamshedpur. With a few exception of this type the country was dependent on imports from abroad for most of is requirements, as literally, “a needle to a locomotive.”
In a situation like this, how to bring about an all round and integrated development of Transport, Commerce and Industries. This was a major question faced by the new rules. Economics of Mahatma Gandhi ordained a fairly clear recipe: boycott use of imported goods, promote self-sufficient and autonomous village units, encourage the artisans, handicaps and village industries. The blooming of the village economics would gradually produce the infrastructure communications, transport and commercial network. This kind of an industrial revolution would be supported by the participation of the masses in India. Agriculture in the countryside, being the main source of wealth, it will put in the hands of villagers the primitive capital required for the traditional rudimentary technology in the early days. Experience and contract with the world will encourage in creation and advancement of technology that would be supported by the surplus of tertiary sector. This line of “natural growth” would protect the nascent industries from competition of the industrial production based on higher technology abroad. There is no reason to believe in the Gandhian vision. Entry into international competitive markets would come only after the Industry had developed the necessary strength and capacity.
Ghandhian Economics would have been helpful for the village artisans and the labouring mass. The most dominant group in the ruling party consisting of the urban western educated, which was very anxious to strengthen the relationships with the western countries. Talk of village autonomy and handicrafts etc. appeared to them as Gandhi’s idiosyncrasies. Gandhi’s way according to this dominant group would take long in achieving economic progress. The industrial revolution may not come in several countries. India would consequently lag behind the more advanced countries of the west, for centuries to come. Gandhi, according to them, was re-inventing the wheel. A slow and long winding path to economic development was unnecessary. They favoured instead the import of modern industries and technology from abroad in order to put India on par with the advanced countries. This would be facilitated by encouraging mining and heavy industries, like Iron, Steel and Cement, which were to be promoted in a big way. So, they thought they would start moving the wheels of economic and industrial development in India. In due time, they would accelerate and would bring the economy to the points of “take off” and smooth flight. Thus alone could India hope to rank with industrialized countries of the world.
The line of thought of the predominant group took the economic planning in the Soviet Union as a model. The USSR was largely believed to have arisen from a primitive state to become a leader state within a short span of 30 years in spite of the devastation of the Second World War. The Soviet Union was not a democratic State but its economic progress was considered to be nothing short of a miracle. In 1918, at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia was as backward as India in 1947. It’s territory was equally vast; it had reached the top of the world through a planned economic encouraging heavy industry. Socialist planning was held by this group as the key to economic development as well as to eradication of social injustice and social inequality. They were convinced that the socialism represents the highest ideal for good of the humanity as a whole.
The planning process of the Soviet Union could not have been copied in all its detail in India. The urban lobby in the Congress party did not have the stomach for such a gigantic enterprise. They could hardly welcome the nationalization of all the private property or accept to become property-less labourers like the lower caste communities.
They certainly were strongly in favour of rapid industrial development that gave priority to the infrastructure and the heavy industries, but would not have liked a wholesale nationalisation of all the property which is a tenet of the socialist society. There is clearly a duality in this position. Socialism through democratic means was the slogan given by this group. This appears to combine the best of both the worlds and a moral and ethical way to economic prosperity.
The combination, in fact, was sheer opportunism on the part of the elite community. They abhorred he idea of losing property. They equally disliked the idea that industrialisation should put the artisans and the trading cast at the top of the social hierarchy lacking, as it did then industrial skills as also the socialist morals, the only way it could have industrialisation without affecting its social hegemony was socialism with a thin veneer of democratic institutions. What is remarkable is that the depressed class joined hands with the elite in pursuing this pseudo-socialistic way of economic development that suited the upper caste communities. The leaders of the Dalit movement had an antipathy for the rural village institutions. They likened it to a cesspool, where the Dalit could hope neither for justice nor for respect. They exhorted the Dalit to educate themselves and migrate to the cities to get absorbed in the industrial economy. The State-dominated the industrialised societies was nearer their hearts than the Gandhian model of a village-centered economy. The Dalit movement got oriented towards “jobs”. That is where it joined hands with Brahminical socialism. That Pandit Nehru had succeeded in usurping the leadership of the ruling party as also the government suited eminently the interests of the elitist group,. Nehru, during his stay in England had come in contact with several Leftist thinkers, like Harold Lasky. He was attracted towards socialism, not as economic doctrine but as a model social system. During a short visit to Russia he was convinced himself the virtues of socialist planning. Seventeen years before Independence, he had become the Chairman of the Planning Commission appointed by the Congress party. In all the sincerity and enthusiasm of a young girl playing with her doll’s house, Nehru had seen in the work of this Commission the vision of a future socialists in India.
DOCTRINE OF SURPLUS VALUE
The Marxist Doctrine propounds that the surplus value comes out of the exploitation of the labour and the working classes. How do primitive societies develop primary capital before the commencement of Industrialisation? The post-Revolution Russia witnessed an acrimonious debate on this subject. The debate was concluded by Stalin by sending tanks against the recalcitrant kulaks to exterminate them. This operation made it clear that the capital for industrialisation comes out of the physiocratic multiplication in Agriculture. The Soviet Russia had applied this lesion in a bloody manner to bucaneering the Kulaks and collectivising agriculture,. That could not be replicated in India. The rural leadership had its own strength. They would have sternly opposed any socialistic plunder of agriculture to promote industrialisation. In India there has been no trace of a debate on the origin of capital for primary industrialisation The issue was never settled formally on paper, Little by little things developed in a manner to suit the designs of the dominant group.
INDUSTRY FOR DEFENSE
Independence came with the Partition. Refugees arrived in millions. Communal riots flared up all over the country. Armed conflicts erupted with Pakistan. Police action was required in Hyderabad and Junagadh. Communist organised revolts in a number of places. There was a general consensus that the Indian armed forces had to be strong and well equipped
The Indian army has always been a professional outfit. Their professionalism was so ferocious that they rejected outright the idea of re-integrating the soldiers from Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army back into the Indian Army. Whatever the validity of the Gandhian system of village industries and handicrafts, it was irrelevant in the field of defense. This was the general opinion to preserve India’s independence. The Army had to be equipped with up-to-date arms and ammunitions, guns, fighter planes and all. The Jawan cannot be sent to the front equipped with anything but the best guns. It would tantamount to treachery. The nation cannot remain dependent forever on super powers. India must develop its own capacity for defense production There was not one dissenting note to this line of thought. Even the strongest Gandhian did not put forward an alternative defense strategy based on popular participation of masses rather than one based on a limited professional outfit equipped with modern ornaments.
Indian Army developed on these lines was easily beaten back in 1962 by waves of Chinese soldiers who carried nothing but a fistful of oats was their rations. Later on, America’s well equipped army was humiliated Ziapes, Guerrillas in Vietnam Even the possibility of reorganising Indian armed forces other than on the British line was not even examined by the rurals of the Independent India.
The strange fact heights a vested interest of the urban westernised community. They abhorred the very idea of an all out war that hurt all the elements of the society. They could hardly stomach the idea of the Indian cities facing London-like blitzes.
Such bombing would have destroyed industries and flatten the houses of all the people without distinction. They talked bravely of defending the nation. But they wanted all hostilities to remain limited to the border areas. That could happen only if the army possessed modern equipment. The army should take carte of the enemy at the frontier and not let the civil population be touched. They looked at the border wars as if they were cricket matches and enquired about the figures of the dead and
wounded as if they were asking for runs scored by either sides. The excuse of the defense requirements finally flattened the Gandhian economics arguments. It was ridiculed as impractical idealistic ranting and abundant.
Dissemination of rural leadership
The very first few years after Independence witnessed yet another major upheaval. However, it happened so smoothly and subtly that its importance was lost on most people at the time. The riots after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 pushed out the Brahmin community out of the villages in Maharashtra and came to the cities. In many States in the south mass agitation against the past tyranny and continued domination of Brahmins were gaining strength. In those States also the Brahmins abandoned villages and the countryside and settled in the cities or even migrated to other States. The urban intellectuals and the leftist politicians had during the early vociferously post-independent propagated the slogan of”Land to The Tiller”Factories to the toilers was not insisted upon equally vociferously. There were hardly any attempt to correct the unequal distribution in urban properties. As regards the rural land, however, one legislation followed another in quick succession at the outset came the Tenancy Legislation which were followed by legislation for the separation of the Zamindari. Then there were a serious of land ceiling Acts. the class of the money lenders was also snuffed out from the villages. All this had the consequence of driving out of the village classes, who had traditionally held the leadership of the village communities. this proved to be no hestisement of the old tyrants. Quite contrarily a whole community that was socially and economically better off escaped the clutches of the rural life and became free to assimilate themselves in the urban communities, and eventually the build up their leadership. It is very doubtful, how far the tenants, farmers and landless labourers actually benefited from these measures. That question is not relevant either. The autonomous institutions of the villages was broken down by these laws and the people who provided leadership and articulation for the villages became refugees and left the villages. There is no doubt that any upheaval of this magnitude is painful for the society as a whole. But the uprooting the Brahmins, landlords and the money lenders was to have too strange consequences.
There is little doubt that the landlords and the money-lenders plundered the farmers. But is equally true that they carried the burden of several responsibilities pertaining to the village. In times of difficulties, particularly during famines and droughts, they practically maintained the village. Leaving aside the moot point whether these classes got more from the village or gave more to the village, it is certain that whatever the quantum of their plunger, it still remained within the village. The legislation against the landlords and the money-lenders was motivated and promoted by urban interests. Their main concern was not the welfare of the landless and the poor. They were unhappy that they were not getting any share of the loot and that the entire surplus benefited the villagers, the habitants of the villages. Zamindari is no more. The village money lender has been replaced by cooperative societies. There is whole network of banking institutions in the countryside. The exploitation of peasantry, about which such a bogie as raised, continues unabated. In fact, it appears to be harder and more.. The burden of debts in farmers is becoming increasingly crushing. Migration of the villagers to the city is growing. No matter what the real intention of the authors of anti-zamindari and anti-money lenders acts, it is clear that the village poor denied the benefit of them. All this legislation does not appear to have severely hurt the Brahmins, landlords or the moneylenders than the Brahmins who left villages in the aftermath of 1948 riots, appears to have been benefited from the calamity. Agriculture is like the continent of Seirc of the Greek mythology. Anybody that in contact with it, goes through immigration and final destination These communities were caught up in the quagmire of the village life and were at a loss to know-how to escape therefrom. The communal riots and reform legislation provided them a sudden escape. Any vocation or job in the urban sector is more lucrative than the agriculture of the most fertile land. These new refugees suddenly realised that economically they were much better off than in the past. They possibly had lost in prestigious status in the clustered village life. They found that they could in fact become the political leaders even in the new set up, combining contrast with the countryside with sophisticated articulation to natural cities”strength The circumstances of their uprooting were such that most of them came to the cities, full of bitterness and venom for the village life.
Tenancy legislation and anti-zamindari laws proved to be a bonanza for the losses against whom they were targeted In the State of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh here used to be a large number of big landlords. Implementation of new laws deprived the land holdings which were a losing proposition in any case. The rates of compensation were fixed at nominal or minimal levels. All the same, the amount that came into the hands was substantial for the epoch. If the land of all these people had come into the market for sale, simultaneously the prices would have sunk so low that they would have got nothing like the money paid by the government. The affected people came to the cities with this money and soon got into the upwardly mobile trade commerce and industries in the urban townships. Some got into the politics. Many of them did very well. Many of the politicians who talked enthusiastically about land reform it would be found that it came originally from this class of new refugee landlords.
INDIA VERSUS BHARAT
Economic policy of the British had resulted in a continuous flow of village people from villages to towns in search of livelihood. Further, social inequity of villages had pushed out a large number of people from the depressed class to the cities. Those who had social and economic were, left villages and that created a vacuum. No one was left to defend economic interest of agriculture and countryside. The urban educated had deep rooted interest in the socialistic pattern of society New class of rural refugees elite and depressed classes joined their ranks to creation of a socialistic society, rather than one passed on enterprises and risk booming. In a; sense, nation got partitioned second time. This was not a territorial partition but a notional one. Urban western educated, who drew their sustenance for a modern economy and industry can be called”India”and they obtained inheritance from the British of colonial exploitation, while, those in the countryside, leaderless, largely illiterate, eking out their livelihood on agriculture, became”Bharat”and continued suffering under the new colonial exploitation and even after the independence. White Britishers were replaced by the less fair ones, but this division cleared the way for exploitation of agriculture with Stalin-like ruthlessness without the need to use Stalinist tanks.
In the pre-Independence years, election in the erstwhile undivided Province of the then Punjab, were worn by the Unionist Party, which consisted of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh farmers and it defeated the Congress that led the city traders. It is remarkable that while Sir Chotu Ram leader of the Union Party was alive, the Muslim League was unable to open a single branch in the Punjab Province, The Union Party had proposed”land alienation Bill”. making it impossible for the Muslim leaders to seize land of the defaulting farmers. The Bill was opposed by the Congress Party under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai, who argued that seizure of land was the fundamental` to the vocation of money lending and this right was denied. Money lending was disastrous consequence for the farmers. This post-independence days, there was no Sir Chotu Ram nor Lala Lajpat Rai. Villagers became leaderless. More elite sub-caste amongst farming community became spokesmen for Agriculture.
However, the commitment of this new class of leaders to the rural cause was at best superficial They could be easily induced by offer of political carrots to compromise on even the vital interest of the countryside. These leaders joined en-masse the socialist brigade persuaded that socialism was way to destroying the Brahminical domination,. the new rural leadership thus became subjugated to”India”and turned traitors to their own country fellows.
ERA OF STARVATION
Independence came 50 years back. The British rule of 150 years had squeezed dry both the agriculture and artisans, Villages had been all reduced to start poverty. The country suffered at the same time from extreme scarcity of food.
During the period of Second World War, the armies of the allied nations were improvisioned from India with revitaillements. The Government in consequence was left with little stocks of food, Resulting famine was disastrous, particularly in Bengal. Hundreds and thousands of people perished. It was a comprehensive system of rationing that ensured some sort of supply of food-grains, sugar, kerosene etc. During the war period, very inferior quality grains lime milo and corn were being issued through ration shops. Two years before the Partition were marked by nation-wide conflagration in States like Bihar, Punjab and Bengal. Communal riots did not remain confined to cities but spilled over into the countryside. As a result, production of food-grain declined. Refugees moved in groups all over the country looking for shelter. Special arrangements had to be made to provide rations for such ambulatory community. Briefly, even before the Partition, the position of availability of food-grains was extremely difficult. The Partition and mass scale migration of refugees made the situation even worse. The territory ceded to West Pakistan included the West Punjab, which had
become, thanks to the massive programme of irrigation, dams and canals carried out under the British rule, reservoir of food-grains for the country. By comparison, East Punjab which had come to India, which correspondents to the Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh of today, had made little progress in the food production.. On the eastern side, there were similar complications. Jute was the main produce of Bengal. In fact most of the jute production in the worked came from there. Practically all the jute producing districts went to East Pakistan, while the jute mills concentered in Calcutta, came to India. Soon after Independence began armed conflict in Kashmir, which put a further strain the supply of food. Till 951, India experienced severe shortage of food and prices that rose continuously, making lives of even relatively well to do families very precarious.
Agriculture which had had precarious situation due to continuous waves of invasions and wars, 1949-1950 were the two years of good monsoons. Suddenly food seemed to be acutely scarce. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, the then Minister for Civil Supply, decided to close the rationing system and created upon market for grains and pulses. Prices of food-grains in retail market began to fall. This decline in prices did not reflect adversely on the prices obtained by the farmers. Had this situation continued, there was probably no need to talk of what went wrong with the Independence. However, abundance of supplies, free market and declining prices are not to the taste of the people who prospered by stock piling and black marketing. A large number of employees of the Civil Supply Department were understandably unhappy at the prospect of losing their jobs.. All these forces combined to encourage hoarding and other means of pressurizing the market. Soon, food-grain prices stated rising and finally, sky rocketing. The Government ought to have prepared itself to this kind of situation by building up some stocks. Why was such a primary precaution not taken ? Was there some sort of wicket plan behind this, o r did it happen exclusively through administrative inertia, inefficiency and lack of foresight, it is difficult to say positively, one way or another.
There was repetition of this 28 years later. In 1978-79 during the regime of Janata Party, Choudary Charan Sing, attempted to de-license sugar and abolish levy system. Prices of sugar collapsed. There was panic among sugar factory owners. Had the government acted by entering into the market to support it and building some emergency stock, the situation could have been easily remedied. In that case, probably the next season would have been normal and the system of levy”would have disappeared”The Government gave a knee jug reaction. In open market, there could be spells of hardships and confusion. Hoarders and black maketeers do try to profit from absence of regulations. Experience world over shows that this kind of aberration is brought under discipline by market forces and through pressure of consumers. The Government certainly lacked this kind of faith in the capacity of markets to regulate themselves. The Janata Party Government had its own socialist bias. Understandably therefore no sooner than the sugar lobby started protesting. The government surrendered and reinstated levy system. Employees working for the system of civil supply of sugar were also largely instrumental about the government’s capital. Second attempt at liberslisation of agricultural marketing too failed n this manner.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi made an attempt exactly in opposite direction. She announced nationalisation of the entire system of food-grain market. There was no chance that such an absurd experiment would succeed. It flailed soon and nationalisation had to be scrapped within a few months.
Bureaucrats’ Thirst for Control over Economic System
However, they are not prepared to take the entire responsibility for running the economy. They much prefer that the farmers, workers, traders and industrialists should run the economy. leaving crucial point of control in the hands of Bureaucrats, thus giving them ample opportunity for obtaining supplementary income. Understandably, therefore, policy of opening up pursued by Kidai and Charan Sing and also Indira Gandhi’s nationalisation, both failed abominably. Normal commerce in food-grain remained the responsibility of the private sector, whether the government and its army of officials controlled the public distribution system and vast machinery of Food Corporation of India that controlled procurement, storage, transport and also distribution. Decisive control of food-grains through were firmly in the hands of the bureaucracy.
TYRANNY OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES’ ACT
Kidwai’s attempt at liberalisation failed. The system of rationing was firmly re-established.. Then followed a period of stagnation in food production. Population continued to grow.. Socialist............ drove board of people from the countryside to the urban areas in search of livelihood. The population continued to grow incessantly. It got increasingly concentrated in the urban centers. The distribution in these centers virtually collapsed. There arose a psychosis of scarcity and the country got caught up in a vicious cycle of want. Sometimes the monsoons were scanty, sometimes they poured in abundance, sometimes they were floods, some time storms. The reasons varying but the supply of food every year consistently was short of demand.
A question needs to be asked : If the country really lacked food-grains to meet the reasonable consumption requirements of the population. For a family of typical size, counting the young as also the old can avoid starvation if it gets one quintal of food-grains per head per year. In 1965-66 the whole county was under the shadow of famine. Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, exhorted the people to go without food one day in a week. The 1965 war with Pakistan the economic policies received a re-orientation under the slogan, Jai Jawan Jai Kisan. Soon thereafter, the Green Revolution appeared on the scene. A Agricultural Prices Commission was created to recommend reasonable prices for the agricultural produce. In the history of post-independence India the year 1965-66 marks a milestone in food production. That year came to 80 lakh tonnes which gives an average of two quintals per head, instead of one. Even taking into account food grains that used as raw material in the industry, there was clearly no scarcity to justify the bulla-ballow. The black marketeers and the bureaucrats had combined in mutual interest to promote food scare. This psychosis continued till 1970. Today, it is said that the country has become self-sufficient in food. The fact is that the per capita availability of food grains as diminished while that of proteins has gone up. That may be the reason why the requirement of per capita of food-grains has diminished. In any case, it is difficult to maintain that the country lacked food at last till the day of Lal Bahadur Shastri. However, the Food Corporation of India and the vast hierarchy of bureaucracy of the bureaucrats continue to have a vested interest in keeping alive the food scare.
The manner in which the development of Agriculture, Industry as also other sectors of the economy were handled, can be fully understood only on the background of this history of psychosis of scarcity.
The post-independent India witnessed a clear-cut division of its people. Farmers and artisans on the one hand and those in the modern sector of trade and industry, on the other. This dichotomy sprung fro the age-old system of caste distinction.
Since the time immemorial, the Indian society was bifurcated by the city wall. Those inside the wall pursued respectable trade and crafts fit for the upper caste, while those outside the wall;did menial and unpleasant jobs and generally had no civic rights. The coming of the British enlarged this dualism into wider regions but made the division even stronger. Those outside the wall had little say in the freedom movement, which was largely dominated by those inside the wall. After Independence the political power passed into the hands of those inside the wall who stepped into the shoes of departed colonial masters and became”India”while those outside the walls became”Bharat”and continued to toil and be exploited once again with the difference that now they were being tyrannized by no alliance but by the people of their own color, nationality and religion. But now suddenly the air was filled with a new idiom.”Gandhism”was replaced by socialism, Agriculture by Industry. A primitive society suddenly awoke from its slumber of backwardness and fractured existence into a dawn of modern industrialization.
As mentioned earlier, Industrialization pre-supposes a surplus of production after meeting the needs of current consumption. It is that surplus which goes into developing, instrument outline as also infrastructure, like roads and communication.
PLUNDER OF AGRICULTURE
The industrially advanced countries of the west had resolved this problem of capital formation in a crude and uncouth manner. The landlords in the countryside simply drowned a way the tenants working on their land a went over to more sophisticated agriculture, shop keeping and dairy etc. The poor peasants driven out in a wake of this”enclosure movement”reached the cities in a state of penury. They had no shelter and no means of livelihood. They were left with no alternative but to take recourse to crime. Employment was difficult to get. Those lucky ones who got jobs required to work 12 - 14 hours per day with wages that hardly sufficed to keep the body and soul together. Thus did the new emerging industry obtain its raw material labor in the early stages. Later on, when the trade with the neighboring countries grew and the colonial empire offered possibility of plunder like trade. The Industry received the surplus required for the capital formation.
Marx had postulated his entire doctrine on the idea that in an advanced stage of development, the work force deprived of also property will rise in a revolution to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat under the Red Flag. At that stage, the problem of the primitive capital formation would have been resolved and the major source of capital formation would be stark exploitation of the workers. It;is the agony of the toiling masses that would erupt into a socialist revolution. Marx’s economic analysis is very vague on the process of primitive capital formation in a socialist country because a primitive socialist state was considered to be a contraction in terms.;In fact, however, the socialist revolution happened quite contrary to Marx’s prediction, neither in Germany or in England which were two; more advanced capitalist system of the epoch. The revolution came in a under-developed country with a primitive economy, like Russia. The planners of the Bolshevik State soon realised that the surplus required for the building of the socialist industry has to be exhorted from the”kulaks”There was a debate whether this transfer could take place in an environment of enmity or whether use of the armed might was inevitable. The main propense of both the sides of the debate, Praebrozensky and Bukharin were executed. by Stalin who further used armed tanks to impose forced collectivisation of the Russian Agriculture Thus, exactly like in the capitalist countries, the mobilisation of surplus from the agriculture to the industry turned out to be a lobby affair.
The problem posed itself in an entirely different context in countries like India that were imperial colonies before gaining independence. It became clear that the issue is not e economic one but more cosmic or physiocratic in character. The land and the nature are stores of accumulation of energy which are released at the application of labour and produce a multiplication, several-fold of the original seed. For a country like India, land and agriculture are l clearly the only possible sources of surplus. It was inevitable that the conflict”country versus town”or Agriculture versus Industry”should present itself in India in the same way, as it did in the capitalist and the socialist states. Here too industrialisation was intended to benefit a section of the society which made the conflict, particularly fues if the industrialisation was meant to be in the interest of all sections, classes and castes. The conflict could have been greatly attenuated. But in human societies, shift from the agricultural economy to the industrial one does not appear to have come about smoothly without friction. In India, the conflict became particularly serious because, apart from the economic contradiction between the Agriculture and the Industry. The age-old caste contradi tions also came into play. Even though the post-independence rulers flaunted the flat of socialism, it was beyond their capacity to establish a Bolshevik type of dictatorship and Stalin did, thanks suppress the peasant discontent.
Not that such efforts were not made, Stalin opened a campaign in India. The campaign was opened against the landlords and moneylenders. A campaign vilification was mounted which ignored all the benign aspects of those institutions. Nehru made all the preparations for cooperativiasation.of agriculture. But it failed. The industry could get its surplus required for the capital formation only in one way: i.e. to encourage growth of agricultural production and to take away all surplus from the villages into the cities. The industry had to be n provided raw materials, labour and capital, not on the strength of armed might but through subversions and manipulation of market force.. Through all the 50 years since Independence, this was the method adopted and deployed for the exploitation of the farmers and the agriculture. A whole draconian system was built up with Essential Commodities Act as its prime instrument. Restrictions on exports, dumping from abroad, restrictions on transport, storage, processing and compulsory procurement on artificially depressed prices have been the instruments of the anti-farmer armory. Their brutal application was justified as being in the interests of public distribution in a low caste economy. However, efficient the system of plunder was ultimately the quantum of the surplus that could be extracted depended on the level of aggregate production. The government concentered its efforts on campaigns like Grow More Food. The immediate famine conditions were met by ship-loads of food grains arriving from the United States. India paid only for the transport cost and nothing towards the food-grains. The policy of”Ship to mouth”feeding of the nation continued for long many years. Even an eminent socialist economist like Ashok Mehta is on record as having said that,”If the food could be obtained so cheap from abroad, Indian agriculture could stand some benign neglect for years to come.”The ship loads brought from abroad depressed prices in the domestic market. Agriculture became non-remunerative and the farmers lost the hope of recouping any effort and investment in the land. India’s dependence on USA for food grains worsened day by day. The rationing shops had food-grains to give if only the American ships arrived in the Indian ports on schedule.
FATTENING THE CALVES FOR SLAUGHTER
The agricultural production can be augmented by three means:
Reinforcement of infrastructure,
Advancement of technology and
Provision of economic incentives.
Villages in general are poor; in all infrastrctuural facilities. Lack of access roads, drinking water, power, marketing, credit are all scanty and poor. The land tenure was mediaeval, the farmers illiterate;land tied down by traditional rituals. The productivity of Indian agriculture was consequently very low. The cultivation practices were age-old, deeds, manure and pest control very primitive, keeping a part of the land tallow was only known method of maintaining fertility.
It was equally necessary that farmers should have adequate economic intensive to put in labour and investment. The system of markets since hundreds of years had been such that the farmers be forced to rush his produce to the markets as soon as the harvesting was done and accept whatever he got in exchange. Consequently, for generations together farmers had lost the enthusiasm for soil conservation, irrigation and improvement of implements and technology.
Promoting formation of industrial capital at the expense of agriculture require that the agricultural production should increase but that the benefit of the increased productivity should not reach the producer. This explains why successive governance of independent India attempted to improve social economic and agricultural infrastructure and tried to improve the technology. This was a case of calf being fattened so that it should yield maximum meat on the day of the slaughter.
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURAL POLICY
In the epoch of Pandit Nehru the emphasis was on building up the;infrastructure, improving irrigation, system of land tenure, building of model farms, establishing cooperative credit network, extension of network of A P M C (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) land projects of this type, were implemented. Soon it became clear that the cooperation has failed. Without going into the causes thereof, the government tried to push them to success through liberal state funding. The cooperative institutions got departmentalised. They offered an allure of economic gain that easily won over the new ruler leadership. which developed an added enthusiasm for the socialistic pattern of society.
Lal Bahadur Shastri’s tenure of a bare 18 months, saw a radical transformation The Agricultural Prices Commission was created and radical steps were taken to imbibe the Green Revolution Technology. Thus, it was that during the period of 1965 to 1970 the farmers obtained some of their crops prices that heartened them.
Indira Gandhi puts serious limitations on the politics initiated by Lal Bahadur Shastri. The Agricultural Prices Commission was muzzled by successive appointments as its Chairmen. Leftist economists which established anti-farmer credentials The support prices recommended by the Commission were used not to provide a floor to the prices in the market but rather the maximum limit beyond which no private trader need offer for purchasing the agricultural produce. The Green Revolution remained confined to the Northern States. The productivity even There soon reached a plateau. The Green Revolution did not move neither to the east nor to the west. The methodology of fixing the prices continued to be arbitrary and restrictive. till the advent of the Janata Dal government under the Prime Minister V P Singh. With that small exception, agricultural commodities were subjected to massive negative subsidies. Exports continued to be generally banned uneconomic imports were contrived to depress domestic prices. Compulsory procurement, restrictions on transport, storage, credit;and an artificially inflated exchange rate of the rupee, were all used to keep agricultural prices depressed and the terms of the trade continued to version against the agricultural section. The substance of the agricultural situation during the last 50 years can be summarised in two statistics.
At the independence, population;dependent on agriculture was around 74 per cent, while the contribution of the agriculture to the gross domestic products was 65 per cent Today, Agriculture contributes less than 25 per cent of the G D P while the population dependent on Agriculture remains at around 70 percent. 50 years back if the per capita income of an agriculturist was Rs. 10 then that of a non-agriculturist was Rs. 14. Today, the ratio has worsened so much that a non-agriculturist’s per capita income is over Rs. 104.
All the consequences of the economic policies in the last 50 years are fully reflected in these figures. The government decided to give priority to cities and industry, rather than to villages and agriculture and made all possible endevour to transfer the agricultural surplus from the farmer to the industrialist. The imperial rulers exploited the colonies,. to help solve the problem of capital formation of the metropolitan industries. The black British rulers after Independence followed the same policies. They created a new neo-colonial pattern, where one part exploited the other. It is these social, economic and political policies that are responsible for the decline and fall of Independent India.