Nehruvian Development

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Nehurvian Development and Planning

Germinated from India’s colonial-capitalist experience and anti-colonial struggle, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, created a model of development with the intention of India being master of its own fate. India, newly independent and with a economy drained from colonialism, Nehru was determined to implement several economic policies that would preserve and strengthen India’s sovereignty and freedom, both in the form of economics and politics. Jawaharlal had envisioned India to be economic self-sufficient and independent from foreign capitals. By having India economically independent, he argued, there could be more growth in the economy, and thereby an improvement in the overall living standard and productivity. Additionally, this would include more choices in political decision-making, security, and legitimacy to India as a new nation-state. From the model of development, a Nehruvian India would emerge as a country well equipped with a modern army, an infrastructure (made up of the latest 20th century technology) that defies the capricious changes in nature, and a perpetually self-sustaining industrial sector.

Looking with admiration towards the communist economic-planning of the Soviet Union and socialist theorist at the time, Nehru sought towards socialist pattern of society. Under a socialist construct, not only would there be an equal improvement and distribution in wealth, but also erosion to the traditional caste-class discrimination. For Jawaharlal, socialist economic-planning would consist of radical centralization and state planning that worked towards “scientific” and “rational means of creating social prosperity and ensuring its equitable distribution”. Consequently, reforming India’s heterogenic socio-economic classes into an egalitarian society. Beyond economic and political incentives, the economic planning has a heart-felt, symbolic component to it. Nehru had romanticized the industrial sector, such as steel mills and big dam, as the icon of India’s freedom, emotionally characterizing them as “temples of modern India”.

The Nehruvian model of development aimed for industrialization the resources for industrializing could eventually used to be tax, through a progressive taxation system, and thereby, generate investible surpluses. For the most part, resources for economic development were to be found primarily from internal sources. “External concessional financing” might be necessary as a transitional step, but would be phased out over time. With the process of industrialization, employment opportunities would be the responsibilities of “agricultural and small and cottage industries”. Additionally, with the allocation of resources for industrializing, land reformation was central. Nehru saw cooperative production as key to creating he egalitarian society. He does so by proposing the abolition of intermediary tenruial rights. Lastly, Nehru introduced the Panchayati Raj system of local government. He proposed local self-governance at the “block and taluka level” as a symbolic political act that demonstrated India’s sovereignty, and most congruent to the communal principles of a socialist pattern society. Economically, the model was design to achieve independent, internal sources of economic growth for India. Overall, the model of development was ideologically designed to produce an egalitarian society.

With time, Nehru eventually came to accept a more gradualist path of development. In a speech delivered in the early fifties, Nehru expressed that Soviet Russian methods were not fully applicable to India, as they entail the “large-scale exercise of coercion, which might cause serious rupture in the social fabric.” Additionally, in the early 1960s, in an exchange between him and Mohan Kumaramangalam, Nehru became convinced that there was much greater merit in taking more time as the social and economic cost of growth would be minimize. From theory to...
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