The Nehru Era
British rule in India:
India was a subcontinent of many different states with multiple regions, rulers, political systems and languages = v diverse
Until 1947, the area that now forms India, Pakistan and Bangladesh was under British colonial rule.
1857: ‘First War of Independence’
1900-47: India ruled by a Viceroy and London civil servant officials who acted as government (Indians had little representation)
Princely states ‘independent’ but run by British crown
Political parties formed to lobby the British Raj
Nationalist movement: Beginning of 20th Century, growing feeling among educated Indians that British rule in India should end
Indian nationalists formed the Indian National Congress (1885), fighting for Indian independence.
The Congress wanted a single united country but the Muslim League wanted India to be divided between Muslims and Hindus.
Muslim League (1906)
Joined Indian Congress 1919
Travelled widely around India and saw extreme poverty aimed to improved position of peasants
Travelled to Europe/USSR and believed that socialism would solve India’s social and economic problems
Committed to secularism
Also valued liberal and humanist ideas, had a vision of India as a tolerant secular democracy.
Viewed Communism as a threat
Indian Constitution (Independence day- 26 January 1950)
President (head of state) and prime minister (runs the country)
Elections every 5 years
Universal suffrage for all over 21
Recognised 14 languages
Aug 1947: British rule ended when the sub-continent became independent into two states, India and Pakistan.
Pakistan divided into East and West Pakistan
Princely states voluntarlity decided to join either India or Pakistan, but Hyderabad and Junagadh were annexed by force
Kashmir had Hindu prince over Muslim population; India and Pakistan warred over control of Kashmir (Dec 1947- Jan 1949), UN arranged a ceasefire and divided the state into two (nobody satisfied)
15 million refugees migrated so not to be on the wrong side of the border
Economic Problems in 1947
Abrupt partition created strain on communication, infrastructure, agriculture, irrigation and trade
Only 8% of women and 25% of men were literate
Millions of unemployed landless rural workers
Partition Millions of unemployed and homeless refugees, financial burden for the new states
Stanley Wolpert ‘Nehru and Congress had long recognised poverty as the most critical and urgent problem confronting India’s populace’
In West Punjab, Hindu and Sikh refugees had abandoned 2.7 million hectares of farmland
Economic policy in the 1950s – ‘Nehru Mahalanobis’ - to increase per capita income by industrialization in 1938.
Build machines as quickly with no regard for quality/instructions
India grew faster than China while Nehru was president
Industrial production doubled
Britain in debt to India at the end of WW2 for £8 billion
5 Year Plans
1st 5 year plan April 1951-56
11% growth in national income
Increase in the value of annual production of goods/services from $18 – 20 billion.
$3.7 billion was spent, $3bn of which went to restoring pre war consumer goods production capability, repairing communication and attempting to improve agricultural yield.
Food grain production increased from 52m tonnes to over 65 million.
2nd 5 year plan 1956-66
More ambitious- spend 3x as much money
Food grain production raised to 80m tonnes (population = 440 million)
Iron ore production raised from 4 million tons (1956) to 11 million tonnes (1961). Coal from 38 to 54m tonnes, India’s power capacity doubled.
3rd 5 year plan 1961-66
India = world’s 7th most industrially advanced nation
New steel factories at Bhilai, Durgapur, Rourkela and Bokharo, producing over a total of 7 million tons of finished steel in 1966.
Production of iron now over 25 million tons and coal over 74 million.
The international Aid-to-India Club was a consortium of 6 nations (US – major contributor, GB, Canada, France, West Germany and Japan), which provided more than $5 billion to India’s third plan.
Pulapre Balakrishnan criticisms of Nehru’s economic policy: neglect of primary education. ‘The slow spread of schooling ensured that the growth of productivity in the farm and the factory remained far too slow’
The Caste system
India’s population increasing rapidly due to new births and an influx of refugees. Estimated at 360 million in 1950. This counterbalanced the increase in food production.
Population grew by about 5-6 million a year
The average ‘free’ Indian was one of the world’s most poorly nourished human beings, lacking protein and vitamins. Malnutrition related diseases, tuberculosis claiming more than half a million lives annually.
1951: India purchased 4 million tons of wheat from USA and remained a food deficit nation for 2 decades
Average life expectancy = 32 years
Suicide rates among Indian women the highest in the world, traditional opinions encouraged women to have a subservient position under men
1950 constitution passed women’s suffrage
Hindu Marriage Act (1955):
Gave Hindu women the right to divorce
Raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for boys and 15 years for girls
Women entitled to financial support from divorced husbands
Hindu Succession Act (1956) gave female children equal claims with male siblings, who inherit paternal property.
By 1946-57 almost 40% of the 92 million women qualified to vote cast valid ballots, helping to elect 27 women to the Lok Sabha and 105 women to state assemblies
1959 Family planning implemented by government. Ineffective.
Patel against women’s rights acts – when he died in 1950 Nehru reintroduced them
British Educational Service established in 1864
At the time of independence only 16% of the total population was literate.
Worse in the rural areas where on average only 6% were literate
Compulsory elementary education for all Indian children up to the age of 14 was written into the constitution as a desired ‘directive principle.’
The initial date set for achieving this was 1960, however at that time, hardly 60% of all Indian children between 6 and 11 were attending school for any portion of the year, and only 20% of those between 11 and 14.
The Third Five Year Plan’s target was to educate 75% of all Indians between 6 and 11, estimated at about 50 million, by 1966.
This modest goal even proved to be impossible for the government as a third of a million new teachers would be required and 50% increase in the number of schools.
In the 1950s almost 50 million Indian students of all ages attended half a million schools by 1959-60.
1961 census revealed literacy levels had risen to an average of 23.7% nationwide (12.8% of Indian women were literate).
‘Public spending on education had turned towards technical education at the tertiary level too early on.’ PULAPRE BALAKRISHNAN
By 1964, 41 new universities had been established, in which the number of female students enrolled rose to 22% of the total.
B.V. KRISHNAMURTHI argued that ‘education would enable Indians to attend to their livelihood themselves without relying on the government, thus lightening the economic burden of the latter.’
Between 1951-1961 the number of boys attending primary school doubled and the number of girls trebled. The numbers attending secondary school were better and thousands of new schools were built.
The provision of schooling couldn’t keep up with population growth and by the mind 1960s only 61% of all children, and 43% of girls, attended primary school.
Literacy rates had only risen to 24% by the time of Nehru’s death
In 1950 India’s population was 350 million, average life expectancy 32 years.
Millions of people died yearly as a result of smallpox, plague, cholera and malaria caused by polluted water, overcrowding, poverty and lack of medicines to combat infection.
Most towns had no modern sanitation, only wealthy parts of cities did
In 1951 there were only 18,000 doctors and 113,000 hospital beds in all of India, (mainly in the cities).
The number of hospital beds increased by 165% during the Nehru period.
With the help of the WHO the government also launched large scale immunization campaigns to tackle the spread of disease.
Death rates declined as a result but birth rates remained high so the population continued to increase strain on land and resources.
Family planning was introduced to half rapid population growth.
Government campaigns encouraged people to have smaller families
Little success in such an illiterate country where large families were traditional
Population was almost 500 million at Nehru’s death.
Infant mortality for girls was 10% higher than boys by the end of Nehru’s rule infanticide because of dowry
The Dalits (Untouchables)
Nehru considered the Caste system outdated
1949: Hindu Marriage Validating Act was passed to remove intercaste barriers to marriage
1950 constitution gave equal rights to all regardless of caste, religion, race & banned ‘untouchability’
In the 5 year plans, they were given special treatment as some people still refused to give them land further resentment
The Indian government established special ‘ex-touchable’ quotas for all competitive government services and seats on the state legislative assemblies and the Lok Sabha. (20% of seats)
Exempt from paying school fees to increase literacy rates 1960’s Dalit’s reading rates was only 1/3rd of what it was for other Indians
A percentage of university grants were also set-aside for the ‘underprivileged’ community.
However, to receive such advancements, one had to identify themselves as an ex-untouchable
The Untouchability (Offences) Act passed 1955. Ineffective enforcing penalties was hard, no legal remedy to enforce the blanket constitutional abolition.
1947: 14 languages formally recognised in the constitution (Hindi and English = national languages)
There had to be a formal method of communication established in the country
Nehru was against changing changing boundaries according to language barriers, causing wide-spread violence
After much protest, the States Reorganisation Commission recommended the reapportion of India into 14 states and 6 centrally administered territories.
Division of Bombay May 1st 1960
This ‘proved that the power of ancient linguistic regional loyalties was stronger than younger national bonds.’ STANLEY WOLPERT