It is no secret that India’s most tenebrous phase after Independence was due to Nehru’s fascination with socialism. The country’s dismal GDP(0.2%, the highest being 1.2% until 1991) brought the nation into a brink of starvation. In the 1960’s India borrowed food from the American government under the PL-480 agreement to prevent starvation and riots. Successive Congress governments refused to reverse the party ideology and viewed capitalism as an evil. Foreign companies and investments were given a cold shoulder and India was inherently a closed economy. India’s predicament was largely due to one man’s execution of socialism. Understanding Nehru’s anglican beliefs (Nehru himself remarked, “I am the last Englishman to rule India”) are largely responsible for an India that shied away from the Industrial growth and advantages of an open market prevailing in Europe. It was his failed policies that brought the country to a standstill.
Nehru had visions of opulence and fashioned India into a super power despite his arid hatred towards colonialism. His policies were focused on architecture and other bagatelle areas despite India being a largely rural nation. The 1951 census, stated that only 16% were literate and India had a life expectancy of 32 years. It also stated that 9 out of 10 people lived in villages. Despite these reports, Nehru’s policies were opulent and focused on building an urban India, when it did not need one, at least, not yet. His failed policies forced the Indira Gandhi government to abandon the swadeshi principles her father adopted and borrow food from America. The dire straits of the nation couldn’t be over-emphasized.
Note: Brazil has a socialist government under the charismatic Lula La Da Silva. It has adopted liberal economic policies and its increasing power in the world geo politics is noteworthy.
After 1991, the Narsimha Rao government with a technocratic finance minister, Manmohan Singh opened the economy for private and foreign participation. The abolition of the License Raj is perhaps the most notable of them all. Ever since then, India has become a force to reckon with in the global platform. Today, the western super powers view India as a global superpower at the threshold of making powerful decisions. Adequately, immense responsibility has been given to India and needless to say, India has done fairly well. But, how well is India fairing internally? The stark question raises numerous debatable differences and threats today’s India faces.
There is a chasm between what socialism preaches to Nehru’s executions of socialism. Socialism considers the possibility of capitalism provided it is monitored by the state and does not hold the common man ransom. Unlike Communism, which abhors capitalistic ideals and considers it a unnecessary evil, socialism is more accommodative of capitalism. Of course, one can argue that a socialistic view of capitalism is merely an utopian model that is laughable in a pragmatic 21st century politics. But, consider the alternatives of a democratic government which has no iron fist like control on capitalism and the ramifications are disastrous.
We fail to see the democratic failures under a capitalistic society which usurps the common man. A closer look gives a more realistic picture of the current embroilment. India’s largest and most potent internal threat is Naxalism. Originated in 1967, the Naxalite movement has grown in conviction and numbers largely due to the government’s apathy. Also, the inequalities between rich and poor are pitted at 32.5% in 2000. These figures are fast growing and though they are relatively low as compared to other countries (Sweden: 25; Norway: 25.8; USA: 40.8) there still is a looming and disguised danger.
In simple terms, though the inequalities are favourable in inda one must understand that our education levels are far inferior to other developed countries. A rising unequal distribution of wealth coupled with low literacy levels is a perfect combination for dissenters and separationists. Today, the Naxal movement is as threatening as a war from Pakistan. If the needs of these rebels are not addressed, the country could be in for a beating. It is also in the interest of the government to note that their needs cannot be addressed with a 9mm in one hand. A composite dialogue with a definitive plan has to be in place to tackle these rebels. A palliative action is no more an option. For more on the Naxals, click here.
Coming back to my point, I have no animus against capitalism. My argument is simple and lucid. Unrestricted capitalism is dangerous in a society like India. The private sector can enjoy the benefits of a democracy. However, it is the duty of the government to ensure that untrammeled corporates are kept in check and do not run amok. For this, I do not advocate draconian measures from the government. Strict adherences of labour laws, grievance redressal cells are some of the measures the government can adopt. The budget must be focused on the poor and the socially disadvantaged. Again, freebies is not the solution, the government must work on a long term plan with a definitive vision in place. It must tread a fine line to ensure the poor do not become accustomed to the spoon-feeding and for this, educational benefits have to be elucidated to the poor.
The cessation of capitalism is neither realistic nor pragmatic. After all it is only due to the 1991 reforms India has gained international fame. Therefore, it is in the interest of the majority of the rural populace, and in the interest of the nation to focus on the poor and govern the rich. A majority of us have seen the light after 1991 without realizing the shadows that are cast behind. Holistic growth is the need of the hour and growing disparities between the have’s and have not’s are perilous. If steps to bridge these gaps are not taken by the government, it would result in a pyrrhic victory.
The world is watching the largest democracy. The time is now.