Atanu Dey On India's Development

Nehru and the Indian Economy (…Why is India Poor? )

The last posting, Why is India Poor?, has drawn sufficient attention that there needs to be a follow-up addressing some of the points raised in the comments.

It is interesting to note that the arguments against my view of Nehru and his failed economic policies are generic. I will repeat them and my counter-arguments here.

My argument. Economic policies matter. If you have sound economic policies, you get commensurate economic performance. India’s economic performance sucks. It performs dismally in any sort of ranking of human development and economic performance tests. Half the illiterates of the world call India their home. A third of all global poverty is in India. All things considered, India has been a colossal failure so far.

Why has India been a failure? Are Indians collectively stupid? Unlikely.

Did GOD decree it? I asked him and he categorically denied it.

Did nations around the world gang up and rape India for the last 60 years? Not that I know of.

I am left with the hypothesis that perhaps India’s economic policies sucked chrome off a bumper of a pickup truck parked at 400 yards.

Who makes economic policies? You? I? No, economic policy is made by the so-called leaders and visionaries of this sainted land. Who were the most powerful leaders of this land since its independence from Britain? Nehru and his descendants. He dictated policy—economic, foreign, domestic, you name it. The most charitable way of putting the matter is to say that Nehru was clueless.

He wasn’t just clueless about this or that. His cluelessness was all encompassing. He was clueless about foreign policy, military strategy, domestic development — you name it and he is the greatest screw-up that India has ever produced.

Then come the rebuttals which often start with the admission that Nehru was clueless but . . .

. . . but during his time, many others–including a few people one cannot dismiss as being clueless thought that Central planning was beneficial for countries like India. These included Nobel winner Gunnar Myrdal (Asian Drama, an Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations) and Mahalanobis.

The argument above says that it wasn’t the man, it was the circumstances. By that logic, everything is justifiable. Every crime can be explained away as the result of compelling circumstances and hence there can be no accountability.

Take, for instance, the WorldCom and Enron cases where executives committed theft on unprecedented and unimaginable scale. One could point to the fact that other companies were also doing shady accounting, that the internet boom was going strong, that the economy was very strong, that the GAAP was being followed. All those explanations would also paper over the fact that the crime arose out of the greed of the perpetrator. Given all the circumstances but absent the greed of the executives, the grand theft would not have taken place.

Now back to Nehru: even if one were to grant all the circumstances that you cite above (but only for the sake of argument), the fact remains that central planning was personally very convenient for the Cha-cha.

The children of Imperialism are not weaned on the milk of humility; they are brought up on heady diet of hubris. Nehru was an imperialist who believed that his destiny was to rule the brown masses and he continually rejected sane advice. Look deeply into any problem that India faces and you will see Nehru’s finger-prints all over it.

Take Kashmir. Who was it who let the matter get out of hand? Nehru with his idiotic insistence that the UN be called to mediate the dispute. Talking of the UN, who was it who rejected the proposal that India take a seat in the permanent security council? Nehru. There is not enough space here to go into all the horrendous mistakes.

Then there is the argument that says, “Don’t blame Nehru for the screw-up that India is. We, Indians, are to blame.” That line is similar to the one Niket made in the comments in the last post.

Yes, in fact, we are to blame. Indians are basically collectively a bunch of clueless retards. They collectively elect leaders who are clueless retards and these clueless retards choose policies that keep the country of hundreds of millions of people in abject poverty. No argument there. A country deserves the leaders it gets, especially so in a so-called democracy. I agree that Bihar deserves and gets Rabri Devi and Laloo Prasad Yadav.

So if the collective is to blame, why is Nehru elevated to the position of a demi-god? Not just that, anyone associated with his family is elevated as well. With very rare exceptions, everything in India which has a personal name associated with it is named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. The Borivali National Park close to my abode is named “Sanjay Gandhi National Park”. All sorts of educational institutions are named after the members of a family that collectively have fewer educational achievements than yours truly.

Allow me to repeat that: The entire Nehru-Gandhi family — Cha-chaji, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Sanjay, Rahul, Prianka – collectively haver fewer educational qualifications than I (an average person) do. If I am not mistaken, they don’t have one solitary single college degree among the whole lot of them.

{To be continued.}

  • somebody@likeyourambitionbutnotyourexecution.com

    Indians are basically collectively a bunch of clueless retards

    I agree that Bihar deserves and gets Rabri Devi and Laloo Prasad Yadav

    The entire Nehru-Gandhi family — Cha-chaji, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Sanjay, Rahul, Prianka – collectively haver fewer educational qualifications than I (an average person) do

    You are constantly picking the easy targets and easy problems where lot of people who came before you have spent their inks and papers. Ranging from college-street addas to rustic naxals. Not to miss on the line I read long time back –

    “Calcutta is full of chatterjee, banerjee, mukherjee but very little energy”

    Conserve energy. Deesha and RISC will need that. Or more importantly pace yourself. One doesnt become saint by picking on the mortals

  • http://tarunsblog.blogspot.com TTG

    *The argument above says that it wasn’t the man, it was the circumstances. By that logic, everything is justifiable. Every crime can be explained away as the result of compelling circumstances and hence there can be no accountability.*

    So you are likening an economic model to a company that ‘cooks its books’? Bizarre analogy.

    *Look deeply into any problem that India faces and you will see Nehru’s finger-prints all over it. Kashmir.*

    Oh I see. So the fact a bunch of white people decided to draw a line through their former empire has nothing to do with it. The fact that Hindus and Muslims have been at each other’s throats for centuries is irrelevant. The fact that old kingdoms were being united to form a new and different type of union is irrelevant
    It is all Nehru’s fault. Of course.

    *why is Nehru elevated to the position of a demi-god?* You seem to be the only one who thinks so. One of the reasons might be because he was first leader of the country. How’s that for a reason?
    Further, India is the land of the personality cult. Anybody with 7.5 minutes worth of fame is a accorded the status of demi-god. Do you live under a rock? Have you just moved to India? Were you born yesterday? As for reverence for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, it exists only in your mind and in the media. Just because the BJP lost this last election in no way proves conclusively that it was because of Sonia, or the Gandhi name.

    As for college degrees, Nehru has one, and Rajiv definitely had one. He met Sonia in Cambridge. Note I say HE went to Cambridge, not her. Rahul has one. Don’t know about Priyanka or Indira, but I think they do too.

    And now I’m confused:

    First you say:
    “Why has India been a failure? Are Indians collectively stupid? Unlikely”

    Then you say:
    “Yes, in fact, we are to blame. Indians are basically collectively a bunch of clueless retards.”

    Which is it? I suppose logically it must follow from your statements that clueless retards aren’t stupid. Which is a moot point.

    “Talking of the UN, who was it who rejected the proposal that India take a seat in the permanent security council? Nehru”

    Please give a source for this. As far as I recall, it was the victors of WWII that were awarded permanent seats. As India didn’t exist during world war 2, I don’t think it could have been offered a seat.

    Can’t wait for the next rant. This is more fun than I thought it would be. But my fingers ache, and I feel carpal tunnel syndrome approaching, so I’ll restrain myself until the next rant.

  • http://tarunsblog.blogspot.com TTG

    Well You are correct about everyone but Nehru.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawaharlal_Nehru

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indira_Gandhi

    Never realized they were all a bunch of flunkies. All the same, it doesn’t change much.

  • http://www.heaven.org God

    Dear Atanu,
    please do not lie. You have never asked me whether I ordained India to be poor. Please expect a bolt lightning to be delivered to you, sometime within the next few hours.

    Thank you, that will be all,
    God.

  • http://mailblog.blogspot.com abhijit

    Hey, this is cool! God is posting comments on Atanu’s blog! I didn’t know he knew English!! (God, not Atanu!)

    Anyway, I thought I’ll put my 2.5 bits after watching Tarun and Atanu going at each other’s throat!

    Okay, this is what I see – Atanu has a personal grudge against the Nehru family. He’s biased. There’s really no reason whatsoever to write the way he’s been writing the last couple of posts! (And he does mention that he’s more schooled than the whole Nehru family, does he not?) Well, whenever someone starts throwing out facts veiled as personal attacks, I see the beginning of bigotry.

    Incidentally, and this is just an observation – I’ve noticed a lot of Nehru bashing from both Bengalis and Malyalis (well, not to sound bigoted myself, the two states – West Bengal and Kerala, do have some uncanny similarities – both are led by Communist parties, both states have high level of education and labour unrest, and both have a predominantly fish and rice diet!) Maybe the fish has something to do with the rest of it!

    Also, I’ve always seen that one of the things Indians enjoy the most are controversy mongers. We just love it if someone stands up on a pulpit and starts lashing out left and right at everyone in sight. And especially at the political leaders. Because political leaders are always assholes, aren’t they? Who else can we blame for our plight? And of course, it always helps when the pulport (the person at the pulpit, that is!), can throw qualifications to boot! Because, as we all know schooling = education = maturity = wisdom! If someone as knowledgeable and educated is saying something, it surely has to be right, isn’t it? And of course, we just wait and watch if there’s anyone to counter those same learned arguments. Because all we can do is just gape with awe at the intellectual tussle unfolding! (Sometimes, God peeks in too!)

    Well, all I can say is – Atanu, relax! Take it easy. Life isn’t as bad as you make it sound. And just looking back at history and cursing dynasties is not going to change anything. Hindsight is always 20-20. And political leaders, whether chosen by retards or geniuses, are still human, and do make errors. That’s what is history, dude! We, the people, have to take our and our country’s destiny in our hands and change it. But not by putting others down. We will argue, we will debate, but not at the cost of belittling anyone. And at the end of the day, we have to all get down and get our hands dirty, because words mean nothing. Action is all there is.

    And Tarun, yes, I know, sometimes somebody spouting this kind of vitriol does tend to turn one off. But like they say, it takes all sorts! (Plus, Atanu likes all the attention!)

    So now, you too, kiss and make up! Otherwise, I’m going to come over and swap your Num lock with your Caps lock!

    And remember, rather than burst a blood vessel in anger, it’s always better to die laughing!!

  • Uday

    Tarun/TTG,

    Your comment: “You mention the micro-event which led to the emergency. What is the emergency known for? Forced birth-control, the reigning in of the Media, the clearing of slums.”. The Allahabad high court ruling I mentioned was no “microevent” — it was the raison d’etre! The “forced birth control” and “clearing of slums” are what _you_ believe were the highlights. If you lived in New Delhi during the time, you would remember hundreds of cars being brazenly stolen by Sanjay Gandhi and his college dropout cohorts, and the police unwilling to register several cases of theft and harrassment. The forced sterilization was also accused to be dangerously innacurate on the street — who ever kept a tab of whether the sterilizations were done to people with strictly more than two kids? And what truly happened to the people who were cleared out of those slums — they relocated to an opposite side of the city! Perhaps the only good that came out of the emergency was the immaculately punctual functioning of the Indian Railways. The only noteworthy intellectual who supported the emergency, and that too only at its inception, was Khushwant Singh. (Krishna Iyer proved he was bereft of all thinking and scruples at the time by becoming an apologist for the travesty. As Cho Ramaswamy dramatically put it, “It wasn’t that Krishna Iyer was left thinking. Thinking left him for good!”). I don’t want to dwell further on the emergency, as that is not the point of the debate.

    You also asked for a source that it was Nehru who rejected the proposal that India take a seat in the permanent security council. This is indeed true, and is no urban legend. I am unable to find an authoritative article on the web that I can quote. But please refer to the book “Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru: Vol II” by S. Gopal (ISBN 0195633091). On page 248, you will find — “He (Jawaharlal Nehru) rejected the Soviet offer to propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission to the United Nations”. Further, former President, K. R. Narayan referred to this event at his address at Fudan University in Fall 1994. Narayan quoted Nehru: “India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage, even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place, and then the question of India might be considered separately”. (See http://ignca.nic.in/ks_41007.htm for a transcript of the speech, albeit with several typos). At the 1955 meeting of the United Nations held in San Francisco, the 10 year anniversary, Premier Bulganin of the USSR was an enthusiastic supporter of India’s candidacy, and Nehru put a total damper on the support. And as we all sadly know, China attacked India in 1962. Again, the efficacy of Nehru isn’t really the point of the debate.

  • Uday

    (concluding)

    By the way, I am total agreement with your quick summary of US ills. But I would like to point out that an outlook of slamming India may not in any way be tempered by the shallow views of the Western media or the hypocritical stance and dangerous foreign policy of the US administration.

    But now to what I gather as a major point of your posts — “This argument of ‘telling it like it is’ is nonsense”. In clinical medicine, your view would be called delusional :) As I tried to convey earlier, I believe true progress is achieved while maintaining measured optimism and completely understanding the depth of the morass we currently find ourselves in. Atanu’s writing helps me better recognize the latter (yes, I still need help!) and does make me better understand the priority of actions that could help improve the situation. For instance, I viewed his pointing out the uncalled for hype surrounding ICT in rural India, as a positive contribution. The need for ease of recall for emergency contact numbers was also plainly put across. I could point out several more from the archives. Small things for sure, but telling nevertheless.

  • Jayesh Naithani

    Just a comment on your comment, Atanu – the Nehru-Gandhi family have fewer educational qualifications than you. There are probably others like them as as well – Bill Gates, Michael Dell for instance.

    While educationional qualifications should be a matter of personal pride, I am not sure if they should be considered as important a criteria for greatness or goodness.

    - Jayesh

  • First Time Poster

    Pothi pad pad jag mua pandit bhaya na koi
    Dhai akshar prem ka padey to pandit hoi.

    Y unnecessarily rant about what education Nehru’s had . Its we Indians you, me and everyone else who has to take blame for the current situation. Ranting against some figures or past dont solve the situation.
    I am happy Atanu you are doing something for the country as happy I was with Mother Teresa doing something for her country people . Everyone is selfish and there is, in philantrophy too some kind of selfishness and I see no reason y she cannot do what she wanted to do . As far as hobnobbing with dictators is concerned its her wish and she should have been entitled to her opinion as much as you and I are.
    Rock.

  • First Time Poster

    Pothi pad pad jag mua pandit bhaya na koi
    Dhai akshar prem ka padey to pandit hoi.

    Y unnecessarily rant about what education Nehru’s had . Its we Indians you, me and everyone else who has to take blame for the current situation. Ranting against some figures or past dont solve the situation.
    I am happy Atanu you are doing something for the country as happy I was with Mother Teresa doing something for her country people . Everyone is selfish and there is, in philantrophy too some kind of selfishness and I see no reason y she cannot do what she wanted to do . As far as hobnobbing with dictators is concerned its her wish and she should have been entitled to her opinion as much as you and I are.
    Rock.

  • V Krishna

    Indira Gandhi did the right think on Bangladesh
    during 1971, defying creepy Nixon (Americas
    worst president).

    It was Gandhi who decided
    make Nehru the president of congress and so the
    first PM, instead of Sardar Patel who
    had popular support. Patel would have saved Tibet
    and the 1962 fiasco would never have happened.
    What plans did Congress have for communal violence
    in Pakistan just after partition, leave security
    of Hindus and Sikhs to the British ? (as if
    they care).

    Past is past, India has had to invest in a
    huge military industrial complex because
    of past mistakes. The Pakistan spectre is
    still around. Lets be positive, India is well
    placed to be a military and economic superpower
    in 20 years.

  • indians are stupid

    Indians are stupid and dirty. There are far too many of them in this world and i recommend drastic measures to control their population – since they won’t do it themselves. Let’s NUKE them.

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  • Vikram

    Dear Mr. Atanu
    I very well agree to the facts and even the views of the prominent economists in India that we are still a developing country due to the economic model we adapted since our freedom. Nehru’s inclination towards the socialistic Russia and his governance accordingly are the major reasons why we were (I don’t say we ‘are’ lagging because, since the reforms started our growth is in a different orbit) lagging behind when compared to most economies.

    But what concerns me about the article you posted and the similar ones that come up in many of the books of these days, is the Grand Nehru bashing and that too, it is done in the wrong spirits and lacks objective thinking in it.

    What your article fails to view is that we “matured” from a Socialistic attitude to a more liberal attitude and one person or the entire nation need not be crucified for whatever has happened.

    You fail to see the political scenario that was prevalent in the world since the great depression in 1929. When the entire world was in a major economic disaster the world has ever witnessed the Russians were the first to come out of it successfully. The entire capitalistic west was humbled but Russia was the only country under Stalin that was doing so well. Their system of central planning was the most successful at that time. Every country in the world was impressed by them. President Roosevelt who heads the country that stands for the ideas of capitalism was also so impressed by the Russians that he started his popular “ALPHABET SOUP” (please refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal)thereby starting many institutions like the SEC, CWA, FDIC and FERA based on the Russian model of central planning.

    The reference I made above is just to say that when FDR could resort to socialistic ideas to bring his country out of depression, I don’t see why Nehru should be held culprit for having followed the same idea, I feel that we have a prejudice or lack of information if we do so. Until Nehru’s time we did not have any tried and tested model of governance as we do have now. When we got our freedom the British had left us in total disorder, we had to start everything from scratch. At this time the first responsibility on any national leader is to provide the basic essentials to all its citizens, to create employment to all its citizens and the easiest model and most popular model available during those days was the central planning idea Professed by Karl Marx and the relative success of the Five year plans the Russians then followed.

    Today we have tried and tested models of economy and so people like me and you can say this is better than that, but in those days we did not have that luxury. I agree that he failed terribly in handling the Indian economy but I never doubt his intentions. He always tried to do his best, but things went wrong. I suggest you should put yourself in his shoes and think what you as a national leader would have done given the availability of resources and knowledge.

    It should be taken as learning from history and we should not dwell upon the history. The former makes our future bright and the latter takes us nowhere.

    You don’t have to antagonise him so much; as you will be wrong in what you intend to do. I don’t think any politician in India can ever produce a literature marvel as “The Discovery of India”, he had authored it when he was imprisoned.

    I am optimistic and positive on India’s performance, though we are going slow we are going steady. We have made it to the top 10 economies in the world; we will continue to do better.

    It is disappointing to see an attack on the personal level rather than a constructive criticism of the ideals and principles. It doesn’t go well with the other good articles presented by you.

    Hope you take cognisance of my views.
    –Vikram

  • MysticFire

    Vikram : “I don’t think any politician in India can ever produce a literature marvel as “The Discovery of India”, he had authored it when he was imprisoned.”

    Are you aware of “Geeta Rahasya” authored by Lokmanya Tilak when he was deported to Mandalay jail? Or Rajaji’s “Hinduism – Doctrine and Way of Life” and numerous other works on ancient Indian literature like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Thirukkural, Upanishads, Bhaja Govindam etc.? Tilak’s and Rajaji’s works are much more authentic compared to the shallow “The Discovery of India”.