Myth 5: Nehru imposed a centralised, “Stalinist” model of economic development on India, thus setting us back by decades.

Jawaharlal Nehru, circa 1927

Jawaharlal Nehru, circa 1927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jawaharlal Nehru at Harrow, where he was also ...

Jawaharlal Nehru at Harrow, where he was also known as Joe Nehru. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jawaharlal Nehru 1949

Jawaharlal Nehru 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a myth promoted by those who favour quicker and greater liberalisation of the economy. In truth, there was a widespread consensus on the import-substituting model of economic development followed by India after independence.

Not just Russia, but Japan and Germany were held up as examples in this regard. For one thing, the experience of colonisation had made Indians wary of the excessive and sometimes pernicious influence of foreign capital. For another, Indian industry itself demanded protection as well as state support and subsidy. Indeed, the Bombay Plan of 1944, signed by all the major capitalists of the time, called for active state intervention in sectors such as power, water, transport, mines, and the like — pleading that since the capitalists did not have the resources to develop these sectors, the state was duty-bound to do so.

This is not an argument about the respective merits of free trade versus closed trade and capital regimes. It is an argument about why we chose the path of industrialisation that we did. And the answer is this — because industrialists, scientists, economists and politicians, of all stripes and ideologies, by-and-large concurred with Nehru. Or rather, Nehru concurred with them.

No man was more adored in his lifetime than Jawaharlal Nehru, no man more vilified since his death. The vilification rests, in good part, on myths spread by the motivated and swallowed by the credulous. And the adoration? What did it rest on? I shall provide the answer, or at any rate my answer, in a future column.


One response to this post.

  1. ndian officer said: “Sir, we don’t have enough experience to lead a nation, too, so shouldn’t we appoint a British person as the first Prime Minister of India too?”

    Don’t have experience to lead, appoint a British?


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