While many of us know Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister of “free” India, we don’t really know the legacy he has left behind. People talk about Nehruvian policies(akin to draconian policies, in their mind) in many areas of national governance, but what exactly are they? How did he think these policies would benefit a country as diverse as India? Finally, do these even make sense in the New Bharat that is quickly becoming an economic power? While the topics covered below deserve to be written about individually, my attempt is to summarize them so as to provide a picture to you, dear reader. Whether the picture is clear or not, is up to how you perceive it.
First a little background on Nehru. He was a confirmed admirer of the socialist policies that were taking Eastern Europe by storm. In place of erstwhile kings and the Czar, people, led by Lenin and the writings of Karl Marx, revolted against the system and placed themselves as the rulers of their own destiny. Very nice policy, on paper, but didn’t work! For one, educated people felt cheated getting about the same salary as an uneducated person, when their chosen profession was different. Secondly, people were unable to show dissent with any of the policies implemented.
Infact, people were encouraged to report, to the local police, anyone that did dare show dissent. How does that work in an Indian atmosphere, where people spoke their minds? Indira Gandhi, one his legacies, enforced an Emergency in the ‘70s where people were arrested, just because they didn’t agree with the politics of the day. Prominent leaders, like Mr Vajpayee and Mr George Fernandes, along with Mr Subramaniam Swamy and a host of others spent months locked up in jail! This was the darkest period India would go through, and emergency didn’t seem to work as people voted Mrs Gandhi out of power.
Economically, prices being controlled centrally really doesn’t make sense! Businesses don’t thrive in controlled environments. What can and can’t be sold and what price the said items could be sold, by your local Mom N Pop store, is an insurmountable impediment. When people are trying to make a living, expecting them to eat government-controlled rice, wheat and sugar, sold thro government-controlled outlets is unfair, especially when the quality of said products are questionable to begin with.
Setting up the first planning commission back in 1950, Nehru wanted to see how, using natural and national resources, the standard of living could be improved. Noble idea and needed our utmost support. After Gulzarilal Nanda, an economist, ran the commission for a few years, it was run by economists with not much to show! At one point, the ONLY people whose standard of living was improving were the people on this commission! It was a sad commentary on the performance of this commission when members of the parliament openly questioned the usefulness of this commission!
Religion was another area where he left his print. Being a socialist, he really didn’t believe in the concept of god. That being said, he did realize the importance of god to the average Indian. He therefore, went with the concept of separating religion from state. Unfortunately, what he created was a mess with only temples being under the control of the government while all other religions thrived openly! Religion is supposed to be personal. Whether one prays to Rama, Krishna, Wahe Guru, Allah or Christ is up to the person. When one makes a contribution to the church, the temple or the masjid, the person expects the contribution to go towards the upkeep of the institution. Sadly, this is partly true with the monies from churches and masjids, going towards the upkeep of said institutions, while being supplemented with monies gotten at government-controlled temples!
Recently when an honorable member of parliament presented a bill to stop government control on Hindu temples, the furore in the media was worth watching! It’s obvious, the money from temples is that significant an amount, that people are running helter-skelter trying to stop this “madness.” How will every politician survive if this money stops coming to their constituency? One guy had the gall, to come on TV and say that “it wasn’t tall temples controlled by the government, only the cash cows!” God’s honor, those were his exact words!! All this in a “Secular” country!! God knows what they’d have done in monotheistic country??
The fact that India is not secular is not lost on the intelligent common people. India is a pluralistic society and its very fabric is in the Sanskrit saying “Sarve Jano Sukhino Bhavantu”, not “Sanathana Dharma Sukhino Bhavantu”! The emasculated opposition may want to think in terms of the majority population for once, rather than the belief that minorities will vote them back to “power”.