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H. Venkatasubbiah

By Bepin Behari
Vikas, New Delhi, 1976, 232, 45.00

By M.M. Mehta
Macmillan, New Delhi, 1976, 192, 55.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

The advent of the Janata Party was not foreseen when Bepin Behari publi­shed his book, but the Party's emphasis since it came to power on what can be identified as a Gandhian approach to the problem of rural poverty in India makes the book topical. He quotes Gandhi: ‘I would favour the use of the most elabo­rate machinery, if thereby India's paupe­rism and resulting idleness can be avoid­ed. I have suggested hand-spinning as the only ready means of driving away penury and making famine of work and wealth impossible.’ ‘What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.’ It is true, as the author says, that in the past 30 years rural poverty has assu­med a ‘perilous dimension’. But an as­pect of the present situation which he does not adequately appreciate is that the industrial and technological development of the same period have made a qualita­tive difference to the rural problem, and not merely to its dimensions. These developments, by greatly quickening India's halting industrial revolution of the earlier period, further broke down the isolation of the Indian village. This in fact is the business of an industrial revolution, among other things. The Indian planning model assumed that development would 'trickle down' from urban conglomerates to the country­side and that basic industrialization would trigger secondary and tertiary industries as a host of related activities that would raise employment and living standards all round. This has happened, but to an extent very much less than what is re­quired. Strategy should therefore be varied so as to approach development directly from the rural end as well. It is like cutting a tunnel from both ends. We see light more quickly than if it were cut from only one end. Much of Bepin Behari's treatment of the problems, possibilities and perspecti­ves of rural industrialization is based on this approach and is unexceptionable. In the second part of the book, he analyses the problems of several agro-based and other rural industries with a wealth of facts and figures. In trying to graft an economic system that is an offshoot of the industrial revolution onto the social system that is rural India, ‘appropriateness of any technology choice cannot be decided per se’, but there are no insuperable obstacles. Experience under planning so far has shown that rural society desires industrialization at its ...

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