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Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru: Second Series, Volume 42

Salil Misra

By Salil Misra
The Book Review, New Delhi, 2011, 8-9, Rs. 1000.00


 This volume of Nehru's selected works, edited by Aditya and MridulaMukherjee covers the period of three months from April to  June 1958. Like earlier volumes, it gives us a flavour of the times. It offers an overview of the major problems confronted  by India in the 1950s, and how Nehru coped with them. Even a cursory reading of some of Nehru's speeches and writings brings  into sharp focus the contrast between India of 1958 and of today.  The decade of 1950s was undoubtedly one of crisis for the  Indian economy—shortage of food, problem of foreign exchange, slowing of industrial growth, and a lack of financial resources  required for industrial growth. The problem of resources was so acute that the National Development Council suggested that  the total outlay of the Second Five Year Plan be reduced from Rs. 4800 crore to Rs. 4500 crore. This may appear trivial by  contemporary standards, but in the 1950s the Indian state desperately wanted a reduction of Rs. 300 crore to provide  breathing space for the economy. Nehru insisted that his ministers minimize spending and avoid foreign travel. He  complimented M. Mujeeb, Jamia Millia Islamia's Vice Chancellor, for refusing a visit abroad, on the ground of shortage of  foreign currency: ‘In view of our very difficult foreign exchange situation no ministry is authorized to incur any  expenditure…' (p. 112) . India could not afford to spend foreign currency. Nehru had in mind a number of welfare schemes  which could not be operationalized because of scarcity of financial resources.It was quite clear that economically the Indian state was not doing well (certainly by contemporary standards). Interestingly  however, this did not seem to affect the political order, which seemed to be firmly in place and relatively stable. Nehru was  the undisputed leader of the people and there was a consensus on some of the major questions of the day. The economic crisis  did not translate into any political crisis. The political order did not appear to derive its stability from the economy.  Economic growth and political stability are not necessarily (and not always) connected to each other. This point becomes  significant when compared with the last two decades in India. These decades clearly offer a mirror image of India in the  1950s under Nehru. India has experienced an unprecedented economic growth, but without any corresponding political stability.  There is real crisis of legitimacy for the political order, which appears to be ...

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