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Predicaments of an Indian Moses

Salil Misra

Edited by Aditya Mukherjee and Mridula Mukherjee
A project of the Jawaharlal Neheru Memorial Fund
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 938, Rs. 1000.00


This is an important volume of Nehrus selected works and deals with the initial months of the year 1958. There are two major themes that pervade the entire volume. The first consists of the problems of national unity and Nehrus deep commitment to Indian nationalism. The second consists of the complexities involved in the enormous transformation of Indian society towards stability, security and affluence. All the various subthemes that dot this volume are corollaries of these two big themes. The late 1950s were clearly difficult times for the Indian Republic. The euphoria of the initial years of the Republic was gone and replaced by a heavy sense of responsibility. The creation of new administrative subunits and their borders had aroused considerable passions. The controversy around the national language was beginning to reach its peak and threatened to create a big political divide between the North and South. The Kashmir issue was still unresolved and there was a new belligerence in Pakistans attitude fed largely by support from the USA. A bad crop in 1957 created a famine like situation that had to be met by largescale import of food stuff from the USA and USSR. There was also the shortage of foreign exchange created by the import of foodgrains and other capital goods (pp. 19094). All this put a severe strain on Nehrus optimism about Indias future development. How did he cope with it? In dealing with these challenges, Nehru invoked the legacy of the national movement, placed his trust in the collective resolve of the Indian people, and looked upon himself as the leader, not of any group, faction or party, but of the Indian people as a whole. In many of his speeches during this period, Nehru emerges not just as a leader but also a teacher and an educator of the people. In a speech in Jamshedpur, he emphasized the importance of steel and power for modern industry (p. 62) but also linked it to prosperity, national unity and selfreliance: we are determined to go ahead with the task, as once the foundations are laid, the national wealth will automatically increase. We have to utilize all our resources and energy for development and for increasing the production twofold. If we slacken the pace we will be weakened. If there is disunity in the country, it will harm the country and the people and even those who are interested only in personal ...

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