With Children’s Day just gone by, some of us might have been remembering Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Besides sincerely advocating higher education of children, our first Prime Minister worked hard to shape the Indian economy.
In 1947, when India attained independence from British Rule, our economy was in a miserable condition. Pandit Nehru took several steps to restore our devastated economic system and give it a sound shape.
Here are some key contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru to the Indian Economy:
1. National Philosophy of India
Jawaharlal Nehru believed that every state required a ‘national ideology’ or ‘National Philosophy’ to give it purpose, sense of direction, and coherence. He considered that such a philosophy was extremely essential in a new nation like India that was economically undeveloped, politically inexperienced, and socially static. The people of the country needed a shared philosophy that could bring forth some clearly defined ‘objectives’ or ‘goals’ and could unite them.
Nehru recognized the deep degeneration of India, and understood that the country needed a radical restructuring. The country’s regeneration involved significant modernisation. According to Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘modernisation’ formed the national philosophy of India and comprised seven ‘national goals’ – national unity, non-alignment, industrialization, parliamentary democracy, socialism, secularism, and development of scientific temper.
2. National Unity
For Pandit Nehru, national integration or national unity formed a basis of national independence.
India had become a victim of foreign rule on account of several factors like divisions among people, narrow regional loyalty, lack of an effective and strong central government, and absence of patriotism and public spirit. Unless these issues were sorted out, India could not emerge as a strong country. The Indian Constitution had tried to fix some of these issues. It had tried to reconcile the aspirations for autonomy in several regions with the necessity of a strong central government that could hold all of them together as well as protect them from external threats.
Although Nehru recognized that it was important to encourage small-scale and cottage industries to resolve issues like unemployment and poverty, he saw them only as a temporary necessity until India became fully industrialized.
Nehru, unlike Gandhi, was of the opinion that it wasn’t possible to fulfil the legitimate wishes and aspirations of the Indians and eliminate poverty permanently from the country without industrialisation on a large-scale. Nehru believed industry to be the key to economic development, rather than agriculture. According to him, the economy could be transformed far more effectively and quickly with industry-led growth compared to agriculture-led growth.
4. Scientific Temper
By cultivation of ‘scientific temper’, Nehru didn’t just mean the progress of science & technology, which although formed a product and part of it, rather he meant the cultivation of empirical and rational ways of life and thought. India had stayed in a state of deep slumber for around a millennium, and had become uncritical, speculative, mystical, dogmatic, addicted to fantasy, and inward-looking.
If India had to prosper and establish itself as a vibrant and strong society like Europe, the people of India needed to learn thinking and behaving scientifically. Scientific thinking, according to Nehru, involved searching for truth ceaselessly, relying on the trial and error method, being exact and precise, changing beliefs when new evidence comes to light, taking nothing on faith or ‘blind trust’, checking and depending on facts only, cultivating ‘hard discipline of the mind’ trait of modern age, and having an open mind.
Pandit Nehru said, “Right education must be all round development of the human being, harmonizing of our internal conflicts and a capacity to co-operate with others.” Nehru emphasized the importance of education’s practical aspect. He never supported examination-oriented education; rather he believed real education to be more important. By real education, he didn’t mean examinations or the likes.
Nehru considered proper intellectual training to be necessary for doing anything efficiently. However, what he considered to be far more important was the background of such training – the ability to cooperate, the ideas, ideals, habits, absence of fear, and strength of standing true to what someone believes to be right. According to Nehru, the aim of real education is fearlessness and internal freedom. Moreover, he repeatedly outlined that education isolated from life is not of any use. Education is meant for helping one for life.
These are some of the many contributions of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in building and strengthening the Indian economy. The impact of the steps he took to develop our economic system has been massive. We are forever grateful to our first Prime Minister for restoring our damaged economy and helping it flourish over time.
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