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Economic policy of Sardar Patel

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By Prabhat Kishore

Sardar  Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man, has been the foremost among the national heroes of India. In 1946, in view of the possibility of getting independence soon, 13 out of 15 provincial committees of the Congress proposed the name of Sardar Patel for the national president, so that he could become the first Prime Minister of independent India. But despite the proposal of an invincible majority, this could not happen due to the insistence of Gandhi in favour of Nehru and the country was deprived of a strong and practical leadership. This adversely affected  the  policies of the nation in various domestic and foreign matters, for which we are suffering till date.

Sardar’s view towards the economic affairs of the country was very practical. It was full of humanity and the need of the hour. More production, equitable distribution, and fair treatment of all the means of production were the mainstays of his economic policy. He made it clear that achieving industrial dexterity and self-reliance through progressive development would be the first goal of the nation, which would increase the prosperity of the common mass and ensure a high standard of living for them. In a speech given in Kolkata on January 5, 1948, he stressed that before nationalization of industries it is necessary to first establish them properly and such people cannot be patriots who believe that workers should reduce production, but they should be given more money.

Sardar Patel had realistic views on the planning and economic policy of India. He had emphasized on the co-operation between the three stakeholders, the government, the industrialist and the workers, to counter the economic sickness spreading in the country. He was a staunch supporter of the abolition of control and supported the government’s plan to decontrol food and clothing and provide industrial relief. He was opposed to the planning framework which went beyond the country’s capacity and resources. He wanted to organize the country’s economy on the basis of villages. He firmly believed that once the facilities were provided to the villagers, they would take care of themselves and then their grain production would increase much more than we expected.

Patel was against instilling in the people such hope which would never be fulfilled. He was not against taking foreign loans when needed, which could be spent on production related plans and industrialization. According to Shri N. G. Ranga, in 1936, Rajaji and Sardar Patel had rehearsed that Jawaharlal’s socialism would create problems for the social economy of India, so he presided over the Congress and opposed their campaign of socialism from a favorable position. As a result of which Nehru had to wait till the year 1951 i.e. Sardar’s death before launching his campaign against the economy of the Indian peasantry and the enterprise of its people.

In a meeting of Chief Ministers and heads of provincial Congress Committees, Patel clarified that the plan for this country would be different from that of industrialized countries, which were either small in extent or highly developed. Machine is not the complete solution to the problem of this country. Millions of useless hands cannot get work from the machine, because the machine itself displaces man. He emphasized on the expansion of cottage industries, but at the same time called for rapid industrialization in the country to generate sufficient resources, so that the country does not face a serious crisis.

Sardar Patel was accused by the so-called socialists of being a friend of the capitalists. He made it clear that on the basis of Gandhiji’s teachings, he behaves workers, industrialists, princes, farmers and landlords in equal measure and lovingly inspires them to do the right thing. In the current situation, he was against nationalization. He said that it is necessary to establish industry and increase production in the country before nationalisation. Socialism in England has come there rightly by following the path of industrialization. In India, socialism in true sense lies in the development of cottage industries, which can provide employment to crores of people. By making the spinning wheel more ubiquitous, the concept of Swadeshi can be developed through Khadi.

Patel urged the traders not to import foreign clothes and urged the citizens not to wear it. In order to take a step towards self-reliance, he wrote a letter to the then Industries and Supplies Minister Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to manufacture the necessary equipments and weapons for the army in the country itself and his idea was supported by the eminent scientist S.S. Bhatnagar.  He was of the clear opinion that the pharmaceutical manufacturing industries in India should flourish and there should be no excise duty applicable on inter-provincial trade. He stressed the importance of improving livestock and increasing agricultural production in the country.

Sardar Patel wanted to have a good relation between industry and labour, because the differences arising at that time could turn out to be a severe blow to India’s industrial future. He insisted on adopting the policy of mediation to solve the problem prevailing between industry and labour, as he had done earlier in Ahmedabad. Although there was a labour government in England and they were far ahead in the field of industrialization, they were moving very slowly towards nationalization. This was likely to lead to industrial peace and good conditions of production. He was strongly against the strike and criticized the organizers who resorted to strikes merely to give importance to their leadership & politics. A strike stops production and less production means promoting poverty. He inspired those who wanted to break this endless cycle.

Patel tried to allay the apprehensions of the industrialists regarding nationalization and assured them that since the industry is yet to be established and expanded, the question of nationalization does not arise. He appealed to the resourceful businessmen to come forward and help the government in improving the condition of the poor and said that when there are crores of people in the country who are hungry, it is a sin to eat comfortably twice a day.

Patel fixed a certain amount  for the salary and allowances of the ministers and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and suggested to the Prime Minister that there is no need to deploy more than two security personnel apart from a few policemen to them from the point of view of security. He refused the demand for increase in the allowance payable to the Governor of Odisha. He praised those, who gave up their luxuries to serve the country as a minister or speaker.

In the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Central Advisory Council of Industries, Patel told that there is a lot of foreign capital in the country, but after independence it has decreased significantly due to post-World War II inflation, which has increased the prices and taxes have become high. He advised the Finance Minister to re-evaluate the entire taxation according to the current situation in the next budget.

Sardar Patel insisted that a committee of experts should be constituted, consisting of industrialists, economists and representatives of the government, who should be entrusted with the task of implementing the framework and policies laid down by the government. The then Prime Minister, Nehru, who had earlier decided to create a separate ministry for social and economic affairs, changed his mind after hearing Sardar’s views and agreed to set up a  board or special advisory committee, which will monitor the economic situation at every step and submit its suggestions to the government for consideration.

Sardar Patel’s advice on the economic policies of the nation was not followed after his death. India adopted an immature socialist framework, due to which there were dire consequences and the country had to pay a heavy price. Communist Russia, which Nehru regarded as the ideal state, had to face unimaginable difficulties and eventually due to its disintegration, it had to return to a free economy in mid-Ninety.

The liberal steps taken by the Narsimha Rao government shortly before the disintegration and economic ruin of Soviet Russia confirms Patel’s foregoing thought and realistic approach. Nehru’s socialism had brought the country to such a place that the Congress Government at the Center had to reverse the policies and liberalize the economy, which was not thought of forty years ago.

(Author is a technocrat & academician. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at prabhatkishore65@gmail.com )

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