Thursday 1 January 2015

Jawaharlal Nehru

I was sitting with several close relatives recently, many of whom had occupied very high positions in the country, but were now retired. They all began strongly criticizing Jawaharlal Nehru, particularly over his handling of the Kashmir and China issue.

 I decided not to say anything, particularly since they were my elders, and I remained quiet for a long time, until some of them insisted that I should express my opinion.

 In my usual blunt manner I then said " What you people have said about Nehru only reveals the bankruptcy of your minds. Nehru is the  political leader in modern times who should be most respected,  but instead you are castigating him. "

 This set off a lively discussion in which I stuck  to my guns.

 I pointed out that so far as Kashmir is concerned, several things must be kept in mind. Firstly, the situation was very fluid and topsy turvy at the time of Independence in 1947 and the Partition of India. Secondly,  there were international pressures of the big powers , and our leaders were new at governance and lacked experience, because of which they were bound to make mistakes.

 But does this mean that we should not see the positive contribution of Nehru ? They may be briefly summarized as follows :

1. Modernization of India by promoting science and technology.
 The British policy was to keep India broadly unindustrialized, so that it may not become a rival to British industry. As a result our British rulers kept us broadly feudal and agricultural, which meant poverty for the masses..

 Nehru's contribution in this field was to lay the foundation of a heavy industrial base in India, with steel plants, power projects, coal mining, chemical plants,etc. The further growth in the Indian economy was the consequence of that heavy industrial base.

 Before India became independent in 1947, even safety pins had to be imported from England, because the British policy was that we should be dependent on their industrial products. Nehru aimed at import substitution, and the result has been that today we manufacture most of the products we use.

 Also, agriculture was sought to be modernized by abolishing landlordism through the Zamindari Abolition Acts, setting up Agricultural Institutes, erecting dams for irrigation,etc.

 Also, Nehru and his colleague Maulana Azad were determined to set up engineering and management colleges and technical institutes, as well as centres of scientific research and teaching. This led to the setting up of IITs, IIMs, CSIR, and other science and technology institutes and departments.
 The Five Year Plans were aimed at steadily industrializing India to get rid of our poverty.

2. Nehru and his colleagues,including Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, etc were determined that India will be a secular state, and not a theological one like Pakistan. They defended religious pluralism, and in a country of such diversity, rightly so,. This becomes evident when we see what is happening in Pakistan today, which has become a Jurassic Park.

3. Nehru and Azad laid great emphasis on education, including both primary education. and also institutes of higher learning.

4. Nehru's foreign policy of non alignment was the correct one, as we would have lost our independence if we had become too dependent on one super power.

5.Nehru respected institutions like Parliament, the judiciary, the administrative service, etc. and was a supporter of civil liberties and democracy, unlike his daughter Indira Gandhi who in her lust for power almost destroyed all of them, particularly after the judgment against her by the Allahabad High Court in 1975 holding her guilty of election misconduct, and the fake Emergency she imposed thereafter.

  The recent attempts by some politicians to downplay Nehru's role and overemphasize that of Sardar Patel is wholly misplaced. Nehru and Patel had great respect for each other, and complemented  each other. All major policy decisions, e.g. uniting the princely states with India were jointly taken by them, as well as other leaders like Azad. Hence to say that if Patel had been Prime Minister instead of Nehru,the Kashmir problem, and other problems would have been  solved, is talking a lot of nonsense.

 It is said that the sins of a man visit his next 7 generations. In Nehru's case, the sins of his daughter, grandson, grand daughter -in-law and great grandson are visiting him.


  1. What about the opportunity cost of socialism? Socialist countries can't tap into the human predisposition for competition which is the greatest motivating force for economic development IMHO.If Mr. Nehru had a failing, it was making India a Socialist economy. He should have striven to create a level playing field for capitalism to take root. All his other mistakes can be understood given the context of the times he lived in, but his ideological predilections cost the country dearly. Work ethic of Indians,generally speaking, is horrible. Everyone wants government to do something-from loan waivers to bicycles to shelter.At the time of independence even the population was manageable. All this is from the comfort of hindsight of course. All in all Mr Nehru was a giant of his time. His books-especially GOWH-shows the man's scholarship. He had a great understanding of sweep of history. No leader since independence has that kind of stature.

  2. Though I usually like Mr. Katju's arguments, I disagree with his support for Nehru in this case. Being the 1st PM of 'free' India, Nehru ought to have reviewed and repealed all British enacted laws in India - a task the BJP govt is doing 66 years later. Nehru and his 'great' colleagues ought to have prepared a Uniform Civil Code to ensure India practices secularism in letter n spirit. India would have benefited far more from a UCC than a heavily plagiarized document which passes for the Constitution of India. Lastly, on Kashmir, Sardar Patel was much better suited to handle the issue dispassionately, as Nehru seemed to get swayed by personal history and emotions while dealing with the issue, resulting in a mess which no PM has been able to sort out. Sardar Patel has a much better record of consolidating 540 odd princely States into the Union of India.

  3. Grand master insight on China, USA and world Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore who served as PM for Singapore for 30 years and being minister and mentor for another 15 years, he is considered to be the sharpest of them all and he has insight knowledge of world.. This is what he said about Nehru of India..

    he destiny Nehru envisaged was of a modern, industrialised, democratic and secular India that would take its place in the larger historic flows of the second half of the 20th Century.

    Nehru’s speeches resonated with me. I shared intellectual and emotional roots with Nehru because I had also experienced discrimination and subjugation under the British Raj and admired Nehru for his vision of a secular multiracial India, a country that does not discriminate between citizens because of their race, language, religion or culture. Like Nehru, I had been influenced by the ideas of the British Fabian society. But I soon realised that before distributing the pie I had first to bake it. So I departed from welfarism because it sapped a people’s self-reliance and their desire to excel and succeed. I also abandoned the model of industrialisation through import substitution. When most of the Third World was deeply suspicious of exploitation by western MNCs (multinational corporations), Singapore invited them in. They helped us grow, brought in technology and know-how, and raised productivity levels faster than any alternative strategy could.

    Nehru had a great vision for India and for Asia and his elegant style of writing and speech captivated many young minds in the British empire. He had insights into the causes of India’s problems, but, burdened by too many issues, he left the implementation of his ideas and policies to his ministers and secretaries. Sadly they did not achieve the results India deserved.

    Nehru’s ideal of democratic socialism was bureaucratised by Indian officials who were influenced by the Soviet model of central planning . That eventually led to the “Licence Raj”, corruption and slow growth.

    1. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union undercut the strategic premises of India’s external and economic policies. By 1991, with the country on the verge of bankruptcy, India had no choice but to change.
      The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union undercut the strategic premises of India’s external and economic policies. By 1991, with the country on the verge of bankruptcy, India had no choice but to change. Some Indians believe that, had Rajiv Gandhi lived to serve a second term as India’s Prime Minister, he would have pushed for major reform. But he was cut down before he was able to.Ah, if only Rajiv had another term, surely he would have transformed India. LKY is devastating with faint praise. I bow deep in recognition of the maestro’s skill.And the reason for the delay is not hard to figure out. The bureaucrats and the politicians had a wonderful time with the “license control permit quota” raj. With the machinery that Nehru had engineered, they could continue to rob the country with impunity. The racket they had going was –and it still continues to be– too lucrative to give up.

      At independence in 1947, two years before the Chinese Communist Party liberated China, India was ahead in many sectors. Both lost steam by adopting the planned economy. But because of its “great leap forward” and “Cultural Revolution”, China suffered more. However Deng Xiaoping was able to acknowledge China’s mistakes and China’s course dramatically change when he returned to power in 1978. India fell apart because of its politicians

    2. China’s leaders learnt from their mistakes and took corrective action. India is still hung up on Nehruvian socialism to make real progress. One should read LKY’s statements very very slowly. They are the words of a person who is not only immensely bright but amazingly perceptive of the nature of the world. Of course I am sure, to the illiterate bunch of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats listening to the man in person, the words carry no meaning. I should mention that the ruling dynasty of India does not have a single university degree among the whole lot of them, starting with the celebrated Nehru whose name graces scores of universities and colleges around the country.

    3. Second failure of Nehru was that he had a chance to break the caste system in India where he failed as a leader. Like India, Singapore has social class system which Lee was able to break it in Singapore with Han chinese being majority like Han Dynasty, peasant, military, Cantonese, Haka, Min Nam.

  4. Coincidence:
    Order and values have been disintegrating since the beginning of small-screens and internet-invasion; Dr.MMS opened the gate, and gave ways to opportunities and prosperity...BUT within that time, sequenced..FIVE-better of new generations got developed, half westernized, half value- less!...Sad, very sad we had no time with the pace of living to pass over to them our hard-cherished-VALUES, the BHARAT-MULAY..results are before all of us! Half backed youngsters who regard us; their seniors/ parents/teachers and text books as that of old timers without a sense of superiority..down to earth-creatures! WE FAILED MISERABLY IN BREEDING..them, Sirs....Look at the world and the time over that same period, the world has become RICHER..??
    Who will decide now, "Justice Katju Saheb": Kaul Saheb, Ehsan Saheb or Firaq Sahebs are....gone!
    CC : BJP/Congress/ All pol.Parties..& TOI.

  5. The last para sums up it all forthright.

  6. Sir, his Kashmir approach is a wrong one. He should have left that to Sardar, like other princely states. If that had happened, POK will be with us. And we would have saved lakhs of Crores spent in securing borders, lost of lives of Jawans and this ill will with Pak will not be there.

  7. Five year plan was Netaji Subhas Boses's idea...not Nehru's...

    He looted INA treasures..donated by millions of east-asian Indians,,independent India's first scam

    He was responsible for partition and pathetic situation for millions of bengalis and punjabis

    Nehru was fully dependent on USSR...bought most of the arms and ammunation from them...was blackmailed by Stalin and Khrushchev..everything is there in Vasili Mitrokhin archive and CIA report

    Let's don't get into his personal play-boy scandals

  8. अपना अपना देखने का नजरिया है जज साहब। अब सही और गलत से किसी को कोई वास्ता नहीं है सब वाही देखना चाहते है जो उनके लाभ का हो

  9. Something positive...he is most forgotten hero of India ..His vision and policies laid foundation of developing India ...