'Socialism only made the bureaucracy entrench
itself deeply into the economy and a become parasite'
These days everyone criticises Nehru for his socialist economy
and points it as the single reason for India's economic backwardness.
Do you agree?
Yes, very much so. Nehru's socialism again was a dream like
Gandhi's. He thought the bureaucracy would be a committed worshipper at the
temple of socialism. Socialism only made the bureaucracy entrench
itself deeply into the economy and a become parasite. For instance,
take Kerala's trade union movement. Whatever you do, you are doing
only to improve the working middle class. Socialism did not finally
revolutionise society, it only improved the living of the babus.
What would have been the right economic path to follow?
You look at the examples of how others survived better
than us, how others progressed with fewer resources than
us. Japan may be too advanced a country to compare India with. But take countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand. I was told Thailand has a
lot of rural poverty.
But compared to India, those are very small countries.
Administratively, yes, they are all small.
What about India's size? That might be one of the reasons
for its economic backwardness.
Size wise, you have China to compare. The Cultural Revolution
in China was in the sixties, if I remember correctly it moved
into the seventies also. So, it was in the last 20 years that
China has jumped forward. There is a Chinese sense of identity which
is not the same identity as what the BJP is talking about.
People are ready to accept the responsibility of building a
a nation -- by pulling yourself and being productive. If
you ask, ''Is it not because of autocracy and authoritarianism?'', there
is no answer. That way, anything can be pinned to anything.
How do you explain progress in the US? Is it because of the capitalist system?
There is no end to the debate about what kind of economies will
finally provide paradise. They say the American downfall
is imminent, round the corner. You also know that there is unemployment
and marginal poverty both in America and in Europe. In Russia
and some European countries, to some extent, they mismanaged
the economic ideology itself.
Ultimately, it is not the style of the economy that you adopt, but the men or women who are at the helm of affairs that makes the difference. They should be intelligent and committed and should also have a clear mind.
Paul Zacharia's photographs by Sanjay Ghosh