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December 1967

Presidential Speech at Calicut in Kerala in December 1967

-V.N. Deodhar

The Planning Commission should play the role of an expert and suggest short-term and long-term measures to solve the problems which face us today. Planning does not mean a mere fixation of targets in various spheres and an arithmetical dovetailing of these targets. It calls for imagination, farsight, and a sense of realism-qualities, which unfortunately have been conspicuous by their absence in the preceding plans.

We must be Self-Reliant

  A constant refrain heard nowadays is about paucity of resources. I do not accept that this nation lacks resources. There are adequate resources in this country-human, physical and financial. What is required is that the size and shape of the plan should be correlated to the quantum of available and potential resources. Till now our Plans have been based on foreign resources, foreign machinery, foreign technicians, foreign capital-and lately, even foreign raw materials and market. Schemes are formulated to secure what we do not possess, but no attention is paid to the conservation of what we, already have, or to develop up that basis. Agriculture and indigenous industry have been neglected, and foreign collaboration has been welcomed even when the terms of agreement are contrary to our interests and derogatory to our self-respect. Vested foreign interests in this country are today so powerful that they seek not only to influence our economic programmes, but our educational and political policies as well. If independence is to be preserved, we must become self-reliant in the economic sphere. This must be the cornerstone of our future plans.

Problems of Agriculture

  Repeatedly for the past many years we are being treated to pronouncements that priority would be given to agriculture. But the Government's policies evince little regard either for the farmer's interests, or the needs of agriculture. Prices of fertilizers in India are the highest in the world. Under this head, Government had given an assistance of Rs. 55 crores last year.

But in this year's Central budget, this subsidy has been stopped. Foreign concerns have been permitted to set up fertilizer units here and they have been allowed to fix fertilizer prices arbitrarily. Fact is that if the farmer was enabled to meet his fuel requirements with soft coke, and encouraged to use cow-dung as manure, there would be no need of any new fertilizer factories. A report of the National Council for Applied Economic Research has noted: “India burns ten Sindries every year!” But, indifferent to this indigenous potential, we continue to hanker after foreign concerns.

The manners in which some districts have been selected for intensive cultivation betray a partisan approach. All told, the programme is not going to achieve its objective of maximum production. Also, the use of fertilizers, to the exclusion of natural manure, will gravely affect the fertility of the soil. One shudders to contemplate the possibility that a day may arrive as the result of our present myopic policies when rich abundant areas like Ludhiana and Tanjore may become barren. Let us avert such a calamity.

No doubt, some attention has been paid to irrigation, but the Government's ways of doing things are such that the general reaction of farmers could be summed up by the Hindi saying: Ka pani jab krishi sukhani (of what avail the water provided only after the crops have failed). In the matter of inter-state river water disputes provincial loyalties have become so strong that crores of cusecs of water are allowed to go waste into the ocean rather than that the parties to the dispute relent a bit. The decision to provide power for tube-wells at the rate of 12 paise per unit is commendable, but the decision can have meaning only if power is actually made available to them.

Agriculture and Price Policy

Procurement schemes of Government have hit the farmers very badly. Kerala has proved the worst offender on this count. Here we have babus in the offices determining how much grain a particular peasant must produce and how much he should consume. And the peasant is ordered to deposit his entire surplus with the Government godowns. The prices of various crops fixed by the Centre are uneconomic. While it is essential that prices should be stabilized, it would be unjust, and suicidal besides, to deny the farmer a fair and full price for his produce. The foremost object of our price policy should be to prevent a fall in the income of producers, specially primary producers. After all, it is agricultural income which sustains the economy.

It is true that rise in the price of foodgrains has caused great difficulty to the urban population-particularly the low and fixed income groups. For these sections, essential commodities of life should be made available at fair prices. If the Madras Government can successfully implement in some cities its scheme to sell rice at a Rupee per measure, there is no reason why similar steps should not be possible in other parts of the country. Also, dearness allowance must be linked with the cost of living. It is regrettable that the Government refuses to accept this principle. This attitude of it’s the cause of many a dispute and of industrial unrest. Apart from workers and employees, pensioners also must be paid dearness allowances, and their pensions should be co-related with present pay scales.

Scrap Food Zones

Food Zones and the very many restrictions imposed on the movement of various commodities are economically unsound and also against the spirit of the Constitution. These restrictions block normal channels of trade, create an artificial scarcity in the market, and encourage smuggling and black-marketing. This policy militates against national integration also. If we cannot think about as vital a matter as food from the national standpoint, and allow our vision to be warped by narrow regional interests, national integration would become a meaningless slogan. It seems that some corrupt officials, power- hungry politicians and big businessmen who find smuggling a very lucrative trade have developed so great a vested interest in the continuance of this policy that mere logic and reasoning if not going to change it.

Need for National Approach

In the absence of a national approach to economic problems, of proper planning, concerted effort and sound leadership at the Centre, every state and section is exerting to fend for itself with total unconcern about the rest. As they say: “Every one for himself, and let the Devil take the hindmost.” Wittingly or unwittingly this attitude has been encouraging provincialism. When Kerala’s Chief Minister Shri E.M.S. Namboodripad advances claims that he should be allowed to use the foreign exchange earned out of exports from Kerala to buy foodgrains from abroad for his State, or when he calls for a Kerala Bandh against the Centre, it's surely a blow struck at the country's unity. Similarly, when on the plea of securing justice for the Maharashtrians, the Shiv Sena agitates against any quarter being given to people from other States in the services or trades of Bombay; it is becoming blind to a basic fact, namely, that the economic interests of all sections in the country are inseverably interlinked. Unemployment and poverty in this country cab be eradicated only by a combined effort.

Inter-State Disputes

In the resolution of the country's political problems also, this basic unity of the nation must never be overlooked. Today, there are border disputes between some States. These should be generally settled on the basis of principles formulated at the time of reorganization of States. The Jana Sangh accepts that language is one of the factors which should be taken into consideration while demarcating the borders of two States, but it does not consider it the sole determinant. Language has an important place in administration, particularly in a democratic administration. Therefore, ordinarily, linguistic boundaries have crystallized into State boundaries. But there are people who would like language to be the one and exclusive factor to be taken into account. The approach of these people often smacks of a sub-national loyalty. The Jana Sangh disapproves of it.

The Mahajan Commission had been appointed to report on the Mysore-Maharashtra and Mysore-Kerala border disputes. The Commission's report should no doubt help settle the disputes. But this is possible only if there is a readiness to consider the issue dispassionately and without any sense of false prestige. The suggestions for an opinion poll cannot be accepted. Demarcation of State boundaries is the function of Parliament.

Reorganisation of Assam

The Central leadership's handling of the issue of Assam's reorganisation has greatly complicated it. Home Minister Chavan's statement just before the General Election that Assam would be given a federal structure was a political blunder which the Centre is finding it hard to rectify now. Unfortunately, the seeds of separatism in Assam were sown when a special place was given to Assam's Hill Tribes in the Sixth Schedule if the Constitution. Today, we are having to reap its ill-fruits. Creation of a separate Naga State for a population of just three lakes has greatly encouraged these separatist trends. And foreign missionaries in the region have been doing their worst to incite disruptive forces. Our Assam policy ought to take cognisance of all these aspects of the problem: mere patchwork will not do.

Why Not The Hindu Nagas?

The Government has been holding prolonged negotiation with the underground Nagas, but no fruitful outcome is yet in sight. Meanwhile, it has been reported that these rebel Nagas are hobnobbing with Communist China. Outbursts of sporadic violence also have continued. Manipur particularly has seen an intensification of such activity. Obviously, the extremist section is availing of the present interlude only to prepare for a bigger revolt. The Government of India must be extremely vigilant. It should consciously exert to isolate the rebels and deal with them sternly. It would be in place to mention here that half the population of State comprises of Hindu Nagas. New Delhi’s dialogue with Nagaland till now has been exclusively through the medium of the Baptist Mission. The Hindu tribes have never been given the recognition due to them. Their must change. Their interests and rights also must be safeguarded.

No Going Back on Kashmir

Following the removal of restrictions on Mirza Afzal Beg, and Sheikh Abdullah's release in Delhi, those elements have once again become active who would like to detach Kashmir from India. A1l the stale arguments, long debunked and exploded, are being repeated again, and proposals are being revived which have been rejected by the people as against national interest or impractical. The Central Government's support for these proposals is being canvassed on the plea that these would procure us Pakistan’s friendship. It is high time now that all these self-anointed patrons of peace and justice, as wells as Pakistan itself and the international powers who keep giving us uncalled-for counsel about Kashmir were told in plain, unambiguous language that Kashmir is an indivisible part and parcel of India, and, come what may, there was going to be no compromise about it. In this matter, we cannot allow any intervention even by the UNO or any agency of its.

  Some people have been advocating even greater autonomy for Kashmir than it now enjoys. The proposal is rooted in separatism and runs counter to national interest and our Constitution. We would like to state categorically that the people of India will not suffer any act which amounts to reversing the process of Kashmir's fuller integration with India. In this context, I would like to say a word about Article 370. Though this is an internal arrangement of ours, and does not in any way affect the fact that Kashmir is an integral part of India, it is certainly an exceptional provision which ought to be abrogated. Its repeal would serve a valuable psychological purpose. A1l speculations about Kashmir would automatically stop.

Failure of Sadiq Government

The Centre should also pay attention to the internal administration of Jammu and Kashmir State. Shri Sadiq has failed to give to the state a clean, impartial and strong administration.

Compiled by Amarjeet Singh, Research Associate & Programme Coordinator, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, 9, Ashok Road, New Delhi - 110001
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