The termination of British rule and requisition of novel independence in India rendered this newborn nation stone broken. The total GDP of the country was $ 1.3 billion, which accounted for 3.9 per cent of the world’s economy. GDP was growing at 1.8 per cent. Our population was 360 million, of which 70 per cent were starving. The per capita annual income was $274, then the US dollar was about three and a half rupees. The contribution of the agriculture-based sector in our country’s economy was 59 per cent, industries 13 per cent and service sector 28 per cent. The literacy rate in the country was merely 12 per cent. The median age of the countrymen was 32 years.
The situation was such that millions of people died every year due to starvation, disease and natural calamities. Being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, incidents of ethnic and religious hysteria happened habitually. Ironically, during those times, our magnificent diversity was caught in a catch-22, be it language, food or attire. Our country also faced four wars due to unresolved border disputes with neighboring countries. We were a dependent nation for military power and resources. The world opened its eyes wide to behold us as a slave country. Even while fighting these conditions, the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, not only strengthened the country but also gave it a respectable leading position in the global world.
From these facts, you can comprehend that at that time neither we were a population with purchasing power nor did we have the abundance of scholars of science and technology. We had no doctors and no resources. There were no good educational institutions. In such a situation, the question arises, why should a powerful country give respect to a country suffering from hunger and disease? Our first Prime Minister understood this quite well. He knew that if the country is to be taken on the path of development, then a different path will have to be paved for it. He followed, adopting neither a capitalist economy nor a socialist one. He created the structure of a mixed economy so that the poor should be taken forward with the wealth of the rich, but the burden should not fall on anyone. This was called “Socio Capitalist Economy Policy”.
Even though the Nehru government got the Somnath temple rebuilt, he never considered it appropriate to go to religious places. He took all religions in harmony and gave them the freedom to act according to their tradition. Nehru did not pay attention to the politics of religion or caste but adopted the policy of Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvajan Sukhay. He targeted the establishment of new temples, which included large dams, educational institutions, industry and public sector undertakings. He gave a strong voice to democratic institutions and the judiciary, which could have roared against him as well. That is why we today boastfully say that India is the largest democracy in the world.
Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy was never one to follow but was based on the policy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Despite having good relations with Russia, he decided not to join its faction. Not only this, but he also did not join the US faction. He headed the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations and became its chief. This was the reason that when Pandit Nehru went to America for the first time as Prime Minister in October 1949, then-President Harry S Truman broke protocol and not only received him but also became impatient for friendly relations. His second journey was more or less similar. This was when India had respectable relations with other developed countries of the world including Russia. Nehru’s policy was made keeping in mind the interest of the country, and not for his own honor causing harm to India. After independence, we established cordial relations with most of the countries. In the decade since the constitution came into force, India won the support of dozens of countries in Africa and Asia by strongly supporting independence from European colonies. Along with dealing strictly with the Pakistan problem, increased friendship with China, establishing dominance and gaining leverage among other neighboring countries. Although there was a lot of shock due to China’s deception, it was handled well. Apart from strategic ties with Russia, we had established good defense ties with Israel and France. We played a strong role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the WTO. This pedestalled clout and an influential reputation in the world. As a result, we were able to move fast in all fields and our citizens got their due recognition in the world. Pandit Nehru played a pivotal role in the establishment of the United Nations.
As luck would have it, this year the country has completed 75 years of independence. The journey of our economy, which once started from a third world country, is today one of the largest economies in the world. We are the second largest power in the world in terms of population. We have a leading position among young countries with purchasing power. Now, the share of agriculture in our economy is about 19 per cent, while we are around 27 per cent in production. The service sector accounts for 54.3 percent and the business share is 36.5 per cent. At present, our per capita income is $1947, which was $2064 before the corona epidemic. The GDP of our country is growing the fastest in the world. At present, it is worth 2.38 lakh crores. When everything is going so well, then its benefits should be given to its citizens on a priority basis. Far from that happening, only a few corporate houses and capitalists are benefitting from this.
By the end of the last financial year, the external debt on our country has increased by 2.1 per cent annually to $570 billion. Compared to the last seven years, the average debt on the countrymen has also more than doubled, which is 37.3 percent of our GDP. Today, we are the country with the youngest population in the whole world, whose youth are among the policymakers worldwide. Even with these states of affairs, we are ignored on the global stage. The superpowers try to humiliate instead of honoring us. If all the neighbouring countries stand with our opponents, it is a matter of grave distress. In the event that all the powerful countries enlighten us with the lesson of democratic values and human rights, then it would be quite humiliating.
We all must cudgel our brains that our respect comes from the respect of our country and its leaders. Our policymakers should probe the policies of Gandhi-Nehru carefully. We have to be determined to protect human rights by strengthening democratic institutions. We have to work towards ending communalism and casteism. When all is well in our abode, only then will we be able to counsel others. Fibs fall face down on the global stage. Ergo, we should accept the reality and adopt a policy of moving forward by uprooting our shortcomings. Our foreign policy has to be drawn with mutual strength and harmony, emphasizing human rights, secularism and non-discrimination, which Nehru did. If we adopt these policies, respect will knock on our doors. Then the head of our Government will stand tall with leading honour on the world’s dais as a Statesman – a people’s man.
(The author is a renowned journalist of India.)