Our Current Problems Devendra Kumar
Professor J.C.Kumarappa — trained in accounts and economics in England and America was a practicing chartered accountant in Bombay. At the age of 37 when he was on the road to his material ascendency, he changed his course of life. This happened when his eyes were opened to the loot of India by the British, as he studied the public finance system of the country. He then joined Gandhiji in 1929 who introduced him to learn about the living conditions of the villagers. His experiences in village life brought him close to the concepts, ideas and systems which formed the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi's socio —politico — economic order based on total non-violence. Kumarappa gave all his life to the application of these principles in various responsibilities reposed on him by Gandhiji. He applied his astute mind, original thinking and deep commitment in adding new dimensions to Gandhian economics evolving what could be called a Gandhi Kumarappa or GK.Model.
India's Independence came in 1947 at a time when the second world war had ended and the world was in chaos. Gandhiji had hardly any respite from the freedom— fight for which he had relentlessly worked for three decades when the nation had responded to his call of non-violent resistance, leading to participation of masses in the struggle and their ultimate victory. Gandhiji, therefore, could only symbolically manifest his constructive programmes or his picture of a non-violent India — where class, caste or any other exploitative systems world have no place. These ideals which he adumbrated for a new society were based on non-exploitative systems of economic production, which he felt could be best applied in a rural economy. This model was however not very acceptable to the people who were at the helm of the affairs as they, were enamored of the western model and wanted to make India a replica of the dazzling material development they saw in Europe and America. The affluence of the west was unfortunately brought about only through the exploitation of other countries and world's limited renewable natural resources which these countries exploited mercilessly.
Thus there was a tussle between the western model enthusiasts and the proponents of the Gandhian model. Kumarappa was the crusader for the economics of peace and non-violence and kept himself engaged in a relentless fight for the cause he, espoused all his life. He was convinced that the western model would create more problems than it would solve. Now today, four and half decades later, the results are before us all to see and it would be worth-while to analyse and find out where we went wrong and if the alternate solution of applying the philosophy of Gandhi and Kumarappa (G & K) has any relevance? Herein are two important fields : agriculture and industry have been taken up to illustrate the points of divergence. These can be added to in numbers and details in analysis provided. However, the right direction is sought to be established through this paper.
In the field of agriculture :
Let us take the largest occupation of our land —agriculture to begin with. Striving for self sufficiency in food was the prime need of free India. By making big dams to irrigate new lands and introducing high yield variety (H Y V) seeds, self— sufficiency in food needs was attained after quarter centenary of efforts. However the darker side of the picture was that excess of water through irrigation canals led to creation of 'wet deserts' through three silent enemies — salination, alkalization and water logging. In 1982 out of20 million hectares irrigated by surface irrigation more than 7 million could not support agriculture. Today's figures say that due to the above three factors, annually almost as much land goes sterile as is added under irrigation. The other minuses in construction of bigger dams are the displacement of large human population and inundation ofthe forest cover, leading to ecological imbalances in the area. All these were realized by late Prof. J.C.Kumarappa when as the Chairman of the Agrarian Reforms Committee of A l C C which toured the whole country in 49-50. He had suggested that the country should go in for checking the surface water flow by contour — bunds and check-dams and not go in for bigger dams. Decentralization was his keyword and its application in all fields including irrigation. Kumarappa clearly indicated that instead of making big dams, efforts should be made to check the flow of water at the initial stage itself, to conserve the soil moisture. But probably these models did not provide much profit to middle — men and contractors as it did in the case of bigger structures. Realisation of the problems created by dams has now become evident internationally.
Gandhi and Kumarappa were also opposed to chemical fertilizers which they felt created havoc with the chemistry and biology of the topsoil, the mainstay for the plant growth. Organic manures on the contrary helped to healtheir growth of plants which could resist various diseases whereas chemically grown crops required pesticides and other chemicals to protect them. This has resulted in progressively increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides leading to more and more money flowing out from the villages to the cities on to the factory owners and also partly going abroad. There are technologies available for converting the available biomass and agro waste into valuable organic manures in quantities as would make us self sufficient in our requirements of soil nutrients without taking recourse to artificial fertilizers. This is however still a neglected area as all efforts are concentrated in the field of petro based fertilizers and pesticides.
The third area in the field of agriculture is the introduction of HYV seeds from exotic sources which may give higher crop yields temporarily but not being acclimatized to the hard conditions to which they are exposed. They require greater and greater inputs in water, chemicals and medicines and make the farmer dependent on the commercial interests. The indigenous varieties of seeds and the enormous gene pool of diverse characters that the villages had earlier, is rapidly being lost the biodiversity is being sacrificed at the cost of quick returns. It is not being suggested that the science of biotechnology is not to be used for greater productivity but that it be used not with an eye on the profits of the commercial interests but for the self-reliance of the farmer and better ecological developments in agriculture. Presently the greater yield in the farm sector is not benefiting the farmers as much as it is profiting the industries engaged in providing the inputs of agriculture. The percentage of share increases with time.
The fourth malady in `modern' Agriculture is the introduction of tractors to replace the bullock power which gradually lost its place also in irrigation and transport activities. The use of bullocks became less and less as pumps, trucks, tractors and trailers abounded and the economics of small farms fell easy prey to the avarice of the rich. These machines, not only took away a significant portion of the hard earned income of the rural economy and became a drain on the national exchequer as they were subsidized and had foreign exchange component as well and they required fossil fuels which had to be imported.
Kumarappa opposed tooth and nail all augmentation in use of petroleum products which he declared belonged to the 'Bucket economy' where the content being limited is reduced as it is consumed, in contrast renewable energies which he termed as belonging to the 'River economy' were replenishble and thus inexhaustible. All these he gave fifty years before any one else thought about them. .He invented a lamp which used vegetable oil in place of kerosene and called it 'Megan Dipa after Maganwadi' (the headquarters of All India Village Industries Association which he was the Organiser and Secretary under Mahatmaji's stewardship). He was a pioneer in taking up the cause of renewable energies against non-renewable energy sources like patrol and Coal. In his book .'Economy of Permanance' he pleaded not to deprive the coming generations of their patrimony of the non-renewables and to base our economy on renewables as far as possible. It is only in the last decade that the world has realised this danger and efforts are going on to find renewable energy sources like the bio-gas solar, wind, geothermal, micro-hydel, ocean, tidal and wave power all over the world.
In agriculture the bullock economy has been shattered and needs to be given a second look. The animal-human symbiosis worked out by our ancients had great validity as the two shared different parts the crops and the animal provided both the motive power and the manure, These are now being sought to be replaced by petrol and petro based chemicals both coming from a dwindling resource base.
The Industrial field:
India was .being exploited by imperial powers by exporting industrial goods to their colonies and siphoning off the cream of production of the slave countries like India, which had become the cheap .suppliers of the raw materials for their factories and sheltered markets for their high priced products. When we gained freedom after centuries of this trade amongst the un-equals it was but natural to correct the imbalance by creating ottr own industrial structures to check the import of foreign goods. However here too there were two options available - the one the West had fattened upon and (2) the Gandhian way which had to be pioneered to save the soul of world. Humanity, being in a hurry, India drove the trodden path and faces the consequences thereof. We did not heed the call of these great thinkers and allowed our mineral resources to be fast depleated for quick growth. Our capital/ energy intensive factories make the rich richer and the poor poorer. We, therefore are facing today a dilemma in which on one hand India is considered amongst the fifteen industrailised nations of the world yet the number of our poor, those who. can, hardly subsist on the income they get compared to other countries is the largest-both in aggregate numbers as well as percentage of the total population.
Kumarappa had clearly indicated that we have to follow a different line and encourage such modes of production which bring along with it distributive justice and do not disturb the natural ecological balances.-This did not mean that importance of Science & Technology was to be minimized. Gandhi wanted Science & Technology to develop low capital, low energy, decentralized and nature friendly mode of production which could provide more and more people. to be able to self employ themselves. Gandhiji used to say that it is our greed that makes us go in for wrong modes of production and consumption and that Mother nature has enough to fulfill right kind of human needs but not enough to fulfill our greeds.
The agro- industrial milieu of the country-side where even today three fourth of our population resides requires to be strengthened. Agriculture being seasonal has its periods of extra employment and afterwards there is dearth of work in the fields. The model of dovetailing of village industries with agriculture which was placed by G and K (Gandhi and Kumarappa) required decentralized production processes which did not displace populations and suited to the culture of the country.
Improved methods in such industries were tried out under the All India Village Industries Association. The advisory committee of which, had scientists like Sri Jagdish Chandra Bose, Sri C.V.Raman, Dr.Mac Carrison, Sri Prafulla Chandra Ray and others. This required a new direction of economic development where human needs were to be met from small units of decentralised production as far as possible. In this the Scale of production was to be' determined by the degree of intensity of a commodity. Whatever was required more universally, recurringly and more quantitatively was to be produced more locally. Thus requirements of daily necessities were to be produced in more decentralized units whereas luxury goods or non recurring or special needs of a few could be left centralized.
A law of relativity was to be evolved and adopted whereby the fulfilling of the necessities of the people could not be made a means of their .exploitation which the present day trade, commerce and industry are prone to. The waste in transport is avoided as it will require less of it. The raw materials of a large variety can be utilized since diversity in production modes as per the locally available circumstances can be worked out in small units contrary to mass production processes. This helps preserve bio-diversity in agriculture and forest produce to be tolerated and encouraged by industry. The ecological and environmental stresses in these alternate technologies are least and are manageable. This path could have developed to great heights given the scientific back up available with humankind. Which unfortunately was hijacked by the vested commercial interest leading to the kind of industrialization which now threatens the global economy at many levels.
Kumarappa's call was later highlighted by world thinkers like E.F.Schuachaer, the author of 'Small is beautiful', and Intermediate and Alternate Technology movements. The points raised by G & K were put on the modern context by the club of Rome document of Growth' and the U.N. "expert committee on development and environment stresses on many aspects of it in the Brundland Report, our common Destiny. The world conference on Environment held in Stockholm in 1975 and going to be repeated in May 1992 in Rio De Janerio and the Nairobi conference on Renewable Energies high light the very issues towards which Gandhian economics as developed by JCK was pointing out.
If the 21St Century also moves in the direction established by the 20th Century the problems we face will only by accentuated as we move ahead. What is required is a change in direction where human wants are curbed, consumerism arrested, exploitation of minerals and fossil fuels restricted and destruction of the bio-diversity of the planet stopped.
The industrial policy of India shall have to go for a sea —change. The present crisis in balance of payment has its root in having the need to import more and more sophisticated machines of mass production which require more capital outlay per unit of production as well as of employment. The motive being to be able to compete in the world market controlled by the capital rich countries of the world. This mirage is leading us into greater and greater crisis and resulting in the dependence of the capital deficit countries like ours on the capital surplus nations like America, EEC and Japan, the three giants in the process, the former losing their independence to the latter.
Both ideologically and pragmatically we ought to be aware of the trap and seek to move in the direction of G & K as represented by Khadi and village Industries movement.
The whole concept of developing a right relationship with nature which is one of the basic dimensions of Gandhian approach has been drowned by the get — rich — quick philosophy of greater and greater consumption and production syndrome. This manifests itself both in agriculture and industry as indicated above and need to be corrected.