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Mainstream, VOL LII No 5, January 25, 2014 - Republic Day Special

Seventyfive Years of Planning in India (1938-2013)

Tuesday 28 January 2014

by Debabrata Biswas

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had the vision, with a mission, to establish socialism in India. Hence, even during the days of the freedom struggle he started planning for socialistic reconstruction after winning freedom through uncompromising struggle against British imperialism. As a part of this planning, one major step that he took was to form the Planning Committee for the first time in the history of India. After being elected the President of the Indian National Congress at its Haripura session in 1938, he constituted the Planning Committee on December 17, 1938 and, by virtue of his liberal attitude and also as a strategy in the then prevailing political situation mostly controlled by Gandhiji, Subhas Chandra invited Jawaharlal Nehru to chair the Planning Committee. By inducting many other important personalities from various fields of expertise, like Meghnad Saha (scientist), Vishweswaraiah (architectural engineering), K.T. Shah (commcrce and industry) and others in the Planning Committee, he requested them to make the blueprint for the reconstruction of the future free India. Thus in the true sense, Subhas Chandra was the pioneer of planning in India.

But unfortunately, after attaining independence, when Jawaharlal Nehru took over as the first Prime Minister of free India, he and the Congress party never acknowledged the contribution of Subhas Chandra in planning in India. Nehru projected himself as the pioneer of planning in India and initiated the first Five Year Plan in 1952, as a continuation of which India has now entered the period of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017). This is a blatant distortion of history which we strongly protest and would like to reveal the truth and highlight the characteristics of Subhas Chandra’s socialistic planning which has now entered the 75th year (1938-2013).

The essence of Netaji’s socialistic planning and reconstruction can be realised by going through Subhas Chandra’s Presidential Address at the Haripura Congress in 1938, where he stated: “Last but not the least, the state, on the advice of a Planning Commission, will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socialising our entire agricultural and industrial system in the sphere of both production and distribution.”

But in spite of completing eleven Five Year Plans, the country is yet to reach such a state of socialist concept as advocated by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The social and economic inequality among the people has only steadily increased during this long period of planning. Simply by adding the ambitious term of ‘inclusive growth’, the present planners of the ruling Congress party have miserably failed to achieve this growth. Hence, while assessing 75 years of planning in India, we must keep in view the socialist concept of Netaji’s planning as initiated by him in 1938. In the field of planning, ‘Netaji was not only a pace-setter but a path-finder as well’.

The Planning Commission has only once belatedly published a book entitled Subhas Chandra Bose—Pioneer of Indian Planning in 1997. While writing the ‘Foreword’ for the book, Madhu Dandavate, the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, had rightly said: “If Netaji were to be in our midst today, his inspiring message to the Indian people would have been: give me your toil and tears and I will give you a happy and prosperous India, planned and built from the grassroot level, so that the gains of planning and development could reach the lowest of the low.”

The author is the General Secretary, All India Forward Bloc.