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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 34 August 15, 2015

New Struggle for Freedom

Saturday 15 August 2015, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

Fifteen years to go before the onset of the Twentyfirst Century and thirtyeight years since the Tricolour was hoisted on the ramparts of the Red Fort in 1947, this year’s celebration of August Fifteenth can very well be made the starting point for preparing the blueprint for modernising this nation of seven hundred million people.

To modernise a country with such amazingly uneven development—in which primitive tribal economy co-exists with highly advanced modern business culture—is a Herculean task which only those who are stout in heart and have shoulders of steel can venture to undertake.

Jawaharlal Nehru, after assuming power as the first Prime Minister of independent India, led the assault upon the edifice of colonialism superim-posed upon a decrepit feudal structure that had been left behind by the British Raj. Against formidable resistance, both domestic and inter-national, he laid the foundations of the country’s industrialisation by determinedly heavy industry while the emphasis on self-reliance was continu-ously reiterated. This was seen conspicuously in the building of the infrastructure for indigenous defence production.

Along with industrialisation was taken up the modernisation of agriculture, which is responsible for wiping off the deficit in food production and thereby has strengthened our confidence in the drive for self-reliance.

For a developing country, left impoverished by colonial depredation, there could be no moderni-sation worth the name if it does not help towards the elimination of poverty and reduction of socio-economic inequalities. On this score our record has not matched our expectations despite all the advances registered in different spheres. The heightened interest in the anti-poverty pro-grammes of the government is no doubt welcome, although at the same time, it has to be borne in mind that these programmes, however well-meaning, have only a marginal impact on the overall situation because the inequituous social structure has been permitted to continue.

Modernisation encompasses not only the economic aspect of the nation’s activity. It has to contend with a value system which is inherited from the feudal past. No doubt industrialisation severely encroaches on the feudal preserve, but an enduring value system can hardly be sustained unless and until the feudal outlook and practices are attacked and overpowered. Social injustice in our country is not certainly confined to economic inequality alone: it is encrusted in the social structure which makes it so inequituous.

It is against this difficult background the struggle for modernisation has to be carried forward in the age of the technological revolution. On one hand, the productive forces promise to grow by leaps and bounds, and, on the other, the relations of production are bound to lag behind leading to the widening of socio-economic disparities, unless and until determined endeavour is made at the political level to ensure that      the mastery over the new technology is accompanied by massive efforts at eliminating poverty and hunger. If the technological revolution promises to eliminate the drudgery of back-breaking human labour, it is for the powers that be to ensure that this does not lead to more unemployed in a community haunted by the spectre of unemployment. In other words, more and better production must not mean less jobs and more hunger. More goods must not mean less work.

If properly mastered, the technological revo-lution displacing human labour can help to usher in a social order that can ensure plenty for the impoverished and the leisure that comes in its wake shall enable cultural pursuits for those who are denied them by the present inequituous social system.

In taking up such a blueprint of modernisation, it is for the leading elements in every walk of life—political, social and cultural—to ensure that the India of Tomorrow while bringing in the new technology, harnesses it to build a more equitable social order in this ancient land. Technological Revolution has to be the harbinger of a new order of equity and prosperity in our country.

August Fifteenth beckons us to this new struggle for freedom—freedom from poverty and degradation, freedom to hold our head high in a world beset with greed and turbulence.

(‘Editor’s Notebook’ in Mainstream, August 10, 1985)