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Modi, Netaji and Planning

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Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi named the Ross Island in the Andamans as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep.

Bose became the Congress president in 1938 and announced that the freedom movement was also to devote attention to the problem of national reconstruction. “And national reconstruction will be possible only with the aid of science and our scientists.” As “India was still in the pre-industrial stage of evolution,” this task was daunting but inescapable. Bose said, “We can at best determine whether this revolution, that is, industrialisation will be a comparatively gradual one, as in Great Britain, or a forced march as in Soviet Russia. I am afraid that this has to be a forced march in this country.”

This forced march was to be the state’s duty, and “economic planning for India should mean largely planning for industrialisation of India” with a focus “especially in the field of our principal need and requirement.” It should aim at the “growth and development of mother industries, viz. power supply, machine production, machine and tools, manufacture of essential chemicals, transport and communication industries, etc.” This was to be backed by a “permanent research council” and the National Planning Committee should ensure the collection of preliminary data for economic survey.

The research council, according to Bose, “should be freed from government control of every kind,” and the problem of technical education and technical research was to be tackled by large-scale state-funded programmes. This may include trainings abroad, but Indian society should be transformed, with enough capacity to develop basic indigenous know-how.

Under Bose’s leadership, the National Planning Committee was set up with Jawaharlal Nehru as its chairman, and Bose directed Congress governments in seven provinces to take active part in this planning process. The idea of planning had generated such enthusiasm, that the poet Rabindranath Tagore invited Nehru to Shantiniketan to share some of his ideas, which had germinated after Tagore’s long discussions with Meghnad Saha. The National Planning Committee gave its report in 1942.

This idea of national reconstruction, based on science, even before getting political independence was an act, far ahead of its time. Without any experience, except for rudimentary exercise in the Mysore state and reports of success in the Soviet Union, Indian politicians and planners took a courageous step, in an uncharted course. As Bose stated, “We, who are practical politicians, need help from you, who are scientists in the shape of ideas. We can, in our turn, help to propagate these ideas when the citadel of power is finally captured, can help to translate these ideas into reality.”

While the government keeps cutting down research grants in S&T, the Prime Minister gave a call, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan,” at the inauguration of the 106th Indian Science Congress.

It is as ironic as honouring Bose, while blatantly violating his ideals.

Sabyasachi Chatterjee

President, All India Peoples Science Network

Updated On : 11th Jan, 2019

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