(With the Editor, Organiser Weekly, September 1958)
Q : We are not developing our economy fast enough. China is developing faster. Should we not follow their example?
A : China has sold itself to a foreign ideology. We need not got so fast that we lose our national identity. What is the use of going round the world with a begging bowl, only to import large numbers of foreign experts, technicians etc., whose chief interest in our country will be only to wage their cold war here?
Q : What is the chief impediment in our path?
A : We suffer from a double sin : We don't work hard enough, and we make a tremendous show of what little we do. We talk of shramadaan, and make a shameless mockery of it. Mao works with laborers to set an example. And our leaders here turn a cog only for the camera. It is therefore hardly to be wondered at, that whatever we do is only second rate, third rate or even worse. New dams give way; new buildings develop cracks; even factory products are sub-standard. You never know how long an India-made car will run.
Q : It is claimed that the First Five-Year plan has been a success.
A : The Plan talked of achieving food self-sufficiency. But today nobody even talks of attaining it. In ancient Bharat the kings always strove during harvests to store grains to last for three years. And now we don't have enough even for current consumption. A plan which does not plan for food self-sufficiency is no plan. What will happen if there is a war and food imports are not possible? Will we let millions die of starvation?
Nobody thinks of the all-round development of the country. Everything is in a sorry mess. We try to export cloth and sugar when there is no market for them. And we tax our own people to subsidize exports. Is this planning or madness?
Q : What is to be done?
A : Well, there should be honesty. They talk of bhoodaan - small bits of land for all - which means fragmentation. And in the same breath they talk of cooperative farming which means pooling together all land. Is this not contradictory?
They spent many crores to sink tube-wells. Seven years ago I had said that indiscriminate sinking of tube-wells will create new deserts. But the Government has discovered only now that tube-wells draw water so fast that they dry up all sub-soil water, and soon there is none left to draw. All the same, more and more tube-wells are being sanctioned. They are being installed by foreign firms. Meanwhile old tanks have been ruined and old wells are drying up. Is this the way to increase food production? They are going to set up a steel mill in Bhilai. They have requisitioned some 100 sq. miles of the best rich lands to build the steel city. Had they built it near the ore mines some 30 miles away - where land is uncultivable - this fertile tract could have been spared. There is not even elementary coordination between industry and agriculture.
Nagpur city had been wisely built on a non-fertile tract in a fertile area. But recently the city has been encroaching on the fields. It means not only loss of fertile lands, it means high construction costs on lands not suitable for construction. Why allow cities to grow uncontrollably? We had a taste of its dangers in Delhi when a primary essential like water service broke down.
There is a plan to beautify Nagpur city - perhaps because an influential political party is going to hold its session there this year (1958). They want to pump out all the water from the Shukurwari Tank and fill it with fresh water. Even the Government of India has contributed some lakhs for the purpose. But Nagpur does not have enough water even to drink! We can spare money for a fresh water tank as a pleasure spot, but not for the water supply of the city! Our whole emphasis is on show of achievement - and not on achievement itself.
Q : How shall we improve matters?
A : By giving up this craze for show, and channelizing the patriotic feelings of the people. We spend endless millions on new railway station buildings but the track and bridges are so much neglected that there are frequent railway accidents. The country is being given the wrong lead. There is no glow of freedom. Nobody feels the incentive to work. Thousands go out every year for higher education, but few come back with any original idea. They say we must have foreign experts to locate, drill and refine oil for us. I ask : What has our Mining Department been doing all these decades? Who drilled and refined oil for Venezuela, USA or Russia when it was first found in those countries? The earth of Cambay smells oil. Jwalamukhi's eternal flame has been a standing proof of oil deposits in that area. What is this craze for foreign experts for all things down to community projects? Only activised and channelized patriotism of the people can carry the country forward. No foreign aid or show-pieces are going to do that for us.
(With friends in Kerala, January 1967)
Q : Why is it that we are losing the foreign market for many of our commodities?
A : One of the main reasons is our dishonesty. Once it was a common saying that our pepper was gold because the foreign market paid fabulous prices for it. We have lost the world market for it, because papaya seeds were mixed. This was found out and they stopped purchasing from Bharat. In fact, we have lost our market for many other things too. A few years back, we were exporting cloth, piece-goods, in large quantities. Now, except some little handloom, nothing is being purchased by the foreigners.
Even Pakistan has entered the market and captured it. They showed more honesty than us. Of course, they had other facilities also. High quality cotton is grown in quite a large quantity there and nowadays they have rationalized - i.e., they can work with much less number of workmen - their textile industry. Our businessmen failed to satisfy the customers. Either the measurements fell short or inferior stuff was packed with just one or two layers of superior stuff on the top. Gradually they refused to buy from us.
Even the cars now assembled in India are inferior stuff. Our present Ambassador cars are examples for this. Even a small pebble could bore a hole in their oil tank. The pebbles on the road which are thrown up when the car goes with some speed can do the mischief. Such is the careless and flimsy make of the car.
Q : But hasn't the Government made some progress?
A : What is it? And where is it? The Government is supposed to have fared best on the international front. But even here what is the reality? We got a 0 : 10 vote on Kashmir. Our financial credit abroad is about zero, we can't float a loan there. Is this progress, prestige or what? We are having three steel mills and three oil refineries. But all these are foreign financed and foreign established. Our so-called progress is only 'imported progress'. Even in such a small thing as soap, it is Lever Bros., a foreign concern, who are at the top.
(With the Editor, Organiser, December 1957)
Q : What do you think of the Second Plan?
A : It is extravagant. Smaller irrigation works and smaller factories would have required less investment and yielded quicker results. These profits could then have been ploughed back to set up bigger works. We are beginning from the wrong end. Our emphasis is on 'gigantism'.
The worst part of the so-called socialist planning is statism, and end of individual liberty.
Q : The middle class mans the administration. This middle class envies the businessman's riches. Is it the reason why it favors nationalization because that replaces the 'bania' by the 'babu'?
A : May be. But a 'babu' cannot become a 'bania'. Their functions are entirely different. The 'babu' is more ready to accept bribes than the 'bania' is prepared to offer. Last year they made much of the budget leak - which has been an annual affair. Only, last year its copies were cyclostyled and openly sold. And who, you think, leaks out the budget? It's the big officers. It only means that the administration is corrupt even at the very top. If you go on nationalizing, you will only strengthen this corrupt administration, and so make it even more corrupt.
Q : It is claimed that private enterprise cannot run big industries like steel plants etc. What is your opinion?
A : The experience has been otherwise. They have already been running big steel plants successfully. The trouble is that the Government patronizes half a dozen industrialists, and harasses the rest. Recently, a certain well-known business house entered into an agreement with a foreign firm for the manufacture of a particular variety of cars. This is because industrialists fear the Government so much that they seek security in a powerful foreign alliance.
The Government complains of shortage of capital. Indians in Africa alone could invest Rs. 1,000 crores in India. But by its excessive interference, prohibitive taxation and threats of nationalization, it has scared away investment.
I accuse the Government of trying to control everything from education to industry, under the cover of nationalization, in a bid to maintain itself in power for all time. That is my charge.
Q : At least the Government is putting strong checks on the rich.
A : The rich are taxed high just to impress the poor, and to make them pay all sorts of taxes. Actually, the rich rarely pay their taxes. They can generally buy evasion by contributing to the Congress Election Fund and paying only a fraction of the original assessment. Recently we heard of a certain big businessman's arrest in connection with some irregularities in one of his concerns. But I am told there were even bigger irregularities in some other companies. However, their proprietors are said to have got off with a big payment to Congress funds. It was because the former said Congress ko phata joota bhi nahin doonga ( I will not contribute even my torn shoes to the Congress), that he was arrested! At the time of the last election, he had avoided contribution to Congress by threatening to publish certain documents which could damage the reputation of a top Congress leader. He hoped to get off the same way this time also, but failed. They talk of 'crisis of character'. But whose character? Even the tallest poppies are not free from this stain. At Tennyson said :
Every door is barred with gold,
And opens but to golden keys.
(With Pressmen at different places, September-October 1949)
Q : What are your views on nationalization of industries which is being much talked of these days as the panacea for all economic ills?
A : Nationalization of industries means State Capitalism which is as good or as bad as Capitalism. I look forward to a system of Industrial Cooperatives wherein every member of the Cooperatives - why every member of the society at large - would understand both his responsibilities and obligations more than his rights and the way to evade duties. Bharatiya culture lays stress on the duties and obligations of oneself to the community. I would like free Bharat to recapture that spirit.
Q : What is the pattern of industrialization best suited for our Indian conditions?
A : Small scale and home industries should be spread everywhere. They should feed the bigger centers of industry. For example, Japan's industrial structure is like that. In cycle industry each part can be separately made and assemblage can be made at one centre. Only some specified industries pertaining to Defence etc., may be single large scale endeavors.
This alone will ensure a harmonious build up of agriculture and industry. It will also help to eliminate the growing disparity between village and city life.
Q : What are your views about the abolition of Zamindari?
A : It all depends upon the necessity and the propriety under a particular situation. If Zamindari harms the interests of the farmers, it has to be done away: because, the interests of the ordinary farmers, who form the largest section of our people, are to be satisfied first.
Zamindar is only a middleman between the state and the farmer. Even if the state assumes the proprietary rights, it has to appoint a middleman. In Zamindari, the income to the state remains undisturbed, even if some of the farmers fail to produce. Also, the government is freed from the botheration of dealing with the farmer on his failure to pay land tax. But all this does not mean that it should be continued even where it is found to be positively harmful to the farmers' interests. The foreign rulers had a vested interest in maintaining that system.
Even after the end of Zamindari, the necessity of middle man remains, and bureaucracy steps in to meet it. The government must undoubtedly have control over land tax and it must take care to see that the middleman does not misuse the powers, whatever the arrangement. The main guiding consideration in all such matters is the interest of the common man.
(With the Editor, Organiser, December 1965)
Q : What could the Government do about food shortage?
A : I am not sure there is food shortage at all in the country! After all, last year's crops were reported to be very good. These should have seen us through this year. The trouble is that the Government is not prepared to touch a hoarder if he is a Congress financier just as it is not prepared to touch Khaddar-wearing agents of Pakistan. The day the Government decides that it would take action even against erring Congress supporters, half our problems will be over.
Q : What do you think of West Bengal Government's ban on 'Sandesh' etc., as a contribution to the easing of the food problem?
A : I consider it a meaningless order. After all, milk is food, it is said to be a complete food. An excellent way of meeting food shortage would be to increase milk production. But nobody thinks of that! Young cows are taken from Punjab to Calcutta and then slaughtered there after just one lactation period! Let Chief Minister P. C. Sen ban cattle slaughter, and Bengal will have all the milk it needs, yes, even for Sandesh, which is a very solid food.
Q : Food is short. But nobody seems to want rationing. Everybody is apprehensive about the quality of rations.
A : Such apprehensions are well rooted. The Madras Government certifies rice with 2% sand or stones as all right for human consumption! They little realize that 2% permitted by law may easily become much more in fact!
Thanks to Government's mishandling, acute food scarcity exists in many parts of the country. In Maharashtra and Mysore it has become unsafe to run food trucks after sunset. Hungry men stop them on the way. At first they used to pay the price to the driver and take away the grains. But now they no longer pay the price.
Now and then there are even cases of starvation deaths. Not long ago a man dropped dead in front of a so-called fair price shop in Madras when, after hours of waiting in the queue, he was told there was no more food to sell. It was given out as a case of 'heart failure'. But it was no more a case of heart failure than any other death. After all, in every single case of death the heart must stop!
Q : Do you favor complete state trading in food grains and restrictions on movement of food grains?
A : No. Free trade, free movement.
(With Pressmen, New Delhi, April 1966)
Q : What in your opinion should the country do to increase food production?
A : During the last few years, our people have gone after cash crops. A very substantial portion of U.P. and Bihar are all under sugarcane. Large areas are growing groundnuts. Now there is a race for growing grapes, for example in Maharashtra. There are also other such things. We could make all these more rational. Cash crops should be taken in hand only if we have put sufficient amount of our land under cultivation for food grains. This will not be very difficult. According to the report of our Government itself, our deficit this year - which has been a very bad year from the point of view of our crops - is only 8 per cent or so. Certainly, making up this deficit would not require much sacrifice of the land which has been used for cash crops. This has to be taken into consideration in every area, in every village. Statistics should be properly collected and farmers told to grow food grains accordingly.
Q : What happens if a particular farmer does not oblige? Secondly, if, as you said, there were to be free trade, where is the guarantee that the traders will distribute the food properly?
A : Quite an amount of odium has been heaped on the dealer. All right, let's suppose that all our dealers are dishonest and have no thought of their brethren. Many people have been saying that all those who are engaged in industry are also dishonest. Then there are persons who say that the labor is not putting the efforts it should. The work which they turn out does not bear any comparison to the time they have given. And there has been a talk that some farmers have been successful in suppressing their produce, and are not allowing it to come into the free market. Thinking in this way we may come to the conclusion that in this great wide country, there is not one honest soul. I think this is a very uncharitable vie. And if there is no honest soul, where do we get honest souls from?
We have to put some faith in one another. As a matter of fact, our life can go on only if we have faith in one another. Let us take the dealers into confidence, all the villagers into confidence, all the people into confidence, to achieve all that we want.
Q : How about the use of chemical fertilizers to step up production?
A : As regards these fertilizers, some of the experts have said that organic manures such as cow-dung and green leaves are more conducive to the keeping up of the quality of the soil.
(With the Editor, Organiser, August 1964)
Q : What is your opinion about fasts, strikes etc., over the issue of food prices?
A : Protest is in place. But protest must not get out of hand like prices. The Communists are always there to fish in troubled waters. Mass action could easily be exploited by them for overthrowing the Government. That must not be allowed. A token strike is all right. People may also organize campaigns demanding of ruling party M.L.A.s and M.P.s to check the rising prices or resign.
Q : Normally the bank employees express their protest by go-slow methods etc.
A : In key sectors like that it is not proper for the personnel to adopt such methods which would hurt the whole economy. Would it not be more appropriate if they worked properly the whole day and staged a demonstration at the end of it? Surely a demonstration like that would have its effect.
(With friends in Madras, 1972)
Q : There is a loud talk of a plan to link up the Ganga with the Cauvery. How far is it advisable?
A : The basis for the suggestion or plan to link up Ganga with the Cauvery is that there is perennial water in the Ganga and that water should be made available to the South. Another view is that this should be resorted to as a flood control method. Someone else has ventured to say that this will develop internal navigation which will greatly reduce the present day cost of transport. All these ideas are good in so far as they go. But then, the crucial question is whether there is enough of water in the Ganga all through the year which can be made to reach the Cauvery. Only at a particular period of time in a year there are floods in the Ganga. For months together the Ganga in Patna does not have enough water; nearly half the river is dry. First of all there should be an accurate appraisal of the availability of water throughout the year and throughout the river system, and also the amount of water that will have to be utilized for irrigation purposes in the States through which the Ganga at present flows. Even in provinces where the Ganga flows there are considerable cultivable lands for which no irrigation facilities have been provided so far. Before going ahead with the link-up project, all the aspects have to be thoroughly gone through.
Q : Why are we so much worried about foreign exchange?
A : Yes, it is only we who are so much worried. One of the reasons is that we are short of production, and the second is, our rupee has no independent existence in the world - having been subordinate to the sterling.
Q : Industrialization seems to have become the one criterion for measuring the progress of countries these days. Is it right?
A : That is the reason why the world is heading towards conflicts and wars. In the competition for the disposal of surplus production to other countries, conflict for markets develops after a stage. Fight ensues. Secondly, men are thrown out of work by machines. But this should not be. The Western theory of creating multiplicity of wants, more machinery to meet them and so on, will only result in making man the slave of machine.
It should be clear that machine is for the happiness of man. It is like Bhasmaasur, and will destroy the maker if not held in control. Persons with moral force and wisdom can alone control and direct such a Bhasmaasur, Men with such sovereign authority must be able to guide the destiny of man.