August 1, 1983
When the average American thinks of India, he is likely to imagine a land of teeming millions whose population is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. But according to the Book of World Rankings in actual fact out of 185 countries India ranks 111th in population growth rate, i.e. its population is growing more slowly than nearly two-thirds of the nations in the world.
After population, the next most likely thought will be about foreign aid. The press is so full of articles on loans to India by World Bank, IDA, USAID, etc., it gives the impression that India survives only on the basis of overseas assistance.
Here too the reality contradicts the impression. In terms of per capita foreign aid received, India again ranks 111th, far behind Pakistan which receives 4 times as much foreign aid per capita, Nicaragua which receives 10 times and Israel which receives 40 times as much as India.
The average American will be surprised to learn that India is the world's largest producer of sugar, groundnut, and tea, and amazed to discover that India has more primary schools than any other nation, more in fact than the next three countries, USA, USSR, and Brazil - combined.
This ignorance among foreigners, though unfortunate because it casts India in a bad light, is after all excusable. But if the same type of ignorance exists within India, it is a matter of serious concern because such pessimistic notions rob the country of its self-confidence, energy and enthusiasm for progress.
The fact is that very few people within India are really aware of the nation's accomplishments. India has achieved far more than the common man feels, more than the educated man thinks, more than the administrator recognizes, more than the political opposition concedes, and more than the party in power realizes.
This idea was expressed by Britain's representative at the U.N., Sir John Thomson last year when he warmly praised India as "a strikingly successful developing country.... A more successful society than not only most people outside India think, but most Indians think".
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the world watches with rapt attention India's pioneering experiment. The recent worldwide acclaim for the motion picture "Gandhi" is really a recognition of the positive role India is playing in world affairs.
India is in some way like the famous classical composer, Beethoven, who became deaf during his career. When he conducted the Ninth Symphony, his greatest work, for the first time, he was unaware of the deafening applause from the audience until one of the musicians turned him around to face the crowd to ‘see' the standing ovation he could not hear.
The only area in which India seems not to have developed is in self-awareness of its achievements. Mention to a farmer about electricity generation, he only complains of power cuts; forgetting that in 1947 only 6400 pump-sets were electrified throughout India and today there are 42 lakhs.
Propose a new scheme to an administrator and he immediately asks whether World Bank will fund it ignoring the fact that just 10% of Sixth Plan investments are based on foreign aid.
Ask a banker to increase loans to farmers and he speaks of his responsibility to ensure the safety of his depositors' funds by careful lending policies, conveniently overlooking the fact that 50% of all bank deposits belong to small depositors from rural areas.
College graduates bemoan the lack of employment openings by which they mean salaried jobs, while thousands of lucrative opportunities of self-employment remain unutilized.
Most people still think that India exports only traditional items like handicrafts and tea, while in fact engineering exports alone are greater than both of these traditional products combined. India, which was not even producing pins in 1947, now produces buses, planes, rockets, satellites and atomic power plants. The cynics ask, ‘Where is Development?' I am speechless!
The politicians are crying that the poor are getting poorer while purchases of cycles and watches have increased fourfold in rural areas over the last 15 years.
Dire warnings about population growth completely obscured the fact that much of that growth is due to the 88 million lives which have been saved since Independence through improved public health, a number equal to the entire present population of U.P. I wonder what development means if it does not mean saving lives! Population is not a problem, population is an accomplishment. POPULATION IS INDIA'S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT.
While planners speak in conferences that India can never catch up with the West, India is catching up in many areas and at an accelerating pace too. INDIA HAS MOVED A CENTURY IN A FEW DECADES.
Indians at all levels are really ignorant of what they and their countrymen have accomplished and this ignorance costs the country dearly, more perhaps than the entire plan outlays. This Ignorance breeds superstition, supports what is outmoded and outdated, retards progress, prevents the exploitation of opportunities, and the tapping of potentials, fosters frustration and cynicism, generates tension and social unrest.
The country is not only ignorant about its accomplishments, but about its potentials as well. To most people, being realistic means being shortsighted and close-minded. In 1963 the economic experts from FAO predicted only a 10% increase in India's food grain production by 1970, whereas in fact the actual increase was 50% with 180% increase for wheat. Inspite of their knowledge of the high-yielding varieties, they never imagined such an enormous increase was possible.
When the banks were nationalized in 1969 and directed to issue loans to the agricultural sector, the experts feared that the banks might lose all their funds if they lent them to farmers. No one even conceived of the huge untapped reservoir of rural savings that would flow into the bank from the rural areas increasing total bank deposits nine-fold from Rs.6000 crores to Rs.54,000 crores in 13 years.
Today there are similar potentials in agriculture, industry, commerce, education, and many other fields remain unseen and therefore unutilized.
What the country needs most just now is not more capital or more programmes or better planning or new technology, though all these are valuable and welcome. India most needs a massive programme of public education to help the entire country become conscious of the magnitude of its past achievements and to focus attention on the enormous opportunities that exist today for more rapid development. And if this knowledge is gained, the other necessary inputs like capital, technology planning and programmes will all be far better utilized and generate at least twice their present results.
The dissemination of information to educate the people to recognition their past achievements and future potentials is a good wholesome national exercise. But the ultimate value of such an effort is not limited to mere awareness. Greater awareness leads to greater action, greater knowledge of our talents and capacities leads to greater achievement, greater recognition of the achievements of others leads to greater enterprise, innovation and imitation.
A massive programme of public informal education will serve as a powerful moving force for national development. It will convert the isolated individual accomplishments of every pioneer and achiever into a comprehensive national demonstration of what the country as a whole can accomplish.
Ramapuram was a desolate god-forsaken place. In 1969 it became the first village in India to be adopted by a bank for development and literally overnight it was transformed into an oasis of prosperity. In a village that previously lacked sufficient water even for drinking, 54 tube-wells were dug with Rs.4 lakhs of loans advanced by the bank and hundreds of acres were put under irrigated cultivation for the first time.
News of the revolution in Ramapuram had such a tremendous impact on the surrounding area that farmers in the 10 neighbouring villages garnered all their savings and pledged their jewels investing Rs.40 lakhs to dig 400 more wells without even availing of institutional finance.
A Rs.4 lakh investment by the bank generated a Rs.40 lakh development achievement, that is a 10-fold multiplier effect. If the successful development of Ramapuram had been widely publicized by means of news articles, stories, documentaries, and visits by farmers from other areas, this revolution could have spread to thousands of villages. Even if ½ percent of the villages in Tamil Nadu imitated this example, an additional Rs.4 crores of private savings could have been mobilized for village development from the rural economy without issuing a single bank loan. With nationwide publicity, Rs.40 crores investment could have been generated, a 1000-fold multiplier.
The true story of Ramapuram illustrates the enormous power of Education and demonstration to multiply plan achievements. Every Rs.1 lakh of successful Plan investment can generate Rs.10 crores of investment from the population. Even if the result is only a doubling of Plan achievements, rather than a 10 or 100 or 1000-fold increase, the investment of Rs.1,00,000 crores in the Sixth Plan will yield twice the anticipated results.
This can be done through a massive nationwide programme of public education coupled with token demonstration. It has to be accomplished through many channels properly attuned to the level of the population they address.
For the common man the most effective means of education is film, TV and radio. He will best understand what he sees and hears, such as a documentary film showing that coconut trees can earn a farmer 3 or 4 times as much as paddy cultivation or a radio drama which tells the story of a farmer who paid for his 5 daughters' marriages just by growing teak trees around the borders of his land.
For the vast population of literate people who read newspapers and journals, mere recitation of factual information and statistics is not inspiring. Information can be conveyed in a more interesting manner through success stories, conversations and cartoons. A cartoon depicting the crores of new households, lakhs of villages, thousands of industries and millions of appliances that have been electrified in the last 35 years will be far more impressive than a mere factual statement that electricity generation has increased 12-fold since 1947.
Educated people with college degrees working in government, banks, insurance companies, and the private sector are more accessible through factual news reports, but still they retain a mass of illusions and prejudices that may be better addressed directly through seminars and conferences in every field designed to impart a greater understanding. For instance, unemployed engineers can be made aware of the enormous opportunities for self-employment by exposing them to seminars in which successful entrepreneurs of all sizes in all fields discuss the factors responsible for their achievements.
They can be inspired by an example more than by a fact, such as the Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering who declined a Rs.2000 per month salaried job to start a citronella oil extraction unit and is earning Rs.2 to 3 lakhs profit every year.
Even the cream of society - politicians, planners, professors, journalists - lack information in many fields, cling to old prejudices and insist on fixed notions. They need to learn and to change their attitudes. When the government announced a record sugar production in the mid 1960's, one economics professor at a famous college in Tiruchi actually stated in a meeting that the whole thing was a lie and there was no real sugar production at all. When a highly placed planner was asked by the government to project India's growth 50 years hence, he confided in private that he was sure India could never reach the present level of development in the West, even in a 100 years.
The elite of the nation need education as much as the rest. This need is most clearly seen immediately before and after each election when the opinions of those at the top are found not to reflect the political reality. The representatives of public opinion are not in touch with the real pulse of the nation and do not comprehend fully all that is taking place.
It seems paradoxical that a nation can be unaware of what most concerns itself, while outsiders look on in wonder at all that is being accomplished. There are perhaps several explanations.
On the one hand, a foreigner may have the advantage of seeing things with a fresh eye unvarnished by preconceived notions or past experience. Those who know life in other countries may be aware that many of India's problems are not unique, but rather typical of many or all nations at various stages in their development.
On the other hand, there is a certain idealistic aspiration which is an extension of the Freedom Movement in the national leadership. The opposition parties feel it is their duty to point out all the errors and deficiencies in the Plan effort. The government sincerely feels that these criticisms are fully justified. Those whose eyes are fixed on the goal of national development are either unconscious of the true immensity of the nation's accomplishments or find little satisfaction in all but the final achievement.
But whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that greater awareness at all levels will quicken the development process. If the masses are informed about all the government programmes being implemented for their benefit, all the schemes for which they are eligible, and success stories of individuals at all levels; their sense of neglect and frustration will be reduced and their energies will be available for constructive activities. If the educated public is better informed, much of the present social unrest and violence can be eliminated and their sense of frustration converted into hope. If the administrators who believe the Plans are a failure become conscious of the real magnitude of Plan achievements, they will have a more positive attitude and creative approach to planning. If the journalists fully realize the great power they wield for unleashing social forces for development, they will take a more active and enthusiastic part in the process. If politicians recognize the true extent of the nation's progress, the political will of the country will become better integrated and more united in the quest for national prosperity.
India has moved Centuries in a Few Decades. A massive programme of public education for and about Indian development is the real need of the hour. Such a programme should have a very broad scope encompassing every field of social life. It should take on many different forms appropriate for communicating with various levels of the population. It should disseminate information, but facts by themselves are not enough. It should teach basic truisms of life which are often ignored or forgotten. It should also educate attitudes, destroy illusions and remove misconceptions.
One of the most effective means of education is by means of comparisons; comparisons with what was, comparisons with what is elsewhere, and comparisons with what is likely to be in the foreseeable future.
Take power generation for instance. The average householder immediately thinks of how much power cut is there, not how much more power he is now using. In his mind he somehow blames the government for not producing enough. He should be informed that per capita power consumption has increased seven-fold since 1947.
The average industrialist feels government has been negligent is providing power for industry. He should learn that the average industry is getting twice as much power today as it did in the early 1960's.
The average villager complains that he is not getting regular supply of power for his pump-set. He should be reminded that in 1947 there were only 1500 villages in the entire country with electricity compared with 2,60,000 villages now and that the average district today has more energized pump-sets than there were in the entire country at the time of Independence.
But the comparison that is most impressive is the one made with countries we think of as the most developed. In 1933 90% of the farms in USA were without electricity. Rural electrification was completed in America only in the early 1950's, just 20 years before it reached 100% of the villages in several Indian states.
These comparisons reveal that India has progressed enormously in the power sector. The current problems of shortage are themselves the result of Plan achievements in extending electricity to all parts of the population, especially the rural poor. India's recent success in commissioning the Madras Atomic Power Plant entirely with indigenous know-how makes it only the 8th country in the world to accomplish this feat and goes to prove that high levels of skill and intelligence the country possesses. Even when compared with America, we find India is only a few decades behind in this field and there is no reason why she will not catch up one day soon.
Comparisons can be very useful for removing misconceptions we have about others and about ourselves. Many people genuinely believe the Indian masses are somehow inferior to the common man in western nations. The Indian peasant is thought of as ignorant, superstitious, fearful, dirty and lazy. The western farmer is hardworking, dynamic, innovative, intelligent and skillful. Read a description of the French countryside in 1883 and many of these misconceptions will vanish. At that time 80% of the French peasants could not even speak the national language. The average man bathed only twice a year and washed his clothes at the same time! The chief mode of transport in the village was the head-load; literacy was almost non-existent, newspapers rare. Frenchmen believed that diseases were brought as a punishment by God and must be quietly endured. The doctor was only called after death was certain and he came to be known as death's messenger. These facts show that TODAY'S DEVELOPED NATIONS WERE YESTERDAY'S BACKWARD ONES.
The modernization of Rural France began only after the government laid roads to all the villages and established rural schools. The rest of their development took place by itself. If this much change was possible with such minimal government help, how much more can and is being accomplished here. Rural India is undergoing a very rapid transformation that dwarfs anything known in the West. At this rate it certainly won't take 100 years to catch up with France, not even 50 years.
The French peasant was also thought to be lazy, but it turned out to be only a lack of opportunity that kept him idle, not an unwillingness for hard work. Indian farmers have already blown up the myth about being lazy, but it is still not fully understood because students are taught that the importance of the Green Revolution is increased production through hybrid seeds. This is a wrong understanding. The Green Revolution proved that Indian farmers are enterprising and open to new methods. Despite all the warnings by scientists and planners, farmers did readily accept the new technology for modern farming when it was demonstrated to them that it is profitable. Green Revolution announces that India has thrown off the shackles of a closed traditional outlook. A DECADE OF GREEN REVOLUTION HAD MADE UP FOR A CENTURY OF BRITISH EXPLOITATION.
The new high-yielding technology has been the basis for a social revolution which is transforming the rural areas, just as the computer is transforming commerce and industry. We need slogans to convey this truth like ‘THE HYBRID SEED IS A COMPUTER CHIP'.
The significance of Green Revolution is the revelation that illiterate Indian farmers are capable of acquiring all the technical skills necessary to produce record wheat yields in the worst drought year. If an illiterate population is capable of this, we must imagine what is happening to the more educated layers of the society.
The Green Revolution demonstrates the success of an integrated strategy that combines monetary incentives, modern technology, organizational support from the government, and a nationwide distribution system. If similar integrated strategies are extended to other fields of life such as small industry, export trade, rural industry, technical education for employment, a Green Revolution will be created in every walk of life. The key is to extend every successful strategy over a wider area and into other fields.
India has the abundant Energy required to accomplish all the development she needs. That Energy must be converted into Skills in each field and those Skills should be channeled to work through a productive Integrated System. We can formulate a social equivalent to Einstein's famous equation for the relationship between energy and matter:
ENERGY + SKILLS + SYSTEMS = PROSPERITY
Energy, the first term in our equation, has been released and is overflowing at all levels of the society. The Freedom Movement has released the political energies of the nation from the repressive yoke of authoritarian rule. The social reforms which followed Independence have released the social energies of the population from fear, discrimination, and exploitation. The economic programmes contained in the Five Year Plans have released the productive energies of the country from the narrow confines of traditional occupations and outmoded technologies. Education has released the mental energies of the people from the fetters of ignorance and superstition.
All these energies need to be converted into skills before they can become fully productive. As the Indian farmer exhibited a ready capacity to acquire new physical skills, the very rapid spread of education at all levels indicates a high level of native intelligence and mental talents in the population as a whole.
This is not difficult to understand since India has perhaps the oldest educational system in the world dating back several millennium. Although the full benefits of this system were never extended to the entire society, a very high level of intellectual activity was attained by the educated classes and as a result a certain social maturity and wisdom percolated into all sections of the population.
This is demonstrated by the fact that first generation educated scheduled caste youth are able to reach the highest levels of the educational system and even acquire foreign post-graduate degrees.
The very high level of native talents in the country is also demonstrated by the large number of Indian administrators and scientists occupying high positions in international organizations like U.N.O., World Bank, and F.A.O.; by the success of Indian physicians and nurses practicing in western countries; by the countless Indian professors teaching in American universities; by the demand for Indian computer software engineers in the USA and western Europe; and by the work of countless scientists and technicians within the country who contributed to India's achievements in agricultural research, nuclear energy and satellite launchings.
System is the third term in the equation. In cataloguing our productive resources - natural, human, technical - we usually overlook the productive power of efficient systems. The outstanding individual achieves by a high capacity for personal efficiency, but an outstanding organization achieves on the basis of efficient systems. The western businessman or administrator is not more intelligent or efficient than his Indian counterpart, but he functions in a more organized environment and relies far more on a systems-approach. Life is more organized in the West. It runs more smoothly with less confusion at a higher speed.
Systems are a resource that can be generated without investment or foreign technology and yield greater returns than either of these other resources. Food Corporation of India is an example of a system that encourages the farmer to produce as much grain as he can by channeling the surplus into deficit areas. Anand Dairy Corporation does the same for milk production.
Appropriate systems are needed at all levels and in all fields. Trying to modernize the country by means of a colonial style administrative system of independent and uncoordinated departments is like using a pair of bullocks to move a new Fiat car. The whole nation is straining to increase exports through a banking system that sometimes takes 8 months to collect foreign payments. Brilliant boys are taught in schools following a system introduced by Thomas Babbington MacCauley in 1820. When World Bank has extended Rs.54 crores for bore-well loans through the Land Development Banks, the entire scheme is inoperative because the bank refuses to release the loans until the electricity department gives a connection and the electricity department refuses to give the connections until the loans have been released and the wells are completed.
Other societies that have achieved more than India have done so because they are more organized, not more talented. Skills make the individual efficient, systems make the country efficient. With India's native talents this country can excel all others, if only it organizes. INDIA + SYSTEMS = USA OF 2000 AD. The basic lesson of all international comparisons is that India is not so ‘backward' as the leaders believe. Today's developed nations have been till recently in India's ‘backward' state.
Even today foreigners visiting India ask what vaccinations are required in addition to smallpox and cholera, whereas in fact western countries do not require their citizens to have any vaccination before traveling to India. A majority of Indians have never even seen a case of smallpox, which took 1,70,000 lives in 1945 alone, but was completely eradicated in 1977. Similarly the incidence of malaria was reduced from 76 million cases and 8,00,000 deaths in 1946 to 2 lakh cases and no deaths in 1982.
Comparisons with USA can be quite surprising. 1,00,000 Americans died of smallpox in 1920 and it was finally eradicated only in 1947. In 1936 1,30,000 Americans died of malaria and there were cases in the US as recently as 1970.
These figures show that the development time gap is shrinking. What used to take centuries now can be accomplished in a decade, what required decades can be done in a year. Just because India had a slow start, it does not mean she will not finish first.
Modern history is replete with examples of the late starters overtaking the pioneers and leaders, and rising to the very top. Japan, which only 25 years ago was known for low quality cheap mass merchandise, now ranks first in high technology. In actual fact the early leaders rarely maintain that position for long. England, where the industrial revolution began, was long ago excelled by relatively late starters.
Youth and inexperience are not a bar to excellence, if there is the will to achieve. It is not the speed of progress that is important, but the decision and determination to keep moving. India's very size and complexity have made it far more difficult to set the society in motion than for small countries like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. But that very size will ensure that the momentum once gained will continue to accelerate and be able to overcome any hindrances, and that very complexity will ensure that the society generates a rich variety of creative potentials which will bear abundant fruit in the future. What is important is not the present level of achievement, but the rate of growth. EXAMINE THE PRESENT RATE OF GROWTH AND IMAGINE THE FUTURE.
Take banking for example. At the turn of the century there were 9000 bank branches in the USA. By 1970 there were 37,000 and by 1981 59,000, a nearly 7-fold increase in 80 years. India had only 5000 branches in 1961 and has 39,000 today, a nearly 8-fold increase in 22 years, i.e. roughly four times the US ratio. At this rate India will reach America's present position in 5 years.
Similarly, total loans by commercial banks in India have grown 12-fold over the last 14 years from Rs.3000 in 1969 to Rs.36,000 crores in 1983. By comparison, total loans to banks in the USA were equivalent to Rs.36,000 crores as recently as 1943 and they increased 6-fold over the following 27 years to Rs.2,20,000 crores by 1970. If India maintains the present rate of growth, she will exceed America's 1970 position before the turn of the century. TO BELIEVE THAT INDIA CAN NEVER EQUAL THE WEST IS NEITHER FACTUALLY TRUE NOR RATIONALLY SOUND.
DEVELOPMENT IS A SOCIAL MOVEMENT
Development is a Herculean task, far more difficult than fighting for freedom. Revolution is a destructive movement to break down the existing order, whereas Development is a creative movement to organize the nation for greater production. In war a small highly organized army representing 1 or 2% of the population fights on behalf of the entire nation while the masses lend their support. In development the battle must be fought by the entire population, while government lends its support. In war a tiny part of the population is trained to acquire a high level of fighting skills. For development the whole nation must acquire new skills for higher levels of production. During war the leaders must maintain the morale of the army and the support of the people for a few years. For development the morale of the entire population must be continuously raised to new and higher levels of endeavour. Development requires a patient leadership and an understanding population.
A government can wage war, but no government can develop a nation. Development is not a programme executed by government, but a social movement of the entire population initiated, guided and led by government. Development calls for information, education, training, organization and administration at the widest possible level.
The immediate need is for a programme of education that addresses itself to the entire population and seeks to awaken, release and mobilize their energies to take over the plan effort. A host of misconceptions and false beliefs which foster pessimism, skepticism, cynicism and frustration are sapping the energies and initiative of the people at all levels. These must first be dispelled or enlightened.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that public sector companies can never make profits. This illusion has recently been shattered by the outstanding performance of public sector organizations like BHEL and Neyveli Lignite Corporation that have combined public services with high levels of efficiency and profit.
In the early 1970's Neyveli Corporation earned a dubious reputation for labour intransigence and shutdowns while accumulating losses of more than Rs.60 crores. But since 1975 there has been a total reversal of the situation. Labour has become work-oriented, the power station has achieved the highest percentage capacity utilization in the country (73% compared with a national average of 48%) and the corporation has more than wiped out all its past losses while earning profits of Rs.84 crores during the last two years.
When public sector companies lose, it makes good food for politicians and news headlines. When they earn profits, it is not very exciting. During 1978-79 there were 88 profitable public sector concerns owned by the Central Government and they generated a combined net profit of Rs.485 crores.
There are, of course, many losing public sector companies as well. But the reasons for their losses are not always or entirely inefficient management. In some cases like Coal India and National Textile Corporation, sick units have been taken over by the government to save the industry and the jobs it creates. In other cases these enterprises are subject to administered prices which reduce profit margins.
It is often forgotten that many public sector institutions are intended to provide subsidised services rather than to generate profits and that measuring their performance strictly in terms of profitability is like measuring an actress's beauty in terms of her weight.
To speak of the losses incurred by the Electricity Boards on providing power to farmers at less than half the actual cost of generation is meaningless. So too, transport corporations which run buses to unpopulated rural areas or at very low politically-determined rates must be judged in terms of the objectives with which they were constituted and the social as opposed to merely economic services they provide.
An even more important fact is frequently ignored. The revenues earned by the public sector are directly invested in the Plans, rather than retained by private entrepreneurs for individual gain. About 10% of the Sixth Plan investment is being generated by the public sector and without it the Plan could not succeed.
Another commonly heard refrain is that the poor are getting poorer. It is really amazing to conceive that this idea can be so widely held in the face of such massive evidence to the contrary. This totally erroneous view must be contradicted in every area. The 9-fold increase in bank deposits in 13 years, nearly half of it as small deposits in the range of Rs.1000 to Rs.1500 from the rural areas, should by itself be sufficient to dispel this illusion.
Savings is one measure, consumption is another. According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research, in 1976 total purchases of consumer durables in rural areas was Rs.272 crores compared with Rs.240 crores in urban areas. The size of the rural market for non-food consumption items grew from Rs.5,500 crores in 1970-71 to Rs.13,500 in 1979-80, representing a real growth rate of 25% in 10 years after adjusting for inflation.
Another study of small farmers revealed that the number of households owning cycles increased from 15% in 1970 to 65% in 1979. The number of households with radios grew from 8% to 47% during the same period. Comparable figures for watches are 18% to 62%.
An analysis of National Sample Survey data shows that 75% of total expenditure on manufactured consumer goods is spent in rural areas. This percentage has remained almost unchanged since 1960 in spite of a slight decrease in the percentage of people living in the rural areas. This clearly indicates that growth in this sector is more than maintaining its position relative to the cities and towns.
Another version of this theme is that only the rich farmers have benefited from the Green Revolution. It is one thing to say that not everybody has benefited by the new technology, it is quite another to suggest that large sections of the population are worse off than before. Gilbert Etienne, a Swiss economist decided to study the problem first hand and published his findings in a book entitled India's Changing Rural Scene 1963-79 challenging practically every bit of conventional criticism against Green Revolution.
Etienne found that wherever Green Revolution has spread, the poor have improved their lot. Even small and marginal farmers have benefited from the new technology despite the high cost of inputs. Farm wages and employment opportunities have both increased in Green Revolution areas. In 1963 before the Green Revolution, the average agricultural labourer earned Re.1 per day which was equivalent to Rs.2.5 kg. of wheat. In 1977 after Green Revolution the average was Rs.5/day, equivalent to 4 kgs. of wheat.
Impressive as these statistics are, they all fail to measure the development of a very crucial dimension of rural life, the physical and social infrastructure of roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, banks, bus routes, housing, post offices, bore-wells, canals, community centers, etc. The main focus of Plan expenditure has been on providing these community facilities which vastly improve the style and standard of living without directly raising individual incomes.
It is only logical to evaluate Plan achievements in their own terms, not by another set of criteria. And on its own terms, these achievements are substantial. Since 1950 the length of the roads has been tripled, the number of schools grew from 2.9 lakhs to 7.6 lakhs, the number of hospital beds increased from 113,000 to 4,50,000, more than 5500 primary health centers have been opened, the number of post offices has risen from 22,000 to 137,000, and more than 30,000 bank branches have been started in rural areas.
One reason for this misconception about rural prosperity is the marked contrast between the urban and rural areas. But that does not mean the rural areas and the rural people are not better off today than ever before. Another reason is the lack of awareness among the beneficiaries of development themselves which sometimes generates a sense of frustration and even despair.
So long as man maintains his traditional outlook, his energies remain fully absorbed in established routine and he does not even consider the possibility of change to a better way of life. This was the attitude of the entire population before Independence.
The successful culmination of the Freedom Movement sent a spark of awakening around the country. Promises made long ago were being fulfilled and new promises took on a greater credibility. Having attained Independence, the nation's leadership immediately turned to the task of developing the nation, the Prosperity Movement.
With each successive year, new promises, new plans, new programmes, and new achievements have been recorded. Apart from the tangible material results of this effort, a wider and more fundamental purpose has been served: the POPULATION HAS AWAKENED TO THE POSSIBILITY AND NEED FOR DEVELOPMENT.
In some cases like Coimbatore and Punjab where there were sufficient knowledge, skills and physical opportunities, the energy released by this awakening has been fully channeled into constructive development activities and generated impressive achievements.
In many other areas, the awakening has come and energies have been released but not fully absorbed by the development effort. This may be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the opportunities (hybrid seeds, bank facilities, industry) or for want of a necessary skill (literacy, irrigation techniques, mechanics) or the absence of a (missing) link required for exploiting the opportunities (road, power, education, etc.)
When the energies lie dormant in traditional ways of life or when they are fully awakened and absorbed in seeking new ways of life, society functions smoothly and harmoniously without friction. But when the awakened energies find only a partial outlet for constructive expression due to the absence of knowledge, skill or opportunity, the result is a sense of frustration which easily turns into social unrest and even violence. The irony is that even this frustration and unrest are negative signs of a positive development in the population; for without the awakening and release of this awareness and this urge for something more, a FELT NEED, no development is possible.
When the village of Thadagam in South Arcot was surveyed in 1981, the inhabitants voiced serious grievances against the politicians for not coming to their assistance and they genuinely insisted that no improvements had occurred in their lives over the last 20 years. But when the data were analysed, it was found that quite the contrary was true.
Literacy and school enrollment in the village have doubled. Cement and tiled roof houses have replaced many grass huts. Every family takes 3 meals a day now compared with 75% of families in 1961 and per capita real expenditure on food is 20% higher. Cycles, radios and wristwatches, previously unknown, are now common. Cinema attendance has doubled, real expenditure for religious festivals is 15 times more and for marriages it is 3 times higher.
The village was electrified 10 years ago, but pump-sets were energized only last year. Four years ago government laid a mud road costing Rs.25,000 to replace the old cycle path. A new school was also constructed at a cost of Rs.35,000. And that's not all. The villagers, who say they are worse off than before, recently built a new temple costing Rs.45,000 out of their savings!
The incredible fact is that the villagers themselves are completely unconscious regarding the government's aid and the all around improvements in their lives.
The present frustration and social unrest in the population issues more from illusions and misconceptions than from real grievances. Certainly there are problems and injustices - there always have been and even developed countries are no exception - but in nearly every field people are better off today than ever before, and often it is the chief beneficiaries of past government initiatives who now complain the most. Social unrest can be neutralized to a large extent by eliminating its two major causes: the false impression that government is doing nothing to help and the illusion that today things are worse than they were yesterday.
In trying to arrive at an objective and fair evaluation of India's planned development effort over the last 33 years, it is essential to keep in mind the enormity of the responsibility the government has taken upon itself - a responsibility the US government shirks even today with 10 million unemployed - and the relatively insignificant resources available to work with.
The entire Plan Investments since 1950 work out to only Rs.60 per person per year or 20 paise per day, which is not even enough to buy half a cup of tea. With 20 paise per person per day the country has saved crores of lives, educated millions of youth, developed lakhs of villages and built ships, power stations, steel mills, roads, dams, canals, bridges, schools, hospitals, health centers, airports, universities, research institutes, countless factories, dairies, housing colonies, etc., etc. That's not only an achievement to be proud of, it's a miracle!
The most effective agency for bringing home these truths about the nation's progress is the screen. Five hundred films based on true success stories from every field and screened in every village over a period of 18 months will awaken the nation's spirit of accomplishment in a measure few can now anticipate. It can, to say the least, release another Rs.100,000 crores worth of investment and effort from the masses for a cost equal to less than 1/5 of one percent of the Sixth Plant outlay.
DEVELOPMENT POTENTIALS UNSEEN AND UNTAPPED
It is all very well to speak of our past achievements, but how are we to go forward from here? Where are the new opportunities and untapped potentials? Many have advanced and prospered, but what of those who have not yet come out of the past? Can we ever create gainful employment for the teeming millions of landless and illiterate? These are the questions that occupy the minds of citizens genuinely concerned with the country's future and government officers sincerely striving to make life in India better than it is today.
The greatest obstacle to development is not lack of land, capital, or education. It is the general attitude in people that "I cannot do it". The British Raj imposed a blanket of fear and authority that strangled free will and creativity. Industry was discouraged, entrepreneurs stifled. The submissive, obedient salaried employee was hailed as an ideal. Hope, faith, courage and confidence were sapped away during 200 years of colonial rule.
Independence has brought physical freedom, but the shackles of doubt are yet to be smashed. Most bright students do not dare to take the IAS exam. People still believe the university is only for the rich. Villagers never dream they can build their own houses. Graduates shun self-employment.
These attitudes survive inspite of abounding opportunities and thousands of instances in every field where people from lower levels have reached high attainments; for example, the uneducated immigrant who left all his property in Pakistan at the time of partition and is now an auto drive in Delhi with 3 autos, an income of Rs.8000 a month, and 3 sons who are graduates. The country needs to recall and revive the ancient truth of the Gita: "Yo yach-shraddhas sa eva sah" - "You are what you believe in". BELIEVE YOU CAN PROGRESS, YOU WILL CERTAINLY PROGRESS.
Enormous potentials are not seen because our outlook is traditional. The real opportunities for progress are in non-traditional fields. The old values are good, but old ways of life have to go. Devotion, loyalty to family, honesty in business are precious values which should be preserved. But all the traditional forms of behaviour are outdated and must change. If man wants prosperity, prestige, or advancement, he must leave the past behind. Progress lies in accepting the new. TO BREAK AWAY FROM POVERTY? YOU MUST BREAK AWAY FROM TRADITIONAL ATTITUDES.
The old ways do not create the surpluses required for rapid development. Traditional agricultural practices were meant for a time when the farmer consumed what he grew or traded with his neighbors, but had no market for surpluses. Traditional crops and old methods of cultivation generated only enough income for subsistence. A Farmer today could never pay for his son's education by growing traditional crops. If he wants to build a house, buy more land, or arrange a good marriage, he has to take to modern farming. Today agriculture is a major industry and the farmer's market is the entire district, state or the country.
According to tradition, wet lands were for paddy cultivation, dry lands for millets, and coconut was grown only on waste lands where nothing else could grow. Times have changes, but not tradition. The wet lands farmer still thinks only of paddy which can earn him a maximum of Rs.2000 annual net profit per acre and in many places like around Chidambaram barely return the cost of cultivation. These same lands can earn a net profit of Rs.5000 per acre under cotton, Rs.8,000 under coconut, and Rs.10,000 to 20,000 under vegetables or flowers.
Ask a village youth to start a village industry, he immediately thinks of a rice mill and then his mind stops. Or he mentions matches, maybe tapioca starch. Tell him that he can earn Rs.1.5 lakhs by distilling oil from 10 acres of citronella grass and his mind refuses to function. Inform him that he can earn Rs.50,000 by extracting oil from one acre of jasmine and he thinks you are crazy. The enormous economic potentialities available in the village remain untapped because they remain unseen. We are blinded by our habits and tradition.
Speak to a city fellow about exports, he can think only of cashew, jute or leather. Few can imagine that India is shipping fans, bicycles, scooters and beer to USA, or that we are exporting xerox photo-copy machines to Africa. This traditional outlook is characteristic of people at all levels, even the highest. When it was proposed to J.R.D.Tata that Telco could export buses to USA, he laughed heartily. After a six month study his own staff at Telco confirmed that they possessed the technical capabilities to meet the high standards of the US market.
We must teach our youth that all the really big potentials for prosperity lie in areas which are untried or unproven today. Eight years ago it was impossible to find a single photo-copy shop in New Delhi, whereas today there are dozens on Connaught Circus alone and at least 1 or 2 in every rural town. We must learn to see not only what has been, but what will be, and then reach out to achieve it. ONLY WHEN YOU GIVE UP THE OLD, THE NEW WILL COME.
It is commonly thought that successful entrepreneurs are born with certain unique qualities and capabilities. Ask some salaried job holders today - managers, bank agents, administrators - and most will say that they just were not born to be entrepreneurs. Even most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they never thought they could run a business of their own and are surprised by their achievements. The fact of the matter is that ENTREPRENEURS ARE MADE, NOT BORN.
Most people believe that to be an entrepreneur one requires the intelligence of a professor, a fortune-teller's capacity to foresee the future, a rich man's bank roll, a salesman's persuasiveness, a financier's talent for manipulating funds, an auditor's precision, a political leader's power over labour, and the magnetic personality of a cinema star. Since very few possess even one or two of these qualities, no one believes he can become a successful entrepreneur. In actual fact the only capacity which is essential for becoming an entrepreneur is a willingness for hard work.
In the early 1970's the financial institutions in Gujarat conducted a training programme for entrepreneurs which proved that entrepreneurs can be made by giving them the proper training. Salaried employees, factory workers, merchants and graduates were given training in 3 areas - motivation, management and field practice. By 1977 as a result of the programme, 897 new industrial units had been established ranging in investment from Rs.20,000 to 10 lakhs and 80% of them were making profits.
The true secret of entrepreneurship is not intelligence, talent, skill, or money. Entrepreneurs are not extraordinary people, they are hard working people. What one ordinary man can do, every ordinary man can accomplish. A RICH MAN IS NOT AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN, BUT AN INDUSTRIOUS ONE.
For thousands of years India has been a land of self-employed farmers, craftsmen and traders. The farmer is the most enterprising of all entrepreneurs because he must marshal all his resources for investment in a new crop and brave the vagaries of nature. Salaried employment has been imposed on India by the British imperialists who needed a docile and submissive administrative apparatus to support their empire. Freedom, innovation, enterprise, and pioneering effort were frowned upon as dangerous.
The real wealth of opportunity in India today lies in the potentials for self-employment. Those potentials remain unseen because of our habit of valuing the prestige and security of the salaried job. Even the journalist who reports on the success of entrepreneurs in his heart wishes his son to seek a secure job. This traditional outlook can be overcome if the public is really made to see the extent of opportunities that self-employment offers in agriculture, industry, or any other field. A SALARIED JOB FILLS THE SOMACH, BUT IF YOU SEEK PROSPERITY, SEEK INDUSTRY.
All this is very well for those who already possess some education, skill and money. But what opportunities are available to the illiterate landless agricultural labourer who lives a hand-to-mouth existence and has no resources at all?
In the eyes of the planners rural unemployment looms as the nation's greatest economic problem. All types of fadistic solutions are proposed which only thinly veil the problem by creating subsidised welfare jobs. In the name of being ‘appropriate' there is a frequent call to revive traditional industries that are unviable and dead. These are only short-term stop-gap arrangements which can temporarily alleviate suffering, not ever solve the problem.
For a true solution we must return to what is fundamental and work in areas which can employ the entire population. Since this is a country of agriculturists, the answer lies on the land. Professor Gilbert Etienne has discovered what millions of farmers who have taken to modern agriculture already knew: wherever Green Revolution has spread, unemployment has disappeared.
In 1969 before the village adoption scheme, agricultural labour in Ramapuram were available in hundreds. The scheme lasted only a year, but today this most backward area has become prosperous. Labour has been in short supply since one year after the scheme started. Even women who are needed to pick flowers demand Rs.50 advance, whereas ten years ago they would wait months for their wages.
Farmers in Coimbatore District can tell the problems they face. There is a great reluctance to take up flower cultivation or any other form of labour intensive cultivation, because labourers are in such great demand they are simply not available. MODERNISE AGRICULTURE, MAN WILL BECOME SCARCE (NOT EMPLOYMENT).
There is another misconception, which is perhaps more deeply rooted and damaging than all the others. It is the notion that capital is the most powerful and indispensable element for development and the only thing the poorer countries need to lift them out of poverty. This idea has gained widespread support because the most developed nations in the world today are those that possess abundant capital and because the massive infusion of capital into Western Europe during the Marshall Plan led to such rapid economic growth of the western democracies.
But in actual fact this is a distorted view which is not born out by history. Capital is the result of development, not the cause. Arthur Lewis, Nobel Laureate in Economics, has explained in his book The New International Economic Order that the early stages of the Industrial Revolution involved very small amounts of capital and availability of funds for investment was not a major determinant of industrial development. Lewis found that a high rate of agricultural productivity was a far more important requirement for industrialization. The amassing of huge amounts of capital was a result of the Industrial Revolution, not its cause.
Similarly, the startling transformation of European countries after World War II as a result of the Marshall Plan was possible because those nations already possessed a well-organised, highly trained, enterprising work force which is the real key to the development process. Marshall Plan funds only rebuilt the physical infrastructure which had been destroyed by way, the social infrastructure was already well-developed.
The oil producing Arab nations present a more recent proof of this fact. Their huge capital resources have enabled them to have impressive cities and factories built by foreign companies and operated by foreign workers. It has not enabled them to suddenly transform traditional, illiterate and backward peoples into modern developed nations. No doubt capital is useful and essential for development, but it is not the most useful or most essential element. Freedom, social energy, education, training, systems, organization and coordination are all equally useful and essential. The belief that Indian development may be inherently limited by lack of capital - an argument which was equally applicable to the now developed nations at an earlier stage - must be replaced by a knowledge that many other factors can stimulate development, even in the absence of capital. MONEY IS THE RESULT, NOT THE CAUSE OF DEVELOPMENT.
The real key to development is not capital, it is education. Education is the greatest known civilizing force and the most powerful lever for development. Education is necessary at all levels and in all fields of life. Primary education makes man alert and self-disciplined. College education trains his mind. Technical education imparts skills, professional education prepares him for a career. All these are necessary and welcome.
But the one type of education most necessary and useful for development is the education that teaches every citizen about the past achievements and future potentials of the country and helps him to become aware of his own highest capacities and to discover the opportunities for expressing them in his own life. This is the education India needs most and this education can be given to all regardless of their place in society.
THE BEST EDUCATION FOR DEVELOPMENT IS EDUCATION ABOUT DEVELOPMENT.