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Jawaharlal Nehru and Planning, 1938–41: India at the Crossroads

  • Bidyut Chakrabarty (a1)


The modern state is interventionist, and planning is an effective means to ascertain its control over the entire social process. As an operational tool, planning seems formidable to structure the role of the state in accordance with its ideological underpinning. Therefore, not only is planning as an instrument tuned to economic regeneration, it is inextricably tied to the regime's political preference as well. The aim here is not to argue for a deterministic network between planning and the ideological slant of the regime and its leadership and viceversa, but to show the complex interdependence which entails, at the same time, an interplay of various pulls and pressures in a rapidly changing social fabric. Colonial India provides us with a political system embedded in both the age-old and primordial value system and various other cultural influences which, inter alia reflected the system's absorption of alien value preferences. This obviously was not a smooth process, for India which drew on loyalties based on primordial ties strove to absorb new stimuli which had their roots in a completely different socio-political and economic environment; the result being tension among those presiding over the destiny of the country which had its reflection in the political discourse of the day. By concentrating on planning which, among other things, strove to transform India from a traditional to a modern society, the paper seeks to explain the difficulty facing the Congress stalwarts, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose in particular, despite their confidence in planning as the only instrument to rejuvenate India after the British withdrawal.



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1 Nehru, Jawaharlal, ‘Objectives of Planning’, Indian Annual Register, vol. II, p. 238.

2 Amrita Bazar Patrika (hereafter ABP), 9/9/1938.

3 Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi (hereafter NMML), AICC Papers 30/1934, Nehru's address in Azamgarh, 8/6/1934.

4 NMML, AICC P.L 3 (i)/1937, Nehru to the Congress premiers, 17/10/1937.

5 Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta, Nehru to Bose, 10/10/1938.

6 Nehru to Indira, 9/7/1937, in Nehru, Jawaharlal, Glimpses of World History (London, 1962), p. 887.

7 NMML, AICC 28/1929, Congress Resolutions, May 1929.

8 Zaidi, Z. M. (ed.), Congress History, 1885–1947 (London, 1965), p. 220.

9 Ibid., p. 321.

10 Hindustan Standard, 27/9/1934.

11 1936 Faizpur Presidential address in Jawaharlal Nehru and Socialism (a collection of Nehru's speeches, Delhi, 1969), pp. 1820.

12 ABP, 24/12/1938.

13 Times of India, Bombay, 17/10/1938.

14 Chakrabarty, Bidyut, Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle-Class Radicalism: A Study in Indian Nationalism, 1928–40 (I.B. Tauris, London, 1990), ch. I, pp. 41–6.

15 India Office Records, London (hereafter IOR), L/PJ/2/1930, Secretary (HomePoll), Government of India to the Chief Secretary Bengal, 7/7/1930.

16 Nehru's statement to the press, 30/6/1939, in Gopal, S. (ed.), Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (hereafter SW) (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1976), vol. IX, p. 399.

17 Nehru, Jawaharlal, An Autobiography (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1982), pp. 551–2.

18 Note circulated to the members of the national planning committee, Allahabad, in Gopal, (ed.) SW, p. 377.

19 Ibid., p. 374.

20 Gopal, S., Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography 1889–1947, vol. I (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1975), p. 245.

21 NMML, Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, National Planning Committee, file no. 135/pt 11/1939, Ambalal to Bose, 3/2/1939.

23 Nehru's speech at Delhi University, in Hindustan Times, 15/2/1939.

25 Gopal, , Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. I, p. 246.

26 Nehru, to Shah, K. T., 13/5/1939, in Gopal, (ed), SW, vol. IX, p. 373.

27 Nehru, to Kripalani, Krishna, 29/9/1939, in Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. I, pp. 246–7.

28 National Herald, 21/6/1939, quoted in Gopal, (ed.), SW, vol. IX, pp. 386–7.

29 Gandhi, to Kaur, Amrit, 29/6/1939 quoted in Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. I, p. 247.

30 Gandhi, to Nehru, , 11/8/1939, in A Bunch of Old Letters (Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1958), pp. 378–9.

31 Nehru, to Bose, Subhas, 21/6/1936, in Gopal, (ed.), SW vol. IX, p. 397.

32 Ibid., p. 398.

33 Nehru, to Kamath, , 17/5/1939 in ABP, 3/7/1939.

34 ABP, 7/7/1939, see the editorial.

35 ABP, 7, 10 July, 1939; Hindustan Times, 9/7/1939 and Times of India, 9/7/1939.

36 NMML, Purshotamdas Thakurdas Papers, file no. 220/1938–39, Ambalal to Thakurdas, 18/6/1938.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Planning, 1938–41: India at the Crossroads

  • Bidyut Chakrabarty (a1)


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