In a country with a developing economy, where vast majorities of the people are living at a subsistence level, higher agricultural and industrial production is a prime necessity. If the standards of living of the masses are to be improved and the basic conditions of civilized existence are to be assured to them, higher production will have to be ensured through greater private and public investment, harder work by all classes, general austerity, and avoidance of all forms of ostentation, so that the limited capital and technical resources of the nation might not be dissipated in conspicuous consumption.
The need for accelerated economic growth is much greater in India, because of her rapidly increasing population. In a democratic country, were the franchise is universal and the Constitution has promised a kind of egalitarian society and a welfare State, failure to satisfy popular aspirations involves grave risks of instability, confusion and fierce political polemics.
There are various ways of ensuring economic development; Capitalist, Communist, Socialist. It is for each country to determine in the light of its ideology, the stage of its economic growth, the character of its population, the extent of the foreign technical and financial assistance available to it, and how its development is to be shaped.
The problem of development cannot be isolated from political and ethical considerations. The people of this country have committed themselves to the free way of life. They are determined to achieve their economic growth within the framework of a free society.
Some people argue that greater economic development can be achieved through totalitarian methods. They forget the frightful cost involved in regimentation. Development in India has to be planned on a democratic basis.
We must be quite clear in our minds as to what the democratic process involves. First and foremost, it involves respect for” fundamental rights of citizenship. The degree of control exercised in the totalitarian States on the lives of the citizens is unthinkable in open societies. Concentration of economic power is incompatible with democratic living.
The Constitution rightly directs the State to see that operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. What is not often realized is that concentration of wealth and means of production in the State is as inimical to the free way of life as that in private hands.
Is economic growth with social justice possible? In underdeveloped countries this possibility depends upon a number of factors. The government must be stable, resolute and with a progressive outlook, and the administration must be dynamic.
In India, a number of steps have been taken to liquidate unjust privileges, institutions and practices, and fairly ambitious development plans have been implemented. But, both from the standpoints of economic growth and social justice, the results have been disappointing.
Land reforms have not been fully carried out; the price situation continues to cause dismay; unemployment is increasing and income-disparities are widening. The government has not been able to deal successfully with anti-social practices. The economy of the country is bedeviled by black-marketers, smugglers, tax evaders, hoarders and corrupt bureaucracy.
Monopoly houses are as firmly entrenched in their positions as ever before. There is yet no evidence to show that socialistic measures have visibly reduced concentration of economic power. The government is compelled by continuously rising prices of essential consumer goods to divert part of its funds for development to finance its administrative expenditure in the form of higher emoluments for its employees.
Economic growth with social justice demands huge public investment in industries, agriculture and social services. The investment of funds on such a large scale is possible only if all sections of the community practise rigid austerity and avoid all forms of ostentation.
In India, conspicuous consumption is definitely on the increase. Everywhere luxury buildings are shooting up and the rich are openly spending fantastic amounts on marriages and on articles of comfort and luxury, thereby creating a grim contrast between large-scale abysmal arid shocking poverty and glaring abundance.
The capital resources of the country, which could have been employed to modernise the economy, are locked up in gold and jewellery or are driven underground as black money. Trade union leaders in this country are conscious more of the rights of organised labour, than of its responsibilities. The need of the hour is higher production and greater productivity in fields and factories.
A country which aspires to higher standards of living cannot afford lock-outs, strikes, go-slow tactics and other forms of industrial strife. Development with social justice has to be a cooperative effort on a gigantic scale, in which the claims to immediate benefits have to be subordinated to those of brighter posterity.
Social justice is a phrase with different connotations in different countries and among different economists and sociologists.
In developing countries under a democratic structure, social justice means, above everything else, distributive justice or a broadly egalitarian socio-economic order. What constitutes just or unjust social system is, in the ultimate analysis, a question of moral judgement to be answered according to one’s values and predilections. But, for a democrat who believes in the dignity of man and the sacredness of human personality, certain conclusions are inevitable. He cannot dispute the proposition that every child, no matter to which class he belongs, is entitled to those conditions which can help him to develop his fullest potentialities and achieve self-development and self-realisation.
Concentration of economic wealth is politically undesirable and morally indefensible because enormous fortunes are generally based not on individual effort, but spring from a fundamentally unjust and antiquated social system, in which birth and heredity determine an individual’s status and possessions. Unearned incomes have to be progressively mopped up and used for the common good. There is no sound moral or economic justification for them.
How can socio-economic equality be achieved? The government has taken a number of steps to remove the basic causes of inequality. The abolition of the Princely order and the liquidation of the zamindari and jagirdari systems constitute a landmark in the history of the country towards equality.
In a democratic State, feudal practices had no place. The government has enacted the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act to prevent concentration of economic power to the common detriment. Its new industrial licensing policy seeks to check the growth of monopoly, encourage fresh enterprise and provide every kind of assistance to the small producer and the co-operative sector. It also seeks to end regional imbalances and help backward areas advance industrially.
Huge funds are being ploughed in agriculture to rationalise its production. Land reforms have been enacted to provide security of tenure to tenants. In pursuance of its objective of eradicating poverty and creating a classless society, the government contemplates enacting two most significant reforms—ceilings on land and ceilings on urban property.
No legitimate objection can be taken to either of them. We must get rid of the antiquated notion that property in a natural institution, that it is always the result of individual effort and is the reward of labour, and that an individual has an absolute right to property.
Property is a social institution and has to be regulated, controlled or taken over if its regulation, control or acquisition is in public interest. Private enterprise cannot be allowed to operate in disregard of this interest, and the profit motive cannot re allowed to override it.
The greatest step towards equality will have been taken when full employment has been achieved. Full employment or nearest approximation to it should be the central aim of planning. Nobody underestimates the magnitude of the problem, especially when it is remembered that the population of the country is increasing at a rapid pace, and millions of young men and women are annually entering the labour market.
The magnitude of the problem is staggering. No reliable statistics are available on this subject, but it is recognised that unemployment, both among the educated and uneducated classes is colossal. It is a curious commentary upon our planning that, while the nation is spending crores of rupees on engineering and science institutions, thousands of engineers and scientists can find no job. Two reasons may be given to explain why, despite so many years of planned development, the unemployment situation has continued to deteriorate.
The pace of our development is not fast enough and our development projects are not sufficiently employment-oriented. If unemployment is to be substantially reduced, our development plans must be far more ambitious in terms of investment. It cannot be said that our capital resources are too limited to permit investment commensurate with our needs.
War on poverty and unemployment can be successfully waged only if all sections of the people, particularly the rich and middle classes and all those who are employed, make tremendous sacrifices in the interest of social justice. Our development plans have not been sufficiently employment-oriented.
Economic equality or social justice also demands that the standards of public health, education and housing should be so high that the gap between public and private provision for them is not scandalously wide. In India, the social services are so poor that equality of opportunity can hardly be said to exist.
Millions of people in villages cannot get even drinking water. Undoubtedly, the cost of providing adequate social services is prohibitive, but if the importance of investment in human beings is sufficiently realised, it will not be found beyond our means to finance the development of social services on a liberal scale. A UN expert study has made significant observations on the importance of investment in the human material.
In the opinion of this body, most under-developed countries are in the situation that investment in people is likely to prove as productive, in the purely material sense, as any investment in material resources, and in many cases investment in people would lead to a greater increase of the flow of goods and services than would flow from any comparable investment in material capital. It also notes that most development programs accord too low a priority to investment in human beings, and provide too high a priority to investment in material capital.
Any ambitious development program in the field of social services would open up immense scope for expansion of employment for the educated class. We need thousands of doctors, medical assistants, nurses, etc. if the people in villages are to be assured of minimum medical facilities.
At present doctors prefer to work in towns. They have to be persuaded by offers of attractive material prospects or even compelled to settle in villages. We need lakhs of trained teachers if the directive principle relating to free and compulsory education is to be implemented. Yet, thousands of trained teachers are wandering about without any employment, providing a curious commentary upon our system of planning. If the social services are liberally expanded, more employment, greater production and better redistribution of the national income would follow all eminently desirable goals.
The end of development ought to be not merely increase in national income, but happiness of the masses. It is not enough that we can build ships, locomotives, wagons or that our steel plants are as modern as anywhere else.
The prosperity of the country is not to be judged by our export figures alone. It is not a matter for much gratification that our air services are very efficient and most modern, our factories are producing cloth of the superfine quality, which the very rich alone can buy, our heavy industry is making rapid progress and we are competing with the highly industrialized States.
Development with social justice means that we should seek to achieve full employment, abolish poverty, disease and ignorance, wipe-out all forms of exploitation, produce more goods of common consumption—food, shoes, textile goods, etc.; which the common man can buy with his small earnings, build cheap and durable houses in millions for the poor and establish a network of schools and hospitals to eliminate ignorance and disease.
Only when everyone has been assured at least of the minimum conditions of civilized existence, and wide disparities in the distribution of the national income and wealth have been progressively narrowed, will we be able to say that we have achieved development with social justice.
Statistics of higher production and greater national income do not tell a whole story. The test of economic growth must be more concrete happiness of the common man measured in terms of his primary needs employment, food, cloth, education and other necessaries of life.