Monday, 11 January 2016



The resolution of the Karachi session of the All-India Congress Committee that was passed in 1931 was the first clear statement of the  socio-economic contents of the freedom movement. It laid down that the organisation of economic life must conform to the principle of justice, to the end that it must secure a decent standard of living.

The state would safeguard the interests of the workers and secure for them, by suitable legislation and in other ways, a living wage, healthy conditions of work, limited hours of labour, suitable machinery for settling industrial disputes and social insurance. 

Liberation of agricultural labour from conditions of serfdom and protection of interest of women workers were promised. Child labour in factories and mines was to be banned. Peasants and workers would be free to form unions. The system of land tenure would be reformed. 

Peasants were promised an equitable adjustment of the burden on agricultural land, immediate relief to the small peasantry through substantial reduction of rent and revenue, exemption in the cases of uneconomic holding and imposition of graded agricultural income tax. Death duties at a graduated rate over property above a limit were envisaged. Relief of agricultural indebtedness and control of usury – direct and indirect - were promised. Military expenditure would be reduced.  The state would also provide military training to its citizens. The ceiling of the civil servants’ salary would be Rs 500. The state would protect indigenous cloth against foreign cloth. 

The other indigenous industries would be likewise protected against foreign competition. Intoxicating drinks and drugs would be totally prohibited. Currency and exchange would be regulated in the national interest. The state would own or control key industries and services, mineral resources, railways, waterways, shipping and other means of public transport. When the Congress party came to power in several provinces in 1937, they tried to deliver on some of the promises. But they held power for a little over two years. Besides, there were pressures from European and native vested interests. The promises were only partially fulfilled. About twenty years after Karachi session, the Indian Constitution largely enshrined the promises made in 1931.


The Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917 created an interest in socialism in India and small socialist groups emerged in the urban centres.

Completion of the first five-year plan by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1934 created an enthusiasm for planning in India. In 1934 M. Visvesvaraya, a great engineer, published a book entitled Planned Economy in India in April 1936. The Visvesvaraya Plan could, however, be by no means called a socialist plan. In 1934 the Congress Socialist Party was formed within the Congress and Gandhi resigned from the Congress citing it as one of the reasons and alleging Jawaharlal’s open sympathy for the group. In 1935 the Communist Party of India was formed and immediately banned by the British Government. Most of the communists started working within the Congress Socialist party.

Jawaharlal Nehru, who had shown great admiration for socialism as early as 1928, delivered his presidential address to the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress announcing his conviction that ‘the only solution of the world’s problems and of India’s problems lies in socialism’. This statement created an ideological rift  within the top leadership of the Congress and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel issued a statement to the effect that he had ideological differences with Nehru on matters like the nature of capitalism. Patel wanted to contest Nehru for the presidency of the Congress in the next session at Faizpur. 

Nehru recounted his position stating that socialism was not his ideological plank for the Presidential election and Patel withdrew from the contest. In his Presidential speech at Faizpur, Nehru called for the building up of a powerful joint front of all the anti-imperialist forces in the country including  the organised workers and peasants. In the backdrop of the general (provincial) elections in British India this ideological debate is significant.

The Idea of Planning

It has been seen that the idea of planning had acquired popularity in 1934. Jawaharlal Nehru was succeeded as Congress President by another radical young  man, Subhas Chandra Bose. He set up a National Planning Committee with Jawaharlal Nehru as chairman and Professor K.T. Shah as secretary. The ideological tension that was brewing in the Congress resulted in Bose resigning its Presidentship in the next year. Still another year later the Congress Governments in Provinces resigned on the issue of the declaration of British India’s participation in World War II. The work of the National Planning Committee was interrupted but a number of subcommittees of the National Planning Committee prepared their reports.

In 1940 a group of industrialists led by G.D. Birla, prepared what is known as the Bombay Plan. The Plan envisaged the doubling of per capita income and trebling of national income in 15 years. It divided industries into basic and consumption goods industries and admitted the necessity of reducing inequalities of wealth. Among the measures suggested toward this purpose were imposition of death duties, reform of the system of land tenure and provision of the fullest scope for small and cottage industries as well as state control of the economy accompanied by state ownership of public utilities and basic industries. Economic control, however, was more important than ownership or management by the state., argued the Bombay Plan.

Towards the end of World War II, M.N. Roy, a leader of the Indian Communist movement and now a radical humanist, published a People’s Plan. Unlike the Bombay Plan it primarily emphasised agriculture and advocated nationalisation of land and liquidation of rural indebtedness. Future industrialisation would have to be primarily financed and controlled by the state. Expansion of production would have to be accompanied by changes in distribution in favour of the common people permitting an expansion of the total consumption by the community. Surplus production should be reinvested for raising employment and standard of living.

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