Many names are mentioned with respect - almost reverence - in the struggle for Swaraj in India in India. Of all these, Mahatma Gandhi’s name is outstanding as the Architect of India’s Freedom. Unfortunately, Mahatma Gandhi died within a year after India attained independence, and the constructive work of building the body politic, the body economic, and the body cultural of India, in harmony with the newly won freedom, has been left to his followers, with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as their leader. It has been repeated several times that it is one thing to get freedom but a different thing to retain it. It is a still more different thing to retain it in a manner that will be beneficial to the country at large, and redound to the credit of the country in the international world. This very difficult task has fallen to the lot of the existing Cabinet at the Centre. Although the President of the Congress and his Working Committee venture to take some responsibility on certain questions, the public, and the world at large, look to two persons specifically in the Central Cabinet, and the world still knows of one person with whom, in their eyes, the political progress of the country since Mahatma Gandhi is identified. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister, are the two persons to whom the public lookup to set right all sorts of ills in the machine of Government, but of these two Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister has the larger share of responsibility.
This responsibility is of no ordinary character. They had to face problems brought on not merely by the changed position of the country from a dependency to a free country, but also to face innumerable and unprecedented complications brought on by the ill-conceived, hastily devised and almost recklessly carried through division of the country. I will not refer here to the problems raised by movements of population and influx of refugees on a scale without parallel in the history of the world, but will confine my remarks to the economic problems facing the new Government. As recently as the beginning of this month, India’s Food and Agriculture Minister put forward the following as his apology for the chaotic state of affairs, particularly as far as food supply is concerned, in the country. Addressing the Governing Body of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, he said as follows:
“As a result of partition, the country’s resources have been materially cut down. India has to maintain nearly 8o% of the total original population. For feeding it, however, she was left with only about 65% of the rice production. Another feature of partition is the disproportionate area which has become dependent on the uncertainties of monsoon. As against the share of 80% of the population India has been left with only 66% of the original irrigated area, and, in regard to wheat, with 54% of the original irrigated area. The magnificent barrages and dams and extensive irrigation systems lie today in Pakistan, to give an assured supply of wheat and rice and other food crops to 20% of the population of undivided India which has remained with that Dominion.”
Similarly, regarding jute, the mills are left with India, and raw jute which, owing to economic conditions in the world, has been figuratively said to be worth its weight in gold, is left with Pakistan as surplus produce. While most of the cotton textile mills are in India, Pakistan has secured the regions producing some of the best Indian cotton varieties. Per Contra, it may be pointed out that Pakistan has to buy its cloth from other countries until it begins to manufacture its own cloth.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru must be recognised as having had some of the most formidable tasks in the world for a Prime Minister to cope with. It is a no mean achievement that, in spite of the problems which would have taxed an old established administration to the utmost, peace and security have been maintained in India and the prestige of India has been held high in the international world. Many difficult problems, both economic and psychological, have still got to be solved. One of the problems to be reckoned with is the mentality of the people of India, who consider it difficult to overlook any errors of omission or commission made by the people in power, who, like others, are human beings.
By education and training Pandit Nehru is eminently fitted to be the leader of a Nation that has a great cultural heritage such as India. He had made the cause of Indian freedom his objective in life, and threw himself into the freedom fight very early in his career. A gifted youth of such attainments and sincerity of purpose naturally attracted 'Mahatma Gandhi’s attention, and the 'relationship between the two drew closer and closer, till at last Pandit Nehru came to be recognised as the Mahatma’s political heir, and the one undisputed’ personality to hold the loyalty of the millions in the country.
A digression at this stage is called for. India is composed of peoples speaking diverse languages, with cultures differing widely from one another. During the time of the British occupation, the geographical unity of the country was maintained, but by a different sort of control. The most desperate need of India at present, and may long time to be, is a unifying force that can hold together the country, and, after the loss of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, luckily for India, provides that unifying force. His transparent sincerity of purpose is beyond dispute, and his worst critics admit that all they seek is an amendment to some of his policies or the policies of his Government, rather than their replacement. This by itself is a tribute to him. With Mahatma Gandhi he shares the love of the common man, and with Mahatma Gandhi he is at times described as a visionary.
In the present context of a war-torn world and the great social and economic problems created as a result of the war, it is only natural that every Indian should wish all strength to Pandit Nehru on his sixtieth birthday, and many returns of the Happy Day to enable him to serve India with devotion, integrity and sense of duty all his own, for many years to come.