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Pragmatic reformer

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s contribution to the establishment of national planning in India must be duly noted, writes Sandip Banerjee

Pragmatic reformer

The image of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose conjures up an impression of a born rebel and patriot who can sacrifice anything to fight injustice and to free his motherland from the fetters of foreign rule. Whenever history speaks of Netaji, the discourse takes the path of unfolding the annals of his activities in the effort to secure freedom for his motherland. However, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was not just a crusader for freedom, he was much more than that. He was a visionary who was not only keen to seek independence for his country but was also equally concerned for the socio-economic upliftment of the people of his country. Moreover, from the ideological perspective, Netaji was inclined towards the philosophy of socialism. In fact, he along with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru epitomised the socialistic representation within the then Indian National Congress. Hence, even during the days of freedom struggle, Subhas Chandra Bose started planning for socialistic reconstruction, which he felt would be of paramount importance after India achieved independence. As a part of this planning, Netaji took the major initiative to form a Planning Committee for the first time in the history of India, after he got elected as the president of the Indian National Congress at its Haripura Session in 1938.

The vision and mission of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose concerning socialistic planning and building up of a socio-economic order, alongside fostering growth with distributive justice, can be traced to his presidential address at Haripura Congress Session in 1938, where he stated, ''Last but not least, the state, on the advice of a Planning Commission, will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socialising our entire agricultural and industrial system in the sphere of both production and distribution." The very statement unravels the longing of Subhas Chandra Bose for a kind of social parity which he thought as a vital component to restore the socio-economic condition of those who have been subject to relentless colonial exploitation for years. Guided by this motive to ensure a bright future for his fellow countrymen, Netaji formed the Planning committee, inviting Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the chairman of that committee. Subhas Chandra Bose believed in a holistic approach and was cognisant of the necessity of combining the best of available resources in forming the Planning Committee. In pursuit of that notion, he inducted eminent personalities from various walks of life. Dr Meghnad Saha, an eminent scientist; M.Vishweswaraiah, a noted architectural engineer; K.T.Shah, an expert in the field of commerce and industry among others. The formation of such a committee with diversified vocational representation hints at Subhas Chandra Bose's inclusive attitude as a leader and as a president of an organisation. One vital perspective in this regard is also Netaji's faith in Pandit Nehru as the most eligible individual to chair the Planning Committee. Differences, whatever, they existed between Netaji and Pandit Nehru, never deterred the choice of Pandit Nehru as the chairman of the Planning Committee. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru continued the legacy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose when he formed the Planning Commission and initiated the first Five Year Plan in 1952.

Netaji Subhas Chandra bose realised the significance of improving economic strength and sustainability of his country. It was evidently clear to him that the age-old practice of drainage of wealth engendered by the colonial masters would lead the nation to a state of deprivation. The majority would be without means of living a solvent life. Subhas Chandra Bose did not seek political solvency only, he aspired for an independent India bereft of all the atrocities, social and economic. Therefore, he ventured for economic resurgence amongst the mass. If we look at the resolutions passed in the Conference of Ministers of Industries held in Delhi on the October 2 and 3, 1938, under the chairmanship of Subhas Chandra Bose, President of the Indian National Congress, then we would be able to grasp the real intention of Netaji. It is clearly stated in the resolution- ''This Conference of Ministers of Industries is of the opinion that the problems of poverty and unemployment, of national defence and of the economic regeneration, in general, cannot be solved without industrialisation. As a step towards such Industrialisation, a comprehensive scheme of national planning should be formulated.'' Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was pertinent in judging that the success of the concept of national planning rested on the distribution of the fruits of that planning and participation for that matter at the provincial level. Therefore a resolution was adopted at the same convention that stated-'' To enable this planning committee to commence work forthwith, the different provincial governments are requested to make suitable financial contributions.''

Given the historical testimonial, the irony lies in the lack of general perception and understanding that the idea of National Planning was first envisaged by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It was he who charted out the blue-print of National Planning Committee, later to become Planning Commission of India. It is equally vindicative to mention here that the very essence of ideology with which Subhas Chandra Bose set forth in the endeavour to set up the Planning Committee, has been the very basis of planning in independent India. Today we are witnessing the very demise of the institution called Planning Commission. Netaji might not have lamented this happening but certainly, he should have lamented over the gross failure in attaining the dream with which he did set up the Planning Committee. The country is certainly yet to reach such a state of socialist concept as advocated by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The social and economic inequality could not be narrowed.

It is time that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is genuinely acknowledged as the pioneer of the idea of National Planning in India. In 1997, the year that also happened to be the birth–centenary of Netaji, the Planning Commission of India, under the leadership of the then Deputy Chairman, Professor Madhu Dandawate, published a book, Subhas Chandra Bose: Pioneer of Indian Planning. While writing the foreword for the book, Mandhu Dandawate mentions, ''If Netaji were to be in our midst today, his inspiring message to the Indian people would have been: give me your toil and tears and I will give you a happy and prosperous India, planned and built from the grassroots level, so that the gains of planning and development could reach the lowest of the low.'' This statement sums up the discussion related to Indian National Planning, Netaji was not only a pacesetter but a pathfinder as well. Modern research should unfold this truth further and it is high time that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose gets his due. However, debate will always continue whether the state of our country truly reflects Netaji's economic vision or not.

Views expressed are strictly personal

Sandip Banerjee

Sandip Banerjee

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