Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

The National Planning Committee: Speech at the National Planning Committee Bombay

During the last few weeks, I have noticed an apprehension in certain quarters as to the possible effects of our efforts to industrial planning on the movement that has been going on since 1921 for the production of Khadi and the promotion of cottage industries under the auspices of the AllIndia Spinners Association and the AllIndia Village Industries Association respectively. It may be remembered that at Delhi I made it perfectly clear in my opening speech that there was no inherent conflict between cottage industries and large-scale industries. As a matter of fact, I divided industries into three classes: cottage, medium-scale and large-scale industries and I pleaded for a plan which would lay down the scope of each of these classes. Not only that. In the National Planning Committee we have reserved a seat for a representative of the AllIndia Village Industries Association and a similar seat could also be arranged for the AllIndia Spinners Association. It would be doing us a grave injustice if it be urged or even apprehended that the promoters of the National Planning Committee want to sabotage the movement for the revival of cottage industries.

Everybody knows or should know that even in the most industrially advanced countries in Europe and Asia, e.g., Germany and Japan, there are plenty of cottage industries which are in flourishing condition. Why then should we have any apprehension with regard to our own country?

I may now add a few remarks on the relation between cottage industries and large-scale industries. Among large-scale industries,mother industries are the most important, because they aim at producing the means of production. They put into the hands of artisans necessary appliances and tools for facilitating quicker and cheaper production. For example, if in the city of Benares we could supply electrically driven looms along with electrical power at the rate of halfanna per unit, it would be possible for the artisans working in their own homes to twin out sarees and embroidered cloth of different varieties at about five or six times the present rate of production and it would enable them to compete successfully with foreign imported goods of this description. With a good marketing organisation and an organisation for the supply of raw materials, these artisans can be rescued from the depths of poverty and misery to which they have fallen.

This is not the only instance which I can give. If the power industry and the machinery manufacturing industries are controlled by the State for the welfare of the nation, a large number of light industries like the manufacture of bicycles, fountain pens and toys can be started in this country by men of the artisan class working with the family as a unit. This is exactly what has been done in Japan. Success depends entirely upon the fact that power and machinery are extremely cheap and the Japanese Government have set up boards for the supply of raw materials and for proper marketing. I believe that this is the only way by means of which the handloom industry and the silk industry of our country can be revived.

The National Planning Committee will have to tackle specific problems. It will have first to direct its attention to the mother industries, i.e., those industries which make the other industries run successfully; such as the power industry, industries for the production of metals, heavy chemicals, machinery and tools, and communication industries like railway, telegraph, telephone and radio.

Our country is backward in respect of power supply compared with other industrially advanced countries. In the matter of electrical power particularly India's backwardness can be gauged from the fact that while in India we have at present only seven units per head, a backward country like Mexico has ninetysix units per head and Japan about five hundred units per head. In developing electrical power, the Government has squandered money: take the instance of the Mandi hydroelectric scheme on which the Government has spent ten times as much as other countries have done on similar efforts. How I wish an enquiry could be made into the manufacture of machinery and machine tools with a view to keeping up supplies in the event of interruption of communications with foreign countries owing to war or any other causes. The other key industries into which an inquiry should be started are the fuel industry, the metal production and heavy chemical industries. In this respect the resources of the country have not been properly investigated and, whatever little industry there is, is being controlled by foreigners, with the result that there is a lot of wastage. This is particularly true of the fuel industry.

The last key industry is the transport and communications industry which includes railways, steamships, electrical communications, radio, etc. At present the railways are controlled by the Railway Board, which is entirely under European management and only a small fraction of the requirements of the railways is manufactured in the country. As regards steam navigation, excepting coastal traffic, the entire communication is in the hands of non-Indians owing to unfair privileges enjoyed by them. Electrical goods are entirely supplied by foreign countries. As regards radio, I would like to suggest the setting up of a special sub-committee to investigate its possibilities.

Lastly, we will have to consider the most important problem of finding the necessary capital and credit for our plan of industrialisation. Unless this problem is solved, all our plans will remain mere paper schemes and we shall not make any headway in our industrial progress.