Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rereading M.K Gandhi on control, prices, etc

At this juncture one of the most often misquoted writings of M.K Gandhi is the following from collections Vol 97, p.224-225 (PDF). Since November 3rd, 1947 was a silence day and his written speech was read out after the prayers. 

  • Control gives rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensification of the black market and to artificial scarcity. Above all it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of selfhelp they have been learning for a generation. It makes them spoonfed. This is a tragedy next only, if indeed not equal, to the fratricide on a vast scale and the insane exchange of population resulting in unnecessary  deaths,  starvation  and  want  of  proper  residence  and clothing the more poignant for the coming inclement weather. The second is certainly more spectacular.  We dare not forget the first because it is not spectacular.
  • There are enough cereals, pulses and oil-seeds in the villages of India. The artificial control of prices, the growers do not, cannot, understand.  They,  therefore,  refuse willingly to part with their stock at  a  price  much  lower  than  they command  in  the  open  market.  This naked  fact  needs  no demonstration. It does not  require  statistics  or  desk-work  civilians buried in their red-tape files to produce elaborate reports and essays to prove that there is scarcity.  It is  to  be  hoped  that  no  one  will frighten us by trotting out before us the bogey of over-population. 
  • In the place of controlled food, the Government can easily run the very stores for selling good grain which they will buy in the open market. They will thus bring about automatic regulation of prices and set free the hoarded cereals, pulses and oil-seeds. Will they not trust the grain dealers and growers? Democracy will break under the strain of apron strings. It can exist only on trust. If the people die because they will not labour or because they will defraud one another, it will be a welcome deliverance. The rest will then learn not to repeat the sin of being lazy, idle or cruelly selfish.

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