Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rural Gandhi vs Urban Ambedkar

From Niranjan Rajadhyaksha's article in today's Livemint:
  • Indian public policy suffers from a well-known Gandhian bias, with a pious belief in rural development even though development patterns the world over show that countries have emerged out of poverty through urbanization. B.R. Ambedkar, who had a very direct experience of social oppression, had little patience with the glorification of village life: “The love of the intellectual Indian for the village community is of course infinite, if not pathetic… What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow mindedness and communalism?”
  • But what is less well known is that Ambedkar was a trained economist who argued in one of his earliest papers, written in 1918, that India needed to help people migrate from agriculture to industry: “A large agricultural population with the lowest proportion of land in actual cultivation means that a large part of the agricultural population is superfluous and idle…this labour when productively employed will cease to live by predation as it does today, and will not only earn its keep but will give us surplus; and more surplus means more capital. In short, strange as it may seem, industrialization of India is the soundest remedy for the agricultural problems of India”.
  • There has been a robust debate in India on the relative merits of the Gandhian versus Ambedkarite visions on the direction the country should take in the future. The varying demographic trends in modern India—especially the rapid decline in rural population growth in some states—could create disagreements in the political system that in some ways echo the old debates on a rural versus urban future.

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