History of Science and technology in India- Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar

History of Science and technology in India- Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: Mohandas was born in Porbandar, a Kathiawar Gujarat State on 2nd October, 1869. He born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste in coastal Gujarat, Western India. He trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian Community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.

Gandhian thoughts in Science and Technology: Man does not live by bread alone. Economic advancement is good in itself; but that alone is not the aim of life. One eats to live; one does not live to eat. The aim of living is self realization. The economic necessities need be satisfied, but material comforts alone do not bring happiness or advance social welfare. The test of advancement is the “absence of starvation among its masses.” Economy should neither be no profit or competition based. Real progress must include, no less the moral advancement of the people. Gandhi supports an economic system that would not disregard the ethical values in the scheme of well being. The ancient system of Varnashram Dharma, avoided both competition and exploitation, for this he accepts it as a good basis of restructuring the economic order, Accepting, Ahimsa and Satya as the essential elements in the economic system, he lays emphasis on non-possession equitable distribution of wealth, bread-labour, Trusteeship and Swadeshi.

Machinery and Industry: Gandhiji was convinced that the use of machinery is “inevitable”. He was not against machine. But, machine, need only eliminates the “unnecessary labour”. He would not like it to be used to displace “human labour”. What he objects “is the craze for machinery” and “not machinery as such”. To him: “That use of machinery is lawful which sub-serves the interest of all”.

His objection to industry arises from the fact that at one time, it had caused pauperism in England and the workers had suffered most. Besides, it has been instrumental in exploiting the nations who had not the industrial set up. For this, he described industrial civilization- “a disease because it is all evil”.

The Best Planning: According to Gandhi, planning should aim at the fullest utilization of man power. Any plan that exploited the raw material but neglected the man power was bound to be ‘lopsided’ and incapable of establishing human equality. Real planning consisted in the best utilization of man in relation to the production and the distribution of productions.

Free India: A free India for Gandhi meant the flourishing of thousands of self-sufficient small communities who rule themselves without hindering others. Gandhian economics focused on the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level. His policy of “sarvodaya” called for ending poverty through improved agriculture and small-scale cottage industries in every village. Gandhi challenged Nehru and the modernizers in the late 1930s who called for rapid industrialisation on the Soviet model; Gandhi denounced that as dehumanising and contrary to the needs of the villages where the great majority of the people lived. After Gandhi’s death Nehru led India to large-scale planning that emphasised modernisation and heavy industry, while modernising agriculture through irrigation. Historian Kuruvilla Pandikattu says “it was Nehru’s vision, not Gandhi’s that was eventually preferred by the Indian State.” After Gandhi’s death activists inspired by his vision promoted their opposition to industrialisation through the teachings of Gandhian economics.

India, with its rapid economic modernisation and urbanisation, has rejected Gandhi’s economics but accepted much of his politics and continues to revere his memory. Reporter Jim Yardley notes that, “modern India is hardly a Gandhian nation, if it ever was one. His vision of a village-dominated economy was shunted aside during his lifetime as rural romanticism, and his call for a national ethos of personal austerity and nonviolence has proved antithetical to the goals of an aspiring economic and military power.”

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru: Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India (office: 15 August 1947 – 27 May 1964), initiated reforms to promote higher education, science, and technology in India. The Indian Institute of Technology – conceived by a 22 member committee of scholars and entrepreneurs in order to promote technical education – was inaugurated on 18 August 1951 at Kharagpur in West Bengal by the minister of education Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Beginning in the 1960s, close ties with the Soviet Union enabled the Indian Space Research Organization to rapidly develop the Indian space program and advance nuclear power in India even after the first nuclear test explosion by India on 18 May 1974 at Pokhran.

Economic Policy: Nehru implemented policies based on import substitution industrialisation and advocated a mixed economy where the government controlled public sector would co-exist with the private sector. He believed that the establishment of basic and heavy industry was fundamental to the development and modernisation of the Indian economy. The government therefore directed investment primarily into key public sector industries – steel, iron, coal, and power – promoting their development with subsidies and protectionist policies. Steel mill complexes were built at Bokaro and Rourkela with assistance from the Soviet Union and West Germany. There was substantial industrial development. Industry grew 7.0 per cent annually between 1950 and 1965 – almost trebling industrial output and making India the world’s seventh largest industrial country. Nehru’s critics, however, contended that India’s import substitution industrialisation, which was continued long after the Nehru era, weakened the international competitiveness of its manufacturing industries. India’s share of world trade fell from 1.4 per cent in 1951–1960 to 0.5 per cent over 1981–1990. On the other hand, India’s export performance is argued to have actually showed sustained improvement over the period. The volume of exports went up at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent in 1951–1960 to 7.6 per cent in 1971–1980.

Social Policies: Jawaharlal Nehru was a passionate advocate of education for India’s children and youth, believing it essential for India’s future progress. His government oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher learning, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management and the National Institutes of Technology. Nehru also outlined a commitment in his five-year plans to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to all of India’s children. For this purpose, Nehru oversaw the creation of mass village enrolment programmes and the construction of thousands of schools. Nehru also launched initiatives such as the provision of free milk and meals to children to fight malnutrition. Adult education centres, vocational and technical schools were also organised for adults, especially in the rural areas.

Under Nehru, the Indian Parliament enacted many changes to Hindu law to criminalise caste discrimination and increase the legal rights and social freedoms of women. A system of reservations in government services and educational institutions was created to eradicate the social inequalities and disadvantages faced by peoples of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Nehru also championed secularism and religious harmony, increasing the representation of minorities in government.

Foreign Policy: Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948. Nehru also called Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, who was entrusted with complete authority over all nuclear related affairs and programs and answered only to Nehru himself. Indian nuclear policy was set by unwritten personal understanding between Nehru and Bhabha. Nehru famously said to Bhabha, “Professor Bhabha take care of Physics, leave international relation to me“. From the outset in 1948, Nehru had high ambition to develop this program to stand against the industrialised states and the basis of this program was to establish an Indian nuclear weapons capability as part of India’s regional superiority to other South-Asian states, most particularly Pakistan.

Nehru was hailed by many for working to defuse global tensions and the threat of nuclear weapons after the Korean war (1950–1953). He commissioned the first study of the human effects of nuclear explosions, and campaigned ceaselessly for the abolition of what he called “these frightful engines of destruction.” He also had pragmatic reasons for promoting de-nuclearisation, fearing that a nuclear arms race would lead to over-militarisation that would be unaffordable for developing countries such as his own.

Comparing Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru: Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were two peaks of the India’s freedom struggle. Nehru’ was variously influenced by Gandhiji. However, there were some differences between Gandhi and Nehru.

  1. Gandhi was oriental in his outlook. He derived inspiration from the cultural heritage of this land. The life of Buddha, Mahavir and other saints had tremendous impact upon him. Nehru, on the other hand was westernized in his outlook. His ideas were pragmatic. The western education had instilled into his nerves a radical outlook and he wanted to exhibit it as per the demand of-the situation.
  2. Gandhi envisaged a spiritualised democracy. Neither property” nor position in the society but manual work should be the basis of village republic. It will be a state devoid of corruption and hypocrisy. Nehru was the champion of parliamentary democracy. He had belief in the Parliament, judiciary, press, public opinion etc. Universal adult suffrage, to him, should be the basis of democracy.
  3. Cottage industry with emphasis on hand spinning, hand-weaving, Khadi, trusteeship etc. were the ideas of Gandhi to create a self-sufficient economy.

Nehru, on the other hand, followed democratic socialism and put emphasis on cooperative movement, massive industrialization, scientific and technological advancement etc. which formed the principles of Nehru for the economic advancement of the country.

  1. Gandhi viewed that India should not poke her nose in the foreign affairs which is detrimental for the growth of the country. Nehru, on the other hand, became a promoter of world peace. With his ideas of Panchasheel, non-alignment, faith on U.N.O. he tried to develop friendship with the neighbouring countries and other countries of the world for the upliftment of India.
  2. Gandhi’s ideas were basically spiritual and he was uncompromising with his principle of truth, non-violence and purity. Nehru never attached due importance to spiritualism. His ideas were rational, pragmatic and global. He wanted to compromise with the situation when circumstances demanded.
  3. Gandhi was quite traditional in his approach. He never needed doctors, police, and machines and wanted to pursue traditional methods to realize the ends.

III. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956): He was popularly known as Babasaheb. He was an Indian Jurist, politician, philosopher, anthropologist, historian and economist. A revivalist for Buddhism in India, he inspired the Modern Buddhist movement. As independent India’s first law minister, he was principal architect of the Constitution of India.

Ambedkar was born into a poor Mahar family, Ambedkar campaigned against social discrimination, the Indian caste system. He converted to Buddhism and is also credited with providing a spark for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of lower caste members to Buddhism. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1990.  He was also one of the earliest Dalit to earn a college degree. Eventually earning a law degree and doctorates for his study and research in law, economics and political science from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, Ambedkar gained a reputation as a scholar and practised law for a few years, later campaigning by publishing journals advocating political rights and social freedom for India’s untouchables.

Ambedkar’s thought in Science and technology: Ambedkar was the first Indian to pursue Economics doctorate degree abroad. According to him the industrialization and agricultural industry growth could enhance the economy of the nation. He stressed on money investment in the agricultural industry as the primary industry of India. According to Sharad Pawar, Union agriculture minister, Ambedkar’s vision benefited the government in accomplishing the food security goal. He supported economic and social development of the society for nation’s progress. He also emphasised on education, public hygiene, community health, residential facilities as the basic amenities. His D.Sc. thesis “The problems of Rupee, its origin and solution (1923)” reveals the factors responsible for Rupee fall. He proved the importance of price stability than exchange stability. He analysed the silver and gold rate exchange and its effect on Indian economy. He found out the reasons for the failure of British Indian economy’s public treasury. He found the loss made by British rule on Indian development.

He is creditworthy to establish Finance Commission of India. He did not support the income tax policy for the lower income group community. He contributed in Land Revenue Tax and excise duty policies to stabilize Indian economy. He played an important role in the land reform and the state economic development. According to him Hindu caste system, divided labours, was one of the hurdles for the economic progress. He emphasised on free economy with stable rupee which India has adopted recently. He advocated the birth control rate to develop the Indian economy. This policy has been adopted by Indian government as national policy for family planning. He emphasised on equal rights to women for economic development. He laid the foundation of industrial relations after Indian independence.

Well known scholar, former chairman of UGC, Professor Sukhdeo Thorat wrote, “Since 1930 emphasis has been increasingly placed on engineering practices like hydrological through water resources. Credit for multipurpose project (irrigation and generating electric power together) goes to Irrigation and Power Department under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. He approved the Central Waterway and Irrigation Commission (CWINC) in March 1944. Thus Dr Ambedkar helped build a strong technical organisation for the development of India. The national power grid system which we know in India now came out of Babasaheb’s vision. Dr Ambedkar was also directly involved in framing of the objective and strategy of economic planning and water and electric power policy as a Cabinet Member in charge of the Labour, Irrigation and Power portfolio during 1942-46.

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