Economic policy of Nehru, Indira flawed: Chidambaram

September 18th, 2008 - 7:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS)Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has criticised the economic policies pursued by prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi for being marked by “gradualism” and “modest outcomes” in the first three decades of Congress rule in the country.“On the economic front, the progress was slow, painfully slow. In the first three decades, that is the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the growth in the GDP (gross domestic product) averaged 3.5 percent per year. Per capita income increased at an average rate of 1.3 percent,” Chidambaram said at the Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa lecture here Wednesday.

The Congress ruled India uninterrupted from independence in 1947 until 1977, when it lost control of the central government following general elections. Nehru was prime minister for 17 years unti his death in 1964 while India Gandhi was prime minister in two spells — first until 1977 and again until her assassination in 1984.

Speaking about the snail-paced growth of Indian economy, Chidambaram said: “The gradualism was seen in other part of the economy as well. In 1950 we produced 1 million tones of steel, in 1980 this increased to barely 6.8 million tones. In 1950 we produced 2.7 million tones of cement, in 1980 the production had increased to a modest 18.6 million tonnes.”

To back his assessment of the economic policy, Chidambaram said that more people continued to remain very poor.

“While the proportion below the poverty line declined from 54.9 percent in 1973-74 to 44.5 percent in 1983-84, given the growing population, absolute number of poor rose from 321 million in 1973-74 to 323 million in 1983-84,” Chidambaram said.

Baffled at the slow growth rate, the minister with the Congress-led UPA government said: “I could go on and on. I could list the number of children in school and the number of children out of school in 1950 and 1980. In could measure the length of roads. I could count the number of cars and buses on those roads.

“The gradualism has left a very large proportion of the population destitute, despondent and rebellious. How long should a village wait for electricity or a connecting road? How long should a family wait to be able to build a rood over its head? How long should a student wait to be able to go to a college?” a passionate Chidambaram asked.

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