Ideas Of Development
‘Development’ has different meanings for different sections of the people. Development would mean different things for example, to an industrialist who is planning to set up a steel plant, to an urban consumer of steel and to the Adivasi who lives in that region. Thus any discussion on development is bound to generate contradictions, conflicts and debates.
It is common for people to refer to the ‘West’ as the standard for measuring development. ‘Development’ was about becoming ‘modern’ and modern was about becoming more like the industrialized countries of the West. It was believed that every country would go through the process of modernization as in the West, which involved the breakdown of traditional social structures and the rise of capitalism and liberalism. This kind of idea of development allowed everyone to talk about different countries as developed, developing or underdeveloped.
On the eve of independence, India had before it, two models of modern development: the liberal-capitalist model as in the US and the socialist model as in the USSR. There were many in India then who were deeply impressed by the Soviet model of development. These included not just the leaders of the Communist Party of India, but also those of the Socialist Party and leaders like Nehru within the Congress. There were very few supporters of the American style capitalist development.
Despite the various differences, there was a consensus on one point: that development could not be left to private actors, that there was the need for the government to develop a design or plan for development.
Thus the Planning Commission was not a sudden invention. A section of the big industrialists got together in 1944 and drafted a joint proposal for setting up a planned economy in the country. It was called the Bombay Plan. The Bombay Plan wanted the state to take major initiatives in industrial and other economic investments. Soon after India became independent, the Planning Commission came into being. The Prime Minister was its Chairperson. It became the most influential and central machinery for deciding what path and strategy India would adopt for its development.