Continuing our anthology of the Sino-Indian War of 1962, we bring you a piece (written by Lobo Prabhu) that recorded how the union government fumbled at handling internal affairs during the run up to the crisis.
The Chinese on our borders are naturally on our nerves; it seems to be part of their very strategy. On our part though Government does release voluminous white papers, there is, first, a suppression of news, as in respect of the recent excursion into NEFA. Secondly, there is a playing down of the consequences as when the Defence Minister stated in Parliament that the 34 outposts established in Ladakh did not imply an advance.
It is now accepted that there are 40 outposts and they cover an area of 1,800 square miles. The Defence Minister rushed from Kashmir when the NEFA incursion was reported but later deplored the flurry, saying there was really no need for entertaining any feeling of crisis! The anxiety of the public arises from their doubts about the intentions of the Defence Minister’s determination to resist the Chinese. The Chinese, be it remembered, make their aggressions, and then accuse us of having made them!
The Chinese will never stop their advance till they are convinced that we will carry out our threat. The least we should do is to ask them to submit the dispute to arbitration, which they may find difficult to refuse, particularly because they are seeking membership of the UN. If they refuse, we shall be justified in breaking diplomatic relations, even if we do not try to enter into a defensive pact with countries disposed to help us.
In the international field the country has been kept on tenterhooks in respect of foreign aid. This is in the face of the fact that we have obtained nearly Rs. 1,000 crores of foreign aid which has not been fully utilized and the greater part of the new aid is tied to projects which cannot be implemented for other reasons, particularly the lack of railway transport and electric power. Now we feel alarmed that Britain may join the European Common Market endangering the prospect for our industrial exports.
The prices of all consumer commodities now rising up to 100 per cent above world prices, no tariff preference can save for us our foreign markets, as the declining figures already indicate. According to India 1962, apart from jute our exports in 1961 were Rs 50.34 crores of cotton fabrics, Rs 12.60 crores of yarn and Rs. 11.99 crores of iron and steel. Against this we had imported Rs 69.32 crores of raw cotton and Rs 102.16 crores iron and steel. All we have now to do is to stop our imports and use our cotton for our mills. It is meaningless to industrialize the country, if our own people are to be deprived of the production. The E.C.M. need not frighten us; in fact Britain’s entry into it may turn out a blessing for the direct access we shall now have to a large market for exports.
Internally, the greatest scare the Government has now raised is the intensification of controls, particularly on food, when all our previous experience has been that controls increase prices and reduce production. The experts, who are meeting this month, are expected to consider the advisability of controls on wholesalers and millers, which were tried in 1956 leading only to supplies being confined to villages and boosting of prices. The simple application of the Essential Commodities Act of 1956 to seize grain at the average of the prices of the previous three months does not appeal to the Government, because it is not serious about checking profiteering, which Mr. Gadgil calculated had added up to Rs 300 crores in the last three months !
The Government has also scared the people by passing the Act against smuggling and hoarding of gold, declaring that it would act under it to take the people by surprise, to avoid anticipation. The price of gold has fallen but doubtless gold is going deeper underground. The Government has also frightened the people by the proposal of the Commission on Housing which has recommended that the uncarvedincrease in urban property should be collected by assessments to be made every five years. This will only reduce investment on housing and make the already bad position worse. Taxes have also a neurotic effect, because they are reflected at once in the prices.
They give unearned value to those who have stocks and disturb production. Similar is the effect of import duties and cuts, which encourage increase in hoarding and prices. And the tragedy is new taxes are devised every year, first at the Centre and then at the States, which make shambles of the market.
The Government must realize that it has been going about too rashly in matters where even the slightest loss of stability is fraught with danger. It remains to be seen if the Government will see the inevitable consequences of its policies and have the wisdom to decide that the country deserves a lull, if the ship were not to be wrecked.
Selections from Swarajya's 40,000 pages of archives since 1956.
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