Republic Day Special Series




Chapter VIII: 'Cultured' Industry (Part 4)

The New Labour Movement:
All this had a serious consequence on the labour movement. The Indian worker was never celebrated for his quality, assiduity or discipline.

In the early days of industrialisation, the wage rates were very low. Workers had few perks and facilities. Any employee could be dismissed and there would be a hundred waiting in queue to replace him. Wages were not considered a serious burden by the employers. Poor work, poor wages was the dictum. The labour faced extreme hardships. The labour movement developed little by little but was still too weak to dictate its terms. The epoch of State owned industries ;changed all this. Shri N M Joshi, Ambekar and other leaders of their ilk worked hard and selflessly to build up an infant trade unionism. They were quickly replaced by the trade unions of the left, ;which made it a ritual to take ;industrial action for purely political reasons. This epoch of leaders like S A Dange, did not last long. A new generation of labour leaders, like R J Mehta, Datta Samant, came forward. Industrialists earned huge profits. But account for only a part of it. This was noticed by these new leaders Unions, they calculated, could ask for any hike ;in salaries, even 1500 to 2000 rupees at a go and if they could sustain a strike for some period the industrialists will find it cheaper to accept their demands rather than keep the production closed. The licence - permit Raj benefited a ;class of industrialists, who piled up profits by plundering the consumers They organised labour benefited from the situation by forcing their employers to hike their wages and perks all the time. The wage rates in India even today are low by international standards. However, the ;indiscipline inefficiency and ;laziness are so rampant that Indian labour at its cheap wages comes out to be expensive. Countries in eastern and south Asia that possess the ;hard working, efficient and cheap labour, found a way to become successful suppliers of accessories to the ;industrially advanced countries,. India could hardly follow this path. 

Facade Collapses:
Inefficiency and indiscipline crept into the public sector ;industries and one by one, they became losing propositions. Their losses were made up through the Central Budgetary allocations. Industries in the private sector too, started declining. The technology they used was ;second-hand and outdated even at the time it was obtained. Now it became obsolete. They passed on the squeeze to the small scale industrialists they had contracted with for the supply of spare parts and accessories. The small scale industries started closing down and false Facade of Nehruvian industrialisation stated crumbling. Systematic exploitation of agriculture had made this sector weak. The industry controlled by the incompetent bourgeois had an uneasy existence ;but this class managed to hold on to ;its influence on both the Economy and Polity. Indian Industry became the highest subsidised industry in the world. Very significantly, at the same time Indian agriculture was getting crushed under the highest level of negative subsidy. The Indian economy faced a crunch where the first independence experiment needed to be reviewed. 

As if the nation had followed the ideas of Jyotiba Phule and started on a programme of education and enlightenment of the masses and of gradual up-gradation of skills of the people who, for generations had run the Indian crafts and industries, the captaincy of the Indian industry would have been in the hands of the people who were not afraid of soiling their hands. Indian industry would have prospered The Governmental investment in industry is the highest in Bihar. That continues to be industrially the most backward state. At the other end of the spectrum the farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra had the benefit of remunerative prices for a brief period of five years from 1965 to 1970. The extra money was used by the farmers to start small industries This began a whole cycle of affluence for the trade, commerce as also for the industry. The Kolhapur District in Maharashtra and several village in Punjab provide an eloquent testimony of the truth of Phule’s vision. If the Industrial policy in the post-independence era were not self-contradictory and self-defeating, there is no reason to doubt that the country would have been ahead of any other Asian country in the field of ;industrial development. 

During the socialist epoch, a number of governmental factories opened up at diverse places. They served useful purpose as tourists’ spots and sites to visit for important dignitaries on the visit to India. The Indian leaders were content to brag that they had industrial capacity that would match with that of any other country. The industrial development was a false facade which was certain to collapse. The collapse came sooner rather than later.


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