Letters From Nehru to the Nation

Published: 21st October 2014 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2014 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: I have just returned from a brief tour of Allahabad, Cawnpore  and Calcutta. For me it has been an unforgettable experience. I  saw hundreds of thousands of faces—there were 10 lakhs on the  Calcutta maidan alone—all so eager, so fun of occasion. I felt an  immense and almost overpowering sense of responsibility. Many of  the bodies were weak and emaciated and the clothes were tattered;  and these millions look to us with a faith which is almost childlike  in its simplicity to give them food, clothes and shelter. We have in  the past, in taking part in the political fight against the British rule,  been in continuous touch with this emaciation and this misery which  have, in fact, been the driving force of our activity. But we can no  longer, now that we are in the seats of powers, afford any delay in  the solution of this problem. That would be a betrayal of a trust;  and it would spell disaster on the country.

Nehru.jpgThe Central Government has, during the last few days, been  thinking more and more of this basic problem of poverty—which  we had temporarily put in a second place amidst the preoccupations  of communal disorder. . .

While on this subject of economic conditions in the country,  I would like to draw your attention to the problem of the Grow- More-Food Campaign. An officer of our Ministry of Agriculture has  started on a tour of various provinces with a view to ascertaining why  this campaign was such a failure and what can be done to get it going  again on the right lines. That it has been a failure is a fact which, I fear,  admits of no doubt and yet it is astonishing that it should have been  a failure considering that everyone knew of the urgency of making  it a success and all the resources of provincial governments and the  Centre were harnessed to make it a success. This is a matter which  requires urgent review on the part of all provincial governments. I am aware that the proper assessment of the Grow-More-Food  Campaign was rendered difficult by the paucity and, in some areas, of  the complete absence of statistical data. I hope your government will take every possible step to mobilise all statistical data lying unused  in village, tahsil and district records and undertake special enquiries  for collecting such data as may not already be available.

About the Book

In October 1947, two months after he became independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote the first of his fortnightly letters to the heads of the country’s provincial governments—a tradition that he kept until his last letter in December 1963, only a few months before his death. Carefully selected from among nearly 400 such letters, this collection covers a range of themes and subjects, including citizenship, war and peace, law and order, national planning and development, governance and corruption, and India’s place in the world. The letters also cover momentous world events and the many crises and conflicts the country faced during the first sixteen years after Independence. Visionary, wise and reflective, these letters are not just a testimony to Nehru’s statesmanship, but are also of great contemporary relevance for the guidance they provide for our current problems predicaments.

About the Editor

Madhav Khosla, a graduate of Yale University and the NLS, Bangalore, is currently a PhD scholar at Harvard University, where he studies modern Indian political thought.

(Excerpted with the courtesy of Penguin Random House)

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