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.
The 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)