The economic development of a country depends on the collective labour of different social groups. This is the reason that the system of the division of labour gradually evolves out of the practice of domestic economy. The value of the labour of all groups, including industrial labourers, peasants, carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, potters, physicians and clerks, is equal in the collective development of the economy.
In ancient India a form of elastic economy was prevalent which supported the collective economic endeavour of the people. In the Vedic Age the economic system of India evolved on the basis of social classes (varńa). The shúdras, kśatriyas, vipras and vaeshyas – these four social classes evolved and remained content with specific economic activities of their choice. One particular class engaged itself in farming, while other classes undertook different occupations. People did not rush towards agricultural work as is happening today. As this class system (varńáshrama) was hereditary, there was little scope for socio-economic imbalance.
In that age agriculture reached a high degree of expertise and efficiency. Kings used to be directly involved with the different aspects of agriculture such as planting multiple crops according to the different seasons, large-scale and small-scale agriculture, the use of manure, the application of insecticides, irrigation systems through rivers and canals, and dairy farming. In those days the state had the duty to confiscate land from landlords who kept land unutilized, and transfer it to those who could properly utilize it for agricultural purposes. The value of land was determined by the extent of its productivity. The state used to fix the price of agricultural produce, and as a result there was little scope for the business class to exploit farmers.
After the arrival of the British in India economic balance was lost, mainly because the British government was totally indifferent to the development of indigenous industry and agriculture. It did not even realize the necessity of planning for this type of development. Instead, it introduced a new system of education which mainly produced a class of clerks which was utilized by the British government to consolidate its administrative power. Many people gave up their hereditary occupations and sought posts in the British administration. This seriously damaged the agricultural system.
The second cause of economic imbalance was the gradual collapse of indigenous industrial enterprises, notably the hand weaving industry. As a result of the supply of cloth from the Manchester cotton mills, the demand for hand woven cloth began to dwindle. The supply of aluminium utensils also destroyed India’s pottery industry. The factories established by the British severely affected indigenous industries because they used the latest technology. Consequently, those employed in these industries gradually gave up their traditional occupations and crowded the agricultural sector for a livelihood.
This problem was compounded by growth in the population, which led to the subdivision and fragmentation of agricultural land. This in turn resulted in decreased production. Food was imported from outside India to feed the population. During the Second World War the importation of food was stopped, causing a severe shortage of food in the country.
To overcome the great famine that struck Bengal in 1943, the Wavell administration introduced a rationing system. Wavell also tried to alleviate the famine by restricting the movement of food from one province to another. But these measures did not solve the problem – rather most people became trapped in the food rationing system.
Even after the departure of the British in 1947, about 145,000 people were included in the rationing system. This resulted in the gradual increase of black marketeering, profiteering and other corrupt practices. The central government suddenly abolished the food rationing system in an attempt to solve the problem of corruption. This precipitous step caused the price of food to rise to exorbitant heights. Later the food rationing system had to be reintroduced.
The Indian leaders tried to solve this food problem by calling for a “grow more food” campaign, but the campaign was a failure because the system of agriculture was not changed to increase output. The government adopted the policy of increasing the area of arable land and not the productivity of the existing land. There was no planning to determine whether or not the new land was suitable for agriculture, and no proper irrigation facilities to improve productivity. But above all, in the democratic system bureaucrats had ample scope to neglect their responsibilities, and due to defective administration much agricultural potential was wasted. Consequently, dishonest traders conspired to make the agricultural sector ineffective. They perpetuated the food problem to satisfy their own selfish interests. So from all points of view the agricultural system in India is extremely weak.
The fundamental characteristic of any developed economy is this: about thirty percent to forty-five percent of the people should remain engaged in agriculture and the rest of the population should be employed in industry or other sectors of the economy. Excessive pressure on agriculture is not a sign of a healthy economy. At present about seventy-five percent of the Indian population is dependent upon agriculture for its livelihood. This is a very dangerous situation for the Indian economy. Those who are engaged in agriculture remain unemployed most of the year and this is an enormous waste of human labour. This unemployment problem in agriculture must be solved immediately – it brooks no delay.
Recently, a particular group of politicians raised the slogan of “agricultural revolution” to solve the problem. They wanted to solve India’s agricultural problems by following the example of China. However, there are vast differences between the agricultural problems confronted by India and those confronted by China. The problems of India can never be solved by following the policies of China.
The basic problem in China is that despite considerable agricultural progress, China has not been able to feed its huge population. Moreover, in China there is not even sufficient land to accommodate its huge population – and its population is continually increasing. In the industrial sphere China has already exhausted most of its natural resources. It hopes to preserve its remaining scant resources for industrial development, thus preventing a dark future.
There are three main economic problems in China. First, China must feed its increasing population through agricultural development. Secondly, the percentage of the population employed in agriculture is too high. And thirdly, employment must be provided to the non-agricultural sector of the economy through industrial expansion. Because none of these problems could be solved immediately, China under Mao Zedong adopted a policy of grabbing land from neighbouring states. The recent Chinese attacks in Tibet, India and the Soviet Union were motivated by an insatiable hunger for land.(1) This is a very ingenious plan for agrarian revolution!
The agricultural problems in India are of a different nature. There is ample scope for agricultural development and industrial revolution in India. India suffers economic hardships today because its economic potential has not been properly harnessed.
There are two fundamental economic issues in India. First, the agricultural potentiality of the country must be developed by reducing the percentage of the population working in agriculture. Secondly, the excessively high percentage of the population dependent on agriculture must be reduced by developing industries.
Infusing in people the sentiment of grabbing land from other countries will not solve India’s agricultural problems. The only solution is to increase productivity within the country. Those who raised the slogan, “China’s agrarian revolution shows the way for India” are labouring under the illusion of defective thinking.
Another political group in India wants to bring about radical changes in the economic sphere by transferring all power to the masses. According to them every citizen should own a certain portion of land – no one should remain landless. Poor people are easily won over by these sentiments. Politicians espouse these ideas merely to lure people so that they can fulfil their own political aspirations. Poor landless peasants become overjoyed at the prospect of owning their own land, then politicians use them to achieve their objectives.
A particular political party today advocates forcibly depriving landowners of their land and distributing it to the landless peasants. By creating a rift between the landowners and agricultural workers, these politicians try to cultivate a philanthropic image.
Let us analyse to what extent this approach would be conducive to the overall economic growth of India. First, if surplus land were distributed among landless people, no one would get more than an acre of land at the most. This acre of land would not be an ideal economic holding because it could not be cultivated with the latest scientific methods. A sizeable portion of the land would be wasted in demarcating boundary lines, so it would be impossible to increase productivity. Increased productivity is the most important agricultural requirement in India today. Besides this, if land were distributed in this way, land would be further subdivided with the increase in the population, further aggravating the problem.
Secondly, this approach would have the effect of increasing the number of petit bourgeoisie. By petit bourgeoisie I mean those who derive unearned income by giving their land to others for cultivation because they are in economic difficulty. If landless peasants acquired a plot of one acre, they would certainly get some psychic satisfaction, but when they failed to earn anything after cultivating the land, they would definitely become disheartened. It would require all their time, energy and money to cultivate one acre of land productively because the land would be too small to utilize modern agricultural techniques. The amount of produce they would get in return would not be enough to maintain their families. They would have to lease a portion of the land and try to earn their income through other methods. By this process, the number of landowners would increase and they would all become part of the petit bourgeoisie. Politicians who claim that they hate landowners and raise slogans for their destruction deviate from their professed platform, because such an ideology only results in the creation of more landowners.
Thirdly, before the redistribution of the land, these politicians forcibly occupy the land, steal the produce, set fire to the crops, and through a host of other subversive methods, instigate hostilities against the landowners. Consequently, landowners become increasingly indifferent to the agricultural production of their land as they have no economic security. When these factors are combined together, they only aggravate the agricultural problem rather than solve it.
Thus, in order to solve the agricultural problems in India, the Chinese system, which is based on the principle that the one who works the plough should own the land, is not applicable. Rather, to solve India’s agricultural problems, there must be a radical change in the entire agricultural system.
According to PROUT, to facilitate increased production economic holdings must first be reorganized. An economic holding means a holding where output exceeds input. It is not possible to predetermine the size of this economic unit. While considering input, output, productivity, etc., to determine the optimum size of an economic unit, factors like the fertility of the soil, climatic conditions, etc., will have to be considered.
Today many people believe that increased production is possible even if landholdings are small. Increased production depends upon the expertise of farm managers and their correct, timely decisions. If managers are competent, then even very large farms can increase production. Of course, it is not necessary that all farms should become large. The main thing is that the holdings should be economically viable. There is no valid reason why there is a fifteen percent loss in the annual production of the large collective farms in the Soviet Union.
To increase productivity and prevent the growth of large exploitative cultivators, the minimum and maximum size of an economic landholding should be determined. The minimum size of a landholding should be equal to the size of an economic holding in a particular region. Thus, the minimum size of an economic holding will vary from place to place. The maximum size of a landholding will depend upon the fertility of the soil, overall production and the expertise of the management. Economic holdings will generally comprise land of the same topography having adequate irrigation and other agricultural facilities. The size of economic holdings must be progressively increased keeping all these factors in mind.
The size of economic holdings may vary from country to country. At the same time the size may also vary within a country. In the Indo-Gangetic plains, a five acre holding is abundantly productive, whereas in Ladakh or the Chotanagpur Hills, even fifteen or sixteen acres of land may not yield enough produce for subsistence. The size of economic holdings in these two places is bound to vary.
The following should be remembered. First, distributing land to people will not solve their problems. The ownership of the land is inconsequential; what counts is the production from the land. Secondly, merely delegating the management of land to someone will not yield the desired production. It is not always possible for one person to invest the money necessary to cultivate the land according to the most modern methods, so the production of the land is bound to decrease. Above all, in a healthy economy, economic decentralization is essential.
For decentralization, agricultural land should be managed through the cooperative system. However, it is not wise to suddenly hand over all land to cooperative management because cooperatives evolve out of the collective labour and wisdom of a community. The community must develop an integrated economic environment, common economic needs and a ready market for its cooperatively produced goods. Unless these three factors work together, an enterprise cannot be called a cooperative.
After creating a congenial environment, land will have to be handed over to cooperative management. Then, with the help of appropriate scientific technology, it will be possible to increase agricultural production.
There should be a two phase plan to introduce cooperative land management. In the first phase, all uneconomic holdings should be required to join the cooperative system so that they will become economic holdings. In this phase, cooperatives will only consist of those people who merged their land together to make uneconomic holdings economic. Private ownership will be recognized. For instance, one person may own one acre, another two acres and a third person three acres within the cooperative. Each cooperative member will be entitled to a dividend based on the total production in proportion to the land they donated to the cooperative. Each individual will retain the deed of ownership of their land, but agricultural activities will be conducted cooperatively. Consequently, land which remained utilized as boundary lines will no longer be left uncultivated. In certain places in Bihar and Bengal the total area of arable land is less than the amount of land wasted on boundary lines. If this system is implemented, all will benefit.
In the first phase of the plan, those owning land which is productive as an economic holding need not be persuaded to join a cooperative. But if an economic holding comprises land which is dispersed in small plots, the scattered plots should be consolidated into one holding. Alternatively, wherever small, scattered, uneconomic plots are located, they will have to be joined together under cooperative management.
In the second phase all should be encouraged to join the cooperative system.
In the third phase there should be rational distribution of land and redetermination of ownership. In this new system two factors will determine the rational distribution of land – the minimum holding of land necessary to maintain a family, and the farmer’s capacity to utilize the land.
In the fourth phase there will be no conflict over the ownership of land. A congenial environment will exist due to psychic expansion because people will learn to think for the collective welfare rather than for their petty self-interest. Such a change will certainly not come overnight. Unless there is suitable psychic preparation through internal urge and external pressure, adjusting with the time factor, people will never accept this system, and it cannot be forcibly imposed on them.
The leaders of the Soviet Union were ignorant of the collective psychology of the people, so they tried to impose collective farming by force. This produced severe famines and massive civil unrest. While trying to cope with these problems, the administration resorted to brute force instead of adopting psychological measures, and as a result they annihilated many people. Sadvipras will never go against the spirit of a country and cause its ruin.
Many people raise questions regarding cooperatives because in most countries the cooperative system has failed. On the basis of the examples to date, it is not appropriate to criticize the cooperative system. This is because most countries could not evolve the indispensable conditions necessary for the success of the cooperative system. Cooperatives depend upon three main factors for their success – morality, strong supervision and the wholehearted acceptance of the masses. Wherever these three factors have been evident in whatever measure, cooperatives have achieved proportionate success.
Take the case of Israel. Because the country is surrounded by enemies on all sides, the people are extremely aware of the need to be self-reliant. People want wholeheartedly to consolidate the national economy. Thus, they have converted arid deserts into productive agricultural land through the cooperative system.
As this kind of mentality was never created in India, India is a classic example of the failure of the cooperative system. Indian cooperatives were not created for economic development but for the fulfilment of political interests. Under such circumstances it was impossible for the cooperative system to succeed.
Good examples must be established to encourage people to adopt the cooperative system. There should be pilot cooperative projects, machine stations, adequate irrigation systems, and improved seeds and insecticides. At the same time people must be educated about the beneficial aspects of cooperatives. Instead of educating people how to increase the productivity of their land, the leaders of India show films on birth control in the market place. I call such people the greatest enemies of humanity.
PROUT advocates maximum modernization in agriculture and industry. In the cooperative agricultural system, modern equipment must be utilized because such modernization will facilitate increased production. For example, tractors can dig the land very deeply, bring low level soil to the surface and force the the top soil below. The fertility of the top soil is diminished as a result of continuous cultivation, so when the lower soil is brought to the surface through the use of tractors, the productivity of the soil increases. In addition, the depleted top soil has the opportunity to become revitalized for future utilization. This is one benefit of tractors. A second is that farmers do not need to maintain cows for ploughing the fields. Where cows are kept for farming, they are unutilized for six months in a year. During that idle period, many costs occur to maintain them properly. The present age is not the age for utilizing large animals. In Europe horses and elephants are no longer used. To adjust with the times, tractors should be utilized today. One tractor equals the service of at least eight pairs of bullocks. Those who have half an acre or three acres of land need to maintain a pair of bullocks. This is wasteful duplication.
If modern equipment is used in agriculture, agriculture will not remain labour intensive and people can be utilized in other activities to enhance the development of the country. For this, new arrangements will have to be created. If fewer people work in agricultural cooperatives, there will be substantial savings. Simultaneously, women and children will be freed from related work so they will get scope to develop themselves. In addition, increased mechanization will link the villages to the cities and towns, and as a result the standard of living in the villagers will be increased.
In PROUT’s system of agriculture there is no place for intermediaries. Those who invest their capital by engaging others in productive labour to earn a profit are capitalists. Capitalists, like parasites, thrive on the blood of industrial and agricultural labourers. Those who act as intermediaries in the agricultural sector are called “agricultural capitalists”. They get their own land cultivated by others and take the profits.
In India, intermediaries have been in existence since ancient times. Different types of landowners such as zamindars, pattanidars, darpattanidars, sepattanidars, jotedars, vargadars and adhikaris constitute the intermediaries. In modern India the zamindary and sharecropping systems have been abolished, but the feudal psychology has not disappeared. The present feudal rulers are not the actual owners of land. They take land on lease from others and pay a certain percentage of the produce to the owner of the land, thus they exploit both the actual owner of the land and the agricultural labourers. The number of these intermediaries is steadily increasing.
PROUT does not support these kinds of intermediaries. Slogans like, “The land belongs to those who work the plough,” or, “Those who sow the seeds should reap the harvest,” are untenable. Policies based on such slogans lead to the creation of a petit bourgeois class.
According to PROUT, in the first phase of agrarian revolution private ownership of land within the cooperative system will be recognized. People should have the right to employ labour for cultivation, but in such cases fifty percent of the total produce should be distributed as wages to the agricultural labourers who work in the cooperative. That is, the owners of the land will get fifty percent of the total produce and those who create the produce through their labour will get the other fifty percent. This ratio must never decrease – rather it should increase in favour of the agricultural labourers who work in the cooperative.
The managerial staff body of the cooperative should only be constituted from among those who have shares in the cooperative. They will be elected. Their positions should not be honorary because that creates scope for corruption. Managers will have to be paid salaries according to the extent of their intellectual expertise. In addition, the members of the cooperative may also employ their manual labour if they so desire, and for this they should be paid separate wages. Thus, cooperative members can earn dividends in two ways – as a return on the land given to the cooperative and on the basis of their productive labour. For this, the total produce of the cooperative should be divided into equal parts – that is, fifty percent on wages for labour, and fifty percent for the shareholders of the land.
For the development of agriculture there is also a need for agricultural specialists and technicians. Producers cooperatives should employ such skilled labour. Thus, educated people will not remain unemployed, and they will not leave the villages for the cities. This will ensure rapid agricultural development.
PROUT believes in a decentralized economy. So policies must be adopted which not only develop one particular region, but accelerate all-round development at a uniform pace throughout the entire socio-economic area through the planned utilization of all local resources and potentialities. To achieve this aim, local people must first be employed in agricultural cooperatives.
In modern India there are two distinct areas – one of surplus labour and the other of deficit labour. That is why people usually migrate from surplus labour areas to other regions. However, the very concept of surplus labour is a relative one. Where adequate opportunities for proper economic development have not been created, there is surplus labour. Labour becomes surplus in all undeveloped socio-economic areas. When surplus labour moves to another region, the undeveloped area has every chance of remaining undeveloped forever.
According to PROUT, wherever there is surplus labour, top priority must be given to creating employment for all local labour. This policy will raise the standard of living of the local people and the whole area. If this policy is not implemented and surplus labour is allowed to move to other regions, and the Marxist policy that, “those who sow shall reap” is followed, then all tea plantations, coal mines and other natural resources will be controlled by outside labour. Local people will lose control over their natural resources. This will create a very dangerous situation.
PROUT’s opinion is that local people must have first priority in employment opportunities. As long as there is not full employment for local people, continuous efforts must be made until all local labour is fully employed. In addition, no fresh developmental programmes will be started until there is further demand for labour. Scandinavian countries did not commence any new development schemes for this reason.
While creating employment for the local people, consideration must be given to local sentiments. For instance, many areas of India are regions of surplus intellectual labour. People in this category are ready to work as clerks for the very low wage of thirty rupees a month, but they are not prepared to work as porters and earn more money. The problem of surplus intellectual labour is a special one and should be solved in a proper way. In these areas industries which require less manual labour should be established. Thus, different development schemes will have to be adopted in different socio-economic units depending upon time, place and person.
The present system of collecting revenue on agriculture cannot be supported because it is inconvenient for both the tax collectors and the farmers. Even the zamindary system which was established during the British period for tax collection was defective. Farmers had to pay a specified amount each year to the treasury for the land given to them by the zamindars. In cases of flood, crop failure, or any other reason, this fixed amount still had to be paid to the treasury. The zamindars enjoyed life as social parasites. Even today land tax is determined by the area of land. In cases of crop failure in any year, the government has to reduce its taxes. In cases of abundant harvests, the government has to increase taxes through levies. This system causes great inconvenience to the farmers.
The best system of taxation was in vogue in the ancient Hindu Age. In those days only twenty-five percent of the entire produce was given to the king as taxes. The farmers could also give cows, horses or sheep as taxes. In such a system farmers did not face any inconvenience. Today, however, farmers face much inconvenience because they have to pay their taxes in cash. Farmers cannot always arrange cash by selling agricultural produce, because a proper market does not always exist.
According to PROUT, a certain percentage of the farmers produce should be collected as direct taxes. It is also convenient for the government to realize taxes in the form of goods, because it needs to store produce as insurance against future contingencies. Taxes in such a form can easily be distributed from government stores when the people are in need. Moreover, this system will easily meet the requirements of people in the towns and cities. Such a system can rapidly transform the Indian economy.
If agricultural labourers only raise slogans of agricultural reform and assault and kill the landowners, they will not change the agricultural system. It is only possible to consolidate the economy through a constructive approach. Sadvipras will have to shoulder the great responsibility of implementing this approach to ensure the welfare of all.