Reassessing Nehru: Free India From His Evil Legacy

Sauvik Chakraverti
The Times of India, 12 June, 2003

It is very easy to prove that the great Jawaharlal Nehru, our first prime minister, who founded a democratic dynasty that still lives on, was an evil man. My logic is based on the writings of Frederic Bastiat.

Let us begin by looking at the difference between good and evil. Man is born into a difficult existence. To survive in this life he has to get a lot of things from the world around him: roti, kapda, makaan. There are but two ways of getting these (if we omit beggary): by working hard in the market economy, earning one's honest living, and buying what one needs from the market. The second is by theft, by plunder, by stealing from others. The question Bastiat posed is: Which is good and which is evil? Which should we encourage and which should we seek to stifle? My reader will readily answer that the first is good, and people should be encouraged to work towards fulfilling their own needs; further, that the desire to live off others is evil and plunder should be stifled.

In which case, let us now take a close look at the Nehruvian legacy: What did this socialist dynasty encourage? It will be instantaneously obvious to anyone who remembers those hard socialist times that this dynasty stifled enterprise and promoted plunder. Nehru put in place what Rajaji called the 'licence-permit-quota raj': he fettered enterprise in every possible way so babus could plunder entrepreneurs. He encouraged bright young people to join his public enterprises, which were funded by looting the taxpayer. His daughter even went on a nationalising spree, the effects of which are still with us. In her heydays, the only jobs available were under the state. Young people were not encouraged towards enterprise; they were encouraged to join the state and plunder the people.

Gradually, as the socialist drama unfolded, it mingled with democracy to create a scenario of universal plunder. Every section of society, be it economic, social, religious or linguistic, was issued its own share of the spoils - something free or cheap at someone else's cost. Or a job under a quota. Or some land plundered off someone else. Even the law was made to side with this plunder, and the property rights of the citizen were no longer guaranteed by the Constitution. What else is this but universal plunder?

The history books tell us that Nehru fought for freedom. But are Indians free today? We are ranked 122 in the World Economic Freedom Index, 2002. We are still, after 10 years of this voodoo liberalisation, an economically repressed nation. Our natural ability to trade, to 'truck, barter and exchange' - a gift which every Indian child is blessed with in abundance - is still not allowed to flourish, and free trade is still a distant dream. Currency controls, trade res-trictions, high tariffs and continued licensing hinder our ability to generate wealth for ourselves. And they encourage a 'rent-seeking society' which the personnel of the state, under the Nehruvian system, have become.

Indians are phenomenal traders: in London, the capital of a country once known as 'a nation of shopkeepers', Indians own all the corner shops. There is an Asian pop band in England called Cornershop. One joke about Indians goes: Why can't Indians play soccer? Because every time they get a corner, they put a shop on it! Legend has it that a Bania can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scot and still emerge with a profit! We are the world's best traders, but we are not free to trade because of a worthless bunch of 'industrialists' whom Nehru encouraged to plunder their consumers. And so it was that great evils engulfed the land.

To rid the country of these evils, there is no alternative but the formation of a liberal political party. Only liberalism can offer us an escape from this socialist plunder, now under a fascist dispensation. Only liberals believe in the free market - that all the people should be left free to earn wealth and the state should have a minimal role. Only governance under such principles can lead India back to her age-old prosperity.

Getting there is impossible today because the Representation of Peoples Act proscribes the formation of parties that are not socialist. So the Shiv Sena is OK, but we liberals are not! Indians must realise that this democracy is not a true one if communists, socialists and Hindutva types are free to compete and liberals are not. And the Mumbai high court must immediately respond to a public interest litigation on this issue by the Indian Liberal Group which it has been sitting on for over five years: What are libe-rals expected to do if they cannot participate in elections? Take to armed insurrection?

Having proved that this socialism is evil, and this democracy is false, let me conclude by informing my fellow citizens that it is far more important to have a free market than it is to have the vote. The market is where economic achievements are made. I cannot open a beer bar in my basement, but I can vote. What good is that vote to me? Tribals in central India can vote, but cannot sell their lovely drink, mahua. What good is democracy without the market? Democracy without free markets is meaningless. Illiberal democracy, we Indians must now realise, is a very bad system of government.

The country is in a horrible state. Corruption rules the roost everywhere. Every city is dying. Every town is decrepit. Evil ideologies hold sway. Will India's liberals stand up and be counted?