Nehru, family & legacy

By Cleofato A Coutinho
20 November 2014 10:29 IST

The 125th birth anniversary of Pandit Nehru became a spectacle. Instead of focusing on the historical understanding of socialist secular liberal idea of India against the global backdrop, the issue of whether legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru belongs to the country or to his family became the subject of discussion.  That he became the Prime Minister of the country from the Congress party and his daughter and grandson also became Prime Ministers from that party, the party claims Nehru’s legacy. National icons belong to the country. In case of Nehru he is sought to be portrayed as the one who created the dynasty and destroyed the country’s economy. Only few shall doubt Nehru’s role as a moderniser   and possibly second tallest leader after Gandhi, despite the best efforts to pit him against another giant Sardar Patel.

There can be no two opinions that Nehru built institutions of governance, science and economy. If we proudly talk about the Mars mission today, the credit must be laid at his door. The India Institute of Technology (IITs) was certainly his brainchild. India’s economic muscle after independence was provided by the public sector which is held in contempt today! 

The country progressed with the most appropriate tool called the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission was a bye product nationalist movement. In 1938 Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose  announced ‘National Planning Commission’ to be ‘the first task of the government of free India’.  He laid the foundation for what latter on came to be known as the Planning Commission.  Linking knowledge and power to serve society was the idea of great scholars. Meghnad Saha, the physicist, Engineer M. Visvesvarayya and Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes could be said to be behind planning as an idea. Of course  Nehru established it to ‘promote a rapid rise in the standard of living of the people by efficient exploitation of the resources of the country, increasing production and offering opportunities to all for employment in the service of the community’. It drew up a complete blue print for the country’s economic development over a five year period and played a key role in formulating various policies and programmes and decided the allocation of funds to the states. In the fifties the progressive economic thought veered around the state control over the business, Industry and economy. The Planning Commission made our country a world player including in the areas of space and atomic programmes. The second five year plan placing emphasis on heavy industrialization with emphasis on public sector has certainly brought us where we are today.


There could be no argument that over a period of time the halo over planning has declined with the commission becoming an old age home for those who cannot elected and instead of planning for the future, it became a sort of subcommittee of infrastructure development chaired by the prime minister.

It is also argued that the post liberalisation period the concept of planning as visualized  by Nehru has undergone a change and the planning of the economy of the type at the time of independence has no relevance at current time when there is a complete tilt towards the private sector economy where the state has little role. 

Should the body be judged by these aberrations or by the service it provided for decades are independence? Planning commission is seen as a road block with fast track of the development work in the so called growth time.

In his Independence Day speech the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the dismantling of the Planning Commission and a new ‘think tank’ that shall take the country forward was promised. He stated “we will very soon set up a new institution in place of Planning Commission… the internal situation of the country has changed global environment has changed…” Some referred to the think tank as the ‘new economic reforms commission’, some called it a ‘growth commission’. Though the new body is not yet given shape, there is a clear indication that the Planning Commission is being dismantled only to erase the Nehruvian imprimatur on the country’s economy.  After announcing the abolition of the Planning Commission, the Prime Minister called for suggestion on the composition and role of the new ‘think tank’. So the only purpose was to rechristen the planning body as the very word ‘planning’ is reminiscent of Nehru and the strong economic foundation raised in the first two decades of our independence.


The future blue print for any country’s economy has to be planned. As we chart out economic development of the country, environment, land acquisition, fair compensation and labour regulations shall be crucial areas requiring serious thought. A blue print in such areas is required with the finest economic minds contributing their bit. May be we require long term planning instead of the five year plans.   What better forum then the planning commission for this full time job? Can we not entrust the job of planning for the future in a liberalised economy to the Planning Commission? Could the commission not be restructured, reorganized and empowered under the leadership of the prime minister? Should the Planning Commission be dismantled just because its birth is tagged with Nehru and the very planning is reminiscent of Nehru era? 

Unfortunately even the party and the family which claim the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru treats the word planning to be a relic of old times. The party and the family which claims the legacy has also said precious little allowing the Planning Commission to fade into history. Should that happen only  because it was initiated by Jawaharlal Nehru whose granddaughter-in-law and great grandson now find themselves on the other side of power? 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Rajiv Gandhi who is grand son of Nehru had called planning Commission a pack of jokers. Was Rajiv Gandhi under influence of Narendra Modi when he was Prime Minister. Let start writing like this one day people will get convinced.

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 21 st November 2014 12:49


Nehru died in 1964. But it is heartening to read that some people are remembering him after 50 years. Why we remember Nehru whenever BJP comes to power? Why Congress party was not elected in 1963 when Nehru was alive? Is Nehru a antidote for BJP?

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 21 st November 2014 12:42


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