Nehru paved the way for inclusive growth

Adil Raza Khan

panel_nehruvianOn third and the last day of the Indian History Congress at Jawaharlal Nehru University, several research papers on different topics were presented by academicians and research scholars.

The morning session began with the discussion and paper presentation by Prof. R Gopinath, Dept. of History and Culture Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof. Gopinath illustrated his research paper on the topic ‘The Formulation and Implementation of Health Policy in Nehruvian India’.

Prof. Gopinath accounted Nehruvian era as time of vital change in public health policies. He said that it was Nehru who firstly took on public health policy seriously and introduced different programs for better health services.

Stating the facts and statistics he mentioned that there was a very small expenditure on public health before independence. In the early 20th Century, per capita expenditure on health was only Rs. 0.06. In 1921, 1931 it was Rs. 0.14 and Rs. 0.67 respectively. But post independence, a major change has been witnessed in public health expenditure.

The changes began with the first five year plan. The per capita expenditure on public health was increased suddenly and as a result it is increased to Rs. 1.1 and later it was continued in second and third plans too with massive increase.

The above changes saw a major improvement in public health such as life expectancy and infant mortality rate etc.

Prof. Gopinath also brought out a different angle in his paper that despite introducing important measures to ensure public health, Nehru failed to some extent when it came to its implementation. He said, “It is indeed commendable that Nehru established important institutions to ensure good healthcare to every citizen, but the implementation and monitoring agency failed to do so.”

Professor Shefali Jha, Chairperson, Centre for Political Studies, JNU, presented the paper on the topic ‘Nehru and the Majoritarian conception of Democracy: Debates in the Indian Constituent Assembly’. Her paper seeks to unpack the different elements or evolutions of Nehru’s conception of Democracy.

Prof. Jha points out that Jawaharlal Nehru emphasised the inclusive nature of the democracy while the constituent assembly was engaged in framing the constitution. She said that “Nehru was not the part of Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee or the minorities Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly but he was the chairperson of the Union Powers Committee and the Union Constitution Committee. When the reports of these Committees were presented in the assembly and criticism was voiced that the Union government was arrogating too much power to itself at the expense of the states and provinces, the counter argument was that the powerful centre was needed to uphold and enforce the fundamental rights of the citizen.”

P N Vasanti, Director, Centre for Media Studies, JNU presented her paper demonstrating entertainment dynamics of post-colonial period. Her topic was ‘Entertaining the Nation: A Social History of Cinema and Television in Post-Independent India’ Vasanti described that how things have been depicted and portrayed in Indian Cinema and TV raising vital social issues positively.

Rajya Sabha TV’s Executive Director, Rajesh Badal presented his paper on the topic ‘Nehru in the literary imagination’. Rajesh Badal discussed about Nehru’s understanding of literature. Some of Nehru’s speeches and texts are well known whether we talk about his noted speech “Tryst with Destny” or his letters.

He pointed out Nehru’s contribution to the nation building by reciting poetry of some of the great poets recognizing Nehru’s excellence. The influence of Nehru in literary imagination can be seen on several occasions. Famous poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhiyanvi expressed his grief and pain on Nehru’s demise with these words “Jism ki maut koi maut nahi hoti hai, jism mit jane se insaan nahi mar jate”.
The concluding session of IHC 2014 was presided by eminent historian Professor Mridula Mukherji.