The years 1951 to 1964 were marked by maturity and accomplishment. They were also years of high expectations, optimism, and self-assurance. In April 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru could say, "I shall not be satisfied until every man, woman, and child in the country has a fair deal and a minimum standard of living..." A nation should not be judged after only five or six years. Wait another ten years and you will see how our plans will completely transform the country, leaving the rest of the world in awe.
• After independence political system began to take shape, when the country began to progress in all directions, and, most importantly, when the massive reconstruction of the polity and economy began. People saw progress toward the fundamental goals of democracy, civil liberties, secularism, a scientific and international perspective, economic development, and planning, with socialism as the final destination. But also some dissatisfaction among the intelligentsia with the slow pace of development, particularly with regard to poverty and employment issues, as well as the slow and unsatisfactory progress of land reforms.
(a) The consolidation of the nation and the solution of the language and tribal problems,
(b) The initiation of the process of independent and planned economic development,
(c) The evolution of an independent and innovative foreign policy,
(d) The initiation of the electoral process,
• The Indian leaders, building on the traditions of the national movement, strengthened the foundations of democracy in the country through their political functioning. They prioritized the institutional aspects of the democratic system, resulting in a gradual increase in public support for parliamentary institutions. They followed democratic institutions and procedures not only in spirit but also in form. Despite his absolute power, Nehru made sure that political power was widely distributed and diffused.
• The Press was given free rein, even when it harshly criticised the government, putting civil liberties on a firm footing. Even when they turned down a major piece of popular legislation, such as agrarian reform, the courts' independence was carefully nurtured.
ROLE OF OPPOSITION:
• Even though his party had an overwhelming majority in parliament, early national leaders like Nehru treated it with respect and made every effort to maintain its dignity, prestige, and power. He made it a point to sit through Question Hour and attend parliamentary debates in order to make it a major forum for public expression.
• The opposition also contributed by respecting the parliament and its procedures, operating without fear in its halls, and maintaining a high standard of parliamentary debates. Furthermore, parliamentary committees like the Estimates Committee began to play an increasingly important role as critics and watchdogs of the government administration.
• The cabinet system evolved in a healthy and effective manner under Nehru's leadership. The goal was to make the cabinet the primary decision-maker in collective policymaking. Nehru was courteous and respectful to his cabinet colleagues. ‘Nehru as head of the Cabinet was gentle, considerate, and democratic, never forcing a decision on his colleagues,' wrote C. D. Deshmukh, India's Finance Minister from 1950 to 1956, later in his autobiography. Decisions were made by consensus rather than by vote, as far as I recall from my time.'
• Despite the Congress party's dominance, the Opposition's role was bolstered during this time. Nehru gave opposition parties equal time and respect, and he was receptive to their criticism.
• Despite their small numbers, the opposition parties were able to take advantage of the fact that the Congress was not a monolithic organization that encompassed a variety of political and ideological trends. By influencing the various ideological strands in Congress, they were able to influence government policies. Nehru also encouraged the Congress party to accommodate new social forces and trends by respecting and promoting internal democracy and debate within the party.
ROLE OF FEDERALISM:
• During the Nehru years, the Constitution's provision for federalism was established as a firm feature of Indian polity, with a genuine devolution of power to the states. Nehru did not impose decisions on state governments or interfere with their policies because he respected their autonomy, though he did take care to inform them of his own thinking and occasionally advise or even insist on their acceptance of a particular policy.
• He also gave state Congress parties the authority to choose their own party and government leaders. He relied on state leaders and governments to better understand their own complex issues. He was willing to put up with a lot in the process.
• Indeed, one of the reasons why Nehru would not go too far in pressuring states to implement land reforms in his vision was that land reform was a state subject, and he would not trample on the states' rights and powers, even for his favorite cause.
• Nehru would guide, advice, and compel, but he would not cross constitutional lines; he would adhere to constitutional etiquette in both spirit and form.
• In fact, one of the main reasons for the failures of the agricultural, educational, health, and other social welfare programmers was the Centre's reliance on the states to carry them out, because these were state subjects. Nehru, on the other hand, would not allow the central government's prestige or authority to be eroded. He always made a clear distinction between centralization of power or the Center's dominance of the states and a strong Center needed for nation building, maintaining the country's unity and independence, and keeping disruptive and divisive forces in check.
• The fact that the same party ruled in both places was a major factor in the development of harmonious relations between the Centre and the states, which kept centrifugal forces in check. The fact that some of the tallest men and women in Indian politics served in the Cabinet as well as the Congress Working Committee aided the Centre's leadership role.
FEAR OF ARMED FORCES:
• During these years, the civil government's supremacy over the armed forces became firmly established. Traditionally, the Indian armed forces were non-political and accepted civilian control and leadership. However, their ability to continue in this role was not guaranteed.
• Nehru, in particular, was concerned about the military intervening in politics and government in unusual circumstances, as happened in nineteenth-century France and Germany, and more recently in many Third-World countries. In order to avoid such a scenario in India, he took several steps.
• He kept the armed forces small, refusing to allow them to expand even after the United States began providing large-scale military aid to Pakistan in 1954. Defense spending was also kept to a bare minimum, accounting for less than 2% of national income.
• The armed forces were given a heterogeneous character, with almost every region and section of society represented, abandoning the British colonial practice of recruiting men in the army based on ‘martial' classes. In this way, India was shielded from the threat of militarism during its formative years.
• Two other considerations prompted the small size of the armed forces and expenditure on them: avoiding diversion of scarce resources from economic development; and, given the lack of domestic defense industries, avoiding dependence on foreign powers and the possibility of foreign intervention in India's internal and foreign affairs.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE
• It was to be decided immediately after independence whether independent India's government should continue to use the administrative structure and machinery inherited from the colonial regime and "designed to serve the relatively simple interests of an occupying power." The Indian Civil Service was the lynchpin of this system.
• The ICS had to be the starting point if the structure was to be replaced or overhauled.
• Initially, there were differences in approach between Nehru and Patel, who dealt directly with the administrative services as Home Minister.
• Nehru was a vehement critic of the ICS and the bureaucracy in general, not only because of their colonial ancestry, but also because of their fundamental conservatism. He referred to the existing administrative structure as "the ship of State" in 1946, saying it was "old and battered and slow-moving and unsuited to this age of swift change." ‘It will have to be scrapped and another will have to take its place,' he said.
• Patel, on the other hand, believed that keeping the existing administrative machinery in place was necessary during the troubled times when internal stability appeared to be in jeopardy and chaos seemed imminent. He didn't want a sudden break in the administration, especially since the ICS and other all-India services provided the only trained personnel available.
• Nehru reluctantly accepted Patel's position, realizing that there was no other option than to rely on the existing all-India services if a breakdown of administration was to be avoided. Over time, he, too, came to rely heavily on these services, admiring their administrative efficiency, especially as he realized that the other human resources available to him were woefully inadequate.
• Many have argued, following Lenin in The State and Revolution, which the existing state administrative apparatus should have been "smashed" or dismantled, and that doing so would have been relatively simple in the early stages of a new state.
• We believe that, given India's and other countries' historical experience, having well-trained, versatile, and experienced civil servants at the outset when the country was in turmoil was a distinct asset and advantage for India, and that they did a good job in the difficult post-Partition years.
• While maintaining the existing bureaucracy and administrative structure was unavoidable and perhaps even prudent in the circumstances, failing to "rebuild and transform their character" was clearly a liability. During the colonial period, the administrative structure was primarily built to maintain law and order and collect land revenue. It needed to be overhauled, albeit slowly, to meet the needs of a democratic and developing society, as well as to be capable of implementing new economic and social welfare policies.
• Nehru, in particular, was well aware of the existing bureaucracy's inability to comprehend people's problems and carry out new tasks. He was convinced that the problem could be solved in one of two ways:
a. By educating the entire machine.
b. Second, by deploying a new type of individual where it is required.'
• However, neither of the two steps was taken. Rather, the new IAS was modelled after the old ICS, and this pattern was followed all the way down the bureaucracy.
• The few who joined Community Development projects out of idealism and social commitment, for example, were quickly disappointed when they discovered that they were being dominated, looked down on, and treated as low-paid underlings by traditional, higher bureaucrats.
• The administration did not only not improve over time, but it actually worsened, becoming even more inefficient and inaccessible. The bureaucracy's attitude toward the people and their problems, particularly the police, became increasingly unhelpful.
• Above all, there was the corruption's evil. During the Nehru era, there were clear signs that political and administrative corruption was on the rise. The tentacles of corruption were not yet far-reaching in the 1950s, however, and checks were in place in the form of a political leadership and cadres with roots in the freedom struggle and Gandhian ethos, a large, honest bureaucracy, particularly in its middle and upper rungs, and a judiciary with a high level of integrity.
• As a result, the evil could still be defeated with relative ease. Nehru and other leaders were well aware of the issues with government administration.
• When a case of corruption involving his ministers was discovered, Nehru took immediate action. However, he was wary of waging an anti-corruption campaign, fearful that it would create a general atmosphere of suspicion and accusations, to which he believed Indians were already prey, and thus prevent officials and ministers from making timely decisions and taking responsibility.
DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
• Scientific research and technological education were two major achievements of the Nehru era. Nehru believed that science and technology were critical in resolving India's issues.
• ‘It was science alone that could solve these problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources going to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people,' he said in a message to the Indian Science Congress in January 1938.
• This viewpoint was reaffirmed in the Lok Sabha's Scientific Policy Resolution of March 1958, which recognized the importance of science and technology in the country's economic, social, and cultural advancement.
• Nehru became aware of the critical role that scientific research and technology would play in India's defense after 1947. On January 4, 1947, the foundation stone of India's first national laboratory, the National Physical Laboratory, was laid as part of an effort to promote self-sustaining scientific and technological growth.
• During the Nehru years, a network of seventeen national laboratories, each specializing in a different area of research, was established. Nehru assumed the chairmanship of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which guided and funded national laboratories and other scientific institutions, to emphasize the importance of science and scientific research.
• Urgent steps have also been taken to organize the training of technical personnel, which the country desperately needs. The first of the five institutes of technology, modelled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was established in Kharagpur in 1952, with the other four following in Madras, Bombay, Kanpur, and Delhi.
• Scientific research, on the other hand, began to suffer as a result of the scientific institutes' highly bureaucratic and hierarchical organization and management structure, which bred factionalism and conflict, as well as frustration, among their personnel. This was a major factor in the scientist brain drain that began in the late 1950s.
• One of the first countries to recognize the importance of nuclear energy was India. Nuclear energy, Nehru believed, would bring about a global revolution in the social, economic, and political spheres, as well as have an impact on nations' defense capabilities.
• To develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the Government of India established the Atomic Energy Commission in August 1948, with Homi J. Bhabha, India's leading nuclear scientist, as chairperson, in the Department of Scientific Research, which was under Nehru's direct charge.
• In 1954, the government established a separate Department of Atomic Energy, which reports to the Prime Minister and is headed by Homi Bhabha. In August 1956, India's first nuclear reactor in Trombay, Bombay, also the first in Asia, reached criticality. Her on-going and well-advanced nuclear programed included the construction of several nuclear power plants that would generate electricity in a few years. Despite India's commitment to peaceful uses of nuclear power, its nuclear capacity could have easily been used to produce the atomic bomb and other nuclear weapons.
• India has also embarked on a journey into space exploration. In 1962, it established the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) and a Rocket Launching Facility at Thumba (TERLS). As Defense Minister, Krishna Menon took steps to initiate defence research and development. Steps were also taken to increase India's defense equipment manufacturing capacity, allowing the country to gradually become self-sufficient in its defence requirements. Despite dire warnings that an illiterate population would be unable to cope with the change, India adopted decimal coinage and a metric system of weights and measures.