Anil Nauriya: 75 Years of Independent India

The Soviet Union lasted less than 75 years even if reckoned from 1917.

Independent India has now crossed that threshold and that is a reason for satisfaction.

The Indian experiment has been no less bold than the Soviet if only because the challenges it has faced have been at least equally profound.

Both Russia and India were peasant-based economies when they started out on their new journey, Russia’s in 1917 and India’s in 1947. India was under a full-scale colonialism, alien and extractive, of a kind that Russia did not encounter and indeed no part of the Soviet Union faced in recent centuries. Yet challenges to the Russia project and the India project were severe and came from both similar and differing sources.

Russia and India chose somewhat different paths though over time they learnt a few things from each other.

The former remained a one-party state while the latter had multiple political formations from the very beginning, vying powerfully with one another in the electoral arena. Indeed, the Quit India resolution adopted at Bombay, as it then was, by the All India Congress Committee on 8 August 1942, had pledged that swaraj, when it came, would be for all Indians and not for the Congress alone. Already by 1967, within a couple of decades of independence, it was said that one could travel on the Grand Trunk Road from Amritsar to Calcutta, as it then was, without passing through a single Congress-ruled state.

In keeping with another commitment reflected in its struggle for freedom, India gave free play also to regional languages. Russia did not place equal emphasis on this aspect of its social and cultural life.

India’s Planning process and especially the Second Five Year Plan in the 1950s was influenced by the Feldman model in the Soviet Union.

Independent India did not, however, squeeze out its private sector. It sought instead to demarcate commanding heights and areas that would be under state control or in respect of which the state would have a leading role. This led to the birth of a strong Public Sector which stood India largely in good stead in later years….