Courtesy Reuters

India in Transition

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: PERFORMANCE AND PROSPECTS

OF the many experiments in the purposeful promotion of economic development which the world has witnessed since the end of World War II, incomparably the most important among underdeveloped countries is India's. The population involved in this experiment constitutes a third of the people of the non-communist underdeveloped world-more human beings than are to be found in all the underdeveloped countries of Africa and Latin America put together. The development planning effort undertaken by the Indians is one of the oldest and probably the most sophisticated to be found in any of these countries. Finally, it has been conducted in the context of a genuinely democratic political system, with repeated free elections, substantial freedom of expression by opposition groups and two orderly changes of top leadership. Three five-year plans have been completed since Independence, and India is in its fourth quinquennium of serious development effort.

Two successive disastrous monsoons in the crop years 1965-66 and 1966-67 focused so much attention on an emergency food situation that the record of the preceding fifteen years and its lessons for the future have been somewhat neglected. There is now some danger that because of the concentration of both Indians and those helping India on the important problems of agricultural production, the problems of overall economic growth are not being adequately recognized. Agricultural prospects now look bright, but there is a real possibility that a severe foreign-exchange shortage will soon develop, forcing continued depression on the modern non- agricultural sectors of the economy, choking off agricultural growth and producing political consequences of unknown dimensions.

Before exploring in more detail the exact shape of this cloud on the horizon, it will be well to review India's performance to date and some of the reasons for it. The record of the first fourteen years of planned development is one of fairly steady and impressive growth, culminating in a year of good weather and record agricultural output, followed then by drought and war.

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