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Economic Ideas of Dr. Ram Mohan Lohia

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The following points highlight the top twelve economic ideas of Dr. Ram Mohan Lohia. Some of the economic ideas are: 1. Individual Freedom 2. Planning 3. Gender Difference 4. Solution to Food Problem 5. Imperialism and Colonialism 6. International Trade and Aid and Assistance to Under Developed Countries 7. The Concept of Four-Pillar State and Decentralisation of Economic and Political Powers and Others.

Economic Idea # 1. Individual Freedom:

Like most of the classical economists such as Adam Smith, J.B. Say and J.S. Mill, Dr. Lohia advocates Individual Freedom. He holds that men are by nature equal and free. His mind was tremendously influenced by the German Philosophers and Scholars – namely Kant, Hegel, Karl Marx and others. He agrees to Kantian view point that the individual is rational and has will of his own. Like Kant and Laski, he considers Liberty and equality as the necessary attributes of the individual.

Lohia in the preface to his monumental book ‘Marx Gandhi and Socialism’, has mentioned seven revolutions, through which a better society can be established which will result in the progress of both individual and the society. His seventh revolution aims at protecting privacy against encroachment by the collective.

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He regrets to see the modern trend in which the individual has been steadily losing his sovereignty to organization. Laski and Russel have also expressed similar views. According to Lohia, the individual welfare and happiness, education and health, also his leisure and much of his life and thought are subject to planning of various kinds. “This planning is rigorous in lands of communism but a growing element of organizational compulsion is present everywhere”.

Lohia further argues that there are certain spheres of life which should be free from the control of State, Government, Organisations and Groups. Rights of privacy in the sphere of house-keeping, entertainment, marriage should be maintained. An individual should have full freedom for choosing any profession and membership of any political party. State or Government or Political party should not interfere with the private life of individual.

Every individual should have right to lead his life according to his choice up to a certain limit. Lohia fears this right may be misused by the individual. But when one’s right is recognised and if that is misused then what should be done. In this connection Lohia says let the individual suffer. Lohia surpasses Mill, when the firmly opines that every man or woman should have even the right to commit suicide.

Nobody has right to interfere with this personal matter of individual, his choice of committing suicide. Mill allows interference in purely personal matter when one is about to commit suicide or insists on doing something whose dangerous nature is not known to him. It will never be an attack upon one’s liberty if individual is prevented from committing suicide.

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Mill justifies such intervention on the ground that the individual at the time of committing suicide does not know his own true interest; society knows it better and so can legitimately restrain him. The notion of individual freedom as advocated by Lohia has divided freedom into two parts – the first is connected with non-property matter and second one is connected with property.

He advocates full freedom to individuals in non-property matters. He asserts, “Rights of privacy and freedom must be recognised in all those spheres which are not directly connected with property”. It shows that Dr. Lohia also accepts certain degree of interference in property matters but even in property matters Lohia never approves of complete State control as is prevalent in the communist system. He wants to restrain state interference only in those spheres which are directly connected with property.

Lohia is a staunch supporter of liberty for backward people which Mill refuses to grant. Lohia wants to give preferential treatment to backward people for a certain period. In this connection, he surpasses Mill who proves to be a bit conservative in his approach to liberty.

Economic Idea # 2. Planning:

Lohia does not out-rightly oppose State planning. He says that State Planning always aims at doing good. But he does not like such a planning which is rooted in compulsion and curtails much of the individual freedom. Lohia fears that State Planning may encroach on the individual privacy.

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Lohia points out the defect of the then Congress in matter of planning. The Congress had not planned things well. It is protected the capitalist. It is like a person in whirlpool reaching out its hands in whatever direction it can without success. He observes, “Thus, while classless society is declared as its goal, the Congress in practice aligns itself with Landlords and Capitalists”.

The pattern of big fish devouring small fries is prevailing under the Congress regime. Poverty, increasing population, unemployment lawlessness, corruption, deceit, arson and loot have become the normal features of the society.

As a result, there is frustration everywhere. To quote Lohia “owing to the painlessness and the initial blunders of the Congress, the country is at a standstill with an ever-increasing population; this means retrogression. Production is declining, poverty is on the increase, and there is disillusionment and distrust all round”.

Economic Idea # 3. Gender Difference:

In Lohia’s view, there is no distinction between men and women. Men and women both should be equally placed in the society. Like Plato, Indian saints and other thinkers, Lohia also advocates equality between men and women. He observes “women will be given equal status with men in all matters – political, social and economic. In the sphere of education women will receive preferential treatment to enable them to overcome existing disparities with men”.

Through legislation and through propaganda and education, all social customs and practices that go against the principles of equality of women with men will be ended. Lohia holds the view that women have always been neglected in the society. Their status is very low. They are backward in all respects. Therefore, it is necessary to bring them on equal footing with men. He further says that women can be equated with men only by preferential opportunity rather than equal opportunity.

Lohia opines that “equal opportunity would not solve the problem of inequality between the sexes. When a group of people is held down by debility, physical or cultural, the only way to bring it up to equality with others is through conferment of preferential opportunity.

An Indian woman is a bond maid at the mercy of her parents till her marriage and after marriage a slave to her husband. Lohia wants this to be done away by giving preferential treatment to the fair sex. Like men, participation of women in the socialist movement is equally necessary, as Lohia says – “A socialist movement without the active participation of women is like a wedding without the bride”.

Economic Idea # 4. Solution to Food Problem—Ghera Dalo Andolan (Gherao):

Lohia has suggested Ghera Dalo Andolan for the solution of food problems during the time of famine. The socialist party believes in the method of Ghera Dalo Andolan which makes an appeal to the Government either to – “give bread” to hungry people or “send them to jail”. According to Lohia, “under the Ghera Dalo Andolan hungry people should Gherao the Government’s offices, Government’s godowns, godowns of big traders and hoarders up to the time they get food or they get themselves arrested”.

Such movements were launched at Deoriya in U.P. and Daltonganj in Bihar and people got success in the year, 1958. This Ghera Dalo Andolan should be strictly peaceful and non-violent in Gandhian way. Lohia has suggested two other movements for solving food problem. First, the socialist two other movements for solving food problem.

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First, the socialist party should lauch Anna Banto or distribute food movement. Under this movement, hungry masses should peacefully seize godowns, weigh food grains, maintain an account of the total food grains and then distribute food grains among themselves. Later on, when they become capable of paying, they return the taken food grains plus one- fourth more or pay in cash. But Lohia says this movement is possible only when the people are strong and police weak.

Secondly, without weighing and maintaining account of food grains, hungry masses should distribute food grains among themselves but this should be performed peacefully and non-violently. In this connection, Lohia warns people that “godowns or retailers or commission taking goledars should not be seized. Such type of movement was prevalent in Germany”.

Ghera Dalo Andolan, Anna Banto and Anna Banto Movement without keeping records of food grains – all these three movements suggested by Lohia for solving food problem during famine are sound in theory but impracticable, unmanageable and undesirable in practice. These will create chaos and anarchy in the society, and the problem may be further complicated.

Economic Idea # 5. Imperialism and Colonialism:

Lohia was against imperialism and colonialism. According to him all forms of colonialism are shame to mankind and serious impediment to growth of equal world. Political rule of an occupation army and of one nation over another must go. All colonial states of the world must be set free. “Socialist internationalism must stand behind all struggles against colonialism and render all possible assistance to freedom fighters”.

Economic Idea # 6. International Trade and Aid and Assistance to Under Developed Countries:

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Lohia favours international trade but he warns that such trade should not be a one-way traffic rather it should be a two-way traffic. According to Lohia aid to underdeveloped countries must come through a World Development Authority to which every nation contributes according to its ability from which every nation receives according to its need.

He further points out that “until such an authority comes into being, international socialism may attempt to setup model projects through a capital collected from all such organisations and men as would listen to its appeal”.

Even within a nation, the more fortunate persons are called upon to assist the less fortunate ones, so in the international world, the more favoured ones should assist the less advanced. Backward nations should be helped to acquire the economic apparatus by which they can raise themselves. Our fight should be against hunger, disease and illiteracy.

Economic inequality is the main source of discord and war in the world. In order to remove the economic disparities, a World Development Authority should be established. Like Lohia, Radhakrishnan also supports the concept of World Economic Development Programme.

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Foreign aid in its present form is not only humiliating and dangerous to the receiving countries but can never be adequate to meet their needs and requirements. Such aid definitely, corrupts the backward countries.

Such a one sided giving and taking is one-way traffic and is erroneous in conception and harmful in consequences. Technological skills and economic aid should be voluntarily exchanged between rich and the retarded states through World Development Authority. And this mutual exchange should result in approximation not in imposition. This concept of two way traffic in the field of International Trade, Aid and Assistance is sound in theory but difficult in practice so long as distinction between Big and Small exists in the International field.

Economic Idea # 7. The Concept of Four-Pillar State and Decentralisation of Economic and Political Powers:

Lohia believes in decentralization of economic and political powers. For giving a solution to the malady of Indian administration, he gives the concept of Four-Pillar state which is based on the principle of division of powers. According to him Four-Pillar State constitutes four limbs of the State. They are the village, the district, the province and the centre with sovereign powers.

All these four limbs of the State will organically function. They will work interdependently. Sovereign powers must not reside alone in the centre and the federating units tut also with district and villages which are the primary political institutions where a group of men and women work for the interest of the whole community.

Thus Lohia considers that the greatest defect of Indian administration is the concentration of economic and political powers either in the centre or in the federating units. He suggests that there should be decentralization of political and economic powers in the four limbs of the Four-Pillar State.

Unless this is done, democratic institutions cannot flourish and active participation of people in administration cannot be reality. Concentration of economic power give rise to inequality and is a characteristic feature of capitalism where the economic power remains concentrated in the hands of a few.

Economic Idea # 8. Democracy and Democratic Institutions:

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Lohia considers democracy and democratic institutions very important for any nation. He says that democracy and socialism are the two sides of the same coin. “Democracy in all circumstances shall be the sheet-anchor of the ideas and programmes of the socialism. Democracy means the inevitable answerability of elected assembly. It also means the recognition and respect of limited personality of individual, party, Government and the State-four categories which together constitute the agencies of political action”.

Thus Lohia is fully convinced that it is only through democracy that freedom of thought can be best maintained. At the same time, he believes if democracy is organised on the principles of socialism, both freedom of mind and economic security to the individual can be attained.

The enjoyment of individual liberty cannot take a concrete form unless the state assures economic security or equality to the individual. Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen later testified it through practical examples of famines that took place in many countries. Countries with democratic system saved countless lives whereas people in large number died in other system of Governance.

Economic Idea # 9. Socialism, Capitalism and Communism:

Lohia is an exponent of socialism. He believes in the system of socialism. He is a born critic of capitalism and communism. He criticizes capitalism and communism on the ground that both the systems have failed to prepare the soil for the germination of the seeds of liberty and equality evenly. Therefore, Lohia prefers the system of socialism which believes in the equal growth of liberty and equality both.

According to him “if socialism is to be defined in two words then they are equality and prosperity. I do not know if this definition has been given earlier at any time. If so, I could call it the best definition given so far”.

Lohia says real freedom is not possible in capitalism and communism because capitalism breeds inequalities on the one hand and communism kills the spirit of individual freedom on the other. Therefore, both the systems are inimical to the true spirit of democracy which signifies liberty and equality both. Lohia, Russel, Laski and Nehru want to establish a democratic socialist society which will constantly move on the axis of liberty and equality. Liberty thus implies equality.

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Liberty and equality are not in conflict nor even separate, but are different facets of the same ideal. Lohia opines: “Freedom and bread are inseparable, at least in Asia, and neither communism nor capitalism can supply these two articles to us. I would suggest that Asia can be saved from communism only if it is saved from capitalism and feudalism”.

Therefore, to Lohia and Laski, equality is the primary condition of attaining freedom or justice. No one can dare to believe that it can be obtained under the capitalist system which practices privileges and distinctions. The real point that they wish to place in their discussion of liberty is that in the present hierarchically organised economic and political order, opportunities for creative self-expression are denied to all but small group of men.

Liberty in the sense of free play of the relative impulses of men and a high degree of individual diversity is incompatible with the present system of property, for its result is a concentration of power in a few hands which makes for the political personalizing of the average citizen ineffective.

Inequality is an inherent characteristic of capitalist society, while a Socialist Society will necessarily be an equal society. Both Lohia and Laski argue that economic inequality is the root cause of all other inequalities. They also say that freedom is meaningful only to a small minority in capitalist society which owns and controls property. Great inequalities of wealth make impossible the attainment of freedom.

The removal of inequality from the human society is one of the seven revolutions of Lohia. He points out that “the poorer the country, the greater is the inequality within it”. Lohia is firm in his thought that the capitalist society breeds inequality which proves antithetical to freedom. Similarly, he dislikes communist system which is based on fear; whereas, the capitalist system works under the temptation of profit. “Such systems which depend on temptation and fear for their dynamism and growth must inevitably breed inequality”.

Economic Idea # 10. Capital Formation:

Lohia holds the view that Industrialisation is not possible without capital formation. As per his prescription, in a poor and diseased country like India, Capital could be formed only through the way of equality. “Capitalism cannot perform its own functions here. Capitalism cannot create capital, prosperity and thereby capital formation can come only through equality”.

Economic Idea # 11. Other Contributions:

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Lohia’s thought was not confined to the national boundary. He advocated World Civilization, World Parliament, World Government, World Development Authority and World Citizenship. Lohia was opposed to ‘United Nations’ in its present form and was in favour of replacing it by a world parliament which will be organised on the principles of universality and equality.

He was having a broad outlook and so he visualised the concept of World Civilization, World Parliament, World Government, World Development Authority and World Citizenship. He further explains that under the atmosphere of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism and racialism, the above concepts cannot be a reality.

Therefore, for the realizations of world citizenship, economic inequality, political slavery and the feeling of racialism must stop without any delay. He gives the example of India which is gripped by poverty and torn by example of India which is gripped by poverty and torn by religions and castes. According to him, it seems ridiculous to make the submerged and hungry landless labourer a world citizen.

Lohia shows the boldness to say that our attempt to create a new civilization through World Government must not cease. In this context, he finally concludes, “And yet this movement for World Government in conjunction with socialism may be that lever which raises the submerged millions to new hope and endeavour”.

Economic Idea # 12. Technology:

“The technology of Modern Europe is an imperialist technology in origin and in current substance is incapable of reproduction all over the word unless an abundance of colonies in other planets were discovered”. The industrial revolution of Europe and modern technology are incapable of repetition in Asia and Africa.

Too little land and too many men and too few tools are a mark of Asia, so a full application of a mass production is utterly impossible. Lohia further says that existing technology made possible by the imperialist control which European civilization exercises over the rest of the world is no longer valid. In a way, Lohia favoured the use of labour intensive technique for a country like India where there is abundance of labour and death of capital.

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Conclusion:

Dr. Lohia was an ardent supporter of Individual Freedom, Democratic Institutions and Socialism. He advocated democratic socialism. He was critical of high powers which were either following capitalism or communism. He was against direct aid of any kind from developed economies to underdeveloped economies like India because of the fact that in such aid there was a feeling of domination in the givers and a feeling of subjugation in the receivers.

He recommended such aid through world Development Authority where rich nations may contribute to the poor ones. He favoured international trade but it should not be a one-way traffic rather it should be a two-way traffic.

The chief contribution of Lohia lies in analysing and exposing the danger of modern capitalism and communism and putting up a proposal for a socialistic system which can ensure maximum welfare to the people through material comfort and at the same time assure freedom for the full development of individual.

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