ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Championing the Village Movement

The Web of Freedom: J C Kumarappa and Gandhi’s Struggle for Economic Justice by Venu Madhav Govindu and Deepak Malghan; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016; pp 388, 817.


Let me start with an anecdote from the book under review. A meeting of the Planning Commission Advisory Committee has been organised at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa arrives in a horse-drawn tonga, but is ordered off the road with the excuse that Jawaharlal Nehru’s motorcade is to pass. His Gandhian sensibilities are incensed and in the meeting he threatens to arrive the next day in a bullock cart, adding for good measure that, in a democracy, a Prime Minister and a bullock-cart driver are equal. Nehru tries to mollify Kumarappa by saying that bullock carts are not allowed on these roads for their own safety, since the road is frequented by military trucks. Kumarappa argues from common sense that if one person is a threat to another then the restriction ought to be placed on the former! This anecdote is justly famous, illustrating as it does both Kumarappa’s world view and his personality.

Once a prominent figure in Congress circles, the creator of the All India Village Industries Association (AIVIA), the only Gandhian on the pre-independence National Planning Committee (NPC), and the chair of the post-independence Agrarian Reforms Committee (ARC), Kumarappa is today rather less known. This book should go a long way in changing this. A comprehensive intellectual biography of J C Kumarappa (1892–1960) was long overdue and this book, by Bengaluru-based researchers Venu Madhav Govindu and Deepak Malghan, fits the bill admirably. Govindu and Malghan trace his evolution from a successful Bombay-based accountant, to his stint in Columbia University as a student of E A Seligman, to his transformation into one of the most important thinkers and practitioners of Mahatma Gandhi’s “village economics,” and finally to his disillusionment with both the official inheritors of Gandhi’s legacy and the Nehru-led first Congress government. Meticulously researched and well-written, a striking feature of the book is the inspirational quality of the writing. Kumarappa’s story is told in a way that is likely to stir one into action.

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Updated On : 8th Jun, 2017
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