Halfway through the book and I have decided to give it a rest. I seriously don’t know whether I will once again take it up to finish it. The reason being that I didn’t give up on the book because it had any flaws – it was because it is heavy reading which I am finding difficult right now.
So it won’t be part of my 2014 book list for now but I am still going to go ahead and share a few thoughts on the book since it is an effort to bring to light the writings of J C Kumarappa who happens to be a forgotten figure in Indian history. To be honest, I didn’t know of him till I started this book.
About J C Kumarappa
J C Kumarappa was born in 1892 in Tamil Nadu. After working for a British auditing firm in London for a few years, he went to the US to study public finance at the Colombia University. It was during this time that he became acquainted with nationalist thought and the writings of Gandhi and Tagore. In 1929, he returned to India, joined Gandhiji’s ashram and started publishing his works which led to imprisonment multiple times for sedition. He was also chosen by Gandhi to organise the All India Village Industries Associations (AIVIA) which undertook research, training and propaganda. In his last years, he set up training institutes for village youth in Tamil Nadu and pushed for reforms for the landless labourers. He passed away due to multiple health problems in 1960.
Back to Basics is a collection of all his writings that were published in various journals like the Young India, etc. Some of them are published verbatim and some are excerpts. They cover a wide range of subjects and the book is accordingly divided into sections.
The book starts off with “Public Finance and our Poverty” which is actually an excerpt from his masters thesis of 1928. His analysis is detailed and insightful. To give an example, he has presented a contrast of America and Britain in terms of their percentage expenditure on social sector. This is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in the economic policies of the British in India.
As a true Gandhian, he has voiced his support in the strongest terms to decentralized rule by the villages and swaraj. He has written in support of Khadi and other small scale industries and has vehemently opposed rice mills, calling it “High Placed Hypocrisy”. He has also been very harsh in his criticism of the Indian Constitution, equating it to a “Schoolboy’s Essay”.
In an almost prophetic tone, he has written that dividing India along linguistic lines will definitely lead to inter-state water disputes and feed parochialism. As an alternative, he has suggested that provinces should be divided on the basis of river valleys and States can be named accordingly – Kaveri State, Krishna State, etc. – and that this will lead to peaceful co-existence.
Whether we choose to agree or disagree with his views is a different issue which I am going to tactfully sidestep. Overall though, this is a good read for anyone interested in understanding the Gandhian school of thought.