[The subject question, by one Mr. Basu, was not only based on gross
falsification of facts, as brought out by the article below, it's also
founded on a deeply flawed theoretical premise.
Independent India started off with a very poor agricultural, industrial and
human resources base.
The economy kept gathering momentum by and by.
Only by building up these bases, brick by brick.
Having been freed from a century long colonial oppressions and

As per one estimate, from 1900-01 to 1945-46, National Income grew by a
measly 74% (ref.: Table 2, 'The Growth of the Indian Economy: 1860-1960' by
Krishnan G. Saini, University of Texas at <http://www.roiw.org/1969/247.pdf
That works out to 1.24% annual growth rate. As per some other estimate, it
was 0.8%. (Ref.: <https://gurcharandas.org/rich-nation-poor>.)
>From 1950-1980, the average GDP growth rate experienced a very significant
leap (about 2.5 to 4 times, depending on the growth rate figure considered
for the pre-Independence period) to 3.4%; between 1980 and 2000, it rose
further to 5.8%, post-2000, it breached the ceiling of 8% annual rate of
growth, with occasional dips and having peaked to 10.3% in 2010. (Ref.:
'Growth and Reforms during 1980s and 1990s' by Arvind Panagariya at <
and <

Of course, the growth story is significantly less impressive than that of,
rather comparable, China or far smaller four East Asian Tigers.
But, on the plus side, Independent India all along had a functional
democracy but for a brief interegnum, 1975-77.
That's considered quite a feat, as far as the newly decolonised countries
are concerned.

《But starting 1980, India has almost always beaten the global average of
GDP per capita growth – and this includes years when Indira Gandhi and
Rajiv Gandhi were at the helm.
Meanwhile, on twitter, some users pointed out that even for the early Nehru
years, any assessment of GDP growth has to take into account a country
emerging from centuries of exploitative colonial rule and the horrors of
Partition. Others, of course, disagreed.》]


Is it true India’s income growth beat the world average only when
Nehru-Gandhis were not in power?
Not really.
Is it true India’s income growth beat the world average only when
Nehru-Gandhis were not in power?

10 hours ago

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

Over the last few days, an exchange between Congress president Rahul Gandhi
and an author in Singapore has gone viral. In typical internet fashion, the
video has been edited and interpreted to mean different things to different
people. To supporters of Rahul Gandhi, it is proof that he is willing to
face tough questions from ordinary people, unlike Prime Minister Narendra
Modi. To detractors, it is evidence that the Congress leader has no answers
for difficult queries and simply attempts to deflect from them. A look at
the top YouTube videos covering this exchange gives a sense of this

[Three Screenshots]

For many others, the content of the question, by Prasenjit K Basu, an
author, has become a talking point. Basu, who has recently published an
economic and political history of Asia, asked Rahul Gandhi why India’s per
capita income had grown above the global average only in the years when a
member of his family – referring to Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and
Rajiv Gandhi – was not prime minister.

Here is a transcript of the somewhat testy exchange:

Basu: “My name is PK Basu. I’m the author of a book called Asia Reborn. The
first comprehensive economic and political history of the whole of Asia.
And, my question is this. I also teach economic history to students in
Business School. My question is this: why is it that during the years that
your family ruled India, India’s per capita income was growing less than
the world average. And yet, in the years since your family reliniquished
the prime ministership of India, India’s per capita income has grown
substantially faster than the world.”

Rahul Gandhi: What is your hypothesis?

Basu: I asked you a question, my hypothesis is in my book, please read the
book. It’s called Asia Reborn.

Rahul Gandhi: You are giving a hell of a lot of power to one family.

Basu: Since you asked me a counter question, let me just elaborate the
question a bit. At the point of Independence, India’s per capita income was
one of the lowest in the world. India’s life expectancy at birth was 32
years, the lowest in the world. Africa’s average was 38. So when you are
the poorest country in the world, you should be growing faster than the
world average in order to close the gap. Unfortunately, during the period
of your family rule, India did not achieve that. That’s my question, why?

Rahul Gandhi: Do you agree that India is a success today?

Basu: Of course. A relative success, since your family has relinquished the
prime ministership. Since then, not before.

Rahul Gandhi: So you’re saying, for example, that I had absolutely no role
in Indian politics from 2004 to today. You’re saying that? Make up your
mind. Either I have a role or don’t have a role. You can’t give me both

Rahul Gandhi does not engage with the basic part of the question and
instead only picks up on one of the inferences, that he and his family had
nothing to do with the tremendous economic success of India between 2004
and 2014, when it was ruled by the Congress under Manmohan Singh. That may
almost seem to be a concession.

But is the premise of the question itself correct? Was India’s per capita
income higher than the global average only when someone other than a
Nehru-Gandhi was in power?

The World Bank has maintained such data for both India and the world since
1961, so it is easy to do a comparison. This does not cover the first 13
years of independent India, when Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather,
Jawaharlal Nehru, was in power. But it does include the Indira Gandhi
years, from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984. It also covers Rajiv
Gandhi’s prime ministership, from 1984 to 1989.

As these two charts show, Nehru’s last few years and Indira Gandhi’s first
term saw India’s GDP growth per capita suffer, although it is important to
remember that those years included three wars – with China in 1962, and
Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.

[Two Charts]

But starting 1980, India has almost always beaten the global average of GDP
per capita growth – and this includes years when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv
Gandhi were at the helm.

Meanwhile, on twitter, some users pointed out that even for the early Nehru
years, any assessment of GDP growth has to take into account a country
emerging from centuries of exploitative colonial rule and the horrors of
Partition. Others, of course, disagreed.

An independent evidence of GDP jump in early 1980s comes from A. Virmani,
R. Malhotra, "Shaping the Indian miracle: Acceleration towards high
growth", in L. de Mello (Ed.), 'Growth and Sustainability in Brazil, China,
India, Indonesia and South Africa', 2010, OECD, p. 94.

— M. S. M. Saifullah (@msmsaifullah) March 12, 2018

How does GDP per capita stack up since India's independence? A graphical
representation of data shows two rises - one just after independence and
the other in early 80s (Somanathan, E., "Understanding India's Economic
Growth", Economic & Political Weekly, 2011, Vol. XLVI, p. 29).

— M. S. M. Saifullah (@msmsaifullah) March 11, 2018

Hey @PrasenjitKBasu, for someone who teaches economic history, your grasp
of the subject is questionable. World Bank data show that India’s per
capita income growth decisively crossed the world average in 1980. You know
who governed for nine of the next ten years. 1/n pic.twitter.com/QWtPBIhZLE

— Amitabh Dubey (@dubeyamitabh) March 9, 2018

even though your question compares apples with oranges, lets amuse you...
since 1961 (World Bank GDP data), there have been 26 years of Nehru-Gandhi
PMship (61-64, 66-77, 80-89) there've been 16 instances where India's GDP
grew faster than World. pic.twitter.com/NmSJ7lSnN6

— AJIT LAMB (AIPC MUMBAI WEST) (@paediatric_inc) March 8, 2018

I can't believe I have to do this once every month. To put this in context,
the German (West German) GDP grew in this time,say in 1950 at 25% after
being bombed in to oblivion. By the time Nehru was on his deathbed FRG had
already grown 250%.
(Our 3rd 5yr plan was growing @ 2.4%) https://t.co/itySHyDJcx

— gab.ai/Sourav 🇮🇳🇮🇱 (@tweetingsourav) March 9, 2018

Simplistic premise
Again, it appears that during the first few years after Indira Gandhi
became prime minister in 1965 growth did stagnate. But Basu has stuck to
his guns, insisting on looking at the average of income growth between 1950
and 1980 and saying this was anemic. The family-focused question that Basu
asked in Singapore is not one he sticks to even in his own book, in which
he points out that during the Emergency under Indira Gandhi,

“not only did real GDP grow 9 per cent in FY 1975-76 (the fastest growth
for any year until that time), but India also had a current account
surplus, the trains and planes ran on time, and the cities were notably

— "Asia Reborn", Prasenjit K Basu

A genuine engagement with this issue, of course, involves not pinning
things on simplistic suggestions such as that “income growth only did
better than the world average when Nehru-Gandhis were out of power”.

This is because such arguments obscure other questions that economists have
validly engaged with over the years. For example, even if he can be
credited with stabilising India in the first years after independence,
could Nehru have done more to put India on a growth path like other
emerging nations were able to following World War II?

Similarly, Basu’s simplistic premise falls apart entirely in the 1980s,
when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were in power and the income growth was
higher than the world average. But the actual growth in those years was
still less than that of Southeast Asian nations, which were booming.
Moreover, the policies of those years led to the balance of payments crisis
that forced liberalisation to speed up by the end of the decade.

By turning his question into a simplistic barb at Rahul Gandhi and his
family, Basu sought to promote a reductionist idea of something that his
book actually engages with in a more nuanced manner, pointing out that the
problem was not necessarily what measures Nehru took, but in what order he
took them. He writes:

“Starting with trying to address dismally low literacy rates and negligible
rates of enrolment in tertiary education, Nehru attempted land reforms
(which did not entirely succeed across the country) and extension
programmes to boost agricultural output, but also sought to import
substitute both consumer and capital goods production – while ignoring how
he was going to overcome the foreign exchange constraint that would limit
the ability to import essential intermediate goods and raw materials that
India did not produce. Japan had done all this, but sequentially...

By attempting to do it all at once (and with a bias towards government
rather than private ownership), Nehru achieved mediocre results everywhere,
with agriculture suffering both from an overvalued exchange rate (that made
imports cheap and exports uncompetitive) and the meagre response to land
reform, while consumer goods remained inefficient because of excessive
protection, and heavy industry’s ability to expand was constrained by the
dearth of imported capital goods and technology.”

— "Asia Reborn", Prasenjit K Basu
Peace Is Doable

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