Indian Planning

Post-Independence Indian Planning

Kavita Philip

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Chinese Fishing Nets, Kochi (Copyright K.Philip)

India’s first Five Year Plan went public on December 7, 1952, by which time, as one mid-century economic commentator noted, “the plan which it purported to describe had been in operation for some twenty months.” Although social constraints on economic growth were acknowledged in all planning documents of the new nation, India’s planners, educated in the latest theories of mid-century development planning, envisioned rapid economic advance as “conditional upon additions to and improvements in the technological framework implicit in a high rate of capital formation” (First Year Plan (1), pp. 13–14). Although technological assumptions shaped a master narrative of Indian planning, planning’s messiness on the ground was commonly recognized by both planners and the people they targeted. There had even been calls for interdisciplinarity in planning, from voices critical of the state’s technocratic illusions. In October 1952, one citizen complained: “When will economists and the Government realize that economic reforms need to take into account the social constitutions within which economic factors operate? Only in India could the Government launch on a five year plan without consulting a single sociologist who has a first-hand acquaintance with the social institutions of the people” (“Samaja Shastrajna,” letter to Economic Weekly, October 4, 1952). Over a half-century later, we have many calls for interdisciplinarity in planning studies; yet academic and activist analyses tend to cluster in familiar paradigms and departments, and to recirculate abstract binaries between master plans and ungovernable subjects, technological knowledge and ground-level realities. This project aims to revisit, re-think, and extend research on post-independence Indian planning in the context of the recent shifts in the theory and historiography of science and technology.